"Dear Gingerman, You Sweet, Asexual Cookie..."
Russell Banks wrote that nothing is more unhealthy than the need to be loved "for no reason." Who would argue with that?
I might want to add, though, that being loved for no good reason is not such a great way to go either.
I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner some years ago and the father of the bride stood up and made a toast:
"Before she met Dan, Jaclyn was dating a lot of other guys...a lot of them (he winks at us)...but after the first few dates she said to me that Dan was a 'keeper' I'd never heard that before. But I guess Dan's what you call a 'keeper'"
Aside it being incredibly romantic to use a term normally reserved for fish who've met the gaming board's minimum length requirement or are thrown back, it's kinda strange to allude to Jaclyn's extensive dating and (wink, wink) whatever that involved.
Or is it not? Maybe it was the most romantic thing that can be mustered in this day? Is that the way keepers are kept?
Looking at Dan and other members of the wedding party smiling at being keepers, all I could think was that I was something of an inverted Groucho Marx who didn't " want to be in a club that had someone like him as a member."
I am obsessed by my not being accepted to a club which I most certainly would not want to belong.
III. ELENI LIST
As a kid, my mother had us each make out a Christmas Wish List. We would have several large presents that we really desired and a slew of lesser ones that were filler in case the big ones weren't manageable ($).
The trick was to ask for the desired bike, Atari system, Weight Set, while not muddying the waters with the filler Encyclopedia Brown Series.
Sometimes it didn't work out and a feigned smile would tickle out a self-pitying wail : "But I wanted a bike! Not books!"
"You asked for them!...Do you have any idea how much those books cost? " She'd say.
No, I would think. But I certainly hope not as much as the Atari; that would be an epic fail.
The item most commonly on these keeper lists, those written in conspicuous bold capitals with red crayon is: money. Admirable character traits are the fillers.
I ran in the same circle of a woman who worked in publishing. Her underlings often remarked how Eleni, a conservative sort in her early 40's, worried and managed each detail tirelessly and it had brought her much success and power in the business. So, when she admitted to having got engaged to her husband of ten years after knowing him for only a few weeks, the group couldn't help but ask why?
Pantoming a clipboard with one palm and a pen in the other hand, she said, " I had my checklist...quality, quality, quality. Why delay?"
Would it surpise you terribly if I told you her husband was rich?
"What are those qualities?" We asked, "Oh, a man of character...and the best sense of humor."
I am not going to call Eleni a liar if she were to tell me what a great guy he is or he makes her laugh even.
But I will insist that only money could logically evoke her uncharacteristically impulsive behavior.
First off, had the search for the finest sense-of-humor been such an important pursuit, then why didn't she first check at Giggles' Comedy Hutch on Rte. 109 in Mendon? I mean, how fortuitous to find him at a High Tea Lawn Party during race week in Newport!
And when you do meet someone so funny, do you want to go interrupt that laughing by running out and making wedding plans? Okay, someone hot, you hop into bed. Someone funny, you stay up 'til morning getting wasted and making pancakes. But let's think... who do you meet and immediately, you want to go into a lifelong union where all your spiritual and physical property and possessions are united...?
We know this about Eleni: Her career meant something to her. She had checklists for her personal life. She didn't make rash decisions, except on this occasion...unless...well, unless it wasn't rash but was true-to-form? And what could possibly make a woman so mindful of her doings suddenly ease up and jump into something?
(HINT: $$$$$$$$$. )
Are we really to believe that Eleni saved her one impetuous moment in life for the biggest one? And that it just happened to land her an extremely wealthy man?
Well, we know that nowhere in her life does sense of humor supersede what's sensible. She was going to risk muddying the waters of her well-played life for a jokester?
If we asked, I'm sure she'd shrug her shoulders and say: "Love makes you do funny things."
And then it would be high time to call her a liar.
Other point: How do you create a checklist for the "best" or "finest" of anything?
If he was so damn funny, then wouldn't that have been alarming? The funniest person you know is never exactly what you always wanted. It's a pleasant surprise. You don't check off checklists with surprises.
And Eleni didn't sound surprised.
If there is any justice from above, the Gods will have Eleni's husband lose the farm and join a sketch comedy troupe.
IV. JAGGED PILL
And what is the other most essential quality that makes a keeper a keeper?
His willingness to keep you!
Why? Because a healthy, able-bodied, college educated or vocationally trained man, committed to being the "perfect man" will be capable of meeting most items on the average keeper list.
And this depiction of themselves, the choosers, cross-legged in a director's chair, marching men and dismissing them "Next!!!" until the man of "quality" arrived is a bit of distortion, ain't it?
Notwithstanding the 'hilarious' parceling of eponyms over mimosas ( e.g., The short-timer without a driver's license due to a DWI was "Mr. Schwinn"), the experience seemed filled with despair and ugliness.
For most women I know, the dating process, particularly in the '90s was an insecure, humbling time filled with jerks and users and losers.
Part of the misery, also, was this one-dimensional take on the man; that one could Mr. Potato Head the most attractive vagaries and create the perfect guy.
How about Alanis Morrissette's take on her 90's love life...
