Editor’s note: In case you missed them, catch up on Nikki’s previous Dating Diaries posts here.

Dating sometimes feels like standing in the cereal aisle where there are way too many choices to sort through. You did Cocoa Pebbles when you were younger; Shredded Wheat is still too boring now. You’re trying to compare prices and feel like you should buy organic, but you’ve been standing there too long and you become panicked and leave without any cereal at all. You want to be able to stride down the aisle and know exactly what you’re looking for–a cinnamon, whole grain option. You’re open to a variety of shapes, though. Crispies, flakes, Os, that part can surprise you.

There are certain things I look for in the person I’m dating. Preferably, my boyfriend won’t be a hat person. (Baseball caps are okay, but only if he’s actually playing baseball.) He really should love Friday Night Lights, or at least be open to it, and our relationship would go a lot smoother if he never complained about foods being fattening.

I’m aware that these qualifications are a little too specific. You have to keep an open mind and prioritize the big things. Above all, my boyfriend should be kind and trustworthy and we should share the same values—what difference does it make if he wears glasses without prescription lenses? Well, my love for Friday Night Lights comes as close to believing in God as I’m going to get so, for me, that is a value.

Seriously though, the older I get and the more I date, the less I actually know what I should be looking for in a cereal/partner and I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. With every horrible romantic encounter, the consolation prize is that you learn something about the one that comes next. After I gave up too many of my priorities to date a vegan, I learned that I couldn’t be with someone with a drastic lifestyle difference. One definitive dealbreaker was thereafter secure on the checklist and I could sort through future potential mates with greater ease. All vegans, non-drinkers and paleo diet adherents move to the left and gtfo.

But then I went on two dates with someone who didn’t drink and he was awesome about it. So I erased that whole thing off the list. I’m getting to a point in my life where a lot of my peers are settling down and getting their lives together and it feels like I should not be dating wildly inappropriate people anymore. I’ve field tested some options and I should have an idea of what is good for me. And yet, I don’t.

Over and over again, I’ve been attracted to the super smart brunette with a creative side who challenges me intellectually and makes me laugh. And time and again, it has not worked out. I think I tend to confuse ‘super smart’ with guys who just act like they know everything, and those guys are assholes. But you’re attracted to what you’re attracted to, and even though I want to change my disappointing pattern, I don’t know if it’s possible. For now, I’ve scrapped the entire list and am starting over with a mostly blank slate.

Other than ‘Not a homophobe’ and ‘Not a misogynist,’ there is really very little that I know for sure I’m looking for in a man. These days, I give everyone a chance even though the guy might wear those weird toe shoes, majored in Asian studies, and have a kid because who knows guys!? He could surprise me and be the perfect match. He never is, and I feel like I date in a swirl of strange male characteristics where I’m completely overwhelmed by which ones to nab with my butterfly net.

I know for sure that he can’t over-pronounce French words, though. That is definitely on the list.