I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships since my friends got married. I wonder, what would it be like if I met someone like my friends husband. After all, he is very different from the kind of men I have dated. He doesn’t read Steinbeck or Joyce, he read’s practical books. He doesn’t like sushi or wine, he’s veg. He prefers Costco to the Co-op. But he’s a great guy. A stellar guy. Steady, kind, generous, straight-laced, and enthusiastic.
Why do I, or anyone, make the choices they do? I suspect that part of the answer is just that we think things are “right” for us because we are used to them. As human beings we are much more comfortable with the idea of finding someone or something that is close to what we think we want and tweaking it or putting up with those little things we don’t like. We are much less comfortable with choosing something different, even if it is much better for us. I can tell you the things I don’t like about most of the men I have talked with or dated is that they are unstable, selfish, too radical and apathetic about many things. In short, the complete opposite of all the things I admire in my friends husband. But then I try to really imagine if I met someone like him. Would I even give them the time of day?
Seems to me that what most of us want is for someone to be like us in all ways except our bad ways. We often say it doesn’t matter, but I notice that many of my friends (and former dates) make these choices rather unconsciously. We are magically drawn to people who like the things we do because those commonalities make us feel secure. We might say we want something different, but different is often more superficial than we like to admit. And those things that are different deep down are hard for us to accept.
I look at some men and I think I like their adventurousness, their independence, their intellect, but I realize that for many men (and women) the flip-side of those qualities are instability, selfishness and a critical or non-committal nature. I might think I don’t like X quality about someone or Y quality makes me uncomfortable. But then I realize that the flip-side of the qualities are generosity, stability, loyalty, or compassion.
I thought this morning about Ballet. I remember listening to one teacher talk about the qualities of a person that make a great dancer, and as a student, I believed it. Not over 5’5″, perfect turn-out, willowy limbs, good extension, long and flexible feet. And as I watched Ballet I saw that the real, enduring iconic dancers – Margo Fonteyn, Maria Tallchief, or Alexandra Danilova – were not so willowy, didn’t always have the prettiest feet, the best extension, or the most perfect turn-out. As I learned to dance I saw those girls, who seemed so perfect, dropping out and loosing interest. As I taught I began to think about the qualities my own dancers had. The one’s who’s feet were not quite so pretty were stronger on point. The one’s who’s turn out was not so perfect were strong because they worked harder to maintain it. But the most successful one’s were simply the one’s who loved it.
Of course, this is a subtle point, because we’re talking about small differences between people within a fairly homogeneous pool of potential candidates, right? It’s obvious that the big-boned, six-foot tall, hefty women who were never exposed to classical music in their lives just aren’t going to be considered. But I don’t know…maybe we should ask the Judith Jamison’s of the world. It’s obvious that people who don’t learn young aren’t going to be famous, right? I don’t know…maybe we should ask the Alvin Aliey’s of the world.
My friends, if you think you know the kind of dancer someone will be the first day they walk into class, you are a fool. If you pre-judge someone and treat them as if they are bound to fail, they probably will. The one’s who became beautiful dancers more often came into my classroom uncertain, untrained and often nervous, with their capacity for learning, their dedication, or their passion tucked deep inside just waiting for it’s place to blossom.
Make the ordinary extraordinary by decorating your plain cupcakes with white chocolate and frosting.