Although my husband and I were regularly engaging in “the physical act of love” (channeling Ross from Friends), whenever he wanted, and I mean, I really mean — whenever he wanted, see Sex On Demand, let’s just say that such activities did not require a huge time commitment.
I had suggested that my husband talk to his doctor about it, but he declined. No, he would not. No.
Fast forward to after my husband “broke up with me” and moved out, taking surprisingly few possessions, saying he’d come back for the rest. As I discussed in When I Needed A Helping Hand, I didn’t want him to keep coming back to get his stuff so I decided I’d pack it up for him–not to help him, but to help me. Like mothers often say to children — “in or out,” he had chosen “out,” despite my begging, and I mean, I really mean — begging him to reconsider. So, I thought I’d help the process along if for no other reason than to keep him from prolonging it.
One night, after the kids were in bed, behind my closed bedroom door, my sister, a friend, and I packed up his shit. At one point I pulled out one of his suitcases he’d used for his last trip, an island vacation which I’d recently discovered he’d taken with a lady friend. See My Worst Super Bowl, Remembered. I intended to use the suitcase to pack some of his things.
The suitcase, I noticed, still sported the airport tags.
It also contained some papers, which I read.
The papers turned out to be receipts for my husband’s prescription for Viagra, well actually Levitra, a “sister” (or should I say ‘bro) erectile dysfunction drug . The prescription had been filled in the week prior to my husband’s romantic island vacation with his sweetie.
What the . . . hell?
I read it, showed it to my sister and friend. They both said, if I recall correctly, “Ew.”
There it was, in my hand, evidence that my husband had pursued the best that modern western medicine had to offer in order to enhance his sexual relationship with another woman, the woman he was not leaving me for, or so he said, though they had secured an apartment together and that’s where all his things were no doubt going.
Lucky girl . . . she got his stuff, and his stuff on steroids . . .
Looking back, I remembered I’d previously discovered (and suppressed) facts in support of this information — facts that suddenly made sense.
His doctor had called the house to confirm an appointment.
I had wondered: Why? Why? When we were going through this god-awful thing, was my husband making doctor’s appointments? I was the one who was sick, wasn’t eating or wasn’t sleeping and was constantly crying — why was he going to the doctor?
The pharmacy had called to tell him his prescription was ready.
I had wondered: What is he taking? He’s not sick! He’s a mean son-of-a-bitch, certainly — but he’s not sick!
Later, after his stuff was packed and gone, at some point in my post-separation cleaning frenzy –I’m the polar opposite of a hoarder, when I’m upset I throw everything out — I’d found a letter from the insurance company, dated right after the romantic trip time, stating that yes, based on his doctor’s recommendation, the unnamed medication in question would indeed be covered by insurance.
I had wondered: What? Had he paid the full price for the Viagra in order to get it before the trip because insurance hadn’t kicked in yet?
According to the dates and bank receipts which showed a $200 plus expenditure at the pharmacy on the eve of the island trip, yes, yes, he had.
Ouch. But it all made sense now.
I wanted to scream, “Did he tell his doctor that he needed this medication for use with his girlfriend and NOT his wife? DID THE DOCTOR KNOW THAT LITTLE FACT?????”
Not that it mattered.
I tried not to think of his chemically enhanced love-making to this woman. She brought him newness and adoration, he brought . . . drugs.
I packed his crap a little faster after this discovery, as I recall. Just a little bit faster.
And I think I washed my hands.
Just Me With . . . a medical discovery.
After everything was packed I called a friend When I Needed A Helping Hand.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in receipt of what I now refer to as “Nanny Texts” — when my ex-husband gives me instructions on the preparation of the kids for an event he’s taking them to.
— Have the kids wear clothes, shoes.
— Make sure they shower.
— No t-shirts or shorts.
— Have them ready by 3pm, this should give you plenty of time.
By the by, all of the kids are teens, and pick-up time is technically at 10am, though often the kids have activities that prohibit early pick up. On this day, however, they did not and the Ex had been informed of this.
As to the directive, “Have the kids wear clothes,” obviously he’d forgotten the word “nice” — he wanted them to wear “nice” clothes. But still it was funny. Sometimes I just read or show or forward the Nanny Texts to the kids to minimize my work as the middle man, so there is no mistake as to what he is requiring, and that it’s coming from him, not me. This time I simply showed the text to the kids, missing word and all.
