Tag Archives: being single

The Womanless Man

29 Jan


The Womanless Man

L. Stewart Marsden

The alarm clock pierced his early-morning dreams. It was four AM. The nagging beep-beep-beep continued until he swung his arm over to fumble with the various buttons and press the alarm stop. The alarm died in mid-beep, and it was silent. The morning air was crisp and clear. His tinnitus hadn’t kicked in — yet. It was normally worse in the quiet of the mornings, and at night, when he lay down on his bed. As aggravating as it was at times, at least it made it difficult for his mind to begin the uncontrolled whirring and spinning, bouncing around his memories haphazardly, like one of those robot vacuums advertised on television in late-night infomercials. Thank God for small miracles.

He willed himself into an upright sitting position on the edge of his bed. His calves burned slightly as his blood coursed through them. Each leg was marked with scratches and thin lines of clotted blood from scratching madly at his eczema. The itching was particularly bad last night, and he had dug into his skin several times on the edge of rage. The plight was sporadic, but tended to flare up badly during the winter months due to the dry heat of his fireplace. He had resolved to pick up a cheap humidifier for his bedroom, thinking that might help, but always forgot whenever he happened to be in the RiteAid.

He stood slowly, and lumbered to his bathroom, where he methodically repeated his morning toilet rituals: brush teeth; trim beard; urinate; shower; towel dry; pull hair back into the nub of a ponytail and tie it with a hair band. He shuffled back into the bedroom to re-don the clothing he shed the night before, smelling each article first to determine whether he needed something cleaner.

Dressed, he descended the stairway to the main floor of his condo. It was pitch dark, but the sky behind the mountains was dimly illumined by the nearby town of Boone. Years ago, his morning skyline was comprised of shafts of skyscrapers, and the ants of the world were already busy dashing for cabs or buses or subways — even at 4. Noisy and confusing there and then, quiet and serene here and now.

He flipped on the coffeemaker, prepared the night before to brew his necessary morning tonic. Years earlier he would have grabbed the newspaper from in front of his apartment door, poured his coffee, and sauntered into the living room while scanning the headlines. Then he would flick on the early morning news and sit in his favorite chair, awaiting a call from the doorman that the office limousine had arrived. Now, he lightened his coffee with half and half and sat down on his favorite recliner and quickly scanned through email and messages on his phone, deftly marking and deleting most. Now he avoided the news. It was always the same, and had long ago ceased to be of any significant relevance in his daily life. Here in the mountains, the only impactful bit of information was whether a winter snow was going to come through the area, and did he need to go stock up on anything before potentially being stranded for a day or so. Not a prepper, he nonetheless kept his condo storage room well supplied with jugs of water and cans of soup — as well as toilet paper, of course.

He flicked the gas log remote and the flames popped up with a slight whoosh, the blower fan kicking on automatically. The heat radiated throughout the room, and he glanced out the large two-floor windows as the sun crested. 

His phone vibrated.

“Hello?” he said, even though the caller’s name popped up on his phone screen.

“Stewbie!” crackled the voice. “We still on for today?”

He feigned ignorance.

”On for what?”

”Goddammit, you forget we’re going hunting?”

“Oh, yeah Brent. I didn’t forget. Just messing with you. What do I need to bring?”

“I got everything. You got warm clothing? ‘Cause it’s gonna be colder than a witch’s titty!”

“I guess. Jeans and flannel shirt. An old wool sweater and corduroy jacket.”

“Layers are good. Boots?”

“I got boots.”

“Not new ones, I hope. Cause you’ll get all blistered up if they’re new and I sure as hell don’t want to carry you back to the Jeep.”

“No, they’re not new. And I have those socks that wick up the moisture.”

“Perfect!”

“When?”

“Be by in about 40 minutes.”

“Do I need to bring bottled water?”

“I got all that, don’t worry. Plus I have camo overalls I’ll lend you. And urine.”

“Urine?”

“Fox and deer urine. Gotta have the right smells for those does. Oh, I made a rhyme!” he laughed. “See you soon!” 

Stew clicked the disconnect call button. He liked Brent. The two were not at all alike. Oil and vinegar, he often described their friendship.

