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What Guillermo del Toro can tell us about the perfect man

The ease with which you will find the perfect man is directly proportionate to the length of your relationship

A still from ‘The Shape Of Water’.
A still from ‘The Shape Of Water’.

If Guillermo del Toro is to be believed, the perfect man likes boiled eggs, is horny under water, has soulful eyes—and belongs to another species. I know a lot of women who, having spent their lives loving the human male, would nod in vigorous agreement with this last point.

In his Oscar-winning The Shape Of Water, the director also made sure he gave the fish man that one universal human hottie characteristic: a nicely shaped butt.

For this, del Toro enlisted the help of the women in his life. “Every female in the del Toro household was crucial," he explains in the film’s official art book, The Shape Of Water: Creating A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times. “‘Too much derriere, not enough derriere….’ The butt we show abundantly in the movie. It was a very delicate sculpture process because it always had to be run by my household." Thank you, ladies, for that key contribution. Also, I don’t know if it was the women, but thank you for neatly tucking away his penis, except when it was really required.

It’s possible to find perfection with the human male, of course. Just take the G-spot level sex you had with that one man, those all-night conversations with that other man who wasn’t satisfied until he had heard all your stories, the playlist and poetry of that third man, the ability of that fourth man to understand exactly how you were feeling at any point in time, and the way that the fifth gent never felt awkward about sharing his feelings. Add that to the blast of love you got from men 1, 2 and 3, multiply by a number of your choice, pick from outdoor or Netflix-y, match your sense of humour, pour in a shot of that elusive “connection", sprinkle some kindness, and voila, you have it, the perfect man. Sure, it’s as tough to find the perfect woman too. Please post your counter view on social media and forget to tag me.

The ease with which you will find the perfect man is directly proportionate to the length of your relationship. Everyone’s perfect if you want the perfection to last for a week; committed relationships and marriage are Level 10 on this scale.

As author and psychologist Esther Perel is fond of saying, we expect too much from our long-term loves. “Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship, but now we want our partner to still give us all these things but, in addition, I want you to be my best friend, and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long," Perel says in her TED Talk titled “The Secret To Desire In A Long-Term Relationship".

“So we come to one person and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us," Perel adds. The burden of these expectations is the perfect set-up for failure, she says repeatedly in her writing and talks.

Scientific research (as opposed to research sponsored by an edible underwear company) has variously shown that: Finding Mr Right doesn’t guarantee happiness; kissing is an important indicator of perfection; frequent sex plays its part; having your own independent lives and friends helps (girlfriends are crucial); doing stuff together always helps (I’ll try to remember that next Sunday when the husband demands I come swimming with him and our daughter).

Seek realistic perfection, I say. Use fantasy and alcohol to fill in the gaps. Have a sense of proportion. Don’t be worried if you end up watching The Cloverfield Paradox when you want to watch Jessica Jones but certainly be disturbed if he believes in the politics of hate. Politics, parents and paisa are the big three where I seek to avoid conflict.

Like in any lasting friendship, it’s important to find someone who evolves with you. You don’t want to be stuck in a relationship with a man who refuses to grow up. A person who hasn’t changed in the two decades you’ve been together. Carve time out for yourselves, away from your children and your cellphones. Redefine your connected selves.

When people look at a couple, you know how they sometimes see one partner who needs managing and one partner who manages? Guess how these people view my spouse and I.

When the husband released his book A Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking a few years ago, his talks at launch events usually centred around his ability to whip up feasts and keep his wife and daughter happy. He evangelized about bringing up boys differently. He was often asked by women in the audience: Does your wife know how lucky she is? To all these women, I say: Kindly demand more from your underperforming partners.

I married a good man who is certainly more skillful in the kitchen (and elsewhere) than me. He’s someone with whom I can happily spend the rest of my life, but perfect? None of us are.

It’s no wonder that del Toro had to look beyond human beings and the fraught ways in which we communicate to find perfect love between a mute human and an amphibian who got exactly what she wanted to say.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.

She tweets at @priyaramani

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