Hey. You know what? Where’s your leg?

Dan Richter | @BeefInTheTrifle

As it is once again January, all thoughts have turned to our respective healthcare plans/exchanges/crapshoots. I got to thinking about all the talk about ‘pre-existing conditions’ (I’m going somewhere with this – stay with me).

I’ve talked about this before, but lest you be new to my trifle, when I was 8yo I found out I had bone cancer, and as a result, my left leg was amputated below the knee (“I stayed with you to read that?! That’s awful!” But it’s really not – stay with me!) So because of this, I was considered to have a pre-existing condition, and, prior to the advent of Obamacare, I could be denied health coverage. Now, thanks to our amazing President, I have to be accepted by any insurance company. But this got me to thinking – what pre-existing conditions will we as gay men not accept? For the purposes of this article, I’m going to posit that all things that can be considered pre-existing conditions (or for our purposes, ‘dealbreakers’) are A: either Mutable or Immutable, and B: either Short-term or Long-term. All of these dealbreakers then fall into one of 4 categories, AND TO HELP YOU — I’D LIKE TO INTRODUCE THE DEALBREAKER MATRIX!

dealbreaker matrix revised

Every guy you date will have ‘something’ (perhaps several somethings) that you will consider a potential dealbreaker. To help you out – as I am just so wise – I’m gonna give you some example(s) of each scenario and then you can be thinking about these as you continue through your dips into the dating pool (oh and gentle reminder from the last column: PrEP or no PrEP, wrap it up before you go ‘dipping’ in some dudes pool, otherwise you’re a dirty slut and I’m gonna get super-syphilis and I will be super pissed at you).

Anyway. These examples are not exhaustive – just designed to give you an idea of how you can use this genius matrix.

IMMUTABLE / LONG TERM (a.k.a. : You’re screwed. Move on. Like, yesterday.)

Do you remember the episode of Friends where Chandler dated Ginger, the girl with a prosthetic? They go on a date, and it goes really well – but later Chandler admits to Monica: “I like her – I don’t want to stop seeing her, but every so often it’s like ‘Hey, you know what? Where’s your leg?!’”

It’s a scene to me that is all-too-familiar. I have, despite my classic good looks and sparkling personality, been denied many potential romantic liaisons by men simply because of my ‘pre-existing condition’ (my prosthetic). This has been a dealbreaker for some of them, one that in this case is both immutable and long-term.

According to the matrix, they should have moved on ‘like, yesterday’ – and, to their credit, they have and they do. And I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. And really. It’s fine. They know what they can deal with, and they’re actually saving me time in the long run.

But before we go further, I want to deviate slightly. I need to bring up the fact that part of this whole dealbreaker conversation has to be an awareness of other people’s dealbreakers as well.

For example, I have heard tell of a common phrase that has arisen in some of these ‘dating’ apps: “No fatties/fems/Asians”. Sure, this phrase can be seen as offensive, but the sites people are using when they utilize this phrase aren’t necessarily looking for something in the long-term – so actually maybe it’s not that offensive. I’d argue that it’s possible that they’re doing you a favor by saving you some time and being honest about what they want and who they are.

Like, I hate vanilla (not a euphemism) ice cream. I have tried it – but I think it’s super boring, and while I can appreciate that other people like it, it’s not for me. The same is true for people when they’re trying to do the horizontal mambo. Perhaps they’ve tried all three of those aforementioned flavors and decided it’s not for them. Isn’t it better to get it out of the way up front, before you have wasted each others time?

Were I on Scruff (or Poot or Smorch) and a really sexy guy had a tagline (header? greeting? slut-utation?) that said ‘NO CRIPPLES’, sure I’d be offended – moreso by the fact that someone used the word ‘CRIPPLES’ than by the fact that I was already in the ‘no thanks’ column. It would save me time from giving him the compulsory “sup” and him writing “hey” and me writing “what’re you doing?” and then waiting an hour for him to respond before logging off in frustration knowing fully well that he’s ‘logging off’ with someone else (that was actually supposed to sound like a sex joke, but it just sounds like a poop joke… we’ll see if my editor keeps that one in. If he does – you’re welcome for the new slang, kids). 

Prosthetic leg: no 'ball and socket' joint here. Photograph: Radius Images/Alamy

*Note: This is so not what my leg looks like.

IMMUTABLE / SHORT TERM (a.k.a. : Don’t talk to him until the short-term reason fully resolved.)

