A good friend of mine in Boston, E--, and I were recently discussing dating. We are similar in that we don't generally date; rather, we are either in relationships or not, and tend to go for long periods of time in between our relationships. We share a frustration of trying to find bright, progressive men whose political and social values align with our own; generally, when we meet men who profess similar values, they tend to be bright, articulate, and aware, but also self-deluded and -involved high-maintenance men with way more baggage than we care to deal with. So how do you keep the NPR-ness but lose the Loser-ness?
E recently had lunch with an old friend, we'll call her Monica, and Monica's husband. Monica was the quintessential hippie in college: free-spirited, vegetarian, sexually flexible. She is beautiful and energetic and smart, the kind of woman we all wish we could be. After a series of unsatisfying relationships, Monica bought a house with a man who seemed to be her match; he was active and fun and liked to mountain bike. They seemed the perfect couple...until he left her for a former girlfriend. We were all astonished at his stupidity, and Monica was devastated.
After about a year, Monica met and married a widowed Republican with five kids, and adopted the two of his children who were legally available. She eats meat after fifteen years of vegetarianism, and spends most of her free time being a soccer mom. It's been strange to watch; she's seemed happy, and we all wanted to be supportive of her choices, but we were uneasy, waiting for her to snap out of it and confess to a desperate, rebounding unhappiness.
The following is E's recounting of her recent meal with them. (S is Monica's husband.)
"It was really the first time that I had a chance to hang out with both of them for more than a few minutes...and talk to S. He is a nice guy and they have a very good rapport. It's nice to see. And although Monica has changed from who she was in her hippie, veggie college days, I think she is now actually living/doing what she wanted all along. She wanted to be needed. She wanted a family, security, a husband who provides for her. I don't specifically know what she considers to be her values, but I assume family is at the top. While he may be a Bush supporter (I don't know that he is any more, I didn't ask) and she a fan of Deval Patrick, his conservative values probably align with many of her beliefs. If they do disagree on politics or philosophy, they make it work.
"It's a good lesson for me in going after what you truly want. Now I just gotta figure out what is most important to me."
E and I have been talking about this, about defining (or redefining) what we want in terms of actual values, not labels. And while I'm not about to eat meat or have kids, the idea of dating a Republican or a conservative or a parent is no longer necessarily off-limits to me, provided that our values are similar, or at least not totally incompatible. I've historically tended to date the edgy side, and while they profess an enlightened viewpoint, a broader view of the world, this doesn't seem to necessarily translate into increased reliability, honesty, or plain good manners. Don't get me wrong; I absolutely want an intelligent, open-minded man with a healthy curiosity, who reads and travels and thinks about the world outside of his own back yard, but maybe he's not found only in the types I've been going for.
A friend of mine once said, "I'm tired of dating neurotic artist types, architects who are all about their shoes, or musicians who are all about their hair, men who can't get out of their own way because their head is filled with pretense and image and neediness. I'm ready to date a cop. A guy who's smart but basic, and who gets things done."
It's an oversimplification, but yeah. I hear her.