One of the advantages of getting older is that you learn a few things if you pay attention. For example, when I was younger, I hid certain things about myself when I met someone I thought I might be interested in dating. My dislike of cheese of all kinds. My knobby knees. The general slovenliness of my apartment and car. My ability to recite entire episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” from memory. My crush on Stevie Nicks.
I thought that disclosure of these quirks was best saved for later, perhaps quite a bit later, after we had had a kid or two and it seemed a bit safer. Of course, there is no such thing as “safer” when it comes to the minefield of relationships, where failure to disclose even the most seemingly harmless of quirks can be and often is interpreted as a form of manipulation, if not outright treachery.
“Yes, I appreciate that you are sensitive and know the right temperature for Petit Syrah,” she will say. “I don’t mind that every time you see Terry Finger, you start quoting lines from Ernest T. Bass or “Green Acres” and then laugh like a drunk hyena. That I can live with. But I will not spend my life with a man who will not eat lasagna as God intended it to be eaten, WITH cheese.”
That is why I told Tammy on our very first date about my fantasy sports thing. We were at a Chinese restaurant, where she pretended to enjoy Chinese food and I pretended to understand portion control. Otherwise, I intended to come clean about my fantasy sports thing.
At first, she was just confused. She thought I was saying that I fantasized about playing professional sports, something I have not done since puberty, when Stevie Nicks booted Steve Garvey out of the ‘obsession room’ in my brain — and believe me, it’s a pretty big room — taking up residence there for about the next four years, until I met a girl named Kim on a school trip to Washington, D.C. By then, my gargantuan baseball card collection had been collecting dust in the attic for some time.
Anyway, at the age I am now, I am more apt to fantasize about getting out of the bed in morning with no back pain that I am to fantasize about roaming center field for the Dodgers.
I explained to her that I am part of a group of guys who get together two times per year, every year, to draft teams for our fantasy league, which has been going on for better than 10 years now. Every October, we meet in Raleigh to draft our basketball teams, and every March, we meet here in Western North Carolina to draft baseball teams. I told her that these two days of the year were sacrosanct and were a non-negotiable part of any relationship we might (or might not) be having. Except that was not exactly how I put it. What I said was, “This really means a lot to all the guys, and I don’t have that many friends, and I want you to know right now how important it is to me that YOU have friends that you can do things with and I especially want to stress how welcome your parents would be if they ever wanted to come visit us.”
And then I gave her the last fake crabmeat wonton.
In our seven years together, she has been great about my fantasy sports thing, tolerating the glossy $9 magazines with Albert Pujols on the cover, smiling patiently when I am late to the table for dinner because I am still on the phone with my friend, Tim, debating the merits of choosing a shortstop with some pop or a five tool outfielder in the upcoming draft.
For the last two years, she has even agreed to let me host the draft at our home. She and the kids make plans for the weekend, get out of Dodge, and give us the run of the place. The draft takes just about an entire day, with guys sweating out each pick, looking up statistics on the Internet, contrasting those notes with their own notes, flipping through magazines and injury reports, comparing this player with that player. The intensity is maddening.
The beer helps some. And the NCAA tournament, which we either watch or keep one eye on, depending on whether somebody’s team is still alive and playing. By bedtime, we have our teams, which we study and analyze like a teenage boy looking at his first car, with a sense of awe and wonder and rich possibility. This team could WIN. This could be the year. I think that shortstop was the right pick.
As this pertains to relationships, I would simply say this. We are all complete weirdos about something. Along with “for better or worse,” the phrase “for normal or weird,” should be added to the marriage vows. I’ve got fantasy sports and my record collection. She’s got the Dave Matthews Band and reality shows about wedding cakes.
‘Til death do us part.