Urban Tribes

The longer you're with the same person, the more annoying they'll become. So if you want everything to be perfect all the time, don't bother having a relationship.

-Love & Sex

I just read last week that "never marrieds" are - for the first time in history - the fastest-growing demographic in the nation. And that the reason we're waiting so long to get married is that we've replaced that social construct with "urban tribes."

Finally, I get to be in on a trend while it's actually happening (I also feathered my hair in the 70s, but the less said about that, the better).

The thing about my tribe is that I secretly suspect many of them are really just hanging around until they get a chance to better-deal us - the better deal being, in this case, the standard, traditional, conventional goal of getting married, or at least hooking up.

I don't even mind.

I concede - after a modestly busy fall and post-holiday season - that dating has one significant thing in its favor over tribal behavior (ok, two... but I'm only going to write about the first) - and that's how relatively simple it is for two people to agree how to spend an evening. Any more than two, and a consensus has to be reached. And that's where herdin' cats comes in. Unfortunately, there are only so many things to do, so a certain element of repetition is involved, either way (which is how I came to see one movie, three times last weekend, with, all told, 11 guys. Only because no other girls wanted to go, and I had the truck with the best-equipped snow clearance - or as my pal Rockford mocked me, "ahhh, clearance. The vehicular equivalent of the gated community.")

So I understand why that illusion of simplicity that theoretically comes with coupledom can seem so seductive from the outside.

Two of my friends, for example, are doctors who are secretly wife-shopping every time they leave the house.

Not only can they not get married, it's the rare weekend they can even get a date. (They're exceptionally attractive too. Tall. Smart. Funny. No visible tattoos. Or goiters. One of them does have a toddler - but he's cute, well-behaved, and, as kids go, not especially sticky. I went out with him- the dad, that is - a while back, and can further report that he's not hiding any inadequacies that might surface around say, a sixth date Fourth if my mom's not reading.)

The rest of us are perplexed.

As one of the wingmen (my future roommate) asked last night, mystified, WHAT could they be doing wrong?

He said if he had their assets, he'd be walking into bars every night in bloody scrubs (both are surgeons) with a stethoscope around his neck.

If that didn't bring on the harem, he insists he'd ask his buddies to fake choking to death or heart attacks so he could pretend to save their lives.

He was lamenting the fact that his career in the financial industry gives him no such edge. Like if somebody's ATM card doesn't work - he explained - it's not like girls would be turned on by him authoritatively announcing, "stand back," while he attempted to fix it. Though he swears he actually did repair an ATM once using a hammer and a coat hanger, while his bosses looked on: anxious, fearful, and unimpressed. He reports that he also once used "a large spoon" at that job, but declines to elaborate.

On the other hand, I've pointed out to him that his prior career in childcare (as a preschool teacher) gives him an edge that he frequently neglects to exploit.

Since he wrestles in the late 20s/early 30s age-class, the tick of the collective biological clock is nearly deafening. Why not use it to his advantage?

Not to be sexist (again), but I told him, "that whole 'good with kids thing???' Chicks dig that."

Though he confessed that the job's chief merits were the fact that he got "breakfast, lunch, and a snack every day -and a nap," and he always says that last part a little wistfully.

Plus, in the afternoons, he got to play.

I couldn't really see how this qualified as much different from his life in the fraternity house (up to and including the part about being regularly thrown up on).

I'm coming around to the idea that the best thing that could happen to our respective social lives might be to move in together.

Because I know when I had guy roommates in college and grad school, our popularity all soared - to the point where we had to devise fridge-mounted charts, graphs, and schedules - along with a complex array of front-porch signaling devices (mostly related to the positioning and apparel of a pink flamingo) that would let the rest of the crew know they'd better find alternate accommodations for the evening.

At least this particular wingman owns more than one cleaning product. (Unlike another guy, semi-exiled from the tribe at least partially for the fact that he has only ONE cleaning substance of any kind in his house - a gallon jug of Dawn - which he stores in the shower and apparently uses for everything from shampoo to laundry).

Of course, it has been at least ten years since I've lived with another human being. A few men have suggested moving in, in the intervening years, but I am (contrary to rumor and stereotype), exceptionally private. Hell, I don't even introduce guys to my dogs unless a relationship has passed the six-month mark. (Because they, unlike me, are capable of developing emotional attachments and there's nothing worse than tripping over 300 pounds of disappointed dogs lying around the house.)

The last time I had roommates, I was always finding notes taped to the fridge that said things like, "we need to Talk." Which had the inconvenient effect of me moving out at least once or twice a month (with only the clothes on my back), as I'd avoid the place night and day until they forgot what it was they wanted to Talk to me about.