Sunday, February 26, 2012

Choosing a (running) Mate

One of the most mysterious questions in life is -  what attracts us to certain people?
Even more mysterious is how those same people we used to be crazy about can start to repel us.
When I was (a lot) younger, I met a guy who was intelligent, attractive (my friends were jealous), fun, sexy and a bit quirky, which set him apart from the somewhat stereotypical, predictable guys I knew. I put up with things to have a relationship with him that most women would have given up on (their jealousy faded and was replaced with pointed questions). We had a child, so this guy (can't really call him a man) has been in my life ever since.
Now I consider us opposites in very important, fundamental ways, like: honesty, financial responsibility, emotional stability, political views, fidelity. 'Offbeat'  morphed into 'a bit crazy'. 'Boyish" turned into 'chronically immature'. Integrity, unselfishness and credibility are now much higher on my list of must haves. I came to realize he really isn't that intelligent (yes, Harvard failed again), he only seemed that way.
When you're dating, you go to dinner, talk about acquaintances and events of the day, all while your mental processes are busy trying to decide if you want to sleep together. We project traits onto people who resemble others that we admire. I once had a date with a guy simply because he looked like someone I'd had a crush on, then ended up throwing up in his car (my fault, not his)!
When you live with someone, the negatives can start to color our attitudes until we come to consider that person completely unacceptable. Maybe they're chronically lazy, or compulsive about their possessions or neatness (clearly silly values indeed).  Doesn't make them terrible people, just a bad fit for you.
It's the same when we chose our politicians (although I don't think it should be). As long as we're in the dating stage some of these would-be leaders look OK. But when we start thinking about living with them for 4 years, forget about it!
Look at the Republican choices: after awhile people discovered that Gingrich is incredibly mean. Santorum doesn't believe in birth control. Romney might be a secret racist (I only recently discovered why Mormonism is so suspect, understandably - especially in the black community). All of their rhetorical overreach takes away their credibility. Would we pick a date by listening to a guy spout a lot of negatives about his rivals?
We have to be careful not to be swept off our feet. When you're alone and lonely the guy/gal who shows interest in you looks very good. When you're with an unsatisfactory partner, everyone else starts looking good.
When choosing a mate in both our private and public lives we want someone with substance, not just style. Someone who will  be smart about when to spend money and when not to. We want someone with sound suggestions, not silly or disproved ideas (trickle down - really?!) We want someone who is able to compromise, who respects others, who will protect our environment (your turn to take out the trash); someone rational, moral, patient, with intelligence and empathy; a hard worker, making friends - not enemies - with the neighbors (yes, that includes trying - even with nasty, noisy neighbors like Iran). We need a person who values education, someone who will look out for us, keep us safe, get us through bad economic times, focus on important things like jobs; use diplomacy and communication.
Don't be seduced by the guy that offers you a great night on the town, or a tax cut in your pocket, and nothing else.
For the long term we want someone we'll be proud to introduce to our friends and family, not just someone who looks good after a few martinis or a beer bong. We want them to prove themselves worthy of our commitment or our vote. We want the best we can get.
And if we are lucky enough to find the right person, let's hope we have the good judgement to realize it. Don't overlook that nice, boring gal who has the right stuff when it comes to important, core values.

We should use our intellect, not pure emotion, to make good selections for the people in our lives - both public and personal. They will be play a huge role in our lives, with ripples reaching far into into the future. Whether it's senator or president, wife, husband or partner; these are jobs, and we should interview and audition them carefully, or we may be very sorry indeed.