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:
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 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’ll call her Erin. She was senior to me in the fancy law firm we worked in — seems like a lifetime ago. She was attractive, a model of good taste, not particularly well liked and frankly a little scary. Harsh, is what people said about her. She was playing with the big boys, and had watched the big boys make partner while they passed her over, year after year, despite her superior qualifications and track record. Picture a younger Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, but a Miranda who has to work under all of the Mad Men.
On the personal side, Erin is single, never married. This made her an expert on dating. She also had had a long, too long relationship with an older man who would not commit. She spent the bulk of her last good child bearing years with this man, kind of like Mr. Big from Sex and The City, but not as cute. Following her ultimatum, he finally told her he would never marry. They continued to date and travel together but with no expectations for more. Like Woody and Mia (without all the kids) they kept separate apartments in the city.
When I was a junior attorney Erin scared the crap out of me and I vowed never to have a meal with her. Once I matured professionally (and personally) I found myself getting closer to her and we became friends.
By the time my marriage ended neither of us worked at the firm anymore. They never did make her partner. She had ended her relationship with “Mr. Big Can’t Commit Guy” for good but had had no serious relationships since. I was struggling, this was during some pretty dark times, but I didn’t want her to know how hard things were for me — maybe she did still scare me a bit. Regardless, her intuitiveness and observation skills revealed my pain. I was still deeply wounded by my then soon-to-be-ex’s ability to so easily discard and replace me. I admitted that it had deeply injured my ego and confidence. Erin, however, had never been impressed with my Ex and she didn’t mince words. She never did.
Erin instructed me:
She further explained that I needed to be around men who will appreciate my good qualities, men who will appreciate my choosing to spend time with them. She elaborated that these dates should not end in sex, that I should not be looking for a boyfriend or someone to love. These dates should simply be a means to an end, a means to break away from being the wife — the jilted and rejected wife. I needed, she said, to see myself the way others see me– not how my Ex treated me.
I wasn’t really convinced that I could or should take her advice, because I really did not want a man and was still too depressed and wounded to seriously consider it. She sensed that, and added, in her strong, pointed manner,
“Roxanne, he has changed the playing field. You have a right to play on that field.”
I wasn’t ready to take her advice then and I didn’t. But she’s a smart woman, a really, scary, smart woman.
Just Me With . . . the good advice, that I just didn’t take.
I haven’t been to a wedding in years. Well, except taking my kids to see their teacher get married. Actually even before my marriage ended, I swore off most weddings. I married young, my parents didn’t really approve and didn’t rejoice in it. His family was, well, not traditional. And although it was okay, I started to envy the grown-up, joyous, better funded and better planned weddings I witnessed later. I usually went alone to my friends’ weddings anyway, my Ex hated weddings more than I did. After a while, I just stopped going to the very few invitations I got, unless it was a command performance family thing.
But this wedding was of the daughter of a woman who is a good, special person. The mother of the bride, Liz, her husband and daughters are former neighbors. Liz selflessly helped me — and my family — for a prolonged period in my prolonged time of need. She’ll be a topic of another post at a later time. Suffice it to say, as much I am usually disgusted by the mere thought of going to a wedding and reception, the fact that I haven’t been to one since my separation and divorce (even blew off my bridesmaid’s destination wedding — and she understood, see Remote Attendance at Weddings — Royal or Otherwise), I had to go to this one. I wanted to go to this one. Kind of. I wanted to see, but I didn’t want to go. In my fantasy world, I’d be the proverbial fly on the wall, I would materialize just long enough to congratulate the family, and then — Poof! Gone! But as I’ve discovered over the years, I am not magic.
First, let me say that the bridal shower was the day after my ex-husband got married.
(Insert knife, turn) See, I Was “The Nanny” When My Ex-Husband Got Married.
Next, I was invited, but the invitation did not allow me to bring a guest. Liz had given me a heads up earlier that they just couldn’t invite all of my kids to the reception, though they could come to the ceremony. I completely understood that, no problem. Five plates for kids, totally not worth it. And I also understand that it is appropriate to invite a single guest without including an invitation for him or her to bring a nameless date — some stranger to share in the bride and groom’s a special day. I get that.
It’s just that I’m a bit sensitive and unused to being single — truly legally single, at a wedding. But that was what was going to happen. As I said, I’ve gone stag before to weddings, my Ex skipped the receptions for both my best friend and my sister’s weddings, he didn’t want to go with me to my college friends’ weddings, which was fine, I had more fun without him with that crowd. So I’m used to doing things alone, before, during and now after my marriage. See, The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone. But this was different. These people, to varying degrees, witnessed my nervous breakdown.
