By Rosalie Tirella
One of the nice things about getting older (I’ll be 62 years old next month) is not having to think about relationships any more. As in boyfriends. As in obsessing over boyfriends I’m in relationships with, obsessing about the way they feel about me, about the way I look to them … their level of commitment to our relationship – or lack there of … their passion in bed – or lack there of … the restaurants they took me to, the places we didn’t visit…the extra pounds I put on, the extra pounds I took off – for them. All in the name of the relationship. Not love usually. But the RELATIONSHIP – like a science experiment, easier to examine under a pink microscope with your gal pals over the phone, late at night, one of you nursing a glass of wine.
These days, thankfully, blissfully, I no longer think about relationships. I don’t have to see myself thru the eyes, gonads or stomachs of men, my boyfriends. Tormenting myself over: Am I pretty enough for him? Interesting enough for him? Sexy enough for him? Smart enough? Thinking about my guy from all angles: emotional, physical, sexual, culinary, musical, monetary etc etc etc etc. For decades I did this like any girl! With different guys! Beginning at puberty to way after menopause when my ovaries, once the size of walnuts, according to my gynecologist, have now shrunk to the “size of raisins.” Long live female hormones!!! This happens to all us ladies, and now, sans all those sex hormones flowing thru my body I can relax. Truly accept my flabby body and duplicitous soul, my likes and dislikes, the gap between my two front teeth and think … I’m good enough. I’m ok with me! So …WHAT WAS ALL THAT NOISE ABOUT? WAS ALL THAT FREAKING RELATIONSHIP MELODRAMA NEEDED?! WHAT A WASTE OF YEARS AND YEARS spent thinking about my relationships!
You simmer down after menopause and, sadly, realize: I should have written novels. I should have hitchhiked thru Europe, maybe even lived in Paris. I should have learned to cook like Julia Childs … but instead I WASTED MY PRECIOUS TIME, MY PRECIOUS YOUTH on the relationship! With John, Dick and Harry! Fred, Joe and Hank! Sure I had some great times, but it was all so exhausting! Trying to figure out where I stood with them. One day: Apple of His Eye! The next: Rose who? … Pondering our “future”? Deciphering the marriage question. Living together…a possibility? But when? All that sound and fury … for absolutely nothing. Comparable to finding a pebble on the shore of Lake Quinsigamond – dark, nondescript, basic – but deciding it may, deep deep down inside, contain gold. Be a gold nugget! So you stupidly keep turning it over and over and over again in the palm of your hand – this relationship – desperately seeking the unique, the whimsical, the magical in this guy. But you’re going out with a pebble. From Lake Quinsig, over by the bridge on Route 9, heading into Shrewsbury. Over by HOOTERS.
You remember all the ridiculous conversations you had with your gal pals trying to decipher THE RELATIONSHIP. Sharing embarrassingly intimate details about your sex life, the size of his penis, the so so restaurant he took you to ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! His ambition or lack there of. His boss he may have a crush on. All that psycho babble or just babble for the sole purpose of where you stand with some dopey guy. And to vent. And to have a few laughs, at his expense, with your gal pal who’s told you about her RELATIONSHIP. You have thought about it with her, about her boyfriend, and also asked with her: Why did he leave her for her best friend? – the best friend that he met at the great party she had given TO SHOW OFF THEIR RELATIONSHIP to all her friends!!! (a true story)
You think and ponder … and there are no answers.
Think about it! You and your gal pals tirelessly, foolishly, waste half of your precious female lives seeking answers to relationship questions that are inane, unanswerable. Yet women have been asking themselves these questions ever since paleolithic times, when volcanoes erupted everywhere, every few seconds, and cavemen boyfriends went out hunting the saber-toothed tiger leaving their cave women alone … to get anxious about the relationship. Seated around the fire pit, together now, the cave women getting all insecure about their cavemen, started thinking about their relationships with their cavemen: Is my hair too out of control and knotty for him? Are my breasts too hairy? Does this bear-skin skirt make me look fat? Why aren’t we living together in our own cave? Is he cheating on me with the cave woman in the pile of rubble right over that glacier? I bet language was invented by cave women intent on figuring out their cavemen!
Yep. It all began eons ago, 100,000 BC – Before Creams. As in moisturizing creams for the face… creams for the decolletage… creams for the elbows, the knees, the heels and toes …creams for the fingernails – ALL THOSE FU*KING CREAMS THAT, IN THE END, MAKE NO DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO A RELATIONSHIP’S SUCCESS OR LONGEVITY!
