“Instant gratification takes too long.” Carrie Fisher
A woman recently posted this on a dating site: “Looking forward to sharing my incredible life with you.” She admitted she hadn’t met anyone yet, but she was dangling one big, massive carrot. Who doesn’t want an incredible life — even if it’s someone else’s?
In the interest of research, and personal curiosity, I sought this woman out, learning she’s a home stager. Actually, I didn’t have to research that. She said so in her profile. “I absolutely love my job,” she wrote. “There’s so much creativity involved. To see my clients smile means a lot to me.”
Further along in her profile, she says that her clients aren’t the only ones smiling. When she comes home, there’s a whole gaggle of family and friends gathered in what she calls her “absolutely joyful home.”
Personally, I think she’s either a cult leader or has a monster TV.
I’m always intrigued by absolutely joyful homes, so I wrote her, asking for pictures. She responded, showing me a split level in Michigan, a nice place overall, but not exactly “joyful” in appearance, unless you like garden gnomes. The family, on the other hand, looked a little too joyous. I haven’t seen that much smiling since the last Miss America Pageant.
Maybe I don’t know Michigan, or maybe I don’t know families, but I didn’t see anything I’d define as “incredible.” Remarkable, possibly, since I can’t imagine all these people waiting to hear who she made happy that day. Personally, I think she’s either a cult leader or has a monster TV.
Rather than draw any rash conclusions, I asked her about life in general, learning that her family likes to play board games, take the malamute to the groomers, and make sausage rolls. Summers will find them on the lake, riding Sea-Doos, and running their ATVs up mountains (Michigan isn’t loaded with mountains, so I’m pretty sure I know where her cottage is).
She also claimed to be a “travel bandit” and sent me pictures of her and family in Cancun and the DR, laughing a lot, riding Sea-Doos and ATVing up mountains (Cancun isn’t loaded with mountains, either, so I probably know the resort, and possibly the sand dunes she thinks are mountains).
Nobody wants to live a modest life anymore, even if it puts us into bankruptcy.
Let’s back up to the descriptives used here. Words like “incredible,” “tremendous” and “awesome” seem to define our language. We throw them around, figuring our “incredible” is as good as anybody else’s. We’re not even willing to look for new synonyms, since the ones we have work great.
In a way, it defines our culture today. Nobody wants to live a modest life anymore. We’d rather go into bankruptcy. That’s what everyone else seems to be doing these days—even presidents, or especially presidents.
Donald Trump was bankrupt (3 times), and he’s got a gold-plated dining room. That’s probably how he enticed Melania. “Looking forward to sharing my incredible gold-plated dining room with you.” What woman could resist that? Unless you’re more into platinum. Then it’s just a room with food.
So we spend what we want, we get what we want, we run ATVs up mountains and send pictures of our awesome lives to a potential lover.
We’re not settlers (although we once were). If a potential lover isn’t impressed, we buy a Jacuzzi on credit. Anyone who can’t appreciate a new Jacuzzi doesn’t deserve to be loved.
We’re high on expectation yet, according to one sociologist, it isn’t our standards we set high, it’s someone else’s. We see people on Facebook and Instagram having a grand old time, and say, “Why them and not us?”
It’s un-American to sit there when we can run up the credit card.
You give up a bit for the right guy. You temper your wants to get the incredible life everyone else has — or thinks they have.
“My mom always says we watch too many movies and think it’s real life,” Nina Kuhn wrote me after reading “Are We Expecting Too Much of Men?” “Some of us set the bar too high, unrealistically expecting way too much.”
She described her own relationship as “good,” but she’s the romantic one. “He might not be the most romantic,” she explained, “but he is a protector, that’s for sure.” You give up a bit for the right guy. You temper your wants to get the incredible life everyone else has — or thinks they have.
So why aren’t our lives like “Gilmore Girls”? Why aren’t we television worthy? We can have incredible lives — just not as incredible as those shows. Somehow we’re never quite as incredible as what we watch every night. What gives?
We have a tough time with reality, forgetting that reality gets bad ratings — unless it’s a reality show, which gets good ratings. Why do we like reality shows? Because people fail. Failure is happiness turned upside down. It makes the idea of our “incredible life” that much more attainable.
All this swings back to what’s known as “relationship entitlement.” In Psychology Today, they explain this as a good thing. If you expect a lot, people feel you’re invested. Your friends, family and lovers want to work harder to make you happy. Unfortunately, if you’re still dissatisfied (’cause, hell, it ain’t The Gilmore Girls), then those around you are dissatisfied.
We constantly strive to be better, to have more, sometimes throwing our own happiness into jeopardy in the process.
It’s the constant golden ring, or golden dining room or golden shower. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Travelled,” described it as having holes. We all have holes of need, whether it’s love, or having that “incredible life.”
Ironically, people who constantly strive to fill their holes only widen them. Pretty soon, it’s not a hole anymore, it’s a gravel pit (and not a golden one).
The unhealthy nature of holes is all around us. We constantly strive to have more, often throwing our own happiness into jeopardy in the process.
Autumn Rose Speckhardt wrote me an interesting note: “I was so busy chasing the adjectives I thought I wanted,” she explained, “I put the right guy in the friend zone and didn’t think of him as dating material at all. As a woman, I was getting in my own way with expectations.”
To settle is un-American and possibly defeatist.
Well, we all do that. There’s no right way to handle expectations. What we really have to handle is dissatisfaction. Facebook and Instagram aren’t going away. Neither is “The Gilmore Girls” from the looks of it.
All we can do is either try to have a good life or convince ourselves we have it already. To settle is un-American and possibly defeatist.
That in itself is un-incredible. Nobody wants an un-incredible life.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback).