A Short Story by Donal Mahoney
It started in eighth grade, much to the chagrin of her parents. Boys in high school started asking Roslyn for dates. And Roslyn would tell them they would have to ask her father. And he always said no.
“You’re too young to go out with boys, Roslyn,” he would say. “On that subject, your mother and I completely agree. Wait till you’re older.”
In high school, young men in college discovered Roslyn and they too asked her out. She would tell them that although she was allowed to date boys in high school now, her parents wouldn’t let her go out with college “men,” as her mother called them.
“College men are too old for you, Roslyn,” her mother said more than once and twice her father chimed in with his one-word agreement.
When Roslyn went to college, some of the graduate assistants and young assistant professors wanted to date her but she was a pre-medical student and she hit the books hard. When she did go on a date, it was usually for pizza and a movie with some young man in the same year as she, someone she liked as a person but had no mad crush on.
Roslyn wanted to be a doctor, an eye specialist, with a concentration on retinal diseases because her father once came home from an eye examination to report that his eye doctor had discovered two tears in his right retina and had used a laser to repair them. Roslyn was impressed by the good the doctor had accomplished and she wanted to make the same difference in other people’s lives.
In medical school she had to study very hard. Roslyn was as bright as she was beautiful but medical school was the first time she had to buckle down academically. Previously she had earned good grades without working too hard. There was very little time in medical school to date although once again some younger professors tried hard to take her out. She always hoped her refusals wouldn’t affect her grades and she felt that her grades invariably were those she had earned. She had a knack for telling aspiring suitors “no” without offending them.
After medical school, she had to serve an internship that required long, unpredictable hours. Again, many doctors, single and otherwise, wanted to date her but Roslyn would have nothing to do with married men and she didn’t meet a single doctor she really liked. She explained this to her parents on trips home as well as to her girl friends from high school, many of whom were now married with children, who had thought Roslyn would be the first among them to marry and settle down.
When she went on to graduate work in the study of the eye, Roslyn found she had to study even harder. She didn’t date at all for fear of falling behind. What free time she had she spent watching television and eating pizza delivered from a nearby restaurant. She felt closer to her television set than she did to any man she had met so far. No question she liked men. But the right one had so far failed to distract her from her studies and goals in life.
Back home, her parents, once very concerned their daughter would date the wrong boy at too young an age, began now to worry they might never become grandparents. And her girl friends started questioning her as to when she was going to settle down. Some of them were downright nosy. Others wanted to fix her up. She politely refused all the help she was offered.
“First,” she told them, “I have to establish my practice and then I’ll have time to concentrate on finding the right guy. He’s out there, I’m sure. I’m 27 now and I want to have at least three children so I better get a move on.”
In two years Roslyn had quickly established an excellent practice. She had appointments booked months in advance. Other doctors referred especially difficult retina problems to her because she excelled in using the laser for making repairs. She was now a successful doctor but still as single as ever with no potential husband in sight.
The years went by and Roslyn became more and more successful and even dated decent men now and then. She found one man very interesting but he did not share her interest in public television and classical movies. Like many men he had an interest in sports events and was always changing the channel to some game. Roslyn liked sports and had played volleyball in high school and college but watching sports on TV held little interest for her. She liked to compete and she was too old now to play in any games.
Her father was the first to die without becoming a grandparent and two years later her mother passed away without any grandchildren. Roslyn was still steadfastly practicing medicine and was again ordering pizza in and watching television in her few hours of spare time. She had almost stopped dating because at age 48 she knew children were likely out of the question and she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life watching the Game of the Week.
She took time out, however, to return to her hometown for the 30th anniversary of her high school graduation. She was surprised to see how many of her old classmates now had either a little or a lot of gray hair. Some men had paunches and many of the women were bigger than they had ever thought they would be. Bearing children can do that to a woman. Roslyn, however, was still slim and beautiful and gray hairs had yet to appear.
Most of her old girl friends had given up quizzing her as to why she had never married. But on the night of their class reunion she shared a table and a few bottles of wine with her three closest friends. One of them was a bit tipsy and leaned forward and looked Roslyn in the eye and asked,
“Roz, why the hell are you still single. Men forever have been chasing you. You’ve had a chance to meet some of the nicest men out there. And you’re still a bachelorette. Why?”
Roslyn was very sober as always and she took a minute to formulate her answer. She wanted to settle the issue once and for all. Finally she laid it on the table between the wine bottles and glasses.
“Ladies, I have met a lot of nice men but I have studied too hard and worked too hard to give up my remote.”
Two of the women laughed and one of them raised her glass and proposed a toast to liberation and possessing one’s own remote. Her husband had been in charge of their remote now for 26 years. He put it down, however, to father six wonderful children. She’d like to have her own remote but she preferred her children by a long shot.
The tipsy girlfriend who had asked the question just shook her head in fake despair and gave Roslyn a skosh of too-late advice that had worked for her.
“By now you can afford to buy another one. I bought two in case my husband loses his between the cushions and wants to borrow mine.”
Roslyn knew she could afford to buy a second remote. But that wouldn’t have helped her find the right man. He simply never appeared. At the moment, however, she was happy because now the quiz about why she was a bachelorette was finally over. And, frankly, she couldn’t wait to get home and watch “Gone with the Wind” for perhaps the 14th time. She certainly would have lent Clark Gable her remote for an evening or two at least.