5144: Fatal


In terms of dating, there are really only 3 fatal flaws for me:

1. Ego
2. Entitlement
3. Smoker

For ego, it’s a huge turnoff when a guy is only able to talk about himself and his own interests. I’m starting to see this a lot in the techies that I meet, the Silicon Valley drones who can only talk about their work, startup culture, or the latest app they’ve developed. They can tell me fascinating things about new operating systems and user interfaces and marketing ideas for their product, but when I try to shift the conversation to films or music or cooking, they have very little to contribute and somehow steer the subject back to themselves. People with egos tend to lack self-awareness, and in turn they lack accountability for their behavior. For them, ignorance isn’t just bliss. It’s the only thing they know.

For entitlement, I can’t stand people who believe that rewards should come without any work. That by resting on their laurels or by citing the work of their parents, they deserve X object or Y kind of service or Z opportunity. They mock the work ethic that I try to live by: the hardest working person is the most successful. It may take longer and it may be tougher, but I like to believe that perseverance and discipline mean more than your alma mater or your last name or the fact that you’ve mastered the bullshit art of networking. Entitled people do not believe in equality or meritocracy, and in turn lack empathy and humility. They only know how to want but do not know how to give back in kind.

Smoking is pretty straightforward, no? I’ve always hated the smell, the taste it leaves in your mouth, the burning weight it leaves on your chest. I also happen to have a rich family history of smoking, starting with my paternal grandfather. For nearly 60 years he smoked almost a pack and a half per day. When my mom, a one-packer at the time, married into the family, he was delighted to have a smoking buddy. My mom would tell me stories about spending whole afternoons with my grandfather boiling and eating soft shell crabs, gossiping about other family members, and smoking Lucky Strikes. It’s an idyllic scene almost, save for the grief it portends. My grandfather died of emphysema and end stage lung cancer in the fall of 1989. Six months later, I was born. I never knew my grandfather, though I swear that I’ve met him once in a dream. Tall, stern and leather faced, donning a brown tweed jacket with my infant self resting in one arm, a cigarette nursed in his free hand. For someone I’ve never seen before, he has such a distinct image in my mind.

I imagine his death was a painful one. The slow collapse of his lungs, constricted by tar and soot and chemicals from decades of tobacco addiction. Toxic sputum impairing his ability to comfortably breathe, let alone wheeze out a last goodbye to the world. I’m embittered by the fact that he left prematurely, by a preventable death, really. That he left me before I even had a chance to realize what I was missing. In my eyes, smokers are not future-thinkers. They do not care for posterity. They only wish for escape, delusion, and self-fulfillment.

But I can’t help but love this man I never knew.

It’s why I could never fully commit to ruling out smokers from my life. It’s why I choose to ignore the taste of decay when I kiss their lips. It’s why I allowed a smoker to be my first love. Perhaps indirectly, perhaps unconsciously, I’m trying to understand my grandfather through the smoke of my lovers.

What are your dating turnoffs?

– Fish


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