4 Awful Things You Forget About Being Single
I'm so out of touch with the singles scene that I say things like "the singles scene." I've been with my wife for nearly 10 years now, and I have completely forgotten what it was like to be without her. It's been so long, in fact, that the blurry beer goggles of nostalgia occasionally creep up on me, making me wistfully look back on my single days as something less than completely awful. Recently, however, my wife and I have had to live apart for a few months for employment reasons, and it has become increasingly apparent that nostalgia is a lying sack of shit. Because I sure as hell didn't miss ...
The Demolition of the Food Pyramid
My wife and I have the same deal most married couples have: She cooks, I clean. I'm not inept at cooking or anything -- if she doesn't feel up to it, I'll still make us dinner. I've learned how to take care of myself almost as well as a real adult, so it's been many years since I've ruined a pot of pasta irretrievably and been forced to shame-march into the nearest Taco Bell. But literally the day after my wife left, my brain looked around, made sure the coast was clear and screamed "She's gone, fellas!" and all of my terrible, stoned-college-kid priorities came streaming out of the closets where they'd been hiding this whole time. Never mind that I objectively know how to make a bitchin' frittata, and that my steaks bring vegans to their knees (I shouldn't brag -- a few swift kicks will do it; the lack of protein makes their joints almost comically brittle). The second my wife closed that door, all vegetables turned to ashes in my mouth and my hands forgot how to work human utensils. For the first few days, I tried to hold on to some semblance of normalcy and bought a few of those perpetually wet bags of precooked chicken from the grocery store ...
Looks good! Now, can you seal it in plastic and throw it in a hot shower for a few hours?
But a man cannot live on swamp-chicken alone. Normally I'd do what all men do in this scenario: turn exclusively to fast food, flip my toilet the bird and start mixing Pepto into my Scotch (I call it Potch, and it is as delicious as it is soothing). But drive-thru isn't an option for me, because my only vehicle is a motorcycle. No matter how politely you ask, Wendy's employees are almost universally unwilling to "JUST STUFF THE BURGER INTO THE FUCKING HELMET HOLE." So now the horrible, lazy, utilitarian monster inside of me is cooking weekly mass meals and eating them out of their storage containers -- just like I did when I was single.
PROTIP: If you ever get tired of your Sad Man's Rations, you can just take the lids off two containers and mash them together!
You know what this would probably go good with? Whatever's in the blue thing that's been sitting in the fridge for two weeks!
Sometimes you wind up with a nice surprise, like that time I tossed a homemade hot sauce bowl together with the diced chicken bucket and ended up with something like Buffalo Wings Cereal. Other experiments are less successful, like the time I threw the leftover coconut cream from last week's curry into a bowl of fudge and wound up with a Magic Bullet container full of what I'm going to call Mockery Milkshake. That's what really separates the genders: A woman might do something that gross and stupid, sure, but she'll throw away the resulting foodbortion and try again. A man will be damned if he's going to let the food win, so he's going to choke that shit down on principle. You toss some bourbon into that failure shake and you settle down to a nice trough of chicken remnants, fella: The appliances can sense weakness. If you let the oven win tonight, tomorrow the washing machine will turn on you.
The Horrible Freedom
I don't want to foster any stupid sitcom stereotypes: Men are not helpless beasts floundering about in the mud without their womenfolk. My wife doesn't nag me to do chores or tell me to put on pants (nobody fucking tells me to put on pants) -- it's just that the mere presence of another human being in my life who might potentially judge me is apparently the only thing that keeps me from completely violating the Social Contract and living like a savage fucking ape with a Netflix queue. And now the Keeper of the Contract has gone, so ...
All 52 seasons of Wings, you say? Why, that does sound marginally better than eating my own feces, thank you!
... I have become a savage fucking ape with a Netflix queue. It's no secret that I love shitty movies and television. I'm not sorry for that. The wife, for her part, will always tolerate one or two terrible pieces of entertainment a night, because she knows that I am strong, and could overpower her. But eventually she'll insist that we turn off Kevin Sorbo's masterwork, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and like, go for a walk or some bullshit. But now, without the censoring influence of another rational human being in my personal space, I am free to hit rock bottom. Sure, I kept some standards up at first -- I'd only watch Drive Angry two, maybe three times a night, and I'd be sure to take at least an hour break in between three-hour blocks of Sliders -- but now it's over: I can no longer deny that I have a problem.
I watched Battleship last night. All of it. And I did it on purpose. I know one of the 12 Steps is making amends, but answer me this: How can you ever properly apologize to yourself for that kind of thing?
For some sins, there simply can be no forgiveness. This will follow me until the day I die, and beyond. When I'm rooming with Hitler in hell and he asks what I did to deserve my fate, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to make something up. I'm going to tell him that I ate an orphanage, just so I don't have to see the disgust in his beady little Hitler eyes.
