The book revolves around the life of Don Tillman, an associate professor of Genetics and his quest for a suitable wife. After third wheeling his best friend, Gene, and his wife, Claudia, who are in an open relationship, but whose relationship he greatly admires, he decided it was time he also found himself a wife. The only problem was that he hadn’t factored in his social awkwardness and his fixation to keeping time and sticking to a repetitive schedule – some major OCD. And so along the way, he encountered some hurdles which he believed he would have avoided if he had done some eliminations beforehand.
For instance, when a lady he was on a date with passed up an opportunity to eat ice-cream because they didn’t get a particular ice-cream flavor she liked, apricot. And he couldn’t understand what the big deal was, or how she would even know the difference in taste between the ice cream flavors. So he went ahead and tried to explain the philosophy of taste-bud chilling, where all ice-creams taste essentially the same, due to chilling of the taste-buds. And while he ordered the different flavors to carry out the experiment on her, she was gone and pretty much done with his craziness.
Where was the signal? These are the subtleties I fail to see. But I also fail to see why heightened sensitivity to obscure cues about ice-cream flavours should be a prerequisite for being someone’s partner.
With that, he embarked on the wife project which was based on the systematic way in which he approached all things in his life. He designed a scientific questionnaire that would ideally help him to filter out the traits he didn’t approve of, such as drinking, smoking, lateness, and ridiculous dietary requirements. And because Gene was also trying to hook him up, he set him up with Rosie. Let’s just say that Rosie possessed all the qualities he had crossed off. She smoked, didn’t keep time, drank a lot, had ridiculous dietary requirements, was spontaneous, and because she happened to part-time at a bar, he also concluded that she was a barmaid (instead of bartender, which aroused the feminist in her because it’s sexist to say that) before finding out she was a PhD student at the university. It’s while they’re on one of their dates that he gets intrigued by her quest to find her biological father. As they collaborate on the father project, things between them also became a bit feisty. It’s her reaction when she found out about his questionnaires that totally cracked me up (could also be because I read it a Nigerian accent),
‘What a shame,’ said Rosie. ‘The perfect woman hasn’t checked in yet.’
‘I would assume that there is more than one candidate who meets the criteria,’ I said, ‘but it’s like finding a bone-marrow donor. Not enough registrations.’
‘I can only hope that enough women realise their civic duty and take the test.’
Her sarcasm was beyond throughout the book, and I loved it. Don then started realizing that with Rosie he was enjoying life and creating memorable moments more than he ever had before; and this was courtesy of the spontaneity that he very much dreaded. Being a psychology student, she made him understand why he was the way he was – and it was greatly influenced by his background and the environment in which he was raised. While she was still trying to find herself and believed that finding her real father would explain a lot about her predisposition. They were both special in their own way and so different in how they approached life. While he operated in such a controlled and predefined environment, she was on the other hand free-spirited and dealt with things as they unfolded. Take this for instance,
‘I asked you here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’
‘I need a minute to think,’ she said. I automatically started the timer on my watch. Suddenly Rosie started laughing. I looked at her, understandably puzzled at this outburst in the middle of a critical life decision.
It’s the curiosity to see how they end up that made me read the book to the end. And especially the how they would deal with the mechanics around their relationship because they’re as different as day and night. Like when he reviews some simple logic about his predisposition.
- I was wired differently. One of my characteristics of my wiring was that I had difficulty empathizing. This problem has been well documented in others and is, in fact, one of the defining symptoms of autism spectrum.
- A lack of empathy would account for my inability to respond emotionally to the situations of fictional characters in films…
- An inability (or reduced ability) to empathise is not the same as an inability to love. Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic.
- Rose has failed numerous criteria on the Wife Project, including the critical smoking question. My feelings for her could not be explained by logic. I did not care about Meryl Streep. But I was in love with Rosie.
I was also reminded of some classic romantic films that I enjoyed way back when after Rosie mentions them to bring him to speed on some of the mannerisms he can adapt. This was so hilarious because Rosie and Claudia are the typical girls. And in typical girl style, I also spent an entire weekend re-watching them after completing the book just to refresh my memory.