Her "Unsent" was a letter to her past lovers:
There was Matthew whom she"likes" a lot, realizes he's currently in a relationship, but is still open to "spending time" with him (wink, wink) if he's ever in L.A.; There's Jonathan who lied to her and thought only of himself but whose face she can't shake; Marcus who "rocked her world" (wink, wink, wink);And then, Terrance who was "emotionally available and supportive" but she kept "drawing him in and pushing him away" and would fall asleep crying on the couch next to him; And then, Lou, Sweet Lou, with whom she "learned so much."
If I or any other man with a working phallus were given our druthers which of these chaps we'd be, here's our list: first, Matthew: she doesn't give a shit if he's in a relationship and if he's stopping off in town for a layover, she wants to hook up; Then, Jonathan who she was so into that she can still overlook his pathological lying; And,or course, Marcus, who rocked her world, which we can only imagine what it would take to even stir the world of the sparkplug who penned "You Oughta Know"?
And then, as to who we wouldn't want to be: here they come, tied for dead last, it's getting late and dark, race organizers have pulled down the "Finish Line" banner, street cleaners are sweeping away water cups and confetti, but chugging hard in are Sweet, rolly-poly, kiss-on-the-cheek Lou (no doubt, back hair overtaking his straining tank top straps) and the long-suffering Terrance.
Lou: What a compliment! To be a sweet, tender, understanding learning experience. And Terrance: Jonathan gets his kinky, lying mind-blown, and this guy gets six months of "I hate you, Don't leave me" from an otherwise "going down on you in a theater" Morrissette.
Terrance and Lou were clearly not invited. And that's not fair.
Part of what seems to be going on is that, yes, she dated a variety of guys, but also, that the guys are serving a different, sovereign piece of Morrissette's head. Yes, you did just hear little birdies flying around; that's a little nutty.
Possibly Morrissette is projecting on these guys roles that accommodate her needs. Who knows? Maybe each of these guys could be better or more complete if Morrissette didn't need them to play their part in her song that is her life narrative?
Maybe Matthew and Jonathan are really reliable today? And maybe Terrance and Lou have come into their own and become the hot lovers they always wanted to be.
But I doubt it, the big pussies.
Charles Stuart: A Number One "Keeper"
You know who are real keepers? Sociopaths.
Sure they have a whole other bag of problems, but if you are looking for someone who caters to unintegrated feelings, who will present themselves in a way that makes you look good in front of your friends, then that's the way to go.
Take Charles Stuart. Stuart managed a high-end Boston Furrier. He had come from a working class background, moved up in the world and out to the tonier suburbs; he was a worker and climber. He accentuated his good looks, gift for gab and publicly pronounced his "love of his wife."
Trouble was, he was a sociopath. He lied on his resume to get his job. He pined for other women and used his marriage mainly for the purposes of professional appearance and keeper-bait.
Oh yeah. Another problem. He killed his wife on the way home from a birthing class in 1989, blamed a fictitious black man and ignited a search of the area slums for a suitable suspect. Weeks later, he killed himself by leaping from the Tobin Bridge.
But a keeper, nonetheless. He would've passed the checklist at any boozy Sunday brunch.
Let's be clear, I am not in any way suggesting that all keepers are sociopaths. All I AM suggesting is that every sociopath is a keeper; to someone, at least.
Sociopaths put winning over people over genuine love. And the more people the better.
Very simply, there could be no greater compliment for a sociopath than to be called a keeper in front of room full of family and friends.
A girl comes home to Ma and her friends sitting around the kitchen table. She's had a date: The guy was handsome, took her to the most expensive restaurant in town and told her how much he loved his own mother and was moving up in business.
"He's a Keep-ah!"
Same girl comes home with a guy who took her to Chili's on a gift certificate, is finishing off the elusive masters' thesis and works part-time at a video store. But she had a great time. "We had a great time."
Silence, followed by a scramble to set her up with anybody, even a distantly removed cousin rather than another date with this loser.
Okay. Which guy is more likely to be sociopath? And why?
Of course the guy who puts in all the effort to impress is more likely, but what else? She, the girl, mentions herself and the loser having a good time. The sociopath doesn't care if he or she enjoys the experience for themselves; he wants the girl to go home and talk highly of him. That's what he gets off on. The girl most vulnerable to the sociopath is the one who doesn't enjoy the experience as it happens, but is having it for other people...such as the ladies' gossiping over Sanka and Coffee Ring.
Truth be told, if you're concerned your daughter will bring home Charlie Manson, offend the guy unfairly and see if he reacts.
No sociopath has ever told in-laws to fuck off. (That is before the divorce, estrangement, restraining orders, etc.).
VI. HAPPY, LOVING COUPLES MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY
As the rehearsal dinner for Jaclyn and Dan winded down, their parents asked others to offer their remembrances of the couple's first dating.
Then I recalled it:
we were having beers after softball and Dan was telling us all about this new, great girl he was dating. Jackie was her name.
She gave the absolute best blow-job he had ever received and told him that she was interested in giving a threesome a shot.
I was going to stand up right then and share the memory with the group of extended family and friends. But common sense won out. It wasn't the appropriate time. I had a crab cake in my mouth.
Ah well, There's always the baby shower.