By Jeanne Charters
“She never met a man she didn’t like.” That was what some women said about some women back in small-town Ohio where I grew up. It was not a compliment.
The women saying it were the “nice” women. The ones they referred to were the town tootsies who were like Pez dispensers, distributing evening favors to men—either for money or because they were just feeling frisky. Either way, they were not “nice” women.
But you know what? I think they were nice. At least the one who lived next door to my father’s grocery store. Her name was Ruby Ryan. She was a tall redhead with a laconic tongue and time to spare. I don’t think she ever had a job. Her sister, Betty, worked every day and supported Ruby and their mother, Della, in the lower-middle-class manner to which they were accustomed.
Ruby never married. To my knowledge, none of the three ever married. But they sure liked kids. At least, they liked me—Ruby most of all. From the day I was a chubby-faced infant in a buggy, Ruby dressed me up in fancy bonnets and took the only pictures anyone ever took of me in those days. Picture taking was a luxury, I think. But nothing was too good for me—at least not where Ruby was concerned. How could anyone not love Ruby? So she liked a few men in the evening time. She had pockets full of candy and a heart full of love. That was what counted to me.
I would like to think I’m a little bit like Ruby Ryan. I have met a few men I haven’t liked, but not many. Let me tell you about some of the ones I’ve liked best during the past year.
There’s Matt, of course. I REALLY like him. And will happily dispense evening favors to him on a regular basis once all the incisions heal. He’s the only one who gets that kind of attention from me. That’s where Ruby and I differ a little.
I like my neighbor, Tom, across the street a lot. I’ve watched Tom lust over my dog, BuckSnort, every time I walk him—BuckSnort, that is, not Tom. Tom and his wife had to put a dog to sleep a few years ago, and the pain stopped them from adopting another. They’ve had two cats, but I always knew Tom wanted a canine.
I just learned that Tom “happened” to go to a shelter over the weekend and fell in love. He picks up a ten-year-old golden cocker spaniel this afternoon. I have a toy for Chauncey (new doggie’s name) and may take over a bottle of wine to celebrate.
Tom’s wife, Carol, says they’re resigned to the fact of loving this dog for as long as they have him and then dealing with the pain when and if they lose him. Good luck with that, Carol!
I love the fact that they’re adopting a mature dog. Most folks won’t do that for the valid reason that they want as many years as they can get with the animal. But Chauncey is coming home today to two very loving people and a cat. Most of all, he’s coming home to Tom, who needs him so much.
Another of my favorite men is my breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Peeter Soosaar. He’s an excellent surgeon, and the scars are minimal. But the best thing about him is that he spent 45 minutes with me talking about life after cancer—how it affects a marriage and the many adjustments a woman needs to make once she’s cancer free.
I’m talking 45 minutes, girls—with a surgeon? What a concept. And it’s happened twice.
Yes, I really like Dr. Soosaar!
I also like the men who work at the Chop Shop Butchery on Charlotte Street because they sell me less expensive cuts of local meat I’ve never heard of and then tell me how to cook them. Turns out most of them have cooked in some of the finest restaurants in Asheville. And, let’s face it, in culinary terms, you can’t beat that.
And then, there’s Dean, my husband’s son, who lives in Virginia. I met him when he was in his middle twenties and bemoaning the fact that every woman he dated was a psycho. Until he met Remington, now his 12-years-older wife. The family was aghast. She was nearly 40!! They’re still together and have a grown son.
They’re also one of the happiest couples I know. Yeah, I do like Dean Restivo.
Space limits my ability to list all the wonderful men who have been part of my life during the past year. I hope they know who they are. Are you reading this, Larry?
Funny, isn’t it? The older I get, the more I realize that the men who matter to me are the ones who have just enough female in them to be interesting. And to not be scared by that female side one bit!
Jeanne Charters, a transplant from New York, is a writer living in Asheville with her husband, Matt Restivo. Her collection of columns, “Funny, isn’t it?” is available at Malaprops, Mountain Made in the Grove Arcade, or at jeannecharters.com.
She has written three novels and has acquired an agent for her young adult novel, “Shanty Gold.” Jeanne is working on edits, per that agent, and hopes to have a publisher this year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.