Is Love Enough?

The first phase of any romantic relationship is usually filled with a mix of butterflies and euphoria.  Everything your significant other says and does is adorable.  Their bed head in the morning.  Their “profound” thoughts on the most mundane topics.  Hell, even the way they snore at night are all quirky little pieces of the man or woman you’re in love with.  Everything is blissful and you are deep in the love bubble where sappy songs start to make you swoon and everything’s coming up roses.  However, in just a few short months, things might look a bit different.

Ninety days to be precise.

Love - Oscar Wilde

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If Life Was A Board Game… Oh Wait, It Is.

Who didn’t like game time as a kid?  There were so many classics: Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Monopoly, Sorry!, Trouble.  It was so much fun to sit around a table with classmates or family members and battle to see who would be the crowned the winner.  I secretly—well, maybe not so secretly—loved to be the one who had the last checker standing.  Charlie Sheen was really on to something when he kept spouting off about “Winning!” during his meltdown.  Though I’m sure his definition was quite different from having the best word score in Scrabble.

Board games have clear-cut rules and a concrete goal which, being a Type-A person, I love.  Everyone operates under the same clear path with the same guidelines.  No room for questions.  Whether you’re trying to sink your opponent’s battleship or solve the murder of Mr. Boddy (or Dr. Black for those not in North America), there are certain steps you must take to get to get to the end of the game.  Each game comes with directions that tell you how to set up the game, how to play, and how to win.

In the Game of LIFE, players spin the wheel and move to spaces that mark life events like graduation and marriage on their way to the Day of Reckoning where one could either end up at Millionaire Acres or the Poor Farm.  Land on a 3, move your card forward three spaces.  No more, no less.  You will collect a spouse and you may or may not collect children—each noted as blue or pink colored pegs riding along in your car game piece.

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The Marrying Kind (Of Which I Am Not)

I recently had a conversation about the bride of a wedding I will soon be attending.  Before she was engaged, one of her friends announced that she would be getting married as her longtime boyfriend had finally proposed.  The bride was excited for her friend, but was sad when she told her boyfriend the happy news.  The boyfriend asked what was wrong and she replied, “It should have been me.”

It took all of my strength not to roll my eyes when I heard this, though I’m sure my forehead scrunched up in that familiar you’ve-got-to-be-freakin’-kidding-me look.  I just can’t help myself some times.

I could not believe that an intelligent, successful, beautiful woman in a loving relationship could find herself saddened by the good news of a dear friend.  I have never been able to understand why women put so much pressure on themselves to get married.

As a child, I was never that little girl who fantasized about her wedding day.  I didn’t have a color scheme picked out or favorite styles for rings and gowns or the perfect location or where I would go on my honeymoon.  In fact, the closest I ever came to thinking about marriage was telling my mother that someday I “would get married, have kids, get divorced and take the kids with me.”  Yes, I actually said that as a child.

Though my extensive chick flick collection has at least three films where “wedding” is in the title and countless others that feature a ceremony, I guess I’ve just never found the idea of marriage all that romantic.

Yes, I was one of the millions who woke up early last April 29th to watch Prince William take Kate Middleton as his bride, princess, and partner in life, but it was so much more than the wedding I wanted to see.  As with the Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed-Simmons nuptials, I was eager to see two people who love each other share their feelings with the world.  Both of these couples had been together far longer than the average “starter marriage” lasts and it’s so clear when you look at them that there is genuine affection shared between man and woman.

I love the idea of a partnership built on trust, commitment, and love.  However, I do not believe that shelling out money for a piece of paper that legally binds two individuals and an extravagant ceremony that costs thousands and lasts hours is the end-all-be-all of life.  I have a hard time accepting that a couple who is legally “married” has a stronger relationship than a couple who choose not to have the State involved in their union.

I have a great example of a successful marriage in my family.  My Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike have the longest-running marriage in our family and still seem to genuinely like one another after all that time.  They are friends as well as lovers and I think that is so important in the grand scheme of things.  Of course after all that time, they undoubtedly would love one another, but the fact that they still sneak kisses and loving embraces is something to be admired.

Their marriage has been the shining example for my siblings Darrin and Bree—we often joke that Bree married Uncle Mike as Orson is just like him and their marriage runs in parallel to our aunt and uncle’s—and they both acknowledge that they’ve looked up to the relationship Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike have.

I have as well, but my ideas on marriage have not changed.

