Single is Not a Four Letter Word



Verb Cafe, 218 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11211

Neighborhood: All Over, Brooklyn

In the past decade, many attempts have been made to assist women in our efforts to meet a significant other. Self-help books with titles like The Rules or He’s Just Not That Into You proliferated, but instead of providing a sense of relief or assurance, they seemed only to add to the mass hysteria.

Well, now we can all wipe the sweat from our collective brows and throw those know-nothing books out our studio apartment windows, because on June 4th the New York Times ran an article assuring women that Newsweek got it wrong back in ’86—it’s A-OK to be single in your thirties.

Ladies, it’s the Times. They have proof. Wipe off your makeup, put up your blistered feet and relax. Someone somewhere has been doing research—desperate, imperative research—and now we have confirmation. Statistics have shown that we can stop poking one another’s eyes out for the tossed bouquet at the Always-The-Bridesmaid-Never-The-Bride weddings that clog the plumbing of our twenties.

Time is on our side, kind of, but for our nagging biology. I am here to tell you it’s better to wait for Mr. Right then to hitch your star to Mr. Right Now. Stop reading magazines, statistics, surveys and articles (except this one, continue reading this one, it will change your life). The proof is in. No longer must we fall prey to impatience or the desire to procreate, this world is overflowing as it is. Look, I’m thirty-two—thirty f-ing two—and single by choice – that’s right G.W., I am exercising my power of choice. It’s a gamble, I know. But I’ve been exhausted by bad company, and I don’t need the New York Times or Newsweek to print what I know from practice. I have been conducting my own survey: Operation Experience.

The experience from which I speak is plentiful. No matter how many rings are offered and proposals are made, you have to know when to walk away. Although years may slip by, I have come to realize that, many times, the door with the greatest prize is that with nothing behind it. Don’t settle.

No matter how handsome he is, never continue to date a man who will not take his socks off in bed. When he has finally passed out from one too many beers and you get the chance to peel them off, you will inevitably find a vicious skin disease. (In my case, Bill had psoriasis covering his heels and lower calves. It reminded me, horrifyingly, of the cheese that the waiters grated over pasta in Little Italy.) Run! Flee that Upper East Side apartment no matter how swanky it is. And don’t bother wishing him luck on his acting career, which, thus far has lead to a minor role in a Whit Stillman flop. Don’t waste your time, night after night, listening to him profess how he would be perfectly content as a character in a “Saved By The Bell” spin-off—with those feet, he doesn’t stand a chance.

Charles looked like a member of the Master Race. I was 19 and Jewish. It was an ideal “Screw Your Daddy” situation—except that he showed up for our first date wearing brighter lipstick than me. Later that night when we got to my apartment, he went into my closet, pulled out my favorite silver vinyl pants, and proceeded to stretch them out while trying them on.

Charles sent me his journal entries via email. They made me sad, not because of their content, but because of his complete inability to form a coherent thought. Once he proclaimed the best day of his life was when he realized how happy the cocktail of Wellbutrin and Methadone had made him. Also Mr. Aryan Nation enjoyed the following hobbies: – Sawing pay phones off their hooks when he ran out of change – Stealing car stereos and other peoples Christmas presents – Stabbing competing thieves with screw drivers and leaving them for dead – Making out with men because a hole is a hole is a hole, what the hell!

And how about a thumbs down for the inbred? Once in awhile you—and by you I mean me—sleep around so much you wake up one morning and realize that you’ve slept with all your friends and their friends and their friends’ friends and your friends’ ex-boyfriends and so on and so on and so on. Finally, if you’re lucky, someone, somewhere will take you out for a drink and tell you the guy you have been screwing–well his parents are related. Not third generation, not second generation, but first-Jerry-Springer-generation related! You think to yourself: OK. Have I witnessed him reading past the first grade level? His ass, it is hairy—really hairy—but I haven’t actually seen a tail. He does look cro-magnum from a North West sunlit angle. Have I seen his toes? I bet they are webbed. He is the Missing Link! Yes, you should call the American Museum of Natural History. That is a good idea. Well done. But may I also suggest the following – RUN, hard and fast: sew your vagina if you must and then realize you make bad decisions just like your psychiatrist told you.

Of course there was that really handsome guy with two types of hepatitis. He convinced you that he looked like Jordan Catalono from “My So Called Life.” He said it so many times you finally believed him. (It’s like when you’re in The Gap for too long and eventually you start thinking “yes these clothes are the greatest! I need things that make me look as bland as possible! Next stop Old Navy, and then I’m hitting J.Crew, because I want the same shit with different labels.”) So when he told you that foreskin was God’s condom, well that sounded about right at the time.

Oh, and then there was the Swede! Never do things for a free trip abroad, ladies. He was a model who shaved his chest and routinely used a foot spoiler (what the hell is a “foot spoiler”?). He told me he loved dropping Ecstasy, the Beat Generation, and the smell of his own feces. In fact he was so stuck on the fecal matter subject that he admitted that he dreamt of lifting a load from the porcelain bowl and playing with it as if it were Playdo. You know what—fine. Another narcissistic thirty something guy—big surprise. What finally pushed me out the door was the phone calls home to Stockholm. Jim Henson nailed that language. Not sexy, not sexy at all. Try making out with a tongue that speaks “orgy borgy” to its parents on Sundays—it’s like a shower, ice cold.

