From The Trenches
"I would never date a collector." I actually heard this said, and with much the same vehemence as someone might say, "I would never date anyone who was raised by wildebeests."
The reasons cited were numerous: the clutter, the financial outgo, the questionable approaches to home decor, the time spent in useless historical pursuits as opposed to, say, cleaning the gutters or painting the electrical cords to match the baseboards.
All points well taken, and I began to wonder if typing "collector" in one’s bio on a dating website is comparable to declaring that one’s hobby is using baby bunnies for target practice with a homemade Uzi.
But on further reflection, with the exception of a scant few wackaloon collectors I’ve met—halberds hanging from the ceiling? Really?—collectors may be the best bets out there for longterm bliss.
1. Collectors are good stewards of the environment, for recycling is, at core, what they do. Every time a collectible changes hands, it’s recycling. More, collectors do not go to WalMart and buy new Chinese-made crap; they go to junk shops and buy old, already made crap or they go out in the field and recover old, lost crap. Yes, this is recycling at its finest.
There’s a second-tier benefit of this. Collectors won’t hammer you with a holier-than-thou attitude about recycling. They’re not even aware they’re recycling; it’s just who they are. This beats, by far, a first date with some guy in Birkenstocks who scowls if you pitch an aluminum can in the trash. (Ixnay on the econddatesay.)
3. Collectors are frugal. Unless stopped, they will ask the checkout person at the Food King, "Is this the best you can do on these Triscuits?"
4. Conversely, collectors will not carp at you for making silly purchases. Or at least they won’t do it twice, once you point out in all fairness, "Yes, honey, I bought a pair of shoes. So did you last week. Except yours are 150 years old and no one can ever wear them."
5. Collectors will forgive you your lapses in housekeeping. In fact, most would rather you not dust their stuff at all, preferring that be done by either themselves or a degreed curatorial professional wearing white cotton gloves.
This is assuming they even notice the dust in the first place, which is statistically unlikely. If, however, you wind up with the rare bird who does, there’s an easy fix. Simply scatter some tacks in the general direction of a collection and, within earshot, apply the vacuum. The ting-ting-ting of unknowns being swallowed by the Dyson Beast will result in a request that you never, ever vacuum again.
Did I mention the word bliss?
6. Collectors can McGyver like nobody’s business. They may not be handy with a Skilsaw or have a remote clue how the internal combustion engine works, but nobody can cobble together a Rube Goldbergesque fix for misbehaving stuff better than a collector. Don’t ask me why, but give a collector tweezers, some hair goo, three rubber bands, and a Phillips screwdriver, and he can fix a cranky crankshaft, a clogged drain, or a broken necklace chain.
There’s even a word for this in the publisher’s ancestral tongue, Portuguese: desenrascano. Literally disentanglement, it means to create, with limited resources, a slapdash but workable solution when one’s back is to the wall, and you have to give snaps to people who ruled the oceans on leaky ships for centuries. The Portuguese value this talent for on-the-spot inventiveness more highly than Boy Scout preparedness, and in that sense, all collectors are a bit Portuguese. 7. Collectors are optimists. There’s something sunshiny about being around someone who is eternally convinced that the best find is always right around the corner, hiding in an overgrown pasture or mistagged, grossly underpriced, and masked by a century of grime on a bottom shelf in a back room of Joe’s Junk ‘n’ Stuff.
It’s as though life is their own personal lottery ticket, and the right numbers are bound to come up any day now. It may not be a reasonable outlook, but hopeful expectations are a lot more uplifting to be around than boring good sense.
8. Collectors have a sense of humor. After years of study, I chalk this up to a well-honed sense of the absurd, for what is more absurd, at times, than (a) history, (b) collecting, and (c) collecting history.
A partner with a longterm sense of the humorously absurd will see you through life better than a date who romantically drinks champagne out of your shoe because that’s really absurd. Those were perfectly good shoes and might’ve been worth a fortune in 150 years.
9. Collectors like a good patina—and sooner or later, if we’re blessed to stick around long enough, we all acquire one.
Witness the case of Agatha Christie, whose first husband, an aviator, fell in love with another woman. After the divorce, Agatha went on to marry an archaeologist, and it was, by all reports, a happy marriage to the end. Of this she observed, "An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her."
So in sum, collectors are Earth friendly, budget conscious without being cheap, forgiving of household lapses, optimistic and funny, possess desenrascano, and are hard-wired to be in it for the long haul.
You single collectors can feel free to pass this along to the object of your desires. The only thing I can’t recommend is putting you fully in charge of the decor. That way lies madness. —Ed.
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