I remember dates. It’s a gift, and a curse. It used to drive my ex-husband crazy. This, from a dude who forgot my birthday — twice — when we were still together. But me? I remember numbers for some reason, always have. I can rattle off his land line phone number from high school. I know the birthdays of people I haven’t had any contact with in years.
Recently, it was my best friend’s birthday. I’d never forget that, of course. But it also reminded me of the Other Woman (well, the original other woman was his teenaged lover before her, . . . but I digress . . .). Let’s call this Other Woman . . . Penelope Homewrecker, shall we? (I don’t really blame Penelope for wrecking my home, though. Though she certainly made choices I would not, my ex-husband did not have to honor her — requests?) Anyway, Penelope’s birthday is two days after my best friend’s. I know this because years ago, when I first discovered their affair, I did my fair share of research, as did my work colleagues at the time. I was working in a law office — enough said. Before long I had her full name, her address, her real estate records, current and prior addresses, etc. , and — her birthday.
I remember sharing the information with my best friend. She responded with one of those completely irrational comments only a true friend would say. She almost growled, “How dare she have a birthday near mine.” My friend was right, by the way:
How dare Penelope have a birthday close to my very best friend’s special day?
How dare Penelope have a birthday?
How dare Penelope even exist?
It reminds me of a scene from Sex And The City when Carrie realizes that her on and off boyfriend Big has chosen a woman named Natasha over her — and he is actually happy. Carrie tells her friends she’s ready to accept it. For a beat the women were silent, but then they gave, an irrational, nonsensical, yet incredibly supportive response.
Natasha. What a bullshit name.
I just love that — showing support in such an subtly obvious way, via a frivolous statement.
So thanks to my best friend for expressing outrage that my husband’s mistress dared to have birthday near hers.
How dare she? Indeed.
By the way, Penelope and my Ex didn’t last. (Long story, well not so long, but it’s a good one. I may blog about it at some point, maybe.)
Much later, after Penelope and the Ex broke up, my Ex announced he had a new serious girlfriend. I did the required Facebook check on her, and I noticed that Penelope and the Ex’s new girlfriend were Facebook friends. When I checked again a little later, the two women were no longer Facebook friends.
There was some kind of unfriending situation between Penelope and the new girlfriend.
Perhaps Penelope Homewrecker didn’t want to see posts by her replacement.
Heh heh heh
I wonder if later, Penelope, who had likely thought she’d become the coveted Mrs. Ex, was treated to posts about my Ex’s wedding and subsequent procreation? I’m guessing that Penelope and the new girlfriend must have had some mutual friends. Yes?
Heh heh heh
My investigation days are over. They’ve been over for a long time. Years. I never look at my Ex’s or his wife’s Facebook pages or his family’s pages. I really have no interest now. But those damn numbers stay in my head. As I said, it’s a gift, and a curse.
So, Happy Birthday Penelope Homewrecker! I literally can’t help but remember the date.
Of course, Evil Me wants to ask: What’s your Relationship Status now?
Though, Regular Me acknowledges that Penelope Homewrecker dodged a bullet and may indeed be the luckiest woman in the world.
For those who follow celebrity gossip, think of it like this: My Ex-Husband’s mistress pulled a Penelope Cruz. Let me explain. For a long time (by Hollywood standards) Tom Cruise and his wife Nicole Kidman were a golden couple.
It didn’t last. It was rumored that Tom left Nicole Kidman because of his affair with another actress, Penelope Cruz.
When Tom and Nicole divorced, Tom and Penelope went public with their relationship.
But then they broke up.
Penelope escaped becoming the wife of Tom Cruise, known to control and overshadow his wives. And at some point, Tom Cruise went a little crazy.
Crazy Tom Cruise went on to marry once perky, but later suffering Katie Holmes, while Penelope Cruz ran free! (Katie Holmes is now Ex Mrs. Tom Cruise, by the way, but they had a child together so she still has to deal with him. She’ll never be completely free.).
And Penelope Cruz? I picture her frolicking in a field somewhere.