“It’s like meeting the man of your dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.” Or, well, husband/boyfriend/lover/blah blah blah. Ever meet someone and you fall deeply in love (or lust) and that guy is married or in a very committed relationship – but he is on the way out. They’ve been having some troubles for a while and meeting you has changed how he feels about everything… you make him feel things he hasn’t felt in years – and it’s not that he doesn’t love his husband – he does – he truly truly truly does – but you’ve made him believe in real love again and he’s going to talk to his husband this weekend and end it. Ok well, not this weekend – he has his sister’s wedding. And next week is crazy at work. Then they go to Mykonos for 2 weeks with Bob and John… you met them – they love you, I mean not like I do…

Couple things here: Yes, that was scarily easy for me to write. I have been there. And I readily admit that I have been the ‘other man’ more than once. Look, you know this is a dealbreaker. And you know how this is gonna end. If you don’t, lemme help: it’s going to end with you alone in your bed, staring at the Domino’s Pizza Tracker and swearing that you’ll look at his Instagram just one more time before you block him. BUT! If you find yourself in the rare situation that he is actually going to leave his husband for you – don’t talk to him until he does. Otherwise you’re the free milk from the proverbial cow. So mooooooove on (Yeah – I hate myself for that one, too) until he comes back to you. And not just for a roll in the hay (I hope to God you’re still reading…)

MUTABLE / LONG TERM (a.k.a. : He can change, but you’ll have to hang in there awhile)

My last three relationships (that counted) were all long-distance; Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island respectively. (Well, actually they are in reverse chronological order. I think. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. I’m on a deadline.)I know a lot of people who have done the long-distance thing; for every couple that makes it, there’s about 5 or 6 that don’t (that’s not an official scientific ratio… just a casual qualitative survey of friends). Anyway, we’ll get into the psychology of why I am drawn to dating people who live in other cities another time – or actually we probably won’t… but anyway – after Chicago, I swore I would never do it again. Ever.

And then I met New York. And fell in love with his stupid dumb handsome face. And then it all fell apart… for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which was the distance. But when we broke up, I was destroyed and I swore I would never ever do long distance again.

And then I met Rhode Island. Awesome, sweet, amazing, sexy Rhode Island. And we tried it – we tried it hard. (Ever spend 8 days on vacation in Rhode Island? I have.) But once again, the distance became bigger than the wonder that was us. And once again, I was left broken and alone (I guess I have a lot of feelings about this…maybe this should be its own article? God what a bummer that would be.) The thing about all of these though was that I always thought that one of us would move… eventually. But after a while, ‘eventually’ creeps up on you; ‘eventually’ has a funny way of becoming ‘today’ without you even noticing – until you do. And in each relationship, I held out hope that our situation, while long-term until we figured everything out, was mutable. And for some people it is. And others – it’s not.

MUTABLE / SHORT-TERM (a.k.a. : The best chance of him changing to fit your needs.)

This one’s easy: one time, I met a guy at a bar. (See? I’m fun! I do things!) He was so friggin cute and awesome and awkward, which – quick sidebar – was awesome. Socially awkward is kryptonite for me. Totally makes me weak. Anyway, we met and we ended up dating for almost a year – and he was pretty much perfect (he’ll read this so let’s make it clear: pretty much perfect isn’t perfect. You stole all my t-shirts). But the first time we kissed at the bar (and a lot after the bar), he tasted like cigarettes – which is a non-negotiable for me. (Second sidebar – quit smoking if you smoke. It’s gross.) So, he said he would quit. And he did… kind of. For a while. Until the night he came home and reeked of cigarettes and then said it wasn’t his fault – his friends made him smoke… which, to be honest, as a drunken defense is pretty adorable. So, we compromised: I hated that he smoked, but he loved smoking. I love massages, and he hated giving them. So, for every cigarette he smoked, I got a 5 minute massage. I could even save them up and cash them in all at once. Suffice it to say, I only ever got a 10 minute massage. He quit (slash got really good at hiding the times he did smoke). But when something so small like that is one of the few things that really drives you crazy about someone – I say you’re doing A-OK.

Ok – so – what’s the point of all this? My point in all of this, is this: being aware of your own dealbreakers is an essential part of finding (and being) the perfect partner. Maybe the genius Dealbreaker Matrix will help you do that – maybe it won’t… I don’t know. What I do know is that we tend to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about the things that we can’t change about the suitors in our lives, rather than identifying our own immutable values. Sometimes we give too much of ourselves to someone who isn’t – and can’t – be the man we want them to be. So use the matrix – don’t use the matrix – just remember that you’re worthy of someone who can, and will, grow and change for and with you. And that’s no bull (another farm pun? Really? Ugh. I feel so sheepish…).

Dan has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Master’s degree in Higher Education. He worked as an Assistant Dean at Emory University for 5 years before moving to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue his lifelong dream of writing television. Since then, Dan has written for Make It Or Break It (ABC Family), Pop-Up Video (VH1), and currently writes for ABC Family’s hit show The Fosters, and he says he’s going to finish writing his first movie any day now. You can find more at beefinthetrfile.blogspot.com, and you can reach him on Twitter and Instagram at @beefinthetrifle.

1 Comment on Hey. You know what? Where’s your leg?

  1. What a well-written article!! That matrix is pure genius, and I’ve seen a lot of matrices in my life.

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