Friday, October 21, 2005


In Which I Have Quite A Job Ahead of Me...

Man, I can't win for losing.

Ladies, my faithful lovelies who check in here everyday, I have to tell you something. As gratifying as it was to hear your words of appreciation over my recent story of wooing Her Lovely Self, as much as it made your hearts go pitter-pat, I must ask you to restrain yourselves from sending the story to your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/lover.

I had no idea how many men read the Masthead until the hate mail started coming in from all the disgruntled significant others who were now feeling slightly less significant because my antics were being held over their heads as the model of How to Treat Your Woman.

(Of course, if you have never done one over-the-top crazy thing in an effort to win her, then you probably should feel like shit. You probably also ought to get on your horse and get started).

Let me put things in perspective. After reading some of the reactions and emails from the ever-growing team of women who want to have a million of my babies (see Kat? No need to feel self-conscious at all), Her Lovely Self had this to say: "So, they're saying this because of that treasure hunt? It was nice and all, but that was 13 years ago. Also, you said yourself you were just pretty lucky. What if I'd pitched that fax? What if I hadn't seen the cab at the airport? It's like everyone's calling you a financial wizard just because you won the lottery."

See, guys? You can bust your ass, you can spend an entire paycheck and use every scintilla of creative energy to fashion a golden moment, and still you run the risk that some day your beloved will manage to turn it into a joke where YOU are the punchline.

On the other hand, Her Lovely Self sort of had a point. The day of the treasure hunt was a rare kind of planets-in-alignment moment that happened once. And immediately thereafter I went back to my usual pattern of fucking things up left and right.

As proof, I offer this story. I was saving it for a special occasion, or at least until I got through telling you about Magazine Man: Year One, but in light of the MM Revenge Squad that seems to be forming among the male contingent, I thought it was important to get this story out there. To provide some balance. And more importantly, to prove that on occasion I can be just as clueless and insensitive as the next guy. Sometimes more so.

So, if you sent your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/lover my earlier story, please be sure to send them this one too:

When last we left you, our happy couple was now a, well, a happy couple. In short order we were doing all the drippy, mushy happy couple things that happy couples do. We walked everywhere with hands intertwined or in each other's back pockets. We began calling each other pet names like "honey" and "babe" and "Scruffy" (never mind). We began using each other's favorite phrases. Back then, I was in the habit of saying "Abso-friggin-lutely!" if I emphatically meant "yes" and Her Lovely Self very quickly picked it up. For her part, she always prefaced a query with "Quick question for you..." and then she'd ask. I absorbed that phrase like a sponge. Like I said, it was so drippy and mushy that it was disgusting. So let us skip over the next 18 months or so of romantic dinners and moonlit picnics and skinny-dipping in public parks and serenades in apartment courtyards and all of the intervening heavy breathing and groping and gasping that those events tend to include.

By the summer of 1993 Her Lovely Self and I were pretty much joined at the hip, and other areas adjacent to the hip. Ever since SJ crashed and burned on her birthday, Her Lovely Self and I had been dating more or less exclusively, with only a few brief exceptions. There was that trip to New Orleans with her girlfriends that she won't talk about. And there was the time her old college boyfriend came to town for a weekend and it was like I had ceased to exist. And there were one or two other instances that escape me just now, but which I like to bring up, especially after Her Lovely Self has recently dismissed the most romantic endeavor of my life as requiring no more effort than buying a lottery ticket .

In retelling the early days of our relationship, I realize now that Her Lovely Self is starting to come off as a bit of a self-centered, inconsiderate heart-breaker. But I looked at it differently. One of my friends in Chicago put it simply, and put it best: our stereotypical gender roles in the relationship had been reversed. I was "the woman": always remembering anniversaries and trying to do nice things and wanting to talk about the relationship and where we were going. She, meanwhile, was "the man": would never say "I love you" if she could help it; was annoyed with me whenever I asked where she had been or who she was going out with; felt tied down whenever I objected to her going away for a week with her friends or spending a weekend with an old boyfriend; didn't want to discuss "the relationship" at all because it was just too much of a downer. She was, in short, a total commitment-phobe. All this--plus raging PMS every 24 days--sometimes made our relationship a little strained.

I had some understanding for her attitude, but only because I knew something of her relationship history, early long-term deals in which the boyfriends were so possessive as to be suffocating, and even abusive. And she came from a family that was not terribly demonstrative in any way, especially emotionally.

