Monday, July 10, 2017

- In Praise of Modest Expectations

This is one for the young guys.

A few weeks ago we had a 5 alarm fire in my apartment building. Everyone was evacuated and no one was injured, but we were all homeless for 2 days while the city tried to make sure things were safe for occupancy. Some people at the corner of the building furthest from us are burned out and that's awful. But the GF, myself, and the dog all just went over to my sisters on the west side, about 5 blocks away, (we live on 9th, she on 10th) and slept on an air mattress. No damage, not even from smoke. No big deal.

But the thing about something like that is that it really brings you together with your neighbors. People who wouldn't speak to us at all before now greet us on the street, or say hello in the lobby. We're all one big happy family. And I want to tell you about one couple who lives down the hall.

First let me say, they're extremely nice people. They both have ready smiles and are pleasant if somewhat socially awkward. They're both just under 40, and have a small infant. He's a mid level manager in operations at a big bank, which is not a great job but not terrible. It's OK pay, minimal stress, and doesn't require any real level of genius. She works in compliance in a different bank - a common phenomenon in NYC where finance is still a dominant industry.

And it makes me very happy that these two very nice people are together, because it amazes me that they were able to find each other in the first place. She is 5 foot 4 and easily 220 lbs. Some of that may be baby weight she hasn't quite shed - I didn't know her before so there is no way to tell. But their son is 2 now, ad the weight isn't going anywhere. He is no real prize either. Bald, weak chin, bad teeth, thick glasses. He's about 5 foot 6 with a paunch, and if he ever spent a day in the gym, it was because he was working for someone who was thinking of buying the place.

As much as I like them, and I genuinely do, they are not a physically attractive couple. And that's why I'm so pleased that they found each other and seem to have a genuinely affectionate relationship.

On his best day this guy is a low level Beta, and only gets there because of his personality. Based on how he looks, it could have been much worse. Club girls wouldn't look at him twice. Even if he were a billionaire, they'd probably think very long and hard about it (if you could call what club girls do 'thinking'). The wife... I wouldn't be surprised to discover that her husband was her only date... ever. Yet here she is, with a husband, a son, a job, a supportive family, and good future prospects for a happy and fulfilled life.

There is something to be said I think for fewer options and modest expectations. No one will ever mistake the couple down the hall for a master of the universe and his trophy wife. But they'll have stability, comfort, happiness (such as it is) and children and grandchildren to dote over. They will be comfortably upper middle class with vacations in Orlando, or a house at the Jersey shore. But there are far worse ways to live your life - especially when you enter the dating world with as few viable options as those two had.

All the pressure is at the top boys. I know it may not look like it, but it is. You may think that's worth it - I certainly have, and still probably do. But the trick is to choose a career mountain that you have a good chance of successfully climbing, and don't shoot for things you lack the temperament, intelligence or disposition to get to the top of. And when it comes to women, one who will stay is better than any hottie who has a good chance of leaving when things get tough. Because at the top, they are always looking for a better deal.

The couple down the hall has reminded me that for almost everyone, it's possible to find happiness without 'getting to the top'.


TimH said...

My wife and I each on different occasions gave the other greeting cards with the Gary Larson cartoon ("And then, from across the room, their eyes met") I'll try to attach. Inside it says "I'll never forget it." I consider myself a 7 and her an 8 (she might well reverse those numbers), though together we're in the low 99th income percentile with three great kids already launched. 32nd Anniversary last week and the only end in sight is leaving her a widow with options.

Try this link: definitely work safe as long as your boss doesn't look like a Gary Larson character.

TimH said...

Wish I could edit old comments. It would be great, Tom, if you could delete the above tries for only

VV said...

Good for them, lot better than this situation in Japan.