Reality Truck

NOW What?

I searched my feelings, an activity never far removed from looking for a dead rat in a spidery crawl space under the house…When she looked up at me again her eyes were narrow and cold and not entirely devoid of hatred. I had been wasting her time, and that was the worst thing I could have done.

—Michael Chabon

What have I done to piss you off now?” is not the kind of thing I want to hear, much less read in an email, which is open to an interpretation like: What have I done to piss you off NOWWWWW?”


See, I think that suggests a reaction to a certain consistent, longterm level of hostility.

So my kneejerk response was, “Ohhh, I’m sorry, I think you have me confused with a WIFE...” His cavalier use of the subjective “now” implies that this was just the latest in a long chain of perennial and perpetual pissed off moments.

Yeah…I know.

“Good call,” is what you’re thinking…but you’d be wrong.

Contrary to the harridan that I think we can all agree is personified by the word “NOW,” I’d been angry with the aforementioned Mr. Impressive precisely ONE time, in six months.

He’d asked me to spend Labor Day weekend with him, and then blew me off. OK. Plans change. But it WAS my first holiday off in a year, and I’d turned down about 73 invitations to keep the weekend open, and he left town with his buddies, not with an apology, but with a jaunty: “See ya. I’ll holler at ya Sunday.”

Well. Anybody who knows me even casually might’ve predicted that this would’ve been…ill received. Anybody who knows me well might’ve counseled him to stay out of town (preferably in the boyfriend-relocation program many of my ex-es have joined... widely thought to be based in Scottsdale, Arizona.)

And yet, improbably enough, that all blew over.

In fact, we eventually came to a full understanding of each other’s respective…positions. Several times. In a row.

I found that my “capacity” for conflict resolution grew in direct proportion to his…”agenda.” Which was…impressive. Perhaps there are more mature, evolved ways to solve problems…my point is: who cares?

Shoulda known that was too good to last...Instead, I was like one of those stupid ‘80s lab rats that tested cocaine for its addictive properties. I kept on pressing that dang bar, long, long after the supply had dwindled to a trickle.

At least with the rats, once the rewards are randomized, a few of the (smarter) rodents wise up and mosey on. Not me. I’d been pressing that lever (so to speak) for months, with results so sporadic (albeit spectacular) as to be “statistically insignificant.”

I’m not made of wood, people. In fact, if you believe the magazines, he’s squandering my “prime.”

Maybe I spend too much time with my wingmen, but their point is he’s wasting his time trying to better-deal me, because in their eyes at least, I am the better deal: I don’t have roommates; I don’t have a cat; I have no interest in marriage or pregnancy; I rarely have time to stay over, and if I do, I don’t plant girlie things in the medicine cabinet to stake out my turf, and I’m gone by dawn, so nobody’s ever had to fake a seizure to get me to leave (that’s very important to them).

Admittedly, their standards are low. Also, they spend a great deal of time obsessing about superheroes, so it’s possible I should not seek them out for mature and enlightened counsel.

My point is, that it’s not like I’ve suddenly turned into THAT girl (that girl who cross-stitches new monograms on His and Hers hand towels…that girl whose third bead of the rosary is reserved for Vera Wang). All I’ve EVER asked out of this is a basic observance of the physical laws of supply and demand.

Sure, there have been SOME legitimate scheduling conflicts, but I’d been so far beyond a good sport about those that I practically deserved canonization (I’m reluctant to admit this, but I even did his kid’s CHRISTMAS SHOPPING. Me. At the Disney Store. In a mall. Y’know he had to have sumthin’.)

Then there was a small—but symbolic—incident (ok, he didn’t invite me to his office Christmas party, if you must know...presumably because A. he’s obviously embarrassed to be seen with me, and B. if I’d been there, it would’ve lowered his odds of an office hookup). That’s when I felt forced to throw in the towel.

Given that most flings rarely outlast the expiration dates on the dairy products at my house (and that this is almost always my fault), I decided, in fairness, to seek out a male perspective, from my fake husband.

I explained the circumstances briefly, but with righteous indignation. Then I asked, now why do you think I was upset?

His first answer was, “Well I know ONE thing. It is CERTAINLY NOT because you have PMS!” Adding, “…because that’s how I got this scar.”

Then he asked, “Well, did you tell him why you were upset?”

Uhh duhhhhhhh.

I couldn’t believe he didn’t remember (from looong experience) the answer to THAT question, which is, “IF YOU DON’t KNOW, I am CERTAINLY NOT GOING TO TELL YOU.” (And he knows better than anybody my pathological aversion to Big Talks. Communication is my job; I’m off the clock once I get home.)

I think the reason he forgot is because he usually bypasses that part of the exchange entirely. Because at the first sign of conflict, he wisely progresses straight to those three little words every woman wants to hear most: “I was wrong.”

Some men might find such an approach emasculating…but I refer those guys to the wingmen, who counter with this, “would you rather be right, in FriendshipLand? Or would you rather be wrong…in NakedLand?” n

Reprinted 2001