I expected to be the only uncoupled, hell, the only unmarried person there. Yup. These were many of the same people I saw when “I Went To A Wedding Alone” and was seated with four other couples. The party was hosted by the very cool woman who had been there for me “When I Needed a Helping Hand,” and her husband, my former “Go-To Guy.” Good people.
As expected, I got the same inquiries about the kids, the new house (though I’ve been there for two years now), how the “new” neighborhood is, work, career, how I spend my time, etc. No questions about whether I’m seeing anyone. I hardly ever get that question. What’s up with that? But I digress. That is a topic for another post.
What was different this year was that I was ready for the whole scene. I expected the questions and the topics of conversations that really did not apply to me and to which I could not relate. I had my stock responses. I came to the realization that this is how it will be with these folks as a group, people from a past life.
It was a step up from last year.
At this same party last year, I found myself chatting with two very different women. One is a true, down-to-earth angel who has been such a huge help and selfless friend in my time of need and thereafter. She was the mother of the bride when “I Went To A Wedding Alone.” The other woman is the wife of my old boss. See “Riding With My Boss.” This woman, who I’ll call Ellen BlueBlood, has been a long-time acquaintance, but never a good friend, we never really clicked. She always seemed a bit snobbish to me. Ellen BlueBlood was going on and on about her University graduated daughter who was doing all of these wonderful things, being offered all of these fabulous opportunities, she was becoming such of special woman of substance, blah, blah, blah. It was ridiculous, really. Then the topic turned to the daughter’s boyfriend. This was infinitely more interesting to me, it had to be better than hearing the enhanced overview of her resume.
As if this universally summed up the reasons for her distaste of this young man, she said,
“His parents are divorced. We don’t like that.”
It just hung there. It just hung there like a fart.
My angel friend, intimately aware of the toll that the end of my marriage took on my family, knew that this was just a stupid thing for Ellen to say — in front of anyone, let alone me. I don’t remember exactly what my angel friend said, but she tried to correct and diffuse the sheer stupidity and insensitivity of Ellen BlueBlood’s remark. It didn’t work. Mrs. BlueBlood didn’t get it. It went right over her head. She went on to discuss the boyfriend and made truly legitimate complaints about him — i.e. he tried to break up with her daughter at a funeral. Yeah, she should have led with that. Now that’s a good reason to dislike the boy.
I said nothing. At the time, Ellen BlueBlood’s stupid comment hit hard. I was already feeling so vulnerable, being single at a party for couples, and embarrassed that everyone in the room knew of my troubles, etc. But then, having to hear such hurtful stupidity, and suddenly realizing she might not be the only person in the world who feels that way, . . . wondering whether some idiot will unfairly judge my children because of my failed marriage — well, her comment, as I said, hit me hard — last year.
But this year, when the same woman went on and on about her daughter’s international travels and appointments, blah, blah, blah. I was just bored.
Okay, maybe part of me hopes her daughter shacks up with a truck driving, gun rack mounted, sleeve tattooed, home-made cigarette smoking, tooth challenged, GED failing and criminal record having, good old boy named Bubba, — that is, until Bubba kicks her out of the trailer and she ends up with an unemployed, black as night rebound guy, who is a multiple baby mama having, “Up and Coming” Rapper chasing a record deal, whose grandmother raised him (of course), yet she is ten years younger than Ellen BlueBlood and cleans her office at night. Maybe part of me would enjoy that. I mean, really, if Ellen BlueBlood is scared of a stereotype, let’s give her a boatload of the really offensive ones, right? Yeah, I’m human— and perhaps a little evil. heh heh heh.
And oh snap, Ellen BlueBlood also has a son– a less accomplished son attending a second-tier (oh, the horror) college. Hmmm. Maybe I should hit that. Ha! But I digress.
In the end, this year’s party was uneventful. I deserve that. My realistic expectations were met, nod to my fellow Tweeter @blogginglily who described it as such. Unlike last year, no one insulted me (to my face) and I was– if not entirely comfortable– at least accepting of being with this group of couples. Bonus, since it was a white elephant Christmas gift exchange party, I got a present:
We all thought it was a candle holder, but a smart Tweeter @TX_Lisa pointed out that the side candles would drip and suggested instead that it might be a vase. So yeah, the party “met expectations” and I got a scary, hideous, slightly pornographic vase. Not too shabby.
Just Me With . . . the ugliest vase ever . . . and expectations met.
Hmmmm, I wonder when Ellen BlueBlood’s boy gets home from college for the holidays . . .
(And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Ha!
Other holiday related posts:
Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.
Time Management, Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving — Some things will take exactly as much time as you allot to them.
All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.
A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise — You never know the impact people have on each other.
Keeping It Simple At Christmas — Bells and whistles are not always required.
