Rants & Essays

Just the Way You Are

By Robin Reif

I had a boyfriend once who couldn't dance. But knowing I loved to, he would lead me onto dance floors and throw his body and arms around. Watching this performance as he risked his dignity - and balance - for me, I'd think, "Dear Lord, I love him."

Love lets us view imperfections as tolerable, if not adorable. But it's a choice. We can bristle at quirks, or we can cherish them. Why not cherish? A little ineptitude is a charming thing in a competent man. A friend who married a hot-shot lawyer remembers, "On the first date, I learned that he could ride out rough hours and stiff client demands. On the second, I learned that what he couldn't ride was a bicycle. THAT'S when I decided to give him a chance."

Endearing foibles are one key to a man's distinctiveness. Case in point: A boyfriend - ordinarily dignified - showed up for a party in a kilt and knee socks, announced that it was his family tartan. Glimpsing his pale, skinny legs, I bit my tongue lest I utter something…well, untoward. But he said, "I wanted the chance to show off my elegant legs!" His whole character seemed distilled in that gesture: in his willingness to see the good in the less-than-perfect. I smiled for weeks after.

This is not to say that imperfections are always adorable. If he's late again, you may not be charmed. The best prescription I know for "curing" your irritation comes from writer Ellen Goodman, who learned it from her Uncle Mike: Every morning look your own flaws in the face in the mirror and say, "You're no bargain." You may soon realize that you're not a ten slumming with a six but more like an evenly matched pair of sevens - a thought that will help you accept and love him anyway.