"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Monday, February 14, 2011


Well, today is the ever-infamous Valentine's Day, another faux holiday concocted to sell candy and flowers and candlelight dinners in small bistros in out of the way places, and even jewelry.   Sometimes really really nice jewelry...and...yes, you guessed it, I do not have a Valentine.

I've thought about it at great length, more so recently; maybe yet another birthday (last month) as a swingin' single (HA HA HA) brings the subject uppermost in my mind again.  Last weekend I went out with my neighbor Bonnie and her sister-in-law Nancy to hear Bonnie's husband's band play a set at a local charity concert.  Now Bonnie and Nancy are both Very Married, but while the three of us were out raising hell (not really) it felt to me as though we were Back In The Day.  You know -- getting all chic'ed up and out on the prowl.  We all wore eye makeup.  We drank beer.  

Then they started talking, not deliberately but because the subject came up, about their husbands.  And there I was again, odd girl out, and even though they did not necessarily have terribly flattering remarks to make about said husbands, I felt down in the dumps.  Here I was again.  Alone.  Except for my cats (isn't that a cliche').  Bummer.

I am convinced that the reason I am not hooked up, and quite often the cause for break-up and divorce among so many others (the phrase "my ex" seems to be as much a part of the King's English now as "for instance," "if you say so," and "not necessarily") is something I call The List.

What is The List?  Well, I consider it to be a  blueprint for convivial happiness and relationship longevity because it contains The Rules.  So, it's a list of rules.  Follow the rules and you'll be a happy camper.  I mean, some of us do not know how to proceed in the world of Significant Otherism.  Apparently I'm one of the poster kids for  Getting It Wrong.  Yeah, yeah, I know I sound cynical.  Bitter, even.  But hey -- it's the only theory I've ever been able to come up with.

I am not man-bashing here, but let me tell you, I have gone out with some real assholes shitheads jerks.  They didn't appear to be that way in the beginning, that rosy pheromone-splashed entry level period.  Nevertheless it just went from bad to worse as a matter of course.  I don't blame them entirely, though; a big factor in the whole hullabaloo is that I did not have a copy of The List.  You know: the friendly little document that spells out what you can and can't do while in the throes of this Relationship. Because three strikes and you are out.  In fact you're damn lucky to get three.

Okay, I'll grant you.  I fell ill when I was 28 years old and for years -- decades -- following, I barely had the energy to THINK about a relationship, much less maintain one.  When I finally started getting back on my feet it also occurred to me (again, I lie; it was something people told me over and over) that I did not have to be perfect in order to have a Significant Other.  Nobody's perfect.  As long as you have a copy of The List it will turn out fine.

Well, nobody gave me a copy.  I more or less based my approach to having a relationship on how I was raised.  I would bet most people do.  The confusing thing, though, is that my brother and I were raised by two sets of parents: our regular parents, and our childless aunt and uncle whom we lived with until I was 9 and he was 14.  

Both sets loved each other madly, it was quite evident, but they were as different as night and day.  My parents rarely let a day -- heck, an hour -- go by without hollering at each other for something.  I can assure you, they never had The List (either that or they tore it up long ago), but they decided to stick it out just the same (64 years last November).  

They never raised a hand to one another (though my mother chased my father with a frying pan once, and threw a dishrag at his eyes), or for that matter to us.  But take a 100 proof Scot and a gal that's half Italian and half Norwegian; it sure made for interesting times at the dinner table.  We knew that when Dad's blue eyes got a steely grey and he declared "Never mind Sicily!  You are in the Highlands now!!" it was a good time to run like hell.

On the other hand our aunt and uncle never raised their voices.  Never argued or fought, certainly, and I don't recall ever seeing them disagree.  Our uncle was pure gentleman born and bred, and our aunt was serene and elegant.  They must have had The List.  In fact maybe they wrote part of it.  So how should we proceed?

Well, my brother married The Girl Next Door and after 33 years with their ups and downs they do seem happy.  I guess that somewhere along the way they figured things out.  I'm not sure where The List figured into it all, but I am glad for them.  My oldest nephew is now a married man, too -- it will be their first anniversary in a few days; I couldn't be happier for him.  His wife is a pistol.  I don't think they need The List.