I will admit, I look at engagement rings online and I have never been able to pick one that would be perfect for me.  I take that as a sign that even if I like diamonds and would prefer something larger than two carats—what girl wouldn’t—I am just not won over by a piece of jewelry.  To me it’s just that: jewelry.

The Fonz and I once discussed the matter of a proposal.

Fonz: I know you’ve said you don’t want to get married, but do you want to be proposed to?

Me: (long pause) You know, I think it would be really awkward.  How do you tell someone ‘no’ and continue to be together?  That would basically end a relationship right there.

Fonz: (looking stunned) Wow, I really didn’t expect to hear that, but you had no hesitation when you said it.  I thought deep down you would still want someone to ask.

The truth is, I would love love love to spend the rest of my life with someone.  To be two old fuddy-duddies on a porch tickling grandchildren and pinching each other’s bums is a fantasy.  I just don’t need the State to validate my relationship with someone or a ceremony where all eyes are on me.  I don’t need a license.  I don’t need a registry.  I don’t need attendants in matching dresses standing beside me.  I don’t need a reception.  I just need love.

And shouldn’t that be enough?

The Spouse Factor

I am a single gal and I have male friends who are married.  It has only recently occurred to me that this may make me the anti-Christ in the eyes of their beloveds.

A co-worker (who is strictly someone I work with and is no way a person I hang out with socially—we don’t even go to lunch together) had mentioned that he had gotten into a fight with his wife after she had seen an instant message conversation between the two of us.  She demanded to know who I was, how close we sit at work, and the extent of our “work friendship.”  He insisted that he had nothing to hide and I can back him up on that.  I told him that I was willing to speak with his wife if that would make her more comfortable.  He didn’t go for it saying he would get into more hot water for telling me what happened.

I opened up said chat and tried to put myself in the wife’s shoes.  Having never met me, I can possibly see why she is upset.  Though there was no flirting in our exchange, I did give him a handful of crap—as I usually do—and answered all of his questions in a very flippant and sarcastic manner.  Since I have never met her, she could have taken my “you’re dumb” as “I want you.”

The fact is, while said co-worker is mildly attractive, he has a wife, a kid, and works with me.  All of which are on my list of non-negotiables.  On top of which, he’s immature and a little on the arrogant side.  In other words, I have no interest in him whatsoever.  He’s not someone I would want to hang out with socially and he reminds me a lot of my brother, Zack.  Neither of which are attractive to me.

Last week, I went hiking with another male friend.  We usually don’t hang out together without one of our other friends being with us, but since everyone else was either working or couldn’t be depended on, he wanted a buddy to accompany him on a hike.  I had no reason to say no and since the location of the trail was five minutes away from me, I told him I’d go.

We spent most of the time talking about our friends, work, or sharing the horror stories of my dating life.  He gave me some great advice and I tried to give him some to keep the peace at home and maintain his friendships.  For the most part, I think the only reason I was invited is because he misses his best male buddy.  Ever since this guy began dating his girlfriend, his friends have essentially been dropped and I’m sure my hiking partner is feeling the brunt of the exodus.  He’s trying to fill the position of a hiking/lunch/chat buddy that has been left by his friend’s absence.

I asked if he had mentioned to his wife that he was hiking with me and he said that she knew he was hiking, but couldn’t remember if he had mentioned whether or not I was coming.

I found this odd.

While my friend’s wife and are aren’t the best of friends, I have made a point to try to get to know her and she has come over to my place for movie night.  Hell, I’ve house-sat for them before.  There would be no reason for him not to tell her that we were hanging out.

I had told my mom what had happened with both of my guy friends and she was concerned.  She told me I shouldn’t play with fire or get involved.  Part of me was shocked.  How could she possibly think I was playing with fire?  I didn’t initiate the instant messages nor do I go out of my way to talk to this guy at work.  I didn’t encourage him not to tell his wife that we went hiking.  Why is this my problem?

And then she got to talking.

She explained to me that once upon a time before my conception, she was friends with a married man.  After one particular evening at a party where absolutely nothing inappropriate happened, his wife stopped talking to her and eventually, her friendship fell apart as a result of his wife’s disapproval.  She told me that regardless of how innocent my relationships with any of these men were, I wouldn’t want to be the case of someone’s marriage collapsing.

I do think she has some valid points, but part of me wants to just continue to be myself and have my friendships.  To me, that’s all these guys are and they’re not even high up on my list of friends.  I wouldn’t call either one of them if I was stranded somewhere and I’m fairly certain that if we didn’t work together, I would never hear from these guys ever again.

