The Bachelor Effect
Reminiscing about my bachelor days — and the frighteningly small amount of time I spent cleaning, cooking, or thinking about my appearance — reminds me that my boys and I are actually not so very different. And that my wife is a saint.
I’m having lunch with a buddy, and we’re swapping horror stories from our bachelor days. He’s a newlywed, so his memories are fresh; mine are coming back quickly.
“I drove a vehicle with no air conditioning for five summers in Texas.”
“I did laundry once a month at most.”
“One winter, my roommates and I wanted to save money so we agreed to never turn on the heat.”
On the car ride home from lunch, I’m still reminiscing about the various idiotic decisions I made. I can scarcely believe that I went years without visiting a grocery store or making my own meals, surviving mainly on dollar-menu fast food. I also owned little more than a bed and TV. How does one live like this?! I thought.
Laurie loves to remind me how much she expanded my palette and wardrobe when we first got married. “You always wore white undershirts and cargo shorts,” she says with a laugh. “Aren’t you lucky to have me?”
“Absolutely,” I say.
It occurs to me that some of my boys’ behavior makes a little more sense in the context of my own misspent youth. When it comes to picking out clothes, every day is a battle. Their bedrooms are upstairs, so Laurie and I avoid tromping through landmines of shoes and LEGOs to help them pick out their clothes. Plus they’re older now. I mean, c’mon! A teen and pre-teen should be able to handle simple tasks like picking something half-decent to wear.
But they can’t. Their first draft of an outfit is typically a re-run of what they wore yesterday: athletic shorts or sweatpants, and a hoodie. “It’s 80 degrees outside!” I say.
“But it’s freezing in school,” they say.
“Then pick out a hoodie you didn’t wear two days ago.”
The same goes for food. They’re old enough to be left alone for short periods of time. But often when we come home, we find they forgot to eat because they were busy watching TV.
“I told you I bought Pop Tarts as a treat,” Laurie says. “All you had to do was walk to the kitchen and put them in the toaster.”
“Oh,” they say.
“And why are you still in pajamas? It’s noon.”
As I consider my own bachelor days, I can see I’ve come a long way. It’s currently three days after Easter, so I ask Laurie when we’re going to pack up the decorations and get out the summer stuff. “I mean, we’re not savages,” I say.
It’s clear I’ve been in Dad-mode for so long I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a dude.
With my sons’ various diagnoses, it’s easy to blame any absent-minded behavior on biology and neurology. Considering the decisions I made as a single guy, I know maturity is also a big part of it. (Thankfully, the thought of washing my bedsheets and towels once per semester now makes me queasy.) But reflecting on the recent lunch conversation with my friend, I’m beginning to suspect that the main biological factor at play is this stupid Y chromosome.