Recently, on a trip back to California to visit family, I found a scrap of paper wedged in between course papers and handouts from college in a pile on the floor of my childhood bedroom. On a piece of lined yellow paper torn from a mini legal pad was a Venn diagram, with a list of qualities written in my dad’s doctor scrawl. These characteristics included: six feet tall, blonde with blue eyes, smarter than Molly, not too smart, and on and on. In my dad’s hand, arrows pointing to the Venn diagram: on the left, a big circle, boys in Molly’s dating pool, on the right, a much smaller circle, boys that meet Molly’s qualifications, and in the tiny sliver where the two circles meet, boys that Molly would date.
I remember clearly the conversation that led to that scribbled diagram of my romantic potential. It was the summer after my freshman year in college, and I was still brooding over my lost high school love. Being on the East Coast for school was exciting and depressing all at once, and I was relieved to be back at home with my family. I spent the long summer days interning, texting the ex, sunbathing in the backyard while reading Russian novels, and avoiding the kids from my high school who were also spending summer at home.
One night in the kitchen, as my mom made dinner, my dad started to tease me about why I hadn’t started dating anyone at school. “There isn’t anyone for me to date,” I said. “I find that hard to believe,” my father responded. Soon he was asking me what my dream man would be, and scoffing as he added each additional quality to the list. “You’re too picky,” he insisted, “You’re going to write off some great people just because they don’t meet your ideal.” As he drew the circles and put the finishing touches on his very scientific inquiry, I defiantly felt that I would show him that the perfect person did exist, and in fact he was waiting for me. It was a conversation that I shrugged off, yet I couldn’t make myself throw away the scrap of paper with my dad’s drawing on it. A subconscious note to self: you are the one getting in your own way.
Flash forward seven years: I find my dad’s Venn diagram and laugh. For the past two years I have been with someone, and we’ve started to build a life and home together. He is about five feet eight inches, and has brown hair and brown eyes. He does not meet any of those superficial qualifications I wrote down in 2007. I would have certainly overlooked him in college, because he didn’t fit into my idea of who I wanted to be with. And what’s worse, I kind of did overlook him college. We met online but discovered early on that not only had we gone to college together, we had mutual friends and had lived across the street from each other for three years. I think about it now: is it really possible that we never once met face to face? Or is it more likely that we did but we saw past each other, because we weren’t ready for it or not mature enough to recognize it?
My younger self, who could see so clearly parts of who she wanted, couldn’t see the whole person she was after. What I really wanted was someone who would respect me, support me. A partner, and a friend. That girl also thought that you met someone, and that was it. Now I know that you meet someone, and things get messier, but it’s working through the mess and emerging together that builds a relationship. And besides that, brown hair and brown eyes are really nice too.