“There’s sixteen things you have to know about men, if you’re ever gonna be happy with one, ” Grandma said to me that night on the porch. Summer. Hot and sticky. And we swung on the porch swing, in tandem with the moon.
“Are you listening to me?” Grandma asked.
“Uh huh,” I murmured but I was watching the stars in the sky and only hearing her a little bit. What did I need to know about men? What could she possibly tell me? Why didn’t my little brother come and interupt this conversation like he did all the important ones? I hoped this wasn’t going to be like the ‘talk’ I had with Mom a few weeks before.
“I’m only going to tell you this, once, Stella. So listen,” Grandma said and her voice would not release my ears.
I nodded and the porch swing creaked for emphasis. The stars winked out as I lay my head back and closed my eyes. “Yes, okay,” I said surrendering to her intent.
“They won’t never put down the toilet seat. Live with it.”
I cocked an eye at her – was she serious? This was advice?
“Never say a word against his mama. No matter what she’s done to you, to him or anybody else. She brought him into the world, and for that you gotta be grateful.”
“Whose mother? Who is he?” I asked sending a lazy eye out toward the night to find an intruder.
“If he remembers your birthday, he’s a keeper. If he remembers your birthday and your anniversary, other women will be jealous of what you got.”
“But I’m not a woman,” I protested. “What women will be jealous? Why do I want that?”
“Sssh and listen. You will be a woman and you will remember this, if you pay attention,” Grandma chided.
I closed my eyes again and went along.
“They’re as bad as babies when they’re sick. Make them soup and they’ll be happy. If he’s after you all the time, it means he is not after other women. That’s a good thing.”
“After me?” I came out of my slouch and spied again into the night. “Who’s after me?”
“Child, just listen,” Grandma put her hand on mine and squeezed. “Just listen.”
“But why are you telling me this? I’m not a woman. I don’t even like boys,” I pointed out. “And I’m pretty sure they’ll never like me, either.” I ran my tongue across metal braces and could not imagine lips landing there.
“Because you will be a woman, you will like boys and I won’t be there then to tell you.”
And we shared a look, one I’ll never forget – there was a secret in her eyes that told me I should shut up and listen. I sat back and let her talk.
“They have hair in places you can’t imagine – but you’ll get used to it. They never understand what they did wrong no matter how many times you explain it. If he says he is sorry, forgive him and forget about it. They do their best which is usually not good enough but you can’t get blood from a turnip. If he makes you laugh it’s worth more than gold. If he holds you when you cry you’re in his heart.
And tears formed in my closed eyes but I didn’t know why.
“He’ll tell you he loves you by opening pickle jars and fixing clocks. You have to hear the words in what he does, not what he says.” Grandma stopped and I opened my eyes to meet her stare. “Are you listening, Stella? Are you really listening?”
I nodded and I really was, even though none of it made much sense to me, I had a feeling it would – sometime later. I had a feeling that when it did mean something to me that I’d remember this talk on the porch on a hot, sticky night and smile to myself. “What are the other two,” I asked.
Grandma squinted at me for a minute then smiled. “So, you were listening and counting too?” she was pleased.
I moved in closer, now anxious to hear the final two important things I needed to know sometime in some future life with a man I would someday love. “Are you going to tell me?” I asked.
Grandma nodded and her blue eyes twinkled in that devilish way of hers. “Tell him he’s the only one for you and always was. But keep a love letter around from an old flame just to keep him off balance.” And then she laughed loud and deep from her belly and I laughed too. For a long time we laughed.
And when I went off to bed that night, I wrote down the 16 things in my diary, so I wouldn’t forget.
Discover Christines world of 16