Back in high school, my best friend and I were obsessed with the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married.”
In researching this article, I was gratified to learn that the movie received a Best Picture nod at the Golden Globes the year after it was released (1987), and that Kathleen Turner had actually earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Peggy Sue.
Who knew 16-year-old me had such good taste?
There’s a point in the film when a friend of Peggy Sue’s decries her newfound interest in a brooding, eccentric young writer named Michael Fitzsimmons. The friend is fantasizing about neighborhood barbecues with Peggy Sue and their future husbands, when she says of Michael Fitzsimmons, despairingly, “He just doesn’t look like the barbecue type!”
Over the years and during many giggly conversations, more than one romantic partner has been denounced using this damning phrase.
And, of course, you could substitute the word barbecue for just about any adjective important to your future narrative: successful, family-oriented, adventurous, faithful, passionate. It’s all just code for “He won’t fit in.”
Truthfully, though, I’ve never really had a type. Looking back over the history of my romantic partnerships, I will admit to some recurring themes (e.g. intelligence, a sense of humor, a certain comfort level with profanity), but I’ve never been a woman who insisted on “tall, dark, and handsome.” Or even gainfully employed.
As a result, I’ve been open to a lot of relationships with perfectly delightful men on whom those with more exacting requirements would certainly have passed. When women tell me that there are no nice guys out there, I have to wonder if they’re dismissing a large portion of the available population: potentially great guys who have been prematurely deemed too short, a little geeky, vaguely chubby, financially challenged, undereducated, or regrettably employed.
Let me tell you, when I met the man who would become my husband and the great love of my life, he checked exactly zero boxes.
At a local children’s museum in the summer of 2010, a young dad started chatting me up. He was undeniably handsome—devilish grin, hazel-colored eyes, strong arms, ankle tattoo. I didn’t pay him a lot of mind at first. We were just two parents killing time on a scorching July afternoon, sweating as our children danced through some sprinklers. I was sticky, divorced, and approaching 40. It never occurred to me that he might be interested.
As it turns out, he was.
He was also sexy and soft-spoken, and he showed me some attention (which I hate to admit I was desperate for). Why not? I thought. It’s time to dip your toes back into the water, anyway. It’ll be fun! Not every relationship has to be about finding “the one.”
As the next couple of months unfolded, two things became very clear: I was in love with this man, and he was absolutely not the barbecue type.
That ankle tattoo, as it turned out, was only the tip of the iceberg. Five others adorned his upper arms and chest, including a dragon, several religious pieces, and a large, portrait-style image of his two sons as infants. This man had earned a full, merit-based scholarship to college, but dropped out after his freshman year. He worked in construction. I mean, like, in construction: hard hat, tool belt, port-o-potties—the whole nine yards. He’d become a father at 21 and was now a single dad living with his mom in order to make ends meet.
Oh, and did I mention he was 13 years younger than me?
Like I said: zero boxes.
But I had learned, all too painfully, that just because a relationship looks good on paper (Ivy League education, white collar aspirations, clean fingernails) doesn’t mean it’s the right fit. And if that’s true, it only stands to reason that there are also relationships that look improbable on paper but turn out to be a perfect match.
I recently read an Elephant Journal article entitled “Marry A Man Who Knows How To Love Hard.” That’s my husband in a nutshell. He’s also a million other things: hilarious, passionate about social justice, wonderful with children, honest, loyal, hardworking, calm, supportive, and one of the smartest people I know.
What a shame, what an absolute waste it would’ve been if I’d written him off on based on a few descriptors that didn’t match up with some preconceived notion of what a partner should look like.
How grateful I am that he didn’t do the same to me.
When we open up our hearts and minds to the possibilities that are out there, we increase our chances for happiness a thousandfold. When we seek connections, rather than qualifications, our search for love becomes less of a job interview and more like a playdate.
Of course, you don’t want to force a relationship where there’s little in common, no spark, and limited support from family and friends. Just don’t write something off based on arbitrary markers like profession or age or the car someone drives.
Be open. Be curious.
You never know. He just might be the barbecue type, after all.