Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 3/4/2008 [Archive]

Do You Have Reservations?

Do You Have Any Reservations?

By Martha Randolph Carr

'It'd be okay if he hooked up, as long as he didn't bring anybody home,' said the twenty-something girl with chocolate brown hair that curled around her ears and barely touched the collar of her fitted winter coat. 'Yeah,' said her blonde companion, 'as long as he didn't date someone. That, I couldn't forgive.' Both of them were stylish, cute and appeared to be intelligent. In other words, they had something to offer the world and appeared to be interested in having good lives, whatever that might mean.

'Right. But we're both away at college and I can't expect him to be faithful if he goes out to parties. Of course, any STD's he brings home are his to deal with,' she added as an afterthought. Her friend nodded as if that was a given.

I was standing inches behind them in full view, waiting in line at the CVS drugstore. Their faces were even turned toward me for a good part of the conversation. They knew the chances of ever seeing me again anywhere in New York City were so slim it was as good as standing out in a field in the middle of nowhere. I still have trouble speaking when a waiter is present. You think this is besides the point but, right this way, please.

Lack is a very funny thing. The more intelligent we are, the slyer we are about hiding it from ourselves. We dress it up in a completely different suit, like a far-away boyfriend, and make different rules that seem like we're practicing detachment because we don't care what he's doing. Really, we've decided we can't control what he's doing so we'll just throw out the body and keep the beating heart. It's the lack of being right there to keep an eye on him that's bothering us. Trust is absent so we'll just stop caring.

Oh, please. Not caring means that conversation isn't even necessary and neither is ever seeing college boy again. I grew up in the '70's before we knew what STD stood for and how serious it ought to be taken. That whole argument got so much exercise and failed even then. Let me give you the translation of that conversation. Girl number one: I don't believe it's possible for someone to care about me just the way I am. I'm willing to settle for the crumbs though, so I don't miss out on the whole meal. Girl number two: Exactly. If we lower our standard for how we would like to be treated just enough, we're bound to get something and maybe we can grow that into love. Girl number one: But it won't work long distance. In order to manipulate this into place we're going to have to keep an eye on it, make a few large compromises and settle for what's left. Girl number two: Exactly.

But, given enough time and enough failures at this way of approaching the Big Love, these two will learn what so many others have already in their forties. Raise the standards to the roof and expect to be treated like an intelligent, thoughtful, kind woman who knows there are just as many intelligent, thoughtful kind men out there waiting to be met. Treat the men, or women, in your life like you want to be treated. Not as some weird way of attracting what you want, but because you know what it's like to be on the receiving end of anything else and even better, you know what it's like to be noticed for who you are and appreciated. That's it.

That's why I stop and acknowledge a waiter who approaches my table -- because he's there. He's not invisible and I'm not performing surgery. I can stop for a moment and see what's up and realize we're on equal footing and he's even at work.

Skip all of the justifications you've made in your head and with your friends. And, here's a shortcut to know that's what they are: you're talking about them, outlining them, strutting them back out in all of their tiring detail. Just stop, and raise all of those standards for yourself back up again and believe. You're worth it, trust me. I have it on very good authority. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home is available wherever books are sold. Author's email: For more on Martha and her books go to:

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