One recurring theme in this series is Woman, and how I fail to comprehend her. And while I'm hardly the only person suffering from this syndrome, it's a lot easier for me to search my archives for clues than to go through everyone else's. Some things I've written on the subject, in more-or-less chronological order:

The word "marriage" makes such a conventional noise to the contemporary ear that many people choose simply to tune it out. Whether this is a Good Thing or not is hard to quantify. Judging by the divorce rate, far too many people are getting married anyway. On the other hand, the one appealing aspect of marriage — a contract between two people who promise to stick it out through thick and thin and all the other variations on the theme — is downplayed, lest fear of commitment rear its ugly head.

In my particular age group, the divorced, demographics to the contrary, seem to outnumber the married. I'm not entirely sure why this should be so — are divorcés drawn to one another by commonality of experience? — but it seems that everyone has a horror story to tell about an ex who [fill in list of real and/or imagined crimes] right up until the breaking point.

I wrote that in January 1998, which would have been my — um, our — twentieth anniversary. In fact, the marriage didn't last even half that long, and the warning signs were popping up as early as Year Three. Historically, I've tended to point to two causes: immaturity (more mine than hers) and desperation (we were both convinced no one else would have us). She subsequently demonstrated that the latter conviction was incorrect, at least with regard to herself. But I still think that I had the right idea about that contract business, even if I eventually backed away from it.

And I know how hard I can fall:

She spoke of thunderstorms and of rainbows, of clouds and of sunshine, of tribulations and of triumph. Or maybe it was of something else — about two minutes into her speech, I lost track of the words and began focusing on Jeannie herself, her neatish, bespectacled face, her unruly but still somehow flattering hair, her soft and not-even-slightly whiny voice. Were it not for the presence of the podium, I might have checked out some of the other secondary sexual characteristics, at least to the extent Sixties fashion and Southern modesty and rigorous upbringing would permit, but by the time she finished, it wasn't necessary; I wanted her to go on forever, and I wanted to be there for all of it.

It was, of course, not meant to be, though it would be many years before I figured out that it never would be:

[T]here's probably not much reason to turn one's attentions to me so long as anyone else is still breathing. Which leaves me with a quandary of sorts: If someone appears to be somewhat taken with me, for whatever inexplicable reason, should I assume that it's just a fluke of nature and dismiss it out of hand, or should I turn bitter and accusative?

Yeah, I know. The two aren't mutually exclusive at all. That's the problem.

Things bottomed out around the turn of the century:

[A]ny romantic notions I may have are ludicrous in the extreme; the better her understanding of me, the greater the distance she will want to put between us. So I sleep alone, and not very well at that, and wonder how long it will take before I don't have to wake up anymore.

A year and a half went by, and while I wasn't necessarily any more upbeat about my prospects, I didn't sound quite so despondent:

One thing I have noticed among women around my age (which is forty-nine) is a general dissatisfaction with their marital status; those who are married seem chafed by their chains, and those who are not seem to mourn their loneliness. I am not quite sure what to make of this, and consider it a failure of my pseudo-intuition. Inevitably, the married ones explain that it's all his fault, and recite a litany of grievances which is simultaneously grossly stereotyped and painfully accurate, which leads me to believe that there must be something to it — but what? Is there some hitherto-undisclosed midnight for every married man, when the tolling of the bell means Mr Right reverts to being just another pumpkin? If there is one thing I would wish to learn from any woman, beyond "Why do you dislike me so?", it is the timing of that moment.

As for the purely-physical aspects:

I haven't had an inordinate amount of casual sex — none recently — but to me, it always seems to be accompanied by a vague, sometimes not so vague, sense of emptiness: "Okay, now what?" It's possible, of course, to look upon sex as an end in itself, but then you find yourself defined in terms of what you'll go through to get laid, which I suspect is not at all what you wanted in the first place.

There have been times when I thought that a brief, torrid, mindbending, and did I mention brief? affair might be just the thing to snap me out of the romantic doldrums. This is usually about the time when the "Yeah, right" voice comes booming up from Deep Within.

"Alone," of course, does not equal "lonely." But I've always believed that there's a reason besides mere etymology that they share most of their letters.

The Vent

#488
  9 June 2006

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