Brent was a man’s man — in his own mind. In his seventies, his second wife died of cancer several years earlier. He had recently been diagnosed himself — with leukemia — which Stew knew enough about to cause worry about his friend.

But Brent could care less. “Carpe diem” was his mantra. And seize it he did. Hunting, skiing, weight-lifting, and women … He had made his fortune installing and maintaining swimming pools and hot tubs in central Florida — just at the early edge of the trend. He sold it a decade ago and still reaped profits as a silent partner. 

“I’m telling you, the babes I met putting in pools and hot tubs would blow your mind! And everything else, too!”

Brent looked like a combination of Mr. Clean, Charlie Chan, and Buddy Hackett.  Bald, he had let his Fu Manchu grow long, and his girlfriend wove several colorful beads into it. All he needed was a peg leg to complete the pirate look.

“Arghhh! Look alive, me matey!” he growled at the condo front door, his Jeep puffing white clouds of exhaust in the dark cold air.

They drove more than an hour into what Brent called dueling banjo territory. Stew was already lost after the first five minutes, and Brent turned onto backroad after backroad, finally veering down what looked like little more than a rutted path, causing the Jeep to toss and bounce. Stew was glad he had skipped breakfast.

“I figure these little roads are what the bootleggers use,” said Brent.

“Don’t you mean marijuana growers?”

“Nah. I think they still make hooch around here. You ever try it?”

“Uh, no. You go blind drinking that stuff.”

They slowed to a crawl, and Brent rolled down his window, peering off into the thick underbrush, then suddenly swung his wheel left and motored down what was little more than a creek bed. The bed finally emptied into a clearing, where grasses were waist-high. He stopped the Jeep and cut off the engine.

“We’re here! Well, almost. A few miles walking yet.”

“Define ‘few miles’,” said Stew.

“Six … more or less. We’re gonna hike in with our gear.”

ƒƒƒƒƒ

 

Continued …

On Bachelorhood

28 Aug

On Bachelorhood

Or, the strong case for being single

By L. Stewart Marsden

“I can live alone,
if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do.
I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me,
which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld,
or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

— Charlotte Brontë

My dad, hard-working and successful as the world judges, often complained that society had gotten retirement backwards.

“We should be retired when we are young,” he contended. “When we are physically and mentally able to enjoy travel and explore the world. Not when we are old and feeble, and need walkers and oxygen tanks to go from here to there.”

That sentiment came as a result of going to South America, and because of his back and his nagging bursitis, he little enjoyed the trip.

Of course, he was in the generation that built wealth over time, not the current fast-food mentality work generation that hops onto new tech ideas and retires before age 30.

He had a point. Anyone much over the age of 65 knows that travel baggage now comes packed with more pills and prescriptions than changes of clothing.

What about marriage, then?

I believe we are headed in a direction which is slowly becoming the reversal of the way it’s always been — or seems to have been.

Get married young. Straight out of high school or college. Have lots and lots of babies to ensure the generations. Grow old and thrive in the mulit-parenthood levels — parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.

Now few jump into long-term anything anymore. Relationships. Marriages. Careers. It’s all based on the feeling and the moment. And when the feelings and the moments lag or worse, so does the relationship. Then, leave the relationship, the marriage, and/or the career.

I want my burger and fries now. Ever see someone pull angrily out of a care line at a fast food place and drive off, tires burning rubber, because of the wait time?

More than half all marriages in America end in divorce.

In my parents’ day, divorce was a dirty word.

Not now. Now it’s a contractual escape clause.

The generations that have grown up with divorce — experiencing its trickle-down effect — are more circumspect. Willing to live with someone for years, they hesitate to commit. Who knows why? Maybe the weight of the “M” word and what they have come to know about it is the reason.

Certainly having babies is no motivation to tie the knot. But I digress.

Women are exploring careers, and having babies is a consideration tabled for a date that is increasingly later in life. Adoption is in fashion (not that I have anything against it, other than there seem to be enough adoptable children who live in America than to go traipsing half-way around the world).

Men are … Well, men are morphing into house-husbandry — taking on domestic duties at a rapid rate of growth.

And as independent a direction as our culture seems to be herding today’s men and women toward, matching and mating remain primal needs. It’s in the DNA.

If you are currently a bachelor, you know how it is. Everyone — but you — is either married, living together, or dating.

Bachelor = odd man (or woman) out.

There is now a slug of 50 percent residue from broken marriages — maybe (as in my case) several marriages — that are trying to figure out what the hell to do with themselves.

You women who are widows — who found THAT guy and endured many decades of marriage — know what I’m about to say. For you, the habit of marriage and being in a relationship is tantamount to life support. There are a few widowers out there, and my understanding is by and large women dominate this group numerically.

I’ve been married the majority of my adult life — about 40 years. Not to the same person, but pretty evenly split between two exes. That’s becoming more common, as I understand it.

Fear of solitude

EVERY person who has exited a relationship — regardless of good, bad, or indifferent — comes to the realization he or she knows NOTHING about how to enter into a new relationship. This is knee-jerk, as is that desperate need to be back into a relationship. Never mind whether being single could be a good thing. It’s like a non-swimmer being caste into water and being told “Swim!” The alternative is either learn to swim immediately, or sink and die.

Add to the dilemma that at every turn, family, friends and others are constantly assessing your singleness as bad, and their solution is quick, find somebody! Or sink and die.

If singleness and bachelorhood (both genders) is not stigmatic, why in the name of Cupid are there so many online dating/matching sites and services? And why is the viewing nation so preoccupied with such “reality” shows as “The Bachelor,” or “The Bachelorette,” or “The First Kiss?” Does anyone in their right mind think that Dirk is going to have a lasting relationship by an elimination game where every courtesan is an emotional wreck by the time the season is completed?

Who watches this stuff?

Then I realize that, sometimes, when channel-surfing, I do.

Oh the shame of it all!

The urge to conquer and commit wanes with diminishing libido

It’s one of those inverse relationships that is sad, but true. Hence Viagra. When you are a young buck, you have thoughts of sex every seven seconds. Or that’s what I heard. I don’t know how they figured that out. As time passes, I suppose that changes to seven minutes, then seven hours, seven days, seven months …

I heard a joke about the frequency of sex in a marriage:

  • Tri-weekly
  • Try weekly
  • Try weakly

Doesn’t apply to Hugh Hefner, probably.

When you are in your late 50s or 60s, your primal concerns revolve more around getting up in the morning, and less about getting it up.

I could go on. But I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.

We are called the Mature. Not old or elderly anymore. Mature. I can remember my mother wondering will I ever mature and get out of my adolescence.

Well, Ma — I’m now mature!

For those 50 percenters who stayed married and grew old together, they’ve assimilated to a lifestyle that includes the other. Whatever the day’s activities are, they do it together. In fact, there is some research to suggest the individuals of a long-term relationship begin to physically resemble each other.

The rest of us, now mature and with no one that even remotely resembles us, are left to contend with that urge, albeit socially manufactured, to re-mate and avoid being conspicuously single.

My question is why?

My grandmother’s husband died a month before I was born. She remained a widow into her late 50s, when she met my Step-Grandfather and they married. It was complicated enough. He had a law practice that specialized in title searches. She was a good Norwegian-stock woman with a sharp eye, tongue and wit. And she could cook reasonably well. He brought to the marriage an adopted son, who must have had major Native American stock genetically. All of my grandmother’s kids were married with children.

The dynamic — as mundane as it was — still bordered on challenging.

Today, with multiple divorces and remarriages and re-divorces and children and step-children and dogs and cats and lifestyles to merge? Whew!? It’s damn daunting!

So, again … Why?

Why not embrace bachelorhood (both genders) and decree that no longer shall “mature” single folk be referred to as spinsters, or worse?

After all, 70 is the new 50, right?

Read Brontë’s quote again. Makes sense.

Therefore, ergo, thus … I’m on the verge of declaring myself a permanent bachelor. After all, with 40 years of marriage already under my belt, I deserve the niceties, privacies and uncomplicated benefits of living alone.

And, yes, I’ll embark on that quest just as soon as I check to see who my weekly online matches are (which is another subject altogether).