One girl quipped, “Well, I always manage to wear clothes.”
Another girl said, “Yeah, I was planning to go naked.”
My Ex-husband was taking them to a graduation party of his oldest friend, let’s call him Jerry. Jerry is much older than we are and was actually my ex’s teacher in Middle School at one point. They became friends later as adults. Jerry had been a man approaching middle-age, single, and impossibly neat. People who did not know him well thought he was gay — “not that there’s anything wrong with that” — but folks in the inner circle knew that Jerry was very much like the Jerry Seinfeld character — not quite marriage material, string of women, classic commitment issues.
Jerry had been the Best Man at our wedding and years later when Jerry, a long-time bachelor, suddenly married a woman he’d met on a blind date, my then husband gave the toast. My husband was even (temporarily) named as Godfather to their first-born, and we both visited and held the hours-old baby in the hospital. Jerry’s second child is only seven weeks younger than our first and we have the cutest pictures of the two baby boys together. We were always at all of Jerry’s big family gatherings– kid’s birthdays, baptisms, Super Bowl parties, and when my husband and I started having kids and birthday parties and such, Jerry and his wife and kids were always in attendance. Jerry only came around on special occasions, though, my husband didn’t want him at our house to just hang out because he didn’t think our house was nice enough.
Back when my husband announced his plans to leave me, I suggested that he talk to Jerry about it because maybe he needed to talk to someone other than the two women who had his ear: me and his girlfriend. I thought that the opposing dueling arguments from the two women who have a huge stake in the matter were just canceling each other out.
Well, actually, no, the girlfriend clearly won those rounds, but I digress . . . . My husband refused to confide in Jerry, though, saying that he knew Jerry would just try to talk him out of it and tell him it was wrong.
Alrighty then. Anyhoo . . .
Apart from his club activities, my husband had few friends, Jerry was the only one, really. So it was expected and appropriate that when the marriage ended Jerry and his family would remain friends with him, and not me. I’ve not seen or heard from Jerry or his wife since my husband moved out many years ago.
I actually don’t know whether they socialize regularly now. My Ex-Husband has reinvented himself in many ways.
However, my now Ex-husband was going to attend the Jerry’ s first-born’s graduation party. He would attend with his new wife, their children and our children, who had been directed to wear . . . clothes.
After the teen drama at home about finding the proper clothes, the complaints about why they had to go to this thing, that they don’t really know these people, blah blah blah . . . they managed to get themselves (with my prompting) ready only slightly after the 3pm deadline. But no matter, the Ex didn’t show up until 4:15pm. While they waited, one girl said, “I hate it when he does this,” and her twin, who didn’t even start to get ready until 2:50pm, said, “I told you I’d have plenty of time.” In true Ninja Ex fashion I escaped before he arrived, going to a different graduation party alone. See I Almost Crossed One Of “My Bucket List of Men To Do”
And off they went.
The Nanny Texts piss me off, but I’m used to it now and I know how ridiculous they sound. But later I realized something that did feel weird, though — that my ex-husband and our kids were attending this party with his new family, among people who knew us when our kids were babies and when I was visually present.
Now I certainly didn’t want to go to the party. God no, I didn’t want to go. Nor did I expect to be invited, of course. It just felt a little strange that my (appropriately dressed) children were going to be there (paraded) with the Ex-husband and his new family celebrating with people with whom my ex-husband and I had shared many major life events. It was hard to believe that that hours old baby I had held (and I think it was the first time I’d ever held an “hours old” baby) was graduating high school.
I don’t know, it felt kind of like I’d been photo-shopped out and new people photo-shopped in and that no one would or could acknowledge it, despite all that we shared in the early years.
Just kind of weird.
When the kids returned, though, one of them said,
“Mom, some lady told me to tell you hello.”
I’m not sure who it was. It didn’t matter. It made me smile.
At least someone remembered that I am here . . . or was here . . . or had, at one time, been there . . . or . . . whatever.
Just Me With . . . The Nanny Texts
If anyone is wondering why I did not simply curse my Ex out for the Nanny Texts, my failure to engage with him can be explained in blogs like:
The short answer is that it wouldn’t help. I pick and choose my battles.
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:
Well, I did it. I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in my own house for my parents. It was just the three of us. The children were with their father.
Since my marriage ended years ago it has been our practice for the children to be with my ex-husband for Thanksgiving and with me for Christmas. See, All I Want For Christmas is My Kids. So, I’ve been kid-less for many Thanksgivings. I’ve spent a couple of Thanksgivings with my best friend and her large, extended, ethnic family. They are very nice and welcoming and I had a good enough time, but it started to feel weird being alone with someone else’s family. Two years ago I did absolutely nothing (I think, I can’t remember). Last year I went out for Thanksgiving dinner with my parents. We didn’t go to a really nice or fancy restaurant, more like a diner, a nice diner, but a diner, nonetheless. The food was okay, but I found the whole scenario depressing. There were a lot of older people, elderly people. It smacked of a refuge for souls who had no where else to go.
So this year, I decided to stay home and cook dinner at my own damn house. I decided this on Monday, declining my mother’s offer to have Thanksgiving at their house. That can be (has been) depressing as well, going “home” for Thanksgiving, completely alone, feeling like a grown child, the only child who never moved away (which I count is a personal failure), knowing my sisters are with their families at their homes, knowing that my children are with my ex-husband’s wife’s family. Just thinking about going to my parents for Thanksgiving felt like it was one small step above being the middle-aged single man living in his parents’ basement.
No, I have a home, I reasoned, and even though the children wouldn’t be there, I decided that I would serve Thanksgiving dinner to my parents. Plus, it’ll give them a break.
I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, but that was in The Big House (formerly the marital home) for my (now Ex) in-laws. This was different. This is my home, alone (except for the bank). My little home that gets very few visitors, despite its extreme makeover. My little home to which some of my kids are too embarrassed to bring their wealthy friends. My little home which has a very nice, slammin’ new kitchen.
So I cooked, for me, for my parents. Cooking does not give me any joy. See Confessions of a Skinny Mom. Still, it was so much less awkward than being at the restaurant. My Mom and Dad ate my food; they were appreciative, and it was good. And though my long-married parents have a tendency to bicker (huge understatement), today they did not. I can’t help to think that it was the locale of the dinner. Had they been at their own home, they would have fought.
In some ways it was my first grown up Thanksgiving, because it was my home, and more importantly, my decision, as opposed to just figuring out how to pass the time while the kids are gone or making sure my parents have somewhere to eat (or, in the old days, doing time with the in-laws). Now I’ve christened my house as our family home. It only took three years.
Weird that my first Thanksgiving dinner in my own house did not include my children, but at least they know that holidays can happen here in our new
Just Me With . . . leftover Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and something crossed on my bucket list that I didn’t even know was there.
I’ve written previously about an encounter with Marla, the deli clerk, who had asked me point-blank why I got divorced. “Why Did You Get Divorced? The Dreaded Question.
I saw Marla again over the weekend. I was alone, the store wasn’t busy, so we had time to talk.
Marla, an older woman, is petite in stature, slim in girth. She manages to look quite stylish in her grocery store uniform, which is a brightly colored tee-shirt, smock and visor. Her hair is curly, worn pulled back as required, but she always has wavy tendrils hanging down and framing her face, and she sports side bangs. I’ve never seen her without full make-up on her olive skin, including heavy eyeliner and blue eye shadow, and she wears big dangly or hoop earrings.
I felt differently about chatting with Marla this time, because this time she didn’t ask about the divorce. She asked about me.
She wondered what I do for myself, asking whether I’ve been getting out, having any fun, doing something other than taking care of all the children.
Again she launched into a series of compliments, saying that I’m so beautiful and have a great smile and I’m so nice, that I work so hard for all my kids. She commented on how difficult parenting is, queried whether my ex-husband gives me a break, noted that men don’t want independent women like us, etc. She said, not to worry, all things come around.
Then Marla said, pointedly — really, she actually pointed at me with a crooked finger,
“You’re gonna have it all. Mark my words. This Gypsy Lady says you’re gonna have it all!”
Whoa, she’s a Gypsy?
Now that’s a whole different take on things.
Just Me with some good fortune coming my way, because the Gypsy Lady told me so.
Recently a fellow tweeter had lamented about having been asked the question, “Why did you get divorced?” It truly annoyed her, being asked such a personal question. I came up with some snappy comebacks but admitted that I am rarely asked. I’m not sure why this is so, but I live in a small suburb and it was big gossip for a while, and I think most people my ex-husband and I know already have heard some version of why so there is no need to ask.
Just the other day, though, while I was getting some cold cuts at the grocery store that I stop by two or four or five times a week, the counter person, a woman maybe in her 60’s started chatting away. By the way, I hate guessing ages, so much depends on factors other than the number– hard living, for example, can make a person appear older, she very well could have been younger. I see this woman regularly, she knows my kids and she’s commented on the twin thing and always has a kind comment or pleasantry.
On this store visit, I only had one kid with me. In our house we call that — pretending to be an only child — but I digress . . . The Deli Lady, whom I’ll call Marla, saw us and immediately gave a loud and sweet hello, like we were old friends. Nice lady. Then she remarked that she saw my “hubby” with the kids a few days ago, that he must have been giving me a break. I may have shuddered a bit, feeling the ick.
This remark was icky and irksome to me for many reasons. First, he’s not my husband, no, he most definitely is not my husband. I have papers and forcibly spent $35,000 and counting in the process of making him not my husband. Second, the cutesy term of endearment “hubby” is antithetical to this man to whom I am decidedly not endeared and I no longer see as “cute.” Third, my “hubby’ wasn’t giving me a break, he was seeing his children pursuant to a court custody order and he was shopping at “my” store — most likely picking up food to take home to his new wife for her to prepare and serve to my kids. So, no, my hubby didn’t have the kids to give me a break. See Weekends Off.
Understanding that these are my issues and not hers, I was going to just let it slide, as I often do with people I don’t see often, but she continued to talk, asking where I was when he had the children. Considering that I see this woman a few times of week, that she knew me by name and was trying to learn the kids names, I might as well stop the happy marriage train.
“Well, he’s actually my Ex-Husband,” I offered.
“What? He’s your Ex? You’re Divorced? ” She said, shocked, truly shocked. Leaving me to wonder, had he allowed her to think we were still together?
At this moment, I wished I’d said nothing. The one kid I had with me was the one who had the most lingering hostile reaction to the divorce, and didn’t like to hear about it or talk about it. I sometimes refer to this kid as The Angry Child, i.e. She Wants To Break Me, but she’s been so much better these days. She really has. As luck would have it, as I turned to see if she was listening, she’d flitted off, probably to find her favorite snack to throw into the cart.
Good, I thought, I can get this conversation over with.
Marla, was shocked, still, by my revelation.
“Divorced? . . . . Why?”
And there is was. The question I am rarely asked. I thought of my Twitter friend, and wished I could channel her support in my head. But, I was In Real Life (IRL if you only have 140 Twitter characters) and I didn’t even have my phone out. Plus, Marla was waiting for an answer. She wasn’t even slicing my meat. She was waiting.
I think I kind of stammered and shrugged my shoulders, rolled my eyes, and said, “Well, you know.” I understand that this is not a definitive answer. But I thought my body language and facial expression would have been enough to change the subject.
But Marla apparently needed a real answer, in real life, right then and there.
She asked again.
“Why did you get divorced?”
Now all the snappy comebacks I’d joked about had left the building like Elvis. I had nothing. Actually, my snappy comebacks were mostly to put the other person on the defensive. I figured it they can ask me something personal I should come back with something just as personal, like,
“Well it’s a long painful story. How much did you make last year? And are you having regular sex?”
But I didn’t want to be rude to Marla. And I couldn’t even come up with, “I don’t want to talk about it.” It was a deer in headlights situation, for sure.
Marla is good people. I like the banter I have with her and many of the people I see in stores while carrying out mundane tasks. Marla is funny, friendly and compliments my kids. This makes her royalty in my book. I didn’t want to insult her or put her on the defensive. And, unlike my snobby ex- neighbor, see Holiday Party post, she wasn’t judging me because I am divorced. Marla was genuinely surprised, really surprised.
So, I finally answered, leaning close to the counter, “Well, he was a bit of a player.”
This isn’t exactly true. There weren’t a lot of other women, to my knowledge, but you know, there were more than there are supposed to be, you know . . . when you’re MARRIED! Still, I figured this shorthand answer would do the trick and end the topic of conversation before my kid got back.
But it didn’t.
It actually opened an opportunity for her to share her own personal life which included two husbands and four children and the proclamation that she will never marry again, which, had we been in a coffee shop or at a bar would have been good girl talk. But we were on opposite sides of a deli counter in a grocery store in my hometown, and where, apparently, my Ex-Husband still shops — while on his visits with the children.
I added with another shrug while I perused the meats that, “Yeah, well, he’s remarried now, so . . .” I don’t know why, but I thought that information would help end the conversation.
But it didn’t.
Marla shared more about her life. I found out about her ex-husband’s new ex-wives, and how one of them told her what he’d said about her, and how his other children are no good, etc. Then, the conversation turned back to me, as I hoped it wouldn’t, but feared it would.
“Divorced? Really? And you’re so pretty . . . and smart . . .” Now, I’m not trying to blow my own horn here or provide self-gratuitous comments, but Marla went on to compliment me very highly, noting that I am slim (not the healthiest comment for me to hear, see Confessions of a Skinny Mom and Angela Jolie posts) and she thinks I’m brilliant, which, considering our only interaction is at the meat counter — I find to be very astute — heh heh heh. I took her compliments in kind, though a little embarrassed, being at the deli counter and all. But, hell, it’s nice to be appreciated.
While finally cutting my meat, Marla added, “Leaving a girl like you. . . . I don’t understand it.” And she just shook her head. “I just don’t get that. You are something. I think you’re great.” And she smiled, looked me up and down, and shook her head again.
Now this tugs at my insecurities.
In my tortured mind Marla is thinking, “There must be something wrong with her that I can’t see.”
My damaged self asks: Is Marla trying to figure out what dark secret or hidden insufficiency I must have which caused my husband and father of my beautiful children to leave me? Is that what everybody thinks — that there must be something wrong with me that they can’t see?
I wanted to scream, “I’M GOOD IN BED — HONEST!!!” But that didn’t seem appropriate.
So there it is, my problem. And it truly is my problem. Not Marla’s and not my Ex-Husband’s —- and I’m working on it. I need to slow down and control those ill-informed, overly chatty people — not the ones in the grocery store — the ones in my head.
It’s simple, really. I don’t like being asked why I divorced because it’s personal and I don’t like to talk about it unless I bring it up. But more than that, I don’t like being asked because of all the time I spent crying on the kitchen floor Amy Winehouse style wondering why I wasn’t enough for him.
Truth is., he was done. It really doesn’t matter why now, and it shouldn’t matter to my lunch meat friend. After a excruciatingly painful period in my life, I’m done analyzing why and I’m done, too. Unless I have brought it up and I am in a place mentally and physically where it is appropriate to talk about it, my final answer actually is, “Well, you know, whatever.”
(In my head I’ll say it’s because he’s an asshole. I’m not a saint.)
My daughter eventually flitted back with her cheese sticks and Marla had the good sense to change the topic, asking my daughter if she helps me out at home, which, I pointed out, she does not do nearly enough, prompting a devilish smile from my girl. A smile, not a denial, mind you. That kid is lucky she’s cute . . . but I digress.
Just Me With . . . American Cheese, ham off the bone, Southern fried chicken breast and some discomfort and insecurity . . . sliced thin.
Special thanks to @CRobbieLV for inspiring this and sharing her experiences with — The Dreaded “Why?”
Postscript: See Good Fortune and the Dreaded Question, Part II
I think I’m done. I’m done agreeing with the generalized small talk and factually inaccurate praise of the mere suggestion of the presence of my Ex-husband in our children’s lives — like he’s some kind of magic man.
People who know, know better.
An ex-neighbor dropped by yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in over a year. We don’t have much in common and she does not read people well. She’s had four husbands, yet when my husband up left me and the children and I was visibly devastated, dehydrated and malnourished, she went on and on about how we should stay together and that maybe there’s hope.
“I wish I’d tried harder. Don’t give up. Maybe he’ll come back. I hope you can work it out.”
That’s what she said to me. She said this to me, though she knew that my husband had, suddenly, cruelly, left me. Now that I’m thinking back, it is quite possible that this woman is a nut job.
She was one of the people I avoided back then. Some people say the wrong things. They can’t help it, they won’t change.
Yesterday, she dropped by unannounced to invite me to her mother’s memorial service. She arrived just as the kids were preparing to go on a dinner visit with their dad. Like before, she went on and on about how that’s so good that he sees them, that –the alternative in her mind — total abandonment — is so bad, and told me a story about how her daughter-in-law’s absentee father showed up on her wedding day and practically ruined it. So she reasoned that my situation is so much better. blah blah blah
I don’t recall asking her opinion at all.
I did not enjoy our one-sided conversation. There are always stories of the most horrendous parents, male and female, but if you set the bar at those folks, hey, everybody looks good. I have one good father and know many more. The fatherhood bar is high in my world, or actually, it’s where it needs to be, but I digress . . . Not only did this woman irk me, but she went on and on while there was a child within earshot. I wonder how it makes kids feel to hear an adult praise their father for merely seeing them? Completely clueless, the ex-neighbor didn’t notice when I tried to change the subject by talking about the children themselves, their accomplishments. I was being polite. Perhaps too polite.
“Bitch, you don’t know my life.” Is what I wanted to say.
I’m sorry folks, I don’t usually talk like that, but sometimes people piss me off.
In fact, I’m a polite sort –to a fault, really, I can make small talk and seem to agree to the most ridiculous statements for the sake of decent society. But sometimes, it seems, this gives a pass and an exaggerated sense of importance to people who don’t deserve it, as well as an acceptance of past, current and likely future bad behavior. And sometimes, it just makes me mad.
As we sat in my tiny living room, on a house on a busy street, in the neighborhood of “The Help” that I had to work my butt off to get the Hoarders smell out of , it seems that no matter what transpired and how well the children have adapted to and excelled in a difficult situation, the most important thing for her to discuss was the seemingly magical appearance of their father.
I call bullsh*t.
So now, instead of nodding politely, I’m going to try to opt out of the small talk that makes me blinding mad. I think it’s better that way, don’t you?
And before I get the “What about the kids?” speech, I’m talking about conversations between grown folks. Children are not invited.
From now on every time some random acquaintance inquires about the time my kids spend with their dad and says,
“Oh that’s good, he still sees them.“
My new response will be,
“Yeah, I hear there’s gonna be a parade.“
And then I will launch on full-out campaign, an attack, if you will, describing the awesomeness of my children in excruciating detail. And I will note that my elderly parents, even at their advanced age, rarely miss a concert and get to many sporting events each season — because they enjoy it and they are so proud . . . and the kids are . . . wait for it . . . AWESOME!
And then I will turn and leave, because, you know, I’ve got things to do. I will not talk about or allow discussion of the perceived importance of the (magical) father’s (mythical) encouragement of said real accomplishments by these awesome kids. His is not my banner to wave, or shoot at. As I said, I’ve got other things to do.
My point is this: It is presumptuous to make sweeping statements about the perceived importance of an absent party, without any knowledge of or inquiries into the actual situation, and expect me, the one clearly in the trenches, to agree.
And frankly, it’s rude.
Just Me With . . . good manners.
The general public’s persistent blanket praise of fathers who may neither be good men nor good fathers is a disservice to men who are both. It’s a disservice to the mothers who are doing the best they can with or without (or in spite of) the existence of “the father.” It’s a disservice to the brothers, cousins, friends, sisters, uncles, aunts, neighbors, teachers, grandparents and whole loads of people who provide support and encouragement and love even though they have no parental ties nor court ordered obligation to do so. It’s a disservice to the kids, the children who should expect parents to do for them, without kudos.
So I’m opting out.
I have other things to do.
For other misinformed comments, see: Weekends Off .
For other misplaced praise, see: The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations
I danced around it on my Angela Jolie Post, my Adultery Diet Post and I described some of the effects of it with We Thought You Were Dead, Mommy — Almost F*cked to Death and the Twilight Zone posts but I never really say it. Even here and now within the constraints of a blog post I’m not going into great detail, not in one post anyway. Plus, posts are supposed to be short, right? I can only write so much here. (Thank goodness.)
There have probably been seeds of it implanted in me from my childhood, and in young adult life when I did a miniscule about of modeling. Years later I lost a lot of weight after my children were born, initially as a result of breastfeeding multiples and later from sheer exhaustion. See Fertile Myrtle.
But somewhere in my mind I have had this fear of “getting fat.”
Then there was the negative reinforcement of the world, it seems, when people said,
“You don’t look like you have five kids . . . “
It is meant as a compliment. But it probably got my psyche thinking, “What if I didn’t look like this?“
So, after the children, I kept busy (as if I had a choice with all those kids), watched how much I ate, and stayed slim. And I’d pretty much given my body to my husband, “Sex On Demand“.
