Learning from Jennifer Lopez

It was one of those evenings. When you get in, picking up your small chips and battered sausage on the way home, grab the bottle of Bulmers which has been lurking in the fridge for an occasion such as this and swiftly fade into the folds of the sofa and absorb whatever the screen before you has to offer.

I could blame it on working all the way through the weekend, meaning I’m a little over halfway through this nine day week. Or I could blame it on a bout of lethargy that stopped me from getting that overdue piece of work completed. Either way I watched back to back films, beginning with Monster-in-Law, a pretty shocking Jennifer Lopez vehicle that weaved its way through her travails with her soon to be mother-in-law.

But like much inspiration it came out of nowhere. And this most unexpected of cultural landmarks offered up something to critique and something to appreciate. Jennifer Lopez’s character was sat shooting the breeze with a couple of friends wistfully describing her ideal man. He would be strong, but gentle, rough but in touch with his emotional side. It was a wish list that soon came true in the hands of Hollywood scriptwriters.

The inspiration came because it more or less echoed a conversation I had on Sunday, I’d rushed back for church from the conference I was at and lingered in the pub for a little while afterwards. Slightly in shell shock from the fallout from my previous post, it was a difficult time for me to be in company, the dissonance between my online writings and my face to face relationships abundantly apparent. The conversation was a critique of what girls look for in guys, wanting the best of both worlds, wanting the strength and the sensitivity. And I apologise because I wasn’t fully engaged in the conversation, but something stuck. And Jennifer Lopez’s words brought it back to mind.

We have wish lists. They can be long and they can be short. They can focus on the minutiae or the grand. When I was looking around houses my wish list was fairly short, I was flexible. Mostly, I had decided what I was going to do and that was the most important step. When it comes to relationships we have ideals and hopes and dreams. We manufacture edifices of imagination of what life will be like if it all comes to pass.

We want the strong and the sensitive, the fun and the focused. Whether it is a guy who will be unbreakable until he meets her charms, or the girl whose frivolity fades before the one true guy. We want to have it all.

But what if the most important aspect is not the marks out of ten that we ascribe but the decision that we take to engage in relationships.

This morning before I sat down to write I had my regular check of twitter and top of my feed was this from Lauren Dubinsky:

Whimsical? Probably. Profound? I think so too.

It is about the purpose and not the process. And that’s the part of Monster-in-Law that I appreciated. Amid the candy floss storyline that was always going to come good there lay a overriding decision that she was going to marry this guy. The details of the wedding, the disaster of the engagement party and rehearsal dinner faded before what was in her sights.

Maybe, just maybe, the first step is to decide to engage. There’s a lot of talk about waiting, and I’ve had my fair share. But I’ve also used waiting as an excuse for disengaging. A bit like that conversation after church on Sunday. I was there, but I wasn’t.

Where we end up may be less important than taking that step and deciding to make relationships, of whatever form, a priority. What do you think? Is it too much to just decide one day that it’s time to find a girlfriend/boyfriend, or even husband or wife?

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