My devout mother selected my virginal name purposefully and often demanded I note, and vow to later avoid, the kind of loose women who’d so often lured my father out of the house until one stole him.
“He’ll treat her the same way, Mary,” she said. “Men want only one thing.”
I didn’t doubt that and agreed to live at home during college and avoid the mindless passions of adult children who lurk in dorms and campus apartments. Two years after graduating and getting a good job, I purchased a condo and lessened Mother’s anxiety by stressing I lived but several minutes away.
“Never invite a man into your home, Mary, or he’ll think you’re a tramp and so will the neighbors.”
I followed this counsel for an increasingly painful three years but at age twenty-seven met a man I adored and who began to visit often and told me he admired my restraint and good taste. Eventually, however, he confessed I couldn’t visit his house because he had a wife and son. “Get out of here,” I said, “never call me, never text, never email, never come near me again or I’ll call the police.”
Several weeks later, distraught, I called the man and said, “I have to talk to you.”
“I’m pretty busy.”
“Shall I discuss this with your wife?”
“And I congratulate you, too,” I said.
“Your baby, who you obviously won’t want anything to do with.”
Silence roared into my ears.
“Are you completely hardened to the fact you’re going to be a father?”
“I’m already a father.”
“For a second time.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not seeking support.”
“I won’t ever tell your wife.”
“We don’t need you.”
“Can’t you say anything else?”
“I had a vasectomy right after my son was born.”