July 11, 2013

A Suitable Partner

During the standard get-to-know-you conversation of a first date last night, my companion commiserated about my difficult family background, and then, surprisingly, asked, "How does that make you feel about the whole marriage-and-having-kids thing?"

I chose my words carefully. "I'd like to get married, I really would," I said, "But...I don't really have any interest in having kids."

Normally, this is a topic to tread upon lightly, since most guys I know want kids even if they don't want to commit to a single sexual partner for the rest of their lives. But this guy merely nodded knowingly, and moved the conversation on naturally to something else.

Later, I decided to reapproach the subject. "What about you?" I asked.

He agreed that he'd also like to get married, but then said he didn't think he'd ever find a woman he'd actually want to marry. "I just don't see it happening for me," he said, echoing the words I have both said and written many times over the last couple of years.

"Why not?" I asked.

He paused, and in a moment of rare first-date honesty, said, "I just don't think anyone is ever going to want to marry me."

He went on to explain why - unstable income, inability to provide, blah blah blah - but it didn't really matter. I was crestfallen. Not only did I feel the exact same way, but I realized that I would never want to marry someone who didn't think anyone would ever want to marry them.

What hope was there for me, then?

What hope was there for us, together?

I was baffled because I always assumed that the man, who traditionally has had the asking power, also had all the decision-making power. It didn't occur to me that a man might only ask to marry a woman who would surely accept. And it didn't really occur to me that a woman who'd been asked might ever say no. (I've never had to make such a decision.) But for some reason, my date felt inadequate as a potential life partner, even though it was something he truly wanted to be, with the right someone.

My date asked me if my clock was ticking - if some self-imposed deadline was quickly approaching, creating a sense of urgency in my quest to be married. "Honestly," I laughed, "I thought I'd be married by now."

But maybe it is a little bit. In decades past, when I went out with a guy, I agonized over how to make him my boyfriend. I imagined dinners and birthday parties and hand-holding and drunken safe sex and brunch and coffee and text messages and snoring and spare toothbrushes and Valentine's Day. Now, when I go out with a guy, I ask myself, "Is this the guy I'm going to marry?" - somewhat in panic, somewhat in abject disappointment, with a tone reminiscent of "You live here?" and "You talk to your mother like that?"

I've probably never dated a suitable future husband, judged by the standards of career or financial security or familial stability. But I've loved men who I would've married, if they'd asked. But they would've never asked. We just weren't there, together, in that place.

Then again, have I ever been a suitable future wife? Of course I have. I can pull my own weight. I am handy and crafty, sexually liberal, and endlessly forgiving. My capacity for love is infinite.

I'm somebody's dream girl. I just doubt whether anyone is ever actually going to be ready for this jelly.

Related Post:
My Time Has Passed

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