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The quiet, lonely death of my bachelorhood

James Ball

I have exactly two days left as a bachelor; Saturday I will be married.

In retrospect, it’s probably appropriate that my bachelorhood die a quiet, lonely death, for that is how it lived: solitary, meaningless and rather depressing.

In fact, I barely remember dating. I have been with Pam more than five years now and, while I guess you can’t ever say anything with certainty, I think we know as well as we’re going to know if we’re made for each other.

Of course, that brings up a misconception. When people say they’re with their soulmate, someone they’re destined to be with forever, I want to puke all over them. People aren’t made for each other, they’re made for themselves, formed, hopefully, in their own images. Whenever you bring a second person into the mix, it’s oil and water time. At best, you can learn to be civil with another person you care about.

People don’t naturally get along when living together for years on end, just look at our parents, the Baby Boomers, who made divorce into a status symbol. I think that comes from the time they grew up in; a little too much freedom as teen-agers. Too much looking through rose-colored glasses and not enough reality for my tastes.

Me, I’ll take lessons from our grandparents, the ones who built this country into greatness after the war. Most of them would never consider splitting when things started to get a little uncomfortable. They believed in dealing with problems and sacrificing themselves for the good of their family.

True, life’s too short to be in a situation you discover to be a mistake, and I also understand people can change. But if there are kids involved – young kids – you owe it to them to stick around. Stand up and be a man, my grandfather would have said.

The truth is, relationships end up working – long after the lust fades and the initial newness of things wears off – because of honesty, compromise and keeping your big yap shut. (The last of which is directed at my fellow men out there). Here they are, broken down:

— Honesty – Well, not about everything. If she asks, “How do I look in this dress,” you say, “Wonderful. Beautiful,” even if you don’t notice she changed clothes. But do make a point of looking at her before replying. There’s nothing worse than telling her she looks great while you’re engrossed in a rerun of Saved by the Bell, or worse, Saved By The Bell: The New Class, which lacks the originality and character development of the original and is, for my liking, just a little too derivative of the Friday-night crap on ABC. Uh, anyway…

— Compromise – You’ve got to have a give/take relationship, even if it is you who gives and she who takes. Maybe you want deep-fried pork rinds and a case of Rolling Rock for dinner, but she wants to try the new Ethiopian-Thai-Irish Restaurant where the waiters don’t speak to you and the special, boiled bean-curry goulash, looks like something the cat hacked up, but you just have to suck it up and say, “of course, we’ll go to Addis O’Chang’s tonight, honey.”

And you know why you’ll do it? Because there’s not a worse moment in a relationship than the one where, in the car on the way out to eat, you have the following conversation:

Him: Where do you want to eat?

Her: I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?

Him: I don’t care. Whatever you want.

Her: No. You chose. Wherever you want is fine. Really.

Him: Really?

Her: Really.

Him: OK. How about Red Lobster?

Her: Umm…we ate there last month.

Him: Fine. We won’t go to Red Lobster, but you said whatever I wanted.

Her: Whatever else you want.

Him: Olive Garden.

Her: Italian upsets my stomach.

Him: Fine. You pick.

Her: I don’t care.

Him: Well, obviously you do care. I’ve suggested two places and you shot them both down.

Her: Well, I hate to pick. You pick.

Him: Oh, no. I’m not picking. (Man pulls car to side of road) We’re sitting here until you decide.

Her: You never give me affection. Do you still love me?

Him: (to himself) Oh, crap. Here we go.

— Keeping your big yap shut – Well, see the above conversation. Tim Allen said it best, “I have no opinion.” This is my motto, my creed. It’s what I live by.

All this talk of marriage reminds me of a story.

A woman wakes up in the middle of the night to discover her husband is not in bed. She gets up and walks around the house looking for him, but he is nowhere to be seen. Finally, she goes to the basement where she hears a slight weeping sound from the corner. She walks down the stairs and sees him curled up in a fetal ball, crying.

“What’s the matter,” she asked.

“Well,” the husband replied, “do you remember 20 years ago when your father said I had to marry you or he’d put me in prison for getting you pregnant?”

“Yes, I do,” the wife answered. “What about it?”

“Well,” the husband said. “I would have been released tonight.”

But hey, I’m really optimistic about marriage. Despite the fact everyone says things will change, I’m looking forward to the changes. It’s not like I was all that great on my own. Before I met Pam I walked around in my boxers all day eating pizza every night and leaving the dog’s little “presents” to dry on the carpet until they actually became furniture.

Today, I’m Mr. Mom, cleaning the house, walking around in real clothes and even managing to make some decent meals without having the “where do we go tonight” argument.

But, most importantly, I know when I stand up there Saturday, it’s not something done on a whim or as a hasty decision. I’ve had five years to think about it. That’s 1,825 days or 43,800 hours; a little more than 2.6 million minutes, most of which have been spent with her. We’ve had time to adjust and enjoy life together. I don’t remember not being with her, though I’m sure somewhere there are Polaroids to prove I once was a true bachelor.

In five years time, most people would have already been married and divorced and remarried. It’s the American way. But like most things, I go against the grain.

So as this weekend approaches, wish me luck. Better yet, wish for me that I’ll know when to keep my big yap shut.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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