Cupid, draw back your bow
By John Gray
It’s 6pm at the local gym and two women who don’t know each other share a momentary glance. Lady number one, Valerie, is married with three kids, ages 7, 4 and 18 months. The youngest is waiting patiently in the gym’s playroom for his Mommy to take him home for dinner. It will be chicken nuggets from the McDonald’s drive-thru because Valerie’s husband is working late again and there’s no way she’ll have time to cook. She barely has time to break a sweat on the treadmill when she realizes she has to go. As she struggles to work the zipper on her son’s winter jacket she catches a glimpse of Melissa just coming into the gym. She’s a lot like Valerie only single, and well…more put together. The hair and make-up just so, the $400 suit neatly pressed. Valerie loves her life and wouldn’t trade it for a basket of diamonds, but as she notices the men watching Melissa walk by there’s a pang of jealousy deep inside her baggy gray sweat suit. “That used to be me,” she thinks. Before 3am feedings and 18-hour days. Now happy hour has been replaced by happy meals. She loves her life but sometimes wonders what it would be like to have total freedom again. She envisions Melissa and her friends heading out for an evening of fun—cute guys buying them drinks, dancing past midnight, having the whole weekend to do everything or nothing at all. Oh, to do nothing. It’s been so long she can’t even remember what that feels like. Valerie is happy, but at moments like this, when she’s tired, she wonders what it would be like if she were single again. To be like her.
What Valerie doesn’t know is that at the same time these thoughts were running through her head, Melissa was thinking just the opposite. She’s 33, but looks 27, has a college degree that led to a six-figure salary in pharmaceutical sales, a house, a cat—a very busy life. Valerie is right about Melissa —she is going out tonight, but not because she really wants to. It’s Friday night and she can’t stand the thought of sitting in. A single woman at home on a date night watching re-runs of “Law And Order” just seems wrong. Sure she could have a date but there have been so many disappointments lately she’d rather be alone. As she makes her way toward the locker room she knows every guy in the place is watching her, but she can’t take her eyes off the pretty mom with the little boy—Valerie. She sees him take her hand, look up and smile, and in that instant she feels a pang of jealousy deep beneath the Armani suit. Melissa loves her life, but still she wonders what it would be like to have a husband, children, brownies to make for the school bake-sale. She wonders what it would be like to be her.
These two women, and many men just like them, can be found all around us. They go through life wondering what they are missing. Those who are single long to be married. Those who are married and mortgaged up to their ears wonder what it would be like to be single and come and go as they please. The grass is always greener, or so they say.
I’m 43, married twice now, and I’ve seen the grass on both sides of the fence. Here’s what I’ve learned—it isn’t the color of the grass, but the blanket you lay down on it and the picnic you make for yourself that matters. To think another life is better is a cruel trick we play on ourselves. A lie that makes us long to jump the fence.
Maybe you are single and approaching 30. All your friends are married with kids and you feel left behind. So you jump into it with the wrong person and a few years later realize you should have waited. You wonder what the rush was. Perhaps you are married with children and miss the reckless abandon of the 20-somethings in your office. So you jump that fence of fidelity just once or twice to have a little fun only to realize you are risking the very thing your single friends would give anything to have—a home and family. Eventually you wonder where the rush went.
February is the month where we set aside one day to celebrate love—Valentine’s Day. It can be a tough day if you are single. You see friends and co-workers getting flowers and making plans and wonder if the invitation to your fairytale got lost in the mail. I say embrace this time of your life, enjoy the freedom and don’t give up hope. Just when you think love has passed you by you’ll turn a corner and bump right into it.
And if you’re married and wondering what the single world is doing while you’re wiping noses and tying shoelaces, trust me, those little feet will grow soon enough and walk right out the door. When that day comes I’ll bet you all the sand at Million Dollar Beach you would trade a million free weekends for a chance to go back and have those babies be babies once again.
So in this month of love I wish you happiness wherever you find yourself in life at this very moment. Don’t worry about what you don’t have; appreciate what you do have. I firmly believe when this wonderful ride is over you’ll look back on this time and place and realize you were exactly where you were supposed to be all along.
John Gray is a Fox23 News anchor and contributing writing at the Troy Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org