people aren’t like apple products, though sometimes i wish they were

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?

skirts, yes. people, no.

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 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.


19 thoughts on “people aren’t like apple products, though sometimes i wish they were

  1. Hi friend! thanks for rolling with me, and all my follibles, moodiness, and the disapointment that comes with that.
    I feel very accepted and cared for by you, even if I’m not quite what you ordered;)

  2. “And rolling with it is key.” Like it. However…easier said than done (for me). I want people to conform to the lists. Always. Because, you know, then one of two things is true. A) I control the world, or B) Everyone in the world looks/acts/believes just like me, and obviously, that’s preferable because I like myself best.

    Tell me, is anyone ever not tempted by option A?

  3. I am a Christian (still) but was very guilty of this same idea when I was in college looking for a husband. (true story- it was the degree I sought out and the degree I got. This is not something that impresses me now.) My detailed mail-order list was exactly what I thought God was cooking up for me. Now I look back and realize this to is ridiculous. Maybe I just needed maturity. Even so, I try to make my daughters realize we aren’t casting a spell here (ala’ Practical Magic and her list for her perfect man.) While My husband can not write a pony backwards- like your list and hubby- mine too required a man to play violin. He does. He also hates sports (list), is artistic (list), has great hands (list), and drinks tea (list.) At the same time he loathes deep conversations, likes chick flicks, doesn’t enjoy traveling and listens to rap. These are DIRECT opposites to my list. DIRECT Opposites. I’ll keep him. I wouldn’t trade him for a carbon copy turn out from my wishlist because, though wishing is fun and age appropriate- it’s VERY different than shopping. You are so right!

  4. Disclosure: I gave blood today…then I ignored instructions and drank twice my normal limit of alcohol…then followed that up with an introspective session of trying to understand the complexities of women and how I fit into all that. I decided this was the best time to comment about this post. Lucky you.

    Another disclosure: a personality test tells me mine aligns closely with “individualization”. I thought the test was bullshit and couldn’t peg me because I was a unique little butterfly, outside the bounds of such tests. Turns out individualization has something to do with seeing individuals as unique little butterflies. Touche personality test. Touche.

    My experience in life is that people don’t value dissonance. Society seeks to minimize it and keep it on the fringes. It makes me sad that most people don’t let their inner freak out. But then, there are those rare individuals that do and I point and say, YES! I want to be able to do what you do and just not give a damn! I may not understand your metallic belt and skirt combo, but I would damn sure be envious of your bold choice and ability to rock it. But not envious because I’m not wearing a skirt…I mean because I’m a boy…and I don’t wear skirts…I mean, you hear me clucking? Right? Right?!

      • I don’t know anybody here personally nor have the desire to. Words on the web are just fine for me.

        My girlfriend broke up with me the day after I posted this; I saw it coming. She’s a list maker in all areas and I didn’t fit on many. The article resonated with me and provided a spring board for expressing some emotions.

        My admiration for Maria stops at respect for her writing and ability to be open in such a public way. Have you been told you’re a pot stirrer? (and that is a good thing)

        • Andy, can I sign up for your blog too? You are an entertaining writer and I enjoy reading your thoughts.

          Sorry to hear about the girlfriend, stay open and hopeful and keep writing!

    • Andy! Are you still there?!?!? How did I never reply to this? I’m sure you’ve moved on by now, but I was sorry to hear about the list-making girlfriend. Actually, when we didn’t get any replies from you for a while, I had suspicions that a female was involved. Hope all is well! -m

      • 🙂 Commenting on everything, I realized, was a sure fire way to make sure my comments meant nothing. You and Katie are still in my RSS feed, but one could ask the same question of you both: are you still there?!?!? All is well indeed. I trust the same is true for you?

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