Depress Me

Number one on my list of prospective mates to avoid is anyone with any kind of chronic or recurring mental illness.

Sadly, this counts out a lot of women, but counting out a lot of women is the idea of such a list. Mental disorders are rife, and, from what I understand, wholly under-diagnosed. Even if that’s not true, we rarely think of not dating such people for precisely that reason, because we figure that therapy or drugs will mitigate any problems. We overlook this stuff on the way to the bedroom.

Wrong.

I had coffee this morning with a women who is dating (read: shacking up with) a guy who is a depressive. We’re not talking someone who is maudlin or down a lot. He’s capital D Depressed for much of the time.

She is clearly having second thoughts about this dude. As m’colleague Kregg repeatedly says, women are attracted to men with ambition and voice; a man continually in tears living on the couch doesn’t have much of either.

The question I could see bugging her is just why she’s involved with a guy who is failing to live up to her expectations. The best she could come up with was that he “…helps changing the sheets, oh, and does some work around the yard”.

Mismatch, much?

Comforting someone who sobs themselves to sleep might fulfill some need you have, but that’s not a need you should satisfy. There are other ways. We’d all like to help that person, but attempts to do so for misguided ideas of “love” or “being there” are foolish and create two people falling down a well.

Sometimes saving ourselves from mistakes is the best possible outcome.

Panning for Gold

The unexpected surprise can work both ways, right? I remember panning for gold as a nine year-old child – the rush of seeing those first few flakes still makes me smile. It doesn’t much matter that the ore “sample” might have been spiked by the guide…I did the work and the work rewarded me.

With matching (nah, much greater) unhappiness I also remember being told of a particular girlfriend’s dalliances with some male acquaintances. Hey, fair’s fair, we weren’t married, so expectation of fidelity was misplaced. Still, it was a no-fun surprise I could have done without.

Where is the nice person spiking my life with exciting surprises thesedays? The prize and the loneliness of adulthood is that we are both the surpriser and the surprisee, especially if you’re single. Admittedly, dishing up a surprise to onesself sounds like an exercise in delusion – goodness, wherever did this beautiful set of onyx cufflinks in a Tiffany box come from? – if you planted them yourself in the sock drawer.

I don’t know if we can bias our lives towards pleasant surprises or not. Perhaps you know the answer. My thinking is that it is possible, but only over a long period. Love probably gives us the most grief with up and down surprises. But avoiding love (on the basis that it would prevent all the heartachey surprises) would be to walk around Manhattan and avoid looking at the Chrysler Building, or choosing not to have a deli sandwich for lunch. You’d miss the essence of the place.

Here’s an idea: let’s not begin with love. Love creates expectations that are too high, too ripe for downside surprises. Perhaps something simple. Just as a trip to the city involves a subway ride, let’s begin there. Tolerance. Let’s see if we can tolerate someone first, and work from there.