Monday, March 04, 2002

Zenpriest #63 - In a Bar Last Night: One Good Marriage and One Attention Whore

Last night I went to see a HS buddy of mine, who has become an absolutely amazing guitarist, playing in a local bar.  I got to see an interesting contrast between two very different types of women.

First, my buddy and his wife.  This is his third marriage.  He was a bit over 40 when they got married, and so far this one has lasted longer than his previous two combined – 13 years and counting.   He’s been playing guitar for about 40 years and while he was always an “adequate” guitarist, he was also a fairly pedestrian one – not really any better than thousands of other wannabe superstars out there.  But, something has happened to him recently – a quantum leap in his skill and subtlety.   There were times sitting there listening to him last night when he just blew me away.

I mentioned that fact to his wife sitting at the front and center table with me.  She said that he really took off a few years ago when he gave up being a plumber to devote full time to music.  She is actually the one who convinced him to do that, and said she would support him while he did.  Some months he makes a little more than she does now, and some months a little less.  One thing she said really struck me – “He believes in me and I believe in him, and we are in this together for the long haul.”

She is about as well-preserved as any woman in her early 50s I have ever met, and a truly delightful person to be with.  The old saying “Third time is the charm” certainly seems to apply in his case.

In the bar was another woman who made an interesting contrast to my buddy’s quietly attractive, supportive, wife.   She was 40-ish – actually could have been anywhere between mid 30s to late 40s.  She had that kind of generic American woman look about her.  She was reasonably attractive for a woman her age, but also had the air that she had put a lot of work into it.   The man she was with I assumed was her husband because they were both wearing rings.  He appeared to be a mid-level beta.  He was stockily built and looked like he did manual labor type of work, but was wearing a shirt that made it obvious his wife dressed him.  It had all kinds of embroidery on it, and a few sparkly somethings.  I’ve never met a man in my life who looked like him who would buy that kind of shirt for himself.

She was doing all kinds of signalling for attention:  flipping her hair, making expansive gestures with her arms, being all over him like a teenaged girl giddy over a date with the quarterback of the football team.  The music was so good that the band was holding everyone’s attention, so she had to up her game.  Despite the fact that this was a restaurant and there was no dance floor, she got up and started dancing solo (and not very well) right in front of the band.  When people still didn’t pay any attention to her and continued to watch, listen to, and enjoy the band, she started going up to the men at the first row of tables and saying something inane about herself.  The men would just flash her an empty smile and go back to watching the band.  The third time she approached me she escalated to arm and shoulder touching.

Meanwhile her husband continued to sit at the bar and just watch her.  I wondered what was going through his mind.  She obviously wasn’t getting enough traction that he could have been sitting there smugly thinking “You guys all want her, but she is going home with me.”  My guess is that this was standard enough behavior for her that he was just sitting there waiting for her to get it out of her system and come back to “papa.”

I looked over at my buddy’s wife who was watching her husband with obvious adoration in her eyes.  Every once in a while he would look at her from the stage with the same look.  They obviously have a good marriage – one of the few I have ever seen.  I would call my buddy almost an “Accidental Alpha.”  His wife clearly gets off on saying “I’m with the band, with the lead guitarist!”  I’m sure that she would not have beamed in the same way if she were standing outside of someone’s house pointing to him and saying “I’m with the plumber over there.”  She invested of herself in helping him achieve something that allowed her to be prouder of him, and got a lot of personal rewards from it.

His attention was all she needed.  She had no need to seek it from other men present.

The guy at the bar watching his attention-whore wife trying to get attention from other men wasn’t really a complete herb.  He looked like the kind of guy who would be great to knock back a few beers with, or the kind of guy you would want to know and be able to call on if you ran into a snag putting headers on your smallblock.

When the band got done with their gig I walked out of the bar thinking about the contrast between the two glimpses of marriages I’d seen.  I don’t really envy my buddy because he has earned his happiness by enduring 2 difficult marriages and raising a total of 7 kids.  He’s earned his happiness.

And, despite the fact that the attention seeker was above average in looks for a woman her age, I sure didn’t envy her husband.

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