Every once in a while I like to peruse the personal ads, those micro-type listings in the back of the classifieds where "women seek men" and vice versa. I don't read them because I'm "seeking"; I'm fortunate enough to have a great marriage. I read them because they are such an amazing testament to the human spirit, particularly to its capability for optimism and self-delusion.
Women in these ads almost invariably seek a man "who can make me laugh." They enjoy "long walks" and "intimate conversations." But anyone who's been through a rocky relationship or two knows that it can be a short distance from those romantic ideals to the day when you pull into the mall parking lot and hear your sweetie say, "Walk? From here? Don't make me laugh."
The men are just as delusional. In their ads, they're always oh-so-sensitive. They love "movies, dining out, and dancing." But we all know it won't be long before Miss Ideal might hear, "You want to eat out, again? You ever hear of cooking? Besides, there's a Grizzlies game on tonight. Burp."
Yes, I'm being cynical. But, as all of us in committed relationships know, you eventually have to move past the "walk on the beach" stage and into the "you didn't empty the dishwasher" stage. If you're lucky, maybe after you empty the dishwasher you can take that nice walk. It's all about compromise and forgiveness and playing straight with each other.
Without these, things can go bad in a hurry. You think you've signed up for true love, and reality slaps you upside the head. It could be what made a minister's wife in a small Tennessee town shoot her husband in the chest with a shotgun. Reality crushed the ideal.
It could be what made six Marine Corps and U.S. Army generals turn on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and demand his resignation -- something that's never happened in U.S. history. Apparently, these veteran military leaders reached the point where what they experienced on the ground in Iraq exceeded their capacity for optimism and self-delusion.
There's no avoiding it: Reality trumps wishful thinking every time. That's just the way it is -- in love and war.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor