“Oh, great. Another ‘stray’ to deal with. You know, Geo, generosity has its limits.”
As far back as Georgia Weatherly could remember growing up in Westmount, her mother was always fond of warning her that people were going to take advantage of her giving nature. What she saw as being helpful and giving of herself, her mother saw as opening herself to made into someone’s doormat or worse. Then again, she also liked to call ‘giving someone the benefit of the doubt’ ‘self-induced blindness to the flaws of others’ and ‘letting a person have his or her secrets’ ‘setting herself up to be ambushed.’ You would think that Georgia was some sort of naive fool to hear her mother Ruth talk about her. She knew perfectly well that most of the chumps from high school and beyond were interested in her on a below-the-Equator basis. Back in the early nineteen seventies, you’d have to be some kind of complete idiot to not realize that the average happening dude took ‘liberation’ to mean ‘freedom from a bummer commitment trip and especially freedom from having to think about the needs of the girl you happen to find yourself in congress with.’
This, of course, presented Georgia with something of a problem: trying to explain to parents Hell-bent on marrying her off and getting more grandchildren to boast about that her three older sisters and older brother had an easy time of finding a spouse was getting more and more difficult. Not only did she have to contend with the disappointing reality that when someone she thought might be THE ONE forsaking all others like the movies promised her, said one was either some idiot who misconstrued her willingness to have sex as meaning that she was some kind of roadside Rhoda to be tossed aside like a tissue later on or a clingy, whiny child-man who wanted a fun ‘momma’ he could take to bed, there was the fact that said moron had parents to contend with. It seemed to her that most of the men she’d met needed a lot of weaning away from their mothers. Take, as a for instance, the first man she’d been set up with when she took her job as an audiologist in the Toronto area. Ted Whatever seemed to live and die by his mother’s opinion, said opinion being that the silly girls who have no shame are destroying society. Given that the town seemed to be fairly dull, it made a sad sort of sense that pickings were pretty slim. She was on the verge of doing something really stupid and applying at one of those silly computer dating services when she chanced to encounter an affable goof with a corny moustache and a fondness for talking like Maynard G Krebs named Phil Richards at a campus mixer. She didn’t used to believe in silly romantic comedies about sparks and fireworks and all that jazz, oh, no, not her. She was too with it for that…..until she met Phil. There was just something about him underneath the chauvinistic boasting he was never aware he was making and the self-pity he never saw himself as struggling with that told her “This is the one, true love of your life, girlfriend: grab onto him and never let go because if you don’t, someone else will!!!”
It was later on in life that she was able to put what it was that made him more than Canadian Content Michael Stivic into words. The X-factor that it took the rest of the family years to see is that underneath the posturing and the warped chivalry and the dated speech was a man who never stayed angry for long. Sure, he was capable of getting really upset when someone pushed his buttons but it didn't take much time for him to cool off. The only cloud on his horizon was a past romance in which he did something that, while he never said so in so many words, he felt ashamed of doing.
Speaking of his past (which was not hardly as dead as he wanted to think it was,) the odd thing that Georgia noticed was that it wasn’t the traditional sort of Other Woman in Phil’s life that presented the greatest obstacle to their happiness. The odder thing still is that while it was a member of Phil’s family (instead of the woman he had hinted at wronging) that was the anchor Hell-bent on crashing down on their little love barge, it also wasn’t the mother whining about what some old prune at the IODE might think about HER BABY shacking up or the whizzled-up old goat father who couldn’t make his need to think of her as needing a scarlet letter A emblazoned on her clothing out of sheer, stupid White Anglo-Saxon Jealousy any clearer if he tried that were Hindrance Number One. This is because Phil Richards came equipped with a vindictive imbecile older sister named Elly. She could tolerate parents who couldn’t see that Phil was too damned terrified of doing her as wrong as he'd done his last love interest to marry her as quickly as she herself would like; what she had trouble handling were a jealous, vindictive twerp big sister who wanted dirty linen aired so she could prove that it was wrong of him to be born and ruin her life forever and said dreary moron’s leering chump husband and his ungodly habit on mentally undressing her. Heck, even dealing with Phil's going through withdrawal from tobacco was more entertaining than listening to the angry doughhead complaining about seniority and blanking out about why Phil gave Elly’s son’s friend’s mother that odd look until about seven months later.
Ah, well. She thought that after this Connie (it was nice to finally put a name to Phil's shame) had moved out of town and the heat died down, she’d be able to finally coax her reluctant common-law husband to get that scrap of paper he was so afraid of pretty much the same time his niece Lizzie got into junior high. Things didn’t seem especially pressing and she’d gotten sort of comfortable with things as they were. She could handle her parents yapping about his putting a ring on it. She could handle his parents and their Hell-in-a-handcart crap. She coud handle his own childishness and need to be The Big Man. Hell, she’d even learned to tolerate his bitter ghoul of a sister and her awful husband with the staring problem. What the rather disastrous fishing trip he’d embarked upon with said girning oaf proved is that she could by no means handle the idea of a world without Phil Richards in it. He never quite ever realized it and dismissed it as being an over-reaction every time it was explained to him that she couldn’t allow herself to go on living were he to die but it was, as the younger set say, a thing. It was about then that she decided that she had to make the thing official despite his silly fear of doing her wrong or whatever. Next after that was trying to get him to see that they didn’t have enough room for his ‘simple’ life.