Does being Ms. Picky get you Mr. Perfect?

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Perfect

"I just don't know how she does it," my friend Naomi sighed as we caught up by phone on a recent Sunday.

"She who? Does what?"

"Oh, my neighbor. I just saw her leave her house with a guy in a Mercedes. Unbelievable. She's never without a boyfriend, and the latest's always richer than the last one."

"Well, she's obviously got something going on. Is she hot?"

"Kat, she's 80!"

"You're kidding! Well, good for her. I sure hope I'm attracting guys like that when I'm 80."

"Yeah, well, they keep dying on her. But as soon as one pops off, she's got a new one. Must be nice not to have to be so picky anymore."

"Oh, I don't know about that. Even if it's pretty slim pickings, nobody wants to be a 'nurse with a purse.' You still want to find a quality guy no matter how old you are."

"Maybe for you. Me? I think I'll be happy just to have someone to go to the movies with. At some point, having a dating checklist shouldn't matter anymore."

I guess. But maybe we shouldn't have a checklist in the first place.

It doesn't seem like we had much of a list when we first started dating back in high school; I think most of us had about two must-haves, like "must be cute" and "nice personality." Which basically means a pretty big dating pool.

It's only when we're looking to settle with Mr. Right that most of us start collecting enough requirements to rival a college course catalog -- he must have straight teeth; not spit when he talks; have all his hair; love his mom (but not too much); be emotionally available; drive a luxury car; like cats; be our best friend; know how to pleasure a woman; be somewhere between Tom Cruise and Michael Jordan in height; and be interested in talking about more than whether Ichiro was qualified to be Rookie of the Year or not. Oh yeah, and he has to be handsome, have a nice bod and earn a six-figure income.

Then online dating came along, taking our obsession with finding someone "perfect" to a new level. Now, picking out "losers" is as easy as sorting through a pile of fruit; before you even meet a guy, you can discard him for his looks, height, weight, career, eye color, favorite movie, political views, where he likes to vacation, screen name (typically some variation on SexyScorpio4U) or bad spelling.

Having a long list of must-haves almost guarantees that the only thing we'll have a lot of is dateless nights. The man our dreams doesn't exist because, you know, we dreamed him up!

But is it wrong to be a little picky? After all, why should we have to settle?

After I got divorced, I gave a lot of thought to the qualities that matter to me other than "cute" -- things like honesty, a kind heart, self-awareness, a good sense of humor. It seemed like a pretty thoughtful list to me although, honestly, don't we all think our dating checklist isn't nearly as shallow as everyone else's? Some dating experts would say that I was being smart; it's good to know what you're looking for in a partner.

But others say it's smarter to know what you're not looking for: Smoker? Boozer? Gambler? Arrogant? Bigoted? Overweight? Forget about it.

Because if someone has, say, 80 percent of what we're looking for but we're not too hot on the remaining 20 percent -- and secretly hoping he'll change, or, more likely, hoping we can change him -- well, we're not really seeing him for who and what he is. We're seeing him for who we want him to be. And that never really works too well, does it?

Still, I was wondering if Naomi was right; would we ever stop being picky? Would we really ditch the dating checklist once and for all when we're older?

Not quite. "A pulse and a good supply of Viagra," Naomi's elderly neighbor told her, laughing -- the older person's version of "cute" and "nice personality."

Still, that basically means a pretty big dating pool. Guess the young and the old have a lot more in common than we think.

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