The Rosie Project Page 34

\Yeah and I messed it up too. Put rum in the Virgin Colada.\

\You gave him alcohol?\ I presumed this was in violation of his personal or religious standards.

\Maybe he\ll miss out on his seventy-two virgins.\

I was familiar with this religious theory. My public position, as negotiated with the Dean, is that I regard all non-science based beliefs as having equal merit. But I found this one curious.

\Seems irrational,\ I said. \Wanting virgins. Surely a woman with se*ual experience would be preferable to a novice.\

Rosie laughed and opened two beers. Then she stared at me, in the way that I am not supposed to do to others. \Amazing. You. You\ e the most amazing person I\ve ever met. I don\ know why you\ e doing this, but thanks.\ She tapped her bottle against mine and drank.

It was enjoyable to be appreciated, but this was exactly what I had been worried about when I spoke to Claudia. Now Rosie was asking about my motives. She had applied for the Wife Project and presumably had expectations on that basis. It was time to be honest.

\Presumably you think it\s in order to initiate a romantic relationship.\

\The thought had crossed my mind,\ said Rosie.

Assumption confirmed.

\I\m extremely sorry if I\ve created an incorrect impression.\

\What do you mean?\ said Rosie.

\I\m not interested in you as a partner. I should have told you earlier, but you\ e totally unsuitable.\ I tried to gauge Rosie\s reaction, but the interpretation of facial expressions is not one of my strengths.

\Well, you\ll be pleased to know I can cope. I think you\ e pretty unsuitable too,\ she said.

This was a relief. I hadn\ hurt her feelings. But it did leave a question unanswered.

\Then why did you apply for the Wife Project?\ I was using the word \apply\ loosely, as Gene had not required Rosie to complete the questionnaire. But her answer suggested a more serious level of miscommunication.

\Wife Project?\ she said, as if she had never heard of it.

\Gene sent you to me as a candidate for the Wife Project. A wild card.\

\He did what?\

\You haven\ heard of the Wife Project?\ I asked, trying to establish the correct starting point.

\No,\ she said, speaking in the tone that is traditionally used for giving instructions to a child. \I have never heard of the Wife Project. But I\m about to. In detail.\

\Of course,\ I said. \But we should time-share it with pizza-consumption and beer-drinking.\

\Of course,\ said Rosie.

I explained in some detail about the Wife Project, including the review with Gene and field visits to dating establishments. I finished as we consumed the final slices of pizza. Rosie had not really asked any questions except to make exclamations such as \Jesus\ and \F*k\.

\So,\ said Rosie. \Are you still doing it? The Wife Project?\

I explained that the project was still technically active, but in the absence of any qualified candidates there had been no progress.

\What a shame,\ said Rosie. \The perfect woman hasn\ checked in yet.\

\I would assume that there is more than one candidate who meets the criteria,\ I said, \ut it\s like finding a bone-marrow donor. Not enough registrations.\

\I can only hope that enough women realise their civic duty and take the test.\

It was an interesting comment. I didn\ really feel it was a duty. In the last few weeks, reflecting on the Wife Project and its lack of success, I had felt sad that there were so many women who were looking for partners, and desperate enough to register, even though there was only a low probability that they would meet the criteria.

\It\s entirely optional,\ I said.

\How nice for them. Here\s a thought for you. Any woman who takes that test is happy to be treated as an object. You can say that\s their choice. But, if you spent two minutes looking at how much society forces women to think of themselves as objects, you might not think so. What I want to know is, do you want a woman who thinks like that? Is that the sort of wife you want?\ Rosie was sounding angry. \You know why I dress the way I do? Why these glasses? Because I don\ want to be treated as an object. If you knew how insulted I am that you think I was an applicant, a candidate -\

\Then why did you come to see me that day?\ I asked. \The day of the Jacket Incident?\

She shook her head. \Remember at your apartment, on your balcony, I asked you a question about the size of testicles?\

I nodded.

\It didn\ strike you as odd that here I was, on a first date, asking about testicles?\

\Not really. On a date I\m too focused on not saying odd things myself.\

\Okay, strike that.\ She seemed a little calmer. \The reason I asked the question was that I had a bet with Gene. Gene, who is a se*ist pig, bet me that humans were naturally non-monogamous, and that the evidence was the size of their testicles. He sent me to a genetics expert to settle the bet.\

It took me a few moments to process fully the implications of what Rosie was saying. Gene had not prepared her for the dinner invitation. A woman - Rosie - had accepted an offer of a date with me without being pre-warned, set up. I was suffused with an irrationally disproportionate sense of satisfaction. But Gene had misled me. And it seemed he had taken advantage of Rosie financially.

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