From the Memory Box: William on Women

My late Grandfather was a badass. Well, both* of them were, really.

(*The other, whom I am named after, was a ladies underwear salesman who invented the buttflap. I shit you not. The buttflap. So one could use the loo without really disrobing at all. He’s a legend. More on him eventually.)

But we’re talking about my other grandfather. William Kurst Runyeon. Man graduated Princeton at 17. Was practicing medicine by 23. Pretty much created a now-famous music program in Pennsylvania. Was a head surgeon at a hospital for decades. Delivered a good chunk of the babies in town, saved lives, etc. He 0wn3d life. And William had a saying about women.

As my father and I remembered it, it was “There will always be an adequate supply of women.” Paraphrased: Don’t worry about girls, there will always be girls. Do your thing first, then find a girl when you’re on your way. Now, I always took this as sound advice. The intention, as I took it, was to make a young man focus on school and his career path. The phrase was a great answer to the whiney teenage question: “But what if *sniff* she doesn’t like me back?”

William says shut up and mind your studies. William, as I understood it, knew that in order to have a woman in your life, you first had to have a life. You had to have a goal, a purpose, drive, a career. Before you invited a serious relationship into your path, you had to have a path. Too often, a young buck decides to play Romeo, chooses his college or major or classes around the girl, and the girl decides to vamoose. Wamp wamp. Or maybe things do work out and they get married, are so in love, then he turns 30 and his life is pretty much about his marriage. Then what? Then nothing good, says William. “Good advice,” thinks I a few years ago. It would have been. If that was what William had actually said.

Let us briefly pause to examine the importance of details. My Latin teacher used to say, “There’s just a little bit of shit in the brownie batter. No big deal, right? You still want to eat ‘em?” My high school English teacher used the example sentence “I didn’t kill the hamster.” I didn’t kill the hamster infers that there’s a dead hamster there, but you are innocent. I didn’t kill the hamster means that you probably did something dastardly to the thing, but you didn’t kill it. It probably died of natural causes. Or a broken heart. Or something. I didn’t kill the hamster infers that you definitely killed something, but today was the hamster’s lucky day. Bottom line: details are important. As I learned a few years later… William’s actual advice:

 “There will always be a supply of adequate women.”

With “adequate” and “supply” swapped, our perverbial young man is still meant to work hard with the assumption that women will come to him, but now it is not the amount of women that will be good enough for this young man, it is the quality of the women that is emphasized.

But then I stopped and thought about it. My grandfather was a badass. “Adequate” was the term he tended to use for things that satisfied requirements. For anyone else, I would say an “adequate” woman would hit a 6 or 7 on the scale, a C to a B, a simple “sure, ok.” Not for William. “Adequate” for William was drop-dead gorgeous, multi-talented, and perfect. And for a man like William, according to William, there would always be a supply of these “adequate women,” as long as he remained so bad ass.