My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind of — Thanksgiving in my house, without my kids
Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.
I was a couple of weeks shy of eighteen, we’d been dating for two years. He had recently become my first, I was not his. I loved him. He loved me. One of the things I loved about being with him was the fact that I could be myself. Ididn’t have to prove anything or act a certain way. I didn’t have to try to fit in or be a certain type of girl. He gave me something– not school related — to do. In hindsight, what he provided me was a way to escape those awkward teen years of discovering myself, making choices and mistakes, finding my own way, being proud of who I was and who I wasn’t, making new friends, and learning how to be social. He had already made some decisions about life, had some bad experiences and had strong opinions about almost everything. He was an old soul. I was not. It ate me up.
He was completely against drinking (which is not a bad thing for someone underage, but he would not even go to parties where others might be drinking, even if they were hiding it.) I respected him for that. I supported him in that. He had had a rough upbringing. His mother had a bad reputation, his brother was the local drug dealer, other family members, including siblings and his mother’s boyfriends had addictions, and teen pregnancies were the norm in his family. So having been brought up in the underbelly of suburban drug and alcohol addiction, he swore never the touch the stuff and forbade me to get near it. Forbade. In his family, he was the one good child. He wanted to stay that way. He was painfully shy unless involved in a sport, so he wasn’t one for hanging out. He didn’t want to travel because he didn’t see the need, and was uncomfortable out of our town. He hated the beach, sand; he hated crowds. He was also very possessive and jealous, so he kept me close and would become angry if he felt threatened.
But he was very cute, tall, slim with haunting light eyes.Teachers loved him, though he was not academically oriented or talented. I think, like me, they saw a polite guy who, despite his family, seemed to be a good kid. He was charming that way. People wanted to help him. People wanted to forgive any shortcomings. He had a smile that could and did charm everyone — that is, when he did smile. Most of the time, unless people were looking, he appeared sullen, angry. Some folks were a little scared of him. (Years later a friend described him like this: He’s the kind of guy where when he walks into a room, the temperature drops ten degrees.)
Me? Well, I was an achiever, academically, musically and athletically, but socially I had struggled, been a victim of past bullying. I was a book smart girl from a good (if not wealthy) family; my parents were teachers. My siblings were in college, they had gotten away from our suffocating suburb. I was lonely. I wanted to have fun but I was basically the stereotypical “good girl” from a stable family. I would never want to do anything that would embarrass my family, and my girlfriends weren’t drinkers or party girls either. Still, we liked to go to parties and dances and just have some sober fun. Before I started dating him, I had had only one short relationship with a boy. Nothing to speak of. No broken hearts. I don’t think we ever even went anywhere together. My hymen was still intact.
At my tender teen age, I thought I’d never have a boyfriend. I just wasn’t seen as girlfriend material in my circles. At the time, I truly thought he was my only and best chance at having any attention from a boy, at least any attention from a boy who was respectful to me. He was what I needed.
Miraculously, once I started dating him, the bullying stopped as well as the false rumors about me. (Somehow, I had gained the reputation of being a slut according to popular, misinformed opinion, even though I was a virgin.) But with him, I had support. No one wanted to mess with his girlfriend.
I see now I was co-dependent. But then? I was in love.
I didn’t know. I had nothing to compare him to and no one to talk to about it. My girlfriends weren’t dating, they didn’t know any better than me. My siblings were gone. After having been treated so badly by other kids, I thought this was right. In a way, it did save me. (The reasons for the bullying primarily have to do with race, and are just too much to get into now.) I never told my parents about how I had been treated at school. I should have. An early, huge regret, one of many to come.
He and I were inseparable, but completely antisocial. We rarely went anywhere with or around other people. He didn’t want to be around people. Usually we went to movies or hung out at his or my house. He met me at my locker every morning. We met between classes. (We never had classes together, I was in the college prep courses, he was not). We were such a cute, dysfunctional couple. Both tall, and we even looked a bit alike.
One night, there was a Friday night basketball game, as usual. He was a star player, I was a cheerleader. (I know, gag me, and this did not mean I was popular). We never went to the parties afterward, though, if there were any. But this night, for some reason, he decided he wanted to go to a party. I don’t know why. I never knew why. He usually was against such behavior. He told me to go home, I wasn’t allowed to go with him. Obediently, I went home. Telling me what I was allowed or not allowed to do was normal for us.
I didn’t see him for the rest of the weekend, which sometimes happened since neither one of us had a car, and in addition to my studies I had a part-time job.
The following Monday, he did not come to my locker. When I found him, he seemed distant. He wouldn’t make eye contact all day. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was different. Paranoid, and suddenly needing reassurance, I asked him,
“Don’t you love me anymore?”
“I don’t know,” he replied.
My very being shook to the core, I felt as though I died a bit. My knees buckled.
In another cruel twist of fact, it was Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrated as our anniversary.
I was still reeling from his answer when he added that — he wanted to see other people!
Then he finally looked me in the eyes. He said, “I don’t want you to, though.”
“Okay,” I said.
I know, I know. In my head the voices still scream No! But I was already under his thumb, caught completely caught off guard. He had unilaterally changed all the rules without any warning. I was still freaked out just because he went to a party! And now this? I had given myself to him in every way possible, and now, it wasn’t enough, or it didn’t matter, or — I didn’t know what was happening!
For about two weeks, heartbroken, devastated, and confused, I nevertheless continued to allow him to meet me at my locker, walk me in the halls, kiss me hello and goodbye. I was still his girlfriend (property). But there were more goodbyes than hellos, and I saw him flirting with other girls, one in particular. He didn’t hide it.
He had a swagger about him. I felt small.
Since we’d been dating for two years, we were quite an item. But kids talked. Through the high school rumor mill I found out later that during the party he attended a girl I knew had flirted with him. Well, she grabbed his crotch, is what I heard. That must have been enough to turn the tide, to make him take the next step after control and isolation, to further humiliate me, his girlfriend of two years — but still keep me at his beck and call. He acted as though this was completely normal. And I allowed it. It was the beginning of a hurtful and unhealthy pattern of accommodation I have struggled with ever since.
One day, a friend of his and fellow basketball player who was in one of my classes said to me, unprovoked,
“I don’t know how you put up with it.”
I think I visibly shuddered. I was trying to operate under the illogical belief that no one knew what was really going on or at least wouldn’t acknowledge it in front of me.
The nice boy continued, “I mean, given his family and all it’s amazing he’s turned out as good as he has, but still — he shouldn’t be doing this to you.”
Hearing that from another boy, a boy who was a old friend of his but who didn’t know me that well, got to me. Then, I did some thinking. I had more time on my hands, after all. Throughout this whole thing I kept coming back to the fact that I loved him. I kept telling myself, “But I love him.” But then I asked myself, is being in love supposed to feel like this? Because this doesn’t feel good. This isn’t fun.
Love shouldn’t feel like this.
The next day I was not at my locker when he arrived to meet me.
He had to find me. When he did, I told him I wasn’t going to do this anymore.
When an abused woman hits back, it’s useless unless she kills or runs. Hitting back and standing there just sets her up for another beat down. Mine was coming.
I cannot remember what he said exactly, I do know that he was angry, that he demanded to know why I wasn’t at my designated place. He also told me he did, in fact, love me. I think I may have blocked most of the rest of it out, because it was so contrary to my sense of self-preservation. I’ve beat myself up for years because of it.
Bottom line: He got me back.
He said he wasn’t going to see other girls. We were monogamous again. (Well, he was monogamous again, I had never been free.) I didn’t date anyone else in high school.
He was still my boyfriend when I went to college.
Years later, I married him.
Months ago, our divorce became final. He has since remarried.
Interestingly, I heard later that the girl who had felt him up at the party told him she couldn’t actually date him because her family would not accept her dating a black boy. His would-be conquest wasn’t having it – or him. Whatever. His coming back to me had nothing to do with me — except that he wanted to keep me — unto him, under him.
When I started to pull away, he pulled me back — and he was stronger.
With him I had traded one kind of bullying for another, really.
But something broke inside me then, not because of how he treated me, but because I allowed it —- and I think — just now, I’m trying to get it fixed.
Just Me With . . . a love story?
P.S. Why all the Twilight pics? I have a hard time with the series because of my romantic history. A high school girl who does not fit in should have a chance to experience life outside of high school before changing her DNA for a boy. Bella is so sad and tortured and Edward makes her feel better, but I want her to go to college, get a job, move to a place where she chooses, and have fun, make friends, have boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, without all the danger and without having to forsake her belief system, family, and biological options before she’s had a chance to even develop them.
It’s okay not to have a boyfriend in high school. It really is. And it’s okay to break up with your first love.
For a story on what it was like to still have this boyfriend when I went away to college, see The Night I Became Cinderella.
And for how I feel about him now? I Don’t Love Him.
I recently took The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone. I had attended a jam session/fundraising event by myself. Something happened on my out, though, that I could have handled differently.
The jam session was nearing the end. People had come and gone throughout the evening, but the night was almost over. When a group of guys left I decided to walk out with them so I wouldn’t have to navigate out of the creepy building and out into the night alone. I waved goodbye to the host, who was busy playing keyboards. He gave me the “call me” sign as I followed the others out. The others were father and son guitar players and an Up and Coming Rapper (Question: Why do so many Rappers call themselves Up and Coming?)and his Manager. Together we figured out where to take the stairs down (no one knew how to work the freight elevator), and we walked out together making small talk on the way out.
