A friend suggested a while ago that I write about dating. I had an outburst of laughter. If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I have an issue with the “m” word – marriage and its cousin, dating. Bringing it up around me has the same effect of yelling fire – I take cover and scatter.
I hate the process of dating. It seems so superficial and exhausting. Chris Rock said it best when he said the first six months of dating you’re not dating that person but their agent – the version of themselves they want you to believe. I am of the philosophy of see me at my worst because it only gets better from there – the good bad and ugly. Once you’ve seen that ugly side of me (physically, emotionally, mentally) and you’re still willing to hang in the game, the best is yet to come. (Cue Avery Sunshine’s song “It’s Just that Ugly Part of Me”)
As a kid, I recall Carol Burnett saying something like the best marriage is when you have a house and your husband’s house is next door. That appealed to me even at a young age – maybe the loner middle child in me need for my own space. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, be gone for a while so I can have a reason to miss you. No PDA (public displays of affection) and don’t hang on me like a needy toddler. Yes I said it! From what I hear, rumor has it that Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter have a Carol Burnett-esque marriage – two townhomes in London with an underground tunnel connecting both. Real estate in New York is too expensive for this option, but I am willing to compromise for a den/office all my own not communal or marital space – all mine.
About the time I heard Carol Burnett’s nugget on the best marriage, I saw “Auntie Mame.” At that point, I knew I found my calling – to be the world’s greatest auntie. When people ask if I have children I reply, “I have four nieces and three nephews – the labor and delivery almost killed me but I’m a trooper so I made it through.” I love my babies. I’ve spoiled them but they aren’t rotten. Domestic life never appealed to me. My dad made the fatal mistake of telling me that no man would ever marry a woman that did not know how to cook. I replied, “if he marries me knowing I can’t cook then maybe he married me for the right reason, plus I’m looking for a cook and clean too.” At the age of 8, I confided in my bosom friend at our secret spot (top of the slide) that I did not think I’d ever marry because good men are scarce and at the rate it was going we’d probably never met anyone that would be half as decent as our dads. So it was settled. I’d be a career woman and the best auntie ever!
Back to dating or something like it. I am a loner with a close knit group of friends. I like living alone and never felt lonely until I moved to NYC. In the most populated city in the US, it took me a year to meet one friend – the wonderful photographer that took that fabulous photo of me. Both new to NYC with big dreams and bigger ambition, we’re trying to conquer our dreams in the Big Apple. But she’s married and can’t hang out all the time with single me so what was I to do to socialize. Until recently, I just started meeting a group of people I could consider friends.
The loneliness was getting to me so much that I told a friend in Chicago, “I’m so bored I might start dating.” Her response, “oh god, I feel sorry for that man.” I laughed because she knew me well enough to know that poor soul would probably never recover from a Ronda encounter. I can’t suffer fools, don’t smile just because, or laugh at jokes that aren’t funny. Isn’t that what dating is all about – pretending to be interested in the person next to you? Please I’d rather stay home and watch Carol Burnett, Masterpiece, or Bill Cosby. At least I’ll get a good laugh for real. Why can’t we just cut to the chase on dates. Games must be played like a horrific fraternity or sorority hazing ritual. What?! That’s just my interpretation of the situation. Yes, I like Jane Austen but that’s a book so I’ll allow myself to be romantic. It’s grand, noble, and fake – it ain’t real! Now you want realism about dating, read Russian authors. They specialize in the truth of heartache and unrequited love. No fairy tale endings there. Nope – plain harsh reality – brutal as a winter in Siberia. The reason Disney ends all movies with a wedding is because the real reality of marriage starts the next day when he forgets to put the sit down on the toilet – time to call a marriage counselor. Or when you thought you’d convince him to want kids when he said no and after the wedding you’re “surprised” he hasn’t changed his mind. Or when all the crazy stuff she did before the wedding, didn’t stop after the wedding. In the words of Anita Baker, “no more living lies in paradise – no fairy tales.”
I didn’t move to NYC for fashion or love – trivial pursuits. No Carrie Bradshaw story with me. No no – I had dreams deferred that need to be birthed and don’t need the distraction of a needy man who’s ego can’t handle a little truth. I know women outnumber the men here about 5:1, but seriously I’d rather go to the nunnery then settle for some of what’s passing as eligible. In desperate want of friends, I went to a speed dating event at an art gallery. The only thing good was the art on the wall. No Darcy, no Bingley in attendance, but an over abundance of Mr. Collins and Wickham. They women oozed of desperation and the men reeked of unearned hubris realizing with the numbers in their favor, good looks and personality weren’t necessary. An education and job were apparently enough to be valuable on the NYC market. In the words of Mr. Collins, “his patronage from the Lady Catherine de Bourgh and standing surely you won’t receive a better offer.”My response is the same as Elizabeth Bennett, “I frankly cannot, my conscience forbids it.”
Now for those of you concerned that I’ll never know the joy of marriage via sharing my closet and bathroom, smelling odors that mimic the zoo, having someone eat off my plate, or a permanent date for social occasions, fret not. I am quite the traditionalist. I will consider marriage for the same reason as the aristocracy – land and title. In the words of Elizabeth Bennett, “I think I first fell in love with Darcy upon seeing his estate at Pemberly.” I could be happily settled if I had help and a pied de terre somewhere warm with little to no humidity. Throw in title for some prime NYC real estate and “honey dinner is served by Seamless of course.” Now I actually know how to cook but only do so with family and friends. To gather at my table is an invitation to commune with me. To commune with me is to know me. Some Johnny come lately is not parking his shoes under my table trying to stuff his belly on my granny’s recipes. No that is an honor earned.
How do you solve a problem like Ronda dating? When you find out let me know so I can develop a defensive maneuver against it J Seriously, I have yet to meet someone who can properly answer question in a poem I discovered as a child. Until I meet a man with the correct answer, I shall remain foot loose and fancy free. Don’t blame me. Blame Carol Burnett, Auntie Mame, and that collection of poetry I stumbled across.
A Woman’s Question by Lena Lathrop
Do you know you have asked for the costliest thing
Ever made by the Hand above?
A woman’s heart, and a woman’s life –
And a woman’s wonderful love.
Do you know you have asked for this priceless thing
As a child might ask for a toy?
Demanding what others have died to win,
With the reckless dash of a boy.
You have written my lesson of duty out;
Manlike, you have questioned me.
Now stand at the bar of my woman’s soul
Until I shall question thee.
You require your mutton shall be always hot,
Your socks and your shirt be whole;
I require your heart to be true as God’s stars
And as pure as His heaven your soul.
Your require a cook for your mutton and beef,
I require a far greater thing;
A seamstress you’re wanting for socks and shirts-
I look for a man and a king.
A king for the beautiful realm called Home,
And a man that his Maker, God,
Shall look upon as He did on the first
And say: “It is very good.”
I am fair and young, but the rose may fade
From my soft young cheek one day;
Will you love me then ‘mid the falling leaves,
As you did ‘mong the blossoms of May?
Is your heart an ocean so strong and deep,
I may launch my all on its tide?
A loving woman finds heaven or hell
On the day she is made a bride.
I require all things that are grand and true,
All things that a man should be;
If you give this all, I would stake my life
To be all you demand of me.
If you cannot be this, a laundress and cook
You can hire and little to pay;
But a woman’s heart and a woman’s life
Are not to be won that way.