Why Men Are Like Cheeseburgers: The Man Shopping List


When I first became single, one of the most exciting prospects for me was the idea of going on dates. I met my ex-husband at the age of 18 so dating was something I literally had never done before. OK, so there was that one with a Swedish architect student, but the first date was so boring I think I reverted to drinking Snakebites with my girlfriends in the SU for the remainder of the year.

So this time around I decided to go at the dating game as if it was my job. Not because I was desperate to find someone but more because I thought it would be so much fun; I’m a total people person and love nothing more than meeting new people and discovering new things. I expected glittering conversation over lovely bottles of wine… open fire optional.


My spare time is precious: when dating I didn’t want to spend time with any men who didn’t fit my idea of perfection – or at least get a little bit close to it. I’m getting on for 30 and have two kids, I didn’t want to mess around, you know what I mean? And when you’re online dating you get to pick and choose the people you spend your evenings with as if you were ordering a burger; rare, extra beef, easy on the cheese, large gherkin on the side… that’s what I’m talking about.

So before I went on dates I literally sat down and wrote a list. If I was going to spend time with someone, who would it be with? What attributes would I want my ideal man to have? How are they going to look? It went something like this:

– Intelligent and educated so we can talk about politics (HAHA obviously I mean the Kardashians).
– Tall, preferably taller than 6 foot. I like heels, you see. Not on a man though.
– Older than me, probably between the ages of 32 and 40.
– Doesn’t live at home with his parents.
– Lives near me, I’m lazy.
– Likes music, but not bad music. I like enough bad music for two people.
– Has a challenging career that he loves and is passionate about.
– Likes fancy food and to be cooked for. And cheeseburgers.
– Respects and encourages my career.
– Likes children, maybe has some.
– Has a great sense of humour (by which I mean ‘laughs at my jokes’).
– Hot (duh).
– Plays some sort of sport or at least goes to the gym.
– Is fairly cultured, or at least likes to pretend to be.
– Looks good in a suit.
– Looks good out of a suit.
– Understands the value of a nice pair of shoes.
– Believes in chivalry cos according to my best friend I’m not just a Princess, I am a Queen.

And so I set about the great dating game. I went on dates with Investment Bankers, Entrepreneurs, 25 year olds (I KNOW), Journalists, Marketing Execs, Academics… you name it, I’ve dated them (probably). I sat through endless hours of strangers regaling me with stories of their ‘colourful’ lives (zzzzz…). I drank red wine in at least four different counties and in front of three different open fires. The only reason I didn’t start an anonymous blog about all the ‘interesting’ people I met was because my Mum told me it would be mean. Plus I was always hopeful that the next person I would sit across from at the pub would not be horrendous.

I registered with Match.com, My Single Friend (the best out there in my opinion), Guardian Soulmates, Plenty Of Fish and the most fun of all… Tinder. I made judgements about people based on a teeny tiny photograph of them and made myself sounds as hilarious as humanly possible in 400 characters or less. I discarded anyone who messaged me in txt spk and really valued good grammar. Dating, man, it is not easy!

It was interesting how sterile the whole process started to feel; I’d meet someone and wonder how they would figure on my list. It became less about attraction and chemistry and more about whether or not a person fit into a set list of criteria. But I don’t think it was just me who was approaching dates in this way – the guys were too. I met so many 30-somethings (and some 40-somethings) who just really wanted to settle down with someone who might like to cook for them and massage their egos for the rest of their lives. I was like, dudes, I have enough work with my own ego. Don’t put yours on me, too.

And that sparkling conversation? It was not forthcoming.

That was pretty much when I stopped dating. I think I’d forgotten how you’re supposed to feel when you want to spend an extended amount of time with someone; when you fall in love with someone it shouldn’t be about how many points they tick off your list, it’s about how they make you feel.

It’s about the way your heart feels like you might vomit it out of your mouth when they walk in a room. It’s about their touch setting your skin on fire and the way that spending a couple of hours with them makes your skin glow more than any facial can. Falling in love is about someone making you feel like the only person in existence, it’s about staying up until 6.30 in the morning chatting about everything and nothing and still not wanting to go to sleep even though you’ve got work in the morning. It’s about someone not only laughing at your jokes but the way that them laughing at your jokes makes you feel like the happiest, most sparkling person in the world. It’s finding pleasure in the small things – train journeys, music, meals, walks – because you’re doing it together. Falling in love is someone else inspiring your to be the best version of yourself, to work harder, love fiercer. It’s about believing in lightening bolts and love songs.

