Friday, January 21, 2005

Here's to staying single, drinking double, and sleeping triple.

Alan wants to know why I would want to cure myself of hopeless romanticism and idealism.

That's a tough one. I guess I don't think, for me, there is anything wrong with either of these things, except that I am consistently disappointed by the ability of others to live up to my expectations and standards.

My parents have been married for almost 35 years and are still deeply in love. It is telling that M. said one of the reasons she is marrying K. is that she feels like, together, they have many of the dynamics that my parents do. I'm not saying they have a perfect relationship, I'm just saying it's perfect for them. In my house the family takes a walk together at least once a day. We always ate dinner together. We had a family night all the way until I graduated from high school...friend's were invited but I had to be there. This is one of the ways that M. first became involved with my family, and they quickly adopted her as Daughter #2. Often my high school boyfriend would end up playing Trivial Pursuit with my family on a Friday night because I had to do "the family thing" before I could go anywhere. But aside from all of that, my parents are physically in love with each other, not just with being parents or the *idea* of what they have if they stay together. They hold hands. They always go to bed at the same time. They worry and fret over each other's defeats and celebrate each other's triumphs. And so, at least twice in my life I have thought that I could somehow attain that same level of love and affection and harmony, and twice I have been utterly cowed by the power to destroy a relationship that abuse, atrophy, and apathy can wreak, especially when wielded by someone who is not the least bit interested in being an active participant except in the sense that they participate in breaking everything that's good.

And so, over the years, I've internalized the things I've seen at home, and even with a few bad relationships behind me, I am still idealistic. I still think that I will meet someone who will love me because I will always make him cookies, and I will always rub his forehead whenever he puts his head in my lap as we watch a movie on the couch after a really long day, and I will write notes for his lunchbox so he knows how much I care. And the thing about this is, I know I will do these things, because I always do. Maybe not these things exactly, but I am always the person in any relationship who puts forth 99% of the effort. As my dad says, if relationships are cars, I have always been the engine and I am always on the lookout for a good lugnut.

In terms of being a hopeless romantic, I guess what can be so hurtful about being idealistic is that it doesn't seem to pay off, does it? I never was a perfect wife or girlfriend in any relationship, but I feel comfortable stating, with 100% confidence, that I always, bar none, put in far more than I ever got out. Maybe that's the thing about people who are sort of naturally willing to give and be caretakers, they are doomed by being attracted to people who like to take. Every last one of them fulfilled my need to be able to take care of someone, but always at the expense of feeling like I had no one to turn to when *I* needed a little lunchbox love note. And so I guess as I've gotten older I realize more and more that I do want someone who is on more equal footing with me, because in hindsight I realize that even though I had good intentions, having to control someone into loving you is probably never going to work out well. Correct?

I guess now I would say I am a practical romantic. I still have a tremendous desire to find someone who I am compatible with and who I can have a fulfilling relationship with, but not anymore at the expense of who I am, who I want to be, or the general values that guide my life and my behavior (yup, I actually have some!). It can be sad to realize that you've been through some bad relationships, and learned some valuable lessons, and the people who keep asking you out are just like the people who stomped on your heart in order to help you learn those valuable lessons. I don't know, I hear men tell me sometimes how different they are, and how evolved and fabulous and caring and sensitive they are, but I don't often see actions that back up their least none that last past the initial "please go out with me" stage (and in my case, not even then apparently). Maybe people just don't do all that romantic and mushy stuff anymore, I don't know...if so, I think it's tragic that it's gone and all we're left with wedding parties wearing Pimp and Ho track suits and people pursuing ever growing numbers of drunken hook-ups.

So, I don't think I actually cleared that up at all, if anything, I rambled quite a bit more than I intended. In a last bid at being concise, I wish sometimes that I was able to lower my own standards of what I expect from myself during a relationship so that I wouldn't be so disappointed with what I usually get out of the other person in terms of their contributions to the relationship. But secretly I'm glad I can't. Because it makes me happy to believe "it" is out there somewhere...I guess I just don't know where yet.
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