My kids love the mother of the bride, Liz, know her well, and the Bride and her sister used to babysit them from time to time and were my mother’s helpers when I had infant and toddler twins — so that I could, you know, wash myself or something. So I thought the kids would want to see the ceremony at a local church. Wrong. Only one managed to get off of the couch to go to the wedding. One daughter.
We walked in together. Me and my girl.
The church was full of familiar faces, familiar friendly faces. This wedding was a neighborhood affair, the neighborhood where the “marital” home was, the neighborhood to which I had brought all of my kids home from the hospital and neighbors showered us with gifts, the neighborhood where we were living when my family fell apart, the neighborhood from which the kids and I moved when I had to downsize. Most of these people knew my story. Many had seen me cry. So it was at once a very comfortable and a little awkward reunion.
A very sweet woman and her husband sat in the pew in front of us. Sally, I’ll call her. She used to live across the street from me. Correction, I used to live across the street from her. This woman has always been very supportive. She has suffered horrible tragedy in her life. After surviving breast cancer, including all of the necessary multiple surgeries and treatments, her oldest son died in a senseless accident at college. Unspeakable. Still, Sally is very outspoken, says whatever the hell is on her mind and adores her family. She has no love lost for my Ex and is one of the few people who has refused to exchange pleasantries with him. If looks could kill I would have been a widow long before I became a divorcee. She’d heard of his wedding.
Before the ceremony began, she turned to my daughter and asked, with a hint of a sneer,
“How was your Dad’s wedding?“
Me, in my head:
“Uh,What the hell? Oh no, make it stop, don’t show emotion, ahhhhh”
Me, in my head:
“Ahhh. No, please don’t talk about that. Not now. Not with my daughter. Not in front of me. Not at a wedding. NOOOO No No No NO NO NO. Please don’t say anything more, please.”
Sally pursed her lips; I held my breath. I could tell she was holding something back. I didn’t want her to say anything else. Thankfully, she turned around without saying more. I could tell she couldn’t figure out what to say that would express her opinion but wouldn’t be inappropriate to say in front of my daughter. So she self-censored, thank goodness. But it was a bit too late — for me. Oh my daughter was fine, but it made me feel like crap. I’m at a wedding and have to listen to my kid being questioned about my Ex’s wedding? Ouch.
(Insert knife, turn, twice.)
The music was Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz, the bride was beautiful and spoke intelligently as they read their own vows, the groom looked thankful and promised to walk beside her — but also behind her as she achieved her success, and in front of her to shield her from danger. There were meaningful readings, and a very short sermon. (Actually, the minister was the one who referenced that this was a moment in time between an earthquake and a hurricane, I don’t want to use the words of a man of the cloth without giving him proper credit — lightning strike averted.) Anyway, the wedding was elegant without being stuffy, comfortable without being tacky. I would expect no less from and want no less for this family. They are good, good people. (And I barely had any of my normal internal negative running monologue about how everybody says the right things in the church, and may even mean it at the time, but . . . ) Perhaps I still believe in love after all. Huh. I just wish I could forget my regrets . . . but I digress . . .
During the ceremony I saw Sally grab her husband’s hand and squeeze it. He squeezed back. She laid her head on his shoulder. It was a sweet moment for the long-married couple. They have been through hell. This man eulogized his own son, for God’s sake. Through it all, though, they love each other, deeply. I was happy for them, too.
But as I was sitting there, it occurred to me: I had not felt this alone in a long while.
After the ceremony while still at the church Sally apologized to me for her comment about my Ex’s wedding. She explained what I already knew, that in her mind she was thinking it was nice for my daughter to see a young (but old enough) couple get married, both for the first time, with no baggage or no kids, from nice families, etc., kind of “the way it should be” — in contrast to what she imagined my Ex’s wedding was like with his five kids in tow, after a really cruel breakup and nasty divorce. I get it. And I know she meant well, but the apology made me feel worse. I just wanted to forget about it.
I had to drop my daughter back home before going to the reception. While there I had to mediate arguments over dinner and television. It was bad enough that I was going somewhere, a wedding reception no less, alone, but I also had to fight with my kids first.
