Issue #198 – “Couples” – January 23rd, 2012

-I’m fascinated by couples – how they meet, date, marry, and break up. I’ve had friends meet their mates online and others in dive bars. I’ve seen couples avoid acknowledging their relationship and others go “Facebook official” within weeks. I’ve attended countless weddings (even officiating one myself), as well as tended broken hearts and offered wingmanship to freshly dumped friends in need. But while single women are unfairly stigmatized and single men just as unfairly glorified, it’s really couples that deserve greater scrutiny. After all, they’re the ones making out and fighting in public, getting messy divorces, and generally making everyone else feel downright uncomfortable.

-I must admit to aiding and abetting a few couples myself. One of my buddies had an intricate system for entering the girls he’d meet into his phone: first name, where she’s from, and how they met. That way, should he decide to call “Lisa Boston Starbucks,” he’d know who she was. As you may remember, back in the day I used to organize epic pub crawls on my birthday each year, and my friend met a lovely Midwestern native on one such crawl. Six years later, they’re married, and my buddy still has his wife listed in his address book as what he entered the day they met: “Sylvia Oklahoma Karo.”

-There is nothing weirder than dating someone who lives with his or her sibling. You know what I’m talking about: those weird brother/sister roommates who aren’t twins but were somehow born less than nine months apart. And they’re always going out together and aggressively setting each other up. Listen, it’s sweet that you’re so close, but I feel weird going home with a girl knowing her brother will be there – and that it was his idea.

-One of my friends recently moved in with her longtime boyfriend, but after six months, it wasn’t working, so she moved out. But here’s the kicker: they stayed together! That’s a new one. Usually when you and your significant other decide to take the “next step,” and it fails, you don’t just go back to the previous step; you stop taking steps. Now their relationship is going in reverse. In about two years they’ll be having a one-night stand.

-Remember when you were younger, there was always a kid at the playground who decided that whatever you were doing that was “cool” yesterday was no longer cool today? The contemporary versions of those kids are married couples. You ever propose an activity that you’ve always done – like tailgating, or, say, staying up past 1am – to a married friend and they act like you’re the one who’s lame for suggesting it? They’re like, “Seriously? I’m in bed by midnight.” Well, excuse me, but personally I still think those things are cool. And, for the record, so is digging a hole to China in the sandbox.

-Of course, sometimes things just don’t work out. Whether you’ve been dating for ten weeks or married for ten years, breaking up is the oft-inevitable consequence of allowing another human being access into the dark and twisted recesses of your personal life. But when enough time has passed after a split, you may find yourself breaking bread with your ex and discussing what exactly went wrong. For those in the corporate world, this exercise might feel familiar: it’s your exit interview. And just like when you leave a job, you should use this opportunity to share constructive criticism with the other party. You may even learn something – most likely that you feel lucky to have gotten out when you did, and feel bad for the poor sap who will eventually take your place.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-Watching the NFL playoffs live on TV means I’m forced to watch the ads I’ve been fast-forwarding through all year. It’s essentially “A Clockwork Orange” with Bud Light commercials.

-I get nervous whenever I’m entering a special event where I need to wear a bracelet. You get that adhesive on your arm hair by accident and it feels like you’re getting your wrist waxed all night. And why do bouncers always put the bracelet on so damn tight? They’re not handcuffs, dude. I’m here for the open bar, not to Occupy Wall Street.

-I don’t know if this says more about how spoiled children are these days or how uninformed they are. My friend, a teacher, asked one of her kindergartners how he spent winter break. He responded, “I went to Aspen. It’s in Avocado.”

-I was sitting in the aisle seat on a plane recently and an older woman sat down in the middle seat beside me. It didn’t seem like any other passengers were boarding the plane, so I leaned over and said to the woman, “You might get lucky.” She looked mortified. Apparently she didn’t realize I was referring to the available window seat next to her.

-I’m sorry, but I’m not impressed with bartenders who concoct “artisan” drinks infused with bizarre flavors. Making a tequila drink that tastes like cucumber and maple syrup isn’t difficult when there’s only half a shot of Patron in there. Try infusing it with alcohol.

-I thought the RSVP card my friend Kim sent with her wedding invitation was pretty creative. Instead of the usual checkboxes, the choices were in the form of Mad Libs. I especially appreciated it because I can’t go to the wedding, and I always feel rude just checking the NO box. At least now she knows I acrobatically cannot attend because I will be shaving my peanut butter.

-I was supposed to have dinner with a few friends, including my buddy and his wife, who have a newborn. When he showed up alone, we asked him where his wife was. He said, “Oh, she’s babysitting.” Can you call it babysitting when it’s your own kid? I think that’s just called “parenting.”

-And, finally, I’ve known some of my buddies for more than twenty-five years. I know everything that has ever happened to them. When I’m around their girlfriends or wives, I need to figure out which skeletons in the closet she’s aware of. I call this the relationship public domain. Multiply that by all my friends who are dating someone, and I’m saddled with an enormous responsibility to be discreet. Sometimes I can’t keep track of who knows what stories. I didn’t use to mind hanging out with couples, but now my tolerance is beginning to wane. Not because I feel awkward being the third, fifth, or even seventh wheel, but because I know where all the bodies are buried and don’t want to slip up and reveal something I shouldn’t. Would I love to have more single friends? Absolutely. I just don’t want to be the reason why. Fuck me.