The Best Advice I Never Took

I’ll call her Erin.  She was senior to me in the  fancy law firm we worked in — seems like a lifetime ago.   She was attractive,  a model of good taste, not particularly well liked and frankly a little scary.   Harsh, is what people said about her.  She was playing with the big boys, and had watched the big boys make partner while they passed her over, year after year, despite her superior qualifications and track record.     Picture a younger Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, but a Miranda who has to work under all of the Mad Men.

On the personal side, Erin is single, never married.   This made her an expert on dating.   She  also had had a long, too long relationship with an older man who would not commit.   She spent the bulk of her last good child bearing years with this man, kind of like Mr. Big from Sex and The City, but not as cute.    Following her ultimatum,  he finally told her he would never marry.  They continued to date and travel together but with no expectations for more.   Like Woody and Mia (without all the kids) they kept separate apartments in the city.

When I was a junior attorney Erin scared the crap out of me and I vowed never to have a meal with her.  Once I matured professionally (and personally)  I found myself getting closer to her and we became friends.

By the time my marriage ended neither of us worked at the firm anymore.  They never did make her partner.  She had ended her relationship with “Mr. Big Can’t Commit Guy” for good but had had no serious relationships since.     I was struggling, this was during some pretty dark times, but I didn’t want her to know how hard things were for me — maybe she did still scare me a bit.   Regardless, her intuitiveness and observation skills revealed my pain.   I was still deeply wounded by my then soon-to-be-ex’s ability to so easily discard and  replace me.  I admitted that it  had deeply injured my ego and confidence.   Erin, however,  had never been impressed with my Ex and she didn’t mince words.  She never did.

Erin instructed me:

You should schedule three dates in one week. She was  so precise, talking about “scheduling” a date as if it was easy as booking a conference room.

She further explained that I needed to be around men who will appreciate my good qualities,  men who will appreciate my choosing to spend time with them.   She elaborated that these dates should not end in sex, that I should not be looking for a boyfriend or someone to love.   These dates should simply be a means to an end, a means to break away from being the wife —  the jilted and rejected wife.   I needed, she said, to see myself the way others see me– not  how my Ex treated me.

That’s all.

I wasn’t really convinced that I could or should take her advice, because I really did not want a man and  was still too depressed and wounded to  seriously consider it.  She sensed that, and added,  in her strong, pointed manner,

“Roxanne, he has changed the playing field.  You have a right to play on that field.”

Whoa.

I wasn’t ready to take her advice then and I didn’t.   But she’s a smart woman, a really, scary, smart woman.

Just Me With . . .  the good advice, that I  just didn’t take.   

6 responses

  1. Three dates a week with five children? Is she insane? Believe me, dates ARE easy to get. But, not with the kind of men she wanted you to date. Besides, your sadness and fragility would be noticeable. Men would either try to take advantage of the situation or reject you….just my opinion. Between relationships, I have to get me back before I can move on to another person. I would just make a mess of the whole date–too harsh or too vulnerable and needy. In other words, rebound relationships don’t seem fair to either person. Oh, my ex was the jilted one. So, I was in no pain.

    Women are harsh and men are what–businesslike?

    1. My apologies for never responding to this. You are right, Erin didn’t appreciate the realities of having so many children. And though she sensed my pain, she didn’t know how truly fragile I was. (I cleaned up well that day.) She wasn’t arguing that I have or seek any kind of relationship though. She just wanted me to have objective evidence that I was deserving of attention. What she said — that I needed to see myself how others see me, not how my Ex treated me — was golden and it could have been accomplished by female friends and colleagues as well. In fact, though she probably didn’t realize it, just having her meet me for drinks and tell me that other people think I’m wonderful and my Ex is an idiot, and that she had respect for me — did wonders. Truly. I had been viewing myself through my Ex’s eyes for years. Too long.

      And oh yeah, she did suffer from the classic tough,precise professional women are harsh but the same qualities in men are a sign of success. She never got a fair shake. But she wasn’t a yuck it up, back clapping, type of woman, either. The dudes in charge like those qualities. Some of the tough guys had a buddy boy side that she didn’t possess — or at least didn’t show to them. But how could she? Also, since she was single she couldn’t have her mate fill in the good old boy void with her male colleagues. Some married women (not me) had success by bringing their socially acceptable husbands around. And, since Erin is attractive, simply having her around — a single woman running free — totally messed up the social interactions. Couldn’t do the couples dinners, and some of the wives were suspicious of her (for good reason because their husbands had strayed before with single associates, just not Erin. Erin would never stoop so low.).

      Oh man, I am so not missing that environment. Not at all.

  2. I feel a lot of hard core corporate women are exactly like the one you describe here. I had a friend who used excel spreadsheets to track her match.com progress. The whole thing makes little sense to me. Granted I don’t have much street cred re: these matters (ie: divorce/no kids / single /recluse), but I still somehow like to believe in the fairytale. To each their own, I guess?

    1. I have no street cred. None. I think she wanted to find a way to illustrate the fact that my Ex-Husband’s view of me and treatment of me was complete crap. Or, as we lawyers say, “Irrelevant!”

      I haven’t talked to her in a long time. I should call her. Last I heard she was back in a different firm, doing well. Happily single, travels, etc. She told me that her friends who had been scarce during the child-rearing years have all come back around and are free to do things again. That was another piece of advice she’d given me back then when I talked about being single amongst couples, She said, “Oh, girlfriends eventually come back, without their husbands.”

  3. [...] I developed a list of guys I already knew who might go out with me.  I was on a mission.  See The Best Advice I Never Took.  I figured Rocky must like me and I’ve got to go out with somebody so —  I called [...]

  4. […] My ex-husband and I had been separated for a while but the divorce was not yet final. We had married young and been married for a long time.  The break up was difficult and not my idea.  Drama ensued.  Eventually friends told me I needed to get out, go out with someone – anyone — not to find a boyfriend or husband or any real relationship, but as a first step to moving on and feeling single instead of just, well — jilted.   See, The Best Advice I Never Took […]

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