My closest friend in SF, my best friend for many many years, and an incredibly wise, wonderful and often funny woman, has a terrific saying about dating. “You meet someone you think is the love of your life, and then you see him eat a lamb chop, like a cannibal, and never want to see him again.” She calls it The Lamb Chop Factor. Sounds funny, huh? Not always. It actually turns out to be a major element in dating. And so far, the lamb chop factor has done me in every time, in the years since I’ve been divorced. For her, it was a guy who showed up for a date in his bicycle clothes, and looked so ridiculous (and inappropriate) it was over for her the minute she opened the door. She’s lucky however; she met a wonderful man thereafter and has been happily married for many, many years. My favorite thing he said to her, once he made a commitment to her, was “I’m on board”. So clear, so simple, so direct, so whole hearted—-which is precisely what he is with her and everyone else. That statement of his has become one of my main criteria in relationships ever since. Is the guy on board?? It’s important to know. The guy (or woman) may be crazy about you, or like you a lot. But if he’s not on board, and not willing to say so you really don’t have anything, except a hot, or even lukewarm, date. So the statement “I’m on board” in relation to relationships means a lot to me. This couple has provided me with two important elements in dating. Does the person pass muster (the lamb chop factor), and are they committed to you, after a reasonable amount of time (are they on board?), not on the first date of course. Although the lamb chop factor can appear quickly, or take a certain amount of time to discover).
The lamb chop factor is whatever is important to you. Does a date show up looking like he hasn’t seen soap since he was two and his mother forced him to use it? Does he show up fresh from the gym, minus a shower? Is he rude to waiters, or your friends, or worse, to you once he’s comfortable with you? Does he cancel dates at the last minute, leaving you disappointed and all dressed up? Does he drink himself blind drunk at events that really matter to you? Hit on your friends? Is nasty or even thoughtless to your kids (presuming you’re divorced and have children by someone else)? Mean to pets? Is he unbelievably boring? Disrespectful to women? Incredibly cheap (doesn’t leave a tip, after taking you to a nice dinner, or a really bad tip. I’d rather go to McDonald’s and leave a decent tip). Does he show off? Lie? Do you catch him in big or small lies? Is he a cheater? Have irritating habits?? Do something you hate in bed? Some of these are big things. The lamb chop factor are the sneaky small things that just don’t surface in the beginning, and you really think this person is The One for you, you’re beginning to get excited about it, you start to relax about him, you tell your friends how great he is…..and then the damn lamb chop factor shows up…..and you know in your gut that it’s over, and you just can’t get past whatever he just did. Some people conceal their bad habits for a while, even a long while, and then blam, some really AWFUL behavior or habit hits you right between the eyes. Something they say or believe in that you can’t possibly live with, or something they do. And it’s done. It can be such a disappointment, or even a heartbreak, if it’s something you truly can’t live with, or compromise on. Some people’s views about life are so incompatible with our own that there is no way to make it work. It’s better to find out sooner than later, but it still hurts.
I hate it when the lamb chop factor takes a while to show up. Especially a long time. And some things don’t fall into the category of ‘lamb chop factor’, they are major character flaws, (like lying or cheating), and can take a while to show up too. The biggies do you in every time, and it is fatal to a relationship to ignore them. But the small ones can do you in too. You may feel petty for it, but someone whose philosophies just don’t work with yours, or whose habits are just too annoying and doesn’t recognize it, isn’t going to be a big success in the relationship with you either. Unkindness blows it for me every time, but so does some small stuff, much as I hate to admit it. I can’t eat lamb chops anymore, without thinking about what my friend said. Some things that qualify as lamb chop factor are really about bad manners and poor judgment (getting blind drunk when you take him to have dinner with your boss, or someone important to you, even your best friends. Telling outrageous and tasteless sexual jokes or stories to people who clearly don’t find it amusing, nor do you. Saying something demeaning to you, alone or in front of other people. Either way that’s not okay).
The lamb chop factor is usually something a lot smaller, which can make it funny at times. But bottom line, disappointment is not funny or amusing. And it is sooooooooo disappointing to discover something about someone you were crazy about, that you really can’t stand. In my last big romance, I thought I had met someone nearly perfect (too perfect. The old saying “too good to be true” applied. Never a good sign. It was neither true, nor good in the end). For 8 months he was absolutely perfect and wonderful and I had never been so happy in my life, and then he turned into someone else overnight. I will spare you the boring details, but the next 8 months were as nightmarish as the first 8 months had been idyllic. I hung on, thinking he’d revert back to Mr. Wonderful. He didn’t. He just hid his game for longer than some people can. And it was over in 16 months, half of them very unhappy and unfortunate. It happens, and it’s better to know, no matter how bad it feels when it happens. (My children gave me a refrigerator magnet that says “It’s better to have loved and lost than to live with a psycho for the rest of your life” It’s still on my fridge, a good reminder).