I decided to begin with romantic films specifically mentioned by Rosie. There were four: Casablanca, The Bridges of Madison County, When Harry Met Sally and An Affair to Remember. I added To Kill a Mockingbird and The Big Country for Gregory Peck, whom Rosie had cited as the sexiest man ever. It took a full week to watch all six, including time for pausing the DVD player and taking notes. The films were incredibly useful, but also highly challenging. The emotional dynamics were so complex!
I persevered, drawing on movies recommended by Claudia about male-female relationships with both happy and unhappy outcomes. I watched Hitch, Gone with the Wind, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Annie Hall, Notting Hill, Love Actually and Fatal Attraction.
Other Relationship Musings
I love me a read that challenges me to think beyond what I read and sometimes even relate to it from a personal level. And this particular one got me thinking, would you change your preferences because you’ve met someone who makes your heart-throb? Even if you know fully well that they don’t match the qualities on the list of things you want in a partner? Basically, when your new attraction defies any logic you had. The kind that you find yourself eventually saying, “Fuck it, let’s do this.”
Oops! Excuse the French.
Actually, let’s start with did (do) you have a list of the qualities you want in partner? i.e physical, intellectual, social, economical, political, racial …lol, name it. Is your significant other exactly what you had envisioned?
Well, for me, I sort of did have one because my mum constantly reminded me to pray for the kind of partner that I want to be with. It was such a big deal for her, and so it automatically, by virtue of maternal connection, became a big deal for me too. And so I did. Strangely, I’m a strong believer that when you yearn for something or someone and it’s the right thing or person for you at that time, God tends to clear up a path for you to reach out to that thing and it just fits right in with you. It might not necessarily come in the exact specifications that you requested for, because only he know what’s best for you. However, it will bring you the contentment that you so much craved out of it.
Like when my husband and I started dating and I realized that this is the guy I would love to spend the rest of my life with, I instantly ditched my perfect – ‘tall, dark and handsome, you know how that goes’ – list, which he thankfully is anyway. And I started focusing on what I had with me now, him. From trying to figure each other out because we’re different persons, with different personalities, interests and backgrounds, but with common uniting factor, love. And over time we continue to learn how to accommodate each other because it’s an endless process. At times it takes a huge disagreement to understand where he is coming from reacting the way he does, or him understanding where I am coming when responding the way I do.
The thing is sometimes we get into relationships with such a rigid mindset. It’s okay to have your expectations drawn out, but while you want this person you are with to act in certain way or be a certain way, you forget that they too are their own person, and they too have expectations of how they want you to act or be as well. But how do you come into a consensus so that none of you can feel like they’ve gotten the short end of the stick on compromise? Does one person have to be the one compromising who they are to make you happy? I think at the end of the day, you need to make a conscious decision to accept and appreciate who the other person is – because nothing sucks like trying to change who you are for someone to accept and appreciate you, you grow to resent the person you become.
‘Don. I’m impressed, but … changing to meet someone else’s expectations may not be a good idea. You may end up resenting it.’ ‘If you really love someone,’ Claudia continued, ‘you have to be prepared to accept them as they are. Maybe you hope that one day they get a wake-up call and make the changes for their own reasons.’ ~ Claudia Advising Don, The Rose Project
If who they are doesn’t fit into your criteria and you can see it won’t work for you at all, then let it go (cue Frozen). But if you choose to both stay, then it means that you are ready to weather the storm together. And in as much as you want to stay adamant about your expectations of this person and vice versa, you know pretty well what you’ve gotten yourselves into. And that’s why it’s advisable that when you’re making that long-term decision to be with your significant other, to leave your pride and ego at the doorstep and strip yourself bare (literally and figuratively, lol, I mean the latter), so that you can make an informed decision.
Love and happiness are so mischievous, because in as much as we make arrangements on how to find them, they shows us who’s the boss, and they finds us instead when we least expect it. So love and love are not elusive per se, it’s just that sometimes they’re concealed in the most unexpected places and with the most unexpected people and it’s up to us to sometimes let our guard down and be open-minded in our interactions.
Overall, it was a good read. I have the e-book version, so if you want to read it, you know the drill.
Happy New Month Snippers! To love, love and more love.
Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*