Dating is Like a Zoo

My best friend Peter rolled by my place last night. He strolled in with his fancy button-up and meticulously styled hair, leaving an exotic trail of cologne with every step he took. How well he was put together was often an indication of whether girls were involved earlier in the evening. That evening, he left no doubt.

He stopped by to measure the trunk space of my dad’s 4-Runner. He had recently set his sights on a new hardtop cover for his white S2k, and he was in need of a car big enough to carry the piece from one place to another. Not wanting to add precious miles to his lovely S2k, he was intent on borrowing my dad’s car. If all else failed, he was even willing to rent a minivan–just anything but add precious miles to his lovely S2k.

Peter lined his measuring tape closely from one side of the trunk to the other, down to the exact centimeter. That was him–always detailed, very exact. “It’s just who I am,” he would say. “That’s how God wired me.” We determined that the fit was possible, though it would be a tight squeeze. Peter said he would return home to research some more; for now, it had settled the matter.

As we sat at the edge, legs dangling from the trunk, we started to talk about life. Though it is hard for most men, it is not unusual for him to bear his soul. Peter was that sort of fish where you’d throw in your hook and he’d bring down your boat. Whether it meant life or death, he was never afraid to bite. The thing with Peter is, you never know how you feel about yourself when he is talking. Sometimes, it can be like reading a deep novel, discovering something amazing; other times I feel like I’m the only sane person in the room. Because of his early life struggles and experiences, he understands things about life that most people his age do not. In a sense, he is a man before his time. But that is who he is–extremely passionate, intelligent, unorthodox, and at times hard to comprehend. Either brilliant or insane.

As we sat there in the trunk, I couldn’t help but feel a bit awkward. Being shirtless didn’t help. We talked for a good half hour before heading back inside. We naturally progressed onto the topic of women and relationships. We were both poor shots in this department–he couldn’t catch ’em and I couldn’t keep ’em. Eventually, I relayed to him my fear of marrying wrong and one day waking up to discover that she has changed completely. Peter paused for a beat.

“You know, dating is like a zoo,” he said.

Like a zoo? I gave him my usual what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about glance before he continued.

“When you go to the zoo, you see a lot of animals, right? Polar bears, penguins, whatever. They act all nice, cute, cuddly…because they are tamed. But these animals aren’t from there. They were captured from the wild, right? They were raised in their natural habitats before they were brought in and trained to act a certain way. That’s like dating. You are taking two people from their natural elements and you’re telling them to act a certain way to attract the opposite sex. But once they are married, once they are comfortable, they revert to their habits, to who they really are. Sure, some of that is ugly, even scary. Penguins can be very mean out in the wild. Oh–but when they love, they love.

I thought about it briefly; I thought I was onto something brilliant. “So…you’re talking about penguin sex?” Peter gave me the you-idiot face.

“No, listen. Have you ever seen March of the Penguins?” I nodded, faintly recalling Morgan Freeman’s smooth narration as black-coated animals froze their tails off. “You know how the Mom leaves while the Dad is caring for the egg? The penguins return after being months apart, and they try to find each other. In the mass of thousands, they call out to each other. The Mom and Dad can locate the voice of the other because it’s unique. They know each other specially, and he knows she’s the one.”

“But I thought I had found the one,” I said.

“Did you love her like Christ loved the church?”

Damn, if you put it that way … I guess we both knew the answer.

“That’s love. With all her faults. You see them, but your love is willing to cover them. Of course, there will be changes–we all change. But God will protect you two from the poachers,” he paused. “When you see her, when you connect with her, when you know her–you’ll know it.”

It was well into the early morning. Before he left, Peter thanked me for listening to his “crazy stories, his crazy life.” But none of it seemed crazy at all. Love, for all its whims and woes, finally started to make sense.

There are nights when I struggle to make sense of it all. On nights like these, God likes to deliver bricks. He’s saying, build on what you know.

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2 responses to “Dating is Like a Zoo

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