by Lauryn Smith
I give Wes, my BFF (Best Freakin' Friend), too much credit, but occasionally he hits the nail on the head. He and I have had our fair share of conversations about love and the absence of love. One evening several years ago, I mentioned to Wes "Isn't it odd how someone who is so seemingly perfect initially winds up so obviously imperfect later?" Wes' reply spawned the "Switchboard Theory."
By the way, this is Wes:
In my early twenties, I dated a man who I now refer to as Justin #1. We dated several years while living together over a year and disliking each other silently the last several months of our relationship. When the inevitable split finally occurred, I met a man named Ryan. He was everything Justin #1 wasn't. Besides being "new," Ryan was fun, hilarious, a New Yorker, larger than life, tall, complimentary, and interested in me. Me, the girl who was unsure of herself and used to misery feeling normal. Yeah, he even liked her.
Through the course of our nine month rebound relationship I discovered he really wasn’t all that fun or funny. In fact, he could be downright crude and abrasive, often times at my expense. He was hot and cold and I was always at his mercy. I believed he was enigmatic rather than callous and thoughtless. I felt lucky to be his girlfriend, for lack of a better description. Yet towards the end, I began to get a clue. It wasn't one thing necessarily but a combined conglomerate of things that forced me to the edge of uninterested. Of course, he predictably wanted me when I no longer wanted him. No, the fizzle didn’t happen overnight, it happened "one switch at a time," in the words of Wes.
Say we all have an inner switchboard, an internal breaker box of fuses, lights, and switches. Sometimes, you meet someone who has the ability to instantly turn switches within you "on." Everyone's electronics vary. I have five main "breakers:"
1. ATTRACTION- the easiest switch to ignite. Think chemistry and butterflies. It's an unexplainable magic and I love it. I don’t even have a "type" really, but there are definite magnetic qualities I am drawn to.
2.THE COMMON GROUND- this surrounds the mutual interests and hobbies. Think of the "me too" moments. For example, you love John Mayer? "Me too!" These tend to be more surface in the beginning.
3. THE UNCOMMON GROUND- this one may be the most precious for me. It consists of the differences, learning, seeing things in a new way. This revolves around the things you don’t have in common that still manage to grab and intrigue you. This is the most powerful because it can often change you.
4. WIT AND CHARISMA- the man able to hold my hand while unleashing easy, unforced, dry, smart humor (without being malicious and harsh) will one day hear me utter the biggest "small" words, "I do."
5. BELIEF AND COMPROMISE- while you don't have to share the same beliefs and opinions, you must no doubt respect them and vice versa. Sure, sometimes it takes restraint to discuss topics when people passionately possess opposing views. This can tie into 3. It also defines grace and tolerance. It's essential for me.
In the beginning, I thought Ryan possessed some of these five fundamentals. Recognizing the absence of what I deserved slowly made my lights dim. If he cut me down, even if jokingly, one switch permanently flipped to the "off" position. Another switch when he failed to keep dates. Another switch when he confessed he didn't like music. Another when he flirted with my friends. Another when he couldn’t recall significant conversations. Another when he was nearly thrown out of the bar for being too crass. Another when my mother said he had a weak handshake. Another when even his friends told me I deserved better. And another and another until there were no more switches to flip.
Sometimes we fictionalize the good because we want it so badly. Women seem to be especially guilty given our nature. We settle for mediocre and eventually it catches up to us. We risk not meeting the right person because we're too afraid to step away from the bus (or person) running over us.
I realize the fire is bound to eventually burn less bright. Therein lies the mutual responsibility to keep a fuel reserve. It's our duty to fan the right flame and to know when to walk away from the smoke and ashes--or in some cases, smoke and mirrors. Our internal fuses aid us in knowing the difference. I once told my friend Zara I doubted I'd ever settle down because I was addicted to the "butterflies." Her response was brilliant. She said "Butterflies, like any living thing, survive when nurtured." The nurturing (if not one-sided) is the power source. May the electric bills soar.