The Up and Coming Rapper and his Manager’s conversation was spiced with curse words about how tired they were because they had come from another industry event. I tried to pin them down about where they were coming from (they were late arrivals at the jam session, just there for some face time I think), but the Manager was vague. Exiting the building, the father and son disappeared, leaving me with the Up and Coming Rapper and his Manager.
The Manager, who was lighting up a cigarette, called to me:
“Hold up, you married?” And the evening had been going so well, I lamented.
“No” I responded, because I’m not married anymore, I have not been legally married for five months (but who’s counting).
I kept walking. He followed.
“You single, you got a boyfriend?”
“Yes, I’m single.”
“So you single?”
“Yes.” Because I am. I am so damn single.
“You got kids?”
“Five. I’m divorced.” (With so many kids, sometimes I feel the need to explain that I was once married.)
“Yeah, I’m divorced, too.” He said. “Well, can I give you my number?”
“I’m not into hanging out with anybody right now.” My stock answer.
“Neither am I, you know we can just . . . (he ran through a littany of over the top activities I have no interest in, then other tamer activities, I have no interest in sharing with him.) ” Then he said some other stuff. But I wasn’t listening. I just wanted to get in my car and go home.
“So can I give you my number?” He was persistent, and my stock rejection line hadn’t worked.
“Uh, sure.” Why? Why? Why? Because I’m an idiot. See The Landscaper Guy and The Female Chandler Bing.
Have I mentioned that I’m not really used to being single?
As I started to put his number in my phone and hoped for a sudden attack of dyslexia, he said, “Let me see,” and actually leaned over to look at my phone to make sure I was really entering his number! Geesh.
Then I said, “Well, I gotta go. Nice to meet you.” He made some other small talk I can’t remember —- or I just wasn’t listening.
As he started to walk away he turned and said,
“So are you gonna call?”
Ohhhh. I was just minutes from a clean get away (like Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment).
“We’ll see.” I said in what I thought a nice voice. I am so freakin’ bad at this crap.
“We’ll see,” he parroted back, mimicking my nice voice, in a not-so-nice way, and he jogged up the block to join the Up and Coming Rapper, who was waiting for him, smoking.
*shudder* I got in my car as quickly as possible.
Obviously, I just was not feeling this guy. I did not like his approach. I did not care for his manner of speaking. I’m not a smoker. I wasn’t impressed with his industry talk. I didn’t even enjoy his client’s music. Just — ick. It occurred to me later that the whole exchange could have been avoided had I just said, “I’m seeing someone.” After all, his questions about my relationship status seem to suggest that having another man in the picture was a deal-breaker for him.
Why didn’t I just comply and pull out the fake boyfriend?
The Fabricated Boyfriend can be very convenient. Single women have been using him for years,
I think he dates back to the Stone Age.
My answer: Because I thought I was supposed to be embracing my new single status.
In my tortured thinking, since I had been someone’s girlfriend or wife for many, many years, I thought that I was supposed to say loud and proud — I’m single, unattached, free. WRONG!!! Isn’t it the prerogative of a true single lady to lie when necessary and expedient? For safety? To save time or someone’s dignity? C’mon — the ole “I’m not feeling well” or “I’m not ready yet” or “It’s not you, it’s me” ? It’s married people who can’t lie. If you are married, you’d better ‘fess up to your status. If you are single, you can be creatively coupled when necessary, in my after-the-fact humble opinion.
The bottom line is, I knew I was never going to call this guy. And that’s okay. Being single doesn’t mean that I have to entertain every offer of male companionship I receive, I’ve learned. See Landscaper Dude and a Phone Smarter Than Me. That said, I was standing on the street alone with Rapper Manager and was in a situation where I had to reject him and provide a valid explanation which would end the exchange yet not piss him off. I had to say something. I should have lied.
So what have I learned from this? Okay, yes, I am Single. Not married. No boyfriend. But not every person in every situation needs to know this. Being single doesn’t mean I that I have to be so damn honest about it. Had I lied immediately and said I have a boyfriend, Rapper’s Manager guy could have walked away with his dignity, I could have walked away without fear of retaliation or passive aggressive nastiness.
Going forward with my new single status, I reserve the right to pull out the fake boyfriend as the situation demands. I realize now that it is not a sign of weakness, especially when going out alone, nor is it a sad attempt to cling to my previous “couple” status. Some guys just need to go away by any means necessary and I will concoct an imaginary boyfriend when I need to, damn it.
Just Me With . . . a boyfriend . . . in my pocket.
For a rejection without use of a fake boyfriend, see “I Turned Down A Dinner Date With An Ex-Con.”