A Tale of Two Pretties
April 25, 2007 8:40 AM   Subscribe

How do you choose between two people who are both indidually wonderful? How do you turn one down when neither of them deserve it? I'm in the best dilemma in the world and can't figure it out.

Jo(sephine): Artist, traveller, passionate and smiling and wonderful. And gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

Marian: Exciting, hilarious, fascinating, comfortable, laughing and wonderful. And gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

I met them separately, they don't know each other, and after a few weeks of hanging out in groups, then hanging out together in groups, then spending time just the two of us, it's getting very close to the point (if not already past it) that I need to just pick one and stop leading the other on. But... I can't. They're both fantastic. Trying to 'pick one' is like trying to pick a favourite sibling: they're both wonderful, both different.

I don't want to go one way and constantly wonder what would have happened if I'd taken the other path, but I don't want to just sit here confused and ruin my chances with both of them. I suppose the question is this: has anyone been in this situation before? What did you do, how did it work out, any advice for a paralised pal? I'm stunned enough to be in this situation, I don't want to be so stunned that I let it collapse on itself.
posted by twirlypen to Human Relations (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever you're called on to make up your mind.
And you're hampered by not having any.
The simplest way to solve the dilemma you'll find,
Is simply by flipping a penny.

No, not so that chance shall decide the affair;
As you're passively standing there moping.
But as soon as the penny is up in the air,
You'll suddenly know what you're hoping.

--Piet Hein
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:47 AM on April 25, 2007 [69 favorites]

Frasier says that both women appeal to different parts of his personality: Cassandra is fun, while Faye is cultured. Niles has a solution: to flip a coin. Just as he is about to reveal the result, he says "Admit it, you want me to say one name more than another." Frasier admits this is true - it's Cassandra.
If, after flipping the coin but before looking at it, you still can't decide, then go with the coin.

On preview: curses!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:51 AM on April 25, 2007

"Wonderful"? "Gorgeous"? "Smiling"? Um... have you ever dated anyone before? It sounds like you have no emotional connection whatsoever to either person, and you're just giddy about having two hotties ready to get with you.

I don't think it matters who you choose, because any relationship with either of them will be either 1) intense and enjoyable, but superficial and short, or 2) deep and emotionally fulfilling based on connections you have not made yet.

So basically what I'm saying is you have to change your perspective from "Oh, so many pretties, who do I pick?" (oh, and "pretties"? Barf) to something more like "how do I develop an emotional connection to these people"? And honestly I think you can, even should, give them both a little more of a chance before you make a decision. It should become clear in time. If they're both really eager to jump your bones, and if you'd feel bad about dating two people at once (or if they wouldn't stand for it), then be mature and tell each one that you'd be more comfortable waiting until you get to know her better. Then do that.
posted by rkent at 8:58 AM on April 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

flip a coin. jo is heads, marian tails.

if it lands heads and you wished it landed tails, then go with marian. if it lands heads and you're glad it landed heads, go with jo. if it lands tails and you wish it landed heads, go with jo. if it lands tails and you're glad it landed tails, go with marian.

the idea is that you force yourself to choose arbitrarily, which will bring your gut reaction to the forefront. then you listen to your gut no matter what the arbitrary coin toss says. alternately, if you flip a coin and don't feel one way or the other about it, just go with what the coin says.

to be honest, it doesn't seem like you have very strong feelings for either of them, so out of respect for them both try not to waste time analyzing them on objective characteristics as though they were two different models of car. Just pick one and get it over with.
posted by shmegegge at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2007

You can try it, but I don't know if the flipping the coin trick is valid. My guess is that if it lands heads, you'll notice a slight feeling of disappointment that it didn't land tails, and vice versa. If both options are truly attractive to you, just the act of making the choice (eliminating one of them) will create a bit of regret.
posted by daser at 9:21 AM on April 25, 2007

I don't want to go one way and constantly wonder what would have happened if I'd taken the other path

This is a problem that lies in your future, not your present, and is a function of your character.

