I wasn’t the type of little boy who, given a box of crayons, madly drew scenes with superheroes and fire trucks. I didn’t get in trouble with my teacher for adding bombs and guns and gushing blood to what would have been a happy family picnic picture. At school, I drew the typical house with a typical road out front and colored in a typical grassy area, a typical apple tree and a typical yellow ball of sun—always in the left corner—floating on a blanket of blue sky. Same picture. Over and over. Even at five, I knew I sucked at art so I played it safe. I stuck with the conventional.
At home, I dared to draw something different. Instead of an ordinary house, I drew castles. Big boxy gray structures with gapped teeth running along the top. It never dawned on me to add a portcullis or defenders peeking above the parapet. My castle would never be attacked. I didn’t have that kind of mindset. The moat had goldfish that peacefully coexisted with alligators that never craved human flesh (or goldfish). The alligators always unseen, stuck to the bottom of the moat, not because they wanted to wage a surprise attack; I just couldn’t draw them.
In the top window of the castle tower, I always drew a smiling princess. She had blonde hair spilling out from under her cone-shaped blue hat that matched her long blue dress. She smiled but she was lonely and sad. (I was taught that everyone had to have a happy face.) This was the woman I would marry. This is where I’d live. Poor thing would be sad ever after!)
Along with my Karen crushes—Ms. Valentine from “Room 222” and Ms. Carpenter from the “Close to You” album cover—the Princess in the Blue Dress was as close as I got to thinking about marrying.
After that, I sometimes imagined having kids—six, of course, like “The Brady Bunch”—but I could never picture their mother. It didn’t concern me. I suppose I figured I could hire a kooky housekeeper. Maybe even Ann B. Davis if she wasn’t doing anything.
I don’t know why I gave up on the concept of marriage when I was so young. It’s not like I got distracted with marathon, recurring games of Cops & Robbers. (I played alone underneath the sycamore tree in my backyard with little animal figurines that came with Red Rose Tea.) First-Grade Me just had a vague yet unmistakable sense I was not the marrying kind. I assumed the reason was because I was too ugly, with all my freckles and untamed curly red hair. That or I was too dull—after all, I played with animal figurines—and too fearful of any human interaction. Funny how the brain accepts things before the reasons are apparent. So no marriage. It was utterly inconceivable.
And that was that.