Walking into the reception alone, I panicked for a second until I found my old friends, couples from the old neighborhood. Some of these folks have been beyond good to me, from sending me dinners, lending me money, to appearing as witnesses at court, one I’ve written about already, When I Needed a Helping Hand, and I may write about others. It’s important to share stories about goodness in the world. I’d seen some of these people recently so the greetings were more casual. From others, however, I got that “So how are you doing?” head tilt. Does anyone remember the Friends episode where Richard (Tom Selleck) tells Monica about how people greet him after his divorce? Yeah, that.
On a positive note, though, I also got the “You look great!” comment. That was nice, because these people had seen me when I didn’t look so great (huge understatement).
It was a sit down dinner, and we (meaning me and the couple I was talking to) made our way to our table where I discovered that —
I was seated at a table with four couples.
(Insert knife, turn three times.)
I felt so, so SINGLE — but not in a good way. Plus, I was also the only person of color at my table, which isn’t a big deal nor unexpected but it just fed into my feeling of being so obviously, visually ALONE. (Singing the Sesame Street song, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here . . .”)
Plus, these long-time married couples reminisced about their own weddings and remarked about how the bride and her friends probably just think “we’re the old guys” now.
(Insert knife, turn four times.)
So, now, not only was I without an escort and a third wheel — or more accurately a ninth wheel, I was one of the old guys, hanging out with happily middle-aged, comfortable, prosperous, tipsy, married people. After all, they had each other, good jobs, good times — past, present and future. And, they were having a good time at the wedding. It was all good. Except for me, I felt like I was watching everyone else have a good time, hell, a good life. I know things are not always what they seem, I know that couples are not always happy and certainly not all the time. Oh yeah, I know that. I mean, I was married once, you know. But I didn’t really want to talk to couples as couples and the truth is, as couples, as a group, I have less in common with them than I did before. If I had I been feeling better or had been drinking, I might have gone out to dance with the young singles, but I know that would have been — weird. My time for that is gone (and I’d never really experienced it, having married so young, and not been a drinker).
Eventually, we got up to mingle and dance.
I danced with other couples.
(Insert knife, turn five times.)
One married woman commented on a cute younger single guy, but added “not that he’d want a broken down broad like me.” This woman is not broken down, and is attractive (as is her husband). Suddenly I felt old by association. She was cool with it, because she does not need new male companionship. Well, I do. And what if I’m a broken down broad, or at least categorized that way? Remember that early Sex and the City episode when Samantha dates a younger man who actually refers to her as an older woman? She was shocked, like “Is that how he sees me?” It’s one thing to be alone, it’s another to feel like you’ve been put out to pasture. Especially when you’ve never even been to the Rodeo (enough bad analogies, I know). See Undateable, Part II.
My friend Sally had had a few drinks, or not, she didn’t really need it. She doesn’t need alcohol to express herself. It was so good to see she and her husband out and enjoying themselves. After the death of their son — well, I didn’t know if Sally would be able to go on. I can’t blame her. But here she was, loud and sassy, dancing with her husband. At one point she said to me, “It’s so nice to be at a wedding instead of a funeral.” Then she flitted off.
Later, out of nowhere she pulled me, actually grabbed and pulled me from my conversation with another ex-neighbor, and dragged me to the dance floor. I thought she just wanted to get me to dance.
Wrong! To my horror, she was dragging me out there to catch the bridal bouquet. There I was with the 28-year old, child-free, professional, drunk friends of the bride and groom. Awkward.
(Insert knife with serrated edge, turn six times.)
“You didn’t even try!” She scolded me when I failed to catch the bouquet.
She was right. I didn’t even try.
“You deserve a good man,” She said.
See, you gotta love her. Her heart is in the right place. She wants me to believe in love. She still does. And apparently she believes that the bouquet thing actually works.
Sally does love, deeply, even though she has suffered so. She calls her husband her soul-mate, yet outwardly they seem to be opposites. Anyone remember the show Dharma and Greg? The flower child woman who marries the blue blood attorney? Yeah Sally and Rob are like that, but older — she’s an artist, a former dancer, a wild child, dog-lover, mouthy and loud — he’s a straight-laced corporate type. But their love has survived cancer and the death of their first-born, along with the debilitating depression that followed. That’s some serious love. So I can’t be mad at her. I was happy to see her smile. And I’m glad people care about my happiness and wish me the best.
But being dragged out onto the dance floor to catch the wedding bouquet? Awkward. I’m not going to fight bridesmaids who used to babysit my kids to catch a freakin’ wedding bouquet. No.
When I returned the self-described “broken down broad” whispered to me when I got back, “I tried to warn you.” I hadn’t heard her. Damn.
