The best thing that ever happened to me (besides Beyoncé's Lemonade) had its beginnings when I was at my lowest. Post major break-up, sifting through the detritus of my life, I found “THE LIST." Years before, after another brutal split, I had written out an honest list of everything I wanted in a life partner. From being nice to children and the elderly, to detailed sexual desires I wouldn't let anyone read, I didn't hold back. This list was sacred. It was my Eat, Pray, Love moment except it was more like Eat, Cry, Eat.
And here I was, after so many years, looking at that list again when it dawned on me that my most recent ex had almost everything on the list -- except one thing. I had let him have a pass on it because he was 99% on point, and damn, I never scored that high on any test before, so who was I to judge?
Well you know what? It still didn't work. It wasn't enough. So I made a promise to myself: The next guy I was going to meet would be the 100% guy. The A+. My hand grabbed the nearest thick red marker and at the top of the list I announced: “I AIN'T NEVER GONNA SETTLE FOR LESS AGAIN."
Armed with my new mandate and ready to move on, I started to date men again. And that's when I bumped into the hiccup—finding the 100% guy, I realized, would be easier said than done.
Here were the main problems:
Too much to choose from makes you numb and dumb.
In the era of swipe left culture, even the slightest mention of art, pop culture, or politics in the small bio of a thumbnail on my iPhone would give me the go-ahead to judge their personality. I'd make split-second decisions. The lid to my pot may have been swiped or blocked long ago. Who knows? I could have banished him to the Dark iCloud for a bad selfie (although I still maintain the "selfie standard": a messy room, a filthy carpet or a dirty bathroom mirror is a deal breaker!).
Dating is boring.
Although I was dating again, I was doing what THEY were interested in. Sure, I'll spend my hard-earned money on a Coldplay concert, or go to club where I can't hear or talk to you. It bored me and prevented me from connecting with interesting people, and any budding connection stayed on the surface—but I'm cool dammit!
Interrogation dating doesn't work.
I had a long list of what I was looking for in the 100% guy. To be honest, I was being picky. And sure, why shouldn't I be? I deserved what I want/need. But, on dates I was starting to feel like a census pollster trying to figure out how many of my boxes the guy checked. I was interviewing them, not experiencing them.
Soon after I started dating again, a friend asked me about what type of man I wanted. What would he do for fun? I answered, “He would be the kind of guy who'd invite me to art galleries, for example." My friend came back with, “Well, do YOU go to art galleries? Because that's where the guy who goes to art galleries is. At the art gallery." That's when it dawned on me that I needed to BE the type of person I wanted to be with. I could be one of those guys that goes to galleries.
Once I made that shift, it all made sense. It's about following my heart, my interests and my passions. Rather than guess what someone else was looking for and try to be that, I needed to have faith that who I am and want in life is awesome and worth it and that trusting my gut will lead me to the kind of guy I deserve.
I also realized that I needed to re-think my criteria for that 100% guy, especially when it came to the "just dating" phase. It's ridiculous to expect ONE guy to be ALL the things I need in a life partner—especially on the first date! Since my past M.O. was only seeing a guy if I thought he might be the complete 100% package and that clearly wasn't working, this time I was going to try something different and date multiple people. And maybe until I found that 100% person, I could find what I needed from several guys who fit 20% of my criteria and at the same time stay open to the possibility that my definition of the perfect guy and my checklist might grow and change as I did.
So I went to work. I re-downloaded my dating apps, went on tons of dates, all while making sure to save one day a week for just me and my friends. After several months, a pattern began to emerge. The guys I was interested in and with whom I was most compatible starting separating themselves out into predictable categories—five of them, to be exact. They each offered a different piece of the puzzle I was looking for, and by dating them all at the same time, I started to realize the things that were most important to me.
It was my lightbulb moment: The 5 Guy Guide was born.
The Solution: Give your time to 5 guys at once!
"But how can I find five guys if I can't even find one?" you may ask. In fact, you may already have found them; some of them may already be in your life. And—spoiler—for my friends and me, this dating method has led to all of us getting engaged.
