Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fixing! With Potential!

The word "potential" is so dangerous. "Potential" implies hope, optimism, and a future. "Potential," to me, is the equivalent of buying property.

When a friend begins dating someone new, what's the word used when trying to politely tell her how you really feel about the loser? "Oh, he has ... potential."

When a friend starts looking for an apartment to live alone for the first time, but can't afford anything in a nice neighborhood so ends up in East L.A., there's that word again. "It's so ... cozy! And it definitely has ... potential."

When in a bar with a desperate friend that needs a rebound or has such myopic beer goggles on that her judgment has flown completely out the window, she will invariably pick that one dude in the place that has nothing going for him but potential.

Those are a lot of associations to pack into one word, albeit a three-syllable word.

One of the most evil crimes that potential has committed is that of the fixer-upper. You know- girl meets boy. Girl thinks boy has potential, but he needs a little shine around the edges. She wants to fix him, because he has so much potential! He could be so great if only he applied himself! She will be the one that polishes him to a spit-shine and makes everyone else realize that this boy? He is perfect! He has lived up to his potential!

Oh, the dreams of the obliviously stubborn. They're fun to mock, aren't they?

I don't understand this compulsion to fix others. Why are you dating that person if you want to fix them? They are the same person that you met and decided you liked. Why are you trying to change that? Wouldn't that mean that the person you met isn't the same person anymore? Is this just another form of self-sabotage that we all indulge in because we want our relationships to fail because really, deep down inside, we're all terrified of commitment?

In a word, yes. Whether women do it because they genuinely want to help or because of some misguided mothering instinct, we are all guilty of it at some point in our lives. Nagging is never a good word.

Men aren't exempt, though. While women try to "fix" the way their men behave, speak, dress, keep the house, chew food, or fold laundry, men try to "fix" women by "fixing" problems. Typical conversation:

Woman: Arrrrrggggghhhh!
Man: What's wrong?
Woman: I hate my job, there's this guy that just--
Man: So quit.
Woman: No, that's not what I'm saying, there's this guy that says--
Man: Want me to beat him up for you?
Woman: Arrrrrggggghhhh!!
Men don't understand the concept of whining for sympathy. They don't exercise it to the extent that women do, so they can't possibly see the use in complaining when there's no plan of action following the gripes. "This dude at work sucks. Let's go slash his tires."

Women, rather than resorting to fistfights or even catfights, will try to talk through their frustrations and anger. Both genders can't be gung-ho and macho, after all. We'd be a civilization at war with ourselves then, even more so than we already are.

I find the idea of "fixing" a spouse or significant other to be quite funny. Like "potential," "fix" has so many connotations in my little brain.

A woman can "fix" a man by chopping off a certain part of his anatomy (hopefully figuratively, but we all know it's happened literally before).

A man thinks he can "fix" a woman with the same ease as he can "fix" a broken sink. Neither ends well- tears, screams, appliances flung across rooms with brutality in mind, and a call to a professional (plumber or best friend) are always necessary.

People try to get their "fix" from whatever they are addicted to. And everyone is addicted to something- think that having 60 pairs of shoes is normal?? No. Think that your collection of 200 DVD's is typical?? No. Of course, there are the usual addictions as well- alcohol, drugs, chocolate.

I've decided that, for myself, I will continue to complain heartily to my girlfriends (I'm sorry, girls). They know what to say to me, how to talk me down. I will complain to boys only about things they understand and can deal with, such as traffic (seriously, boys, why do you talk so much about traffic?? Is it the cars? Because you all love your cars so much??), drinks being too weak, or how lame that restaurant/bar/club is.

As for men- since I am not one, I have never been privy to a real conversation between them. I assume that those discussions aren't so much talking as sighing about the antics of their women.

Hey, at least there's one thing we can all agree on: duct tape fixes everything.


Diana E. September 18, 2009 at 4:41 PM  

duct tape fixed me. and my brother has "potential"--which is why he lives with my parents and has no job or college degree and barely a high school education (my dad dragged him to the GED test one morning or else he wouldn't have that) at the tender age of 26... ah... love it.

jeanny September 18, 2009 at 5:23 PM  

I've found that duct tape won't fix the crazy. I really wish it would!

Good luck to your brother...? Or perhaps a good kick in the rear would be better? :)

Brioche September 3, 2011 at 1:41 AM  

very interesting post! reminds me of a failed relationship in my very early twenties, when nothing was sure and EVERYTHING had potential :D

getting older sure has some benefits...i'm now in my mid-twenties and i see things in a more realistic light. trying to fix someone else or waiting for spontaneous improvement is simply time wasted.

jeanny September 5, 2011 at 3:03 AM  

Hi Brioche, thanks for the comment!

Yes, attempted fixing seems to be a waste of time. I'm done with that. And I wish I was still in my mid-twenties!