Why Aren’t You Married and Why Don’t You Have Kids, You Freak?
Tuesday morning at approximately five o’clock in the morning I was rudely awakened first by barking dogs and then by two police officers in my courtyard looking for a fugitive who, unbeknownst to me at the time, had apparently parked his car on my front lawn in the midst of a hot pursuit. If the cops had shared that tidbit of information with me at the time I could have told them where the fugitive ran. He scaled the fence that separates my property from some other duplexes on another cul-de-sac that is, unless you use the “shortcut” that we have to keep boarding up and screwing No Trespassing signs to, several blocks’ walk away. But they didn’t ask me that.
What they did ask me was this:
Did you see a man run through here? No.
Can we search your backyard? Sure.
Is there a man hiding in there with you? Oh, good Lord, no.
Do you live alone in there, a two-bedroom duplex? No man, no kids? Yes.
What kind of dog is that? A weiner dog.
All of this was asked through my bedroom window, which was open. No lectures please. It’s not visible from the street. During the whole conversation I am worried that the policemen can view the vibrator on my nightstand with their flashlights, like this should be my biggest worry when they are obviously wondering if I might have been harboring a fugitive. I should have been waving it in their faces. Look! See? That man who parked his car in my front lawn is not my boyfriend. I haven’t gotten any since May. I promise. And what are you doing later? I like a man in a uniform.
I am used to people thinking of me as some sort of social anomaly. I am a thirty-eight year old single white woman who has never been married and has no kids and lives alone with a weiner dog in a two bedroom duplex in northeast Austin. My Mexican neighbors shake their heads in a mixture of sympathy and perplexity at my apparent unwillingness or inability to procreate. I think I’ve answered the question in previous posts about why I am childless. I have never fully answered the question of why I am still single. The short and politically correct answer, I guess, is that I never found “the one.” But why not?
Why not? It’s a good question. Other people fall in love and couple up. Why not me? (They’re writing songs of love, but not for me.) Well, the great thing about the internets and Facebook is that you can really examine this stuff at great length, complete with pictures of the men you used to date (or even just wanted to date) and pictures of their wives and kids and girlfriends and fiancées. You can congratulate yourself or beat yourself up, rehash what has already been overanalyzed like a horse that was beaten to death and then sent to the glue factory. Wake up and smell the Elmer’s.
One of my favorite exes is a guy that I dated very briefly in college. He has a real name, but we always called him by the name of a very famous cartoon animal from the funny papers. I’ll call him Marmaduke. I was no older than twenty at the time and still living with my parents, as in I had never moved out. He was older. Twenty-five or twenty-seven. I forget now. God, was I nuts about Marmaduke! Everyone was. He was just the most charismatic sort of guy. He waited tables at an oyster bar then. I think maybe he was in school to be a paramedic. Now he’s a firefighter. All my friends were crazy about him, too. All my guy friends thought he might be the coolest guy who ever lived. All my girlfriends were envious when he asked me out. I felt like I won the dating lottery. Why me, God? I have done nothing to deserve that the dating gods would smile on me so.
After about six or eight weeks of bliss, one evening I went over to Marmaduke’s and his roommate’s. We had a double date going on. His roommate was dating someone I was friendly with, and we had dinner over there and watched a movie. It was like any other evening I had spent with him in tone, and I never saw it coming. We went to his room. I think we made out a little. I remember he had the largest hands. I used to like to hold my hands against them, palms together and be amazed at how they would dwarf mine. Later I would write a poem about this, as if it were some sort of profound revelation and I was the first woman to ever do that sort of thing.
He said he had something to talk about, which should have been my first clue. Then Marmaduke said that I was a really great girl and that he liked me very much but that he had no intention of getting serious. I could feel the blood rush to my face, start to pool in my head. The whole pallor of the world changed, and I had the feeling that this was not real. That I would wake up the next day and realize that it had never happened, and it was all a bad dream. Then I would call up Marmaduke and we could go out for coffee with all our friends.
Serious? Who said anything about being serious? Not me. I was all for having fun. There had been no serious discussions, no pressure to commit. I was committed to getting that piece of paper that guaranteed that I had jumped through enough liberal arts hoops. And then he said that he had felt pressured by my friends, that they all seemed to be steering him toward our inevitable supercouple status. It made him uncomfortable. It made him feel like a heel. And for a split second I hated my friends, every last one of them. He could not be dissuaded. He could not be talked, begged or reassured out of it. Not that I would have begged, anyway. And that was that. We stopped seeing each other. C’est la vie.
That weekend was Superbowl weekend. We were both at a Superbowl party the very next night. I observed the pressure he had previously experienced myself. How are you and Marmaduke? You two look so great together. Why aren’t you sitting together? How’s that going? I dodged the questions. I left the party early and went to get some coffee with a girlfriend that I spilled the beans to. Screw it. Let Marmaduke explain to them what happened. He dumped me. That should be his responsibility. And eventually, the grapevine did inform everyone. I never had to answer any questions.
A mere week or so later I was playing pool with Marmaduke’s roommate and some of his friends. I was able to gather from the conversation that he was now living with some woman. Huh? And that’s when I found out that Marmaduke’s roommate was not really his roommate. I learned that he’d actually been living with a girlfriend at the time that I met him, a fact that I was absolutely certain had been purposely withheld. They were having problems. She had kicked him out of the house. How long ago? Exactly one day before he finally asked me out after months of flirting. And now she had crooked her little finger and he had come running to sleep on her couch.
My rage and righteous indignation were something that only the very young should be capable of experiencing. After all, there is worse villainy in the world. I think every last one of my male friends had known about the live in girlfriend and also known that I didn’t know. I was learning that men stand up for their own kind, regardless of their alliances with women.
“What? Do I have Spalding stamped on my forehead?” I bellowed at the top of my lungs.
They looked at me like I had sprouted a second head. They didn’t know what I was so angry about. He had needed someone to make him feel good about himself, someone with whom to have fun. And I was nothing if not fun. I am the original good time girl. How had this hurt me? I got several free dinners out of it, after all.
That’s pretty much the story of Marmaduke. He never did really reconcile with the girlfriend. He tried. She wouldn’t take him back. With enough time we became friends again and once we even made a botched attempt at being physically intimate with each other. I was in the habit of being way more physical with exes than I had been when I was actually dating them, as if I could not handle the simultaneous risk of both my heart and my body. One at a time, please.
We ran into each other again several years after I graduated when he was living with the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his children. We were at church, and when I showed up with some friends they purposely let me stand beside Marmaduke, on the other side of the girlfriend, who introduced herself later as “practically married” to him. Funny. I don’t see a ring. He was genuinely ecstatic to see me, surprised, gushing over how great I looked. And that really was the end of it.
Why did I tell this story to explain why I never got married? Is it because I think of Marmaduke as the one that got away? No. I have no regret about that. I tell the story only because it is typical of my dating relationships prior to the Rat Bastard except that I usually did the dumping. I may have been overly picky. I once refused to keep seeing a really cute guy that I had a terrific time with on a date, largely because he couldn’t tell the difference between Sinatra and Bobby Darrin on a recording of, “Mack the Knife.” That was really the final straw for me. A gay friend of mine said I should have given the guy another chance since the orchestral arrangement on both recordings is exactly the same.
I sometimes secretly think that men are good for nothing. But then I realize that that’s completely unfair. They are, after all, good for disappointment. They are really great at managing to make you feel like shit about yourself from about the time you start to grow hips and breasts until, I presume, the time that you get your first hot flash. Maybe longer. And it is this attitude that probably, more than anything, is why I am still single.