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"I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is not that strange?"—Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing
If the protagonist of a love story wants a certain type of person at the start of the story, their final True Love will be very different. The guy who prefers the Yamato Nadeshiko type will end up with the Tsundere, the girl who only feels safe with "nice boys" will end up with the troubled rebel.
Generally, this is shown in terms of "you don't know what you're looking for until you find it", and, on a more pragmatic level, makes for a better story under the Rule of Drama. Would you really want to watch two hours of "person dates a bunch of similar people until they find the one that suits them best"? Or worse, a nice couple who hit it off immediately and hook up without any problems.
However, there are Unfortunate Implications if you want to go looking for them; while the trope itself is completely benign, the devil's in the details. One of the most popular variants is the Troubled but Cute guy who only dates so-called "easy" girls until he finds true love with the Girl Next Door -- falling into the old (sexist) adage that "there are girls you sleep with and girls you marry," a popular mantra for parents who didn't mind their son "sowing his wild oats", but didn't want a girl who was less than virginal marrying into the family. (The same is, of course, true of women who are presented as making a distinction between "men they sleep with" and "men they marry", although in accord with the Double Standard, it's less likely to be brought up as an issue).
That said, the female protagonist often travels along a different arc: they will fall for someone she'd usually consider unsuitable or downright dangerous after a string of more sensible partners. Almost invariably, it comes across as "even if a woman decides to date men who can at least spell "morality," they will still get ditched as she falls for the Bad Boy anyway."
Still, most audiences aren't interested in love-as-political-point-scoring and will treat the work as a love story.
Occasionally, the True Love will differ even from the preferred gender, with accompanying If It's You It's Okay. The double-whammy is popular in tales of Yaoi Guys, where not only is one character the "wrong" gender for his partner, but the "wrong" personality type as well.
- Rei in Mars dates any girl willing to sleep with him, most of them shown as brash, shallow and self-obsessed, until he meets painfully introverted and artistic Kira, who has some serious issues regarding sex and is the first girl not to immediately make for the bedroom.
- Gravitation's Eiri Yuki had a track record that consisted of "girls who won't mind if I forget about them post-sex, but who are happy to get an encore should I deign to call them." He ends up with clingy, demanding, (and male) Shuichi.
- Dorian's preference (if you ignore his love life's status as an urban legend) is for submissive, artistic, fey(-er than himself) pretty boys. The unrequited love of his life is Klaus - who is macho, domineering, artistically insensitive, and has a volcanic temper to boot.
- Sumire from Tramps Like Us has it in mind to date a man with her "Three Highs" - taller than her, more educated than her, and earns more than her because she's learned from experience that No Guy Wants an Amazon. Naturally, she falls in love with Takeshi, a short and out-of-work modern dance student.
- In Lovely Complex, Risa, who's unusually tall for a girl, wants a boyfriend who's taller than her. Otani, who's unusually short for a boy, wants a cute girlfriend who's shorter than him. Take a wild guess as to whom each one hooks up with in the end. Admittedly, they have a lot in common aside from the height difference, but it takes quite a while for them to get over that mental hurdle.
- At the start of Future Lovers, Kento dreams of marrying a sweet, responsible housewife and having a family. He's forced to seriously revise that dream when he finds himself falling in love with Akira, who is as far from the ideal housewife as you can get, gender included.
- In Sasameki Koto, Ushio makes it very clear that she only cares for extremely cute girls--much to the lament of her best friend, Sumika, who does not consider herself cute in the least, being a rather tall karate prodigy. Things become rather ... complicated, once Ushio realizes she has developed feelings for Sumika after all.
- Heather Douglas, Marvel's telepathic Moondragon has one of the more convoluted stories, starting off as a manipulator who would sometimes use sex as a weapon and always was involved with males. Then to her own surprise she fell in love with Rick Jones's wife Marlo Chandler, but that did not work out. Marlo eventually returned to Rick, and to ensure her future happiness, Heather "confessed" that she thought she had subconsciously made Marlo fall in love with her in the first place. Phyla-Vell, the cosmically aware daughter of Captain Marvel, was so moved by that self-denying lie that she fell in love with Heather, who thus unexpectedly found her true love after all.
- One also could put Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson in this category, especially as MJ in her original form was not even intended to be a serious love interest by the creators. Here it took the tragic death of Gwen Stacy, which also affected Mary Jane deeply, and a few other twists and turns until the two realized how well they fit together and could finally tie the knot.
