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  • Writer's pictureJessica Abrams

In Search Of

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

I once knew a woman who claimed that before she met her husband, she made a two-page list of every quality she was looking for in a mate and, shortly thereafter, met and married him. The fact that this woman happened to work as an assistant to a life coach imbued her story with even more weight. If someone who was exposed to that much wisdom on a daily basis does this, it must be worth trying.

So I, too, made a list of all the qualities I was looking for in a potential husband. "Generous," I wrote. "Open to change"; "Has spent time in therapy". In order to fill up two pages, I had to downshift a bit: "Is not a narcissist"; "Does not use the word 'crazy' to describe me or his exes". "Does not tell me how to live my life." It was a start.

No man emerged, whether endowed with all those qualities or just a few of them. This is partly because I expected this amazing human to show up at my door rather than my having to scroll through umpteen men standing in front of their cars on dating apps to find him. I understand that in this day and age that makes me completely ambivalent when it comes to meeting someone -- something I wrestle with -- but so it is. Years went by and clearly I forgot about the list entirely. My last boyfriend had such poor judgement where his life was concerned that I found myself constantly telling him how to live it. I would almost rather have someone else judge me than be put in the undesirable position of having to constantly criticize a person simply because I knew better. The fact that he enjoyed it in some sick way made my position even more difficult. It was a dynamic that I broke only by ending things with him, and I've been painfully single since.

It's been six years.

Since I would like to have a relationship at least once more before I drop dead, I've thought of putting together another list. I'm willing to accept the fact that my standards have lowered since the last list and two pages might be too tall of an order. The word "soulful" comes to mind if for no other reason than when I mentioned it to a friend, I saw her cringe considerably. Given her taste in men, "soulful" is now at the top of my list.

But then Printergedden happened. Printergedden has emerged as one of those small but life-changing experiences that forced me to get real about my values. Out of the blue, my trusty -- and not old -- printer stopped working. No amount of tests and shaking of the ink cartridges brought it back to life. A friend had a printer she no longer had use for. "It works perfectly," she assured me as I carried it out of her apartment. Not for me. After several calls to my "computer guy", it has ben relegated to the trunk of my car, waiting to be taken to the place where electronics go to die.

I bought a new printer straight from the company. I waited a few weeks to work up the courage to take it out of the box. And when I did, I hastily snipped the various pieces of tape off -- perhaps too hastily, as I also snipped the band that runs along the back, pulling the printer cartridge to and fro. I sent the printer back and immediately a new one arrived. It's been two weeks, and the box is still unopened. I know I must be in a certain frame of mind to wrestle with both the printer and my emotional demons , and I'm just not there yet.

As I pass the still-unopened box on my way to the kitchen no less than fifty times a day, experiencing a sense of dread mixed with sheer annoyance, I realize what I want -- no, what I need. I need a mate who can get my printer up and running, who can run the app on his phone like a champ and not scream at the poor tech support person located in the Philippines because if HP can't manage to make a printer easy for people to install, then what the fuck can it do? I want someone who enjoys the challenge of it, who doesn't think it -- along with dentist appointments and calling the IRS and taking shoes to be fixed -- is beneath him. Taking that a step further, I'd like someone who can find a ceiling fan at Home Depot -- a place I'm too scared to walk into -- and install it in my bedroom. I want someone who can fit the handle back on the fridge and figure out how to hang the hummingbird feeder. I do understand that we women have been told we should take pride in doing these things; and sure, there have been times when I surprised myself with a power drill. But as I get older and place everything in life in a hierarchy of importance given the limited amount of time in the day not to mention what I have left on this planet, I renounce any feminist pronouncements, throw up my hands and say, "I can't. I just can't." (I'm reminded of a story a friend once told me about an acquaintance of hers who was about to cut open a watermelon when it rolled onto the floor and cracked open, sending watermelon into every corner of the kitchen. Rather than fall to her hands and knees to mop it up, she promptly walked out the door and called a cleaning service to come deal with it. Now, she was obviously lucky enough to have the means to do that, but I call that knowing your limitations).

And so, as I resume my on-again, off-again relationship with online dating, I'm contemplating putting that at the top of my list of requirements. I would love to find this can-do attitude counter-balanced with a soulful demeanor, but I realize that might be too tall of an order.

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