Wednesday, June 9, 2010

73 days to Bar Mitzvah: paging pete pan

I started reading this book the other day. It's about a guy who leaves his wife. He's 30 years old, the producer of insanely terrible reality shows (the best his jacket blurb can manage is "My Big Fat Fiancee") and has been with his wife for ten years. Since he's actually put a show on TV, he's got money. No matter how bad the show is, if it gets on TV and you produced it, you have money. In fact, I sort of know this guy who -- I just checked on IMBD -- has exactly four movie writing credits, but showed up at my house five years ago in a cool Saab convertible.

Sometimes I get the feeling that there's a ton of money lying around out there, waiting for people to wise up and find jobs that offer access to it. I will likely go to my grave never figuring out how to get one of those jobs.

So this guy leaves his wife because he's feeling trapped. He wants to live the adrenaline-filled life of a bachelor, or at least the fantasy of the adrenaline-filled life of a bachelor that only a married guy can conjure up while sitting at home on a Saturday night, drinking white wine and watching Pedro Almadovar movies while everyone else, he's positive, is out slamming Kamakazes with supermodels.

It doesn't help that this guy's friends are all single, have money and are too young to either A) not want to go out every night, or B) have to deal with themselves on that one night when nobody else wants to go out because they're all married.

Or maybe he's just a guy who was meant to be single. I haven't gotten far enough into the book to find out, and I probably won't because he's kind of unlikeable. Not because he wants to be single but because he constantly name-drops the kind of really affected stuff that people assume Hollywood people will name-drop, like how when he finally leaves his wife and goes out to have dinner himself, he congratulates himself for going to an uncouth "guy" kind of place but still orders something like steak tartare.

Tonight, with the Jawa and Sandra Bullock off attending an "Ice Cream Social" at Temple Emanu-el, I returned to an empty house and three hours' worth of The Life of a Bachelor.

Now everyone, girls included, likes a little time alone. Properly spaced, each snippet of independent time can seem like a vacation from your life. And sure, every so often a bunch of middle-aged guys will get together, look over at a pack of young single guys and wish they could switch spots, but the genesis of this is, of course, based more on wanting to be young than it is on wanting to be single.

I'll tell you, though; one thing that keeps me grounded is that I remember what it was like when I was single. It was a long time ago. You know what I remember most about it? That every night at about seven o'clock I'd end up walking up and down the main commercial street of my neighborhood in Seattle, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. And that even though I was usually flat broke, I had enormous phone bills because I couldn't stand being alone in my quiet apartment.

Yeah, those were the days, let me tell you. They were the days of undetected high cholesterol and terrible eating habits, and desperate attempts to fill any silence that might enter my day.

Now lets consider that I wasn't 30. Nor was I a successful producer of TV reality shows. I was, intermittently, a grad student, a waiter, an office temp. I did not eat steak tartare, but I did serve it occasionally, sometimes to people who had lived on my floor in the dorms sophomore year.

You know what I did when I was single? I walked around. That's all I did. I woke up in the late morning, had a sandwich and some potato chips and started walking. Sometimes I stopped and ate cheese. Sometimes I hung out in pawn shops and looked at guitars and leather jackets. There were only two rules to dictate my path: first, I always crossed the street with the light, and second, I always crossed if there was an interesting car, motorcycle or girl on the other side. Otherwise, it was pure aimlessness. Not just career aimlessness. Absolute aimlessness. Waking up every day going, "What am I going to do today?"

What's so great about that? When I'm standing alone outside a restaurant freezing, hands jammed into my coat pockets, staring at employed couples eating happily away inside, the fact that I can' possibly get lost no matter where you put me in Seattle because I've walked every inch of the place really doesn't count for much. In fact, all I'm thinking is how badly I'd rather be them.

That's what I remember about being single. Mostly. So you'll forgive me if my 45-year-old flights of fancy don't include wearing a Kangol hat and walking arm in arm with a coed whose never heard of "The White Shadow" and thinks Pearl Jam is an oldies act. I know how grossed-out she'd be the first time she caught me tweezing hairs out of my ears.

I think at 45 "single" is most attractive as a temporary state, when it only covers short chunks of time with a definite beginning and end. Give me a Friday night out after work, or my occasional trips to (unincorporated) Santa Ana to hang out with Roger A. Hunt for the weekend. Any longer than that and I find myself wandering the streets just after sundown, trying to figure out what to eat.

And then you throw a Jawa into the mix; after that, any single-guy fantasy you have has to include the emotional equivalent of the pain you'd feel if you sliced off your right arm with a dull hacksaw. No thanks. It's annoying when Sandra Bullock makes fun of my lacking parallel parking skills, but it's better than showing up on a Friday night because it's my weekend with the kids.

So maybe this guy from the book, maybe he's better off single and isn't just feeling the late-onset symptoms of getting married too young. There are guys like that, and I'd be lying if I said their lives don't ever look like a huge ball of fun. I'm just not one of them.


Butter Goats said...

Sounds like his wife is a lot better off now.

Kecia said...

I adore your writing Larry!!!! In school, you seemed so unapproachable.... I love feeling like I'm getting to know you better.