IMHO, some people are doomed to constantly wonder about their choices, no matter how carefully plotted those choices were. Other people can make snap decisions and never regret it. So, what type of person are you?
posted by aramaic at 9:29 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

rkent, what provoked that hostile response??? "pretties" rhymes with "cities", hence the amusing title to the question.

to the OP -- have you thought about asking the two people in question whether or not they are looking for something exclusive right now? maybe they're not. perhaps you needn't decide between them right away.
posted by modernnomad at 9:31 AM on April 25, 2007

If the criteria at hand (beauty, wonderfulness) aren't sufficient to make a decision, you may wish to expand your scope a little. Have you met their respective dealbreakers families?
posted by YamwotIam at 9:31 AM on April 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pick the one that complements(not compliments) you most. The one who's strong where you're weak. If either has shown any sign of dishonesty, that's points against her. Same for insecurity and jealousy. You want someone who is interesting to talk to, and who challenges you, but you don't want someone with whom the challenges consist of "putting up with stupid shit", such as dramatic reactions to situations, obsession over body image, possessiveness, excessive neediness or inability to do things for and by herself.

If either one has never spent any serious time alone in her life, that's serious points against her. If they're both really as desirable as you say, they may both be in this category. That's the problem with pretty girls sometimes, they can miss out on the unpleasant events that are necessary to build character because they've always got someone willing to step in and fix their problems. Of course, I just made a huge generalization and one which will likely draw criticism, but hopefully you see what I'm getting at. Being independentally interesting and independentally capable is very important.

All the above presumes you first have a connection with both on a internal, wordless level. If you don't have that, it's no good, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's too soon to pick. Tell 'em you don't know yourself well enough to make a commitment, and you'll be right, despite the flak you'll undoubtedly get.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:02 AM on April 25, 2007 [5 favorites]

Based on your descriptions, I'd go with Marian: humor and comfort are key in relationships.

Then again, that's a hypothetical and yours, perhaps, is real. And the coin flip; so it goes.
posted by stance at 10:17 AM on April 25, 2007

It doesn't really sound like you have much of a deep connection with these women, so that in mind, if you're going on pure physical attractiveness, you might as well choose the one with the biggest tits.
posted by ob at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

rkent, what provoked that hostile response??? "pretties" rhymes with "cities", hence the amusing title to the question.

a silly pun doesn't change the barf factor. The way he describes them seems very focused on how "stunned" he is that two "gorgeous" women are spending time with him, not on any actual interesting interchange with either human being. To call this the "best dilemma" is kind of weird in my opinion; if he actually feels a connection I would think this would be a very stressful, anxiety-ridden period, and he wouldn't be thinking about how it's not fair to lead one on, but about how he's not being fully honest with people he really likes, and is perhaps inhibiting the growth of the relationship, etc.

First I would say, do you know what you're looking for (ie, are you thinking long-term, serious relationship at this point in your life?) and do you have a sense of what either of these women are looking for? think about how well your goals align with theirs in that area.
Second, any sense of how into you they are? Any idea if either of them may be dating other people at this stage, for instance?
In general, there are so many levels you want to feel connected on (previous) that a few adjectives about them is not going to be able to help anyone here tell you what to do. You can go through this in a rational pro/con way, but that will only give you more data; then there is the simple chemistry, that makes people love people they never thought they would love, so you have to listen to that to (I think that's what people call "your heart" :))
posted by mdn at 10:42 AM on April 25, 2007

Which one laughs at your jokes? Pick her.

Otherwise, dammit, I'll suggest it. - a little thing called menage á trois. Threesome, buddy. Get one of them to rub the other's shoulders.
posted by filmgeek at 10:55 AM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: Well, what do you want from life? An Indian guru to show you the inner light? Oops, sorry, wrong song. I meant, what do you want out of this incipient relationship? Are you thinking love + marriage = baby carriage, or do you want to spend sleepy Sunday afternoons together reading the NY Times, or are you hoping to drag race with one of these ladies on your way to go rock-climbing at the rave? Determine what you're looking for and what your near-term and long-term relationship goals are, and make a decision accordingly.

