It’s happened to most of us at one point or another: You’re dating someone for a couple of weeks and everything is going well! Then they show you their collection of Pokémon cards. Or you realize that they have no friends. In the absolute worst-case scenario, you find out the person of your dreams is actually into taxidermy. In whatever form it comes, a dating red flag is a lot like finding a long, black, wispy hair in your food: Once you’ve noticed it, there’s no going back.
Here at MEL, we’ve got issues—lots and lots of issues, which means that our red flags for other people are a deeper shade of red, even crimson. (Case in point: One of our editors considers text messages with grammatical errors an absolute deal-breaker.) Read all about them below, and then make the decision to date us at your own risk.
When the Woman Doesn’t at Least Offer to Split the Check
I tend to date women who let me pick up the check on the first date. I’m totally fine with this practice, and I recognize that might say just as much about me as it does about the women I date. But I make a mental note if they don’t at least offer to pick up the check — a mental note not to talk to them again.
Craig Robinson, a comedian I used to see a lot at the Comedy Cellar in New York, would end every show by making a joke about how all the women in the audience were now going to reach into their purses and act like they wanted to contribute to the bill. That joke never failed to get a laugh, because it’s so common in straight dating.
Empty as the gesture may be, it exhibits a baseline level of consideration. Someone who can’t make a half-hearted motion for her wallet is probably deeply entitled and selfish.
Guys Waiting on a Girlfriend for Their Lives to Begin
Back when I was going on a lot of dates, the weirdest thing I noticed was that guys who looked great on paper often had no lives of their own. They’d be handsome, smart, well-educated, with good jobs and nice apartments — but with no hobbies, no social lives, no real passions of any kind. One guy outright said to me, “I make six figures, but all I do at the end of the day is eat a frozen pizza and play video games in my apartment. I need to get a girlfriend so I have something to spend my money on.” Other guys weren’t quite so direct about it, but the message was the same.
This always made me feel terrible for them, but it sure didn’t make me want to see them again. It sounds kind of mean, but if you’ve got nothing going on in your own life, what exactly would you be adding to mine?
When the Girl Doesn’t Like Me
No, really. I don’t believe in red flags, because I don’t believe people are reflections of what they say (or do) on the first few dates. That’s primarily because I know very well how susceptible I am to being pigeonholed — I’m a heavily tattooed musician, so back when I was dating, people would immediately take me for a “bad boy” (which isn’t necessarily the case) until I proved otherwise (which unfortunately can’t be done over a few sit-down dinners). Once I realized that, I decided to toss out the entire concept of red flags. Instead, I prefer to take the time to actually get to know the entire person, then decide whether or not they’re right for me.
Send me a message with a typo? My estimation of you as a human being will plummet. Send me abbreviations like “2nite” or “r u going?” I will stop replying immediately. Send me an emoji, rather than expressing yourself with words, like an adult? I will fake my own death to avoid encountering you ever again. Use “lol” not even in response to a joke, but in place of a period (“What are you up to?” “Nothing just watching TV lol”)? I will skip the faking my own death part and just set myself on fire and throw myself off a cliff, in case you somehow discover me living my new life in an Amish village and I have to see your terrible, terrible bad-texting face once more.
Some have called me a monster for being this way (cough Alana Levinson cough), but I’ll say this: In the 12 years I’ve been with the woman of my dreams, she has never once sent me a text that looked like it came from an especially dim 12-year-old, and I could not be happier.
Bad Shoes, Bad Mustache, Bad Astrological Sign
I believe that red flags shouldn’t be superficial; they are about deep-rooted incompatibilities at the core of who you are as a person. They can’t be changed like clothes; if they could, they wouldn’t be red flags. But I have noticed that everyone who has destroyed me has had at least one of the following superficial qualities, so now I’m on high alert for them:
-Shorter than me
And don’t even get me started on Geminis.
Apathy or Closed-Mindedness
I’m very outspoken about what I care about in general, but upon first meeting someone, I’m particularly vocal about how I see the world. My biggest red flags are when someone passively clings to bullshit narratives about topics that scare them and when someone exhibits a lack of empathy. I guess I’m not super down to date people with different political views than my own, but perhaps even more so, I’m not down to spend time with someone who just doesn’t care about shit besides themselves.
No More Red Flags
Once upon a time, back when I was an ignorant and devout atheist, I considered religious faith to be a “dating red flag.” Did I mention I was ignorant? Ironically as fate would have it, I met a girl—a Jewish girl who was very religious. Before long, the world turned upside-down and inside-out, and I found myself being more conscious of her religious guidelines than she was.
For example, on one occasion she decided she wanted to order a specific dish that wasn’t kosher and rather than go along with it, I felt obligated to make sure that she knew her dish had octopus in it. Needless to say, things got weird. And by the end, the thing that I most liked about her was her faith. So what does this have to do with red flags? Only that ever since I shed my narrow understanding of a religious person, I also shed the entire notion of red flags. Except for a wall of self-help books. I’m cool with G-O-D, but I draw the line at self-improvement.
She Already Has a (Shitty-Sounding) Boyfriend
When you try out the polyamory thing, you get into some weird situations — like when it’s unclear whether the other person is dating on the sly, without their partner’s full endorsement. I met someone who took me back to her apartment only to tell me about the awful fights that she and her boyfriend got into, and how those were typically resolved with “hatefucking.” (She couldn’t believe that I’d never experienced a true hatefuck.) We made out for about five minutes before she got a text and realized her boyfriend would be home from some trip a day early, within the hour, and kicked me out of the apartment.
I went back a couple times after that, partly because she was a chef and I really wanted to try her cooking, but her main relationship was always an awkward cloud over all our conversation. Plus she was way too into Game of Thrones.