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Dating a career woman
I grew up in a town known for hunting, fishing, bars, strip joints—even a house of ill repute, until it burned to the ground when, according to town gossip, a prostitute tried to make a grilled sandwich on a steam iron.
He had a disease exacerbated by stress he’d never mentioned during two weeks of real-life sweet nothings and two months of love letters and phone conversation.He broke up with me as he’d loved me, long-distance. I heated my house with a woodstove, so I explained that fresh-cut wood is green and must season.If I’d seen him incompletely, he’d objectified me too, socio-economically: He saw my womanhood as so earthy it literally seized up his heart. My date was vegan, but he’d picked out a restaurant that wasn’t—out of courtesy, hospitality, or there weren’t vegan restaurants back then. My date ordered pasta, no sauce; I was too hungry to tell him that pasta contains eggs. We went back to his house where, in the fireplace, he lit wadded-up newspapers under clippings from hedges he’d trimmed that day. He found this interesting, or alluring, because he asked me to spend the night. I’d arranged for a cord of wood to be delivered the next day.One day a student working on her master’s degree, and an incorrigible matchmaker besides, suggested I should go on a blind date with her former professor in a nearby city. He spent 30 minutes asking the waiter about each entrée. He asked about the wine list, too, then ordered a single glass. Once, during pillow talk, he told me UFOs existed, but the moon landing was a hoax. A friend raised blue-collar in Bakersfield, California—she was just shortlisted for a prestigious fellowship in her research area—said: “I want to be with a person who knows what it takes to get from there to here.I still considered strong drink the best reason to leave home at night. I was sending a message—we were outside our comfort zones. Depending on which poll you consult, Gallup or Fox News, 6 to 20 percent of Americans think the moon landing was a hoax. I sputtered my incomprehension, pacing while wrapped in a bed sheet: “Little green men mastered interplanetary travel, but we can’t get to a moon and convinced journalists to pretend? I was too busy to ponder who I’d been and might become and therefore whom to date. I couldn’t feel loved by someone who doesn’t know that.”Doctors married nurses, executives married secretaries, pilots married stewardesses.I ordered whiskey on the rocks and a steak cooked rare, bloody. ”But we didn’t talk about space travel, I reasoned. We talked about food, sleep, weather, what linguists call phatic talk, talk that’s mood-calibration, not information. Female doctors, executives and pilots aren’t rare now.But they’re not often married to men whose careers have less stature.My friend was in medical school when her longtime fiancé called off the wedding.He’d realized, he said, he didn’t want to be in a marriage in which both spouses had demanding careers.So it’s hard for a woman with ambition to meet someone with whom to share more than sex and the talk that’s all mood-calibration.Once you hit a certain professional level, the number of men who feel comfortably equal shrinks, first subtraction. If you’ve got a past you won’t hide—an extended family more like the cast of “Duck Dynasty” than John Cheever’s characters—next subtraction. My conflict resolved the way it does in old-fashioned novels, with a bit of deus ex machina: an unexpected plot twist that solves an otherwise unsolvable problem.