I have a rule, never speak to a man, no matter how attracted I am to him unless he has the backbone to speak to me first.
I don’t speak to many men.
For two years after I invoked this rule, I was astonished at how lonely I was. I’m not saying that men didn’t try to approach me and speak to me, they did. They were married, of course, and we had a conversation about the weather, the owls at night (really) the training of dogs and all manner of things at all different occasions. Not one single male, however, made a move in my direction. Not one single male approached my friends and asked to be introduced.
Now some might think that perhaps I’m the female version of Quasimodo – not so. I’m no prima donna but I’m not stooped over with a hunched back and bald – nor do I have a little black mustache.
What happened was that I obtained a reputation of being a snob, a woman who thought too much of herself and unapproached – frigid in other words. (I am not allowed to think men’s egos didn’t play into my code of conduct but this really isn’t about the male ego nor my sarcasm). I knew this was happening because single women started to avoid me too, they didn’t want to be branded as frigid or unapproachable by associating with me.
Please don’t think that Prince Charming showed up, swept me off my jaded feet and made me the envy of all women – he didn’t. What did happen was that I sold my flat screen TV, boxed and donated any book I owned which was written in the 20th century or after and sat down in my apartment with every book I said I had read in the past but really had not.
In short, I began to read all the books I had lied about reading – my liar book list.
My first attack was on all of the Jane Austen books – even Lady Susan. Next, I tackled the Bronte sisters but please note I had already actually read “Jane Eyre.” I was aghast to realize that I hated “Wuthering Heights,” and wondered as I struggled through the novel how the hell I was going to continue lying about the book for I had fairly gushed over it in the past, along with all my wine drinking literary friends.
I began to wonder then if my friends had read the abridged version and I suspected that I wasn’t the only liar in the world.
Don’t think that I ignored male authors out of spite, I did not. I read Robert Louis Stevenson, HG Wells, and Oscar Wilde – I laughed out loud when I read “I’ve been telling the truth all this time, can you ever forgive me?” (The Importance of Being Ernest). The man was a genius in being delightfully rotten. I began to believe in evil as an entity with a personality (I still believe that Satan exists and is an enemy of God) after I read the books of HG Wells.
I became so absorbed in the restitution of my lies that my friends started wondering what had become of me. I refused invitations and my parents drove in from the suburbs one Sunday afternoon to make sure I wasn’t bloated in my apartment and drawing flies. My father walked down to the sports bar after seeing I was okay and my mother picked up “The Invisible Man,” and started reading it.
“If only it were true of most men,” she said opening the book and settling in beside me with some hot tea. She took the train in and out of the city to cook for me after I told her that I was taking a week off work to do nothing but read. She even stayed with me a few nights and read “Dracula.” (She reacclimated herself to her Catholic upbringing soon after reading that novel).
The Friday evening of my week long liar book marathon I lamented to my Mother the idea of having to go back to work for my rent’s sake.
“What brought all this on? Why are you reading these books?” asked my mother.
“Because single men refuse to speak to me.”
She blinked at me from behind her thick reading glasses and for a moment I thought we were both underwater, looking at each other from behind underwater masks.
“What?” she asked slowly.
“No single man will talk to me. I’ve not dated a man in four years,” and went on to explain my life in the last four years.
“Do you mean to tell me you haven’t had your heart broken?”
“You won’t talk to a man first, so no man has spoken to you in four years?”
“Well, I’ve spoken to men, Mother…”
“Yes, yes,” she said quickly “but because your experiment has worked, you are sitting down and making restitution on the lies you’ve made regarding books you said you read but really haven’t.”
“Well, now it really wasn’t an experiment but a sort of theory I was testing.”
“A theory?” asked my mother her voice rising.
“Yes,” I said wondering at her
“Do you mean to tell me I’ve been sitting in the suburbs wondering if you’re a lesbian and afraid to tell me, dead or heartbroken and all along you’ve been testing a theory? A theory?”
I was shocked at her strident tone of voice.
“You idiot girl!” My mother got up from her seat on my sofa and started to pace my living room floor, then sat back down and looked at me. “I took you to Sunday School to figure out men. I read you the Genesis account of creation. You punish yourself because you think men egotistical, and all they are is lazy, ignorant and moronic. When mankind fell it was because Adam wouldn’t talk! Where have you been? How did we miss this?” She got up and paced a few more times across my living room floor. “Oooooh!” my mother moaned and collapsed back down on my old library chair, landing on Dante’s “Inferno.”
“Mother I would hardly say I was punishing myself. I mean I’ve been lonely but I’m better read than most people my age.” I shrugged and picked up ‘Moll Flanders.’ “Besides most of my friends are already married and wondering why they spent the time and money on the effort. Perhaps I’ll skip all that.”
My Mother was looking at me from between her fingers, her blue eyes shining out from behind her reading glasses. “Then you don’t blame me for being a terrible mother?”
“I don’t consider you a terrible mother.”
She seemed relieved and removed her glasses to dab her eyes with a tissue. “Do you see yourself ever in a relationship?”
“Oh perhaps some older man who walks by me while I’m reading on a park bench, might stop by some day and ask me what keeps me so absorbed.”
“Have you seen him?”
“Every day on my lunch hour. After a week’s absence, I’m hoping he might have the courage to ask me what I’ve been up to.”
“Oh, darling I’m so relieved you’re not so noble as to not try stealth.”
I smiled at her and asked if she wouldn’t make me a pot of tea.
“Oh yes certainly. And since it’s only Friday, I think I’ll read the Pickwick Papers. I always hated Charles Dickens and lied through so many of his novels. But it’s time to come clean.”