Waiting Period

On a small but happy number of occasions, my old roommate and I banged girls who were friends. One of us might be dating someone, and the other would swoop in on her bestie like a buy-one-and-two-drinks-and-get-the-second-one-free deal. The running joke was that we liked to hunt in packs. A douchey thing to say, but we found other ways to contribute to society.

In my heyday, I was generally known as the best wingman since Scottie Pippen. Now MJ, the one who taught me 75 percent of what I know about a woman’s body, is retired for good. This is the guy who once dropped in at the tail end of a bar crawl, assessed my situation with a female in 45 seconds, took my beer away, and pointed at the door: “Go. And she will follow.” So I did, and she did.

The man was The Natural. He was the kind of gentleman who would bring a gal home and drive her back the next morning, which required more effort than it seems because English was not always her native language.

He’s gone now though. Engaged. Fathers from Cabo San Lucas to Prattsville, N.Y. are gradually extending their daughters’ curfews with cautious optimism.

One of my earlier roommates — let’s call him Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — might have the cell phone number of every stripper this side of the Mississippi. He once took two girls back to the Vegas hotel room where his girlfriend was sleeping and wondered why tensions escalated. His signature date night entailed bringing a gallon of wine to a BYOB Italian restaurant and then asking afterwards if she wanted to go back to his place and watch a Disney movie. Think about the subtle brilliance of this maneuver, effective in its silly and disarming nature.

He’s gone now too. Engaged. With a baby on top of that, in case he changes his mind. Even our youngest cub, a 25-year-old with his whole life ahead of him, was picked off recently. Engaged.

We are the ones being hunted now, a harrowing cross between Predator and How I Met Your Mother. Like Arnold, and unlike Ted, I am not going out like that. I am not ready to die. I will outlast them all because I know when to run, when to hide, and when to take a stand.

Ultimately all the tactics serve to uphold the basic principle of respecting process. When people lose sight of process, when they become fixated on happily ever after and a results-oriented culture, they make mistakes.

I love my girlfriend and feel confident in our future, provided we can fill the gaps in our shifty common ground on minor points such as kids, dogs, housing, location, finances and lifestyle. If I had to guess right now, I would say we will have a happy marriage. Said everyone who has ever been divorced.

My thesis here can be stated in a simple two-part question. Have you ever felt like you found the person you’re going to marry? Are you grateful now that you didn’t?

Things change. The best we can do is gather as much information as possible before taking that leap of faith. The more preparation, the more confidence we can have in the outcome.

Believe me, I stumbled upon a great girl and have my moments when I want to propose on the spot. But I check myself, because I want my marriage to be based on logic and experience rather than feelings and conjecture.

What’s the rush anyway? Why not figure some things out now? I saw on television that the No. 1 reason for couples fighting is money. So I picked a fight on the topic, and it worked. She was really mad. Sometimes I have such a delicate touch when articulating my opinion, and sometimes I am so blunt and callous that I might seem like a sociopath. The question is legitimate though. If we have trouble navigating financial issues now, what’s going to happen with three biracial kids and a mortgage?

People change, too. Identities are highly volatile during your 20s. Mine probably won’t stabilize until well into my 50s. I am still not 100-percent sure about my sexuality. I check out guys all the time. Often, while holding hands with my girlfriend no less, I notice a good-looking dude and mutter under my breath, “Hell-o beefcake.” She shrugs it off as a joke, but how long can a joke go on before you wonder if the joke is on you?

This goes back to process. I struggle to see the efficacy of skipping steps when the goal is to commit a half-century of your life to one partner. Get to know each other better first. Make progress before conclusions. You can always get closer to a person.

For example, two nights ago, I noticed a streak of monthly feminine discharge on the toilet seat and called in the culprit to admire her work. My girlfriend wiped it off and then extended the soiled toilet paper toward my shirtless torso. This was not a game of chicken that I wanted any part of, so I shrank back against the shower curtain. But she kept moving forward with it like a knife in a horror movie until it was maybe an inch from my stomach. I sucked in my abs so hard I could have been cast as an extra on 300. No matter, she dabbed just above my belly button and scurried away with a laughing shriek.

I can still feel that moisture touching my skin, and it makes me want to vomit out my insides. On the bright side, this was a new level of intimacy achieved. I had never experienced anything like this with another human. We are literally blood bros now. I hope to have a lifetime of such learnings with her, albeit more sanitary ones. It’s all part of a process, one to be appreciated rather than accelerated.