David in San Francisco. Great sex, but—big lesson here—that’s not enough to maintain a relationship. Right hook to the jaw while I was busy flaunting my biceps to the crowd. We were living together across from Golden Gate Park and as we got to know one another certain things started to come out. The surface got scratched. For example, David told me he didn’t like to eat the heels of bread. I found this peculiar and prodded him for a reason. He revealed that it “made him feel poor”. And you want to know why? Because he was poor! Turns out he was from Iowa (where the hell is Iowa?). He grew up in a TRAILER (help!). His mother left his father for his uncle (this is me dry heaving beneath a polite smile while packing my necessities with my toes). And no, this was not Shakespearean—this was a bright red flag and a one-way ticket back to NYC.

Avoid men who tell stories that begin with the following phrase: “My Grandfather came into my bedroom and…” That twisted tale was the beginning of a bad date right here on Bedford Avenue at the Verb coffee shop, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That’s right girls—it will get you where you live! Avoid men who, at forty-plus, tear up while explaining their tattoos, or still throw what I refer to as MANTRUMS to get back at their mothers for something that happened in the eighth grade (“no Friday Night Videos this weekend” – ouch), leave the restaurant, sofa, bedroom, S.R.O. immediately. And avoid the guys who insist you put your diploma in storage because it makes them “feel unedjamacted”, tell them where they can get a study guide for their G.E.D.s and kick them out (of the moving car).

Picture this: you and your current paramour, Jonathon, are laying in the twin bed you ponied up your last fifty bucks for (it is a used child’s mattress, delivered by a woman who dropped it off in record time because she knew it reeked of urine and, alas, she was due back at the midway with the lobster boy and the conjoined twins). You begin telling Jonathon tales of ballet lessons, piano class, Paris, and an afternoon of sailing that went awry. You didn’t hear the instructor bellow “coming about!” and were knocked upside the melon by the mast and plunged into the Atlantic.

Jonathon responds with a story of his own youth, about his mother’s second wedding and how he snuck off with his aunt, his mother’s sister, and did “it” with her. “Did what?” you ask, “smoked your first cigarette? Ate a naughty piece of wedding cake? Did what?” Nope. He did IT! He screwed his biological aunt.

This is when you ease out of the urine bed and check your drivers’ license to reassure yourself that you are indeed in New York City and not in Appalachia. No matter how many times he uses the “but she was really hot” defense, you try like mad to think of something your mother’s Polish cleaning woman would use to cleanse your insides in such an emergency: Clorox, Ammonia, Natures’ Miracle.

And then there was the man I was so in love with I actually brought him home. Upon meeting my parents, he mumbled the following statement in my ear: “your mom is even hotter than you are!” It turns out this guy, this love of mine, had an Achilles heel, a bad habit of trying to sleep with his girlfriends mothers’ – coo coo ca choo, I don’t have the kind of cash for that much therapy!

My favorite guy was the giving guy. I would mention a book I would love to read and the next day it would appear: Saul Bellow’s Herzog, Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica, Aimee Bender’s Willful Creatures. He was amazing, the supply was endless, but the giving guy had no job—he wasn’t even on unemployment. Soon I noticed that our strolls through the Village were growing limited—no more Barnes & Noble, no more Borders. Used bookstores were out of the question. He could make cigarettes disappear, he could pull a quarter from behind my ear—and $130 sweaters, and $200 pants. He could put sneakers on his feet and walk right out of Saks. He was a real slight of hand artist. His thievery gave me great anxiety, so I’d throw down credit cards and cash to keep the retail workers from noticing his antics. It was exhausting. “But they’re all gifts for you,” he’d decry. Every day felt like Christmas—but with knots in my stomach and TMJ—until the cops showed up and took my Santa away.

I have learned a thing or two in my thirty-odd years. It’s been my experience—and that is, after all, all I have to work with—that men who like to “take the edge off” by sucking that glass dick, injecting anything into their veins, or have threesomes that don’t involve you, are not worth it. End it. Leave. Get out before you get in any deeper.

Lose the men who can not pay for dinner, hail a cab, pay for said cab, hold the door, or help you with your coat; the men who never praise your appearance, say “gosh, you’re a doll” when you have PMS; and the men who force you to hide in the dunes at the family beach club. They are the real losers, and if you stick around, you will only end up losing yourself.

There is an old saying: “A woman has got to love a bad man once or twice in her life to be thankful for a good one.” I am sure one can find a “good” man on the streets of NYC, or any city, but at thirty two I have barely begun to find myself. Newsweek, the New York Times, and all the sociologist could learn a thing or two about why women are staying single longer by studying the multitude of my mistakes—my many, filthy, flawed, correctional facility mistakes.

Men—you can’t live with ‘em, but you might want to use them for their money, so hang in there ladies. Don’t listen to statistics, listen to yourselves. It has taken me thirty-two years to realize I don’t have to accept collect calls from inmates any more. Be alone if you chose, be free—just don’t get an STD. Wait for Mr. Right, don’t settle for Mr. Right now, he’s always wrong.

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§ 2 Responses to “Single is Not a Four Letter Word”

  • Love the article. true true true. I hate how so many people assume that just because you are single, it’s some sort of curse. I’ve been a single mom myself for many years and allthough it’s hard to make ends meet, there are a lot benefits. I can’t say I don’t wish I was a single man instead of a single mom raising kids — which is hard, no doubt — but still, I’m independent and I support my own children MYSELF.

  • Chloe Caldwell says:

    I loved this. So much. Thank you.

§ Leave a Reply

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