Marianne and I were drinking together at our usual spot. She chose the spot a few years ago, and it was fine with me. It’s stylish without being trendy. It’s the kind of place professional women like, because they can wear a suit and still feel rather sexy. And it’s expensive, which bothers Marianne not at all, because she expects me to pay.
“You should get married,” Marianne told me, then took a sip of her second martini.
“That’s brilliant. Sheer genius. And entirely original,” I replied, scanning the bar for shiny objects in professional packages.
“There are lots of advantages.”
“And you’re going to tell me some of them,” I sighed into my bourbon.
“Fine, then,” she said haughtily, “If you don’t want to listen to reasoned counsel…”
“Go ahead and counsel me, counselor. But I’m not paying your ridiculous hourly.”
“I’m worth every penny!” she objected.
I met her eyes and grinned evilly. “I’m quite certain you are,” I said, enjoying being crude.
She didn’t know whether to be offended or flattered, so she settled for both. “You’re a pig with a nasty mind, but you should still get married,” she declared, frowning and smiling at the same time. It was a neat trick.
“It’s time for you to grow up,” she continued. “You’re looking at 40. If you’re not married by 40, people are going to think you’re either gay or weird.”
“Or maybe both!” I said, wide-eyed.
She ignored me, as she often does. “Plus, you want to have children.”
“That’s true,” I allowed.
“So you can’t keep putting it off. Think about it. Let’s say, like, tomorrow you married a woman who’s 35. Fertility could already be an issue. You spend a couple of years getting comfortable and building a nest, and you may be facing a hard time becoming parents.”
“No problem,” I said. “I like much younger women.”
“No, you don’t. You do not. I know you very well.”
She looked away, exasperated, and swore under her breath. “We’re not talking about that. Again.”
“Okay, but we’re thinking about it,” I smiled, thinking about it.
“Now pay attention. You,” she said, sitting forward and pointing a red fingernail at me, “would like being married.” Then she drained her glass. I signaled the waitress for another round.
“Would I? What would I like?”
“Having a real partner, for one thing. When you have that kind of partner – to share the experience - the good things in life are even better, and the bad things are less bad.”
“I share things,” I countered. “I just share different things with different people at different times.”
“It’s not the same,” she insisted. “You know it’s not the same. You need to quit dabbling in relationships and get serious about it. Just in the last few years I’ve met… I don’t know… four or five women you’ve been dating, any one of whom could’ve made a great wife for you.”
“Mmmm,” I nodded. “But what if I wouldn’t make such a great husband for them?”
Marianne paused to smile as the waitress delivered fresh drinks, then to take a large slurp of martini. “Yes, you would.”
“I travel too much. I’m never here.”
“So travel less. Change your business model,” she said.
“I like my space,” I added. “I like the way I have my life arranged. I know where everything is.”
“It’s easier than you think to adjust to a spouse in the house. Compromise isn’t that hard.”
“I like sex to be dramatic, not routine,” I continued.
“You can have dramatic married sex,” she shot back. “And you are the one who helped me remember that.”
“And I’m a stubborn, arrogant, disputatious man, and always will be.”
“So you need to marry a stubborn, arrogant, disputatious woman, who’ll make you deliriously happy and fill in the holes in your life. And you need to do it soon. Before you get old.”
I thought for a moment, sipping my drink. Considered a few things, and a few people. Thought about marriages I knew of, good and bad.
“I can’t just keep on keeping on?” I asked, grinning faintly. “The carnival has to stop?”
“Not at all,” she said, with a very big, very genuine smile. “It’s just a different kind of carnival. It’s just as good.”
“Hmmm. You’re smart.”
I reached my glass halfway across the table. She leaned forward to clink hers to mine.
“Did you just look down my cleavage?” she said mock-indignantly.
“Only briefly and reverently,” I said.