July 8, 2004
These days, many women complain about the epidemic of males who run in terror from the thought of a committed relationship.
But there are plenty of guys out there who are eager to commit. I know, since I just found one.
Like many people searching for love, I found Ken through an online matchmaking service. As soon as I clicked on his profile and photo, I knew that any guy with a face that honest and eyes that sincere wouldn't steer me wrong.
After a bit of research, I had it on good authority that Ken didn't smoke, drink, bet the mortgage at the racetrack or chase women. He didn't care if a woman looked like Jennifer Lopez or Kathy Bates. He was just a sincere guy looking for a little honest love in his life.
There was only one thorny issue: What would my husband say about all this?
Clandestinely, I offered to meet Ken. We took a walk around the neighborhood and hit it off. I invited him home to meet the family, but warned him that my husband might not go for this arrangement.
I realized that Ken's manners could appear a little crude and urged him to be on his best behavior. Yet despite my admonitions, Ken behaved badly during his trial run with the family. It did not help that one of his first acts as a guest in our home was to appear in the living room, chewing on a pair of underwear that he had lifted from the laundry.
"He's just nervous," I said, trying to excuse the inexcusable. "Besides, he's an orphan. It's not his fault that he didn't have anyone to teach him the finer points of social etiquette."
"Next thing you know, he'll be chewing up the furniture," my husband said. "Let's send him back."
"No!" the children shouted in unison.
This was the only thing they had all agreed on since the night I suggested they eat Corn Pops for dinner. They thought Ken's manners were charming, probably because he made their own behavior look classy in comparison.
We overruled my husband, but our victory came at a price. As Ken began to feel more comfortable, he revealed a kinkiness that I would never have imagined.
He lapped water from the toilet, filched snacks from the garbage, including things too repulsive to mention, and jumped on the kitchen table when our backs were turned and ate all the cheese off our just-delivered pizza. These boorish behaviors made a black mark on Ken's record.
"I'm sure he'll learn to behave eventually," I said, doubting whether this was really true.
Ken may have been cute, but based on what we could glean of his intelligence, he was unlikely to ever qualify as a Fullbright scholar. One day, I came home to find that my husband's prediction had come true: Ken had tunneled through one of the living room couches, his face still full of couch stuffing. I wondered: Could this relationship be saved?
Reprimands did no good. If we shouted, "Ken, drop that calzone, right now!" or "No making woo woo in the shoe!" he seemed genuinely contrite, if not a little confused. His expression seemed to ask, "Did you think I'd sit here reading the Wall Street Journal? I'm just a beagle, for God's sake!"
This explains why for years I flatly refused my kids' pleadings to acquire a canine companion. I envisioned cleaning up messes throughout the house, pitching good shoes into the trash that the puppy had chewed and trying to stop his insane barking at the mailman.
Essentially, I envisioned the very life I am living now. We've had fish and turtles and still have a hamster that has enjoyed surprising longevity, given our previous adventures in pet ownership. However, I fear that one day soon we will arrive home to discover the hamster has died of a heart attack while running on his wheel, terrorized by our new puppy, who thinks the rodent is lunch.
Under the force of my kids' grinding, incessant pleas (a specialty of the house), I buckled. In a moment of insanity, I agreed to hunt with my youngest son on the Internet, clicking on dozens of doggie profiles. We immediately had to dismiss several inappropriate candidates.
"Hairball came to us with a bit of an attitude problem, but with a lot of work, he's sure to become a reasonably lovable companion," was one honest description of a terrier. Just what I needed: another personality with attitude.
One handsome lab came with this caveat, "Shaquille is recovering from a mastectomy and is fearful of children. Takes antidepressants daily. Would do best in a quiet, adult-only home."
Most of these darling doggies were not destined for our family, including a skateboard-riding Lhasa Apso that nipped at young children; Leroy and Estelle, a pair of yappy Chihuahuas that had to be placed together or they would commit suicide, and an aged rottweiler named Boo recovering from a broken leg. All things considered, Ken seemed the best of the bunch.
True, since he joined the family we are down by one couch, three shoes, two pizzas and an unquantifiable pair of socks and underwear.
But at least he wasn't afraid to commit.
Judy Gruen writes the popular "Off My Noodle" humor column, available on her Web site, www.judygruen.com. She is also a columnist for Religion News Service.