Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teach Me

Perhaps for the desire to maintain my sanity, I have decided that for each ineligible bachelor I meet, I am supposed to learn something

After all, my brothers met and wed the first girls, whereas my sister and myself had to slog through the mire of dating possibilities. My brothers, perhaps, were not meant to achieve inspiration via that conduit.

While I do not date with stupendous regularity, I am beginning to notice patterns and categories. The "Immature Jackass," the "Nerd with No Upside," the "He's Nice But Not for Me." 
Sometimes there will be a few curveballs. The ones I have problems labeling, which makes things . . . interesting. I try to gauge if this "Original" is for me. I certainly overanalyze in general; this sort of debate ties up my cerebral cortex for days . . . until he is no longer an "Original," and gets boxed in the appropriate category of "What Was I Thinking?" 

Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes discusses a long distant romance. How it almost was, how it fell apart, then met the man she married. 
Sixteen years passed. I finished a graduate degree in something else, married the man who seemed unfazed, amused, even, by what seemed to be my inability to get out of my own way. We moved for his job, bought a house, I began teaching, we had children. I was at times suspicious of happiness and stability; I’d lie awake, listening to our girls breathe, feeling the steady rise and fall of my husband’s body next to mine, my own breath coming too quickly, as if I’d narrowly escaped a fate that was unclear but terrifying. Scenarios of other people I could be with, other lives I could be living, played themselves out in my sleeplessness, searing near misses. But I was safe.

And then he, that long-ago, coffee-shop boyfriend, called my name across a beach last spring. I turned, searching, my younger daughter on my hip; I recognized his voice. I was nervous, making my way across the sand, talking with him, standing next to him again. He was a place holder for a time in my life, a part of myself, that I didn’t understand.

He was always handsome, and when, in parting, I said softly, “You look the same,” and he said, “I know,”
I saw instantly that it hadn’t been any more complicated than that he was kind of a jerk, I was kind of a freak, we had both been pretty immature, and that was all it was, all it needed to be. The punitive “What was I thinking?” became the much more compassionate “What was I learning?” And the answer was: everything. I was learning everything about what I wanted in a husband, a marriage, a life.
I have those moments of when I feel cheated, that I "wasted" time, effort, and makeup on a guy that came to nothing, followed by frantic relief that I managed to finagle myself out of a potentially problematic situation. As Elisabeth said, it's not so complicated. 

We are all staggering about aimlessly and calling it tactical navigation; we should never fool ourselves into thinking that we can control and know everything. From the moment we are born we learn; we should learn until we die.

A failed romance does not throw suspicion on our mental abilities. People like to say as singles get older they get pickier; it's not that. We are learning. We know ourselves better, we know what suits us better, we know what will complete us. 

To some extent. Because there is still a lot we all have to learn.       


FrumGeek said...

People come into our lives so we learn something, be it about the world, others, or ourselves.

And oh my gosh have I heard the 3rd one waaaay too many times!

tovah said...

PL, I really loved this post. I remember 'forcing' myself to go on dates where there was pretty much no attraction and I was thinking"Well, you're not giving them a chance." When I did give them a chance, it all pretty much turned out to be exactly what I expected. I'm sorry, but I believe that you know, within minutes if you have a potential history with that person.

Anonymous said...

the learning thing has been very interesting for me. i dated a looooot of guys (more than 70) and eventually had one of those long, torturous relationships for about two years, during which he was the only guy i could see myself marrying and having a life with, even though we made each other miserable 9 times out of 10.

Now, a few short years later, I find myself engaged to a great guy who is pretty much his opposite in every way, but i still struggle to understand what those two years were for. they scare me. in some ways, they have scarred me, teaching me bad habits that my fiance patiently tries to unteach me, over and over and over. i do have moments like elisabeth's, where i think, 'wow, was that a close miss,' but i also have moments where i think, 'if all that was for nothing, who is to say that all this won't ultimately be for nothing?'

i admire your mission to learn from these failed shidduchim. retroactively i think i am going to try the same thing. all that time and anguish - what was i learning about who i really was, and what i believed?

Princess Lea said...

FG: It's true, no matter how annoying it is. :)

Tovah: I have found it to be the same. I go out with a guy, and sometimes for whatever reason I am crazy about him, or I feel dead inside. Is it fair to either of us to prolong the inevitable? I am not a romantic, nor a "love at first sight" believer, but I think there should be some personal excitement.

Anon: I know that God will send the right one at the right time, when I have learned more and see what is truly important. And who knows what he also has to learn?

It could be that those two years were a learning process, that you needed that time to recognize what a truly great guy is.

I have seen in my case that my preferences used to be superficial (not in a physical way, more in terms of similar backgrounds and such) but now I can see myself with someone not sharing that. And gradually other restricting mindsets fall away.

I also learn more about how a guy should treat me. More than ever before, I will not tolerate any sort of abuse. So even the jerks have something to offer my ego.

I cannot say about your case (my sister went out with 60+, so I can sympathize) but this is the perfect time for your fiance and yourself. It could not have happened earlier. It would not have. And those years were in no way wasted, since you now have him. As you look to the future, those two years will soon seem like nothing.