I was catching up on my Sci-Fi, brain-candy this morning and one of the many commercial breaks was for the E-Harmony dating website. The commercial talks about how Joe Random doesn’t have time to search through dating profiles online, so he uses their company because they filter out only the matches that best suit him. I had to laugh a little for two reasons. One, I pictured a robot, in a suit and tie, hovering over a stack of resumes sitting on its desk. One giant, metal claw flipping through the stack the other pressed against its steely forehead, a look of strain on its face plate, with its iron eyebrows furrowed in concentration. And two, I know that what we think we want in a partner is not always what will make us happy. Trust me, I have had a lot of experience in following my heart and then having my head pick up the pieces after the inevitable let down.
I was, my entire early dating life until about five years ago, a serial monogamist. I say was because, for the past five years, I have been in a committed relationship with my boyfriend/may as well be fiance. Up until we met five years ago, I had been in serious relationships with a number of other men. Do not get the wrong idea here folks, I never was much of a two dates and on to the next kind of girl. When I say serious relationships, I mean years at a time with the same person.
With each guy I would say, “Yes, he is The One.” in my heart, knowing full well in my head that he wasn’t. Each time I would try, at first, to be exactly what he wanted and would eventually fall into just being myself and expect “The One” to come along for the ride and just accept that who they met originally was not who he ended up with over the course of the relationship. This did not work. I know it seems obvious now, but when you are young and want nothing more than to be loved you will do pretty much anything to achieve your goals, even if it means creating a false persona.
I dated all types of my “dream” guy. I even had a list of things that he could not be, have or have done. He could not be a musician, he could not have been married before, he could not have any kids or any desire to have kids and he could not be more than five years older than me. If I had filled out a dating profile form those attributes would have been right at the top of the “what are you not interested in” list. I was determined to look for someone without any of those qualities and so I eliminated outright anyone with one of those characteristics. So when I took a job as a waitress at a local restaurant and met a guy who met every one of my NO WAY criteria, I immediately put him in the friend zone.
He was funny, loud, opinionated and stubborn, just like me, but he was also extremely intelligent and intimidating. A full foot taller than me, with a huge toothy grin and dazzlingly bright blue eyes, you could see and hear him from quite the distance and he soon became one of my closest friends; not that he wanted to be. Oh no, this man, 13 years my senior with a 14-year-old daughter, an ex-musician with a previous marriage, wanted to date me. He told me so a few hours after our first meeting, which felt like an ultimatum to my stubborn, little brain. So of course, I said no. “Nope. Sorry, we are only going to be friends and if you aren’t okay with that then we won’t even be that.”
Cut to four months later. Four months of spending almost all of my free time with him at his place, or the beach, or the bar, or out on the town. We laugh and talk and commiserate and we become close enough that when he has to go in for spinal surgery, he asks me to be his emergency contact person and I agree.
The night before he is to go in for the surgery I spend hours on the phone with him, telling him how worried and nervous I am and he spends this time talking me down and reminding me that, in fact, HE is the one having the surgery and I need to relax and let him get some sleep.
I wait all of the next day with a large group of our friends, my phone in my hand, nervously drinking coffee at the bar where I work, because hospitals freak me out and the nurses told me that there was no point in waiting there. We wait for hours and hours for news that he is in recovery. They call, he is fine and the surgery went well. He is heavily sedated and wont be coherent until I go to pick him up the next afternoon. I have never felt such relief. It felt like I hadn’t been breathing, like I had been holding an impossibly large weight on my chest since we had gotten off of the phone the night before.
The next day I count down the hours until I can pick him up from the hospital. I get there early and head to his recovery room and when I open the door and enter, there he is on the bed, looking like absolute crap, which is, of course, the first thing to come out of my mouth. He is gripping the self-administered, pain medication plunger in a white knuckled hand. Not white-knuckled from pain, but from all of the blood having long since left the area realizing that he wasn’t going to let go of that plunger until someone pried it from his hand. He looked so fragile, so little. Not at all like the loud, large-mouthed giant on whom I had come to so depend.
I hadn’t been to see anyone in a hospital since the last time I had visited my Grandfather a week or so before he had passed away and I remembered feeling the same hurt in my heart when I had first seen him in his hospital bed. It wasn’t just hurt though, it was love. I couldn’t deny that I was, and had been, in love with my best friend anymore. When the nurses finally wrangled the medication plunger from his kung-fu grip, I took him home and I stayed with him. I gave him some time to recover over the next couple of days and then, late one night, pulled him aside from our group of friends and told him the truth, that I loved him. The S.O.B pointed at my tear filled face and laughed so loud that people passing by stopped and looked at us. “I KNEW IT!” He screamed. Yep. He did and now so did I.
So you see sometimes what you think you want isn’t what is best for you. Sometimes, all it does is keep you blind to the opportunity to find true happiness. I found mine when I wasn’t even looking for it and then only because I was lucky enough to not lose it before I could even have it. Keep an open mind and an open heart and maybe you will see what you have been blind to as well.
Oh, and don’t let the singularity choose a partner for you, that can only end poorly for all of humanity.