Marriage and Parenting Wisdom From Guys I Met in Bars

by Carrie Hill Wilner

Sometimes at bars or other young-people places, guys want to talk to me. Let’s talk, totally! Eventually, though, I like to let them know that I’m married (six years on Friday) and have a kid (one year on some day in the recent past!). We’re all busy people, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. But, go figure, instead of moving on, they sometimes like to stick around and give me their important thoughts and advice on marriage and parenting, right now.*

Do they want to prove they’re good guys who weren’t just trying to talk to me because of my giant DTF cleave tattoo (no, no, it’s not like that; my husband has a matching one)? Do they really want help figuring their shit out? All I know is that in a world where it’s so easy to get demoralized by the unattainable media depictions of marriage, and exhausting to even think about all those baby books that say exactly the opposite things, I’m really grateful I have Guys Trying To Holler At Me to help me sort it all out. Maybe they can help you, too.

(A) On Marriage:

(1) Choose your partner well — and get out when it’s not working.

“You’re married to the wrong guy.” He urges me on with a second Manhattan and a long gaze from green eyes. Ok, um, bar guy, I’m game, update your W4 form.

No, that’s silly. What he really means is that it’s obvious I’m married to the wrong guy because if I weren’t, I would be with my husband right now, instead of on a work trip, letting humans look at me while I eat my bar dinner.

(2) Monogamy’s the only option.

Even when I’m married to the right guy, I’m doing it wrong, even when I’m totally not.

The doorman rests his slim hands on my shoulder and shakes his head woefully. “I’ve never seen an open marriage work. No man could think about his wife being with someone else and not [ragemurder not the real word, but implied] her.” Two funny things are that this guy has not seen any marriages work because he’s a 19-year-old making sure people can’t get into Handsome Dick Manitoba’s party if they’re not invited. Also joke’s sort of on me there, huh? Also also, I’m not in an open marriage and did not say I was. He genuinely and in apparent good faith invented shit to scold me about. That’s how much he cares about having an opinion about marriage! He was really good at saying I had cute freckles but I think was worried he had to really step it up to try and get with me before I was ragemurdered.

(3) Don’t be fooled by the rocks that he got, or make him get those rocks.

“I just wanted to say something to you before the night was over. You’re so gorgeous in that dress.”

“Aren’t you the sweetest — I’ll have to pass the compliment on to my husband [Major Tony Nelson, who owns me, apparently].”

“You’re married? That’s great! I’m shopping for an engagement ring for my girlfriend.” Uhhhhh OK, bleep bleep bloop blop ring talk yadda yadda aww, isn’t that sweet. He notices I only wear a thin gold band with a small skull on it, I tell him the totally boring personal story behind it.

“See, now, that’s how I know you really love him, you don’t need to show it off, what you guys have is real.” Totally.

So, wow, he’s probably married to that girl now! I hope his wife runs into the “you married the wrong guy” guy, from whom I now get frequent requests to connect on LinkedIn.

(B) On parenting.

OK, there are some sub-rules here, but rule number one — and listen up — is:

(1) TAKE CARE OF YOUR BABY. Don’t not take care of your baby!

Here’s how I learned to take care of my baby. I was out dancing and I went into my sort of happy Oprah mode where I try to solve everyone in the bar’s problems. “Need a good drycleaner? Want me to introduce you to that girl? You should talk to my friend Pete, he’s a park ranger, nuts, right!?”

Anyway, I must have offered something good to this one guy, because he was like, “Are you an angel?” Huh, I dunno, probably. So, apparently what he liked to do with angels starts with “taking [their] stockings off with [his] teeth” (!!!). But then he was funny and cool and I was totally oblivious because of happy Oprah mode and was like, OF COURSE I want a new friend who thinks I’m an angel yesplease, so I texted him a few days later “friendly daytime beer?” and he texted back, “I don’t think that’s wise. Be well; take care of your baby.” At the time, I almost actually remotely set him on fire with my mind, but now I’m really grateful because I’d totally forgotten to take care of my baby for like the whole year until then.

(2) Taking care of your baby cont’d: you may or may not want to keep your job.

First, you gotta figure out whether you’re going to work or stay home. This one guy at a houseparty thinks you should probably work, because his sister left her job and she just totally let herself go and it’s not like she could afford to. But, counterpoint! This other guy at the houseparty thinks it was really key that his mom stayed home and now he’s strong and secure and wouldn’t let any girl of his who had legs like yours out of his sight (see also, you married the wrong guy, supra). Good job, Mom!

(3) Take care of your baby cont’d: you have to send it to school, but not in the city that’s crazy.

Eventually, whatever choice you make about work, you’re going to need to put the kid in school, and that’s going to cost money. I mean, this bruised rugby player type here, at the hotel bar, he’s in finance, so he’s not worried, but … what did you say your husband did? (PS pls disregard my own lucrative career, super sexy.)

“He makes robots.”

The financier nods thoughtfully. “I guess they have scholarships? I know — I know you’re not open to anything but — just as a favor, let me ask you. Can I kiss your neck just one time? I have a terrible MetroNorth ride tomorrow morning, and it would give me something nice to reminisce on. It’s not unfaithful, because it’s not for you at all.”

So yeah, someone said that to me, with their words, in reality. I was paralyzed by the ridiculousness when he continued: “At least I get to go back upstate. You’re really raising kids in the city? I can’t imagine.” I squeak out I was raised in the city.

“Well,” he sniffs. “That explains that.”

*P.S. You might ask, “Why are you in these man-bars, married lady?” Good question! Obviously, marriage is the permanent appointment of an individual as Secretary of Telling Me That I Am Pretty, so I never have to worry about that again. And then having a kid was just so important that I straight up forgot I had a face. Which is why it’s so weird how sometimes I’ll be out with my girlfriends at the dog track and some cute or maybe not cute guy will act/talk as if he’d like to make out with me and hey, oh wow, sexy attention. I guess I just like it because it reminds me how much I don’t care about things like that.

Carrie Hill Wilner’s dream job is head consultant on a Martian initiative to develop an Earth-themed theme park.

Illustration by Mortimer Lebigre.