When Being Practical Goes Wrong

Joe and I have never owned a car together. We’re used to urban living and have existed off of Zipcar, rental cars, and borrowing cars from friends and family. But we’re finally starting to think about buying a car. So we sat down and discussed what kind of car we want:

  1. Not too expensive
  2. Great gas mileage
  3. Small enough to maneuver a city
  4. Big enough to fit a few friends

For simplicity’s sake, let’s refer to this car as a Honda Civic.

It’s not set in stone, but this is probably the kind of car we’ll buy one day.

Eventually (because Joe and I are both planners), we started talking about our second car down the line, and what it meant for the Civic. Joe wondered out loud if the Civic could become MY car, so that he could get his Dream Car: a vintage Volkswagen Beatle.

Joe’s dream car (well, one of them anyway)

He said this made sense because, let’s face it, my dream car would probably be a Civic anyway. Wait, what? That can’t be right. I ran down my list of what I would want in a Dream Car:

  1. Not too expensive
  2. Great gas mileage
  3. Small enough to maneuver a city
  4. Big enough to fit a few friends

This made me feel bristly, but he seemed to be right. I guess a Civic is my Dream Car. But why did this feel like I was getting such a bad deal?

Then it hit me. WAIT A MINUTE. The reason I’m bristling is because Joe’s Dream Car is not practical at all (Airbags? What are those?) while I still couldn’t let go of thinking of my Dream Car as something that was more functional than fun. So I took practicality out the equation and suddenly my Dream Car list looked more like this:

  1. Expensive as hell
  2. Two door
  3. Convertible
  4. Ability to talk? Negotiable.

Now I wasn’t looking at a Civic at all. I was looking at a Ferrari. Or possibly the Batmobile.

This isn’t quite it, either. But it’s a hell of a lot closer than the Civic.

I often get so lost in what’s practical that I forget to just let myself dream. Sometimes these two things get muddled, and I convince myself that the practical solution is what I really want. I miss the chance to jump into the more creative, risky, and romantic choices. And if I don’t stop this madness, I imagine myself kissing Joe goodbye as he drives off in his vintage car to go have an adventure while I stay home, convinced that what I really want is to spend the day dusting (*shudder*).

For me, remembering to dream starts with keeping the dream and the practical separated so I don’t blur the line between the things I really want (pizza, sleeping in, dance parties) and the things that get me there (pizza stones, blackout curtains, stereo). It also means being more clear with Joe when I want to buy or do something because it is practical, not because it’s what I “want.”

This same concept happened with cooking. Joe thought I cooked every day because I liked it. The truth is, I was cooking every day because it was practical: someone had to do it and he didn’t seem to be (This is also because I plan things out much further in advance, which was keeping Joe from having a chance to plan anything). When I told him, “You know, I don’t actually LIKE cooking every day,” it was news to him. Now he takes charge of meals all the time, and often checks in to make sure I’m comfortable with my share of cooking. And for my part, I’m trying to be more vocal about the things I want or need instead of waiting until I’m already frustrated: “I’ll plan meals for Monday and Thursday, and you can take the rest of the week.” or “I feel like I’ve planned a lot of meals lately, can you take charge of the next few days?” or “I don’t know what to do with this leftover chicken, can you help me think of some ideas?” It’s nice having a partner who can take over the practical stuff for me, because it opens up time to do more things I actually want to do.

I had never mentioned to Joe that the Civic is my practical choice and not my Dream Car, so how should he have known? All I’d ever mentioned were the practical aspects of car buying. If my partner is going to help me toward the things I want, I have to make sure he knows what those things are. Hopefully separating what I want practically from what I want idealistically will help us push each other to do something wild once in a while. Like drive the Batmobile (but maybe just the once).

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