Since the tender age of 24, I’ve been a participant of the great Indian tradition of Project Spouse Hunt. It has involved many awkward meetings, lots of really dull conversations, several arguments with the parents and much laughter at the expense of fellow candidates. Now, I’ve not always had a 100% participation rate, often having to be dragged kicking and screaming into it, to the effect that after over four years of being part of the project, I’ve only accomplished about a year’s worth of work in actuality, and have, for all intents and purposes, failed, seeing as how I’m still single (and ready to mingle).
Now, the reasons for my failure are varied and multifold (not least of which are the fact that it’s a system that has tried to evolve with the times but not been very successful at doing so), but I’ve been told my biggest problem is my stringent litmus test. That is, I subject all the eligible men presented before me to criteria and conditions that are way too harsh for Project Spouse Hunt. I couldn’t disagree more – I think making a decision as important as choosing a (lifelong!) spouse requires the strictest of filtration procedures. To be honest, though, it’s not really that difficult to tick my checkboxes – fate has just thrown a surprisingly discouraging number of subpar applicants my way.
See, my litmus test looks for potential areas of weakness in personality, areas relating to reasoning, decision-making and control. They’re laid out roughly sequentially, with the candidates having to pass one test to qualify for the next.
Firstly, I try not to be judgemental about appearance, because I wouldn’t want anyone to judge me based on mine, but I’ve always felt that a man with a moustache isn’t capable of telling when something doesn’t look good on him. (Because, fact, moustaches rarely ever look good on anyone. Moustache accompanying a beard, however, is acceptable.) Apart from that, though, and a basic dress sense, pretty much anything goes.
Next, I ask to be emailed as the first point of contact, because it helps me make some quick assumptions about command of language and writing style. I’ve been failed often here, but I will allow that I’m nitpickier than most in this department, having unreasonably strong emotional ties to grammar. (Although, listen, using ‘you’re’ instead of ‘your’ is a cardinal sin, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.) On the plus side, if a dude writes like a pro, I will most likely be able to look past the fact that he moonlights as a serial killer. You can’t have everything, you know.
Next comes the humour test, which involves both making jokes and seeing if they have the appropriate response and laying down punny breadcrumbs and seeing if they pick up on it. Because, come on, if I somehow manage to simultaneously steer the conversation to both pressed clothes and superheroes and you DON’T make a joke about Iron Man, you’re just not pulling your weight. Bonus points are awarded for pop-culture references, and making the same joke at the same time triples all existing points.
At this point, I bring out the big guns and declare that I can’t cook (even though this is not true). This separates the wheat (the guy who shrugs and says, “Eh, no worries, I can,” or suggests living off of takeouts) (I never said this was a litmus test for a healthy spouse) from the chaff (the guy whose eyes pop out of his head and who immediately starts mentioning all the stuff his mom makes him that he can’t live without).
No guy has made it this far for me to have actually tried it, but in my head at least, Disaster Date is a big component of the test. This involves a series of “unfortunate” occurrences (carefully planned by me) to test the candidate’s response. Of course, people are usually on their best behaviour when they’re trying to make a good impression, but Disaster Date is designed to test their patience. Traffic jams, rude and/or clumsy waiters, noisy people at the cinema (there’s a special place reserved for them in Hell), one slightly irritating friend – they will all measure his ability to keep calm and remain pleasant while his poor soul is pleading for relief.
If a guy makes it this far and passes, he will be subjected to other, less important criteria like having a sane family, a stable source of income and a history of reliability. Honestly, though, these aren’t really make-or-break criteria – a guy who’s gotten this far has earned the right to a batshit crazy family, occasional homelessness and/or joblessness, and disappearing for weeks at a time (presumably to cook meth, a la Walter White).
Because, at the end of the day, Project Spouse Hunt, at its very core, is all about compromise.