I took my son to the local Barnes & Nobles today so he could play with their Thomas the Tank Engine railroad set and I could have five minutes of peace (turned out to be forty-five…let’s hear it for the germ-infested petri dish that is the communal play area!).
Jon’s a great player – he’s quiet, focuses in on his toys, and unless another kid comes up and tries to take something from him, he’s content to be content playing with borrowed trains. Should another kid enter the room, however, you can almost hear the Marlin Perkins over-dub:
The young cub senses another intruding into his territory. Right away you notice that his eyes go black and full, and the hairs on his neck begin to rise in an unspoken show of dominance. Let’s see what happens when the intruder tries to take away some of the young cub’s spoils…OH! THE HUMANITY! The intruder limps away, missing several teeth, his Toy Story sippy cup, and in desperate need of a fresh change of training pants. Meanwhile, the young cub seems to be sporting the thinnest of smiles as he returns to the land he calls his own.
Sorry. Don’t know where that came from. Where was I?
Oh yeah – Barnes & Noble, kid section. Jon’s playing, and I’m just sitting in the dad chairs – you know, the ones that are just sort of pulled up to the side of any childrens’ play area or women’s dressing room? – minding my own business. A lady comes walking over and starts looking at the books nearby. She’s not unattractive by any means; she’s not within an international long distance call of my wife, but she’s a pretty lady. And so she’s looking for books, and I’m just doing the dad thing, watching Jon.
Suddenly, she’s looking for books very close to me. Very close. Like, too close. I-can-smell-the-dog-hair-on-her-jacket too close. I turn, since my bubble has been invaded and give her a tired dad smile.
She smiles and turns her head away, then cuts her eyes back to look at me.
And I’m thinking: Get real, lady.
Heli-shopper won’t go away though, and she’s now just kind of moving in a weird half-circle around me, bouncing from shelf to shelf, revisiting shelves she’s already looked at. Finally, she just stops and says, “Hi.”
She points at Jon. “Is that your little boy?”
“He’s a cutie.”
“Like his dad.”
Now, time out here: I am going to say something that is an absolute betrayal of the brotherhood of men, but it needs to be said. If a man uses a line that lame on you, ladies, please feel free to hit him with the nearest blunt object. I mean, for shame.
I just sat there, incredulous at the fact that this lady just dropped something so pathetic on me. Part of me wanted to laugh. Part of me wanted to be really mean – and to be honest, I started writing this blog as a way of getting that snark out. But now that I’m typing, all sorts of other thoughts are coming to mind.
Maybe she’s recently divorced and trying to find her way. Maybe she’s always been a wallflower is trying to force herself to get out there more, take more chances and live life to the full. Could be she’d recently lost weight, or overcome a terrible struggle, and she just wanted to see if someone else would acknowledge her newfound strength. I don’t know. I wish I could say I had all these thoughts at the time.
But I didn’t.
I just smiled and nodded. Not meanly, mind you. But I didn’t say anything back to her. In fact, I didn’t even look at her, because I didn’t want to encourage the dialog to go any father. I smiled, nodded, and made sure to stretch my hands above my head and play with my wedding ring.
She didn’t burst into tears or anything; she merely picked up a copy of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss and went quietly on her way. It was such a non-event that Jon never took his eyes off of the badly chewed Percy train he was leading around the track.
I’ll be honest. Nobody ever hits on me. Nobody. I think I give off the “Nice-guy-taken-sort-of-a-dork-not-worth-your-time-anyway” vibe that women just don’t seem to respond to. And I’m great with that. I don’t need people hitting on me. I have a beautiful wife who married me and stays with me everyday to validate me and my attractiveness (sorry; that sounds egotistical). So part of my awkwardness was the fact that it just doesn’t happen to me.
But the larger part of it comes from the fact that I wear a wedding band. I seldom go without it. Now, perhaps she didn’t see the band; that’s a stretch, given how many times she circled me like a buzzard, but it’s possible. If so, then okay – weird, but nothing of immediate crisis. But I’m almost positive she saw the band and still felt compelled to try engage me in conversation. If so, that means the band, to her, didn’t mean a dang thing.
Now, back to my thoughts above – maybe she’d just come out of a marriage that taught her that ring might not mean anything. Maybe she grew up hearing that you just never know. Maybe she was just desperately in need of some kind of interaction. I don’t know.
But the band means something. It means, as I say in all of my wedding ceremonies, that I’m half of a sacred whole. It’s me and Rachel, together, period.
I hope that lady finds someone who’ll respect her and treat her well and make her feel like the most beloved person on the planet. I hope she finds her soul mate and they live happily ever after. I hope nothing but good things for her.
But as for me, please: I’m wearing a ring, and it means something more than just jewelry.