It was one of those crowded events a while back that I didn’t want to attend. But courtesy and obligation dictated that I put my wants aside and be a big girl about it all. So, I put on a pretty dress, a gorgeous pair of high heels and plunged in.
I was there merely to make an appearance, make sure the hostess saw me, then duck out as quickly as I ducked in. On the way out the door, I stopped to say hello to a friend and as we talked and laughed, I saw her, another acquaintance, out of the corner of my eye. Inwardly, I groaned. I had to get out of there before she saw me. No good ever comes from a conversation with her.
Marcia and I wrapped up our conversation. I knew the exact location of my nemesis and stepped to miss her when someone else caught my arm, stopped me and there my clever plan went awry. Those few seconds of conversation cost me dearly. When I turned again to leave, she was waiting on me.
"Hello, Ronda," she say coolly. "I haven’t seen you in a while."
Not long enough, I thought to myself.
Nicely, I tried to make chatter but I knew what was coming. Sure enough, within moments, she hit me with it.
"So, are you not married yet?" She arched an eyebrow and surveyed me carefully from top to bottom, as if she were trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with me.
This is probably my least favorite question. It always entails some kind of bumbling explanation. Many times, though, I just flippantly reply, "Nope. Nobody wants me." It’s best to go ahead and say it because that’s what they’re thinking anyway.
But there I stood toe-to-toe with a master of marriage. After all, she has said both "I do" then "I don’t" five times. Each time, she has married for money. Women like this never understand discerning, careful women like me.
Now, here I’d like to add that I never mind it when men ask me this question. Inevitably, they ask in a flattering, even flirtatious way.
Something like, "So how on earth is it that you’re not married yet? What is wrong with the men of this world?"
That, I like. But when women ask it, they ask it in a degrading, put-down, condescending way. Because the only women who ever ask are those who are either married or engaged. A woman who doesn’t have someone is smart enough not to cast aspersions on those of her own ilk.
The question asked, I found myself shifting from one foot to another and trying to avoid her piercing look.
"Well, no, I’m not."
"Hmmm." She studied me closely for a minute, perhaps to see if crow’s feet could be the culprit between me and the altar. She tilted her head. "What’s wrong?"
My Scotch-Irish temper was starting to burn. "Nothing’s wrong," I replied tartly.
"I have a great, happy life. I’m not against marriage when the right one comes along." I paused. "After all, I don’t see the sense of jumping in and out of marriage." I smiled pointedly. "Are you married now?"
She smiled prettily and displayed her left hand with an enormous, glittering stone. Of course, she’s marrying money. "I’m engaged." With one finger, she daintily brushed a wisp of hair away from her eyes. "I just don’t see how you do it, just dating. I have to be in a relationship."
"A committed relationship, of course," I replied sarcastically. I think we can safely say here that five marriages and an engagement don’t exactly echo commitment.
She nodded. She still wasn’t getting it so I decided to put it in language I knew she’d understand.
"To tell you the truth, the reason I’m not married is that I don’t need the money."
That she understood.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of the new book, "What Southern Women Know About Faith."