So the moral of the (long, meandering) story? Burn the lists (your dating one, not your shopping one). Life is too short to not feel inspired and amazed at the person you’re sitting across from at the pub. A man is not a cheeseburger, they can’t be ordered medium rare but if you find a good one they can switch your world upside-down (this applies to men AND cheeseburgers).

And when you meet someone who makes you feel like you want to vomit your heart out? You’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Peggy Reinvented wrote:

    Really wise words Alice, and thanks for going on all those dates in the name of research so we don’t have to! ;-) I had a list of ideal qualities before I met my ex-husband and when I did meet him he checked all the items on my list. (Passionate, adventurous, creative etc) And yet I now see that there were characteristics I had over-looked and also qualities you can’t define. I think vomiting your heart out of your mouth is when you get that ‘spark’ between two people. But then there’s that beautiful quote from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, “Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. … Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away…”

    Posted 5.8.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      That right there is one of my very favourite quotes. Love it! x

      Posted 5.8.14 Reply
  2. That burger analogy is the best! :)

    Posted 5.8.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      If only men were a bit more like burgers!

      Posted 5.8.14 Reply
  3. My gay friend introduced me to Tinder the other day and I thought it was amazing. And then he showed me Grindr which is like Tinder but much sluttier. The 30 year old boring housewife in me was shocked. ;) But it didn’t stop me rating all his potential suitors and also checking if there was any eligible gays within a 10k radius of the remote Wiltshire countryside. ;) (There wasn’t unfortunately for him but lucky for me as we were sharing a bed!)

    Posted 5.8.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Ooh I haven’t seen Grindr! But my married friends would love to sit down with me and a glass of wine and ‘play Tinder’ :) Hours of fun!!

      Posted 5.8.14 Reply
  4. abigail wrote:

    Gawd, the idea of dating terrifies me! I’m terrible at small talk, and sitting across from someone trying to ‘sell’ the best parts of yourself gives me the willys (well it probably wouldn’t get me any willys…)

    ANYWAY, getting drunk in a bad nightclub seemed to work ok in my youth, but maybe not so much when you get older?!

    Posted 5.8.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Ugh, the idea of getting drunk in a bad nightclub these days leaves me feeling a bit tired! x

      Posted 5.9.14 Reply
  5. Jenny wrote:

    I love this post Alice I am so sharing this with my best friend who is recently divorced and was on match.com. You are so right. Lists only make you miss out what could potentially be there with someone that might not look like what you think he should on paper. Life is too short. Have fun! Love this post. I always said if anything happend to me and my hubby now I would totally online date so many I know how met their person to vomit about! lol

    Posted 5.9.14 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Exactly! I bet you didn’t have a list in Mexico ;) x

      Posted 5.9.14 Reply
      • Jenny wrote:

        No it was more of one too many black zambukas that got me. LMAO if you read my book you would think I am crazy.

        Posted 5.9.14 Reply
  6. Emma wrote:

    Totally agree!! On paper, I’m not sure my husband or I would ever have picked each other, we would have ruled each other out on ridiculously silly things that have no effect on our marriage at all!! So longs as you have the same values you’ll be just fine!

    Posted 5.9.14 Reply
  7. Annwen wrote:

    I don’t know how you do it! I’m still happily married but I’ve been with my husband since I was 18. Idon’t even think I know what the dating game is all about anymore. If it doesn’t look like something from Sex and the City then I’d be severely disappointed!

    I agree though, your list (as blooming amazing as it was) probably shouldn’t be the way you truly measure your dates. Go with your gut, if they can make you laugh, are ok on the eye and have a job then they’ve got to be worth a look. Oh and if they don’t have good manners then get up and leave immediately!


    Posted 5.9.14 Reply
  8. InvalidToffee wrote:

    A list is only a list. Meet a potential partner who ticks all the boxes and whoop-dee-doo, you’ve found yourself an over-six-foot list of ticks.

    Let me tell you a story. (True and unembellished, as if it’d need it.) Years ago my work brought me into the orbit of an interesting [read ‘creepy’] consultancy. It had been selected (after a years-long vetting) for a project by a Serious Outfit. I don’t want to put its name as I don’t want E*h*lon (early-alphabet consonant, second vowel) to pick up on my message. (But if you understand why the mad computer in ‘2001’ was so named, let’s call that outfit the OTB. With me?)

