“You coming with us tonight or not?” the man asked his friend.
One of the men was seated at the bar with a drink. The other was just walking in. I was having dinner with someone at a table close enough to the bar to see and hear most of what was going on.
“Christie said I’ve got to watch a [expletive] movie with her and the kids,” the man who just walked in said.
“Just make up some [expletive],” the first name said. “You don’t want to get stuck with that. I got some girls coming who Christie don’t need to know about, but they’ll be way more fun.”
I couldn’t hear well enough to get the details, but the basics were clear. A small group of male friends were going somewhere tonight without their wives — they were all married — and the trip secretly involved getting drunk and having sex with other women. And one of the men had been “pussy-whipped” — their term — into staying home with his children instead.
Since I was with someone and needed to be polite, I couldn’t process this as quickly as I wanted to. I wouldn’t have said anything to the men even if I had been alone, but what I felt like doing was saying, “How dare you treat your families in such cheap and shabby ways?! How dare you not appreciate the life which I desperately wish were mine right now?”
What these men do is none of my business. It’s between the men and their wives and their children. But I felt anger with them anyway. I felt envy. I felt intense frustration that these men place so little value on the life which I want to have — or on the lives of their wives and children.
It’s bad enough when men (or women) act in these ways when they’re little boys in adult bodies — such as when they’re in college or shortly thereafter — but these guys appeared to be around 40, give or take a few years.
After I eventually drove home and had time to think about it some more, I was reminded of another conversation I overhead a few days ago.
A man was telling another guy that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. He didn’t have any interest in having children. He didn’t want a future with the woman. But he was scared he was about “get stuck with another kid” for the next 18 years. (He already has a 4-year-old with another ex-girlfriend.)
I couldn’t help feeling resentful of his attitude. I would be overjoyed to know that a woman was going to have a baby with me. I would be incredibly happy to know that a couple of people — a woman and our baby — were going to count on me.
I want that obligation, but it was only a fear and a regret for the man who I overheard.
When it comes to the married men who I watched tonight, I can’t figure out what makes such men want to be married — to want the feeling of being tied to a family, but without wanting the work and ongoing emotional connection that comes with it.
Such men seem like people who like the idea of being “family men,” but the reality makes them want to quietly go on living like single men when they can get away with it. They like the idea of family but they don’t like the reality. And it’s the women and children of such dysfunctional arrangements who get hurt the worst, because they’re generally counting on such lying cheats.
I know the things such people do aren’t my business. I do get that. But I don’t feel anger and envy toward them because of misplaced righteousness. I feel it because they can choose to enjoy the warmth and love of living with a young family — and they simply don’t want that.
I feel the anger because I’m jealous. I want what they carelessly reject.
And I’m resentful that I came home alone tonight — while one of those married men resentfully went home to spend time with a family he doesn’t want to be with.
I wish he could go get drunk with his friends. And I wish I could take over a family.