MY FAIRY GODMOTHER, EDYTHE KRUGER Friedman, is always telling me I should get married. As the survivor of two happy marriages—the last one to my father—she believes that a man and a woman living together in marital bliss is the only way to find true contentment in life. I believe in a neck without a pain.
Edythe feels so strongly about the importance of marriage and I feel so strongly about the importance of the freedom to wander in the raw poetry of time that often, when I go to her house for breakfast, we get into contentious little arguments on the subject. The debate sometimes becomes so heated that, if you happened to be listening from another room, you might assume that we were married. We are not, of course. I’ll never be married. In fact, whenever I’m in Hawaii or Las Vegas or someplace where I happen to pass by a wedding in progress, I never fail to shout, “Stop before it’s too late!”
It’s already too late for me. I tell this to Edythe, but she never listens. I explain to her that I’m too old and set in my ways. I’m 58, though I read at the 60-year-old level. And just because I’m 58 and I’ve never been married, I tell her, does not mean I’m gay. It’s only one red flag.
But don’t you ever want to have a family? Edythe asks, pronouncing the word “family” with a soft reverence, as if it’s the most wonderful state of being in the world. Have you ever seen American Beauty? I ask her. Families are only acquisition-mergers to create more and more of what there’s already more than enough of as it is. It’s just a rather narrow, selfish way of creating many little Edythes and many little Kinkys running around taking Ritalin and Prozac, playing video games, saying “awesome,” sucking out all the money, energy, and time from your adult life, and growing up with an ever-increasing possibility of becoming the Unabomber. No thanks.
What I don’t tell Edythe is that I already have a family. I have four dogs, four women, and four editors. This may seem like an unconventional arrangement to most people, but it does have at least one advantage over a traditional family. I don’t have to find schools for them.
Speaking of school-age kids, another thing I don’t tell Edythe is that I’m not really in the market for a 58-year-old belly dancer. I find myself going out with younger and younger women, most of whom happen to be from Dallas but can’t remember where they were when JFK was assassinated because they weren’t born yet. Some of them, in fact, would not be born until several decades later, and they think JFK is an airport, RFK is a stadium, and Martin Luther King is a street running through their town.
“What could you two possibly have to talk about?” my fellow senior citizens often ask. It’s true that the only time we ever find common ground is on her futon. She’s never heard of Jack Benny, Humphrey Bogart, or Abbie Hoffman, but she thinks Hitler may have been a punk band in the early eighties. We get along fairly well because I don’t remember much either.
There are two kinds of people in this world, I’ve always believed. I’m the kind who wants to sleep late and belch loudly and sometimes quite humorously at dinner parties. There are times, undoubtedly, when I feel alone, but I’ve found that it’s always better to feel alone alone than to have that empty, soul-destroying feeling of feeling alone with somebody else. True happiness, I often tell people, must come from within. People don’t always like to hear me espouse this great wisdom, but they do seem to prefer it to my belching at dinner parties.
The other kind of person, the polar opposite of myself, is what I like to call the marrying kind. I have three friends who, between them, have been married a dozen times, and I’m betting they’re not through yet. Their names are Willie Nelson, Robert Duvall, and Billy Bob Thornton. All three tell me that they still believe in the institution of marriage, especially if it doesn’t drive them to the mental institution. I think we’re all probably creatures of habit and the three of them just like being married. Or, possibly, after a failed marriage, the cowboy in them wants to get on that horse again to show he can still ride. A shrink might say they are repetitive neurotics. A shrink might also say that I have a fear of commitment. I would, of course, tell the shrink that I don’t have a fear of commitment. I’m just afraid that someday my future ex-wife might not understand me. Then I would tell the shrink I want my money back.
Edythe, however, is oblivious to my protestations and my intransigence. She has a way of approaching the subject from many angles. Don’t you ever want to be happy? she sometimes asks. No, I tell her. I don’t want to be happy. Happiness is a highly perishable and transitory state, and it doesn’t have a balanced export arrangement from one person to another, not to mention that the import tax is too high. Besides, I’m concerned that happiness may have a negative effect on my writing.
Maybe you could write about meeting a nice Jewish girl, my fairy godmother suggests. I’ve met a lot of nice Jewish girls, I tell her, and they all seem to me to be culturally deprived. They all grew up in this country, yet most of them appear to have never heard the three words that Americans have come to live by.
“I love you?” asks Edythe.
“No,” I tell her. “Attention, Wal-Mart shoppers.”
Edythe usually continues nattering on until she finally broadsides me with her famous “right person” ploy. Maybe you just haven’t found the right person yet, she says. I don’t mention it, but I’ve already found the right person. Unfortunately, she was Miss Fire Ant, 1967. Things went downhill from there, both of us got our feelers hurt, and she wound up putting the bite on me.
The conversation usually concludes with Edythe employing what I call the “true love gambit.” Don’t I believe in true love? Haven’t I ever been in true love? Of course I believe in it, I tell her. I’ve been in true love many times. I just try to avoid it as much as possible. For if there’s one thing I know about true love, it is that sooner or later, it results in a hostage situation.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against marriage. I’m against my marriage. Anyway, I’m rather busy now. It’s time to let the dogs in and the editors out. As for the women, that really isn’t necessary. They have their own inexorable methods of working their way into your heart.