In which University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik introduces her best girlfriend forever.
When I was young, I knew I would never get married. I had the whole seven dwarfs of unwifely characteristics: Bossy, Macho, Driven, Ornery, Rebellious, Intemperate, and Whack. Still, I was boy-crazy from the get-go and hormones trump all cards. I spent my teens and 20s pursuing a series of mad loves, and then devoted my 30s and 40s to two passionate, screwed-up marriages. My first husband died young; the second and I nearly killed each other.
When I found myself single at 50, my reflex was to fill the vacancy. My personal history suggested it wouldn’t take long. And according to the news, there were hordes of people in my situation. Optimistically I put on eyeliner and well-fitting tops. I dated men of many races, ages and IQs, ranging from an illiterate construction worker to a brain scientist. Long story short: news reports right, personal history wrong.
Perhaps I just wasn’t motivated enough. Because actually, I already have a girlfriend.
She’s a mercurial 12-year-old beauty, my daughter Jane. Because of her, I can’t claim to be alone or lonely. Most nights, she and I have dinner, do our homework, watch TV, sit side by side on the couch and play with our phones. She takes pictures of herself (a.k.a. “selfies”) and goes on Instagram, which is what girls her age do, and I answer emails and go on Facebook, which is what girls my age do. Then we head upstairs and have a slumber party in my king-sized bed.
Unless we’ve had a fight. Then she marches off down the hall to her own room.
Thank God I overcame my reservations about having another child at 42, though my second husband and I already had four between us. By the time we split up eight years later, those older children had gone off to college. Instead of an empty nest, I was left with a fluffy blond chick.
I may have severe drawbacks as a wife, but as a mom I was a natural. I first realized this during the period of single motherhood that came after my first husband died of AIDS in the mid-90s. I had no idea how I would manage left on my own with two little boys aged four and six. It turned out I managed better than I had before.
If you enjoy egregious doting, if you thrive on being needed, if you are comfortable with the burden of being right all the time, motherhood is a dream job. I like the groupie aspect as well, the JV football games and the school plays. I also find it very relaxing that my position – Beloved Progenitrix – comes with tenure for life.
In fact, it’s not my potential romantic activities that are most likely to break up my cozy tête-à-tête with Jane. It’s hers — though she claims to have renounced her secret crush on a certain heartthrob at school. (It turns out that like so many good-looking fellas, he is a little self-involved. Though, she has to admit, still very nice. Perhaps he might be able to change her mind if he took up the project.) I love to tease her about this, but once she actually starts dating, it’ll be the beginning of the end. I’ll be on the couch with a box of Kleenex, watching “Glee” with the dog.
Anyway I have already said far too much on the topic of Jane’s love life. I don’t want to get in trouble with Jane, who can be sharp and kind of diva-y and has a very good vocabulary of invective, which is obviously my fault. For example, recently we were driving home all day in a snowstorm. By the end, we were both suffering from low blood sugar and frayed nerves, and as I was parking in front of our house, I missed a line of our audiobook.
“What’d he say?” I said.
“Aren’t you listening?” Jane asked scornfully.
“Are you kidding?” I said.
“I’m just saying listen if you want to hear it.” She snapped off the power and unplugged the iPhone from the jack.
“Is that what you say to someone who has been driving all day in the snow? You’re crazy!”
“Get away from me, you vile creature!” she replied.
There was a moment of silence, then I burst out laughing, which further enraged her, but only for a moment.
If this love affair sounds a little troubling to you, not to worry. Jane’s adolescence is a natural cure for my pathetic emotional dependency on her, I’m afraid. I went through a version of this with her older brothers and I know how tragic it will be. The person that I am in love with — this 12 year old — won’t even exist anymore. If the fates allow it, a quite different person, a young adult with her own relationships and her own apartment, will visit me on holidays, call for my recipe for salad dressing, and reject my wardrobe advice.
At least I’ll have the selfies in my phone to remember my old girlfriend by.
Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.