The Inhuman Hours
As an adolescent, in the absence of an enforced schedule, I would play computer until 10 in the morning and sleep until 3 in the afternoon. I was the saddest kind of vampire: eschewing the sun-walkers not in favor of the sweet embrace of the night, but in favor of playing the modded version of Marathon where all the aliens' faces were butts. Then, in my late teens and early 20s, the only jobs I could find were night positions: waiting tables, tending bar, working graveyard shifts at gas stations. Since the only things open after my shift were bars, and since I didn't have a particularly compelling reason not to drink until my brain erased the memory of cleaning the heroin-diarrhea out of a Chevron bathroom stall, I spent most of my non-work hours either drinking or recovering from drinking. And that's why service workers are all alcoholics.
Yep. That's the story we're going with.
Truly, you are the most unsung of heroes, Hungover Movie Ticket Taker Guy.
In the shittiest kinds of service jobs, they make you work split shifts: That's when you show up and work for six hours, get two hours off, then come back and work for six more hours. In those kinds of jobs, you learn to sleep like soldiers in war movies: whenever and wherever you can get it, because you never know when the next opportunity will be. So I thought my screwed-up internal clock was born out of necessity, and had been bred out by 10 years of normalcy. But apparently my wife's 9-to-5 work schedule was the only fragile cable tethering me to the human world. Without it, I have come entirely unloosed: I get to bed at around 4 a.m. now and sleep for a few hours, then get back up and head into the office. When I get home, I might sleep for a few more hours, if it's too hot for my video card to render Borderlands without crashing -- or maybe I'll just spend the afternoon arguing with my dogs about whose turn it is to turn off the rainbows, because I'm so sleep-deprived that I have completely lost track of the line between dream and reality. For example: I'm pretty sure I hit a giant talking rabbit on my motorcycle yesterday.
Well, I say "talking," but to be fair, I only heard screaming.
Was that a dream? Or did I accidentally kill an aspiring young Method actor going out for the part of the Trix Rabbit? Hey, this is LA: It could go either way. All I can say for sure is that this is not a healthy lifestyle, and that these bloodstains are really fucking with my paint job. So if anybody knows how to get back on a human sleep schedule, or how to scrub a slurry of human teeth and fur out of the steering column of a Triumph Bonneville, please hit me up.
The All-Consuming Bitterness
So we've established that my wife is The Lawgiver, and in the absence of her presence my personal life instantly dissolves into Lord of the Flies. And you know what? I'm surprisingly OK with that: I'm turning out to be pretty good at ensnaring the wild pigs that roam my apartment, and I've only had to kill two fat children with rocks so far. There were conflicts, at first, when my new, simpler, more primal lifestyle had to interface with the stodgy old outside world. Like, say I want to go get the mail: If the wife were around, I'd probably feel pretty silly walking outside in my bathrobe, then growing fearful of the whirly metal things in the sky and attacking the mailman when I got overstimulated. But now, that's just a Tuesday.
The only real problem, if I have to find one, is that I guess I accidentally got my already infinitesimal faith in humanity all tangled up together with my wife, and now that she's gone, the entire world is just a giant, sucking spiral of hatred.
That's turning out to be kind of a hassle.
And now I have to burn all life to cinders, and return the planet to innocence. You know how it be when the wife is gone.
Without somebody with a little more optimism toward our species to play devil's advocate for all the assholes in the world, I perceive every slight by my fellow man as not only intentional, but part of an overarching plan to ruin the entire universe. And there are, oh, so many slights! Because I live in LA, and LA, as you may know, has an inverse asshole ratio. Allow me to explain: Everywhere else in the civilized world, you can find about three wads of sentient dick for every 10 decent human beings. But Los Angeles is Bizarro World: The whole place is just bursting at the seams with assholes; assholes fall from the sky like raindrops; assholes cascade down the street together, absorbing everything in their path and turning it into more assholes, building asshole momentum until there's a veritable flash flood of assholes hurtling through the city, wiping out everything before it like a biblical plague.
"I OWN A BMW AND THEREFORE DESERVE TO BE WHEREVER I'M GOING BEFORE YOU."
If that sounds psychotic to you, well, congratulations on spotting the obvious. That community college psychology course is really paying dividends, huh? Obviously it's insane: But that's what single life is to me. I forgot just how goddamn crazy I was without the tempering influence of a normal, compassionate, loving human being in my day-to-day existence. Luckily, a few years ago I tricked that person into signing a contract, and now she wears a piece of metal that legally binds her to me. I have trapped my sanity and ensnared it with a ring. So if you're like me, and your natural mental state is one inconsiderate uncovered cough away from burning down a Pottery Barn, I heartily recommend you do the same.
All things considered, I'm actually glad for this newly single time, because I've learned something from it: I've learned what a good spouse truly is. A good spouse is the anchor that keeps you from being drawn inexorably into a vast, writhing ocean of douchebags and savagery.
Hey, that's pretty good; I should sell that shit to Hallmark. Maybe crochet it onto a throw pillow or something.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.