And I Love Her January 7th, 2011
Earlier this week I attended a business dinner with several colleagues. With the social lubrication of a drink under our belts the conversation veered from professional to personal realms. Younger members of the group complained of approaching 30th birthdays. Older members of the group traded war stories of raising teenagers. And eventually one member of the group told the story of how he got together with his wife.
This man is usually all business, so it was refreshing to hear him speak so candidly about his personal life. Since he was a bit older (40-ish) when he married, embedded into his story was the following synopsis of how his selection criteria in a potential wife changed as he aged:
When I was in my early twenties I thought, “She’s beautiful. And I love her.”
When I was in my mid-twenties I thought, “She’s beautiful and she’s funny. And I love her.”
When I was in my late twenties I thought, “She’s beautiful and she’s funny and she’s smart. And I love her.”
When I was in my early thirties I thought, “She’s smart and she’s funny and she’s rather pretty. And I love her.”
When I was in my mid-thirties I thought, “She’s smart and she’s got a solid career and she’s funny and she’s really somewhat attractive. And I love her.”
When I was in my late thirties I thought, “She’s level headed and I enjoy her company and she’s not altogether bad looking. And I love her.”
And when I hit 40 I thought, “This is really someone I can work with for a long time.”
I suppose if I were this man’s wife and I wanted to choose the most objectionable interpretation of his story I could be offended that he seems to be implying that it was only after he lowered his standards six or seven times that he found himself interested in marrying me. But having heard his little litany firsthand I can vouch that this isn’t how he meant it at all.
Rather, what he meant to convey was how foolish we can be in our youth. When we are 22 appearances are paramount. But by the time we turn 30 we need more. We need someone we can relate to, someone who can have a conversation, someone who is fun. And as we age further we need more still. We need compatibility. Give and take. Balance. Trust. Fulfillment. And a thousand other things that mere beauty can’t deliver.
If you think about it his standards actually increased over time. Finding a beautiful man/woman? Not so hard. Finding a man/woman you want to build a life with? A Herculean task.
What I find curious about this little phenomenon of evolving tastes is that it takes us so long to figure out what really matters. Do 20-year-olds not care about a decent conversation? Do they not care about a good laugh? Do they not care about common interests and values? Or is it that at such a young age the need for real compatibility seems so far off that in our youth we indulge ourselves in the qualities we know can’t matter as much when we start to look at “forever”?
I like to think that I had a better-than-average head on my shoulders back then. In retrospect, I know I didn’t. So I suppose the fact that I ended up with a handsome husband is either a function of dumb luck or hard work. Actually, I think it’s a bit of both.