I wonder if I was dating someone any of this would matter.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a single, independent woman in my 20’s that is potentially so frightening that wives get upset at the mere mention of my being in a 100-foot radius of their husbands.

I guess until I find myself a man I’m just a woman of questionable morals.

Settle Me This

I was talking to a co-worker not long ago and we were discussing careers.  She is less than five years away from retirement, I am more than 30 away from eligibility.  We were talking about how my generation, given the crappy economy and increased competition, are managing in their search for the perfect self-fulfilling job that pays enough to allow them to live a comfortable—not extravagant, mind you—life.

This particular co-worker is not one that I would consider loves to work and is happy with the tasks she performs regularly.  She is grumpy and frustrated after decades of service, but I like her.  She doesn’t take shit from people and she reminds me a lot of my mom in her hard-shell, silly-humor kind of way.  The ironic thing is that her daughter works for my mom.  What a small world.

Anyway, we were discussing the tough choices my generation faces in the job market and how more and more people are sticking with one job because they are too afraid to be without in an economy that sees mom and dad getting laid off after a lifetime of service and entry-level jobs requiring both the education and experience.  It’s a tough choice to make: a paycheck at an unsatisfactory job or the freedom to follow one’s passion that may not result in rent money at the end of the month.

I for one have chosen a well-paying job that I have virtually little-to-no interest in.  Sure, I have my breakthroughs when things at work go in my favor, my co-workers leave me alone long enough for me to forget that I am doing their work and getting paid less for it, and I can basically commit horrendous crimes and still have a job come Monday, but I am still not what I would consider fulfilled.  This is not the career I had always envisioned for myself.  I have learned a tremendous amount in the few years I have been in my current position, but the longer I stay, the less I can see myself working there until retirement.  That is just such a foreign concept to me.

I apply and apply and nothing.  Even secure fields like mine are hard to move around in.  But for now, I am taking it in stride.

I was talking with one of my mother’s friends about work and he told me point-blank that when he was my age, he wasn’t satisfied either.  I guess what it all boils down to is just what people are willing to give up for the sake of their own livelihood.  I for one have an apartment that I love that I enjoy roommate-free.  I could never have managed to afford this place without the job I am currently in.  Also, I have an incredible boss.  Her presence in the office, as well as utter faith in my abilities, has made the last few years much more bearable than they once were.

But alas, I have settled into a career that I am not thrilled with.

I look at other adults around me—none that I work with—and see how much people look forward to their jobs.  My mother for one would rather her eyes be gouged out than have her Blackberry service interrupted on a Mediterranean cruise (yes, I have embellished slightly, but when we cruised the Med on vacation, she checked in with work constantly).

I am not a work nerd.  I put in my weekly hours and am gone.  There are very few times throughout the year that I stay longer than necessary.  1) I can get all of my work done in the alloted daily hours while still getting in ample time for internet surfing and 2) I work my hours for my time off.  I do not understand why people are willing to be called on vacation to discuss work matters.  It’s not something I am jazzed to do, nor am I willing to call someone when they are out of the office.  Why do it to them if I wouldn’t like it done to me?

But it’s not just about work.  What about relationships?

So many people (including those who know very little about me) have said that the reason I am still single is that my expectations are too high.

Seriously?!?!

Why would I want to settle with someone who I am not interested in?  I am by no means looking for Prince Charming and seeking a mate with levels of perfection that are godlike, but yes, there are certain things that I will not tolerate.  None of which I think are too outrageous to warrant me a perfection-seeking spinster at the ripe old age of 26.

And the thing is, I have even eased up on the mental list of characteristics that my ideal mate should have.  Sure dark hair and light eyes would be nice, but it’s not the end all be all.  I would be willing to date someone who had been engaged before so long as he had not been married or fathered any children.  I know what I want in life, why should I make sacrifices when it comes to finding the father to my own children and someone who I can see going the distance with?

I think it is entirely too common to get so swept up in the idea of wedding planning and family planning that people forget what makes successful relationships last.  I know this is the age for starter marriages (too many of my friends are on to their second marriages or engagements), but I for one do not want to have kids with several different men.

Despite my lack of a bride gene, I am completely traditional to the ideal of a family where two parents raise the child(ren) together.  I know that the idea of a family looks different to many people, but at the end of the day I want to raise children with one other person.  And why on earth would I want to do that with someone who is not what I am looking for?

So there you have it, I will settle in my career, but not when it comes to love and family.  Life’s too short not to want to have a great mate to share it with.

For that, I’m willing to wait.