When People magazine publishes its issue devoted to the "100 Most Eligible Bachelors," the love of my life will be in it, clad in nothing more than a borrowed bathrobe and a pair of boxer shorts.
I hate to think of my ex-boyfriend as eligible a month after we broke up. I prefer to picture him as a sniveling wreck, sitting in his darkened living room with week-old Vietnamese food rotting around him, as he musters up the courage to apologize and admit the error of his ways. My fantasy is spoiled by the fact that thousands of single women (and their mothers) will be paying $3 to look at his photo, assessing his net worth and genetic potential and then searching the Internet to get his address and phone number.
As a public service, to spare these women the expense of a background check, I'm happy to provide my insight into one of America's most eligible bachelors.
He officially became eligible last month after he broke up with me to pursue a lifestyle more befitting an up-and-coming screenwriter, soon-to-be millionaire and editor of the hippest humor periodical in the world right now.
He became attractive enough to be eligible months before that, when I became his girlfriend and forced him to stop cutting his own hair and start spending his money on clothes that don't have "MICHIGAN" printed on the chest.
It's harder to pin down when he became the love of my life. Maybe it was our first date. I was an hour late to our meeting place -- the World's Largest Six-pack of Beer (a romantic outing, for a comedy writer). He stood outside in the rain the whole time. When I ran up, breathless and apologetic, he told me that he would have waited all day. Maybe I knew when he drove for five hours -- in a car that would fetch $32 on eBay -- to be with me while I waited for my biopsy results. Or when he suffered through a tense family Christmas with me, when he could have been having a stress-free Chanukah.
Maybe he earned my lifelong love when he arranged for me to meet Jon Stewart, my biggest TV crush -- even though he had spent weeks listening to me exclaim, "He is so cute! So cute! Really the cutest Jewish comedy guy I know ... besides you, honey."
Maybe I never really decided he was the love of my life. I just knew from the way my heart beat when he was around or the way my mouth turned up when I heard his voice. Or maybe it was the way my stomach dropped when I told him I wanted to see him every day for the rest of my life, and he told me he wasn't ready for marriage, and didn't see it in his future.
I felt the same sickness in my stomach when I found out that a photographer would be coming out to take his photo for the magazine. (I was hoping he'd just send in his driver's license photo.) "You're not allowed to wear anything I picked out for you," I insisted, and he reluctantly agreed. I would have made an allowance for the green suede shirt I bought him for Valentine's Day if I had known that all he would come up with was red plaid boxer shorts.
"How eligible can he be if he can't dress himself?" my best friend asked. She was just one of the voices I heard this week: "Who reads People anyway?" (from my Ph.D. brother); "Are you feeling anger?" (from my therapist); "Well, there are 99 other men here to choose from ..." (from my mother); "Catherine, you are one of the most eligible women I know" (from a male friend, who may have ulterior motives).
I am eligible. I am as cute as my eligible ex-boyfriend, and as funny, although I am not nearly as highly paid. But I can't appear in a magazine feature on eligible women because People magazine doesn't have such an issue.
Apparently there aren't 100 women in America who are worthy of marriage. Men aren't looking for eligible women -- on the magazine rack or anywhere else. Cosmo and Glamour have taught women how to trap a man and trick him into marriage. Then Ladies Home Journal steps in to tell you how to manipulate him into becoming the husband you want. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is as close as we get to a magazine devoted to eligible bachelorettes -- which only goes to show that men aren't looking for marriage but are just looking.
I adore my ex-boyfriend, for good reasons. He's absolutely adorable. Smart, funny, but unable to prepare a meal beyond a bowl of Cheerios with milk. Sweet, good-hearted, easily overwhelmed by the realities of day-to-day existence. Sometimes I wasn't sure if he needed a wife or a therapist and support staff. His writing consumes most of his daily thoughts, and creeps into most of his dreams. On an analyst's couch he would be an intimacy-fearing workaholic. In a personal ad he would be "drug/disease-free." In real estate terms, a fixer-upper. I wouldn't use the term "eligible" for him -- and probably not for many of the men in the magazine.
What does eligible mean, anyway? Available? Yes, available, perennially so, because they won't commit. Marriageable? Not really. These are the kind of guys who have gotten where they are by putting themselves first. The kind you get involved with hoping you'll change them. The ones whose most intimate female relationships are with their mothers and their vehicles. They bring as much to a relationship as would a precocious 10-year-old with unlimited credit.
Maybe People should rename its issue "America's Successful, Handsome, Self-Centered Men." Or "Men Who Love Their Jobs and Themselves."
If People wants to profile men who are truly good marriage material, I have a few nominations. My friend Dan, an engineer, is shy, kind and handy, he has good insurance and you'd never have to change a tire for the rest of your life. And Bill, a corporate video producer, has traded his dreams of feature films for the hopes of sharing a life with the woman he loves and being a good father to their children. I'd also nominate Brian, who gets up two hours before his first-shift factory job to do laundry and clean the house and works overtime to pay his wife's tuition, but she's smart enough not to let him go.
My humble advice for women looking for eligible men: Don't hit the newsstand. If you do buy People's "Most Eligible Bachelors" issue, allow yourself to wonder why these men aren't taken if they're so damn eligible. And how many of them asked their ex-girlfriends to pick out their clothes.