Back when I was single (and religious), I made a list of qualities I was looking for in my future partner to help God out. (Does an all-knowing God need a list? Does he mind if I keep adding things? Do I need to meet the qualifications of the other person’s list? These are not questions I asked myself.) I got the idea from a book I read on dating as a Christian. This could not have been the author’s point, but somehow the message I took from it was that if I made this list and waited long enough and prayed hard enough, God would deliver the guy I was hoping for, custom-built, like the Project Red, engraved, already-loaded-with-all-of-my-old-CD’s, 2nd Generation iPod Nano that the guy who became my actual husband gave me for Christmas one year.
Alas, a man spontaneously constructed from the list never appeared. But, luckily, my actual husband is way more interesting than what I was coming up with. He has a few key qualities I was hoping for—smart, funny, adventurous, plays the violin (I’m pretty detail-oriented)—but also comes with a few surprises. Sometimes the surprises are fun. He can do a cartwheel! He knows how to juggle! Often they help me evolve. I have a new appreciation for the three original Star Wars. I am no longer a Christian making lists for an all-knowing God. Sometimes they piss me off. Does the volume of this action movie have to be so high? How many times is it possible to lose and find your keys?
These surprises were helpful, because the children we went on to have are also different than the children I imagined. Two of them are boys. The girl looks nothing like me. All of them are perpetually sticky.
My friends, too. I couldn’t begin to piece together the combination of qualities that fall in place to make them who they are. Don’t even ask about the rest of my family: parents, siblings, cousins…Who ordered this?
Thanks to the Internet, as a consumer I’m used to getting what I want, when I want it. A few months ago, I had a vision, googled “tea-length ivory tulle skirt,” and ordered one in my size on Etsy a few minutes later. I followed that search with “black mohair short-sleeve tee” and got one on sale at Gap.com. Finally, I found a “sparkly elastic metallic belt” on Amazon and put it all together a few nights later for a holiday party.
When I tried on the skirt for my husband, he was confused and asked, “Do people do this?” He got his answer at the party when the skirt was greeted with an enthusiastic response. I guess sometimes I surprise him, too.
It’s okay to want what I want in anything I can order on my Mac. But in actual relationships with actual people…surprise is inevitable.
And rolling with it is key.