People become attached to each other.
Sometimes for all the wrong reasons.
All too often they figure this out too late.

Gotta find a girlfriend. Gotta find a boyfriend. Gotta get married. Gotta have a family.

So, there they all are, the conveyor belt of "happy couples" making their way to an appearance in your home town. What are these people all about? Where is the meaning in their eyes? Watch and listen and sometimes you see the dividing line.

Some people do it, but many more flirt with the edge of it every day. They make a commitment to comfort and a pact to escape the potential of loneliness. They bond together because it seems to work well enough. There is always something missing. Sometimes they have just been together for so long that it becomes an ongoing habit. At other times there are financial, family or professional obligations that can be met more easily through marriage or even "just living together." It just happens to snap together well enough from a scientific and logical standpoint that they jump the ravine. Sometimes it does work, but for many the sense that something continues to be missing from their lives is the undoing of their scheme. Ever notice how many people get married in their twenties because it seemed like a good idea at the time? Ever notice how many get divorced in their thirties because it just never turned out the way they hoped?

I've been engaged three and a half times. That is something of a joke, since the first "engagement" happened because people assumed it was the case. Lisa and I had been together for three years and were living together. Marriage came up in conversation at times, but never to the point of a marriage proposal or planned dates and times for nuptial rituals. There were many I knew at the time who did get married under similar circumstances. Lisa was 24 and I was 21 when we met and we were never really in love. We were close friends who had really great sex and enjoyed many of the same things. It was comfortable enough that it worked and continued to work for three years, but we both realized that if we got married we would be fooling ourselves. My friends Tim and Bill went through similar situations, but they both married their long time girlfriends. Bill is now divorced. Tim and his wife had two kids but he is currently keeping two mistresses on the side. You see, Tim used to look like Tom Cruise, and girls would walk up to him in bars and tell him that. These days he looks more like Alan Thicke. Sometimes you forget the future when you are standing in the present.

Several years later I was involved in a roller coaster ride of a relationship with a twenty year old girl named Justine. She had this problem with being both unable to commit herself to a relationship and not being able to handle someone not being committed to her. Something about her blue collar lifestyle and her family life made her into a Cinderella character in my eyes. I wanted to take her away from it all. Her family lived in the basement of a three-decker. Her father was a former high school janitor out on permanent disability due to some chemical accident he preferred not to talk about. Her mother was tireless and worked two jobs to support the family. Justine's older sister had "come out of the closet" just a year or so before I met Justine. She had to go hardcore, bringing her girlfriend to the house and having her sit down to dinner with the family every Sunday. Her father did not like this at all, and it made him hold onto Justine that much tighter in true "daddy's little girl" style. I would come to those Sunday dinners and try to smile while Justine's father muttered as many little remarks under his breath as he could without a fist fight starting. When he made a remark about same-sex relationships being disgusting and using his Catholic upbringing as proof of concept, I would chirp in with "How about those Red Sox?" It was the same way every Sunday. I asked Justine to marry me. I never wanted to marry her. I was just convinced I could rescue her. Sometimes we are so misguided.

Have you ever walked into a club or a party with the most beautiful woman in the building on your arm? It is quite a rush and it makes all the blood leave your head so it can pump into your ego. You stop looking past the surface value and begin to glow. She walks into a room and all the men take long looks at her. She comes over to your table and kisses you. Now you rule the roost. Why would you cash out at this game?

Dori was all that and more. When she walked into the room you might think she had gotten lost on her way to a supermodel photo shoot. Then she opened her mouth and ruined everything. She spoke two languages, venom and stupidity. I tried to arrange times when we would just walk through a room together, like a hotel lobby or a crowded restaurant on our way to a quiet back table. Then I made the mistake of bringing her to a company Christmas party. While my male co-workers were stunned by the bounty of my harvest, their innocuous remarks caused Dori to slip into "angry and defensive" mode. Her harsh responses to compliments caused my co-workers to recoil in horror. Then, while I was speaking to a married female co-worker, she walked over and threw the ice from a drink at the front of my shirt and threatened to leave if I danced with any "other girl." This was most curious, since all my female co-workers were in their late forties or early fifties and were there with their husbands. The only other "girls" were wives or girlfriends of my male co-workers. So, I told Dori, "okay, bye." She went to the bar and tried to pick up the bartender.

Coming back to the house that evening, because all her stuff was there and she lived an hour away just outside of Boston, we had a memorable argument. The kind of argument where you toss and throw things with the intent to break them. I wanted to go to sleep. There happened to be a three-thousand dollar diamond ring at the bottom of my underwear drawer. It was a leftover from a marriage proposal that had never been made. I gave it to Dori to shut her up. She took the proposal seriously and called her entire family and made me call mine. It took weeks to untangle the mess and escape. The whole thing might have gone much smoother had it not been for Dori's seven year old daughter. She told me every night she dreamed about me being her father. I loved her. I didn't love Dori. Sometimes it is more complicated than just "yes" or "no." Sometimes you have to bleed to make the right choice.

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right*

Throw the milk out before it goes sour. Drink the champagne before the bubbles run out. Savor the sunsets. All things can have pleasant memories. We are at our worst when we trivialize matters of the heart and soul. All too often that is exactly what we do. When you turn down a long and winding road, make sure it is the right road before it becomes too difficult to change direction. Choose wisely, because every choice you make changes the essence of who you are and where you are going. Rotate the tires. Keep gas in your tank and a full pack of cigarettes on the dashboard. Ride into the night without any headlights. Live.

*Lyrics borrowed from Bob Dylan
The story came to mind whilst listening to the song...