While babysitting for my brother, I happened to catch Sleepless in Seattle. He had turned it on before he left, because my niece, who just turned eight years old, informed us that she “really isn’t interested in little girl movies anymore.”
The 1993 “chick flick” stars Tom Hanks as the recently widowed father of an eight-year old named Jonah, who calls into a radio talk show about relationships, to help find his Dad a girlfriend, or more aptly, himself a new mom. Meg Ryan plays Annie, a Baltimore Sun writer who is in a relationship with a “safe” yet predictable guy named Walter, played by Bill Pullman.
The first time I saw the movie was 1993, when I was in a similar relationship. Like Annie, I felt something was missing, but had long since given up on the fairy tale idea of finding my soul mate — figuring that “true love” was the nonsense of Harlequin Romance novels and Lifetime TV. Annie still dreams of the fairy tale.
Taken by Sam’s story about his wonderful life with his late wife “Maggie”, Annie begins typing a letter to Sam, but decides she’s being silly and wads it up. Then she and her friend and co-worked, played by a remarkably slim and feminine Rosie O’Donnell sit down to watch Cary Grant and Debra Kerr in the 1957 tearjerker An Affair to Remember. Later we see Jonah opening a wrinkled letter from Annie, and deciding she’s the one Dad should meet. Meanwhile Dad is getting ready for a date with someone who is NOT Annie. The letter ends with an invitation from Annie to meet on top of the Empire State Building in New York on Valentine’s Day (a la An Affair to Remember).
Fast forward to Valentine’s Day. Annie is in New York with Walter, resigned to the idea predictability isn’t so bad after all. But looking out the window during dinner, she spies the lighted Empire State Building, and decides to tell Walter the story about Sleepless in Seattle. When she finishes, Walter says, “You mean a man could be waiting at the top of the Empire State Building right now?” And he tells her he doesn’t want to be the one someone “settles” for.
Back in 1999, after years of settling: for ho-hum relationships and ho-hum jobs, I did something very-un-Amy-like. I flew from Houston to Cincinnati to attend a football game in Oxford. But instead of staying in Cincinnati or Dayton the night before the game, I drove up to Toledo to meet someone with whom I had previously only chatted on a Sports message board, and talked with on the phone. I had been though a “long dry spell” if you know what I mean, and true love was the furthest thing from my mind.
I had long avoided relationships with someone I really cared about — fearing either being consumed by another’s emotions, trapped into something I couldn’t escape, or being hurt when someone left. I had such a fear of commitment that I made sure never to go out with anyone I’d actually want to commit to. Just a series of Mr. Right Nows, because there was no such thing as Mr. Right.
Until I met Joe.
A few days ago I was talking with a friend about another’s “pre-wedding jitters.” She had tried to reassure her friend, she told me. “Everyone gets cold feet,” she said. You know, the second guessing, like “am I doing the right thing?” “If this the right one?” “Am I going to regret this tomorrow?”
“Not true,” I said. “I never felt that with Joe.” By the time we got married we had been dating for nearly six years. I felt giddy on our wedding day — because I knew I had finally found Mr. Right — someone who made me feel pretty and smart and special and valuable. Someone who knew all of my flaws and most of my baggage and still loved me anyway.
Sometimes it is easier to settle — when it’s Wednesday, they still have a few fresh turkeys but you just can’t find a Butterball. When the vintage on the wine list is sold out but they have the next good year. When the economy sucks and you need a job, any job — just to be able to take care of yourself, hold on to your house or feed your family.
But when it comes to the person with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life? Don’t settle. The right person really IS out there — it just might take a bit longer than expected to find him — or her.
Take it from me; you’ll be thankful that you waited.
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!