I was on the phone with a friend last week, and made a joke about how appealing eternal bachelorhood sounded. She responded, “Oh please. A romantic like you? There’s no way you won’t get married.”
Oh, that damned word again. Romantic.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve been called one, and it probably won’t be the last. A few months ago, another friend had raised his glass to toast with me, proclaiming “To you and me — the greatest romantics in the world!” My best friend (and eventual best man, if I ever do get married) has laughingly referred to me as “the last of the great romantics” for years now.
Utter nonsense, if you ask me.
I get it, though. I spent years being an outspoken proponent for hopeless romanticism. I had my whole future drawn out, from the dream girl to the kids and the house in the suburbs, and I wasn’t shy in talking about my desire for it. Add in a healthy dose of chivalry, a penchant for grand gestures, and an undying love for all things old-fashioned — it’s not surprising when people don’t believe I’ve had a change of heart.
Like a recovering alcoholic who’s finally turned his life around, though, I have changed. Consider me a recovering romantic. I have to be vigilant about not slipping back into old habits, but each success feels like freedom. I’m happy fighting against my natural urge.
Then again, it’s not a natural urge, it’s a nurtured one. We were raised on Disney movies, and when you mix that with the “you’re a special snowflake” mindset of our generation, the end result is an unrealistic expectation of perfection, of fairytale passion and happily ever after.
I knew exactly what I wanted. A tall, thin, gorgeous brunette with well-defined features (I consider Kate Beckinsale the most attractive woman alive, if that gives a frame of reference) and arresting blue/green eyes. 1-3 years older than me. A total sweetheart who loves big dogs and skiing. We have the same religious beliefs and similar financial goals. She’s stunningly intelligent, a better dancer than I am, and loves to read. Her musical tastes are the complete opposite of mine, and she sleeps on the left side of the bed. She wants to stay at home with 3 or 4 kids, and is happy to continue my longstanding family tradition of tacos for dinner every Sunday night. She needs me and simultaneously makes me better. Someone I’d burn up a sun for, just to say goodbye. Someone who gets that reference, and doesn’t judge me too much for it. A light British, Australian, or Southern accent for bonus points. The list goes on.
My idea of “perfect” is so damnably precise, there’s no way that girl exists. Even if she does, she’s probably taken — and is definitely out of my league.
I’m not trying to make a case for settling, because there are certain things on that list that I’ll never budge on. She has to be intelligent. We have to have religious and financial compatibility. I’ll forever prefer the sweethearts of the world to the self proclaimed “badass bitches” because that’s just how I’m wired. Beyond that, though, every single item on that list is shallow and superfluous. I can’t carry it into the Build-A-Spouse store and walk out with the perfect person, and I wouldn’t want to if I could.
I’m an incredibly flawed human being. Ask my friends, ask my family. Sooner or later, I’m going to let you down. I’m going to mess something up, no matter how hard I try not to. It’s ridiculous to think that I deserve a perfect person, because I’m insanely imperfect. Let’s be honest — you are too. Our flaws are what make us human.
Perfect is the enemy of good. There are so many women in the world who fit my minimum criteria of intelligent/religious/financial compatibility. It’s depressing to think about how many of them I’ve let walk right out of my life because they weren’t taller than 5’6″ or built like a model.
“Walk out of my life” isn’t even the right wording. I never let them in. The biggest problem with pursuing perfection comes when you’d rather stay home and view it on your TV screen than have a real person disappoint you again. Please tell me I’m not the only person who’s lived vicariously through beautifully scripted movie relationships. Promise me a chance to view perfection, even temporarily, and my introverted tendencies kick in. Netflix, here I come. But it’s not healthy, and it’s not real.
Talk to the married people in your life, and ask them how their relationship compares to a fairytale. They’ll laugh you out of the room, then call you back in just to laugh you out a second time. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to who’s been married for more than a decade describes it the same way: Work. Hard work.
That’s the true danger in being a hopeless romantic: You expect the highs to go higher than they could ever reach in real life, and you completely ignore the lows. If you give any thought to them, it’s all about how passionate your fights will be, and how the tears will end in mind-blowing make up sex.
But this is a recipe to set yourself up for disappointment. Life will NEVER be all sunshine and rainbows. You aren’t the one special snowflake who’s going to beat the odds, find that magical soul mate and live happily ever after. It. Will. Never. Happen.
That’s why I don’t consider myself a romantic anymore. I don’t want to screen out 99.9% of women who walk by me because they don’t match the perfect criteria. I don’t want to be glued to a TV screen watching imaginary people fall in imaginary love and live an imaginary life. I don’t want to be so busy waiting for a relationship to start that I miss out on the rest of my life.
The universe doesn’t care about me. Fate is not working overtime to make sure I find someone. I will not meet a perfect girl. We will not have the dream marriage that everyone envies. Our love will not be so earth-shatteringly intense that it burns the world to ashes.
And I’m perfectly okay with that.
I’m a realist, not a romantic.