- In Tremors Val has a precise checklist for women he dates; "long blonde hair, big green eyes, world class breasts, ass that won't quit and legs that go all the way up!" (Unspoken is the fact they have three names and the intellects of cheese spread.) He ends up falling in love with Rhonda, a brunette with blue eyes who is rather short and Hollywood Homely. (But at least she has brains!)
- Danny Zuko in Grease prefers "girls who put out," only to fall for sweet and naive Sandy (at least, she is until the end of the film, making this a possible subversion where the True Love changes in order to conform to their partner's "type").
- This is the entire plot, albeit forced on the main character, of Shallow Hal.
- Strangely, some of the least ridden with Unfortunate Implications versions turn up in Romance Novels. Mr. Troubled but Cute's usual tastes may be more sex friends or a cash payment away from definitely not being any sort of friend at all, and Mr. Dogged Nice Guy sometimes turns out to be too good to be true. It does make sense: The first guy actually has a relationship with Miss Girl Next Door because they're not too busy doing other things, while the other guy loses to the 'bad boy' because, well, honesty counts.
- This appears to be set up for Confessions of Georgia Nicolson -- despite Georgia's claims that only "Sex Gods" need apply to be her boyfriend, her closest and most constant relationship is with Dave "The Laugh." While he's not as attractive as Georgia prefers, and lacks the status symbols of both Robbie and Masimo (a car/scooter, sings in a band, older than Georgia), she can't stop thinking about him (often remarking mid-monologue "How did Dave The Laugh get in there?") and shows surprising maturity in her reactions to him; Georgia can be ludicrously insensitive to most people, but she genuinely fears hurting or offending Dave in any way, not out of pride for herself but out of an honest regard for his feelings.
- In the Spy High books by A.J. Butcher, super-wealthy Jerk Jock Ben has only ever dated girls equally as privileged and physically gorgeous as him (which in the first series brings him together with Lori), but ultimately falls in love with Cally, who although kind and loving is a wrong-side-of-the-tracks former delinquent and grew up in comparative poverty.
- Anne Shirley had always insisted that she would only marry a man who fit her ideal. Tall, dark, handsome were non-negotiable requirements. Preferably one who owned a castle somewhere, like Spain. In the end, she winds up with Gilbert Blythe. She had rejected him many times for not fitting her ideal. (Granted, Gilbert is tall, dark, and the handsomest guy in her hometown -- but he trained as a doctor, he was too much of a Boy Next Door, and she didn't want to ruin their friendship.)
- Or their lack of friendship.
- The truth of this trope depends where you stand in the Shipping Wars, but all of Angel's romantic interests were petite blondes (Buffy, Darla, Kate, Nina) with the exception of voluptuous brunette Cordelia. Who, for at least part of the time he was interested in her, had dyed her hair blonde. Dude has a type.
- Make them tough and confident too and you have a winner. Also don't forget some of Angelus/ Angel's MALE lovers e.g. Spike, who is also small and blond.
- Lampshaded in the episode 'Carpe Noctem' where an old man switches bodies with Angel, and is seen having sex on Wesley's desk. Cordelia isn't suspicious, saying that going at it with "some cheap blonde" is just the sort of thing Angel would do. However, when Fred mentions she was "some cheap brunette" the gang realizes there must be something wrong with Angel, and springs to action.
- Mulder's minor love interests in The X-Files tended to be tall, leggy, and blonde or brunette. In the end, he wound up with Scully, a petite 5' 3" redhead.
- Charlotte on Sex and the City spent the first seasons looking for her prince charming and eventually found Trey, who was everything she ever dreamed of, and married him. When she and Trey were divorcing she chose her divorce attorney, Harry, specifically because he was everything she didn't want in a man, and therefore she felt free to be as aggressive as possible during the divorce. Harry turned out to be her true love.
- Blair on Gossip Girl thought white knight Nate was her dream man. Instead her true love turned out to be Chuck, resident Jerkass.
- Blair actually seems to veer back and forth between jerkasses (Carter, Jack) and (apparently) sweet guys (Nate, Lord Marcus, Louis). Both types treat her like crap. However, Chuck is the only jerk who she's really seemed interested in for longer than a night.
- Parks and Recreation: Before meeting the short, blonde Leslie, Ben apparently had a type:
Chris Traeger: "You always like tall brunettes."
Ben Wyatt: "Not exclusively."
Chris Traeger: "Historically, yes, exclusively."