“Your parents… they live there?”
We’re talking about the San Fernando Valley while we chug along the linear grid of Westchester towards Santa Monica. It’s the second time my Uber driver has made reference to an incorrect assumption that my parents are still together, living in the same house. I’ve been sidestepping the answer, avoiding the inevitable, until finally…
“No, my mom lives there. My dad lives in Santa Monica.”
“Why? Why? Why?” he asks, his hands moving between his forehead and some unknown place where utter bafflement exists, a well of confusion. “So many people in this country… divorced!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say.
“Pretty crazy,” I say.
“You must ask your father why he do this,” my Uber driver instructs. My Uber driver comes from a culture that assumes men are the more active parties in, well, life in general, and so it blows his mind when I tell him that it was my mother who wanted out.
“Why?” he repeats, still more of a theoretical question and less a probing one.
I think of the time my mom went to the movie theater the night before her SDA exam to see The Bridges of Madison County. She drank nine Diet Cokes and cried the whole time. The next day she failed her test and the day after that she told my dad she wanted a divorce. That’s what ended my parents’ 13-year marriage. Meryl Streep and nine Diet Cokes. That’s why.
“Too late now,” I joke. “Should have had this conversation in 1995.”
What follows is my Uber driver’s attempt to save a young woman who he perceives to be on the precipice of following in her parents’ footsteps, doomed to perpetuate the scourge of broken homes plaguing this country.
“You have someone marry-age?” he asks, meaning am I currently dating anyone worthwhile.
“Okay, well, this is what you have to do,” he says. “First date, you grab coffee. You see if you like him – his face, his body. The outside. Then, next date, you write down all of the things you want… in life. Ten things. One hundred things. However many things. And you tell him, ‘Look at this list and show me what is the same.’ If it’s 75 percent, good. You never get divorce. Less than that? Bye bye.”
Inside, the bitter part of me laughs heartily, incapable of imagining sitting across from any man with a sheet of paper filled with things I expect out of life and whomever I plan to spend it with. On a second date, I’m afraid scare someone off by even mentioning what I plan on doing next weekend, let alone what I plan on doing the next ten years. Guys don’t want to hear that you’re looking for anything special; they want to make sure you’re absolutely not looking for anything at all.
“It is hard to find good men,” he tells me. “Out of 1000, girl can maybe find five.”
Sounds about right. By his math, I only need to date 800 more lame dudes to find up to four good ones.
“Most guys, they just want to have fun. You go out with them and they say, ‘Come back to my place.’ They want fun. Not serious. But, if man is serious, he won’t do that. He waits.”
I think of the beautiful, puritanical world this fifty-something foreign man lives in, where women somehow call the shots, where men are respectful, marriageable, patient. I do everything I can not to tell him that times have changed since he married his wife, that he lives in a fool’s paradise. Then again, what do I know? I’m just the young, modern, perpetually single girl sitting in this guy’s backseat.