My First Wife (MFW) of 40 odd years is retiring next month and, being a thoughtful new-age type of guy, I inquired whether she wished me to be at her side for moral and spousal support when her office had her farewell cocktail party.
“Oh God, NO!” outburst MFW. “I mean, no, I couldn’t possibly ask you to interrupt your trip to the fishing camp. You’ll be missed, for sure, but I’ll just have to muddle by on my own.”
Actually, MFW has been muddling as a solo act on the cocktail circuit for most of our 40 decades of holy deadlock and that’s just as well considering my track record.
You see, I’ve just never quite mastered the art of social chitchat.
Journalism provides little training for small talk (I spent most of my career yelling at people) and a happy hour reception at a newspaper editors’ convention gives rise to the same graces that characterize a Viking raid.
MFW, on the other hand, is a sensitive artiste raised in the genteel surroundings of a family that couldn’t come up with a decent arrest sheet among the whole boring lot.
Now, to give her credit, she did try the pig-male-ian thing back when she thought there might be hope. (Women marry you because you’re perfect and then embark on a lifetime campaign to change all your shortcomings.)
Her first attempt was something called a vernisage, which I thought was a course about growing worms in compost for fishing, but turned out to be an art show by a local impressionist.
I was not very impressionisted by the spatters of paint that were obviously hurled about a studio in some sort of drug-fueled, pre-psychotic rage until some of it landed inside some overwrought frames.
But I tried, for the sake of the bride, and told the goateed author of these travesties that I quite liked the one that looked sort of like a fish and, by god, I know my speckled trout.
The guy went into a deep pout because the work was, apparently, actually a depiction of Man’s deep anguish at being thrust from the womb into a cold earthly wasteland or some such rubbish.
But when no one else in the white-wine crowd seemed to be reaching for their wallets, our local Picasso drifted back within the aura of my money clip and allowed that maybe he had been thinking about fish in his moment of inspiration.
Like your average trout, I didn’t bite and he wandered off to share bitchy comments with MFW that a certain type of person should not be invited to such events. In that, we were all in agreement and I was relieved to be dropped from the A-list.
MFW tried again early in the marriage before the kids came along, dragging me to a gathering of people from the department at the business where she worked.
Things got off to a bad start because they were drinking real cocktails and didn’t have any beer or wine. I do not consume hard liquor in any form and had to content myself with orange juice, a lousy companion for cigarettes.
A very pregnant and heavily-cocktailed 20-something charged into my personal space and demanded to know why the bride and I had been married for years and I hadn’t knocked her up yet.
Once again, I tried to be nice, until Miss Piggy-Litter suggested we were being almost criminally selfish by not following her lead spawning five annual bundles since her shotgun marriage at 16 to the ultimate betterment of a planet of six billion desperately in need of more mouths to not feed.
Orange juice will do that to you. I told her that if she could give me one UNSELFISH reason to have children, I would spread my seed with great abandon.
She tried, but failed. Even the other mothers in our conclave agreed that her evidence (“it’s such a joy to see them grow up”; “I just love being pregnant despite the discomfort”; “the sleepless nights are all worth it”) all really amounted to self-aggrandizement of the bodily function of reproductive capacity shared by a mere six billion other breeders.
The litter lady ended up sobbing uncontrollably, caught within the blinding light of slap-head truth, when MFW arrived to drag me away.
Another event removed from my social butterfly calendar.
(As a public service to all of you who like to stay at home, this selfish/unselfish thing is a party (or maybe anti-party) trick. It is impossible to come up with an unselfish reason for breeding, just as it is for the other primary drives—eating, drinking, crapping and driving that planet-raping SUV.)
After moving from the private sector to a job on Parliament Hill, I suddenly became a hot commodity for soirees hosted by public servants for whom the politicians’ legislative sandbox is some kind of employment nirvana. MFW dragged me to one gabfest and I got confused very early.
All of the government drones started asking me math questions about whether I was classified as an “EX-5” or and “IM-7” or R2-D2 and I didn’t have an answer or a clue. The bride laughed and explained these people were just trying to find out how much money I made, or at least the narrow range that these letters and numbers would tell them.
Well, that was a relief! I certainly didn’t want to embarrass her by appearing hopelessly out of the loop on this important matter.
So, the next time a gaggle of bureaucrats raised the number/letter topic, I triumphantly replied:
“I make $75,000 a year—how about you guys?”
All hell broke loose. Suddenly, I was all alone listening to the strange sound that fills a room when all the assholes in it tighten in unison.
MFW charged over swimming upstream against the flow of her colleagues fleeing to the bar to dull their senses against this onslaught of unvarnished information.
“What did you DO?!” she hissed.
Hell, I just gave them what they wanted, didn’t I? If they don’t want an answer, why do they put so much effort into the convoluted question? Should I try to smooth things over by telling them all the details about my oak-panelled office, the liquor cabinet and my unlimited expense account?
It was another early night ….
That was it for me and high society.
The local rag is filled with pages featuring botoxed people sporting drinks, nice clothes and really expensive hair transplants standing about on their new hip and knee replacements smiling broadly because I am not there ruining everything with facts and logic.
I coulda had that, too, with a little more diplomacy, political correctness and hypocrisy.
Instead, I’m happy to spend a low-profile, self-effacing existence producing sparkling and incisive blog repartee for normal people who don’t get invited out, either.
Hey, gang, that’s a good thing. This web site is one continuous cocktail party—where there is no cash bar … and you don’t have to go outside to smoke.