Water’s getting deeper
And I can’t feel my feet
I keep on bailing buckets
But it flows right back to me
~ “It Takes Time” by Glen Phillips
Saturday night I celebrated a friend’s birthday at a local watering hole. There was a gentleman there, wearing a ring, but alone. My friend, uninhibited courtesy of some fruity drink, asked him where his wife was. He said, “I’m not married.” She laughed, pointed to the ring, and asked again, “Where is your wife?” He acknowledged the ring with a nod, then stated again that he wasn't married. “It’s a long story,” he murmured. He was saved from further interrogation by the DJ calling his name to sing. As the unmarried man with a ring belted out “Welcome to the Jungle” with some skill, my friend cheered loudly and we went on with our evening.
When finished singing, he refilled his beer glass and walked over to the bar where we were sitting. He introduced himself to the four of us, and then explained the story of the ring. He has been dating a woman 11 years his senior for 3 years. She has been married 3 or 4 times already. They do not live together. Recently, he awoke to her slipping a ring onto his finger. She said she was tired of waiting for him to propose, so she bought a ring for him to wear until they are married so he would “remember” her impatience. I am not known for my “soft and gentle” approach to these matters. Incredulously, I asked, “Are you effin serious?” He was, indeed, serious. Holding eye contact with me, he said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose her, but . . .” and his voice trailed off.
Why do strangers find themselves compelled to confide in me? I could feel his desperation. He needed someone to listen to him. I needed another drink to deal with this conundrum; but was driving, so instead, I sipped my water and listened as he went on about his relationship with this woman. When he stopped talking, I asked him if he wanted my insight or just to continue listening. He chose the former, so I told him that while I don’t know him or his partner, it is clear to me that he is not ready to marry her. When he asked me how I knew that he wasn't ready, I responded with a directness he may not have been expecting.
“If you wanted to be married, you wouldn't be at a bar by yourself, telling another woman how you aren't sure about your relationship, and confiding with a level of intimacy normally reserved for dear friends. Also, you wouldn't be looking at me in the way you are, if that ring meant anything to you. I am not judging you or your relationship. Everyone’s life is his own. I have learned, however, that staying with someone because you don’t want to lose her is unhealthy. Either stay with your partner because you want to be with her or let her go so you can each find someone who fulfills your needs.”
He sipped his beer without saying anything. His expression was thoughtful. I wished him luck, grabbed my purse, hugged my friends goodbye, and then, dismayed by the icy blast of winter that had arrived while I was in the bar, I walked to my car. Waiting for Lucius to warm up, I thought about the man with the ring. I hoped that he would make a decision that brings him joy. So many people fear being alone. What they don’t realize is that being alone is far superior to being with someone and wishing they would leave you alone (especially if it is so you can be free to be with someone else).
What do I know? I’m a twice-divorced, single woman who has spent a majority of life excusing boys’ bad behaviours.
PERSONAL NOTE: Girlfriend, you need to love yourself as much as we love you . . . then kick up your heels and rejoice in life.
CONFIDENTIAL NOTE: Your support is ever-present. Thank you.