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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's Wrong With Being "Old-Fashioned"?

I am a little bit sad and a whole lot happy to say that one of the BFF's - "T" -  is "in love." Let's not think about the fact that I am jealous as hell. (By the way, I told her that and she laughed, so we're okay with it.) What I like most about T's love groove is that it's old-fashioned. The slow courtship, the falling deep, the whole thinking-about-the-future thing - it's just something I haven't seen a lot of for a long time. Matter of fact, my mom and dad's relationship was the last old-school kind of  love I'd personally known of.

I was telling all of this to a younger (40-something to my 50 years) lady. I'm thinking that, since we come from a similar cultural background and aren't a thousand years apart in age, she would understand what I meant. She didn't.

I explained to her that, to me, old-fashioned meant showing respect when approaching a person. Courting them with some real kindness and sweetness before you put on all the intimate moves. Learning to like them before you start sizing up what kind of house or car or job or bank account they have. Trying to see how you might fit into their life before you invade their life. In other words, just taking things a little slow. I mean, what's wrong with the whole, "I like you, do you like me?" kind of approach? That's way better than the usual, "Hey, baby, you looking so fine." Hell, it's more mature than that.

My friend looked at me like I was Jim Jones holding out a cup of Kool-Aid.

"Are you serious?" she asked me. (And she was serious.)

"Yes, I'm serious. Don't you want something real and mature and hopeful," I asked her. "Or do you want the sorry old pickup lines, lies and too fast to be good kind of thing?"

"Tell you what I want," she said. "I want a man with a job - a good job. He's got to look good, and he's got to have some swagger. You can keep that old-fashioned mess for yourself."

"So, you don't care if a man respects you or cherishes you - as long as he looks good and has bank?"

"Not only do I not care, I don't give a real good damn."

Well, at least she's honest. (You might notice that she is not one of my best friends.)

We talked about it a little bit more. Basically, she wants a image, not a man. She wants whoever looks good to anybody who might notice. I didn't ask, but I wonder what she'd be willing to put up with to have that in a man? I mean, could he beat her ass? Could he not really even care about her as a person?

I see so many women these days (my age and younger) who are into that "I gotta have a man" mode. They don't care if it's a good and decent man or not. One lady I know actually admitted to me that she does not feel "complete" without a man. What the hell is that about? I mean, to me, there is a difference in feeling "complete" and feeling "completed." I think we all want to feel completed. But, no, this friend says that she just doesn't want to be alone. To top it all, her preferred "type" is one with (I swear, she told me and another friend this) "A little bit of 'thug' in him." She's fifty-three years old, so this is not a youthful phase she's going through. I believe she's just a little bit crazy.

There are other people I know who have settled down with someone they are not happy with. They stay because it's "safe" inside a relationship. Or they stay because of kids - which I don't know how I feel about that. I mean, I think stay for the kids, but sometimes I wonder what good is an unhappy parent? You might be teaching your kids about commitment, but what are you teaching them about joy? So, that's a tough one and I change my mind every few days or so. But I really hate people who are just in a relationship only for the sex or money or laziness. Why be in a relationship if your soul isn't?

That's not what old-fashioned love is about. At least, not the way I know it. All I have to go on is my parents' relationship. (And let me disclose that my parents ended up divorcing, but they remained friends and never stopped respecting each other. Not ever.)

My father was an Air Force man. He was from small-town Arkansas. He was raised to love and respect his parents, especially his mother. (My mother always said to look for a man who loves his mothers and sisters. That didn't work out with my ex, but that's just him.)

My mother was a beautiful woman. She was a very maternal kind of person, if that makes sense. She loved to care for my dad and their family. She felt like he was the man and should be allowed to feel like a man. (Please, don't give me any feminist crap here. A woman can be strong without trying to out-man her man.)

My parents were a team. My father let my mother be good at what she was good at and she returned the favor. Sometimes, Mom was good at things that most men are "supposed" to be good at. For instance, Mom ran our finances. Daddy used to say that Mom could make a dollar out of fifteen cents. He'd give her the little bit of spending money (and G.I.s didn't make a whole lot of money) and always be amazed at what she could do with it. He loved to brag about how Mom could feed and clothe eight people (there are six of us siblings) and make it look so easy.

My dad, bless his heart, was not one of those men who was mechanically inclined - or whatever you call people who can repair and upkeep things. The big joke in our family was that whenever my dad did take something apart to fix it - say, a lawn mower - there'd be parts left over when he put it back together. (Believe it or not, most of time, whatever he fixed did work afterwards!) Now, I say it was a big joke, but it was a silent joke. My mother would have (as she'd put it) slapped the taste out of our mouth if one of us said anything to Daddy about his workmanship. She would look the lawn mower, or whatever, and go on and on about how "her man" could take care of stuff like that. She'd be acting like he had adjusted the world on Atlas's shoulders.

And they just loved each other. Just that simple. It wasn't anything complicated, as far as I could tell - just love.

I used to watch my parents do that thing where lovers look at each other across the table or a room. I didn't understand it until I fell in love myself for the first time, but I always know that that look means you've got something special with someone. My inner gauge for how I feel about someone now is when I want to give them that look. (Well, that, or when I get that melting feeling in my stomach when I think of them. With my first serious boyfriend, I knew I was feeling something the day I fell down some stairs while I was thinking about him. It happened at school. He'd been nowhere on my mind until we passed each other in the hallway just before I had to take the stairs to my own class. I was feeling so goofy-good! Man, when I went down those stairs, ending up with my skirt all up around my waist, I think I dang near busted my ass... The worst thing wasn't the falling, it was thinking how stupid I'd look to him if he saw. I couldn't even think about it and him at the same time without feeling so embarrassed.) Anyway.

So, I just want that old-fashioned kind of love. I want the man who is attracted to me, then begins to like me, then begins to want to know me better. I want the man who just wants to spend time with me because he likes being with me. I want to make him laugh, feel good about himself and feel good about life. And I want him to feel the same way about me.

Trust me, I've known the smooth talker. That didn't work because words alone won't sustain love. I've known the rich guy. That didn't work because money won't sustain respect. I've known the guy that pretended to be everything he really was not. That didn't work because real love can't be based on deceit. Real love is honest and maybe a little painful. It's awkward and it can be confusing and even kind of scary.

Old-fashioned, new-fashioned. Maybe it doesn't really matter as long as we find something real. I think my BFF has found that. That heffa!.

(I love you, T. Be happy.)