Editor’s Notebook: November 2008

November 3, 2008

Greta Belanger deJong

You are the one you want.

by Greta Belanger deJong

“You are the one that you want.”
I recently read that line in a cartoon. It stuck with me, for it rings true on several levels at once. I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘what do I want’ lately, in a dating/romantic/partnership way. I confess to not having come up with much. After years of marriage, to be exploring the world as a single woman again leaves me mostly bemused. Friends have taken good care of me, and I’m certainly not alone. (One guy from the old gang said, with great enthusiasm, “All the girls I had crushes on 20 years ago are available again!”) But so much has changed in those years. I’ve changed. 
“Don’t ever marry anyone you meet in a bar,” my mom counseled a few decades back. Wise advice, I’m sure, if you want a husband. Which is maybe why younger men seem more interested in older women than they used to be—a curious (but flattering) phenomenon. Perhaps because we are “safe,” in that sense. “Women my own age are crazy,” confided one 30-something fellow. “They just want to get married and have babies.” He’s a good guy—stable, interesting, attractive and handy (ah, men in toolbelts). I can imagine the havoc, the din of biological clocks going off all around him. If I didn’t think about the hole in the ozone layer every time I hear someone’s pregnant, I would encourage him to go marry one of those crazy women and make beautiful babies. (Okay, I thought about it. And I did tell him to do that.).
Will I curl up on the couch before the fire with an intelligent, witty, attractive edition of the New Yorker and await my consort? Nah, probably not. (Though that’s appealing and probably wise.) So I stumble into a few brick walls along the way; given time, I’ll figure it out.
One thing I’ve realized recently is that you can’t complain about not getting what you want if you don’t even know what you want. (And no, knowing what you don’t want doesn’t count.)
But what I originally meant to talk about was the presidential election.
You have no idea how awkward it is to write something intelligent just before the election that will be relevant just after the election. But here’s this:
You are the one that you want.
Make a list of characteristics you admire in your candidate. And then, win or lose, embody them. Live the life you would wish for your leaders. Because whoever wins, they’re going to need us. 
Four years ago I voted early, packed up the car, headed south and checked into the Boulder Mountain Lodge for a week. I watched the election returns on TV till I felt sick, switched to a late-night viewing of “Mystic Pizza” and never looked back. Heart?sick, I bailed on Washington for the duration. I became single, politically speaking.
In retrospect, it occurs to me that Bush had to get re-elected, by whatever means, cosmically speaking: The pendulum had to swing so far to the right that people were clear about what had gone wrong and could not participate in that any more. Even the king of dirty tricks, Reagan and Bush’s “happy hatchetman” (and Rove mentor) Lee Atwater, renounced his own tactics on his deathbed. (See “Boogie Man,” the documentary film about him; in the theatres now; also airs on KUED Nov 11th.) 
But I’m ready for a relationship again, with a president I can trust. Who sparks my imagination. Who is well-spoken, and knows how to listen. Who is whip-smart and brave. We will not marry, for that is not the nature of this relationship. But we can happily live together four or eight years.
Not forever. But long enough to be able to say, at the end, “That was good. That was worthwhile.” Long enough to feel the expansion of kindness and compassion, and the fruits of those virtues, in the world.
And to see that, of course, it was a real relationship. That I showed up, too. 
Greta Belanger deJong is editor and publisher of CATALYST. Comments welcome.
 greta@catalystmagazine.net.