Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Goodness of Fit

Goodness of fit was an idea I was introduced to in graduate school. It was used rather liberally in a course I was taking which dealt with working with children with special needs and their families. To oversimplify the concept, it basically meant that a teacher or parent should match their teaching/parenting styles to the temperament of the child. A casual observer might find some of the methods to be unorthodox, but if they work, then there is a goodness of fit.

Last night I engaged in an interesting conversation with my sister regarding goodness of fit as it pertains to adults in social/work situations. We were considering a new guy at the pizza shop who is intelligent, well-read, well-traveled, and an excellent worker. He is also not universally accepted by some of the regulars who frequent the shop. My sister suggested that this is not due to any flaws in his personality or character, but is more likely due to a lack of fit. Specifically, he does not fit the stereotype of an adult you would expect to find working in a pizza shop. She went on to say that I didn't fit that stereotype, either. (It may be the nicest thing she's ever said to me.) She doesn't fit it, either. But folks respond better to she and I. Could it be because we - as a society - are more comfortable with women - even intelligent, well-read, well-traveled women - in subservient roles than we are with men?

The obvious answer is yes.

I'm reminded of an incident when I was working in yet another pizza shop/bar some years ago. One of the regulars said to me that "if this bar was Cheers, you'd be Diane". I took immediate offense, assuming that he was implying that I was pretentious and annoying. Perhaps I was. Or perhaps he was just pointing out that, once again, there was no goodness of fit.

Isn't that what we're all looking for? A good fit?

Tom and I are a good fit, and for us this means that we have a very happy almost conflict-free home. Well, an almost conflict-free marriage, anyway. What we have works for us. What we have would bore some folks silly. I look at other very happy, long lasting marriages that THRIVE on conflict. Arguments are rampant and both parties would agree that the arguing increases their respect for their partner and they wouldn't want it any other way. I would have a nervous breakdown in a relationship like that, but it works for them. There is a goodness of fit.

We look for it also in our jobs and our living situations. The suburbs are NOT a good fit for me, but I need to make them work for at least a few more years. Shove that square peg into that round hole.

What hoops we jump through, what prices we pay for a pair of jeans that fit! Jeans that fit not only our forms and our curves (or the lack thereof - not a problem of mine personally, but I'm told it exists...) but also our lifestyle and tastes and budget. The jeans I'm wearing now fit only two of those criteria and I'm grateful enough for that!

So finding that goodness of fit is wonderful, but seeking it can be exciting, too. Finding out what doesn't work is sometimes necessary for us to be able to recognize what does work when we find it.

Or when it finds us.

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