Considering how I’ve had books on the brain (but no time to read them), I thought that Spring Break would be a good time to catch up on all that reading I’ve been missing. A trip to the local library turned up a couple of interesting selections, which I’ll try to chronicle here as I read them.
First, we’ve got What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories, edited by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman. The book has contributions from Dubelman, Carrie Fisher, and 56 other women whom I’ve not heard of, but now have gotten to know on a level of intimacy with which I’m honestly more than a bit uncomfortable.
This “everyone has a story” collection of personal essays (of interest to me as I am a writer of personal essays) seems to do a pretty comprehensive job breaking down the stuff of the modern male/female relationship. From it, I’ve learned that men, or at least the ones with whom the book’s contributors have broken up, fall into one of four categories. They are either (a) dumb, as in prone to use the word ‘stigmata’ when they really mean ‘stigma,’ (b) cheap, as in they would rather live in their cars than pay rent, (c) completely self-absorbed, as in they never call, or, if they do, it’s so that you can have a chat with the live-in girlfriend, with the hopes that the two of you may someday become friends, or (d) deviant, as in…well, I won’t go into detail on this one.
What’s startling about the book is that almost every story has a “That’s when I knew” moment—”when he said the baby had changed my life, but not his”…”when the car stalled in the Vegas wedding chapel drive-up line, and we had to get a jump-start from 2 Elvis impersonators”…”when his mother told me that he’d fallen off the roof as a child and never quite been right again”…”that’s when I knew I needed to get out, and fast.”
Unfortunately, one wonders about some of the essayists, like the woman who got married after 4 days to a man whose political and social views she’d never vetted, the woman who only really engages with her husband romantically when she’s finally lost the 15 pounds (and then doesn’t find him that appealing), and the woman whose first red flag was that her husband-to-be asked her to wear the top of her two-piece wedding ensemble backwards so that he wouldn’t have to look at the embroidery on the front.
It seems to me that many of the writers broke up with their men over things that are forgiven daily by spouses who really love each other (not the wedding dress thing, though, right?). If I held my poor husband to some of these women’s standards (or he, in turn, held me…to the standards, that is), then we would have broken up about 21 years ago, and we’ve only known each other slightly longer than that. Even as I read the book I thought, if any of these women were living in my body, and were bugged by a guy (or two kids) who talked to them while they were reading, then that would be 18 years of marriage, completely down the drain.
Still, it was a fun read, and an eye-opener, to the real experiences—and real attitudes—of the men and women all around me. I had to do my own censoring, so be warned; it’s definitely rated R. As bummed as it made me about the state of the world’s messed-up idea of relationships, I did come away glad—glad that I am me, living in my (mostly) happy marriage. Sometimes, my husband and I may not forgive until we’ve gone through some not-so-nice fireworks, but forgive we do, and at least we’re not planning on going anywhere.
With that, have you got any bad boyfriend stories to share? I’d love to read them…Rated G, of course.