    Anyway, the consultancy had been hired because its Serious Client had discovered a disturbing truism: that the best people never get past weeding-out-interview stage. (We’re Mumsnet, right: baby, bathwater, that sort of thing.) Psychometric evaluation, no matter how laughingly-called ‘sophisticated’, is as easy to fool as the polygraph. In short, major organizations, worldwide, were hiring the kind that’s good at passing tests and that was about it. For decades, the dangerous has been (and still is) staffed by committee-men (and women): a caste of creature adept at mimicking the truly able: professional fence-sitters who stand out at being invisible.

    So they’d found themselves this consultancy who’d spot’n’treasure the diamonds in the rough, eh? And as for me, my specialism was writing the entire communication-campaign for it. First-off, I said I should take the tests. But I insisted on one proviso: that the only copy of the results be mine and that I should witness all computer-records immediately erased, whatever my result. Interestingly, laddo in charge agreed. After all, what waves could this silly thing make?

    I didn’t just rock the boat, I capsized it. Frigate! Blokey in charge, ashen-faced, said I was the grail they sought: and I could name my price for the results he’d just (honourably) handed-over as the leccy-brain had spewed ’em out. It was fun then to watch his eyes belly-flop onto the carpet-tiles as I took out a lighter, set fire to the results and lit a cigarillo with them. (I don’t smoke, btw.)

    Why? If they don’t recognize the charcter and qualities they seek when they meet them it’s because they lack them themselves and I’ll be damned if I’m going to work with posturing deadheads.

    Of course, Johnny Consultancy tried to get me to reconsider: failed, also of course: he hadn’t had my real name from the off. I can nread a wrong ‘un.

    What’s this got to do with dating/schmating/mating? Want a walking tick-box-list? Go ahead: the world, and the women in it, are groaning under them. (Take that as you will.) Me, he’s got to make me go doolally over him. Mine? Ugly, social disaster, not tall, not toned, ticks no boxes but God does he push the right buttons?! Every day no, every second, is a glory with him. I’m far the stronger but oh I’m Shezza Crow’s ‘puddle on the floor’ with just the thought of him. Known him years, too, and though he’s useless and maddening oh whoah, bring him on.

    My friends hate me. (My true friend doesn’t. Of course, Part III.)

    PS Any mistakes in this, blame the wine. He’s away; progeny’s being looked-after by Doting Family; and I’m Missing Him There I’ve Said It Now B*gger Off Leave Me Alone OK?

    Posted 5.12.14 Reply
  9. Aww, Alice. I sometimes forget how bloody young you are. And then you write something like ‘I met my husband at the age of 18’ and I want to wrap you in a big motherly hug, take your kids for a weekend and send you on a bit of a self-discovery trip.
    You are still so incredibly young (and wise beyond your years!). Quit online dating, go out with your friends and kiss a lot of men (or more) before you settle down. You’ll never find the perfect burger if you only ever go to the two restaurants you know. Most likely, there are criteria that mean a lot to you but haven’t even made it onto your list. xxx

    Posted 5.12.14 Reply
  10. hrynne wrote:

    Oh another great article. I’m sad you’ve given up as I won’t get to read about it. – do that blog! ! Ignore your mum ;) I too have given up on online dating. Its too hard!!! Lots of love xx

    Posted 5.13.14 Reply
  11. Mummytobande wrote:

    I for one think your mum is wrong – I need that advice!!!!
    Like you I meet my soon to be ex-husband at 21. I have never been on a date – we just went to enough student gigs and fell into each other enough times that we stuck.
    Now 15 years and 2 kids later I am staring down the barrel of having to one day try my hand at this ‘dating thing’.
    Its not something that I am ready for yet, but when I am I would definitely find your advice from travelling down the road before me invaluable.
    An extension to Morethantoast – Morethanburgers????

    Posted 5.13.14 Reply
  12. Lauranne wrote:

    Yes, yes, yes. “Falling in love is someone else inspiring your to be the best version of yourself, to work harder, love fiercer. It’s about believing in lightening bolts and love songs.” Why do guys not seem to get this?

    Posted 11.25.15 Reply