It might have started with our fathers, but somewhere in a bedtime story, song lyric, t.v. show, or movie, we pieced together the image of our ideal man. For some, we are on the search for Lloyd Dobbler to kick a soda can out of our path as we walk, or Jake Ryan to return our underwear. Perhaps we want Maverick to serenade us in a bar, or Richard Gere to take us shopping.
Me? Easy. Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. Brave, protective, and manly, with a dry wit that makes you succumb to your own smile when all you want to do is punch him in the face. With a smile like that, one that tops your own, you know you will always be fighting a losing battle. But with the kind of man who would never let you lose, because he’s smart enough to know that it would be his loss as well.
When I first started dating again, I was asked what I wanted in a man.
“I want Bruce Willis in Moonlighting.”
“But he’s not real,” my friend told me.
“Fine. George Clooney.”
“He’s way to old. Nice thought, but you know you would never date a guy his age. Excuse me, man.”
In She’s Having A Baby, Kevin Bacon is sitting in his car with Alec Baldwin outside of the church on his wedding day. With cold feet, Bacon asks Baldwin, “Will I be happy?” To which he replies, “You will. You just won’t know it at the time.”
“So maybe I won’t know what I want until I, just, stumble upon him. I won’t know it at the time. If I can’t have David Addison, maybe his replacement has to show me all the things I don’t know I want, because everything I’ve wanted so far hasn’t worked out,” I said to my girlfriend.
“No. You need to have some kind of picture of what this guy is. Start with what you weren’t getting before: Romance.”
Romance has never sat well with me, and more so made me uncomfortable. Maybe it was because the gestures came from the wrong men. When I was written a poem, I cringed. Rose petals on the bed? I’ve died and gone to the Bachelorette (gag). A dozen red roses for Valentine’s? Wow. Original.
Even what I think of as the greatest marriage proposal of all time-Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca- he doesn’t even get down on one knee. He simply says, “I was thinkin’ today that we aught to get married.” And drops a box with a ring on the table. Out of nowhere and completely catching her off guard. From the wrong guy, all wrong. From Bogie? Bingo.
Then I had to be reminded of dating decorum. My dear, sweet friend, Katie, would drill these into me and tell me to take notes. Men absolutely must call, not text, they should arrange dates in advance, they should pick you up at your apartment, they should follow up said date with flowers.
Between the romance and the rules, and because David Addison is fictional, I began to think about all the things I wanted. My own personal, and ridiculous, terms and conditions, or perhaps mere hopes.
For me, romance is high-fiving one another when Jeter hits a walk off in the ninth. Late night living room dance parties to all your favorite music with homemade margaritas. A text when you can’t see each other that only says goodnight. I do like it when men call rather than text because there’s something traditional and confident about it. But ya gotta love a great text. I like men who wear pink and patagonias. I like flowers when they have done nothing wrong. But not after a date. And not red roses. I like men who love what they do for a living, and don’t constantly wish they were professional athletes, but are also passionate about their sports teams. He has to be either as fun as me, or more fun. He has to like to travel, he has to like eating out, he has to like my friends, he has to spend time with my family, he laughs at me when I am clutzy or flustered, he handles stress well, he doesn’t yell, he drinks regular beer, he’s a good dancer, he likes dogs, he…
Wait. I had to stop myself. Men don’t do this. I’m sure they have an idea, and I’m sure they can tell you which Disney princess they think is the hottest, but they don’t make these lists. And then I realized what I want most of all.
I just want it to be easy. I don’t want to think about rules or romance. I want to be in a moment of happiness and not know it’s happening until I look back.
Men don’t have it easy, either, and sometimes it’s because we are the ones making it hard with all of our preconceived expectations that came from fiction. When I first started blogging, I got an email from a good buddy from college. He wrote:
“I spent all day feeling what the words you wrote are describing, but didn’t come across your piece until I got in bed last night… glad I am not alone, though I am fairly certain your target audience aren’t males….. I had my own #60 Saturday night when I was rendered speechless and tongue tied (again) by my crush of two years, despite preparing myself since our last encounter in December, to walk in with reckless abandon and sweep her off her feet, or go down in flames trying…”
Maybe all of our expectations should be ex’d. Or else, are we setting up every man to go down in flames trying? Or are we able to step back and say, “Wow. He at least went down in flames trying. And that should count for something…maybe, everything.”
In one episode of Moonlighting, after a particularly aggressive detective duo showdown, Maddie sits with David shocked, about how she almost lost her life until a stranger intervened.
Maddie says to David, “He almost died for me.”
David replied, “Well, God help the man that lives for you.”
Perspective might be the game changer. I used to believe the greatest word men ever said to me when asking me out was, “reservation.” Now I know the word I want to hear is much simpler, and much more meaningful.