Well, I made it until it was an acceptable time to leave. I walked out with another couple. Liz gave me a centerpiece to take home. Beautiful flowers, but hard to carry home — ALONE. Damn thing fell over as I drove, I had no one to hold it for me or drive while I held it. Another pang of loneliness hit me. It was pretty. I like flowers, but I didn’t need a souvenir from a wedding. You might recall that my kids brought me back leftover flowers from my ex-husband’s wedding. See I Was The Nanny When My Ex-Husband Got Married.
Bottom line is: I love this family. That’s why I went. But in going I had taken a trip back to a prior life and felt that I didn’t belong there. It reminded me of how much my world has changed, and moreover, it reminded me that no matter how single — free — I am now, there is no complete “do-over” for me. It was appropriate for me to be seated with those couples. They are my friends. But it did cause me to be fearful that it was a snapshot of what I can expect from now on . . . feeling like a kid at the grown-up table . . . but too old to be at the kids’ table. The night was also a painful reminder of how bad the bad times had been for me and of how many people at this affair had witnessed them. I look forward to seeing these people individually, but the whole wedding thing was just too much for me. I’m a sensitive sort.
I left feeling happy for the bride, groom and the families. But I came home feeling pretty down. I had tried, but I could not have fun. Just couldn’t do it. Still, I’m glad I went to this particular wedding, the bride being the daughter of an angel and all, even though it took an emotional toll.
I know I have much to be thankful for; but I’ve been known to suffer from the melancholy anyway (another understatement).
Let me be clear, though. I do not miss being married to my Ex, or being married at all. I did not wish he was there and did not wish I’d had a date or boyfriend. In fact, I can’t imagine ever getting married again, let alone being someone’s girlfriend. My sadness stems from all the crap I’ve gone through (and the fact that so many of the people at that wedding knew about my crap, and have seen me at my worst), and it all leaves me wondering,
“Where do I fit in? ”
You see, I didn’t envy the couples I was seated with. Well, maybe I envy their prior youthful shenanigans that I missed out on, but I feared their present state of being settled and okay with being “the old guys” or a “broken down broad.” That’s not me. Yet I didn’t belong out there catching the bouquet either. Truth is, I didn’t belong at any table. I should have been a fly on the wall.
I haven’t felt right since, to tell the truth. It was a hard, beautiful night. And the next night, well . . . there was a hurricane.
Just Me With . . . some leftover wedding flowers . . . again — But NOT the bouquet!
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.
My best friend, my saviour, in many ways. She’s my girl. I really only see her a few times a year though we live close by. But she has my back. We’ve known each other since we were kids. We went to proms together, we were in each other’s weddings. She’s still married, happily. Her husband is a good guy, a physician, so is she. As an OB/GYN, she assists women bringing babies into the world every day. Sadly, she could never get pregnant. Over the years she’s regretted putting her career first and wondered whether if she’d started trying sooner maybe something could have been done. She has felt intense guilt about causing her husband to miss out of being a dad (tests showed it was her, and not him, who caused the infertility). She’s watched her brother marry and have four kids (two by birth, two by adoption), she’s watched her husband’s sisters marry and have children with the assistance of infertility treatments. She’s watched me pop out kids two at a time. But despite medical intervention and years of trying, she never got pregnant, not even once. They decided not to adopt. After years of suffering horribly from fibroids, she finally had a hysterectomy. But damn if this woman isn’t a mother. I’m not talking about how she’s the cool aunt to her nieces and nephews. That’s true, but I’m talking about her being a mother — to me.
When my marriage fell apart,
this woman came to my house at 4am to pick me up off the floor,
this woman had me and my five kids over her house so we would not have to watch my husband move out and served us cookies and pizza while we cried,
this woman recruited her brother so they could both drive to pick me up and bring me and my car back home when I found myself on a hotel room floor, dangerously alone,
this woman never forgets to give me a gift — like a gift card to Victoria’s Secret or Home Depot — so that I can pamper myself when no one else will,
And, to this day, this woman has picked up the tab for the co-pays for my many therapy sessions, which have kept me out of the morgue.
And this woman, knew exactly what to say when my divorce became final.
This woman, who delivers babies all day long, but has no children of her own — is mothering me, someone who is few months older than her (yeah — I’ll give her that, it’s the least I can do — ha ha!).
So Happy Mother’s Day to my Best Friend, who, by the way, is gorgeous!
Just Me With . . . The Best Friend Ever!