07/17/2013 07:48 am ET Updated Sep 16, 2013

Are You Typecasting Your Dates?


Gangsters And Girlfriends
We all have favorite character actors we love in their typecast roles. James Gandolfini was my all-time favorite gangster because he brought such a wide range of emotions to his character. His face could show joy, sadness, anger and wild-eyed craziness simultaneously. James Gandolfini played other roles well, but he'll always be Tony Soprano to me, and the millions who eagerly awaited each episode. His typecasting was an enormous success.

Boomers frequently typecast their dates, but unlike successful, typecast actors, our typecast dates are the result of narrow parameters that are far less successful. The rigid, non-negotiable terms boomers use in personal ads are telling. The absoluteness of their language strongly suggests that only identical matches will receive a response, and a photo is usually demanded as proof.

Laundry Lists
While I hope every boomer realizes his or her fantasies, if these narrow limits really worked there wouldn't be any need to continue dating. Tall, short, big breasts, small breasts, black hair, blond hair, bald, shaved head, muscular, thin, chubby, hairy chest, smooth chest, well-muscled, in shape, working on getting in shape, bearded, clean shaven, blue eyes, brown eyes, handsome, beautiful, good looking, skinny legs, small butt, big butt, long hair, short hair and a myriad of other terms describe the only acceptable men or women. We may become so preoccupied with our typecast fantasy that we literally don't notice anyone else.

Stubborn Resolve
The strangest aspect of boomer typecasting is that it doesn't seem to matter one iota that is hasn't worked. We continue typecasting by convincing ourselves that the problem isn't the type we're picking, but the people we're picking, which surely must qualify as an oxymoron. On some level we know we're automatically eliminating the vast majority of potential dates, but we stubbornly remain on our circular paths anyway. Fantasy is a powerful addiction, and like any habit, is hard to break.

A Cautionary Tale
My friend Phil was in his late forties and about to marry for the fourth time. Like his previous three wives, the fourth was short, blonde and buxom, but unfortunately, also like the other three, she was a cold, mean-spirited woman. When I asked why he was marrying this peculiarly nasty woman, he replied, "I don't love her like I did the others, so if we break up I won't get my heart broken again." I'd never heard anyone embrace such a negative rationale for marriage. Phil chose certain pain and suffering by marrying the same woman four times, simply because he couldn't see beyond his typecast fantasy.

Andy's Wake-Up Call
After dating online for more than a year without meeting anyone special, another friend, Andy, decided to take a closer look at the dates he'd either picked or responded to. It only took a cursory glance to notice he'd selected or responded to the same type of woman, nearly exclusively. And even though this type of woman hadn't ever worked, in terms of any becoming a long-term partner, he'd held onto his fantasy with dogged resolve.

It was only after he decided to let go of his typecast fantasy that Andy met his current partner, who embodies all of the qualities he'd ever hoped to find. He was shocked that she wasn't his physical fantasy type, but was perfect in every way. Carol is tall, thin, has an angular face and short brown hair, not remotely his failed fantasy type, which was short, fuller-figured, ski jump nose and blonde. When he stopped typecasting his dates, the floodgates opened wide for Andy, and Carol rode in on the first wave.

The Reward
Carol also had a failed, physical fantasy type, and Andy wasn't that guy. Andy and Carol were both pleasantly surprised by the results of moving away from their typecast fantasies. They quickly discovered that they also shared the same core values and beliefs. The lesson seems clear, that being focused isn't the same as being narrow-minded, which never seems to work in any arena, including dating.

Andy thinks Carol is strikingly beautiful in an entirely different way than his previous fantasy type. In fact she is his new fantasy type. He's grateful that he finally woke up, abandoned his typecast fantasy and contacted Carol. That they'd actually been on the same dating website for over a year and had successfully ignored each other is an object lesson regarding abandoning typecasting as a dating strategy. Besides, isn't repeating the same behavior and hoping for a different result the definition of insanity?

Nothing To Lose
You might want to discover whether or not you've outgrown your typecast fantasy. Finding out is as easy as looking at the next man or woman you meet with what the Buddhists call beginner's eyes. Look at this new man or woman as if they were the first man or woman you've ever seen instead of immediately comparing this person to your fantasy type. You might be surprised to discover you have a brand new fantasy type. Andy and Carol did.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Where To Meet Singles Over 50