The Fixer Upper

DD Fixer Upper

A couple of weeks ago, I met a guy. Upon first glance, all the boxes appeared to check off: tall, cute, educated, gainfully self-employed, good family values, upper intermediate English (a coup in France). Our chemistry wasn’t suffering, and we worked in the same industry, always giving us something interesting to talk about. Considering my usual luck, or lack thereof, pas mal. 

However, as we got to know each other, the issues began to emerge. Despite his conventional upbringing, he appeared to have a very low understanding of chivalry, was still mildly obsessed with his ex, and generally presented himself as a bit of a sloppy mess. On one night, my friend and I found him around the corner from the neighboring La Perle, looking distraught. It almost seemed like he had been crying! Blinking away the tears, he refused to divulge the source of his troubles. Ten minutes later, we saw him back at the bar, blissfully flirting with two blondes, his problems seemingly forgotten. He then proceeded to follow us to another bar, where he alternated between a pensive and a bored pout, speaking only when spoken to.

Nonetheless, my friend, who was visiting from New York and had gotten the chance to get to know Waterworks pretty well, proclaimed that he was not a lost cause. “He has potential; it’s just one of those cases that need a lot of work. It’s like buying a house that needs be fully renovated. A real fixer-upper.

The term was brilliant. How could I not have thought of it before, especially considering that it applies to the majority of men I date? How many times have I started seeing a guy, only to discover a myriad of issues that needed to be worked through, causing me to abandon the project entirely? And am I committing a mistake by giving up so quickly? After all, if you listen to statistics, and my mother, my “dating pool” appears to be dwindling by the minute, leaving me with a narrow selection of recent divorcées, hopeless weirdos, and The Last Ones Standing.

Given Waterworks’ decent foundation, turning him into my idea of a suitable partner seems remotely feasible. I would have to start by nursing him back to sanity, cleaning up the mess that some other Russian chick left behind when she broke his sensitive little heart. Then, I would have to go through that whole subtle “I expect to be treated like a lady” thing, which would probably lead to him slightly changing his ways, while always making me feel like he’s doing me a favor. Lastly, I would have to work on the presentation, starting with the “you would be so handsome if you shaved” and ending with “Let’s go jean shopping! To Acne!”  In the end, I would be left with a nice, cute Jewish boy who matches the majority of my expectations – perhaps not my ideal brownstone, but definitely an equivalent of a cookie-cutter Manhattan 2-bedroom. Given the current socioeconomic climate, an excellent option.

Let’s stop here. While I’m all too entertained by my men-as-real-estate analogy, I cannot help but feel a strong desire to smack myself across the face for as much as suggesting these things. After all, I grew up in Russia, where romantics like Pushkin taught us that love defies all reason  – it is but a feeling, a look across the room, an inexplicable pull towards a person based on nothing more than instinct. And as much as modern society, Sex and The City, books about men marrying bitches, and blogs such as this one attempt to decipher and categorize our romantic relations, the truth is that its all complete bullshit. We are people, not houses, and people should be loved for who they are, not what they have the potential to become.

I’m not saying that the entire concept of fixer uppers should be abandoned altogether. If anything, it teaches you to see the potential in others, to be patient and to give people chances, to encourage them to become the best versions of themselves. But I also think that this only works if you are already in love with the person’s initial foundation. If I cannot muster up a spark of emotions towards Waterworks with his mood swings and bad t-shirts, am I really going to fall in love with him the minute he sharpens up and starts acting like somebody else? Even if this is the case, it does not seem right, nor fair, nor romantic.

Yes, I may have been living in France for too long.



  • An interesting read! While I do think the idea of a fixer upper is alluring, and has a certain romance to it – I think it’s also an idea that is inherently flawed and could lead to more problems down the road. I think going into a relationship with the idea that you will somehow change that person in the future will more often than not result in resentment and frustration between both parties. However, I really enjoyed what you said about the concept encouraging us to look for the best in others. It’s all too easy to only focus on the bad.

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