Fast-forward to the late 20th/early 21st centuries, to my life … to Rose’s relationships with her boyfriends:
1979. At Clark University, my first ever real boyfriend, Fred. My first orgasm with Fred. My first visits to New York City with Fred. My first meet-his-parents visit with Fred. Our going, in NYC, to the exact same theater shown in ANNIE HALL, the iconic Woody Allen movie to sit in the exact same theater Woody and his girlfriend Dianne Keaton, Annie Hall, went to in ANNIE HALL! Fred and I both love Woody Allen … and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE … and THE MARX BROTHERS. Fred can recite lines from DUCK SOUP! He is so handsome! My mom says Fred looks like Paul McCartney! A Beatle!
Then why, on Valentine’s Day, did Fred give me the small heart-shaped box of chocolates and give the girl down the hall in his dormitory THE BIGGER HEART-SHAPED BOX OF CHOCOLATES? Why did I get the small box and she get the larger box? On VALENTINE’S DAY?!
Naturally, I called him on it, very upset! I demanded: What does this mean? What are you saying – about us?!
Naturally, he shrugged it off.
Typical guy move.
So, of course, I had to call my gal pals to discuss this debacle of the heart … and to think about The Relationship long and hard. WHERE DID I STAND with Fred? WAS I GOOD ENOUGH for him? Why didn’t I rate the bigger box of chocolates? Why did that big red cellophane-covered heart shaped box of chocolates from CVS go to her – and not ME?!
Fred and I broke up that summer and I became borderline anorexic.
Fast forward to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, where I was in another “serious” relationship with a beau. Hank had just gotten on an airplane to visit his sister in Montana, a doctor whose husband carved canoes for a living. A very cool couple who lived in a real log cabin that they built together, side by side, hand in hand practically. Why wasn’t I on the plane with him to Montana? Why wasn’t I getting to meet his favorite sister, the cool one? We drove together to NYC the previous month for his music gig – he was a lighting engineer for a rock ‘n’ roll type company in Western Mass – WHY NOT HANG OUT IN MONTANA WITH HIS SISTER AND HER HUSBAND?
I had to think about the relationship: Was I special enough for Hank? Where was this all going? Did he love me? Or was he just being his cheapskate self, knowing he’d have to foot the bill for my plane fare and meals at restaurants. He was a real tight wad! Or did he know another girl … in Montana?
We broke up a few months later and I rebounded with a guy, a grad student, with an 800 SAT math score. He dumped me a few months later and I didn’t even have to think about the relationship. He had given me his reason: “I can’t talk about the Milky Way with you, Rose.”
“As in galaxy in the universe?” I said. “Not the candy bar?” trying to be cute.
In relationship speak Hank was telling me: YOU’RE NOT SMART ENOUGH. I’M MOVING ON.
And he didn’t even wear underwear!
Fast forward to Worcester and the Old Beau. We’re going to the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den to see Peter Noone in concert. I look so cute! Hair in a pixie hair cut and dyed red. I’m wearing my pretty multi-colored skirt with its red petticoat. A petticoat! Topped off with elegant black blouse. My makeup is flawless!
In the car, before taking off, he goes in to kiss me, stops short, looks into my eyes and says: “You’ve got that hair.”
“What hair?” I say.
“That one-inch long hair growing from your chin.”
WHAT????? !!! I run upstairs to my bathroom and shove my face two inches before my huge bathroom mirror. Sure enough. Facial hair. Just one long brown hair, a single hair, sprouting stubbornly from a little beauty mark on my chin. I grab my cuticle scissors and cut it as close to the root as possible. There! I hold it in the palm of my hand – appalled!
All the way down to Connecticut, the entire drive, I think about our relationship: He’s cruel. He sees nothing but the negative. He doesn’t compliment my skirt or red petticoat…nothing nice that I’ve done to get ready for this night out. Doesn’t he appreciate my elegant blouse? Just sees my one single chin hair! But it is long! Oh! How embarrassing! Why didn’t I ever see it before today?! … Why tell me now? It’ll be dark inside the club! He’s an arse. We’ll never get married! He’s too superficial for me! I don’t even want to go to this concert…but he’s buying dinner at that nice restaurant at the casino, the one I really love. … Have I stuck around all these years just for the great meals at all those nice restaurants? Every Saturday night …
And so on and so on…
Yesterday I looked in my big bathroom mirror and saw the same hair growing from my now flaccid chin. Except these days it’s white with age, not the dark brown color of my younger self. I looked at my chin, my grey chin hair and remembered the Old Beau and smiled sadly and thought: I’ll have to get to this tomorrow.