We lost my father-in-law Albert Miller yesterday at the age of 91. A successful home builder during his prime, he was a father of six, a loving grandfather, a caring friend, war veteran, thinker, dreamer, doer. He was a truly remarkable and extremely kind man who lived a big life. Al died on July 6th, 16 years to the day from when his beloved wife Phyllis died.
Theirs was an unusually deep love. The kind that many people yearn for, movies are made about and books written about. At the risk of sounding cliché -- she was a young and very beautiful woman who had dabbled in acting and was the toast of Chicago. He was a handsome war veteran and ambitious college graduate who fell deeply for her. Together they had a wonderful and exciting life, full of extended family, lots of laughter, travel, fun, an increasing fortune and many friends. As their kids got older, she convinced him to relocate from Chicago to Miami Beach to enjoy the weather, where they entertained -- often at their home on the water (even once for a presidential candidate who later became president), raised their children, while she tooled around town in a white Rolls Royce. Even when his successful company fell upon rough times, there was never any doubt of their true love and their commitment to each other and their family. She died too early of cancer, and he never remarried or had another woman in his life. It really was true love.
By the time I met my husband Rob, his father had begun to slip into the beginnings of dementia but was still full of wonderful memories and I spent hours listening to his stories, many revolving around his dear Phyllis. And then, deep in the grips of dementia -- to die on the very day she died so many years later... it just seems so romantic.
Women today have come so far in so many ways, asserting our well earned and deserved independence and yet so many of us still yearn for a love story like Phyllis' and Al's. And let me just say here that, whomever your dream partner is -- man or woman -- the theme is ultimately the same. One where we meet a person who can take amazing care of us and is completely and utterly devoted to us. Someone who can rescue us in one way or another -- Pretty Woman, Love Actually, Say Anything, Pretty In Pink, The Notebook, well really, any Nicholas Sparks movie.
Now I know this is not a particularly original analysis, but I do believe that many women found the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy as sexy as they did, not for the kinky sex scenes (although those were pretty great) but for the concept of a rich, handsome, damaged and dangerous man who will tell them exactly what to do. No decisions necessary. Take off your clothes, yes. Wear these gorgeous clothes, yes. Be here and ready for me, yes. Come away with me on my yacht, yes, OK, OK, OK!
Although I am not suggesting that Christian Grey is a mate to aim for, I can certainly see the appeal. As modern day working women though, we are told, and rightly so, to pick our partner with care based in part on how we can work together. Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In, talks about the importance of choosing a life partner when she met her husband. And anyone who has tried to juggle the many aspects of everyday life knows that the best way to do it is with a real partner -- someone you can count on to share the day to day responsibilities, which for the most part are not at all sexy, usually challenging and often not particularly fun.
Many of the women on my show talk about how it is with the support of their husbands and partners, that they have been as successful as they have been.
I have always been a huge sucker for rom-coms. With sexy, rumpled, handsome, often self-centered heroes, who in real life probably would not be very good partners when things got too serious. So with the lure of the fantasy of Prince Charming, and the knowledge that many of these so-called Prince Charmings probably would not make the right life partner, how do you navigate a relationship and feel satisfied and happy?
I think the answer is to enjoy those stories for what they are: fairy tales. And to know that in real life, relationships at their core do need to have that spark, with some of that Shades of Grey sexy sprinkled in, but also smarts a sense of humor, a good heart and a willingness to go through the rough parts of life are the relationships that are able to withstand the very many unsexy moments of real life. And the knowledge that great relationships take work. The good kind of work. The rewarding kind.
I've been incredibly lucky to have found a wonderful man who has taken after his father and taught me what a real love story looks like. So here is to Al and Phyllis Miller and all the real life partners who have built a life together. RIP Al Miller; I hope you and Phyllis are having a wonderful time together again.