‘Douglas is out of town again,” I tell my mother with a sigh. “I am so proud of him, really, winning the MacArthur ‘genius’ grant and then spending the free time he doesn’t have in Haiti, but still … even geniuses need to spend some time with their girlfriends!”
“I wish I could meet this Douglas, I have heard so much about him,” is my mother’s reply.
So do I.
Because even though Douglas has been my boyfriend for years, ever since I reached the point where being single became something of a liability, I haven’t actually met the guy.
Which is a shame because he’s so impressive! He with multiple degrees from Columbia and an important job in finance that takes him all over the world. By “something in finance” I mean something lucrative, but with a “heart,” something that was not affected by the economic downturn.
Ah, Douglas, a bit on the runtish side, wan and skinny and bespectacled but with dimples! And a sneaky sense of humor. And an insatiable appetite for learning. My Douglas. What a sense of moral order! So why hasn’t Mr. Moral Douglas asked for my hand in marriage?
’Tis a good question, considering we have been together now over 15 years, having met in our early 20s. Because there is no one more committed and devoted than Douglas. And as soon as he returns from Port au Prince I will be sure to ask what’s stopping him. After all, I am the love of his life. And thanks to him relatives do not send invitations for family simchas to my parents’ house because merely having a significant other bumps me up to the world of adulthood (complete with my own abode), while remaining single — no matter my age — demotes me to perpetual adolescence so that all family invitations are sent to my parents house, even though I have not lived there for years.
But I digress. That is not me talking — not the me who is nearing 40 with no groom to be had, but rather the other “me” — the one who paired off at such a young age I have no idea what it means to be single. The me who never had to experience online dating and all of its indignities, including and not excluding men who will not even consider women their own age.
That me — the other me — has no idea how exhausting it can be to do everything by myself — moving apartments, dealing with a meany-pants landlord, coming home to a quiet apartment night after night, to say nothing of those attacks of despair that grip me late at night when a cruel voice mocks me with the words, “You will die alone! And you can forget about ever having children!”
No, the other me, the one who begins every sentence with “We,” and who constantly refers to “my boyfriend, Douglas,” is always saying things like, “I never get the oil changed in my car. That’s what boyfriends are for!”
That’s because this me has never found herself trapped on a date with a man who is clearly deranged or at least not yet fully-formed, but instead is snuggling at home with Douglas (when he’s in town), watching documentaries or reading quietly on the couch.
Sure, Douglas has his faults. He likes sports, for one. And science fiction. And he is downright tyrannical about his CD collection, which he alphabetized, but thankfully now that everything is digital there is no fear of anything being misplaced.
And when he is at home, he’s not the most relaxed of fellows. Which means no lollygagging or lingering at a café. And it also means don’t ever call him Doug.
But he is a real sweetheart. He likes to hold hands in public and he even loves my dog, which is not always easy to do. And when I am very lucky, he reads I.B. Singer stories out loud to me.
But the best part about having Douglas around is that he gives the me who really is alone a chance to stop agonizing all the time. I don’t have to constantly troll my surroundings with the hope that maybe, possibly, someone single and wonderful will suddenly appear.
And I can forgive myself for not constantly “working on myself” to be the best me EVER! Because everyone knows that if you’re single you cannot rest until you have forced yourself to be a perpetual font of positivity and open-mindedness.
Because with Douglas — even if he does not exist — while I am still lacking, at least I can kid myself into thinking I am not entirely alone.
And as odd as it sounds, it helps.
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