Okay, folks. I’ve been trying really hard–I’m not sure why–to resist telling you something and I no longer can.
One thing I’ve learned teaching beginning writers is that, often, we withhold information for vague reasons that range from the misguided to the sadistic. Either of which this may be. (It’s hard for me to say–as you know, I’m generally not one to withhold.)
Anyhow, here it is: I’m dating a fireman.
I tell you this not only in order to tell you that I started a fire in his house on our second date–though it’s true that I did, in his oven, and it’s also true that he put it out, and it may also be true that this story in and of itself is justification enough.
Nor do I tell you this for the simple, gratuitous sake of telling you that I’m dating a fireman–though it is sort of the point that that, too would be understandable.
No, I tell you this because I need to share just how hilarious it is to tell people that you’re dating a fireman.
From M, when I first told him: “Is he, like a strapping, like, fireman?” (Yes.)
From my father, regularly: “Have you told him about the Inkspots song yet? (singing, now) I don’t wanna set the world, on fire…” (No.)
In conversation with my mother, when I first told her:
“He’s very cute.”
“Well if he’s a fireman he has to be handsome.”
“He’s not at all flakey.”
“Well of course he can’t be flakey, he’s a fireman.”
From every woman I’ve told: “Really???”
Okay, so I admit, the first time I met D I, too, had the “really???” response. As in: “Wait. He’s good-looking, intelligent, highly educated and he’s a fucking fireman?”
But then I got to know him, you know, in three non-stereotypical dimensions. And the work that he does came to be just that: the work that he does.
I learned the details: like the fact that being a fireman involves not so much fighting fires as waking up cranky old ladies whose neighbors thought may have been dead but who were really just, in fact, napping.
And that, while D fits the stereotype of the handsome, “strapping,” muscular fireman–many of his coworkers don’t. Most, it seems, fit better the mold of the short, stocky Northern New Mexican guy who tease him relentlessly for his attempts at Mexican cooking and for looking like every other white guy in the department.
Also, thanks to my friend J’s hopeful inquiry last weekend, I’ve learned that there aren’t even firepoles. (Apparently, it’s been realized, not the most efficient way of descending a building at three in the morning when Grandma may or may not be taking a nap.)
So by the time we did get together and I started telling people about him and getting these wacky reactions–it caught me off guard.
But it shouldn’t have: D had warned me.
“It’s kind if amusing how people react when you tell them you’re a fireman,” he’d said. It’s true–he does find it funny. As do I.
And, secretly–or, for some of us, not so secretly–I’m gonna guess that both of us kinda like it a little bit too.