Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling (2011)
The Best Distraction in the World: Romance and Guys
Men and Boys
SOMETIMES I bring a script I’m working on to a restaurant and sit near people and eavesdrop on them. I could rationalize it—Oh, this is good anthropological research for characters I’m writing—but it’s basically just nosiness. I especially like eavesdropping on women my age. Besides being titillating, it also helps me gauge where I’m at in comparison. Am I normal? Am I doing the correct trendy cardio exercises? Am I reading the right books? Is gluten still lame? Is soap cool again, or is body wash still the way to go? It was through eavesdropping that I learned that you could buy fresh peanut butter at Whole Foods from a machine that grinds it in front of you. I had wasted so much of my life eating stupid old, already-ground peanut butter. So, yeah, I highly recommend a little nosiness once in a while.
Once, at BLD, a restaurant where I was writing, I saw two attractive thirty-ish women talking over brunch. They had finished eating and were getting seconds on coffee, so I knew it was going to be good.
I heard the following:
GIRL #1 (pretty Jewish girl, Lululemon yoga pants, great body): Jeremy just finished his Creative Writing program at Columbia. But now he wants to maybe apply to law school.
GIRL #2 (tiny Asian girl, sheet of black hair, strangely huge breasts [for an Asian girl]): Oh God.
32D: How many grad schools is he going to go to?
LULULEMON: I know. But it’s not his fault. No publishers are buying short stories from unfamous people. Basically you have to be Paris Hilton to sell books these days.
32D: For the past ten years that Jeremy has been out of college doing entry-level job after entry-level job and grad school, you’ve had a job that has turned into a career.
LULULEMON: Yeah, so?
32D: Jeremy’s a boy. You need a man.
Lululemon did not take this well, as I anticipated.
I felt bad for Lulu because I’ve been Lulu. It’s really hard when you realize the guy you’ve been dating is basically a high schooler at heart. It makes you feel like Mary Kay Letourneau. It’s the worst.
Until I was thirty, I only dated boys, as far as I can tell. I’ll tell you why. Men scared the shit out of me.
Men know what they want. Men make concrete plans. Men own alarm clocks. Men sleep on a mattress that isn’t on the floor. Men tip generously. Men buy new shampoo instead of adding water to a nearly empty bottle of shampoo. Men go to the dentist. Men make reservations. Men go in for a kiss without giving you some long preamble about how they’re thinking of kissing you. Men wear clothes that have never been worn by anyone else before. (Okay, maybe men aren’t exactly like this. This is what I’ve cobbled together from the handful of men I know or know of, ranging from Heathcliff Huxtable to Theodore Roosevelt to my dad.) Men know what they want and they don’t let you in on their inner monologue, and that is scary.
Because what I was used to was boys.
Boys are adorable. Boys trail off their sentences in an appealing way. Boys bring a knapsack to work. Boys get haircuts from their roommate, who “totally knows how to cut hair.” Boys can pack up their whole life in a duffel bag and move to Brooklyn for a gig if they need to. Boys have “gigs.” Boys are broke. And when they do have money, they spend it on a trip to Colorado to see a music festival. Boys don’t know how to adjust their conversation when they’re talking to their friends or to your parents. They put parents on the same level as their peers and roll their eyes when your dad makes a terrible pun. Boys let your parents pay for dinner when you all go out. It’s assumed.
Boys are wonderful in a lot of ways. They make amazing, memorable, homemade gifts. They’re impulsive. Boys can talk for hours with you in a diner at three in the morning because they don’t have regular work hours. But they suck to date when you turn thirty.
I’m thirty-two and I fully feel like an adult. Sure, sometimes I miss wearing Hello Kitty jewelry or ironic T-shirts from Urban Outfitters on occasion. Who doesn’t? I don’t, because I think it would seem kind of pitiful. But a guy at thirty-two—he can act and dress like a grown man or a thirteen-year-old boy, and both are totally acceptable. Not necessarily to me, but to most people. (I can’t tell you how many thirty- and fortysomething guys wear Velcro shoes in Los Angeles. It’s an epidemic.) That’s one of the weirdest things I’ve noticed about being thirty-two. It is a lot of women and a lot of boys our age. That’s why I started getting interested in men.
When I was twenty-five, I went on exactly four dates with a much older guy whom I’ll call Peter Parker. I’m calling him Peter Parker because the actual guy’s name was also alliterative, and because, well, it’s my book and I’ll name a guy I dated after Spider-Man’s alter ego if I want to.
Peter Parker was a comedy writer who was a smidgen more accomplished than me but who talked about everything with the tone of “you’ve got a lot to learn, kid.” He had been a writer at a pretty popular sitcom. He gave me lots of unsolicited advice about how to get a job “if The Office got canceled.” After a while, it became clear that he thought The Office would get canceled, and on our fourth and last date, it was clear that he thought The Office should get canceled.
Why am I bringing up Peter Parker? Well, besides moonlighting as Spider-Man, Peter was the first man I dated. An insufferable, arrogant man, but a legit man.
Peter owned a house. It wasn’t ritzy or anything, just a little Spanish ranch-style house in Hollywood. But he was the first guy I’d dated who’d really moved into his place and made it a home. The walls were painted; there was art in frames. He had installed a flat-screen TV and speakers. There was just so much screwed into the walls. Everywhere I looked I saw another instance of an action that, if the house were a rental, would make you lose your deposit. I marveled at the brazenness of it. Peter’s house reminded me more of my house growing up than of a college dorm room. I’d never seen that before.*
Owning a house obviously wasn’t enough to make me want to keep dating Peter. Like I said, he was kind of a condescending dick. But I observed in Peter a quality that I found really appealing and that I knew I wanted in the next guy I dated seriously: a guy who wasn’t afraid of commitment.
At this point you might want to smack me and say: “Are you seriously another grown woman talking about how she wants a man who isn’t afraid of commitment? Is this a book, or a blog called Ice Cream Castles in the Air: One Single Gal Hopes for Prince Charming? We’ve all heard this before!” But let me explain! I’m not talking about commitment to romantic relationships. I’m talking about commitment to things: houses, jobs, neighborhoods. Having a job that requires a contract. Paying a mortgage. I think when men hear that women want a commitment, they think it means commitment to a romantic relationship, but that’s not it. It’s a commitment to not floating around anymore. I want a guy who is entrenched in his own life. Entrenched is awesome.
So I’m into men now, even though they can be frightening. I want a schedule-keeping, waking-up-early, wallet-carrying, non-Velcro-shoe-wearing man. I don’t care if he has more traditionally “men problems” like having to take prescription drugs for cholesterol or hair loss. I can handle it. I’m a grown-up too.
*Look, I’m not an idiot, I realize plenty of boys own houses. That’s, like, the whole point of the Playboy mansion.