There are new tribes. Some of the men of Philly over colognate and grunt new deals, “I’ll tell ya, one ting about dis business here.” It is not the vernacular of the New Jerseyans, or the New Yorkers.
Three of them sit outside the Starbucks discussing:
“You know adopted girls all stay the same age.”
“But you always dated young girls.”
“Yeah, 21. I love 21.”
“But they don’t know what they want.”
“That’s the great part, you shape’em,” he lights a Parliament and continues, “You teach ‘em. They show you that they are learning, and then they start wanting things of their own, and that’s when I’m like : I’m out! Time to move on. By the time they reach 25 they are too old.”
“Yeah you always like’em young.”
“Yeah, I’m 36, getting old. 25 is too old though, marriage is always in the back of their minds even the ones that say it’s not. It’s there.”
“Alright, where we going?”
“My parents house, just about two blocks away from the Buck hotel.”
“Yeah, my Mom will be cookin’ something.”
The three Peter Pans donned their helmets, and moved their tattooed arms over the ignition keys and started their journey to another mom’s house, into the comfort of a woman, not a girl. There is a disparity of age and expectation that is overwhelming. I think over a recent conversation I had with a good guy friend of mine:
“Dating is hard, Katie.”
“You’re telling me, Ricky.”
“I can’t just be with any woman; I have to actually know her and like her.”
An improvement over the Starbucks bikers, I think.
“But then they always want to talk.”
A lot like the Starbucks bikers, I think sadly. “Whaddya mean, Ricky?”
“Well I don’t know, but it scares me. It should just be easy. I already did my work.”
“Oh no Ricky…”
“Well, I have done my work, got a new job, had to get a divorce. It should be easy now.”
“Are you kidding me?” me voice hits a little too high for the restaurant. “C’mon man, you sound like my ex’s. Why do men think it will always be easy? He said the same thing to me: It’s too hard. Don’t you boys understand that it will always take a little work? Find a woman that is worth the work, that it’s relatively easy with so you have a foundation.”
“Katie, if I couldn’t work on it in my marriage, why am I going to work on it with a woman I don’t even know?”
His honesty slapped me. I realize now, in my thirties that I am too old for the ones shopping in the kids department and I am in the bins with the embittered.
“I don’t know Ricky. I don’t know what to tell you except if all of you are thinking the same way we are all screwed. Because it ain’t going to be easy my friend. This is life. Everything worth having you have to work for.”
“I don’t know Katie.”
“Me either man, me either.”
I watch a woman in her forties, no wedding ring, sit at the newly vacated table of the immature bikers, she drops her head in her hands, maybe she can hear the words reverberating off the iron chairs.
“Hey Barb,” she cheers after her girlfriend, also without a wedding ring that arrives.
“Hey Shirl. How you doing?”
“Good, you wanna share breakfast?”
Their conversation moves from croissants to crusades.
“And he called me, I didn’t call him.”
“And I told him I had to go visit my kids, and that I was going see my husband, my ex, ya know?”
“And he apologized for being a jerk last Saturday. Which I thought, eh, that’s nice right?”
“Yeah,” Shurl chimes between bites.
“And I told him I would call him back. But guess, what I forgot to call him back.”
“And then he didn’t call me like he would, he texted, but I was in the cards with my kids, I can’t respond, but I didn’t not call on purpose. And when we did talk, he said he has been like this since day one. So I thought, he ain’t distancing himself, and maybe he’s coming around. But Susan says not to overanalyze.”
“Yeah, don’t overanalyze.”
“I know!” she squeals, “I get in trouble for that, but I want a nice relationship and it seems like he wants to explain himself. So I’m thinking, ok. And then Sunday night he calls, sounds nice, and get this –“
It’s time for the investment of relationship. There is nothing wrong with the grandeur of friendship but the sexes need to reopen the conversation and not just continue to relax the restraints on sex. I am not advocating for arranged marriages; I think we have advanced to personal choice, nor do I want to see women vacuuming in heels again, but there has to be another option than perpetually living in the thrust of teenagedom and the thrill of ease.
“Ma’am, is this seat taken?”
“No, I respond,” noticing the replacement of Miss with Ma’am and the conjuring of another boys club to my right.
“Ronnie, you going down the shore?”
“Damn straight. I take off every other weekend to go down the shore, hit the clubs. Have a good time.”
“Your parents’ shorehouse?”
Caught between two tables of foreign language speakers – men and women - soon, I think, we will all miss the stability of the older generation, and replant the seeds of our own growth. Soon.