Although if Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that one of these women is blonde and glamorous and princessy and not quite right for you, and the other is brunette and slightly quirky and shy and is meant to be your soulmate.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 10:59 AM on April 25, 2007 [8 favorites]

1. You may wonder about the wonderful wonderful wonderful physicist/ballroom dancer/standup comic that you would have met had you picked neither girl. This is ridiculous. Do grasp this.

2. I'd go with sense of humor. It's all that matters in life when you realize that bigamy/ménage isn't going to workout for more than an afternoon, an afternoon you aren't even going to get.

3. If you like your parents, introduce both girls to your parents over a meal. Then, later, consider how each girl fit in. How women relate to others is one of the real measures of female character. Male character is best measured by decisiveness.
posted by ewkpates at 11:07 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of the AskMe I've been meaning to post: should I be more proud of my ten-inch penis or my millions of dollars?

But, anyway, ignoring the unmistakable how-much-of-a-stud-am-I undercurrent in your post, I'd say go with whoever seems happier. Not happier with you, happier in general. Long-term, happy people are just easier to live with.
posted by myeviltwin at 11:09 AM on April 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

Talk with them about things like life purpose, whether you/they want to have children, what their future plans are, what accomplishments they want to look back on when they're 90.

Compare their ideas with your own. If you don't have your own ideas about these things, then you can start thinking about them, at least.
posted by amtho at 11:31 AM on April 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Get rid of the stuff that doesn't really tell us much and we have:

Jo(sephine): Artist, traveller, passionate.

Marian: Exciting, hilarious, fascinating, comfortable.

I'd say Marian. Except for "passionate" (which can be both a plus and a minus), Josephine is defined by what she is. Marian is defined by who she is.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:33 AM on April 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

I love the coin flip idea, but I have another point of consideration. You said that they don't know each other, and that you hang out in two different groups. Whoever you end up dating will at some point get introduced to the other group. Maybe your deciding factor can be based on who will get along the best with all of your friends.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2007

I've always felt that the mark of a good relationship is liking the person you get to be with them. Which one brings out the parts of yourself in proportions that make you happiest? What I mean is, if one makes you feel more fun and adventurous than sexy and thoughtful, or vice versa, then decide which version of yourself you like more, and be with the one that brings that out.

I remember one guy I dated...we would go out and do outdoors stuff more often than not. Another we would get into deep intellectual conversations a larger portion of the time. And with yet another we would flirt and tease and make fun of each other endlessly. I found I preferred to see myself as the latter, and so I was happiest indulging in that part of myself more of the time by being in a relationship with that person. Just an example. To each his own.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:56 AM on April 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

Jo is passionate, artistic and smiles a lot. She's crazy, but you just don't know it yet. She will either break your heart, stab you, have one or more emotional breakdowns or sleep with your bestfriend or bestfriend's girlfriend. Possibly all of the above.

Marian actually laughs and is hilarious and comfortable, while being exciting and fascinating. She may break your heart, but she'll tell you right before she does it and you can be friends with her later, she won't stab anyone unless they try to hurt her or those she loves, and she'll be good friends with your best friend and his girlfriend.

No contest.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:16 PM on April 25, 2007

A Victorian gentleman would point his dilemma out to both of the ladies and then create an intriguing challenge for them to compete on for his affection. This could take the form of a race around the world, a chess match, or a thrilling cat fight. Choose wisely.
posted by drezdn at 12:30 PM on April 25, 2007 [7 favorites]

This reminds me of a joke:

There's this mobster, and he's been dating these three Italian girls in the neighborhood. Well, one day the Don calls him in and says,"Look, it's not fair for you to lead this girls on like this. You have to choose one of them and then marry her."

