Monday, May 5, 2008

Men are Dogs.

When I was in a creative writing course 4 or 5 years ago I totally offended one my male classmates by titling a story "Men Are Dogs." He didn't even want to read it. However, if he'd been the least bit open minded, he'd have realized that the story was in fact more of a slag against the fickleness of women.

Anyway, since I have been trying to help the kids come up with some appropriately "medieval sounding" vows I remembered this story I wrote (which has nothing to do with medieval, but it is about vows) and thought I'd post it. I wrote it from a male voice.

Men Are Dogs

I am spellbound as my bride, wearing her favourite blue jeans and that tight red sweater that I love, walks down the aisle towards me on her father’s arm. My heart is pounding, my palms are sweaty and I am grinning so hard I think my lip is going to split. I wonder what kind of basket-case I will be tomorrow when it’s not just rehearsal.

We have been planning this for over a year. I think Cassie has actually been planning it for pretty much all of her life, but when we became officially engaged thirteen months ago, I got dragged into the planning. Not that I feel like I’m being dragged into marriage; I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with this gorgeous creature who has seen fit to love me. It’s the wedding hype and planning that is beyond my comprehension. I am a simple guy. I would be happy to sign on the dotted line and then go for a beer with all our friends to celebrate.

Cassie, on the other hand, wants a wedding that no one will forget. She’s not flashy or conceited but she is unique and wants our wedding to stand out from others. That is why there are four groomsmen and only two bridesmaids. There are six flower girls who will be dressed like butterflies - wearing wings on their backs and nothing on their feet. Her desire for originality is why she insists that we write our own vows instead of repeating age-old phrases like “I plight thee my troth.” I have no idea what those words mean, but they seem to have worked for my parents 34 years ago; they are still married today.

After having instructed everyone on where to stand and what to expect, the female minister runs through some of the things she is going to say tomorrow. She then turns to me and says, “At this point, Mike, you will recite the vows that you have prepared, and Cassie will follow right after with hers.”

“Cassie, I promise to love you for the rest of my life, or die trying.” Dead silence. They are all waiting expectantly for me to finish.

“That’s it. That’s my vow.”

The disappointment on Cassie’s face cuts me to the heart. But like a trooper, she just starts in with her prepared vows. “Mike, you are the man…” I don’t hear another word she says because my mind is scrambling, trying to make up more stuff to add to my vows. I make a mental note to pay closer attention to her vows tomorrow. I know we will be discussing them at some point in the future – probably sooner than later.

We simulate the exchange of rings and the minister finishes off with, “Mike, remember that Cassie is your partner, an equal, treat her with respect and your relationship will be successful. Cassie, remember that men are dogs.”

“Uh,” I utter, about to interject that I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing to say at a wedding. It is my wedding too.

The minister continues, “Treat him well and he will be your faithful best friend.” Everyone chuckles, including Cassie. I guess I can live with that.

I fumble through the rest of the evening feeling totally guilty that I have put such little effort into something that means so much to Cassie. During rehearsal dinner she seems a little quieter than usual. She hasn’t mentioned the vows at all, but I can sense that she is disappointed in me. Her eyes avoid making contact with mine, but our feet are tangled together under the table, and I take it as a sure sign that she still loves me and is willing to forgive me.

I am caught a little off guard by the onslaught of last minute instructions and advice everyone has to offer throughout the evening.

“Wear black socks or they’ll show in the pictures.”

“Don’t lock your knees while you are standing up there.”

“Remember to carry breath mints in your pocket.”

“Don’t look directly into the camera.”

“Start buying RRSPs.”

“Enrol your children in a private school….”

Enough is enough. Cassie and I are nearly the first ones to leave the restaurant and head for home. I kiss her goodnight. “I love you, Cass. Thanks for choosing to be with me forever.”

“I love you too. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Try to get some sleep, Babe.”

For the last time I watch my girlfriend turn and walk into her house. Tomorrow she will be my wife and she’ll live in our house. The thought of it is almost overwhelming. Combining that with my guilt over my lousy vows and the minister’s statement, “Men are dogs,” I know that I am in for a sleepless night.

The more I dwell on the minister’s words, the more I see the wisdom in them. I grab a pen and scratch down some words. Yes! I have a new set of vows.

In the morning the boys and I meet for breakfast at Denny’s. “Hey, Mike! Tonight’s the big night – your first sexual encounter. You are a virgin aren’t you?” Jeff’s phoney look of innocence and shock gets belly laughs from the others.

Doug punches me in the shoulder, “Where do ya suppose Cassie went after you dropped her off last night? I wonder what kind of shape she’ll be in this afternoon.”

“You shoulda come with us to Joe’s Place after you left the restaurant. The last Friday of the month always has the best wet t-shirt contest.” Jason turns his mischievous grin towards Doug, “Wasn’t Cassie one of the finalists?”

