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Monday, October 02, 2006
Unrealistic Expectations...

...this has been something that DH and I have bounced around in discussion for a long time - the unrealistic expectations of individuals.

Mostly it's when one individual expects perfection to come to them. Actually, it's more like an individual's need to not have to do any hard work and get everything that they want. Like waiting for (and expecting) Prince Charming to just drop in your lap with a silver bow wrapped around himself, and he will adore you and you never have to worry about anything in your relationship again, because he will just be perfectly perfect and you have to compromise nothing.

Don't worry folks, I'm not talking about anyone I know online. At least I don't think that I am. I'm referring to a person that I knew in college. She met some guy at a summer job, and set up a romantic notion that he'd come to his senses that she was the 'girl next door' that was 'right under his nose' all this time, and come sweep her off her feet and have a happily ever after.

I figured she'd been watching too many John Hughes movies and identified too closely with the Molly Ringwald character - a little off of center, no where near the circles of popularity, and always winning the guy everyone else wants. I should have known better when learning that she loved musicals and that 'Benny and Joon' was her favorite movie. You know, I like musicals and I loved 'Benny and Joon' and watched every single John Hughes movie there is ('Sixteen Candles' ranks up there as my favorite of his films, I think) but I didn't fall into that trap.

Oh sure, I wanted the knight in shining armor to come save me from my pitiful existence and tell me that he loved me, and that I was the best thing to ever happen to him. But that's not real life - it's a lovely dream, isn't it? You ladies out there reading this can understand that, I'm sure. But I had a little something different in my past - I had a mother who said that men are dogs, that you could never trust anyone but yourself, and a stalker that I still look over my shoulder once in a while to make sure he's not there. And some deep bred cynicism that had me cautious in every single relationship I was in. And a couple of heartbreaks, because the two times that I just let my guard be really down I got pretty hurt. Of course, I didn't learn *that* lesson when the next guy came along, but I ended up marrying him, so I'm not going to go there.

Let's get back to our example of the girl I knew in college. She'd met this guy and was writing him letters, and she was near to obsessive about checking her post office box waiting to hear from him. I would have chided her about it, but she would have said the same thing about me. The truth is I was obsessive about checking my mailbox because otherwise my copies of the Wall Street Journal piling up would have pissed off the postmaster at the college, and I really didn't want that to happen. That and I liked reading the Journal (and had to for a couple of classes). But I digress. Every time she got a letter she'd have that thing open in seconds and reading it. And reading it again. And again. And being happy while eating popcorn on her bed and reading it again. The only thing I read that many times over and over was my business law book's section on corporations and the different kinds you could have.

Anyway, a bad day came - the day he mentioned someone else to her. Let the floodgates open, and get out the chocolate people. The end of the world has come. How could he do this to her, she asked me. I shrugged and continued reading about torts. How could be write all those letters all this time and now he's got a girlfriend? I hugged her, gave her kleenex and continued reading about microeconomic theories. Two days go by, and she wonders aloud why *she* wasn't the girl. I looked at her and said 'The girl was there, you are not, and he doesn't know what you don't tell him' and then handed her the kleenex while the floodgates reopened and assured her that I didn't say it to be mean and why don't we watch 'Lili' for the 6000th time, which I promptly put in and then left the room for the library where the other fifteen million business students were hiding, chatting and being generally obnoxious, but still would be less disruptive to my studying than she would be. That and I can't stand the movie 'Lili' (or Leslie Caron for that matter).

Now, that's just an example (a real one, but still). An unrealistic expectation of romance just dropping in her lap. I think it was made more bearable by the fact that none of her friends were having some guy just swoop in and realize the girl of their dreams was right in front of them, which would have just rubbed salt and lemon juice into the wounds. Even so, when she got over it, she was still expecting that knight on the white horse to appear and not realizing the work that went into relationships. The compromise, and the sacrifice.

I think she finally learned it when she started dating her boss years ago and they hid it from the very small company they were working for. And hid it from his best friend who was the president of that company. And when the family found out he'd been married before, and that he didn't want children (which was a dream of hers). She sacrificed it all, and moved to another state, in the middle of nowhere for that state, to be with him. Was it a white knight ending for her, that happily ever after she was seeking? I don't know. She and I don't speak, but I don't think it's really what she was expecting out of life.

I still know people like that, waiting for the prince or the knight on the white horse to sweep them up and ride them off into the sunset to that inevitable happily ever after. And it's a nice dream to have, but you can't sit there and wait for it to happen. You make your own happily ever after, though hard work and compromise, love and tears, and knowing that either your hard work will be all worth it in the end, or that you're going to learn something from this experience. There's never a perfect happily ever after like the storybooks say...

... because it's something you have to make for yourself.