The guy says, "But Godfather, I don't know which one I like the best!"

So the Don thinks a minute and says, "Okay. This is what you do. You give each of them a thousand dollars and see how they handle their money. Then you decide."

Well, it seems like a good plan and the guy does it. A couple weeks later he gets together with the first girl.

He asks her, "Bella, what did you do with the money?"

She says, "Well, I know how you like food, so I went out and I bought all this wonderful stuff direct from Italy.Tonight I'm going to take you back to my place, and I'm going to cook you the best Italian food you have ever had in your life."

He thinks to himself: That's pretty good. I could live with that.

So next week he checks in with the second girl.

"Bella, what did you do with the money?"

She says, "Well, I know how you like to look good.
So I went out and bought you a nice suit with an Italian silk tie and Italian loafers. I thought you could come over to my place and try it on."

And he thinks to himself: Hey, that's pretty good, too. I can live with that also.

So he goes to the third girl and says, "Bella, what did you do with the money?"

She says, "Well, I lent half of it out to the bakery down the street at 25% interest.The other half I put into a box of hot watches, which we turned around and sold for three times what they were worth." She reaches into her purse and hands him an envelope full of fifty dollar bills."That's three thousand dollars, because I know how you like to take care of your money."

He thinks to himself: Wow! That's incredible. I can definitely live with that.

So which one does he eventually marry?

The one with the biggest tits.
posted by battlecj at 12:58 PM on April 25, 2007 [9 favorites]

Sleep with them both and pick the one who is the biggest freak in bed.

$10.00 says it's Jo.
posted by bondcliff at 2:12 PM on April 25, 2007

I vote Marian. But I don't know them, I don't know you, and according to this, all three of you are 7727.2 miles (12435.7 km) away from me, so you're probably going to have to work a little harder to find some differences between them.

Also, get used to occasionally making decisions you might regret. Even Robert Frost probably sat around some afternoon wondering if the road more traveled by was actually pretty cool. And that, my Australian friend, has made all the difference.
posted by Partial Law at 2:15 PM on April 25, 2007

which one cooks the best pot roast? fries the best chicken? bakes the best cherry pie?
posted by bruce at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2007

keeps the cleanest house? reminds you of your mother? Give me a break! If those descriptions are all you know about them I'd say a coin flip is a fair enough choice.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:44 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

--has anyone been in this situation before? What did you do, how did it work out, any advice--

I've been in a similar situation, dating two people, although it wasn't so hard for me to make a decision. (Things worked out great, we've been happily married for 7 years.)

I'm assuming that each of you is interested in an exclusive long-term relationship. Non-exclusive or "open" relationships are much more complicated, emotionally.

Some suggestions:

1. It sounds like there's good chemistry, you're very attracted to both women.

What about communication? How well do you feel you know each of them--how much of an emotional connection do you have? Have you had any deep conversations with either of them? (About what kind of goals each of you have in life, for example. Although I see from your posting history that you're only 21 or 22.)

2. Being rejected can be very painful. I'd suggest reading How To Dump a Guy: A Coward's Manual. Bear in mind that once you break things off with one of them, she may very well not want to see much of you--it can be humiliating that she wasn't "good enough" for you. In that case, back off and don't force the issue.

3. Once things get physically intimate, you should talk about having an exclusive relationship (she may be dating other people as well), and break things off with the other woman.

4. My general advice would be: try not to rush things. The more time you have to get to know each other, the better. I like this quote from If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?
If you were searching for the perfect wallpaper, you wouldn't bring home one sample, live with it for six months, and then take it back and try another sample for six months. Yet that is how many people treat their search for a mate. They finally get one date. If they like the person even a little, they begin evaluating this individual against their highest standards, struggling to make the relationship work. They behave as though this is the last person they will ever have a chance to meet.
posted by russilwvong at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

if you're looking for longterm, maybe go for marian. comfortable and laughing is probably a safer bet than artist and traveller. buy traveller jo a ticket to london to cheer her up.
posted by londongeezer at 4:07 PM on April 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. Sorry if the descriptions sounded superficial or like I don't know them very well, but it would have been pointless to try to describe them perfectly. You can't know someone from a sentence online, so I figured basic adjectives were enough.

