The words that follow began as a comment in response to this young man's weblog post and quickly turned into a soliloquy:
[the post's purpose was to encourage single men to pursue women in a more fierce manner.]
I suppose I'm part of the problem because I only want commitment from certain men. I am entirely too picky; arguably much pickier than many of the women in my mother's or grandmother's generations. This pickiness starts with expectations gathered mainly from romantic comedies and girlish ideals, informed by American society's recent and extreme ideological shift from a practical to a companionate marriage model. Sadly, I have allowed these expectations to tint my rose-colored glasses past pink to a murky brown. I really am trying to be less picky, but it's hard these days.
The permanence of marriage has never before felt so stifling and fleeting all at once. I think we pay lots of money for fancy weddings to show we take marriage seriously, but I fear this serves as more of a function to pacify a deep-seeded need to declare, through a socially constructed and pinterestedly decorated ritual, that we are loved. Marriage used to be about childbearing (you know, perpetuating the species), kin and property relations. It made economic and biologic sense to build and run a household a certain way. Now, I can use my microwave to cook some bacon while I slice my tomato that was grown in Mexico, wash my lettuce from Arizona and spread some mayo onto my bread from an Atlanta factory faster than Ma could set the 1950's dinner table. Seeing to our basic needs (Maslow's hierarchy anyone?) is no longer an issue. Now we all want love, belonging, esteem and self-actualization...and we want it big-time. We want marriages that are rooted in honesty and intimacy and egalitarian gender roles and mutually satisfying sex. The chance of all of that really working, all of those expectations being met, is infinitesimal. And that terrifies me. Actually, it paralyzes me. Which is utterly silly. And unrealistic. And unfair to every man I said "no thank you" to in my head before I ever let him speak.
So why do we continue to push such a rigorous screening process? Why are there so many dealbreakers now? Why do I think I deserve Justin Timberlake + Heath Ledger + Jack Kerouac + Jimmy Fallon? Especially because, after all, I am only me.
And I think this is the answer...this is what I'm getting to.
The social distance technology has created in my day-to-day interactions makes it so easy to hide my flaws that I refuse to let others have any, and that's a problem.
I need to stop that.
I need to knock it off.
I need to get a grip.
All of us do. We're growing too accustomed to the idealized versions of reality that we post and tweet and "like." When things are messy and un-ideal, which they nearly always are, we need to see it, experience it, feel it. And then love it. We need to let the messy and the un-ideal become not just a part of us, but a part of us that we cherish.
I don't want to have a wedding to prove to the world, in the most ideal way, that I am loveable (there are things about me that are, in fact, quite un-loveable) and I don't want or need a marriage in the way that my grandmother did--innovation and technology have given me the means to provide for myself and any potential offspring with relative ease and comfort.
What I do want is a buddy.
I always did well with the buddy system growing up...I get lost in my own thoughts really easily. I need someone to keep me grounded enough, but who I can occasionally convince of the merits of a life in the clouds. I want someone to thank me for washing the sheets and then ask what I've been thinking about today. And while I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting this, wanting a buddy, there exist many more qualified applicants than I've given any real consideration to. I want to stop that.
I love love. I love being in love. I don't care what it does to me.
The love that I currently love is ideal love. I want to change that. I want to love real love. And then I want to want real love. Un-ideal and [currently] unappealing, real love is--by definition--messy.
I'm not sure how to change all of this, but I think admitting it is a good first step. And I think the next step is teaching myself to want real love because right now I don't. Right now I still want love that acts exactly how I think it should act. Right now, I want ideal love and I will never have that. It's a myth. Billions of women have learned this lesson and continued on to live important, lovely, vibrant lives. I hope so much that I can figure it out and learn to be contented with the messiness of it all.
In summary, this is what I have learned whilst responding to a stranger's blog post:
While ideal love remains in the clouds, real love is in the buddy system.
They are messy.
They can also be
[all of these things scare me].
BUT. Buddies are real. and I am ready for real...or at least I'm getting there.