on the other hand, maybe Linda would appreciate your honesty," I heard
my mother say to one of my introverted friends over the holidays. I
regarded them with narrowed eyes. What was my childhood friend Kevin
doing consulting my mother about matters of the heart?
Since the advent of Unzipped, distinct developments have occurred in
social life. In one corner sit my more gabby, extroverted friends, who
have become even more talkative, more forthcoming and (one hopes) more
honest with me in the boxing ring of relationship talk. Staring stonily
opposite are the shy, more private buddies, who have evolved into virtual
human clams, regarding me with suspicion, wariness and all the openness
of J. Edgar Hoover. Naturally, theirs are the stories I covet.
Kevin had always fallen in the latter category. Moreover, he is what we
women refer to as "an evolved male," which in some circles is also
nastily referred to as a SNAG (sensitive New Age guy) compassionate,
a feminist and best of all, not a game-player. "The Rules" would not
work with a guy like Kevin.
"I couldn't help but overhearing ..." I started, sidling up to them. They
were standing next to the Christmas tree, and Kevin was pointedly staring
at a piece of errant wrapping paper crumpled near his foot. We'd all just
gorged ourselves at the Christmas dinner except for Kevin, whom I noticed
was gloomily regarding the cranberry sauce, picking at a turkey wing, and was even more quiet than usual. Ever since Kevin and I were children, my mother had
always held a soft spot for him, and her belief in the power of talk
therapy had led her to prod him a little more vigorously than usual.
Now he glared at her, warning. "Peggy and I were just talking," he said
to me. "Not about anything in particular."
"Maybe if you get another woman's point of view, it could help." I
glanced at my mother, who was noncommittal. "Is it about Lydia?"
"Well," he began. I could see him wavering. It must be bad, this problem; clearly the man
wanted to talk about his distress. "It's Linda. Not Lydia."
I examined my cuticles. "Well, Kevin, I've never met her," I said
gently. "You've gone out with her for a
month now, and no one's met her." My mother moved away, mumbling
something about a tree decoration about to fall off.
"Well," he said again, and stopped. I waited. The gears were shifting;
it was only a matter of time.
Finally he burst out. "This is the deal! I like Linda. Really, I do. I
like her more and more every time I go out with her. But I know it's just
not, you know, it for me. She's really sweet. She wanted to come here
with me tonight, I could tell. But I just couldn't. I don't want her to get
the wrong idea."
"Which would be ..."
"Which would be that we have a future. We don't. You know that New
Yorker cartoon? The one that everyone keeps throwing around nowadays?
'She may not be Ms. Right, but she's Ms. Right Now'?"
I sighed. "Yes, it does seem to be bandied about a lot lately."
"Well, I feel guilty. I mean, I'm 31 years old, for Christ's
What's the matter with me? Linda's great. She's sweet; she's fun; she's
good-looking. I think ... well, I know that she's really into me. Maybe
I'm an asshole for letting her get in so deep. Am I an asshole?"
"I'm not sure yet," I said. "Did you say you'd marry her?"
He snorted. "No."
"Have you made any plans for the future? Travel? Significant family
"Purchases? Have you bought her anything?"
"I bought her a magazine once. Does that count?"
I considered. "You're OK there. If it were a book, you might be in a
gray area." He still looked disgruntled, and I sputtered, "She's a big girl. Why do you have to be Mr. Goody Two
Shoes and decide what's best for her and what isn't?"
"It's more complicated than that and you know it," he said. "It doesn't
matter that I haven't actually promised her anything. Just spending the
night at her house, meeting her roommates, just the actual time that has
passed since we started dating ... all of it kind of comprises a, well, a
"Have you had, you know, that talk yet? The Where-Is-This-Going talk?"
"It's coming. I can feel it. And I really, really do like her; I don't
want to end it yet. Is that selfish of me?"
I considered. "Yes. But that's not necessarily a bad thing."
"I just know it's not going to be ... you know, love for me. Maybe it
would be okay if I was 22 or something. But now, the stakes are
higher. Our friends are getting married, having children. Do we really
have the right to pursue these little dalliances?"
"This is the problem with being a sensitive, New Agey kind of guy."
"It must be nice to be so opinionated," Kevin said, sounding genuinely
annoyed. "But I don't want it to be right for just me. I want it to be right
for everybody, period."
"Okay, Plato," I said. "But this isn't an ideal world. It's, well,
I thought about if I were Lydia or Linda would I want to be told
that I was Ms. Right Now? "Actually, no, I don't think you should say
anything," I said. "When she wants to see it, she will. Until then,
ignorance is bliss."
Kevin rubbed his hand over his face and smiled meanly. "That's what
your mother said. How's Julian, by the way?"