Of course, in this scenario this would make me Tom’s jilted wife, Nicole Kidman, mother of the first kids. And I’m okay with that.
And I’d be okay with this, too:
Just Me With . . . numbers in my head. And a song in my heart, a country song, “Little Bit of Everything”
I had a birthday recently. I’ve always disliked birthdays, since my teen years. My parents always made my birthday special as a child, not with lavish parties and gifts, but with special birthday dinners, cake and small gifts, except for the year I got a new piano. That was the best day ever, but I digress . . .
The bad birthdays started in my teen years when came down with Scarlet Fever on my birthday. I know it sounds very Victorian, but I assure you I’m not that old.
In later years my boyfriend (later husband, now ex-husband) forgot my birthday completely, more than once. I’ve never had the party with the girlfriends kind of birthdays either, for a lot a reasons, beyond the scope of this post. And then there was the first birthday right after the wedding, the separation and some bad ones since then.
This year I decided to pretty much ignore my birthday. I couldn’t really do anything because it coincided with one of my kid’s big events . . . so I just let it go.
But the people who have come in and out of my life over the years, many of whom I have written about here, remembered.
1. My best friend and her husband stopped by with a musical card (hours of fun), a little cake, and a big gift card for me. They didn’t stay very long, but I appreciated the thought and the gifts more than they know.
See my tribute to her on “To My Best Friend on Mother’s Day”
2. One of my married male friends sent me a text, hoping he got the date right. (He didn’t, but that didn’t matter.) He wished me well and told me I don’t look my age. This guy has done things for me like shown up with an air conditioner and installed it when my house was making us melt and he repaired a pane of glass after my daughter decided to play ball in the family room. And most importantly, he checks in on me just to see how I’m doing.
He’s one of the men I was thinking of in “Friends Without Benefits — Married Men.”
3. My Admirer sent me a Happy Birthday text, and when I thanked him for remembering he replied, “You are a smart and beautiful woman whose inner beauty radiates so brightly. I won’t forget you.”
It made me smile. I haven’t seen or talked to this man in years.
4. An old friend, who defies any type of categorization, wished me Happy Birthday via voice mail; I was at my kid’s event and couldn’t answer my phone. I saved the message.
I’ve referenced him in, “We Thought You Were Dead, Mommy.”
5. I even got a birthday text from my Stalker. I did not respond.
It feels good to be remembered, thought of.
Well, the Stalker text is a little disconcerting, but still . . .
Just Me With . . . people.
And even though I’m all grown up, my parents called and sang to me (a family tradition) and my Mom gave me a card with money in it.
. . . and the quirky child gave me a card and a CD.
Last week I had another surprise interaction that touched me, deeply.
I was leaving my daughter’s basketball game and was stopped by another mother who I’ve been acquainted with for at least ten years, meaning before the separation and divorce. Our oldest boys went to pre-school together and are in the same activities now. Our daughters play the same sport. We’ve never socialized outside of school events, though. She’s married, well-to-do (understatement), attractive and always stylish, and I suppose I always thought we didn’t have much in common on a personal level. But unlike some of the downright snobby parents I’ve met, though, she’s always been friendly, genuine, and approachable.
That day, she approached me, and we chatted about some upcoming events. Then she got personal. She asked about my ex-husband’s new family. Apparently he’d brought them all to a game recently. I wasn’t there. She must have been. Seeing them must have made an impact. She asked if I spent time with him, and I answered honestly, “No, we do things separately.”
She paused a moment, took a deep breath, then shared that her father had suddenly left her mother when she was a child, and that it had deeply affected her mother and the whole family and does to this day. She spoke of eventual healing but said that according to her mother, who had no choice but to accept the situation, it just “wasn’t what she signed up for.” She offered her support, saying that women should help each other more, but often we’re left feeling alone, just holding the bag.
She looked me square in the eyes and said,
“This must be hard for you. And I want you to know that I know that.”
And, standing there in the high school gym, I felt like it was okay to admit that, yes, it is hard for me. It felt good not to pretend otherwise, for just a moment.
Just Me With . . . support, from an unlikely source, who knew just what to say. I was deeply touched.
Other kind words:
Before my divorce, when I still lived in the big house in the nice neighborhood — also known as “The Marital Home,” “The Debtor’s Prison,” or “The Money Pit” I had some really cool neighbors, many of whom were there for me when my world fell apart.
Hillary and Tom lived across the street, in a stately Tudor home.
Hillary and Tom are older than I am, and well established in their careers. Both lawyers, they had worked in the same firm I had, but had left before I started there. My colleagues spoke so highly of them. I earned street ‘cred at the firm just by being their neighbor. I’m not sure where Hillary and Tom went to school, but I’m guessing there was ivy on some of the buildings. Eventually both left private practice, Tom for high-profile government work, and Hillary took an in-house corporate job. The couple moved up the ranks in their positions, with Hillary becoming a major client of the firm. Hillary was kind of a legend for younger female attorneys, she had played with the big boys and shattered the glass ceiling, or at least made a lateral move around it.
What’s more, Hillary and Tom are good people. Tom is a talker, knows as much about music as he does about law (he’d been a drummer in a previous life). Hillary is not nearly as gregarious as her husband, however. She has a quiet dignity that suggests that she is not to be messed with. She’s also very attractive, and appears to be years, even over a decade younger than her years. They both worked long hours, so I didn’t see them often around the neighborhood, but I always liked and admired them both. They were a power couple, truly.
In some ways, I considered Hillary and Tom to be a bit out of my league. They were connected, respected and wealthy. They were happy and well-suited, though Hillary joked that this was because they didn’t spend a lot of time together.
A couple of years ago Hillary took an early retirement from her corporate job. She was undecided as to what to do next, professionally. In the meantime, she had some time off — for the first time in probably twenty years. I was surprised ( shocked) when she invited all six of us to her beach house. We hadn’t spent much time together before this. But I was in the midst of a divorce and renovations on the new (hoarders) house, and I don’t think I had a kitchen at the time. I needed a break. But, I was in a bad way, my medications made me afraid to drive long trips alone. I explained this to her, deciding to be honest.
Hillary listened and said,
“I’ll drive you.”
And she did.
She picked us up in her SUV and drove the kids and I to the beach where she opened her home to us, fed us, and let me sleep while she played with my kids on the beach. I was surprisingly relaxed there. It was nice.
Hillary eventually took a new job, and we haven’t done anything together for years now, though she sometimes drops off her daughter’s (designer) hand-me-downs, and will buy whatever my kids are selling for school fundraisers. We share an educational level, and some professional accomplishments, but our lives have taken drastically different turns. I am, quite literally, on the other side of the tracks now.
Last year, Hillary and another ex-neighbor dropped off gift cards for all of us at Christmas. I was completely surprised and thankful but I didn’t expect it to happen again.
But again this year, a few days before Christmas, we heard a noise in the front room. One of the girls got there just in time to see the door closing and a package sitting on a table. Hillary had left chocolate and gift cards for all of us, including me — again. These are not the obligatory gifts from some aunt. Hillary is not related to us, and has no long-standing tradition of giving gifts to my kids — or me. This was clearly something that she just wanted to do, without fanfare. We were obviously home when she came by, but her stealthy elf-like drop off told me she didn’t want to talk.
So, instead of calling, I emailed her to thank her.
This was her response:
I am grateful for your friendship and especially your companionship during a time that was difficult for me. Not much time for companionship lately, but the friendship is still there.
It made me cry.
I thought I was only on the receiving end of assistance. I assumed that Hillary, like other friends and neighbors who witnessed or had second -hand knowledge of my break up and break down, was simply helping a family in need — because she had the means to do so. I never thought that I had much to give, let alone the means to help anyone — especially someone like Hillary — who seems to have it all.
So I cried.
And I’m still not exactly sure how I helped her — but I guess I did — and it meant so much to me that she told me so.
Just Me With . . . A Wonderful Life?
Other stories of good neighbors:
Yeah, I know, Father’s Day is over. But here’s a story about my Daddy.
When I was little my dad was a teacher, but at a residential school for delinquent youth. This meant that in addition to his classes he had to work night shifts at the school. When I was in kindergarten he worked from 1 to 9 pm. My mom was teaching during the day while my older sisters were in school. So it was Just Me With . . . my Daddy in the mornings before I went to afternoon kindergarten and he went to work.
One day my dad was fixing my lunch, which meant he was heating up a can of soup. He’d put the soup on the stove and went outside. My dad is not the kind of guy who sits still for very long. I think he was working in the yard or something.
But he forgot about the soup.
My five-year-old self saw the soup boiling over and ran outside,
Of course he didn’t come right away. But I persisted and screamed,
“Daddy, Daddy, come QUICK!”
I’d made him listen to me. He ran inside, turned the burner off and the crisis was averted. The house did not burn down. All was right with the world. I had saved the day.
He was so proud of me for making him listen. He was so pleased in fact that he took me out to the toy store and let me pick out a Teddy Bear.
Now, we were not a wealthy family. We got presents for Christmas and birthdays, I’m guessing picked out by my mom, and our parents provided us with what we needed, but “just because” presents were few and far between. Plus . . . I’m just going to say it, my Dad is, well, . . . frugal (the voices in my head are screaming CHEAP!!!!!). My Dad buying a gift for me when it was not a national holiday was a big deal. Even at five I knew that.
Most importantly, my Daddy made me feel like I saved the day. He was impressed with his baby girl and let everyone know it. It might not sound like much, but it must have meant a lot to him. He has retold this story countless times over the years. And to hear my Dad tell this story, mimicking my little girl voice — “Daddy, Daddy, Come Quick!!!” — is just the sweetest thing ever! Notably, he usually leaves out the part about buying me a Teddy Bear.
I had made him listen, and he made me feel important — and a little bit like a superhero.
That Teddy Bear was one of my most precious toys, she stayed with me for years to come. I credit my Dad with instilling in me the feeling that I matter in this world and that I can make a difference. It’s the little things.
And bonus, my older (evil) sisters were sooooo jealous that I got a present. Heh heh heh
Just Me With . . . a Dad who made me feel like I have the ability to save the world! [insert Superhero music]
I have an admirer. Let’s call him Rocky. There’s a reason why I’ll rename him Rocky here. First, I want to protect his privacy. And, second, he’s an ex-boxer. These days I think he works as a bouncer. Yes folks, my admirer is a bruiser with a heart of gold.
We met years ago when I was still married and working as a contract attorney for my former neighbor, see Riding With My Boss. My boss was representing Rocky and his union in some kind of complicated dispute. I was doing background legal research in a back room. One day when Rocky had to come by the office my boss introduced us. As I recall he complimented me, my smile. Thereafter, when Rocky stopped by he always had a smile and compliment for me. He also gave me his card, which I stashed in my wallet and never used. I must have given him my contact information as well, though I don’t remember doing so.
Rocky’s case went nowhere. Consequently, there was no reason for him to come to the office anymore. In fact, most of the work disappeared for my boss also and I didn’t have a reason to come to the office anymore either.
For years since then, Rocky has sent me a text on or near my birthday and about every other month saying things like, “I was just thinking of you, lovely lady.” He’s my age or probably younger, but he is always so polite, referring to me as “young lady.”
After I became separated and sought to test my new status, I tried to call in some favors. Specifically, 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 Rocky. He seemed to pleased to hear from me. I invited him to come to one of my gigs. As he always works at night he could only make it if he came early and he wouldn’t be able to stay long. This was good, since I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out. Plus, this was good because I had scheduled another guy come to see me for the second shift of my one day dating frenzy. Yeah, I was a player, and I was on a mission.
So Rocky was date one for the night. At that time I hadn’t seen him in person for a couple of years.
He still looked good, bigger than I remembered, a burly Teddy bear of a guy, soft-spoken and so sweet. I found out that evening that although he is such a tough guy, he spends his free time writing poetry and songs. Who knew?
It was as close as we got to a date. We hugged good-bye and I haven’t laid eyes on him since.
By the way my second date of the evening was with the man who would become my stalker. I should have stuck with the boxer . . . but I digress . . . If I’d Married My Stalker
Since that early evening “date,” I’ve received semi-regular texts from Rocky. This has gone on for years. He tells me I’m beautiful, refers to me as a friend or wishes me and my family well. I don’t get them often enough to feel like I’m being stalked or harassed but I get them often enough to know I’m still thought of. These texts never request a date or phone call, they are just — complimentary. Recently he sent a picture of himself — just his face, and it was NOT, I repeat, NOT taken in the bathroom. He asked me to send one in return, which I did not — yet. Oh snap, what if his memory of my appearance is better than my actual looks in real life? Wait, what am I saying? Clearly, this could not be possible. heh heh heh
Last month Rocky’s text said:
“You made a positive impression on me from the time I met you. That helped me survive some very tough times. Thank u. :p lol”
I’m not really sure how the “lol” works with the rest, so I’ll just ignore that part. And I don’t know what “tough times” I helped him through, so I’ll just accept that part. All in all, it was a nice message. Sometimes we help people without even knowing how.
Just today I woke up to a text from Rocky which said,
“Good Morning to a very special young lady who is so very sweet. In case no one told u this morning. You r very unique. :p Have a great day.”
Awww. Is it strange? Maybe. Weird? Perhaps. Whatever. I don’t care. It’s nice to have an admirer. And currently there is no one to wake me up by telling me I’m very sweet, so Rocky was right on time. I’ll take it. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt to know someone who could and would kick somebody’s ass for me. Just sayin’ . . .)
Just Me With . . . an admirer, via text. Absolutely.
See also, “Another Text From My Admirer”
My husband had moved out. It had been six days. Six days of separation. (I had to make the picture relevant somehow. )
I was a wreck. Truly. I can’t even describe it here. I’m not ready.
It was the weekend after he’d moved out and my husband stopped by the house to see the children and to tell me he’d be away for a few days. You see, the “other woman” who I’d just found out about a couple of weeks prior, see My Worst Superbowl, Remembered, lived in another city. She planned to move to our town but that hadn’t happened yet. So he was going to see her. Ironically, she lived in a city where I had wanted to move, but my husband had vetoed that, said absolutely not, he would never live there. Now he was going there for a long weekend– to see his girlfriend. Huh.
On our anniversary weekend . . . Huh.
Regardless, the matter at hand was that:
My husband stopped by our house on his way to catch a flight to spend a few days with his girlfriend.
Let that sit for a minute.
My husband and I had been together since high school.
Let that sit for a minute.
We had been married for many, many years and had five young children.
Let that sit for a minute.
But on this day, six days after moving out, after breaking my heart, hell, after breaking me, and causing unspeakable pain to the children as well, he showed up at what used to be at our house . . . and knocked. That was appropriate, given the situation, but it was like a kick in the kidneys.
It hit me: He really doesn’t live here anymore . . .
Still, what sent me over the edge was . . . him . . . the sight of . . . him.
The brother looked good.
Now my husband has always been a very good-looking man, but he could be a bit of a slob sometimes. He went too long between hair cuts and shaves. He had a good job, but not the kind of job that required that he be clean-shaven. His facial hair came in spotty, he could never grow a full beard, so it wasn’t the sexy five-o’clock shadow. It was more of a “I just don’t give a crap look.” Still, he would clean up semi-regularly and when he needed to for an event. And when he did? He looked damn good.
On this day, six days after having moved out, he had shaved and had a fresh hair cut. And he was wearing, not the tee-shirt he usually sported on weekends, but a nice button down shirt and slacks. He looked damn good — for her — for his girlfriend.
Let that sit for a minute.
I didn’t know what to do so I went to the store while he played with the kids. Shortly after I returned he looked at his watch and said he had to go. I asked if he was going to her city (I didn’t use her name) and he said yes, and then snapped,
“What am I gonna do here?”
Ouch. Yeah, perhaps I’m not ready to share so much, but I digress . . .
Then he left. He left what would later be referred to as “the marital home” to catch his flight to get to his girlfriend’s house.
He had literally left me to go to her, and looked damn good while he did it. I, on the other hand, didn’t look so good — or feel so good.
He was gone and I lost it.
I guess it was a good-old fashioned panic attack, with an underlying dose of depression. I hadn’t been eating or sleeping and had been crying off and on for a month. I was already fragile. So fragile. And this, seeing my husband, my high school sweetheart, my first love, looking like he was going on a date, six days after having moved out, well that was too much. The thought of him, so coiffed and together and jetting off to stay with a woman and kiss her hello, maybe see her friends and family — like a couple — literally drove me mad. I went to my room. The kids must have been watching TV or something. I remember grabbing my address book (I didn’t have a smart phone at the time) and paging through it, trying to find someone to call, looking for someone to help me because I felt out of control. I was shaking. I was breathing too heavily. But my parents didn’t even know he’d moved out, I have no siblings in the area and my best friend who had helped me on moving day is not always available, being a physician. My heart was racing, my breathing panicked, the tears were coming and I had the kids to think about and take care of.
I found the name of a woman, an acquaintance, really. I’ll call her Christina. We’d met through our children and attended kids parties together, did the couples dinner thing at her house a couple of times (my husband and I rarely had people over, that’s another issue). I always liked this woman — but we hadn’t become good friends. There were a lot of reasons, my husband and her’s had nothing in common, I had so many kids, not a lot of money, was insecure socially and my husband was a loner and I followed his lead, as I’d been conditioned to do. Christina, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom ,was also a professor’s wife with a manageable sized family. They entertained, they traveled, and she spoke three languages. This was not her home town. I think I felt inadequate around her, though we were both lawyers, or maybe it was that I saw in her a life I’d missed out on. Huh. But I digress . . .
Even though we weren’t that close, I dialed Christina’s number after my husband backed out of our driveway on his way to his girlfriend. Christina had unwittingly won my dysfunctional lottery, got my call — and answered.
I could barely speak yet I stammered something along the lines of:
He was here and he left.
He left to be with her.
I don’t know what to do.
I can’t handle this!
I know I’m supposed to be strong but I really can’t handle this.
I can’t. I really can’t.
The tears were coming much harder now. I was pacing, panting and alternately shaking and clenching my free hand.
I was not handling this with grace and ease. Not by a long shot.
I don’t remember what Christina said to me. I can’t remember not because it was so long ago, but because I was really — ill. I couldn’t have told anyone what she’d said even the very next day.
Long story short, as they say, she talked me down from my frenzy and kept me from spinning further out of control. I think she told me to breathe. I needed to be told that. I think she offered to take the kids or at least some or one of them.
I don’t know. I don’t remember.
I do know that her answering the phone that day helped me more than she’ll ever know. (Not to sound overly dramatic but the situation was pretty bad. I was pretty bad.)
Christina and I never became the kind of friends who hang out regularly. She did take my son to play with hers a few times, but our kids were not in the same grade, and we lost touch.
Recently, however, I ran into her at a school concert. I admit that since that whole ordeal I’ve felt a bit embarrassed by my actions, my condition and my persistent inability to bounce back. I know she never judged me but I often feel like other women deal with this stuff so much better than I do — so I judge myself. Still, I was glad to see her to exchange pleasantries. Truthfully, I’ve always admired her. But when I saw Christina she had a bit of news. She casually told me she’d moved out of her house and now lives alone in a nearby apartment. I knew her oldest was away at college, but she told me that the other boy, a ninth grader, lives with his father in their marital home. Huh.
I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Um . . . what?” ( I have such a way with words.)
She smiled, repeated herself and said, “You never know what life brings” and added, matter of factly, that her husband was going to buy her out of the house and that she’d been on her own for about three months.
She seemed fine. In fact, she seemed good, really.
We exchanged cell phone numbers. I don’t know if she needs help or someone to talk to . . . or whatever. If I can help, I will.
Just Me With . . . maybe a new (old) friend?
I’ll try really hard not to hyperventilate when I call her from now on.
See Also: “My Daddy Moved Out” — My daughters announcing the break up.
I know, it sounds juicy or scandalous. I assure you, it’s neither.
I spend time with married men from time to time.
These men are happily married. And it is not one of those situations when the men are unavailable for or forsake their wives and family to hang out with me. No, these guys are good to their families, first. And these are not “emotional affairs” either. Nobody’s saying, “Oh, if I wasn’t married . . . (wink wink)” or “My wife doesn’t understand me.” No, nothing like that. These are men I’ve met professionally or from my old neighborhood. It’s lunch, every once in a while during the work day, it’s dropping by to say “Hi,” while out on a run. It’s helping with a household project, or moving or carrying something which requires man strength and then staying for a cold drink. It’s random phone calls to chat. Although my girlfriends and I check in from time to time, I would say my face and phone time has been with married men more frequently than girlfriends or family recently.
I confess also that there are benefits, plenty of them — just nothing sexual. In addition to having someone to move the refrigerator — which, I’m convinced is a man’s true purpose on this earth — but I digress . . . The emotional benefits are that they make me feel like more than — a mother. One even asks if I’m seeing anybody and thinks that I should. I rarely get that question from family or girlfriends, a fact that may be the topic of another post . . . but I digress again. When my married male friends tell me I look nice or that it was good to see me, etc. . . . it makes me feel good. Occasionally, I can even go a semi-professional event with one of these married guys, to avoid the dreaded and frequent “The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone.” So, it’s nice. These married guys genuinely like me as a friend, still acknowledge that I’m a woman, and offer statements of admiration for me and what I’ve accomplished in a difficult situation. It’s nice to see that in a man’s eyes.
Yes, benefits abound, with pants on.
Perhaps, however, there is something sinister going on here. Not with them, but with me. And no, I would never be the “other woman.” Never. I was “the wife” I know what that’s like, I wouldn’t do that to another woman. And these guys wouldn’t do that to their wives anyway. No, what is sinister is that I’m getting my “man fix” without any chance of getting involved. It’s safe. Too safe. How will I find the courage or interest to have dinner with an available man, and all that implies, if instead I can hang with a man who I know I will never have a romantic relationship with, but who will, most likely, share a meal with me, tell me I look nice, and pick up the tab. I don’t have to worry about a kiss goodnight — or more, or when he should meet my kids, etc. Hell, these men either already know my kids or it is completely appropriate to introduce them to the guy because he is just another adult. Bonus — I don’t have to shave my legs or stock my goodie drawer since nothing will ever happen. I get to hang out with guys, but I don’t have to deal with any of that pesky dating stuff. Great, right? Wrong.
At a time when I have to literally force myself to be more social with adults, when I do socialize it is often with unavailable men. Sounds like a bit of escapism, don’t you think? No need for a degree in psychology to figure this one out. What about hanging with some women? Well, my female friends are a force to be reckoned with. They are smart, successful and together. They do not judge me — but I wish I was more like them and sometimes that makes me uncomfortable. Escapism and avoidance. I see it.
The solution is obvious. I need to spend time with men who are potentially available to me in all ways. I know this. And, frankly, it’s probably a good sign, a healthy sign, that the married, platonic friend thing is starting to bother me a bit. It’s not good for me to be so safe. I’m single. I need to spend time with single people. The married guys are all cool, and I want to keep our friendships, but I need to add an available man to the mix. While I’m making that happen, I need to reconnect with my female friends, and make new ones. For me it’s easier said than done, but at least I see it. I own it.
Still, I’d like to give a shout out for the proper married men who do the right thing at home but still take time out here and there to check in on, hang out with, or just help out a single woman going through some tough times. There are true gentlemen in the world. I just need to find one who doesn’t already have a wife.
Just Me With . . . a bit of armchair analysis.
It wasn’t pretty.
At first I tried to continue to work as usual. But the funny thing about extreme emotional trauma and a good old-fashioned nervous breakdown, it makes you a bit less efficient.
I had told him what was going on and that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He said that I could work more or less hours, depending on my needs. That was sweet. Turned out to be untrue, but sweet. And he’d offered his kids to me as needed to babysit. He was genuinely supportive. He and I didn’t have heart to heart conversations about personal things but still, he was helpful.
In the days, weeks and months later, I was a walking ghost. I wasn’t eating or sleeping and was crying everywhere I was alone and sometimes even when I wasn’t. I looked like shit. Truly.
I missed a lot of work. One day when I happened to be there my boss offered to drive me home. The last thing I wanted to do was be in a car with anyone and make small talk, but I was too tired to think of an excuse and had just missed a train, which he knew. So, I accepted.
At first the ride was silent. I have learned over the years that it is not my sole responsibility to fill the voids in conversation so sometimes, I just don’t. This was one of those times. I said nothing. Really, all I wanted was to get home before the daily tears found me.
Then my boss said something to me, and it wasn’t small talk:
“Roxanne, you are a beautiful woman. No one knows why some people make the choices they make. But you should know that his decision had nothing to do with you.”
Whoa. Out of nowhere! All I could say was, “Thank you.” And it made me cry, damn it! I’ve always hated crying in front of people, but it had become almost a hobby of mine. I was glad it was dark. Maybe he didn’t notice? Yeah, right.
Just Me With . . . a ride home from my boss.
I don’t always blog about things in order. And many things I don’t blog about at all. Right now I’m dropping right into mid break-up time, it’s kind of like clicking channels and landing on a Lifetime Movie which is halfway over — and watching it anyway.
It was the dead of Winter. My then husband of many years had moved out just days prior. He took only one suitcase, although he had secured an apartment, a fact I discovered later. There is a very long a painful story here that is beyond the scope of this post (I say that often, I know). Anyway, I guess his plan was to come and go at his leisure to get the rest of his belongings. I realized that I couldn’t take that; having him leave the first time had been horrific, I couldn’t handle a repeat. Consequently, I told him I would get his things together so that he could pick them up in one trip. I packed and consolidated his stuff (again, the packing may be a subject of another post, it involved two of my bridesmaids, wine and Fatal Attraction). See My Cheating Husband Was Packing Viagra. Next, I planned to put his belongings outside on the porch for him to retrieve without me or the kids being involved at all.
I lived in a great neighborhood, people were always willing to help each other out. We (when the Ex and I were still a “we”) had made friends with another couple our age. We didn’t do the dinner party thing much (they were child-free, we were not, and my husband wasn’t really the socializing type — then) but we talked periodically and the neighbor husband was always helpful when we needed a another man to help move furniture or something. He was our Go-To Guy. So when everything was packed (behind closed doors so the kids wouldn’t have to see) and when the stuff was ready to be relocated to the porch, I called the Go-To Guy to help. His wife answered. When I asked if her husband was around to help me move something she told me he was out of town on business. But, she added, “If it’s not too heavy, I can help you. ”
“Uh, okay, thanks.” I replied, but didn’t tell her what I was moving. I hadn’t figured out how to tell that part yet. This was all so new, a fresh, deep, bleeding wound.
A few minutes later, she arrived, ready to help me.
“Okay, so what are we moving?” she asked, cheerfully. She is a very positive person.
“[Ex] has moved out we’re moving his stuff to the porch.”
This much must be understood. Neither this woman nor her husband had any idea there was trouble in paradise; I had been married for a long time and had “multiple” kids. See Fertile Myrtle. They had known us both for years. This was HUGE news. Huge.
But it’s her response to my major announcement that still makes me smile to this day, and it’s what I will always remember and love her for. She said, in a matter-of-fact, almost casual, way:
“Okay, maybe one day when you feel like it, you can tell me what happened.”
That’s it. That’s all she said. Then together we proceeded to move all of his packed belongings to the large covered porch. We didn’t discuss it at all. When we were done, she went home. As scheduled, my husband picked up his things early the next day while the kids and I slept.
Not that night, not the next day, but a little while later, I told her the whole story. But the fact that she did not ask or need to know or even need to ask that night shows what a good friend and person she was, and is.
People often wonder what to say in response to an announcement of a break-up or divorce.
Sometimes the response is, simply, “So where are the boxes?”
Just Me With . . . yet another good friend.