I have been thinking about relationships. A friend is flying in for a visit this afternoon and he’ll be here for an entire week. I’m looking forward to it. There will be one more adult, a friendly and mellow one, in our lives for an entire week. As much as I love my children, I relate to them differently from other adults. Even as my children mature, I still bear some responsibility for their developing beings, their ethics and manners. We are not yet equals.
I have long scorned the practice of dating because it seems like a cultural formula for filling what is essentially a set of job openings. (Both parties presumably have open positions and if things go well, they will “hire” one another.) If a person has an opening for “girlfriend,” “boyfriend,” or eventual “spouse,” an ad is simply placed in the appropriate venue to make it known that one is “in the market.” (I’m not just talking about online dating—people put the word out through their various social networks, online and otherwise.)
“Person wanted to fulfill role. Generous terms. Job description provided. References requested.”
This is the twenty-first century.
Should we really be finding people to fill the predefined roles we have come to believe that others should play in our lives? I don’t want to be anyone’s wife. Been there, done that. It sucked. (A friend adds that my ex wasn’t really much of a husband and probably doesn’t count. Conceded. Wife might be a very nice role. Maybe if I really tried it I would like it. Maybe, but I don’t think so.)
I simply want to live my life fully, wholly, authentically; and I want to find a place, a special, unique, tailor-made place for every single person I come to love.
Over the years this has given our family a shape that seems quintessentially modern. We have a growing legion of unofficial aunties and an informal council of dads which my kids have taken to calling their “council of dudes.” These men are positive male role models in their father’s absence. We have surrogate grandparents. We have a host of people who are family in every respect but DNA. They are people whose belonging in our lives is defined by their character and conduct, by mutual respect and love, and not by some cultural expectation or contractual obligation, nor by some ill-conceived blood obligation.
Isn’t this the way it should be?