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
Anyone remember that scene from Sex and The City where Miranda, after the birth of little Brady, discovers that she can fit into her skinny jeans?
(And by the way, for you people who don’t know, the original “skinny jeans” do not refer to a particular cut of denim pants. They refer to those old jeans that women keep in their closet in hopes that losing enough weight to be able to wear them again.)
Well, Miranda shows up at the club looking great in her skinny jeans and Charlotte asks how she lost the weight:
- Miranda: Well, I got pregnant, became a single mother, and stopped having any time to eat.
- Samantha: Oh, that’s a diet I won’t be trying.
There’s also another weight loss regimen that women don’t rush to try. I call it,
“The Adultery Diet“
Simply put, it is when a married woman suddenly drops the pounds, without the assistance of a gym membership or Jenny Craig. No, it’s none of that pesky diet and exercise stuff. Rather, a woman is on The Adultery Diet when her husband is having an affair and it is making her sick.
There’s just something about finding out or suspecting that your man is screwing somebody else that really kills the appetite.
This revelation may or may not end in separation or divorce, that’s not really relevant to this diet, it’s just a sick, sinking feeling that suddenly makes food intolerable, hence the weight loss.
In walks a female friend you haven’t seen in a while. Her clothes are literally falling off of her. Unfortunately, her eyes are sunken, red, swollen and downcast, and she’s unnaturally quiet. She’ll explain, perhaps, that she’s had a bit of a cold. In her mind, however, she’s screaming, “Oh my God, this is not happening. What am I going to do? How could he? ” And then, she simply doesn’t eat, while continuing her daily responsibilities. She functions, but just knowing that there are some very uncomfortable silences, discussions and possibly life changing decisions that will have to be made in the near future — well, it just doesn’t make her want a sandwich. In fact, the mere thought of the situation makes her food taste bland and causes nausea.
Then there’s the time alone — while it is quite possible her mate is not spending time alone — well, it can make a girl literally sick to her stomach. Pounds melt away, baby weight — gone, along with muscle. Suddenly skinny jeans fit and she needs to tighten her belts.
He has to work late. Again. I fed the kids; they’re good. Everybody is fine. Everything is fine, except that it’s not. So I’m just gonna sit here in the dark on the kitchen floor while my life falls apart. I’m not hungry. I really don’t feel well.
And the coolness of the kitchen floor is somehow so comforting . . . but I digress.
This Adultery Diet is usually available to married or cohabitating women — because there is something about living with someone who is sleeping with someone else that is particularly offensive to the palate.
So if you are surprised by a sudden weight loss of a friend, don’t just tell her how wonderful she looks and ask about her dress size, her diet, or whether she’s working out. Ask about her marriage. Ask if she needs — anything.
Don’t ask me how I know.
Just Me With . . . a weight loss regimen no one wants to try.
Just found this pic of Demi Moore:
Message to Demi: Give me a call. We should talk.
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.