Remember Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets? His question was whether we should settle for what we have, in case there is nothing better out there. I thought about that during a recent vacation where I saw a certain type of relationship in two very different stages of life.
First an older couple sitting next to us at dinner. She appeared both classy and nice. Him not so much.
She suggested a bottle of wine to share. He ordered "the largest beer available" for himself, and told her a carafe of house wine was good enough for her since he would not be joining her. She wanted very much to engage in conversation, with her husband, with us, with anyone really. He just wanted to hear himself talk. He demonstrated this by talking over her at every opportunity, even when someone was speaking directly to her, not him. Clearly he believes he has more to offer the world than this educated, kind, classy woman who speaks three languages fluently (although he mocks her accent, and speaks only English), who has traveled the world and learned from her travels, and is even kind to this know-it-all.
Fast forward to our boat ride to Capri a day later. The young couple sitting behind us try to decide where they should sit on the boat for optimum viewing. He wins. He then proceeds to educate her on how lifeboats should be attached (ours apparently broke international regulations), how to use pants as a flotation device in case we should sink, how to speak Italian properly, and various other subjects. She talks of what they will name their children. He says "That is not ever going to happen with teeth like yours". She apparently had something trapped between her teeth and he chose this moment to let her know. He then proceeded to sulk for the rest of the trip, or the rest of the day perhaps, because she moved to the other side of the boat, having invited him to join her, to take better photos.
So here is my question. If this young woman could see in the older couple how she can expect to be treated 30 or 40 years down the line, would it have an impact? Would she choose someone more kind? Or does she believe this is as good as it gets?