Here is a theorem for single men:
Where subvariable (s) = single, subvariable (c) = coupled, and T = frequency of talking:
M(s) = [T(c)/45] + [T(kids) * 722]
M(c) + F(c) = [30 * T(c)] – T(kids) ad infinitum*
Equations assume 35 > M(age) > 30. M(c) + F(c) need not have kids, but variables need have participated in stable relationship for at least two years in order to qualify. See notes below.
* — T(kids) in this equational context excludes talk and M(c) + F(c), if applicable, looking after one’s own children, which, if properly caluclated, is T(kids.own) multiplied by negative six billion.
For those of you too addled from the weekend to do the math, let me explain.
Every so often, I go to parties and social occasions to meet people, check up on friends and ensure that they are doing okay, and that all is right with the universe. But I’ve found that something quite interesting has happened at these affairs. Namely that I am, for the most part, the only single man there.
Oh, sometimes, I’ll bring a girlfriend along. But because I am not engaged or betrothed in some vaguely Judeo-Christian way to said girlfriend, because there hasn’t been any “life partner” status assigned to the relationship (with the apparent imprimatur only detectable by those who have met the accepted prerequisites, which is two years of stability and other ancillary variables best not revealed here), it usually does not count. The relationship, by dint of being under the two year mark (which seems an especially interminable time to obtain this social credibility), does not permit single men to legitimately socialize with bona-fide couples. After all, these couples are the ones buying the homes, starting the families, having the babies, and undergoing incredible neuroses which genuinely pertain to burgeoning careers. What are single men over thirty doing? Flirting with women, drinking beer without a life partner enforcing Stasi-style regulations over the precise quantities imbibed, not yet giving up on the more obscure offerings of contemporary music (and, in some gloomy cases, console video game systems), and perpetually delaying that moment in which they’ll eventually have to settle down. These aren’t bad things, per se. But compared with the couples, these lifestyle choices are rather pedantic by comparison. Not in the single man’s mind, of course. Then again, one can’t imagine revealing these so-called “accomplishments” to one’s family without getting back serious reservations, let alone interminable titters.
What does happen, however, is that if I am one of the only single men at a party, inevitably I find myself surrounded by kids. And not only surrounded by them, but actively engaging them in conversation about the nature of the universe and contemplating some harmless Dennis the Menace-style mischief. I am not sure if these children look at me and say to themselves, “This guy is fun. He can be trusted.” I am not sure if it is because I talk to them as if they are my peers, often scaling down my ten-cent words to ensure that they’ll understand what I’m talking about (strangely, a substantial cluster of adults are prepared to speak belittlingly to kids at every opportunity and I’ve never understood this, given that kids are often capable of the most original perceptions). I am not sure if it’s because their young and nimble minds perform the pivotal arithmetic, seeing Single Man Over Thirty negotiating the tricky waters (read: trying to transmute beyond third wheel status) of a conversation with an M(c)+F(c) coupling or three, and immediately ascertaining that they are going to be a more effective draw.
Whatever the reasons, I generally end up talking with kids.
I really don’t mind this, as I remain a bachelor and an urban dweller. In my neighborhood, if I see a child, he is often strapped down, whether by a seatbelt or by duct tape only the parenting experts can say, in a moving vehicle, with some vigilant parent urging the child not to look at the glitz or the riff-raff and remain focused, no doubt, on abstractions related to domestic well-being. In other words, if I do see kids, it is not generally in their native environment, which involves curiosity, play and the formation of associations. I see children congregated in the backs of MUNI buses, remarking on the latest hip-hop prodigy or that boy they like or that bitch getting all the attention in fifth period, or, particularly at cultural functions, under the martinet eyes of protective parents hoping that this restriction will make the experience of processing art somehow enlightening and favorable upon the child.
I should point out that I am not adverse to kids (far from it), that I am not jealous of other couples who are together and happy, and that I am quite happy to be single. I am merely bemused by this all.
Almost the minute that I turned 30, all of my friends suddenly revealed themselves to be married. Never mind that I had attended weddings. Six year old kids appeared out of nowhere, as if they had been quietly kept from my knowledge, presumably locked in closets like feral children from the wild that are only just adapting to civilization. Perhaps the fault here is mine, given that the endless well-wishes and gifts I offered over the years were, indeed, more seminal than I estimated. But the kids eventually grew up and, in turn, these children began seeking me out as if I were the 21st Century’s answer to the Pied Piper. And it all happened almost immediately after I turned thirty. At twenty-nine, the couples still talked to me, perhaps finding some explicit disparity between the lives they once lived (single) and a living exemplar of such (me, a single man). Perhaps thirty served as the line of demarcation. Any unmarried and unattached man beyond that mark was either an embarassment, had little in common with these pristine and hermetically sealed family lives, or was left to flail his arms on his own in the cold and choppy oceans of singledom.
Now for those of you who paid attention to the initial equation, you may have noticed the thirty-five cap. This is because once one’s hair has mostly receded, and once the flecks of gray in one’s hair are more promiment, there is apparently a detente in relation to the previously unabated struggles in talking with couples. One has marched long and hard into the jungles and emerged from the other side, mostly unscathed and certainly with far too many empty scotch bottles behind him. The post-35 single male is either “eccentric” or mature enough to be talked to by other couples. Keep in mind too that there are inevitable dissolutions of some of these relationships, meaning that a 35 year old single male is a hot commodity among divorcees of the same age and those looking to set said divorcées (and, for that matter, divorcés) up.
Presumably, at 35, there is also some change in the relationship between single men and kids. Since single men over 35 are suddenly more palatable, the kids now pass this type of single man over. Being well-adjusted (har har), the kids look towards the fresh meat of single men within the age of 30 and 35.
The rest of us pre-35 single males must then either find a mate, certifiable as a “life partner” for the appropriate peers and authorities, or must contend ourselves with children, the latter certainly not a taxing proposition. Until, of course, we then have to clarify to certain unscrupulous couples that we are, in fact, not gay, despite living in San Francisco, our love of showtunes and our apparently quite strange single status.
© 2005, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.