Maybe I was still feeling vulnerable from my his stupid brief affair with a much younger woman.
“Maybe,” I thought, “I can’t get younger, but I can make sure I don’t get fat.” I don’t know.
Maybe I felt out of control because I suddenly had so many children and was completely overwhelmed yet somehow needed to make it look effortless. The Superwoman Syndrome.
So I stayed slim, but not yet dangerously so. I got some new clothes, highlights in my hair and was trying to give myself a home makeover — the new me — still fabulous after five kids, who were finally out of the diaper, toddler, and preschool grind. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we’d be able to leave the house soon?
But then . . . my husband left me . . .
. . . and I pretty much stopped eating.
Ironically his love interest at that time was younger and significantly heavier than me. My being thin and sexually available was ultimately unsuccessful. Maybe I just should have become an incredible cook . . . but I digress . . .
At first I was too devastated to eat, and that, simply, continued.
I never used laxatives, or induced vomiting. (I absolutely hate throwing up). I just stopped eating, or really ate just enough to keep from falling over. I had a lot of other “behaviors” — they call them. Whatever, I don’t want to think about it now. Though it never got as bad as those horrifying pictures one sees on the internet, I admit it makes me uncomfortable to look at pictures of myself during my worst times . . . and I have destroyed most of them.
I was a bit like Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, except not nearly as glamorous.
I was in the throes of a deep, deep depression. But I had children, so I continued doing what I had to do for the most part, except . . . I failed to nourish myself. Or, I nourished myself just enough to continue to take care of the children, short-term.
Was it a cry for help or a form of suicide when suicide was not an option?
Funny thing happens when you don’t eat much or often,when you do eat you are rewarded with pain and nausea. Hardly incentive for a person who was crying all day long anyway. So I ate just enough to function, but my resistance was down, physical strength drained and when I started having dizziness and heart palpitations and losing my hair and a couple of hospitalizations and a blood transfusion later? Well, perhaps there was a problem. (Ya think?) Not to mention my historically unhealthy relationship with my estranged husband, see My High School Self, and the crap I was dealing with when he left. It was a rough time. Call me Forrest Gump, but that’s all I have to say about that — now, anyway.
They say I suffer(ed) from Anorexia.
I actually don’t feel like talking about this stuff. I mean, I’m hardly the face of —- gulp — an eating disorder. I’m an adult woman of color who has been diagnosed with a disease whose poster child is the face of a 14-year-old white girl. The stereotype for me is either the big mama in the kitchen or the strong, sassy and proud single mother. Well, I was/am neither. Food and cooking holds no interest for me and I did not choose, nor do I wave the banner of my suddenly single mother situation, it’s just something I have to deal with.
No matter, “Anorexia” is in my medical charts, I have been referred to and evaluated by a facility for eating disorders who determined that because of my family obligations, I should be treated privately. Whatever. I don’t feel like discussing it right now. Wait, did I already say that? It’s too much for a blog post, anyway, right? (Thank goodness).
Long, painful, story short, I’m so much better now. Therapy, medications for depression and medications for my chronic stomach ailments caused by my poor eating habits have helped tremendously. Though I’m off the daily anti-depressants now, see Getting Off The Meds, I’ve found that changing my lifestyle and removing triggers — as much as I can — have helped tremendously also. So I eat now, not always well and not with enjoyment, but regularly. I’m at a good weight, or so I’m told — I never look. People tell me I look great. (People in the know are careful not to exclaim that I’ve gained weight.) To look at me now, no one would know of my “issues.” Still, when I am down or stressed, I don’t eat. And sometimes, I just forget. It’s probably something I have to watch for a long time, maybe forever. But whatever. I am much healthier than I was, which is the most important.
Just Me With . . . well, they say it was anorexia. They say.
P.S. This may be the first post I delete.
Before I get beat up in the comments because I’m a mom and have to take care of myself for my kids, etc. , know that this just skims the surface (I mean people write whole books on this stuff), that I love my children and have worked my behind off for them, have tried to protect them and have provided a good home (a good part of which I built myself), that even mothers can go through a bad time, having children does not make one immune. I’ve learned that I have to feel good about me. Period. The rest will/has to come from that.
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.