Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Magical shadows

I'm supposed to be reading "Unhooked Generation" and reporting back to you, dear readers, but I stalled on it this weekend. I was busy cleaning the house, doing laundry, going shopping, meeting friends, cooking, etc. I didn’t have it in me to curl up with the book.

Still, it's been on my mind a little. One of the things covered in the book are the dangers of having a checklist. In my casual and partial summary of the book to CK, I referred to this as a "magical checklist." Straus is saying that some of us are walking around with a magical checklist in our heads and no one can ever compare to it.

Now, there is quite a bit of discussion around the dating blogosphere about making lists of "must haves" and "deal breakers." Actually, it's not just on the blogosphere. That eHarmony dude wrote a book and one of the exercises he recommends is to make these lists.

And, you know what I did many weeks ago? I wrote a list of must haves and a list of deal breakers. The never published post is titled, "The Goddamn Lists." I didn't want to make a list because:

Making a list seems like commodification.

Making a list may close you off more than it opens you up.

Making a list turns you outwards instead of focusing on internal issues.

(These objections are all raised in the book, but I believe I've covered them many times before.)

Also, sometimes people put really stupid things on their lists like, "must have similar musical tastes." That makes me want to scream. "Likes music" is fine. "Same taste in music" is far from essential. What's next? Good taste in clothing? Speaks French? Likes mayonnaise?

When I wrote my lists, I figured it couldn't hurt. I might learn something and I wouldn't be bound by them. I did learn a couple of things. I don't like to fight and he damn well better be able to cook (or willing to learn).

But what about the magical checklist? Am I carrying one around in my head? Not a list of qualities or tastes or preferences, but an image of my ideal man, my ideal life, my hope for the future?

And I'll be damned if I'm not. I have my own goddamn magical checklist.

How did that happen?

I don't do all of these things the book says my generation does. I'm not looking for a soulmate, I don't commodify people, I don't have unrealistic expectations.

But I do seem to compare my dates to a shadow man.

It's not a list. It's more like a mirror and every man I meet gets held up to the mirror so I can check and see if he's a vampire. No, no, that's not right. He gets compared to my fantasy image to see if he fits in the mold. If he does, I jump forward a million steps and start to be disappointed.

And I notice everything. Every detail, every flaw, every bad habit. I notice too much.

And my fantasy image is not a fun, happy guy. He's more a troubled, brooding silent lost soul. I claim over and over not to have a type and my dating history supports this claim. However, the truth is that I do have a type. I like the offbeat, the wounded birds, the troubled souls. I love a hopeless romance.

I said to my friend Audrey, back in college, "I am a true romantic. You know why?"


"Because a real romantic expects things to end unhappily."

That's me, forever in search of unhappily ever after.

Is there a solution? Try and live more in the moment. Appreciate what I have and don't anticipate. Take time to know someone before jumping far down the relationship road.

Pete, the best boyfriend ever, didn't fit perfectly into my "mold." Or maybe I knew him before I had a mold. I left him to go to grad school.

Years later, I saw Pete and he said, "You could have stayed." Staying never crossed my mind. I had to go. And that was the end of us.

For years, and sometimes even to this day, I compare potential boyfriends to Pete.

Is that wrong? I don't know. I like to think not.

I like to think that I was happy with Pete so I look for someone with similar qualities, a similar temperament. Someone with whom I could have a similarly happy, calm relationship.

It hasn't been going all that well.

I think it's time to break the mold.

Grateful for: new ideas.
Drop me a line.

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