By Lori Welch Brown
Good to Great
Many of you loyal readers may remember that I wrote the Single Space column for the Old Town Crier for about a century. That might be an exaggeration, but trust that it was a long, long time. Let’s just say that I was the resident dating expert or the ‘how to lose a guy in ten days or less’ guru. It was pretty brutal out there on the front lines, but I took away a lot of valuable lessons about men, relationships and most importantly, lessons about myself. It took awhile, but I finally mastered the art of being content with my own company which may not seem like a big thing, but it is an essential life skill. If you are not finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, ask yourself how much time you spend alone. If you wouldn’t want to be alone with you, why would someone else? Just sayin’…
My dating journey finally ended when I met my now husband, XXL. I was 44 years old—that’s 308 in dating years. As my dear friend Rock is quick to share with pretty much anyone, I kissed a lot of toads in the process. To my credit, it is not so easy to spot those toads when they walk, talk and dress like Prince Charming. The more charming the prince, the wartier the toad. They’ve mastered Glass Slipper 101 and could charm the pants off Cruella de Vil. If you’ve been in that situation, you know what I’m talking about, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for letting the fox in the henhouse. Maybe I’m a slow learner, really trusting or was just plain ol’ desperate, but it took me a few cases of Kleenex and truckloads of Ben & Jerry’s before I started being able to wisely discern who deserved my time and attention. It really boiled down to one thing. The foolproof litmus test to ensure you have a good man sitting across from you is really quite simple. That man will always put you/your happiness first. He shows in his actions that he truly cares and values you—the you that is your feelings, thoughts and emotions. He doesn’t just talk the talk—toads have butter rolling off their tongues, btw. Those actions are consistent, not just when it is convenient or when he thinks there’s a payoff coming in the form of a little something something. That’s really all there is to it.
It is curious that it took me so long to figure all that out because I was so very fortunate to grow up with a man who showed me what it looks like to value and respect a woman. That man was my dad, and John Welch set the bar pretty high. In my defense, I’ll say that while I put up with a lot of dating B.S., thanks to my dad, I was rock solid in my understanding of who/what I wanted in my life for the long haul. And, I wasn’t about to settle for anything less. Good enough may be okay for dating, but great is needed for your forever person. Dad showed me what ‘great’ looked like not only in the ways he interacted with my mother, but in the million ways he showed up every day for all of us. Of course, being the great dad that he was, he flat out told me that under no uncertain terms should I ever tolerate a man laying a hand on me or disrespecting me in any way. That was a standard breakfast meeting agenda item in the Welch household. I grew up with three older brothers, and he was very quick to correct them if they behaved in a manner that didn’t align with those ‘great’ values as well. He was teaching them how to treat not only my mom and me, but their future girlfriends and wives. One of my earliest memories when I was about five years old is of gathering around the dinner table which was similar to the opening bell at the NYSE. Everyone was passing food around the table, loading up their plates, and my brothers (ages 16, 15 and 10) were rolling through their usual banter, teasing each other, pulling fingers and the like. Sorry to break it to Jeff Foxworthy, but blue collar comedy got its start in 1971 on Culpeper Drive. Barely able to see over the table, I was doing my best to jump into the fray, excited to be a part of the action, but I kept getting cut off and talked over. No one noticed me, let alone heard my little voice. My dad happened to glance over and see the dejected look on my face as I shrank down lower into my seat holding back tears. In that wave of teen testosterone, at my young age, I felt a glimpse of not being enough. Not being interesting enough or funny enough or smart enough or important enough to matter. Well, John Welch was not having any of that. Forty five years later, I still recall him slamming his meaty hand down on the table and quieting the room to give me the floor, right after he told my brother Marty to take off his baseball hat (hats, no shirts or shoes was a problem). Once I had everyone’s rapt attention, I held them captive with my dissertation on how Barbie clothes were like origami for kids. You try getting those skin tight jeans on over plastic. And those shoes. Seriously? No wonder so many Barbies were lying around buck naked with their heads ripped off. It was important stuff that needed to be said. My other take away from that night was ‘know thy audience.’
So, you can have your checklist. He likes puppies and babies. Fantastic! Maybe it’s okay if he doesn’t want to put one through obedience school or college, but he will pet them and coo nonetheless. P.S. I highly recommend that all children go through some sort of obedience training. Another plus if he doesn’t make jokes at your expense (see cares about your feelings above). My dad had his good qualities, but he wasn’t perfect. While he was an exemplary role model, he let my brothers continue to call me ‘Cheesie Rider’ during my formative years from seventh grade through my senior year. Fortunately, I have a good therapist who says I am making progress daily. Those things are all good, but be 100% confident that the person you are sitting across from cares about whether YOU like puppies or babies. He will listen intently as you share your thoughts, ideas, dreams, passions, and goals. While he may not agree, he will care—greatly. Even if you didn’t grow up with a male role model who gave you the floor for periodic rants about Barbie fashion design flaws and the fact that Skipper required a totally different wardrobe that your Mom may/may not be willing to purchase, know that you deserve great in your life.
Cheers to all the great dads out there—and to the single moms who are wearing multiple hats. May you all celebrate in style and know that you are doing the most important work of all.