For me, on the other hand, I keep making mistakes.  I am, for all intents and purposes, well-intentioned but clueless.  I used to read Cosmopolitan, and yes, I agreed it would be romantic to send a bouquet to the guy I was going out with after he had taken me out to dinner several times.  I caught hell for it; "Why would you embarrass me like that in front of my buddies?" he sputtered.  Well, excuuuuuuse me.  Another time I took a piece of soap and drew a little heart on my boyfriend's bathroom mirror, for him to find after I left.  He told me it made him think of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction.  Come on.  Give me The List, already!!  

So I guess I more or less decided 8 or 9 years ago to say the hell with it.  It wasn't making me HAPPY to be in a relationship, it was stressing me out beyond belief.  I didn't know what I was supposed to do or not do.  I had no rules to refer to.  Ever feel that way?  Like chucking it all and going to bed with Agatha Christie?  Raise your hand if you have.  Raise your hand if you've thrown caution to the winds and stopped taking pains with your appearance so guys won't notice you as potential date fodder.  Raise your hand if you've, like, gained 50 pounds to cement that conviction (sorry, typing with one hand, bear with me).

So, Valentine's Day.  The month for love.  In fact, eharmony is running a free special all this month.  Just for the heck of it I surfed on over and did the questionnaire.  I have to tell you.  I don't think there are a dedicated group of psychologists, love gurus and advice columnists sitting around a table late into the night comparing notes and suggesting "hey -- he'd be good for her, they both like dogs and the New York Yankees."  Give me a break, it's a computer program.  But here's an interesting insight.

So far they've sent me 75 matches (I should live so long).  In the "personality profile" they ask you what it is you're looking for in a mate.  I would venture to say that only about 12 of those 57 did NOT put "honesty."  I am absolutely flummoxed.  What the hell are women lying to these men about??  I would really like to know. 

I've heard all the cliches'.  Love comes when you're not looking for it.  (Been WAITING, okay?)  You have to be friends before you can be lovers.  (I have a lot of potential lovers if this is the case because I love my guy friends dearly.) You have to go out and do things and go places to meet people.  (Yes.  I agree.  It's just, I don't go to bars, and both my neighbors, Bonnie and Brenna, met their husbands at...bars.)

Anyway, I'm not going to turn bi or become a femme fatale just to call the shots. But I'm reconsidering that decision to give up.  It can get a little scary on a cold night with the wind whistling outside and funny creaks from somewhere and "Celebrity Ghost Stories" on TV.  Sometimes you'd kinda like that warm body next to you, and I don't mean the four-footed kind with yellow stripes and whiskers.

Living in an old house and managing the half that's rented out, and having no money to hire professionals most of the time, is a challenge.  I've learned an awful lot from my father, and my brother and nephews will help me out as they can, but believe me, most stuff hits me like a brick.  A while back I had furnace trouble and had to call the repair guy.  As I sat on the cellar stairs talking to him while he worked, I was musing (in what I thought was a wistful way) as to how it would be nice to have a husband sometimes to handle some of this stuff.  The repair guy turned and looked at me, aghast.  "THAT'S not why you get married!" he said.

Well, I don't know...sometimes it seems as good a reason as any.  Guess he was telling me it wasn't on The List.

1 comment:

  1. w0w.
    First: Kudos for "flummoxed"! I LOVE that word!

    I've pretty well given up the battle on this one. I've gone rounds with internet dating. All YOU women want a guy with 3 times my income and a foot taller. Seriously. I'd say about 80% of women's profiles establish that criteria.
    You know, I pretty well tried to work with the list. We're all human, but, you know, and it takes a few errors to learn a thing or two, I'm sure, but, this last time around, I really, really tried to treat my ex with the same kind of love, respect and admiration I would want, and left plenty of space and freedom for her to be herself. I was really proud of myself, in fact, for being the best damned husband I could imagine (Just like I give my damnedest to be the best possible Dad, which is actually working out pretty well for me). Seriously. And it still didn't work. The thing is, it takes two, and most people just seem to have their own list. And they don't tell you what's on it, and it probably doesn't match yours, however logical or cohesive or even common-sensey you think yours is...People are weird.
    Since the ex left, I have dated a few more, mostly from the internets, and, I guess I've become a bit jaded, or something, because, suddenly nobody corresponds with my list, either.
    Better to spend my time with my kid, my cat, my computer, my guitar, and my pile of books, I suppose. At least nobody gets hurt that way.