A couple of inches – such are the margins between victory and defeat.
I really could use a few extra inches. Not many – I’m not greedy – just a couple; just two inches more and maybe, just maybe, I would cross the winning line. So to speak.
Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. I guess it’s easier to blame factors beyond our control for our failures – or ‘deferred success’ in our PC world – than it is to identify things that would require some effort to address.
And to be honest, at this stage of my life I’m comfortable in my skin; perhaps more importantly given the challenges of recent years, I’m comfortable in my mind. That’s not to say I’m perfect (select any post at random for evidence) but I’m pretty accepting of myself, flaws and all. All of which stands me in pretty good stead when diving into the dating pool. Or so I’d like to think.
It’s said that before you can find the ideal partner you need to become the ideal partner. Errrr, thanks for that. When you’re a self confessed rejected fuck-up that resides at the end of Lonely Street it isn’t the most encouraging advice that you could wish to encounter.
From such a vantage point these words seem particularly smug and self-satisfied, words no doubt released into the world from a balcony somewhere in Italy with the sun shining, a cool breeze blowing, a glass of something chilled and bubbly close at hand, poured by an olive-skinned beauty that desires nothing so much as your total contentment.
(It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing that whoever first uttered this pearl of wisdom hadn’t ever had to browse through a selection of dating profiles on Plenty Of Fish. If the notion that an ‘ideal partner’ does indeed exist then faith in the concept can be vigorously shaken after wading through blurry POF profile images taken in various states of dress / undress / drunkenness / sobriety).
Nobody gets to be single in their 40s without having picked up, at the very least, some collateral damage along the way. And the painful experiences that have led us to being single can make us more selective in our tastes, seeking to satisfy a more highly refined palate. This palate won’t be settling for pub grub me old mucka, from now on it’s going to be gourmet all the way.
Having lived through the broken heart and broken hopes that accompany a broken marriage, having experienced the emotional fallout and the subsequent re-fashioning of my future hopes and expectations, a mantra plays itself out in my mind – don’t settle, don’t settle. Don’t. Settle.
Having been left alone on the shore following the shipwreck of marriage, setting sail on our next voyage of discovery can be a scary prospect. With a heightened awareness of the risk of shipwreck, we want to be sure that the risk:reward ratio is favourable and the voyage holds the promise of a bloody big treasure chest at the end of it (figuratively speaking – I’m not training my telescope on a wealthy spinster and/or a generously sized chest. Although if it happened to settle upon either then I would certainly give them my due consideration; I do like to be open-minded).
In our determination not to settle for less than we feel we deserve, in our hope to find ‘the one’ with whom we shall be wholly compatible, we must be careful that we don’t create an impossible ideal which will inevitably lead to disappointment.
None of us are perfect, and if we seek the perfect partner and perfect relationship there is a danger that we can become disillusioned when our fantasies fail to play out in the emotional and practical realities of our day-to-day lives, that place where dreams and reality collide.
Some dating profiles read like letters to Father Christmas, listing every single thing that a man must possess, as well as offering a helpful litany of every wrong that they have ever suffered and wish to avoid a second, third or fourth dose of – liars, cheats, people 20 years older than their profile photo, married men… ‘If this is you, jog on’ (although this sort of list strikes me as being like one of those signs to ‘not put litter in the urinals’ – if you are a person that needs to be told it is highly unlikely that you are a person that will pay any attention to the sign; if indeed you can read it).
“Relationships never provide you with everything. They provide you with some things. You take all the things you want from a person – sexual chemistry let’s say, or good conversation, or financial support, or intellectual compatibility, or niceness, or loyalty – and you get to pick three of those things. Three – that’s it. Maybe four, if you’re very lucky. The rest you have to look for elsewhere. It’s only in the movies that you find someone who gives you all of those things. But this isn’t the movies. In the real world, you have to identify which three qualities you want to spend the rest of your life with, and then you look for those qualities in another person. That’s real life. Don’t you see it’s a trap? If you keep trying to find everything, you’ll wind up with nothing.”
I don’t have a long shopping list of attributes that I want in a future Mrs Williams. I know that she will make me laugh, that she will be honest, and that she will understand that my children will always be my first priority. Beyond that, who knows?
I’m reminded of the quote from Steve Jobs on the value of market research:
“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
So I’m trusting the notion that I will know it when I’ve found it. And following my current life philosophy of seeking to go where my instincts lead me, this seems as good a formula as any.
One more thing – those extra couple of inches.
Ladies – if you get to choose only three things as the basis for a relationship, are a couple of inches really a deal breaker? Can’t we allow for a little, well, wiggle room?
But maybe, when it comes right down to it, some things are just too important for compromise; I could have all the wit, wisdom and wonderfulness in the world, but I’ll never be able to compete with a good pair of high heels.
Dishes – Pulp