Does Mr. Perfect Exist?*

*We all know that nothing and nobody is perfect, but it is still worth a shot, right?

The other day I had a conversation with a friend at work whose daughter dates the “perfect man who has everything a perfect man should perfectly have”. She elaborated: “He is always there for the kids, plays with them, cleans, cooks, brings home flowers, takes her out to dinner, opera, theater, movies, he is a gentleman, you name it! There is actually nothing he doesn’t do for her!” So this made me think. Does a human, male being like this exist? Is this even real? Let’s swing the magic wand and create a somewhat Mr. Perfect, shall we?

He listens when you speak, he appears to understand his privilege and complex power dynamics, and he’s never once lectured you about a Star Wars or James Bond movie or worse, forces you to watch all of them. Though not necessarily a common occurrence, coming across a seemingly perfect man, either socially or in the workplace, can be a very overwhelming experience.

Maybe he’s the only man who doesn’t talk about sports at the start of every meeting—completely oblivious to who might be left out of the conversation. Or maybe you met him on a dating app, and he actually asked you a question about yourself. At first, you might have thought, “Wow, he sees me as a fully realized human being and he has a nice haircut. This is too good to be true.” It’s probably not too good to be true. It’s just too good to be entirely his doing.

To keep the scales of universal justice aligned, credit must be given where credit is due. So, before you get caught up in how he appreciates dogs and talks openly about going to therapy, ask yourself, “Is he really an emotionally evolved self-aware incarnation of soft masculinity come to Earth fully formed? Or am I just looking at the end result of years and years of tedious, thankless, burnout-inducing toil performed by the long line of women he’s dated?”

Discerning the truth can be surprisingly tricky. Especially because the part of you that’s dying to meet a man who would eat his shirt before saying, “Bridges of Madison County has some pretty interesting points…” will want to believe that this man walked out of the womb reading actual books and wearing no thin gold chain or gold necklace. In reality, it’s far more likely that a very patient woman (me) carefully worked quotes from Murakami into casual conversation with him for years (and bought him that chain – no gold though)

Keeping these things in mind will help you maintain a level head when getting involved with such a man. Because you can’t just go dissolving into a puddle whenever he validates your feelings or puts on a Fiona Apple album. Remember, if he invites you into his home, it is your duty to keep an eye out for signs left by those who have gone before you. Does he have clean sheets and more than one pillow? It’s plausible he acquired those on his own. Any bedding item made of linen? Now would be an appropriate time to thank those who have paved the way for your comfort. They likely fielded questions like, “What’s wrong with the sheets I’ve had since forever?” or “Why do we need pillowcases anyway?”

Next, take a peek in the bathroom. If there’s evidence that he owns moisturizer, maybe it’s him. If he’s one of the 14 percent of men using a daily sunscreen, maybe it’s Allie, Katie, or Michelle, his three latest exes. Quietly thank them for working to protect his face for you both.

Scan his bookshelf. Cormac McCarthy? Vonnegut? War books? Murakami? Those are probably him. Anything written by a woman? Literally any woman at all—it doesn’t even have to be Virginia Woolf. If you find one, it’s probably a gift from one of the exes, and it’s probably Pride and Prejudice. Give them a round of internal applause for their service, and give him partial credit if the spine is cracked.

Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy these men who are doing their best to do and say the right things. After all, someone worked very hard to turn that man who skateboards and plays guitar into a man who skateboards, plays guitar, and respects women’s bodily autonomy. So if you meet a perfect man—a living, breathing embodiment of the female gaze—by all means, appreciate him for it. But before you get too impressed, just take a minute to remember the woman who explained the female gaze to him in the first place.

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