Single White Male Seeks Single Female with Benefits

This is what the headline would say if my parents believed in arranged marriages and for the most part, I agree with it. I’m single. I’m white. I’m a male. I’m looking for a single female. Whether she has benefits or not, well, this is where the story begins.

I was a bright-eyed college graduate heading into the world not unlike a newborn foal wobbling into a field for the first time; in my mind a majestic and powerful force, in reality a newbie with toothpicks for legs. What this foal needed was some stability, and fast! But it wouldn’t be found in a job. I worked at a summer camp, for a temp agency, in tour marketing, for a non-profit organization, and doing maintenance at a church. None of those jobs screamed “security!” Common questions my parents asked were, “Do you go to the doctor? Have you found a dentist? Do you have insurance? Have you met anyone special?” Common answers, “Of course. Not yet. Of course. Not yet.” Around this time my dad started a joke with single girls he met. He’d ask them if they had a job with benefits. He was looking to get me a wife, a task parents often volunteer for whether their children approve or not. I think secretly he was just looking for a laugh, and in that regard, it worked. But as I got older, I found steady work. I went to the doctor. I started flossing. Unfortunately, though, I never outgrew the joke. That is, until this weekend.

Family and friends from all over the eastern United States gathered in Florida to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Helen Walters Davis, a 100-year-old sister, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother (you can check out her 100th birthday bash by clicking here). The funeral of this fine lady was especially tough because only a few months earlier we gathered to bury Foster Davis, her husband and my grandfather. I wrote up something about that rascally war veteran here. Given the circumstances, the family was smiling as much as possible, even in the midst of tears and hugs. There was also laughter because when my family gets together, it’s just plain funny. Think “Meet the Parents,” “Father of the Bride,” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” all rolled into a perfect little Hallmark Channel original. But the romantic comedy that is my life had a dramatic scene just after the funeral ended.

The two limousines were waiting at the church entrance to drive us back to my grandparents house. Only something was different. One of the original drivers had to leave for another funeral so there to take his place was an attractive brunette in her mid-twenties. The family network lit up with excitement. Evidently the perfect way to recover from a funeral is to plan a wedding because save the date’s were practically printing themselves. I quickly became the man of the hour. Even the other limo driver was offering ideas on how to make it happen. I stalled long enough to dodge having to propose to her right there on the church steps so we were now on our way to the house. The likelihood this new opportunity would turn into anything significant was so small, yet, there was a chance. So my brother and I bounced around a few ideas of how I could strike up a conversation when she arrived in the second limo. How could I introduce myself? Was there a clever and appropriate way to hit on a girl… at my grandmother’s funeral? When did I become Will Ferrell in “Wedding Crashers”? Anyway, the plan was coming together. Until my dad showed up. In a flurry of flowers, hugs, finding keys, and making plans, I looked up to see him chatting with the pretty driver. My world came crashing down in bricks of holidays off, health coverage, and decent company 401k-matching. Yep, he asked her if she had benefits. My strategy then became damage control so the first thing I said to her was, “I’m sorry.” She was a good sport about it all but I knew having an adult conversation at this point was pointless.

If there was anything good that came from this experience, it certainly wasn’t a blossoming relationship with that girl. It was the conversation I had with my parents later that afternoon. I confronted my dad about the on-going joke and how his version of encouragement was actually discouraging. I also brought up the Christmas newsletter my mom wrote in which she talked about everything happening with the family, but pointed out what’s not happening with me (finding a wife). I love my parents for being involved. I would never want to experience the alternative but sometimes their concern is a little too tangible. It’s a little too hands-on. I expressed to them that as a single guy in my early thirties, I’m in a great place they’ve never experienced. When my dad was in his early thirties, he already had four kids. That’s not the way my story’s going but I’m happy and they’re on-board with encouraging me where I am, not just where they want me to be. Soon enough there will be a love interest in this epic romantic comedy I’m living in. But for now, I’m single. I’m white. I’m wondering if that limo driver is on Facebook.

Just kidding.

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Where Are All the Men

Last week I saw a rerun of Friends. At one point, Chandler was asked to do some handy work, and he said to wait while he goes to get his wife’s tools. I was struck immediately with the thought, “Is this the American man now?” That episode probably aired ten years ago, of course, so I understand it’s a bit outdated. But I wonder if there are more Chandler Bing’s out there now. Men who are not tough.

I remember when men on tv were ones I could look up to, men with character that were chivalrous and strong: MacGyver, Cliff Huxtable, Uncle Jessie, possibly Danny Tanner (although he wasn’t very tough except in the episode where he dressed like a rockstar to play at D.J.’s fundraiser), Mr. T, the father on Boy Meets World, Tom Selleck, James Garner and Tony Danza (Who’s the Boss?).

But over the course of a couple of decades they’ve turned into Charlie Sheen (Two and A Half Men), the guys on Big Bang Theory, Barney Stinson, the Situation, and professional athletes that get in trouble for domestic violence. It seems like men in the spotlight now are either over the top, or way under the top. Womanizers, or pansies. We’re persuaded to tolerate those kinds of guys and that tolerance creates more of those kinds of guys. We mock the jerks on The Bachelor, and yet we tune in every week to watch. I guess I’m just tired of seeing the pansification of men in America. I’m tired of contributing to it.

Bring back the men that open doors for women, that don’t call or text after 10pm. Men that can budget money. Guys that play football on the weekends and go to church, too. Men that are less concerned if their fingernails are clipped and more concerned about securing leaks in the house. Men that rough house with their kids, nieces or nephews but will not tolerate outsiders who do the same. Men that care less about matching their shoes with their belt, and more about making a woman feel pretty and wanted. Men that get down on one knee to ask their girlfriend to marry them not inspite of it being old-fashioned but because it’s old-fashioned. Men that would give their life to protect the ones they love. They drive trucks. They have a dog. They may even cuss a little when they get fired up. They eat horse radish because it puts hair on their chest. It’s ok to have calloused hands. It’s ok to believe in something and disagree with someone who believes differently. Tolerance is for the birds. Buck up and be a man. Respect women. Cook burgers and steak. Grill chicken and eat all of it that night. Eat broccoli because it’s healthy, but it’s ok if you don’t enjoy it. Eat a salad and take care of your body. Excercise and get strong. Compete. Compete fairly. Own tools and use them. Be old-fashioned. Don’t be a Chandler. Be a Fred Wilder. He plays the drums. He travels weekly. He’s been married for over forty years to one lady, my mom. He still enjoys washing his car and hers on the weekend. He was in the Coast Guard for twenty-seven years and served in Desert Storm. So he’s tough, but he also likes Hallmark Channel movies. He’s got a truck and a beagle. He has four grown kids that he makes an effort to see or talk to regularly.

He’s an example of what men should be. Well, he and MacGyver.