Certainty. That’s what I saw when I watched President Obama give his farewell speech and speak about the role his wife has played in his life. Of course also love, and gratitude…but there was something more…and that something was certainty. Their partnership is deep and sure. You see it in how they look at each other, and how they lean in, and how they share private smiles and jokes when they dance together. They have both passion and deep respect, and they simply like each other, too.
It’s what we all want, to have a partner who speaks about us the way the President speaks about Michelle. And it reminds me of a couple of conversations I have had over the years, which I need to remember.
A few years ago, I was very casually seeing a man who I liked. He was fun to spend a little time with sometimes, and we had a decent physical attraction. Then we had The Conversation, and he told me that what we had worked fine for him, but that he wasn’t interested in dating me. Let me tell you, it Blew My Mind. What? Why not? Isn’t this good enough? And he told me, no, it’s not. That he can tell pretty early when someone is a good fit for him and a relationship has potential, and ours didn’t. He told me he was looking for potential, and it didn’t lie with me. So after I got over my hurt feelings and being seriously miffed, I thought about it, and he was right. Truthfully, I never got excited to see him, I didn’t think about him when we weren’t together, and I often found him somewhat humorless. I’m sure those who he has a real friendship with find him very kind and funny and wonderful, but my point is that we had virtually no connection and so I did not. And I thought, Right On. Bravo for knowing what you want and calling it early. I wish more people had that insight, and that bravery.
Fast forward to the more recent past. Another date, so much hope, and no connection. He tried, I tried, and the whole thing was utterly painful. As we were waiting for the check, he asked me what I thought. Trying to be evasive, I asked him about what, and then I remembered my past experience and how I appreciated the candor. Well, I told him, I think you’re very nice and clearly have a lot to offer, but I just don’t see that we have a connection. He looked a little hurt and then agreed, but said that he thought sometimes these things take time. True, I countered, but when you know it’s right, don’t you know immediately? Don’t you have a sense right out the gate, and doesn’t that grow as the minutes pass? Every single time I have been with someone with potential I knew immediately. I felt the butterflies, and I felt the curiosity. I felt in balance with him, in synch, and conversation tumbled forward easily. Isn’t that what you want, I asked? And he paused, and said yes.
I struggle with being a romantic. I distort reality to see what I want to see, and I make excuses for people when I should not. It’s a flaw, but it’s also something I appreciate about myself, because it points at Hope. Each mistake I make offers a lesson, and the growth is often painful and always worth it. I think about the relationship that ended last year, the one that turned Bad, and how much that hurt and how grateful I am for it. I had another relationship recently, much shorter but equally profound, and while it didn’t turn out the way I hoped, I am grateful for it as well.
When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a mug that said “before you meet a handsome prince you have to kiss a lot of toads”. Ugh. I don’t want to kiss toads, and think that most men are both a little bit prince and a little bit toad…as are most women. We’re all in this big messy soup together, and owe it to ourselves and each other to be candid: I want certainty. I want somebody who is certain about me, and I want to be certain about him. Neither one of us waiting for something better to come along, or feeling like we’re just killing time because it’s better than being alone. And when it’s right, we will know.