Lessons of a geographic bachelor
April 29, 2013
I spent most of the last year living as a geographic bachelor. For the uninitiated, a geographic bachelor is a married guy who is living apart from his lovely and talented wife. The difference between being a geographic bachelor and being separated from your wife is that she can access your bank account without a court order and you can call her to complain about it without violating a restraining order — usually.
When Sandra first told me that she intended to study classic art in Italy, I was all for it. I envisioned myself writing the great American novel on a laptop from the street cafes of Florence while she spent her days in the classroom then cooked me an endless supply of lasagna. Unfortunately, what Sandra envisioned was her studying art from the street cafes of Florence alone, while I stayed home and paid our bills.
Can you guess which version happened?
I learned a lot during my time as a geographic bachelor, and I'll share those lessons with you here. If I can save even one marriage by sharing my experiences … I really hope it's mine!
The primary lesson I learned is that being a geographic bachelor really sucks. You have all of the responsibilities and obligations of marriage along with the special joys of being single; like cleaning your own toilets and waking up alone every morning.
You still get to enjoy the benefits of community property, vows of monogamy and the opportunity and obligation to listen to how each other's day went, albeit via Skype, but now it's always your turn to cook, do laundry and to be the designated driver! Basically, you become friends without benefits.
I also came to realize that I am no longer the self-sufficient dashing young naval officer I was when I got married a quarter of a century ago. My lifestyle back then included things like driving my convertible to the Officer's Club for Happy Hour after rugby practice. My lifestyle last year consisted of cooking cheap disgusting food and falling asleep on the couch with the TV still on. Still glamorous, but not quite the way I remember bachelor living.
Another thing I learned is that nobody really cares about my adventures in the Navy, my firm belief that NFL officials have a quota for pass interference calls per game or how much smarter I am than my boss. Sandra, though, generally ignored me politely, or at least without rolling her eyes and walking away. It's one of her more endearing qualities.
Much to my surprise I learned just how quiet the house can get without Sandra droning on about how a consortium of moguls, monarchs and men from Mars have manipulated the public education system to create a class of worker drones to feed their lust for power and wealth, while I watch TV out of one eye and politely pretend to listen.
I learned that coming home and finding everything exactly as you left it is overrated. I never realized how much adventure is involved in discovering if the remote is hidden under her iPad, her abandoned bath robe or maybe in a kitchen cabinet or drawer (usually left open as a clue.)
I learned that going for months without watching a single episode of Dr. Phil or anything on Bravo TV and watching only movies that involve Clint Eastwood riding a horse, shooting a bad guy or telling some punk to get off his lawn actually made me taller, better looking and added about 10 points to my IQ just as I always suspected.
I confirmed that, even without Sandra's constant advice and valuable critiques, I managed to dress myself, feed myself and drive without getting lost or having an accident. I managed, but it wasn't nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be.
I noticed that it's perfectly normal for me to laugh out loud when I tell Sandra the witty little things that run through my head, but it's not so normal for me to laugh out loud at those same thoughts when I'm alone. Being a smart aleck is more fun than being crazy.
Finally, I learned that after 26 years of marriage I could get along just fine as a bachelor … but why would I want to? It turns out that having someone who has vowed to love, honor and put up with your crap for as long as you both shall live is pretty cool. Who would have guessed?
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist.