My boyfriend doesn’t exist. He’s basically a sad, twee amalgam of Sufjan Stevens and Jim Halpert. He wears clothing from Frank & Oak and smiles serenely while my mother talks his ear off. He spends a lot of time writing in journals and remixing alt-J tracks. He wears glasses but isn’t a martyr about it. When we watch my favorite childhood movies he has the decency to look away when my ugly cry kicks in. On Sundays we go for brunch at Turning Point then take his German Shepherd (Ferdinand) for a walk in the park. (I’m not much of a dog person but for him I could work). He doesn’t judge me for never making it through Anna Karenina even though all his favorite authors are Russian. There’s a collection of model planes from his childhood set up in his living room. As for a career? Something inscrutable like a “virtual systems analyst”. He has all of the artistic inclination but none of those worrisome pipe dreams that manifest themselves in garage bands or moving to Wisconsin to study woodworking.
Just like me.
Singledom is not a sad place to reside nor am I looking to vacate the premises anytime soon. But sometimes it’s easier to imagine partners that are more like headless mannequins at Express than actual humans with eye twitches, dirty laundry, and aversions to familial obligations. When imagining significant others it is expected to mentally fashion them in a complimentary nature to your own character traits instead of the other way around. It’s why takeout and Netflix were invented. It’s easier to have a list of tidy genres provided, to be told “So and so likes indie romcoms and jazz documentaries” instead of holding a up a title at Blockbuster thinking “Am I the kind of person who would like this?”
From our birth we are sought out and wooed by companies and entities that want to streamline our search for identity. From our kindergarten to our organic gogurt to our eventual senior citizen footwear, we are constantly being asked: “What is best FOR YOU?” It’s easy to see why this would apply to relationships. Maybe I wouldn’t be so averse to search optimization dating sites if they were more like Chipotle. I could move down the line, browsing options, but instead of mild-mannered salsa or cilantro-lime rice, I could choose my partner’s personality traits. “I’ll take a wry smile and some self-effacement please, hold the guac.”
There’s a scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when the male protagonist Fred breaks up with his vicious pseudo-girlfriend in favor of Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly. When accused of pursuing Holly for her (supposed) money, Fred says: “She can’t help anyone, not even herself. The thing is, I can help her, and it’s nice for a change.” I’m not saying I’m going to take up with a broke wayfarer who doesn’t own furniture and refuses to name his cat, but maybe I can start thinking about how my personality can help someone else, instead of the other way around.