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To Grommet and Biscuit: on Love.

2008-02-15 - 3:12 p.m.

Dear Grommet and Biscuit,

On the 6th anniversary of the day I met your father, and the day after Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be a good time to write to you about that all-important, yet almost indefinable topic: love.

I want to acknowledge right up front that you may both think “Horsefeathers*! She has no idea what she’s talking about!” when you read this. Opinions on, and insight into big-ticket items like love are really something that you may have to come to on your own. And maybe your experiences will lead you to entirely different conclusions than the ones I’ve drawn. But I’d still like to share what I think of as my “truth” on the subject with you.

(*Okay, probably something a lot more hip than “horsefeathers”, which I think I’m the only person under 80 to use any more, even now. In fact, even the word “hip” may be showing how positively antiquated I am by the time you read this. “How cute,” you may think, “mom actually fancied herself to be cool, once upon a time.” But I digress…)

You will both grow up in a culture that inundates you with notions of what love is, or at least what it “should” be. Movies, books, magazines, stories on the internet – all glorify romantic love. Love changes everything; love makes the world go ‘round; all you need is love. And certainly, these things aren’t wrong, but nor do they really form the entire picture.

I love your father, but it may surprise you to hear that he’s not the first man I’ve loved in my life. I even came relatively close to marrying someone else, once upon a time. Looking back though, I know that I narrowly escaped making a huge mistake and I truly don’t believe that that marriage would have lasted, whereas, with your father I cannot imagine us voluntarily not being together, ever.

Is it because your father and I love each other? Certainly we do. Don’t ever doubt it. But I think what makes us perfect for each other isn’t that we love each other, it’s that we have so much more than love. As to how we started out though, I believe that we ended up together because of a combination of compatibility and timing.

“Timing? Really? Our existence turned on timing?”

Yep. If your father and I had met each other earlier, I don’t think we would have even had the chance to recognize how good we could be together. Even a year or two earlier I wouldn’t have looked at him seriously once, let alone twice. Consider this: a year before I met him, your father was a Camaro-driving smoker. At the risk of sounding shallow, I might very well have dismissed him as a yahoo. Smoke makes me ill, and a muscle car? Please, you know how much I value being practical and a car to me is just a way of getting around. If it doesn’t have four doors and good fuel economy, why have it as your primary means of transportation?

It’s more than that though: even though I might have wanted to settle down before I did, I know for a fact, looking back, that I just wasn’t ready to. I can’t speak for your father on this, but, for myself, I had to work through all the stuff I did in my teens and twenties before I was really fit to be the kind of person who was an asset to a partnership. I just wasn’t mature enough.

I am not, in any way, suggesting that either of you won’t be ready for a serious, long-term relationship for a certain period of time. You might arrive at that point early on; you might never get there. If you’re like most people though, you’ll fall somewhere between the two points – you’ll have a few relationships of varying degrees of seriousness, then you’ll settle down. It’s almost certain you’ll think you’re ready before you are, but everyone does and everyone then deals with it as they need to.

There are friends of your father’s and mine whom I dated back in the day and they are fine men and their wives are fabulous. Would I have ended up with one of them had I met them instead of your father in 2002? Maybe, maybe not, but my point is that timing is really a bigger deal than most people think, and bad timing can doom a relationship no matter how much love you may have going for you. The movies will tell you the opposite, but who are you going to believe: Hollywood or your mother?

Compatibility is also huge. Forget “opposites attract” or “birds of a feather flock together”, I’m talking about whether you’re good together or not. Backgrounds are important in how they shape your values and ideals, and basic values can be deal-breakers. Your father and I both come from white, middle-class families, but that’s not what we have in common that makes us good together. Again, I can’t speak for your father on what he would or would not have been attracted to, or tolerated, in a partner, but I can say with certainty that if he’d been someone who thought women should be carefully made-up, fashionable, smooth-legged, perfumed, and dumber than men, and let men make all the decisions and never have an opinion, well, he wouldn’t have liked me. And if I thought he was that kind of man he wouldn’t exactly have gotten far with me either. Even as we got to know each other, if I’d discovered that he had a problem with gay people, or was ultra-conservative, or didn’t care at all about the planet, or was aghast at the thought of women ever keeping their own names after marriage, well, he wouldn’t have been the man for me. And on a personality level, his quiet self-confidence, thoughtfulness, dependability and lack of pushiness were such a welcome change from previous relationships.

What I’m trying to say is that you will likely find yourselves with people who just aren’t good for you or to you, or who are but with whom the timing is lousy, and you will think “but I love them!” and to you, at the time, it will seem like a good reason to put yourself through agony. Sweetheart, I am telling you, love is not always enough. In fact, it’s rarely enough. You shouldn’t let yourself be shut into a relationship where love is lacking, but nor should you ever let yourself be in a situation that is detrimental to you just because you’re in love.

There’s nothing wrong with weighing a serious relationship as a factor when making decisions that affect your life, but it shouldn’t be the only factor, and quitting school or giving up a long-cherished and attainable goal because you’re in love? Not a good sign as to the viability of this particular relationship. And if you do have to give up a relationship that’s important to you because either the timing or the person fundamentally isn’t right? It will suck. But trust me, you will feel better over time, even if it doesn’t seem like it right away.

One really important point: this other person makes you feel bad about yourself or even physically harms you? It doesn’t matter if you love them and believe they love you: Get. Out. You will not regret it once you have some time and distance to look back on the situation from.

I promise you, there are people in the world that will be “right” for you, and at some point you will meet one of them at a time when you are both in a good place, mentally and physically, to recognize each other. You will compliment each other, and being together will make you both better people.

This is what your father and I have, and this is what I hope for for you, my children. I don’t care if they’re members of the opposite sex or the same sex. I don’t care what colour they are. All I care is that they’re good for you and to you, because while it may take awhile to figure out if someone new loves you, nothing will change the fact that I love you, and that is how someone who loves you judges new people in your life.

Remember that when you bring your first significant other home that your father or I don’t like. And if we’re wrong, we’ll figure it out eventually, but if we’re right, well, you’ll figure that one out eventually yourself.

Love,

Your Mother
(currently Mumma, but probably Mom by the time you read this)

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