So I have my young crew of knights I hang out with here at the Jersey shore. They are lead by Sir Kurt, one of my favorite young guys ever (he's going to be 21 next month. Lock your windows.) I hang out with them because they have this virile life energy and I vampiracally like to suck them dry, simply by being in their presence.
No, not really. They're just fun and spirited and life hasn't beaten the shit out of them yet, so their reactions and opinions are essentially pure and silly.
A few nights ago, I performed our weekly ritual - drinking cheap beer, sitting around the table, giving them advice on women. It was a night like many other this past winter, at least at first. After a round of shots of some nasty unnamed liquor, we sat in silence for a moment.
Finally, Kurt spoke.
"Beth, can I ask you something kinda personal?"
I'm already laughing because we're sitting with 8 other people.
"Sure, Kurt, feel free."
He hemmed and hawed and finally spit out:
"Are you infertile?"
I almost spit my beer out.
"Am I what??"
"Are you infertile...like do you have problem making babies or something?"
"Uh, I know what infertile is, Kurt but thanks for the medical explanation. No. Why?"
"Well, we can't figure out why you're not married or why you don't have kids. Like, you're 41, you're really cute and you're cool and shit...so what went wrong?"
Hmmm...how do I answer? Do I even have an answer?
"Well, there are all sorts of women out there, Kurt. Not all of them want kids. Not all of them even like kids, believe it or not. Some like monkeys more. And not all of them want to be married."
I'm not saying I don't want those kind of things. It's just different for me. I just don't...it's not my whole raison d'etre, you know?"
They look blankly. (Note to self: don't use French expressions with this gang.)
"Um...I guess I just haven't gotten around to it. I've been busy. Doing stuff."
More blank stares.
I went for the more humorous approach.
"Do you guys want to make some babies with me? Is that what this is about?"
This was met with red faces, uncomfortable laughs and fidgets. Finally, one of the youngest dudes says, dead seriously, "Sure, I'll give it a shot."
"Kidding, I was only kidding."
I left that night, wondering why I had to answer a question like that in the first place. I hear this kind of thing often. "How hasn't someone snatched you up?" Like I was some little daisy that simply had to be plucked.
I don't deny the desire to meet someone special and make a lovely home together and have tons of sex simply due to its ready availability. But I also don't want to feel like some freak of nature for not doing what everyone thinks a female at my age should do. I mean, I just learned how to skateboard last summer (by Kurt, of course). So where do I fit into the social female schemata?
I could have explained to them that most of the marriages I see seem flat and loveless; that most of my friends have settled on one level or another for the sake of an obligatory dream and now walk around listless and half-baked.
I could have told them I never cared enough to settle.
I could have told them that I've only recently felt "grown up" and am still working out the kinks.
I could have told them I was preoccupied by the complications called Life and didn't have the the time or luxury to look very hard.
I could have told them, simply, that no one has asked me.
It seems as if the world always has to brand you, one way or the other. And maybe I'm happily brandless. Or unhappily branded. Or unhappily unbranded.
Maybe I'm still in search of my Grail.
Maybe I found it.