So, what exactly is a deal breaker? If you ask Peter, an anxious, sniffling, and sharply suited 36-year-old with a prominent mole that floats above his arched left brow, he'll tell you it's "a woman with bad breath."
"Or someone who's taller than five-three... or well, she needs to be fashionable. And highly educated, preferably a vegetarian, and she has to get manicures and pedicures on a regular basis, because if she's not taking care of her feet, who knows what else she's not taking care of."
He's standing on a crowded sidewalk, basking in the pinkish midnight glow of the neon sign at The Bar (172 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables). It's a laid-back dive, with copious rock 'n' roll, drink specials, and beer, where Peter is comfortable enough to check his reflection in a darkened window for cocaine residue.
Any other qualifications, Romeo?
"Yeah. I also hate it when they smoke girly cigarettes, like lights or menthols." He takes a long final puff of a Marlboro Red and flicks the butt toward a metered Mini.
"I like a girl with balls, ya know?"
Sure. I mean, what man doesn't want a high-maintenance, teeth-grinding, lettuce-munching, Bronco-smoking pygmy drag queen with a PhD in delusional entitlement?
But you really can't blame the guy. We all need a little love during a recession. Divorce rates have plummeted, and the membership at Match.com has jumped 20 percent over the past year. So why not try this aqua-walled bar where a border of empty beer bottles and framed Le Chat Noir-inspired posters qualify as décor?
"I haven't found the perfect guy," laments Andrea, a short, spunky girl with auburn ringlets and a cute pixie face, sitting alone in one of the wooden booths. "I thought I had. He would write me the most romantic things. I'd wake up every day with a 'good morning, gorgeous,' text. We'd email each other all day at work with inside jokes, but then, whenever we were actually together, like on a date, he was mute. I couldn't get anything out of him. It's like he could only express himself through edited text messages instead of just letting loose and saying whatever popped into his head. When I confronted him about it, he didn't say anything. But later he wrote me a long-ass email filled with lame excuses for his actions. So I broke up with him... through Instant Message."
Just then, someone decides to play Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" on the Bar's downloadable jukebox — my personal deal breaker — so I flee back outside to the sidewalk, where smokers drink drafts of Tucher and Stella Artois from plastic cups. Huddled around a tall circular bar table are a couple of UM law students.
"A turnoff for me is hair around the nipple," says Ian, a short, tan, and chubby 26-year-old in a T-shirt and a gray sport coat. "Aside from that, I guess someone who talks about God too much. I mean, like born-again and evangelical types. But say someone became religious in some kind of intellectual way, like after reading The Brothers Karamazov. I can get down with that."
"Good luck finding a woman in this town who even knows who Dostoyevsky is," says Evan, his taller, bearded friend wearing a red polo. "That's my deal breaker: stupidity. And Miami is filled with gold-digging retards... no offense to retards or anything."
He's clearly one enlightened lawyer-to-be.
"Like, I dated this one Cuban girl," Evan continues. "She was really hot but very conservative and closed-minded. She thought anyone who didn't think the way she did was dangerous. My breaking point was when she accused Jon Stewart of being a Communist."
Next I meet Ralph, a tall, toothy, but handsome guy in a plaid button-down with sleeves rolled high enough to reveal his rainbow of bar-hopping wristbands. "I used to live in this huge apartment complex and would run into this older lady all the time when I was taking out my trash. One day she propositioned me, we went back to her place, and one thing led to another. I didn't really want much more from her, like a relationship or anything, so the fact that we only had sex in her living room didn't really bother me. What bothered me was when she finally did invite me into her bedroom... It was filled with dolls — lots of dolls. Which is creepy, but not as disturbing as her wig collection. She had all these faceless wig stands with long, short, curly, crimped, red, blond, every kind of wig. She put on this long, straight black wig and handed me a short blue one with bangs. She wanted to know if we could do it wearing her wigs."
"Never again after that."
Enough with the kinky. I head to nearby watering hole Duffy's Tavern (2108 SW 57th Ave., Miami) in hopes that its herd of loyal regulars will have more conventional last straws.
"Camel toes," says Nick, a 29-year-old with a shaved head that sparkles like Mr. Clean's. "Or butt cracks! Girls with big, beautiful asses who don't know what kinds of jeans to wear in order to cover all that sexiness. So their cracks are always on display, just waiting for you to put a penny in them or something. I once put a cocktail straw in my girlfriend's crack at some South Beach club. She got pretty pissed, especially since she walked from the bar to the bathroom with a tiny tail."
"In-laws could be one for me," says Beverly, a 32-year-old pharmacist who gives off serious Velma from Scooby-Doo vibes. "I was dating someone for a while, things were getting serious, so he took me up to Ocala to meet his mom. Big mistake. His mom had a two-pack-a-day habit, had a fridge filled with nothing but Slim-Fast, and her entire house was decorated in clowns. Clown dolls, clown throw pillows, decorative clown plates, clown magnets, even clown light-switch fixtures. Luckily, I'm not phobic, but... he gave his mom a clown shot glass as a present! Plus the restaurant she chose for dinner that night was Hooters. We didn't last very long after that."
Then comes the evening's most experienced Lothario. Tom is in his 80s, tall, thin, with wispy white hair and a sweet smile. He says he was a lieutenant colonel in Korea and has been coming to Duffy's since it opened in 1955. He can prove it. On the wall nearby, he points out a color photo of him and his family sitting at the central wood bar.
His pet peeve: short women.
"When I was a young man, I thought teaching dance lessons one summer would be a great way to meet women," he says. "But none of the pretty girls needed lessons — their dance cards were filled. The women who came in were all four feet tall, 400-pound trolls with eyes longing for the touch of a man."
But Tom nevertheless snagged one cutie that summer.
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"I dated Miss Kentucky. Tall, blond, smart, but couldn't dance worth a damn!"
So, was two left feet a deal breaker?
"Nah," he says with a chuckle. "When someone's that wonderful, they don't need to know how to dance."
Amen to that, Tom.