By the look of the bags under their eyes, I’m glad I didn’t go with them. I happily deal with their antics, thankful that they haven’t actually followed through with some of the asinine things they joked about doing, like tying me naked to a parking meter or shaving my head.

Before I know it, I am standing in front of 250 people holding both hands of the person I love most in the world.

The minister turns and nods to me when it is time for me to say my vows. Cassie’s eyes light up with pride when I pull my new vows from my pocket. I know she thinks it was all a trick and that I had them ready all along. I won’t be the one to tell her otherwise.

I take a deep breath and begin. “Men are dogs. As a man, I have to agree with this statement that is usually uttered by women who have recently broken up with a guy, or been the victim of an abuser. My reasons for agreeing are completely different.

“Like a dog, I am eager to please you - my woman, my master. I live for those moments when I bring you joy and pleasure. I am happy to run along after you, panting in anticipation of getting a pat on the head or an occasional verbal “Good Boy.” I am okay with serving you all day, as long as I get to operate the remote control in the evening and get sex on a somewhat regular basis.

“Everyone knows that a dog has to be trained, and consistency is the key to good training. That’s all I ask of you Cassie; keep the rules consistent and simple. I am not a complex thinker. I have no desire to analyze everything to figure out why, or how it happened, or what action should logically follow. Even if I had the desire, I don’t think I could work it all out in a way that would please you.

“Just as a dog finds it logical to chase a cat just because it’s there, I also find it logical to do things that you find absurd. Take watching wrestling for example. You cannot understand the pleasure that I, as a man, get from watching this pointless show of strength. By the same token, I don’t have a frigging clue what attracts you to watch things like Dr. Phil and Oprah, where they want to figure out all the whys and hows of every relationship.” I want to look at Cassie’s face to see if she is still looking proud, but I don’t dare take me eyes off my paper and lose my place, so I keep on reading.

“I love to play fetch for you. The only catch is that you have to tell me what it is that you want me to bring back. Let me see the stick first, before you demand, “Go get it, boy!” and point in a general direction where I can see ten thousand things. If it’s flowers you want, tell me it’s flowers you want. If you hate chocolate, let me know before I bring it home. Don’t leave me to my own devices to choose. I would rather bring home an old baseball glove or a six-pack – that’s just the way my brain works. The hardest part in the game of fetch is when you don’t know what you want. If you don’t know, then I don’t have a hope in hell of figuring it out, and anything I bring home is wrong and I end up in the doghouse. On those days when you do not know what you want, let’s just play a different game; or play no game at all. I’d be content just to sit at home and sniff each other’s butts.”

My mother is going to freak because I said that in a church. I don’t dare look in her direction, so I just carry on, “I hate the begging game. You love to hang a treat over my head and make me beg for it. I know you intend to give it to me eventually, but you get satisfaction from seeing me work for it. So I continue to say, “Please,” and dance around and roll over; I do this more for your pleasure than to receive the item you are tempting me with. The best way to frustrate me is to offer a treat, get me to perform, and then refuse to follow through. I am a little dense sometimes, but it won’t take long before I refuse to play when I know there is no reward coming at the end of the day.”

I am starting to think this was a bad idea. I am so nervous standing here, I wish I could just stop, but there is no way out now; I have to finish what I have started. The first version of my vows is starting to look even better to me. Cassie is probably thinking the same thing.

I clear my throat and continue, “It is when I get confusing directions that I start to panic and cower. I can only take so many conflicting orders: Sit! Stay! Fetch! Go! No! before I get all flustered and have no recourse except to bite you.

“I would much rather bark than bite. It’s good for my ego when you let me bark occasionally. It lets me show how tough I am without hurting anyone. Just quietly listen to me while I rant on, then pet me and tell me it’s okay. And for God’s sake don’t remind me next week of a barking session I had today. It’ll mean nothing to me.” The minister shuffles uneasily and looks to the rafters as if to summon God to intervene. He just might do that before I’m finished here.

“It is my nature to know when a female within a five-mile radius is in heat. Do us both a favour and keep me occupied so I’m not tempted to stray. The last thing I need is another master to try to figure out. The last thing you need is a bitch to compete with.” To my left, Jeff and Doug both snicker out loud; they are not the only guys in the building to laugh. Funny thing is, I am being serious.

“If you follow these guidelines and train me with consistent rules, love me for the mindless beast that I am, and give me occasional rewards, I will remain faithful and true, your protector, companion and friend.”

I lift my eyes from my paper to Cassie’s face. I cannot read her expression. I don’t think she knows what to think. I cock my head to one side like a dog and give her my crooked little grin that she says she loves. I see relief wash over her and she looks right into my eyes and begins, “Mike, you are the man…”

I listen intently to every word she says. I know that the conversation about vows is going to come up even sooner than I thought. But that’s okay, cuz I got my woman, my master, and Cassie got her wedding that no one will soon forget.


Knittypants said...

I really like that story :)

mari said...

me too. Sounds like it should be part of a book written to inspire newly wed's..

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