Of Mice and Men

I quit smoking in the fall of 1981. About six weeks later my employees, some of the cheapest (and unfortunately laziest) people I have ever known, purchased a fancy cigarette case and lighter for me. They spent almost one hundred dollars. I guess that I had become a real bear and they decided that the only way to get back their old boss was to get me to start smoking again. I wasn’t ready to quit smoking and it showed.

Jerry, my friend David’s step-father, was admitted into the hospital in December of 1883. The doctors thought that he had pneumonia. That was Monday. On Tuesday the x-rays revealed that his lungs were gone. He died of cancer that Saturday. That was enough for me. I quit smoking January 1, 1984. Two packs a day, cigars, and my pipe…to nothing. Cold Turkey. It wasn’t easy. But once I was ready, it was doable.

In the summer of 1991 I wrote a column for this paper dealing with my decision to give up my last remaining vice, matrimony. The article was The Tides. In a couple of hundred words I detailed my most recent marriage and proclaimed my resolve to remain single.

One year later I experienced an unfortunate episode of backsliding. You may have read about it. (If At First You Don’t Succeed Aug 92) NOW I’M READY!

Goodness the last six months have been unbelievably awful. There was absolutely no reason for this marriage to succeed. None.

Those of you familiar with the gory details may have an opinion as to what, specifically, killed this relationship. Some of you may point to the twelve year old step-daughter, her faked kidnapping, suicide threats, and depression. Some of you may point to the fact that I traveled, like Jacob, to a far away place thinking that I was marrying Rachel, only to find that I was wed to Leah. Some of you may point to the fact that Anna and I failed to communicate on the same level and never understood what the other thought to be important. And others…well everyone has a guess as to why this marriage was doomed from the start. I, however, know the real reason.

The truth is that I am incapable of choosing a woman to marry that I can be happy with permanently. The truth is that many of the very qualities that I find attractive in the women I date I find to be annoying in the women once I have married them. And the truth, as I wrote a year ago, is that I can’t seem to see the entire woman when I am dating. Failing to see the flaws, I tragically wed women that are totally incompatible with me.

I am not alone at this. Yes, it is shocking to discover at 30.000 feet that your co-pilot has never flown before and is afraid of heights. But why is she there in the first place?

You don’t get married in a vacuum. These women all knew what I am like and what I expected of them. Yet, they still keep telling me what I want to hear. They still keep volunteering to walk down the aisle. And they still keep looking shocked when I tell them that enough is enough.

And we are not alone. Many of you, my faithful readers, have called or written with similar stories. Is there something in our water? Or, do we simply expect more than our parents and grandparents did from marriage? I can’t answer that and I promised my parents that I would leave them out of this column.

The bottom line is that I really think that I am ready to quit this time. Phillip, Jennifer, and I will get along just fine, thank you. No twelve step programs. No fancy clinics. No hassle. You just have to be ready.