Since then, sometimes with some amusement, the lamb chop factor has done me in every time (and I’m sure I have some irritating habits too. I am always available to my children, and sometimes they call at odd hours and want to talk about something important to them. I go to bed very late. I smoke, a deal breaker to many Americans, though not in Europe and in California people will more easily forgive you for having been convicted of murder, than smoking. I’m a neatnik which annoys some people; I go to church, which annoys others. I love sappy movies with happy endings that no guy wants to go to. And I am sensitive about comments that I think are disrespectful. I hate fancy restaurants, and people who are mean to others. And I’m addicted to chocolate. I’m sure any or all of those and other bad habits I’m not aware of have been lamb chop factors to someone). And I’m actually pretty tolerant about most people’s strange habits. I don’t think snoring (in others) is a federal offense, which it is to some people. It just doesn’t bother me, and I sleep soundly. But some things are definitely a lamb chop factor for me.
I spent time with someone I was enjoying a lot, and thought they were fun. I saw nothing that unnerved me particularly for several months. Ha! Ha! I thought. Winners!!! No lamb chop factor at all. And then suddenly, he relaxed, and one fateful weekend, he drank from breakfast to bedtime, was incoherent by lunchtime, and comatose at 6 pm. Wow….damn….I figured it was some sort of bad weekend, a mistake, I was hoping there was a reason for it….nope…..It was the lamb chop factor on the rocks. Worse, he thought it was amusing and considered it a fabulous weekend. I didn’t. I had a really, really lousy time. I don’t drink, but I don’t care if others do. But shepherding an alcoholic through life is not what I have in mind, it’s just not fun, and a sad and serious problem. And this person had no idea he had a problem. Trust me, he did. That weekend was enough for me. Disappointment number #99,999,999. I was sad about it, but would have been a lot sadder if I’d stuck around. The substances he abused to achieve nirvana were in fact the love of his life. I was never going to be, and it’s not my job (or desire) to cure a date of their addictions.
A more recent lamb chop casualty (and all these people had lovely table manners by the way, so it’s not always a lamb chop that does you in) was someone very bright and intelligent, who appeared to be totally reasonable and sane. At first. Classic lamb chop situation. And then, as we got more comfortable with each other, he shared some of his private views on life. He had a penchant for science fiction movies (which I don’t share, but I’m a good sport), which turn out to be his actual views about life. After a relaxing evening, he confided in me that he KNOWS that the world is going to end within the next year, possibly sooner. An unidentified planet he had been told about is going to demolish our planet shortly. Mmmm…yeah….okay, whatever. Me, I worry about my kids’ safety, keeping my life in order, paying my taxes, the health of those I love, I’m not exactly worried about random planets hitting the roof of my house in the next few weeks, or ever. It got worse after that, he thought we should build a bunker together, buy a helicopter to escape and his certainty about our imminent destruction turned out to be an obsession that was beyond unnerving. Why waste my time working if we were going to be destroyed anyway?? Oy vey, I had 3 deadlines, and my publishers had not heard about the random planet, and would not have been amused at that excuse for missing my deadlines. Nor did I want to buy a helicopter or build a bunker. Apparently, we were going to have to hunt for food and fur, after The Big Destruction. I still plan to buy mine at the supermarket, and buy fur, if I do so, at the stores where I enjoy shopping. Maybe some of you believe that same theory, but for me it all became a little too Twilight Zone. Damn damn damn damn……I suddenly found myself thinking of the line in the movie “As good as it gets” where Helen Hunt says “I just want a normal boyfriend” and her mother says “There are no normal boyfriends”. Yeah, maybe that’s true, although I hope not. It’s not too appealing to spend the rest of your life alone. On the other hand, I have no desire whatsoever to build a bunker with someone, preparing for the end of the world. That’s a little too out there for me. The lamb chop factor struck again. And it took 6 months to show up. Damn again.
Then there are the people who tell you after several months that they’re crazy about you, but just want to be friends. Recently, a woman I know made just that speech to a man she’d been dating who was crazy about her, and she just wasn’t, and it took her a little too long to figure it out, and he was upset. He stunned her when he said “I have all the friends I need. Thanks anyway”, and he got up and left right in the middle of dinner. Rude maybe, but I wish I had the guts to do that. So direct. The easy ‘dates’ are the ones you know you can’t stand an hour into the first date. It’s so easy, like apartments you don’t want to rent, or jobs you don’t want. The hard ones are the ones who appear just right….and then you get hit with the lamb chop factor, right between the eyes. I just hate that, and it disappoints me every time.
As I have often said, dating is not for the faint hearted, at any age. You have to be plucky, brave, willing to take some risk, be a good sport, have a sense of humor, be flexible, give it a try, survive being disappointed if it doesn’t work out. But if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life alone, there is just no other choice. Few people get lucky on the first try, although some do. For the rest of us, you just have to stay open, and give it your best shot. But watch out for that lamb chop factor—keep your eyes open—-it will do you in every time. My hope for you (and for myself) is that there will be no lamb chops, and no lamb chop factor, in your dating life!!! Just happy endings…..with great people whom you love, and who love you, warts and all, people who are ‘on board’. Good luck!!!