As a single Christian man in his mid-20’s, I give a lot of thought to the subject of dating (In case you couldn’t tell). The past several months, a few things have risen to the forefront of my mind which I thought were worth throwing into a post on here. It’ll be a good time.
In the summer of 2013, I made a friend I’ll call Lanie. Lanie and I became immediate friends, mainly due to her incredibly outgoing nature, big smile and bigger laugh. There was nothing Lanie wouldn’t do. We went cliff jumping once, and I recommended she go off the 10-foot jump first to get used to it. She neglected my advice, bypassed the 20-foot jump as well, and climbed all the way up to the 40 foot ledge.
Her zest for life was unmatched. There was no one she could not befriend and everyone loved Lanie.
Fast forward a year and one of my best friends at college is named Mindy. Mindy is infinitely creative and I am drawn to her hard-working nature and constant innovation. She seemed to dream of a new idea every time she slept because they flowed from her without ceasing.
And it wasn’t hard to see where much of Mindy’s inspiration came from: She loved all sorts of music most others hadn’t yet discovered, was fascinated with documentaries (And really any other sort of art you could think of), and had a boundless curiosity about everything and everyone she encountered.
In lieu of dissecting every female friendship I’ve ever had, I’m going to refer back to these for the purpose of illustration.
Fast forward to the present. As I continue my search for the one woman who will surely satiate my desires and put to rest all my searching, I’m beginning to notice a pattern happening inside my skull. I have subconsciously developed a sort of ideal woman drawn from all those I’ve known in the past.
I expect her to have the joie de vivre and extroversion of Lanie with the creativity and productivity of Mindy. And the ______ of Sarah and the ________ of Lauren, and the list goes on. I wonder if we travel through life gathering these expectations of what our ‘soul mate’ will be like, taking just the scraps of others’ personalities and crafting them into some ideal romantic messiah who will deliver us from our woes.
But that’s not a human…that’s Frankenstein’s monster.
For the first time in the history of ethanrenoe.com, I have made visual aids. Imagine that Lanie’s qualities are yellow, and Mindy’s are green, and the other colors are all the others I expect in my ideal spouse. They are collected scraps and pieces of others I’ve known throughout my life.
To be frank, there are physical characteristics mixed in as well. Perhaps Aladdin was my favorite movie growing up (it wasn’t), so I’ve always been drawn to Arabian women, and that is represented by blue. The list goes on and on.
Yet in reality, if I do meet a girl crazy enough to settle down with me, she will not be like Mindy, Lanie, or Princess Jasmine. She will be herself. She will be a totally unique hue I could not have imagined on my own, even with the help of all these other wonderful women. She will not have the exact same interests or appearance as past flames, nor will she fit into the slim box I’ve created for her.
Now, why would I spend 578 words making tie-dye bathroom people? Because we all have expectations. Each of us has painted in our minds this vision of who best suits us, and we pull from a myriad of factors. Maybe we subconsciously look for our most beloved character from a romantic comedy, or perhaps we look at the relationships of friends and envy what they have.
Each of these influences inflates the bubble of what we hope for romantically, and when it bursts and reality sets in, we are often disappointed. I can’t count how many times I’ve called my friend Elliot after a first date, disheartened by how it went, and he is quick to call me out for having incorrect expectations.
The reality of our situation, as single people, is that we won’t find what we are looking for. We won’t find the exact combination of colors we have conjured in our heads. I like the line in 500 Days of Summer, when one of the characters spends a minute describing his ideal woman. The interviewer then asks him if he’d rather have her or his wife. He thinks for a moment, then says,
“No, that list would be nice. But I’d stick with Beth. Because she’s real.”
Reality is better than projection. It’s better than imagination. Your dream man won’t hold you in the night as you weep, or even if you’re just cold; a real one will. A real one with bad breath and farts and a porn problem.
Your bodacious dream girl won’t listen to your tiring day and rub your feet, but a real one will. And she won’t look exactly like you’ve pictured and she may have an annoying habit or two.
So is the solution to lose all hope of a romantic future and settle for a Boring Betty or a Bland Bill? Now way!
I’m romantic as heck.
I think the solution is to have realistic expectations. Enter into each first date with a blank canvas in mind and allow him to paint his own color. It’s important to note that the entire canvas won’t be filled in all at once. Coming to know someone in a deep and meaningful way takes a lot of time.
I think the biggest cause of blind infatuation is meeting someone, knowing just a dearth of information about them, and filling in the rest with only good things. (Uh-oh…here comes another diagram)
It’s easy, especially when you’ve been single since the invention of light like me, to want to fill in all the parts we don’t know about someone with what we want them to be. Then, in our minds, the end of our single lives is just that much closer.
And we all know that once your single life ends, your real life begins.
As hard as it is, try to be like rappers Rae Sremmurd who sing, “I ain’t got no type.”
My roommate in college once told me, “I try not to have a type of woman. In a lot of ways, that eliminates the freedom for them to exist as an individual and be themselves. If I have a ‘type,’ I’m essentially creating a box I want them to fit in rather than give them the space to authentically be other from me. I’m looking for another version of myself.”
Obviously we all have traits and characteristics, even appearances we are looking for. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but work out what is set in stone and what is flexible. Figure out which things are the immovable rim of the trampoline, and which things are the springs with which you can be flexible. Without both components, a trampoline wouldn’t work.
Identifying false desires in whomever we are seeking can help with disappointment and keep us more grounded in reality.
I don’t know if any of that makes sense. Or helps. But now it’s out there!