But I knew how she really felt. There were glimmers, shining gem-like moments that I treasured. Such as when my birthday came around and she baked me a cake from scratch, including the frosting. Considering she hated to cook (a position she has impressively reversed), this was a tremendous gesture. Or when she invited me to come with her one weekend to meet her parents. This was a landmark moment, because--as her parents and sisters informed me--she used to bring boyfriends home all the time, but stopped because the boyfriends ended up liking her family--in particular her smoking hot sisters--even more than her. And so she swore the next man she was bringing home was the one she'd marry. It was also a landmark moment because her parents were ultra-conservative Catholics and watched you like hawks, and she more than once said how she'd never have the nerve to have sex under their roof, even once she was married and it was perfectly okay.

(Did she get over that? Abso-friggin-lutely. And on our first night in the house.)

The idea that I might be a man she'd consider marrying was an arresting one, and I would dearly have liked to explore it further, but every time I brought it up, she'd shy away from it. Usually, she'd bat it away with a self-deprecating remark like "Quick question for you...Why? Why would you want to marry someone like me?" Or similar. But then, once in a while, in the heat of some moment or other, she'd say something else. One night, at a 10,000 Maniacs concert, as we were listening to Natalie Merchant singing "These Are Days" she leaned in and said "I love this song. I want them to play this at our wedding reception." And I responded: "Abso-friggin-lutely!"

So I had some idea of where she was heading. From our months hanging out and talking when we were just pals, I also knew how much she craved surprise, even in a seriously committed relationship. She had once told me that she hated the idea of being such a tight couple that she and her boyfriend would end up shopping for engagement rings together. She felt that on some level, a proposal of marriage needed to be a surprise, almost a shock when it happened. And she wanted her intended to choose the ring. "Besides," she said, "if I don't like the ring, I can always make him exchange it later."

All of which is to say I had a few encouraging if oblique signs of where things were going. Still, that didn't stop me from wishing, just once in a while, that she might register an emotional response somewhere above normal, that she might just once act out of passion.

But that wasn't exactly a day-to-day concern. My days at that point were filled with trying to find another job.

I don’t wish to ruin the narrative of what I'll eventually tell you during Magazine Man: Year One, but suffice it to say that two years at my trade magazine job had been quite enough, especially since I had played boy-detective and determined that my boss was up to something fishy with our freelance budget. In the back of my mind, I was worried that if I didn't get out soon, he was going to try to pin it on me somehow.

Problem was, there were no jobs to be had in Chicago, not the kind I wanted. Sure, I could have jumped to another trade magazine or newsletter in a heartbeat. What I really wanted, though, was a full-time gig with one of the big magazines in the city, like Outside or Chicago. Unfortunately, they weren't hiring.

So I put the word out among the editors I worked with as a freelancer, hoping someone knew someone who might think of me the moment a position opened.

Within a few weeks, that's exactly what happened...

ahhhh!!! it's Friday, no ... on Fridays!
Awww, shucks, mister!

But seriously. Didn't HLS teach you that it's mean to be a tease and leave people hanging over the weekend?! Your readers are going to rally and revoke you ellipses privileges! Can't wait to hear how this one ends.
Oh man! Can you back off the elipses?? I can almost hear Kathryn raging!

She hates the flipping things!

Who knows what will happen...
Oh, for Pete's sake.

What a place to stop!

I'm revoking your cliffhanger license and issuing you extra "really long posts that cover more of the story" credits.
I think you get the idea of how we all feel about these cliffhangers. By the way, ever since I let my hubby read the story of your treasure hunt (blatently ignoring your request that your female fans not show this to their men...sorry :-)) he has been "curious" about your posts. That's the word he uses while he reads over my shoulder, pretending not to be too interested.
I'm sure he's racking his brain trying to come up with something hugely original for my birtday this weekend, while shaking his head and thinking, "damn you MM, she WOULD have been happy with flowers and jewelry before this!"
Hee hee.
And he thought after five years of marriage, he no longer had to be original :-)
I'm going to give your blog the nickname, "In which he makes the ordinary fascinating..."
Or, "In which he makes me spend and hour of my Saturday reading..."
Thank you. Your writing is abso-friggen-lutely fun!
OK, you're safe. I just bought my wife plane tickets to Paris for her 30th.
I had played boy-detective and determined that my boss was up to something fishy with our freelance budget.

Very Grahame Coats. Yuck!

Mm...maybe I should show that post to my boyfriend. Guilt him into doing something sweet for my birthday, which is in 18 days. Of course, since our birthdays are the same day, I suppose I'd have to reciprocate.
All this--plus raging PMS every 24 days--sometimes made our relationship a little strained.

Since you were "the woman", that was you with the PMS, right?

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