"I don't need a better thing, I'd settle for less" - Lose You, Pete Yorn
Sex and the Suburbs
by Lauralyn Avallone
Part 1: How Do You Like Them Apples?
Bruised fruit, a slightly unfitted shirt, a job that is not our dream but that pays the rent. These are things we sometimes settle for. But we should never, ever settle for a relationship.
Think about it, in the case of bruised fruit. It sounds like a silly analogy, but think of the effort you take into picking out a ripe, juicy peach. You squeeze it, check it for mushy dents, and if the color isn't glowing, most likely you'll move on to the next. Unless, of course, the whole batch is imperfect, then you'll say, what the hell, I'll take the bruised, dull one home, shine it up and cut out the brown part.
You can't cut out the rotten part of a person. We have all tried at one point or another. You date a string of bad apples and think, ok, so this one isn't perfect, but maybe it's a fixer upper. I can take him or her home, clean 'em up, turn them on to my interests and that bad quality, well, I'll just overlook it because, quite frankly, the options are limited.
When you buy into the limited options theory, you lose an important element of finding true love: faith. And like George Michael wisely said, you gotta have it. Without faith, you lose hope and when you lose hope, you settle. It's a vicious cycle that too many of us get caught up in, endlessly running on a wheel of far from perfect relationships, ignoring substantial flaws that we know will never make us truly happy. But out of fear, the fear of being alone today or for the rest of your tomorrows, or the tick tock of nature's clock, you hold on to the stagnant relationship, and if you're really unlucky, you'll say until death do us part and then part ways shortly afterward.
Reflecting on the act of terrorism that snuffed out so many bright futures and the war that is claiming young men's lives left and right, it is an understatement to say time is precious. Every day that you trade doing whatever it is that brings you a natural high for an unfulfilling relationship is a day that, in time, you will regret. If you add up all the minutes, hours, months and years spent settling for someone less than you deserve, and calculate the time that could have been spent with someone who's right for you, the numbers will be in the ballpark range of our national debt.
Easy for you to say, you may be thinking. I love the person I'm with, even if they aren't perfect, who is? We've been together for X amount of time and it beats sitting at home alone, so who are you to tell me that I can do better?
Besides, this person is safe.
My response: seatbelts are safe. Designated drivers are safe. 401K's are safe. No partner is "safe." They may be reliable or trustworthy, but everyone has emotions, and emotions are not always safe and predictable, in fact, sometimes they can feel a bit dangerous. Feelings are rarely set in stone, and even in the World Series of partnerships, the rules of the game are subject to change. You could sport a locket with your lovers blood type, like nutty Billy Bob and his vamp wife Angelina, but that's no guarantee of owning someone's heart.
Every venture into love involves taking a risk. And like anything else in life, the higher the risk, the higher the reward. If you tend to settle, you're obviously not a risk-taker. But, you don't have to be a high roller type to NOT settle. I know it's hard once you're in it and your partner knows just about everything about you, they've infiltrated your social circle, ate your mother's cooking and are as time tested as a Timex. It's even harder when you've brought up the "M" word, worse if one of you exchanged name ideas for your future children. Better, if you adamantly disagreed on the names, and then thought to yourself, "My God, how can I EVER be with this person if he/she wants to name our firstborn 'Jack Daniels'?"
You can't. You can't be with the person for the long term if there is a pile of doubt weighing down the uncertainty scales. It's not fair to you, and it's not fair to them.
So, closing the safety gate, ponder this: what's worse than being dumped? Being dumped by someone who you know wasn't good enough for you in the first place.
Part II: Slice of My Life
Getting Out once you've settled in
An investigative reporter on a local paper, I went on a ride-a-long with two Nassau detectives. Settled into the back of the unmarked car on a seemingly quiet night, conversation trailed from work to relationships. The two cops in front were happily married to their high school sweethearts.
"So what about you?" one of them shouted over their shoulder as we drove through some dreary streets of Hempstead.
"What about me?"
"Oh, I'm not seeing anyone at the moment."
He seemed surprised. "Why not? You're attractive, a down to earth girl. Why no boyfriend?"
I caught my eyes before they did the usual roll of frustration. "I just haven't met anyone right for me yet," I said. "I'm pretty picky."
"Uh-oh," the cop laughed. "What kind of picky are we talking about?"
"Well, for one, I prefer tall men and for some reason I don't seem to meet too many men taller than me."
The two cops started whispering to one another. One said, yeah! They both nodded as if they've reached a brilliant conclusion. Before I could hear what it was, the plainclothes duo was out on the street, arresting a herd of gang members. One of them came back to the car while the handcuffed crew was being led into police cars.
He popped his head in window and asked,
"How do you feel about blind dates?"
Peeking through from under my protective baseball cap I said, "I'd try anything once. Well, almost anything."
Next thing I know, my number is traveling through the matchmaking vine to one of the detectives brothers. The following day, my phone rings. Word travels fast in Singleland.
From the minute I met the blind date, I knew it would never work. Nothing clicked for me physically or mentally. We were polar opposites on the dating spectrum. But, being told I was "too picky," I gave it a go. He was nice, I told myself. Short, messy and shared none of my interests, but nice.
Nice isn't a big enough ingredient to brew the whole package. Passion, humor and someone who "gets" me, truly understands that little pinch of individuality that is the essence of who I am and why I do things, is to me, the whole package. Without those elements, it's nothing more than a recipe for disaster.
Luckily, I got out before the disaster turned ugly. When I find myself in that familiar situation, I stop and remember: whatever you do, don't settle. If it means being labeled the Number One picky girl in the world, that's fine. That will surely make me the happiest bride down the aisle.