I wouldn’t say I’m given to fits of romanticism, really. In fact, I’ve been described as a realist, or, if you want to think of it that way, even a pessimist. So I never had really firm expectations about my boyfriends.

My list of nonnegotiables for a mate has always resembled something like this:

  • Kind to animals
  • Literate
  • Heterosexual

Everything else can pretty much go either way. I’ve dated guys with long hair and short hair, shy guys and outgoing guys, nerds and jocks, college-bound and not, funny guys and serious guys. It never seemed to me that any of that stuff was really a big deal, in the long run.

Still, certain things came along by chance, and they are memories I never want to give up.

  • Joe’s great shoulder massages.
  • Shane’s beautiful, eloquent letters in his fancy handwriting.
  • Luke’s cartoon drawings of us as lions or fish or whatever creature he decided to make us that day.
  • Matt’s made-up silly songs about every part of life imaginable.

None of those are things I could have put on a List of Things My Future Mate Must Do, but they were awfully nice.

In hindsight, I can see I might have needed a slightly longer list of requirements. Maybe should have added:

  • Non-smoker
  • Good relationship with preferably non-crazy family members
  • Not too clingy or needy
  • In close enough geographic proximity to actually, you know, see once in a while
  • Confident…
  • But not overbearing or controlling
  • Totally into me (not into me as a curiosity, or into the me that he may someday be able to turn me into)

That’s probably really not too much to ask for, but I never thought to look for it. I never thought, “Hey, I deserve a guy who is totally into me,” or, “You know, I don’t think I can make this work if we’re never going to see each other.” These are valid thoughts. I just never had them.

And I can’t decide if I would have been able to come to a list like that on my own, or if I had to go through the crap first.

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