When I told my friends I was dating a European gymnast with a PhD, no one was particularly surprised. Foreign, athletic, and smart has been my type since my jungle gym days. He never lasted long enough to meet the friends, so I never felt the need to warn them that the only things he could talk about was “How I Met Your Mother” and Absolute Zero. But then again, I wasn’t dating him for the conversation. #boytoy
“Look, he’s not what you’re expecting.” This, on the other hand, is how I prefaced meeting Euro-Flips-Phd’s predecessor, who had survived long enough to meet my parents and most of my close friends. After that introductory phrase, came a list of reasons why you’d be surprised at me or put-off by him. On paper, “Big Red” was my best match to-date, but in person, there were about half a dozen reasons why he wasn’t what I, or the peanut gallery, had in mind for my Prince Charming. Our divergent lifestyles were visible in his appearance and demeanor.
Later, after he’d won everyone over with the quick sense of humor and general intelligence that I fell so quickly for, I felt bad. Why did I feel the need to put him down before anyone had the chance to judge for themselves? Was I afraid of how he might reflect back on me? Or did my warning really reflect the concerns I had about us as a match?
You say he only said 5 sentences to you all night? Why are you surprised? I told you he was shy.
Yes, he wore a braided belt with a suit. I told you he was fashionably-challenged.
My preemptive warnings headed off your criticisms at the pass. I’ve pointed out his most obvious shortfalls, so you’re going to have to work hard to tell me something I don’t know. Oh? You think the’s wonderful? You don’t understand what I was worried about? His beer belly is totally unnoticeable? And you think he’s funny? Awesome.
I was simultaneously setting him up for failure and apologizing for him in case he crashed and burned on his own. But more significantly, I was revealing my doubts and granting my friends and family permission to disapprove of him… for a finite set of reasons.
In many cases, these warnings I gave my friends and family were some how at the core of why my fella and I didn’t make it to a happily ever after. Most of the time, they weren’t.
“I like him. A lot,” my mother said after she met Big Red. “But I’m going to pretend I don’t like him, so you keep your options open.”
I guess that when I warned her about this thing or that, I was doing the same thing — letting her know I was keeping my options open. I’m reasonably certain that, even though I know it’s not entirely fair to him, I will always preempt first meetings between a boyfriend and my loved ones with some kind of warning. Most likely because I don’t want to jinx anything.