Around seven years ago Gene Weingarten wrote a great column for the Washington Post titled The Peekaboo Paradox in which he profiled a DC-based performer named Eric Knaus, aka the Great Zucchini, whose niche was birthday parties for 2-6 year olds. Ends up that the big Zuke was a little on the immature side:
Eric's misadventures with traffic tickets are symptomatic of larger problems involving his inability to conduct life as a reasonably mature, moderately organized, marginally integrated member of polite society.
Take his apartment . . . please.
I did get to see it, finally. On the morning of the day I was to arrive, Eric awoke to discover he had no electricity. So he quickly had to get cash and run to the utility company. He knew exactly what to do because it had happened many times before. That's his tickler system: When the lights go out, it's time to pay the bill.
As I entered the apartment, to the left, was a spare bedroom. It was empty, except for a single, broken chair. Down the hall was the living room, with that couch and that air hockey table, which was covered with junk, clothes, cigarette butts and coins. ("You want to play? I can clean it off.") Coins and junk also littered the floor, along with two or three industrial-size Hefty bags filled with Eric's soiled clothing he'd brought back from a summer camp that he'd helped staff, three months earlier. The closets were completely empty. There were no clean clothes.
The kitchen was almost tidy, due to lack of use. There was a fancy knife set and a top-of-the-line microwave, neither of which, Eric said, has ever been deployed. There was also a gleaming, never-used chrome blender and a high-end Cuisinart coffee maker that was put into play exactly once, when a woman who slept over wanted a cuppa in the morning. Most of these appliances were purchased in a frenzy of optimism when Eric moved in almost a year ago. ("You know how when you get a new place, it's all exciting, and you say, Mmm, I'm gonna get me a blender and make smoothies!")
The cupboards were bare. The only edible thing I saw was a 76-ounce box of raisin bran, the size of a small suitcase.
I read that passage and immediately thought, "There but for the Grace of God and getting hitched to the right woman go I." When my wife met me I was the Great Zucchini sans any talent and now, almost twenty years later, I've been molded into a reasonably mature, moderately organized and marginally integrated member of polite society. – and thanks to my wife's continuing efforts and the rapid departure of almost all testosterone from my body I am now a marshmallow of a man who irons his own shirts, washes his own clothes and has the social life of a Trappist Monk.
Weingarten benefits from marriage too - I've known other men who approach Eric's level of dysfunction, including myself. I'm saved by the fact that I've been able to hang on to a competent wife.
Young men take note: if you want to avoid a living out of Hefty bags get thee a competent wife. Also note that if you read the whole column you'll wish that at times you could be the Great Zucchini. That would be more than okay, it would be terrific, because if you do allow yourself those moments of zucchini-ness you'll be a wonderful dad.