Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Beowulf of Us

Genesis, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bhagavad Gita. Every culture has its creation myth; an epic tale of how a nation was forged from an otherwise disparate group of people. Usually some sort of battle or war motivates the myth’s hero and tests him or her (though most often it’s a him) until victory reigns and the Babylonians, Hindus or Goths go on their civilized way.

Likewise, a couple’s answer to that classic small talk question, “So, how did you meet?” forms the basis of their own creation myth. Here, it’s a tale full of grand gestures, knowing glances and inevitable setbacks of how me and you became us.

Some people have stories that even the most cynical among us would have to categorize as “cute.” The teenage, puppy dog crushes that fade after adolescence and then resurface at a more appropriate age for a serious relationship through some chance encounter or alignment of the planets.

For example, two volunteers I work with knew each other through their respective high school Jewish athletic clubs (aka Maccabi) and dated as teens. Then she tracked him down when they finished college and now they’re married. It’s ridiculously adorable and made that much more so when you learn that her parents met at Jewish summer camp. It’s OK, if they weren’t such fantastic people, I’d hate them too.

Other couples’ creation myths rely on pure random occurrence. In the butterfly effect theory of dating and mating, a couple’s existence hinges on a friend of a friend’s chance encounter at a Penn State football game, followed up by not one, but two brief exchanges at two separate happy hours at a time when both actually happened to be single and looking.

Believing that a one-degree change in the earth’s temperature in Botswana may or may not deliver your true love, can seem like a stretch, but it certainly proves that my grandmother was right all along – you should always look good because you’ll never know who you will meet. And since she met her husband playing bridge at the 92nd Street Y, she has the credentials to back up this theory.

Our final mythology lesson comes to us today straight from the shtetl, as it were. How could any discussion of how a couple forms be complete without looking at the matchmaker? Whether a professional, a Web site, a well-meaning friend or (eek!) a questionably-intentioned relative – meeting your intended through the machinations of a third party has its pros and cons. Hypothetically, the other person fits into your basic criteria or else you wouldn’t have been set up together. It also cuts down on the ax murderer potential for your date, unless you hang out with convicts.

Besides, this model for forging a couple leaves some accountability for the potential failure of the relationship in the hands of another. I mean, why blame the other person’s (or your) inadequacies when you can just blame JDate?
No matter the origin or the impetus, the romanticized legend that melded two disparate lives into some shared arrangement, makes a great story to tell at dinner parties, long airport layovers and holiday gatherings for years to come. At least until you have the story of meeting the parents.


Shoshana said...

And meeting the parents do bring interesting tales, huh?? ;)

SaraK said...

People are fascinated by other people's "How We Met" stories. And I think almost everyone has a proof for "love can come from anywhere". :)