Because have you ever been "ghosted" after a first date? Ever put too much energy in trying to make a stranger happy, only for them not to appreciate it? When you find someone, do you burn that flame so bright it fizzles out at the first road bump? The 5 guy dating method asks you to separate those feelings into categories, preventing you from putting all of your hopes and dreams into one unsuspecting dude. Instead you will find that all of your needs are met as you learn how to share your life with someone—not ask them to complete it. If you are fed up with modern dating to the point of insanity then you are exactly where I was when this method was born.
A caveat: This guide was written from the perspective of men who date men and the dating tropes and behaviors that go along with it (though some of the Guide's insights will hopefully be helpful for straight and/or lesbian singles, as well).
Here's how it works:
Step 1: Write out two lists—the partner wish list and a list of things you like to do.
Make a list of every single thing you want in a partner. Don't hold back. Instead of looking for that one perfect person, put the guys into categories and connect with any guy who has at least one quality that is on your list. For example, I met up with a guy whose profile picture wasn't exactly my type, but hey, he liked comedy and had an adorable profile and picked a dope restaurant. A girl's gotta eat! Another was a surfer in Hermosa Beach who on the surface lacked ambition but that Modern Art Museum membership he had was good enough for me to check him out while we both checked out the new collection.
Step 2: Assemble 5 Good guys
Here's who you need:
The Professor: A guy who's an expert on a topic you love. Say you are learning tennis. He may be a tennis pro. Or perhaps you love '80s music—this guy used to be an exec at Capitol Records! He may not be everything you need but damn that Pat Benatar concert was fun, or how cool was it to cuddle while watching Venus Williams play?
The Steady: A safe, easy booty-call to keep your hormones in control when dating someone new. Trustworthy, consistent—this is the guy who's never going to make your heart beat fast except for a dependable 20 minutes (or however long a girl needs) but will keep you from making some very dumb, regrettable decisions. It's great to have one safe and familiar partner without expectations. The STEADY knows your body. You won't need the rush of the touch of a stranger. One friend's STEADY became his everything. This is only step 2 man. It's anybody's game, people!
The Piner: Someone who you would be with if things were different, with whom you feel the chemistry, i.e. a co-worker, friend's ex, someone currently occupied or a straight guy. Only catch: THIS RELATIONSHIP MUST NEVER BE CONSUMMATED (while on your five-guy search). Show this person how loving you can be to another human being without sex clouding the atmosphere. When you do meet THE ONE, you'll have skills and tools in place to enjoy friendships with people you find attractive without it being more than that. It also lets you and PINER remain friends because you never "went there!" Practicing with a PINER makes these relationships possible.
The thing is…remember when our parents told us not to do something and it always made that "thing" appear more attractive? Who am I to say THE PINER won't end up being your 100% guy? Cinderella wasn't the obvious match for Prince Charming. Love finds a way. And although THE PINER is best when you leave the lust out and they can teach you a lot about self-control, nothing can stop love. So, his card stays in the game until the end.
The Cheerleader: This guy knows all about you but likes you anyway and you shine just a little brighter around him. He likes you more than you like him. Don't be reckless with hearts here. Making out with him is fine but try to resist the urge to go all the way. This is a guy who, as much as you try—I mean, really try—to be attracted to him, you're just not! Stay focused though. THE ONE will make you feel this great, too. Don't discount THE CHEERLEADER. He could be a dark horse...Slow and steady wins the race. He just may grow on you after all.
The Wildcard: THIS GUY CAN COME INTO YOUR LIFE AND ALL BETS ARE OFF or he could be another dud. This is the guy you meet out in real life—at Starbucks or your friend's birthday. Keep an open heart and mind and most importantly, keep your flirt light on. Everyone is a potential sexual partner. There's a door that needs to remain open for possibility. At some point THE WILDCARD could walk in and go right to the head of the line. THE WILDCARD will help you stay at the top of your game and always looking your best.
STEP 3: Start Dating Your Team in Rotation
Identify activities or passions you want in your life, but aren't in there currently. Jazz music? Art shows? Basketball games? And be sure to schedule one personal day for yourself every two weeks. Not only will you grow as a person but these are great places to meet a WILDCARD.
Since you are a busy person with friends, hobbies and work commitments, you can only date each one about every two weeks. After an enlightening foreign documentary screening with THE PROFESSOR, you may have to let him know you need to get up for an early meeting and be home by 11pm only to have THE STEADY waiting for you to call him over at midnight. YOU ARE SO IN CONTROL! This allows you to let the relationship with THE PROFESSOR grow while not wasting your time on a purely physical relationship. “See you two Thursdays from now!" you will shout as you hop into your Lyft, leaving him wanting more. Still, at work tomorrow, you will dress up to see your PINER, all while keeping yourself open for that WILDCARD—the one you met at your friend's BBQ last weekend. Are you getting all this?! You're about to be busy, honey!
Maintaining these dates becomes part of the game and the challenge here. “How can you get to know each other if you're only getting together once every two weeks?" You keep the momentum with emails, texts and the normal cute random memes or emojis. The vibe is to only call them back if you feel like it. Only answer a FaceTime if it's a good time for you. Live your life by meeting your professional and personal needs first and welcoming a man to participate. Men will go crazy to prove themselves worthy.
Step 4: Narrow The Field
Once you have your five guys in place you will see that, as per usual, there will be those dudes who will disappear due to lack of patience or interest. ALL THAT IS A GOOD THING. I hate to be harsh here, but if they couldn't stick it out until next Thursday then chances are good they would never be there through chemo. God forbid. I'm sorry, but I'm telling this to you like I would tell my niece, bestie, sister or SquirrelFriend. When these guys drop off it's no skin off our backs. We keep moving forward, spacing dudes out every two weeks, all while making sushi and taking guitar lessons. We simply keep getting more awesome as opposed to waiting for the right one.
Once you have your rotation going, you will begin to go on more second and third dates. As time goes by you will begin to examine your five guys more closely. And that's when you start finding the buried treasure. WOW. The CHEERLEADER also likes jazz. Who knew? You start seeing him in a different light. Or it's time to take THE PROFESSOR to the next level because his last goodnight kiss was fire and you don't need STEADY anymore. Maybe a WILDCARD sweeps you off your feet and PINER moves cities. Will this frustrate some of the guys, pushing them to want to earn more time with you? “Who the hell did he go see Beauty and The Beast with?" they will wonder when you tell them you already saw it. He is going to have to act faster and think bigger to hold your attention. Once one of the guys on your team starts to step up and show signs of a KEEPER, they will become one of... THE TWO SUITORS.
Step 5: The Final Countdown
At some point, seeing you once every two weeks is not going to be enough for one of your TWO SUITORS. When one comes forward and asks for more time or makes a grand gesture, “I bought us tickets to the Philharmonic and you can't say no!" you are going to find that you want to maybe cancel a spin class or invite him to the art gallery. Once this happens, go to the second guy in your list and feel him out. One of these two guys will almost always end up being a clear choice. You may just have found your prince.
When I first met the man who would become my fiancé at a Starbucks and got his number, I was going to a gallery with THE PROFESSOR later that same night. When THE PROFESSOR cancelled last minute (something that would've ruined the evening years ago) I called the sweet man I met earlier that day (THE WILDCARD!) and invited him to join me instead. The rest, as they say, is history. Two years, later I asked him to marry me at the Starbucks where we first met.
To be honest, when I first met my man, it took a while to realize that he was every single ask on my list—the 100% Guy. In fact, I had put my list away while I focused on pursuing new interests and exploring aspects of myself. It was only when, very recently, I re-discovered the list with the angry red-scrawled updated mandate at the top, that I realized my fiancé checked every single box. So after you write out your list, put it in a drawer. The journey, in the end isn't about the list. You might find that during your search you were asking for certain things you don't require anymore. You will grow as a human, I promise you. Feeding your brain, keeping an open heart and learning new things about what we love will do just do that.
Now looking at it from this point of view, isn't it a bit much to expect these things from one person right away? After I shared this method with friends, in less than a year I witnessed engagements and more than one long-term relationship. But it was only after The Guide became responsible for three weddings, that I knew it was time to let the world in on it. Maybe you will catch the bouquet of this story and when you do please tell me all about it. I want to know everything!
Go get yours, girl.
Daniel Franzese is an actor and writer best known for his memorable roles on Mean Girls and Looking.
Illustrations by Florence Guan