April 6, 2006
Believe it or not, I've never felt quite as valuable, attractive and desirable as the times I've gotten dumped. Well, sort of.
According to some once-doting men, I'm terrific. I'm also beautiful, talented, smart, sassy, funny, dynamic, cute and sweet. To make matters worse, I'd make a fantastic mother. And the final blow? Apparently ... I'm a catch.
I listen intently to my lover-gone-evil dumper's compliments -- and cringe. Somehow my fairy tale has gone awry.
See, trailing the flattery describing my laundry list of potential partner credentials -- the same saccharine methods that wooed me into that first kiss -- lay an inevitable "but," and some rambling, seemingly canned, statements.
In reiterating his appreciation for me, his desire to spare me pain and reasons why we -- theoretically -- should be together, suddenly my dumper's not good enough, ("it's not you, it's me"), and reeeeeeally wants me to be happy (and move on). "I'm amazing, but [insert canned line here]."
Now clearly not everyone is a match. But instead of feeling empowered and desirable by my heartbreaker's sweet lines, I am condemned to doubt not only him, but also our time together and, regrettably, my wonderful self. If I were a complete loser, I'd understand. But if I'm so swell, well ... seems like I've been dating some -- literally.
Take "Bob," the professional with political aspirations. He fell quickly for me; we enjoyed each other, shared similar values and a distinct joie de vivre. He claimed I was everything he looked for in a woman. We talked about the future. And, importantly -- we both loved sushi.
When I sought more "us" time to determine our true compatibility, Bob, the great orator, eloquently expressed his feelings for me: He relayed my wonderful attributes, my incomparable spunk and wished upon me the greatest happiness (without him). Apparently, he didn't want to waste more of my (or his) very precious time (with me).
Guess my joie didn't match his vivre.
"George," a younger man (and baseball enthusiast) said I was the most beautiful, hilarious woman he had ever met. He'd gaze lovingly at me over dinner, swoon when we danced and high-five my ball-tossing ability. He reinforced my goodness and thought I'd make a beautiful bride.
Six months into it, when gazing, swooning and high-fiving left me out of a family gathering, I questioned my ranking. George stumbled to the plate, uttered something witty and reinforced my beauty. After two weeks of overtime? He was still charming and I was still "gorgeous" -- just not for him.
I suppose even a great lineup can't win a series without chemistry.
While a canned phrase certainly trumps a "fizzle," where phone calls stop or rumors start, what if -- instead of this PR-driven, cautious fantasy -- we just said it: "You're attractive, but I've found someone more so," "Your neuroses were endearing; now, they're just annoying," "I wanted someone motivated and sassy; turns out I'd rather have a trophy wife who'll focus more on me, " "You're incredible, sexy and I just don't want to marry you."
It may hurt, but you'll at least have something to work with (and keep some shrinks in business). And after building your "qualifications," seeking the "perfect" match (when perfection simply doesn't exist), you've paid your dues. There's got to be a takeaway. Otherwise, the faux-ex-fan club seems vacuous and wasteful, which simply seems frivolous.
So post-George, I reflected on men I passed up: "Jim" was great (but I wasn't attracted to him), and "Josh" was terrific (but too goofy for me); "Brian" was really unique (but too scattered for me); "Ian," while just OK, had amazing potential (just hadn't gotten there yet); "Dan," was the entire package -- I just hadn't reached the right place in my life.
So in full disclosure, I complimented my soon-to-be-ex-beaus like heck, and then dumped them. Not in a swift, clear way, but in some rambling, incoherent way. I explained issues as I saw them: "It's not you, it's me," "You're terrific, but I'm not in that place." "I just don't think it will work out. I can't say why."
Oh, no. Am I just as bad as Bob and George? Yikes.
I (and many like me) probably won't and maybe shouldn't ever know the whole story. But we should know something: Heartbreakers, while sometimes a fairy tale's villain, were indeed "good" credentials. And with them, I not only learned to enjoy good food, follow baseball, work a room, and to appreciate cl-ar-it-y, I also learned "what I do/don't want" and, importantly, to care.
I'll absolutely take those lessons and since it's ultimately (supposedly) worth it, I'll tirelessly plug along in pursuit of my perfectly imperfect match. As for my ever-growing list of selling points? I'll happily add "strong" and "wise" to my register of attributes. It's -- and here's the hard part -- adding "frustrated" and "cynical" that I'd like to avoid.
After all, I'm a catch. As-Is. At least that's what I've been told.
Dara Lehon, a freelance writer living in New York City, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.