I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
Like you, I was raised with unrealistic expectations. The ideal of the perfect person is sold to us through movies and books with unfair marketing ploys playing to our base desire to be loved and to love perfectly. As if there is an ultimate and absolute love just waiting out there to be found. And the optimist in me screams that I should never give up hope. That if I stick it out, the world’s most perfect woman will eventually walk into my life and we will Notebook our way into the sunset. But the realist in me screams about how no one is perfect and no one shits strawberry ice cream.
I have dated a lot of women. Dates, one-night stands, short term – long term relationships, and lived with women, but I have never been married. And one might believe that because of that exclusion that my opinion is less valid, but I maintain that a thousand nights in a trench gives you a much clearer view of the war than having visited a battle field a handful of times. And to the disappointment of some and the relief of others, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no one perfect person. Everyone has a flaw, or more likely – flaws. Some are obvious. Some are glaring red flags waving in your face warning you of impending doom that so many of us will ignore because we are so impulsive and desperate for love that we will forget our training and all the lessons we learned along the way. But some are less obvious, just lurking under the surface waiting to be baited out of the water. Sometimes it takes weeks or months or years to come raging forward but by then, we have already set our hook and fallen deeply in love.
There is something to be said for those who can’t or won’t hide their crazy. Because at least they are being honest and you know what you’re signing up for. The more dastardly, the more villainous and absolutely the most destructive are those who attempt to manipulate and fool you. Who aggressively convince you to lower your guard and allow them through the walls of you castle, only to wreak havoc on your head and your heart.
I still recall the moment I walked through the door of her condo. Beautiful dark wood hard floors without a scratch. Exposed brick with candle wall sconces and gentle music playing throughout the place on recessed bluetooth wall speakers. She owned all of this with money she made from a job she got with degrees she earned. I guess she was what I had referred to my entire life as an “adult”. Tiny statues she acquired from her travels to different countries adorned shelves and everything had a place. No piles of magazines or unfolded laundry. Matching bathroom towels meticulously folded and rolled. No dust, perfect wall paint lines, and flawless crown molding. This was the kind of condo you would see in a magazine. And not once did she feel the need to brag of show off. And more than anything, that was what I found notable about her personality. Where if I had reached that level of success, I probably wouldn’t shut up about it. But she was impressive without feeling the need to brag or boast.
She took my coat and hung it up on her vintage coat rack and handed me an ice-t and told me to take a seat. She had just started making dinner for the two of us. She had changed out of her professional woman suit and into something equally as expensive yet more comfortable. I sat back and watched her grace the kitchen with elegance and I wondered what the hell I was doing there. Absolutely stunning, with an athletic body, a calm confidence, and a dry wit. She was impeccable, and I couldn’t believe that she was investing time in me.
We dated for a few months and whenever I had the opportunity, I would tell my friends that I had met the perfect woman. That it took me decades of searching and after months of scrutinizing, I simply couldn’t find a flaw in her. Then one night we were sitting on her couch, legs crossed over each other watching a movie. I don’t remember the exact conversation but we were playfully talking shit to each other when, with a smile, said, “Oh, whatever, you jerk.” And let out a lighthearted chuckle. As if someone flipped a switch, she turned to me and said, “Don’t you EVER call me a jerk again!” Her face turned into an ugly scowl, her behavior completely unwarranted.
I said, “Hey, you know I was just kidding.” I laughed again, “Clearly I don’t think you’re a jerk.”
But she didn’t let up. It was as if this was some kind of deal breaker.
“I don’t care if you were kidding or not, don’t you ever say that to me again.”
I didn’t know how to respond. On one hand, I understand that everyone has their quirks and if we truly care about someone we will compromise certain behaviors around them to ensure their happiness, but on the other hand, there is nothing less sexy than someone who can’t take a joke. I assured her that I was just kidding and that in no way was it out of malice. But I couldn’t flip the back the switch. She got up and walked into her room and slammed the door. So I grabbed my things and walked out.
It took months for me to see that side of her. This once perfect woman had now turned irrational and unreasonable and I have no time for people without a sense of humor, especially those who refuse to communicate. We never saw each other again.
No one is perfect no matter how much we idealize them. No one has the ability to always make us smile. No one will love us exactly the way we want to be loved all of the time and no one shits strawberry ice cream. But the idea, the hope is that one day someone will love us the way we NEED to be loved. And compatibility isn’t so much about the way we make each other feel, but in the way we work with each other’s problems. How do we handle the stressful and grouchy periods and irrational personalities of those we love. How we handle the bad days is just as important as how we treat you on the good days. Because you can’t always control cranky mornings, bad days, and combative nights – but you can control your expectations. And when you idealize people, you are doing them a great disservice and setting yourself up for disappointment because you make it virtually impossible for anyone to live up to skewed perspective of a movie-type relationship. And the only way you get to have your Notebook-type ending is by learning to manage and work through the day to day bullshit of your love. And that is the only realistic expectation you can have. Then you might have a realistic shot at permanence.