Child One and her first boyfriend broke up a few weeks ago. To Sig Other, it’s been a lifetime. To Child One, it was long enough ago that heartache is past but too soon to move on. Her porch light, as they say, is not yet back on. Sig Other would like her to move on already. Fatherly instinct compels him to suggest that one of her close friends might be a perfect mate. She believes it is too soon to move on, too soon to focus her affections elsewhere. But Sig Other persists. “Relationships,” he tells her, “heal in direct proportion to their length – one week for every year you’re together. You and the grocer’s son were together a few months. That means it should only take you a few days to get over him.” I balk at this, of course. “No,” I say, “that is not the formula at all. Healing time is half the total duration of the relationship.”
Even as the words escape my lips I realize what we have is a true example of boy time vs. girl time. In boy time, relationships are to be quickly moved past, pain to be brushed aside and life to be gotten on with. This is not to say that men grieve less than women, nor is it to suggest that the male psyche is incapable of feeling the depth of loss any less than women. It is, however, to argue that men have a harder time being alone – that their need for companionship is greater and therefore their time between relationships – appropriate or not – is significantly shorter. A widower is likely to marry within a year of the death of his wife. But a widow is likely to stay a widow after the loss of her husband.
Sig Other doesn’t like to be alone. He will say that is wrong. He will tell you he is a strong, independent male who calls his own shots, runs free with the wolves and is perfectly happy alone. But the truth is, he doesn’t like it at all. The truth is, Sig Other likes being alone about as much as he likes flying coach across the country – as in, not at all. And the good news, for him anyway, is that he is alone about as frequently as he flies coach across the country – as in, not at all. Sig Other has staff, he has friends, he has children, he has dogs and he has me. Those of us not paid to be in his presence actually quite enjoy it. Sig Other has fostered an environment of cozy togetherness. The children, the dogs, and I all like to be in close proximity whenever possible. And so alone is not something he must experience but for those rare moments he chooses to.
Child One doesn’t care to be alone either. She likes to be cozy and will choose company over solitude at all times. But Child One is also particular. She has good girlfriends and good guy friends and more than enough parents and dogs to fill whatever void is left by the absence of one inattentive young man. And so, Child One feels no need to move on, no need to feel the space left by her first boyfriend with her next boyfriend just because there IS a space to fill. She will wait for the RIGHT boyfriend, for the right moment for the right boyfriend and then slowly, carefully, turn the porch light back on to let the boy know its time to come calling…