And Mignight Creeper, you're creepily correct about the Hollywood blonde and the quirky brunette.
posted by twirlypen at 5:16 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Beg to differ, TPS. The coin flip trick is fantastic for forcing a decision, one way or the other. It works just as well for important decisions as for trivial ones.

If you're faced with any kind of two-way decision that you truly can't reason through, that generally means the arguments for both choices are equally strong. If you've got a 50% chance of being wrong whatever you do, it usually matters less which choice you make than that you actually make one.

The way I do this it is: only flip the coin if I truly can't decide what I want to do, but know I need to decide now; make a solid commitment to action on the basis of the flip; flip the coin; if I'm immediately viscerally dismayed by the way it lands, act as if it landed the other way (even if I'm dismayed by that prospect as well).

That said: twirlypen, just arrange for all three of you to be at the same place at the same time, and find out what unfolds.
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you've got a 50% chance of being wrong whatever you do, it usually matters less which choice you make than that you actually make one.

This isn't a multiple-choice test- there's no need to rush to make a choice. Especially since time will probably work things out all on it's own. The poster wants to be sure he's making the right choice; the last thing he should do is hurry because some peeps on AskMeta said he had to decide nownownow.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:03 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

ThePinkSuperhero has it.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:08 PM on April 25, 2007

Beg to differ, TPS. The coin flip trick is fantastic for forcing a decision, one way or the other. It works just as well for important decisions as for trivial ones.

Yeah, loiseau and TPS - you completely missed the point of the exercise. The idea of the coin flip is that it provokes a subconscious response to a question you've been overthinking and shows you your true thoughts on the matter. No one actually bases their relationships on heads or tails, and no one here was literally suggesting that.
posted by rkent at 8:17 PM on April 25, 2007

That said: twirlypen, just arrange for all three of you to be at the same place at the same time, and find out what unfolds.

In case it's not obvious, this is a terrible idea.

A literary example of your dilemma: Patricia Highsmith, "Blow It."

posted by russilwvong at 9:12 PM on April 25, 2007

Great thread.
posted by callmejay at 10:25 PM on April 25, 2007

drezdn has it! I totally want to give the "victorian era competition-du-love" answer but I was afraid that both girls would just dump you. I see now that this could be a possibility anyway. Go for it!
posted by ewkpates at 3:11 AM on April 26, 2007

rkent: I think it's you who's missing the point. TPS was pointing out that your gut preference isn't some magical oracle of truth. If anything, it's probably more prone to be biased towards shinier washers and girls that seem fun and exciting now but turn out to be kind of insane drama queens later.

Anyway, yeah, I feel dumb for not thinking of this myself, but why can't the OP just keep dating both of them until things sort themselves out?
posted by myeviltwin at 7:22 AM on April 26, 2007

actually, if we're going to get engaged in some ridiculous oneupmanship contest, here, then I'll say that everyone is missing the point but me.

the point is precisely that this isn't choosing between two washing machines (or model cars, as I said in my original comment) and if he's really interested in doing a comparison shop as if it WERE, then he might as well just flip a coin because he doesn't feel that strongly for either one of them as people anyway.

lastly, the coin flip trick is not actually bullshit. it's not ideal for every situation, but there are times when a person feels more comfortable in a position of indecision and therefore holds off making a choice until it's too late one way or the other. the OP sounded like he wanted to choose between them now-ish, so I gave him a way to search his own feelings on the matter. You people need to chill.
posted by shmegegge at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2007

Fair enough! I still think, though, that deferring the decision seems like it might be a reasonable thing to do here.
posted by myeviltwin at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2007

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