Our “Pictures” (Part 1)

You may be wondering why I chose the fairy tale, Cinderella, as my image above. The reason is that most of us live in a fantasy world called marriage/relationship.

The purpose of this blog is to help bring us into reality and increase the success we will experience.

Where does your concept of beautiful or handsome come from, anyhow?

Once again you’ve caught me in a generous mood, so I won’t make you work for the answer.

We get our ideas, our “pictures,” from our early memories of our parents or siblings. We associate warm and familiar faces with “love,” and we take them on as our mental likeness of “the one.” Along the way, we add images from advertisements, movies, television, magazines, etc.

We don’t have any “original” pictures—not a one. All our pictures bear a resemblance to someone we have known, or someone we’ve convinced ourselves is “the ideal.”

So, when we spot someone in a crowd, or are introduced to someone, and she is not “that picture,” or he is not “that fantasy,” mentally, we pass on the opportunity. If that person doesn’t match up with the image in our head, we don’t even question the automaticity of our response, but simply cut off any possibilities with that person.

Our pictures are the main reason there are so many lonely people in the world. Our pictures are also the reason some married couples are always on the lookout for someone “better” than the one they’re with.

Wake up!

Those pictures are not real! They’re PICTURES! You made them up! Either you invented them, or Madison Avenue did. And boy do we fall for them. All the way. We’re never satisfied, because in our minds, anything other than our pictures is “settling.” What a shame. What a waste. And we spend the rest of our lives fretting about what might have been.

A typical story.

Sid met Elke while he was vacationing in Florida. He had flown in from Connecticut, and she was a Florida native.

They met in a beach gift shop, and it was love at first sight. They went out for dinner and talked and talked for hours. They had both grown up in New York, ten minutes’ drive from each other, and Elke’s red hair, sparkling eyes and sarcastic sense of humor reminded Sid of his kid sister Molly.

Sid decided to extend his vacation for an extra four days to get to know Elke better, but eventually, he knew he would have to go back home.

On his last night in Florida, he sat up until dawn wondering if Elke would move to Connecticut so they could continue their relationship.

Does any of this sound even remotely familiar? Let’s analyze Sid’s predicament.

First of all, there is no such thing as love at first sight. We believe Sid fell in love with a picture he had in his mind of the perfect woman. Elke resembled his sister Molly, and as we said before, our pictures about Mr. or Ms. Right are formed from early, familiar relationships: a parent, a sibling, or a family friend.

Another operative factor was Sid’s being on vacation. The normal stresses of daily life are absent when we’re on vacation. We’ve already accounted for the money we will spend and are not struggling to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Hotel living is idyllic—maid service, room service—and bears no resemblance to what we have to go through at home to keep our house clean, our dishes washed, the lawn mowed, our clothing laundered, etc.

Then there’s the matter of Elke. Relationships are a two-way street. Did Elke feel the same way about Sid? For all we know, she has already met another man at a different beach gift shop. There is simply no committed agreement between the two of them.

An atypical story.

Libby enjoyed a professional career in New York throughout her 20s. As a single woman in a happening metropolis, there was no shortage of men interested in dating her. But marriage? No, not one of them wanted to get married.

As Libby’s 30th birthday approached, she acknowledged that her biological clock was not only ticking, but sounding an alarm. Suddenly, Libby realized that if she wanted to settle down with a husband and raise a family, she’d have to act quickly.

Libby’s “type,” or shall we say her “picture” resembled photos of her father in his mid-20s. Perhaps this was a coincidence. We don’t think so.

She was attracted to tall, dark men with thick, dark wavy hair and blue eyes. She was also attracted to men who knew their way around the English language—men who could fire off a witty one-liner as easily as breathe.

Luckily Libby was part of a huge social and professional network. All she had to do was say the word, and friends of all sorts and types would come forward with names of eligible men. Given the time-sensitive nature of her quest, Libby supplied each friend with a detailed list of qualities that her would-be beau should possess.

Within two hours, one of Libby’s buddies had set her up with Howard, a man who (supposedly) “matched everything on the checklist.” Libby was excited! This was easy!

Howard called Libby that night to ask her out. They talked for a long time on the phone, and Libby had to admit, Howard was an amusing and intelligent conversationalist. He was also a deep thinker, and he seemed to have a decent relationship with his family, which she knew was a key indicator of a person’s ability to relate to others. She couldn’t wait to meet him over the upcoming weekend.

They met for Sunday brunch at a midtown restaurant. Over the phone, Howard had mentioned that he would be wearing a cowboy hat, so Libby spotted him instantly in the sea of faces at the restaurant.

For the past three days, Libby had been so sure Howard was going to be “the one,” that she found herself short of breath as she got closer and closer to Howard.

When she reached him, she almost cried. Howard didn’t fit Libby’s picture.

He was tall, all right, but he had a moustache (she liked clean-shaven men), he was fair-skinned (she liked dark complexions), and when he took off his cowboy hat, she got that icepick-in-the-heart sensation: he was almost completely BALD!

A strange thing happened to Libby at that moment.

A wave of thoughts, opinions, personal narratives and physical sensations washed over her. And all the while, there she sat with Howard, a really nice, smart, kind, mature, available man—whose only shortcoming was that he didn’t fit her picture.

To Libby’s credit, she attempted to battle her own mediocrity. She didn’t bolt immediately. She sat through dinner and even took a walk with Howard afterwards. But when she got home, she had to admit, she wasn’t willing to give up so completely on her picture.

Howard had liked Libby a lot. He called her the next day to ask her out again, but she made some excuse, lying that she’d love to “take a rain check.”

The battle raged on in Libby’s mind. “He’s such a great guy!” “But he’s so pale…and he’s bald!” “But besides that, he’s everything you’re looking for!” “Yeah, but that’s a lot to give up.”

Libby went out with Howard two more times. After each date, in the solitude of her own apartment, she scolded herself for being so immature. She knew her pictures should not carry so much weight, but she couldn’t deny that they did, and she could only pray that her intellect would kick in and make the case for Howard.

It never did.

But there’s a happy ending to this story. Maybe it was the desperate tick-tock-tick, or maybe it was just her emotional maturity taking over. No matter. Because of how valiantly Libby had waged this battle against her pictures, she became adamant that she would no longer allow her juvenile fantasies to inform what could possibly be the most important decision of her life.

She entered into her next relationship a bit more open, and finally, within just a few months’ time, Libby was able to relegate her pictures to the sidelines while she regarded each new potential suitor honestly, without calling her pictures into the conversation as evidence against him.

Libby was smart. She was also lucky. If we were smart, we would learn from Libby’s mistakes without having to go through the years of dissatisfaction and loneliness that Libby had endured. But that is the kind of advice that largely goes unheeded. And maybe rightly so, because if you want to experience the glory, you must also experience the struggle.

2 thoughts on “Our “Pictures” (Part 1)

  1. Beautiful article, Sam! You are in a position to make a real difference with people and their relationships. Best of luck.


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