I wrote this a while ago, for a magazine writing class, and despite my professor saying I should look to get it published, I never did. I’m nearly ready to enter the dating pool again (which scares me in itself), so I’m wondering if much has changed from all those years ago…
We sit down at the table and she checks her watch. I know exactly where this evening is headed. Somewhere between the first glass of wine and the main course her phone rings. It’s the bailout call. She doesn’t go, but I know that this evening will end up in a cul-de-sac. There is no need to ask for a second date, I’ve already been crucified. I can hear her answers/excuses in my head before she gives them, “I know too many soccer players”, “students are too needy”, “I’m looking for a man with more ambition”. Unfortunately for me, I’m sitting across from a prophet and she has already mapped out my future.
“I’ve had a lovely evening,” she tells me, and smiles to lessen the blow. “But I don’t feel like we’ve connected.” I nod, happy to hear an excuse slightly different from the other excuses I imagined. It’s funny, because she didn’t talk much all night so the chance for any connection was difficult.
As I walk home that night I wonder what her former dates and boyfriends have done to scar her so badly. Perhaps the soccer player took her on a date and asked for the phone number of the waitress? The student may have expected her to pay for everything. As for the man with no ambition, working in a job that isn’t glamorous, he probably just wasn’t exciting enough.
As I near my apartment, I realize I never really stood a chance, once she decided I was too much like other men. Men who had wronged her in the past. Boorish men with no manners. The insensitive man who can’t or won’t listen. And the worst man of all: the pig.
I walk into my pen, succumbing to the deduction that I am a pig. This is through no fault of my own. This is the title that had been bestowed upon me, so I must find comfort in it, but I can’t.
What makes me a pig? The first deduction I make is that it is not based on physical appearance. Surgery removed my curly tail and years of training has perfected my ability to walk on two feet. I wouldn’t call my nose a snout either; looks more birdlike than anything.
So, I’m standing at the bar one Saturday night with a bunch of friends and their wives and girlfriends. On the table sit about 20 empty bottles of Corona but only three guys are really drinking. One of them is single and I watch as his courage increases with every bottle he pounds back. I like him. He’s funny and outgoing, cares for his family and friends a great deal, but I wouldn’t let him date my sisters. He’s a soccer player too, unfortunately.
He makes his way around the bar grabbing any woman that gets near. His British accent only goes so far. He’s Hugh Grant without the charm or Mr. Bean with muscles. I resign myself to standing at the table with my married friends. It is safer here. After all, this is the same friend who would “shag a snake if [I] held it for him.” He walks back, complaining bitterly about how cold women are. I can only shake my head. I can’t explain to him that women appreciate a guy who can string together more than three sentences at a time. I can’t explain to him that sober is usually better when approaching women. I should be able to, but I can’t.
Pigs are an anti-social animal; we prefer to keep with our own kind rather than mingle with the rest of the farmyard. He talks to me the rest of the night, unaware that the women he has just offended are making note of all his pig friends. Great, I think, we both wore our team jackets here. I wonder if the women see me drinking Coca-Cola all night. I wonder if they see me talking to the wives and girlfriends when their partners ignore them. I wonder if they’ll notice me shepherd all the drunks into my truck to make sure they get home okay. Of course not; I’m a pig.
I sit with the girls at school and listen to their complaints. I’m the harmless old guy and many of them come to me with questions about my fellow pigs. Some of their problems make me laugh, like complaining about endurance and stamina. But others are genuine and have me wondering why they even give us a chance. I’m asked why all men think that making out leads to sex. I want to tell them that a lot of men think sex leads to the uncomfortable task of making out when they are finished. I can’t do this though. I can’t tell them that women and men see sex as two completely different experiences. For women, it is often more emotional while for men it is usually strictly physical. Some of us men don’t think so but I can’t tell them that. I can’t tell them that there might be more men like me who understand a woman’s need to cuddle and talk after sex. I can’t tell them that I actually like the feeling of togetherness that cuddling offers. So I sit and listen to all the stories of my piggish brethren and confine myself to being labeled a pig.
An ex-girlfriend of mine was amazed at how well I communicated feelings and emotions with her. I said it came from being raised in a family of women. That is true. I was taught to listen, to respect and to treat my female siblings fairly, a trait I carry to the women outside of my family. I wanted to learn to cook, so I could have some value outside of my household, and my mom gladly taught me. I’d ask my sisters what they liked about dating, what they didn’t like about dating, and I made notes. The most common answer that came back through these discussions was that men should listen and ask. Women love communication; it’s very emotional for them. But as I’m out and about, I can hear women talking and see their husbands, boyfriends, or dates just nod along, in their own little worlds. They outnumber us listening men four-to-one. As I have said before, pigs like to stick together and communicate with each other. This does not bode well for the rest of us since we are all one animal.
Same Saturday night at the bar and my friend is really antsy. “It’s been weeks,” he tells me and I pity the girl he approaches. He surveys the bar, and eyes up the perfect target, “She’s had seven shooters since we’ve been here.” He smiles a devilish grin and wanders off, the accent that much more appealing. She is no match for him on the dance floor as he is a touchy-feely kind of guy and she is happy for the admiration.
Reluctantly, I drive them home, him rubbing his hands together; she nearly passed out in the back of my truck. When I get to his place, he jumps out and I close the door and drive off, drunken girl still asleep in the truck. I phone her friend and ask where I can drop this saved soul off and I am yelled at, persecuted. How could I let my friend take advantage of her? How could I drive them to his house? I feel like asking how she could let her friend go in the first place, knowing her condition was so bad. I feel like telling her that I’m bringing her home safely but it is to no avail. When I get there she wants to slap me, I can see it in her eyes, but I carry her friend to her couch and leave. My apology goes unnoticed, probably sounding like a grunt or an oink.
I’ve never taken advantage of a drunken girl. In fact, I always felt kind of dirty when my girlfriend would come home drunk and need intimacy. She had no control in these situations and although the trust was more apparent than with a one-night stand, the feeling of power that it gave me was incredible. It would be too easy to manipulate situations in these conditions and it didn’t appeal to me then and doesn’t now. Unfortunately, I know many guys who do prefer drunken women and therefore many women conclude that all guys like drunken women.
I go for dinner the next week with a girl I meet grocery shopping. The dinner is wonderful; we talk and laugh and have a good time. I pay for the bill and she hesitantly lets me. When I pull up outside her house, I stare at her awkwardly unable to read her body language until she stares at me in disbelief. I tell her I don’t expect a hug, a kiss or sex and she looks puzzled. We settle on a handshake and brief hugs and she leaves but calls me the next day asking what my game is.
So I sit and wonder what it is that makes me a pig. I’m respectful, keep my sty clean and can cook; clearly I’m not a pig. I can communicate with the best of them about politics, history, movies, Oprah; clearly I’m not a pig. I know about feelings and emotional attachment and understand that women like to feel connected to their partners; clearly I’m not a pig. When I pay for dinner I don’t expect anything in return; clearly I’m not a pig. And then it hits me like a pile of slop bouncing from the bottom of a trough; I am too a pig. I take out my driver’s license for vindication and it is there as plain as the placemat under my bowl of chicken fried rice. My year of birth is 1971. According to the Chinese zodiac that is the Year of the Pig. I stand corrected.