The Keepers Test…When it comes to dating, the little things matter most

February 11, 2009|By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz RedEye

Anyone who saw “A Bronx tale,” the 1993 movie about a kid growing up int he rough-and-tumble 160s Bronx, probably remembers the “door test.”

The “door test,” explains gangster Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) to the kid as he prepares to go on a first date, is how you determine whether a girl is a keeper. After opening the car door for your date to climb into the passenger seat, Sonny tells the kid, walk around behind the car and peer through the rear windshield to see if she leans over to unlock the driver’s side door for you.

“If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in, that means she’s a selfish broad, and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg,” Sonny says in the movie. “You dump her and you dump her fast.”

Jon Waisman was among the countless teens who, after seeing the movie, took the “door test” to heart.

“I had a Honda Civic that had manual locks,” recalled Waisman, now 21 and living in the West Loop. “The first girl that did it, I would have been impressed.”

But not a single date passed the door test, Waisman said, and he soon abandoned it as a measure of a girl’s character.

Power locks, alas, had rendered the “door test” irrelevant.

What’s a modern-day dater to do?

Dating culture is awash in compatibility tests and rules, as fans of “He’s Just Not That Into You” well know.

But few boast the simplicity of the “door test,” in which a single gesture separates the good eggs from the bad.

That could be a good thing. While it’s comforting to navigate the great unknown of a new romantic interest with a clear test, first impressions can be tricky. Some get anxious on first dates, so they don’t shine, while others are on their best behavior, so their not-so-great qualities don’t emerge until later.

“I think it’s always important to keep an open mind,” said psychologist Kate Wachs, Chicago-based founder of The Relationship Center and author of “Relationships for Dummies.” “Your first impressions can be totally off. It’s a hypothesis, not reality.”

Even if you seem perfectly compatible early in a relationship, outside forces can damage long-term compatibility, Wachs said.

Still, Wachs said, certain egregious behaviors early in the dating game can help you rule a person out.

“If somebody’s rude to someone in front of you,” Wachs said, “that’s a strong rule-out.”

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, RedEye went in search of the contemporary equivalent of the “door test,” surveying men and women about what subtle signs indicate to them that a person is a keeper — or at least worthy of another date.

It turns out it’s often the little things that matter most.


“It’s important to me that a guy says ‘God bless you’ when you sneeze,” said Brittney Detkowski, 28, of Lincoln Park. “You know he’s polite and a nice guy.”

Comfortable silence

“I know a girl is a keeper if I can open up a newspaper during breakfast, and there’s no talking for 20 minutes, and it’s not an issue,” said Don Vidosh, 28, who was in Chicago from Michigan visiting friends.

Family matters

Mallory Benham, 23, said a crucial threshold is when a date asks about her family.

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