Recently, but not for the first time, a frustrated friend-girl of mine asked if men are looking for “the perfect woman?” I answered simply: Yes. She seemed caught off guard by both the quickness of my response and the fact that I didn’t need to think about my answer. Of course men are looking for the perfect woman. Why wouldn’t they? This isn’t really that big of a deal except for one hiccup: There is no such thing as a perfect woman.

When dating, men and women don’t evaluate each other the same way. While we both might look for the same list of characteristics, the critical difference is that we weigh them differently. For example, I don’t care how much formal education a woman has or how much money she makes. It’s on the list but it’s not very high up. This isn’t because I like dating uneducated, broke women, it’s because I don’t need (or expect) a woman to take care of or provide for me. Therefore, if she can have an intelligent conversation and not spend all the money I make, we will be fine.

I think a lot of people, men and women, expect others to evaluate them as they evaluate themselves. This is why a number of men and women have this “I deserve” mentality as they get older and improve themselves through schooling and income. For me, the fact that a woman graduated from Harvard and makes $250,000 a year is great – it also doesn’t matter. You find those things important, not me. Thus, I will not weigh them the same on my compatibility list as you would. As both sexes “move up” in the world, we gain this sense of entitlement about the opposite sex. I should be able to get whatever man/woman I want because I have acquired X/Y/Z over the years. We fail to assess whether X/Y/Z is as important to them as it is to us. Regardless of our station in life, we need to move away from the “I deserve” mentality and closer to the “I desire” mindset.

It varies.

Let me clarify what “perfect” means to a man. Similar to the above theme, men and women see “perfect” differently. When I said ‘perfect woman’ most women probably envisioned an attractive woman and left it at that; whereas, most men probably envisioned a highly functional, well-rounded attractive woman. There is a huge difference.

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Still, most men don’t actually want a perfect woman. They do, however, want the best woman they can possibly acquire – and this only makes sense. If dating were like the NBA draft, you could very well pick-up a Tim Duncan and live a quality life; win numerous championships; and you know what you’re getting day in and day out. On the other hand, if there is a Michael Jordan available in that same draft, you’ll feel like a fool knowing you picked Tim Duncan over Michael Jordan when they were both readily available in the same draft. This is how most men view dating.

We’re fine picking a quality woman and committing to that woman – as long as we feel she was the best woman we could get. This is not to say men don’t often and egregiously over estimate their ability to get the women they want, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Men view women like video game characters and that’s unfair. I know for a fact men aren’t the only ones guilty of this but I’m going to focus on them today. In relation to the perfect woman, men do one of two things incorrectly: 1) Keeping with the NBA analogy, they assume they can 3-peat (I’ll explain in a second); 2) They think they can pick and choose the make-up of the woman they’ll be with, like a video game, instead of accepting her as a person flaws and all.

The 3-peat: A man will pull a top model type chick at age 21 and assume he can do it again at 31. Men have this habit of believing since they made it to the NBA Championship once they’ll be able to do it again in the future.  Despite everyone else trying to get to the championship, their getting older, and their changing (or dwindling) skill set, they still believe they have the intangibles to win another championship. Sometimes this is true. Most times, it is not. Getting to the championship is difficult enough. Doing it repeatedly is exponentially more difficult. Men take this for granted and as a result, they might take the almost-perfect woman for granted if they “win” with her too early in life.

The Anime Woman: Men are guilty of video-gaming together their ideal woman. Instead of accepting that there is no perfect woman a number of men will continue searching for various combinations of their x-girlfriends combined in one ultimate, boss-level woman. Men will make comments like, “I really like Girl A, but I’d love and marry her if she cooked like X-Girl B, was built like X-Girl C, and had sex like X-Girl D.”  It’s possible you can find such a woman, but I doubt it. Just like video game characters, you can’t have a character (without cheat codes) that has all full status bars! Similar to if your character has a lot of power but no stamina or vice versa, you need to accept a woman might look great or suck in bed or vice versa. That’s real life – and in real life, cheat codes are frowned upon.

So what does this all mean? Last week I was talking to an X and still good friend of mine about my relationship status. After hearing my stories, she jokingly said, “You can have a pretty girl or good head. You can’t have both.” I laughed but she had a point.

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For example, I never considered myself a picky guy but lately, I’ve realized I’m picky relative to the available dating population. Once I removed “hook-ups” from the equation, the number of women I even approach has dwindled, substantially. For a while, I wondered why I was having less success in dating, but I realized the dating game hadn’t changed. I had. With age, you begin looking for something more than sexual compatibility, and you realize that the game is a lot harder to play than you remembered in your youth. I never thought much about it before because I was never seriously looking for commitment – I always stumbled into it by chance rather than choice. If I need to reevaluate my standards and preferences, so be it, but one thing that hasn’t changed is I’d rather settle for nothing than settle for anything. At the end of the day, we don’t have to agree on what defines perfection because I’m not looking for the perfect woman for everyone. I’m looking for the perfect woman for me.

What are your thoughts on the perfect man/woman and what does that mean to you? Over the years, as I wrote about here, what are 5 ways the dating game has changed for you – good/bad/indifferent? What are some specific differences you’ve seen dating in high school, college, and post-college?