Lights will guide you home/ And ignite your bones/ And I will try to fix you – ColdPlay, “Fix You”
There was an episode once in Sex and the City’s third season, where our heroine, Carrie, wondered aloud: “do we (women) all just want to be rescued?” I have just watched it, and wondered that to myself.
Well, I have wondered that before – and the answer, I think, is yes and no, but that’s not so interesting: the damsel in distress thing has been discussed to death. What is perhaps more powerful to examine now, in the post-feminist age, is how many of US (women) want to rescue THEM.
This urge, quite prevalent, drives multitudes among us to The Fixer Upper – that guy who has so much potential, and – like a new home – needs some work. Some will say it is the maternal instinct which draws us to men who are “fixer uppers”- and there are so very many inept gentlemen out there in need of a tune up. Some may say that feminism has empowered us to the point where we just realize that we have superpowers: we can take care of our lives, as well as of the lives of others. It’s technically motherhood on steroids. Motherhood for the CEO. The Marisa Meyers approach to Dating.
I once spent years with a man who is extremely capable. His career runs smoothly, he can drive, and he pays his bills (eventually, anyway). But he was absolutely never able, during our three years together, to pack his own suitcase, plan what he was to wear to an event, book our vacations (or participate in planning them), or sort out any portion of our social life. It goes without saying that unless I was home and had taken care of groceries and meal preparation, we were destined to restaurant it. At a restaurant chosen and booked by yours truly.
This kind of useless is common, and in my experience just creeps up on you. Why do we tolerate it? Well, partially, because these men start to introduce their delegation skills later on in the relationship, and partially because they really do make you feel that if you do not do this for them, they will pack ski gear to Hawaii, you will eat dinner at a fast food restaurant, and the water and cleaning bills will pile up to high heaven. If they, like my ex, pay bills- they will wave this over your head as a compromise- as in “I take care of this, you pack for me”. We may also bring it upon themselves. So many of us understand we are just naturally better at so many things, and – like helping a child with his shoelaces – we end up serving up meticulously packed suitcases.
The solution here is simple. In my case, this was about 30% of what made him unbearable. Paired with inexcusable shortcomings and irreconcilable differences, it was a walk away situation. However, if he happens to bring breakfasts in bed and help you with your job and other responsibilities, if he is most perfect in almost every other way- then babying him a bit, I think, does not hurt at all.
The other kind of fixer upper is the type I like to call “the Beautiful Disaster”. Named after a Kelly Clarkson song I adore, these men are fixer uppers par excellence – wounded birds with issues unresolved in childhood, Peter Pan syndrome, addiction problems, recently divorced, and just generally – those who may have known deep sorrow. In this case, the attraction is natural- you will jump in because you will be needed. And I have always held that in each and every one of us there is a Florence Nightingale.
You will believe that you can save them and, in fact, that it is your role on this earth to do so. In the case of a close friend of mine, when she speaks about her beloved, she cites him as not being capable of spending time or being affectionate with his children, and she refers to herself as the glue that brings his family together for him. Another friend shares stories of her husband’s immaturity – regular outings at all hours with “the boys”- when her man is both married and in his mid thirties. No no – wait for it – which in MOST cases end with him not showing up at home, disappearing for up to two days, and in one awesome instance – not remembering or being willing to tell her where he was. Still, she thinks that if she just adores him enough, he will grow up. In all variations, the personalities are patently selfish, uncooperative, and incapable of change.
Let me save you a lot of time and heartache. There’s another line in that Coldplay song cited above, and it goes: “When you love someone but it goes to waste/Could it be worse?”
Answer: no, it couldn’t. You will hit a wall. You will not save him, because love is not therapy, and contrary to popular belief, will not heal ALL wounds. In love, we must figure out first how to love and take care of ourselves, so that others do not need to, and so we do not blame them when they don’t. Same goes vice versa. You want to mother something? Get a pet, have a baby, be wonderful to your friends. Give this man the number of a great shrink, and don’t get any closer.