Single over 30: Too picky or not picky enough?

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I can’t help but notice a shiver of panic spreading through myself, my friends, and all over my facebook wall.  If you’re over 30, questions like “What am I doing wrong?”  “Are all the good ones taken?” somehow always morphs over days months and years into: “Am I too picky?” And I agree that we definitely have the power to change our situation (if being in a relationship is what you’d prefer), but I don’t think being less picky is the solution.

I’m here to make an argument that most women over 30 are actually either 1) not picky enough or 2) are ineffective about their pickiness.

One day I was wandering around the internet looking for inspiration, answers, and general fodder for my overactive brain, when I stumbled across Amy Webb’s TED Talk.  In my opinion, hands down one of the most overlooked TED Talks I’ve seen.  How is it she only has 443,440 views?!? The woman’s a genius!  If you don’t know, TED Talks feature people with “Ideas worth spreading,” and I am here to spread Amy’s idea and approach to dating. Or at least, my version of it.

First, please take a moment to watch Amy Webb’s talk for yourself. I’m about to introduce a heap of spoilers and I also think that my perspective might be different from what you might take away from it.

This is what I learned from Amy about what I can do differently when it comes to dating and “mate selection” (can you tell I’m a scientist at heart?):

1) Grandma isn’t always right.

The truth is that the dating climate, gender roles, and family structure have all drastically changed from our grandparents’ generation. Our options and challenges are so different from 50 years ago when grandma met grandpa, that finding useful sources of dating advice is very difficult.  It isn’t that grandma is wrong, it’s just the variables have changed.  If we plug our lives into grandma’s equation, we’re going to get a different result than she did.

2) Just get in the game!

Don’t worry if your first efforts are successful. The first time you do (or get back into) anything you’re not going to be performing at your peak.  There’s going to be a warm up period, but that shouldn’t deter you from jumping in and getting back out there.

3) Get picky, picky, picky! Then go even further, and get even pickier!

After a some crappy dates, Amy took the time to really think about what she wanted in a partner and what kind of life she wanted to build with him.  When she was done she came up with 72 traits she wanted her dream man to have! 72!

I have to be honest, I’m 34 years old and I have never taken that much time out of my life to come up with 70-something points I want from anything, much less a mate.  But maybe that’s the problem.  If something is important to me, doesn’t it deserve a deep level of thought? Some real reflection? Or is the real problem that I feel that I don’t deserve all of that.  That there’s no way I will ever get a guy that great. When you think about it, only a truly confident person can be picky. And we all know confidence is sexy.

4) Smart women prioritize, wise women rank those priorities.

Knowing what you want in life and from a partner is the first step to getting what you want. But it shouldn’t be the last. Amy takes her list of priorities even further by creating lists of “Top Tier Traits” and “Second Tier Traits.” But she didn’t keep her list to broadly defined generic positive traits such as “Smart” (after all who wants a stupid guy?), she also included specific personal traits that are important to her. For example, if you look super close at her slide (as I did), her second top tier trait is “Be very good with money. Understand how it works. Make it work for us.” So, what’s most important to you?

5) Know your worth.

Once confronted with the fact that the man she’d like to date didn’t like her back, Amy didn’t think she wasn’t (pretty, smart, witty, accomplished, etc etc etc..) enough. Nope.  Amy says “I figured that in person I’d be just as competitive as a SmileyGirl1978…” I think many of us feel that we’re really wonderful people that anyone would be lucky to date.  Now all we have to do is know it, not just feel it, and most importantly act like it!

6) Don’t take rejection personally.

If you’re a successful professional and you have a dream job in mind that you apply for and are rejected, do you stop applying for great jobs? No! You do exactly what Amy did.  You find out what kinds of people are landing those jobs and either get some extra experience to fill the holes in your resume or polish your resume to highlight the strengths and skills you already have so they’re more obvious. You know you’d be fantastic at that job, can contribute to the team and you’d be really happy there.  So you don’t give up! Because you understand rejection is just part of the process.  Well it’s the same with dating.

7) Even in the confusion, stay true to yourself.

Even when she revamped her profile, Amy’s idea of “showing more skin” was really just taking off her turtleneck sweater and showing neck and bicep.  She didn’t get crazy and start taking half naked pictures of herself with her breasts popping out.  She always maintained her values. She knew if she wanted someone to love her for her, she couldn’t stop being herself.

8) Stick to your guns!

Amy was surrounded by friends and family members who thought she was crazy to stick to her standards, but she didn’t care. She knew what she wanted and because she took the time to rank her priorities, she knew her standards weren’t frivolous.  How many times have we allowed well meaning friends and family to talk us out of our standards? Hell, I’ve even been the well meaning friend at times! If you know you don’t want to date a guy with kids, then don’t!

Remember, it’s your life so play by your rules!


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I am a thirty-something geologist that is embarking on the scariest adventure to-date: I am trying to have healthy adult relationships. Let me give you a brief history. I went away to college at 16 years old, and have not lived in the same state as my family since then...until now. I have lived different places every four to five years. I've recently moved to Florida to be close to my family and make a career change. I plan on this being the last move. Let me tell you a little about me. I am biracial and the first of my family to finish college. I have daddy issues. I have a congenital heart defect. I am committed to making a positive impact on the world, but realize I have to do that for myself first. I am confused, and 100% certain about it. This is my "Captain's Log" as I cruise through this uncharted territory. Hopefully, we can enjoy the ride together and have some laughs.