Thursday, June 7, 2012

That's what I want

I can be absolutely pitiful when it comes to love, whether that means living it, talking about it or even thinking about it. The problem is that my idea of what romance is has no basis in reality. I've watched too many animated films and listened to too many impassioned speeches from the male protagonists in romantic comedy films to have any idea of what is actually probable versus impossible in the relationship game.

Just a few minutes ago I caught the tail end of an episode of 30 Rock. I'd been tuning out most of the show in exchange for a few minutes of peace looking at the internet, during which I saw pictures of people at parties and people I know making flirty banter with people I don't know. Then something Liz Lemon said interrupted my Facebook creeping and spoke to me quite literally.

"I want someone who will be monogamous and nice to his mother. And I want someone who likes musicals, but knows to just shut his mouth when I'm watching LOST. And I want someone who thinks being really into cars is lame and strip clubs are gross. I want someone who will actually empty the dishwasher instead of just taking out forks as needed, like I do. I want someone with clean hands and feet and beefy forearms like a damn Disney prince. And I want him to genuinely like me even when I'm old. And that's what I want."

She may have been talking to some guy who didn't speak good enough English to understand a word of her monologue, but women across America heard her plea and empathized with Liz in that moment of bearing her soul.

A few years ago, before I'd even had a glimmer of hope in the romance department, I wrote a list of traits that my "dream man" would possess, much like Liz spouted off in 30 Rock.

From my list, I will directly quote a few key entries in describing the perfect man:

- Strong arms, normal sized chest, broad shoulders
- Doesn't shirk his responsibilities
- Knows how to cook
- Believes in equality of all minorities and both genders
- Good taste in clothing: knows how to wear a shirt and tie
- Funny when appropriate and sincere most of the time

The list is actually two pages, but those are just a few of the qualities listed which are as specific as to include a favorite hair color and as broad as to say "not psycho."

And who hasn't - even if they're not so literal as I am in making out an actual list of traits - thought about descriptors for their perfect companion? At some point we've all played Liz Lemon and wanted to find that complement to ourselves. And in the process we may have been too nit-picky.

I like to blame Disney for a lot of my misfortunes in life and in love. If only because I always assume things would and should work out like a fairytale.

When I go on a date, I expect to be treated like a lady in every possible respect. A blazer should be worn, chairs and doors should be held out, I should be told I look pretty at some point and my way should definitely be paid. Call me needy or old-fashioned, but if I'm going to be spending time with someone in a romantic setting, then these are the bare minimum expectations.

But maybe the Disney films aren't wholly to blame. When I have a date, my first experience upon arriving back is to have one or more friends bother me about how it went. My answer undoubtedly will consist of the gentlemanliness of my suitor.

If a guy can't fit the minimum dream boy standards then he's not going to pass the initial prying friends test as well as he might assume.

For a long time I didn't worry about my slightly overreaching standards. Women have been courted by men for centuries, therefore there must be some standardized protocol that enables me to withhold some of my expectations on the art of gentlemanly manners.

But I'm wrong, I'm really quite wrong.

A few days ago I was hauled up in bed with strep throat watching an episode of Gilmore Girls in which Paris goes on her first date while in Washington, D.C. with a boy named Jamie. Prior to the date she paces around her hotel room with Rory, freaking out about the prospect and alternatively putting her hair up and down and searching anxiously for her black sweater.

She frets over where they might eat dinner. "What if he doesn't have a Zagat?" she asks. When Rory suggests Jamie might "wing it," Paris goes on to rant about how if other girls get planned out dinners, she can't understand why she has to have "wing it." Then Jamie arrives at the door in a suit saying he's picked out a restaurant from his Zagat guide and Paris says "You're perfect."

I've never gotten to say "You're perfect" to anyone. When I have dated, it's consisted of me pestering the guy to let me know what the plans are or having him make reservations on the walk over to the restaurant. Knight in shining armor, I think not.

There's really no standard for chivalry, gentlemanly behavior or the like anymore. These things may come as welcome surprises for some women, but for the rest of us they're just an image of the past that no longer exists except perhaps in the most polite company (which I've yet to find).

And while I'm sure many a girl has gone on an outrageous tangent about the subject, and certainly a lengthy list of the traits of the "perfect man" is a surefire way to exacerbate the problem, do we have no right to our disgruntled position?

I could list off a million different reasons why I have unrealistic expectations for love and relationships. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure I'll mention just a few:

1. The "In Your Eyes" stereo scene in Say Anything...
2. Any character played by James Marsden.
3. Disney princes, as I've mentioned.
4. My own paternal figures: my father and my grandfather specifically.

But why do my expectations have to be unrealistic? I'm really not asking that anyone meet all the random wishes on my list. I learned the hard way that even when someone seems to fulfill many of the "perfect man" traits that usually there is some really significant character flaw that counteracts the positive aspects.

Widdling my expectations down from the Liz Lemon list and my equivalent writings, I've realized that I really have no answer to what is necessary, what I actually want out of a relationship and who I actually want to be with in said relationship.

Which is why I'm pitiful when it comes to love. Instead I've resorted to watching The Bachelorette on weeknights, picking and choosing practically fictitious men on the show rather than deal with them in my own life. I may want to be like Liz Lemon, but since there is no actual Criss (James Marsden again, that bastard) in this world I'm stuck hanging out in my room writing about the lack of said man.

But I think I'm happy. Maybe happier than I am when I'm distracted by a boy. Because I have no concern about being a princess when there's no prince to be had. Right now things are better this way.

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