I’ve written previously about an encounter with Marla, the deli clerk, who had asked me point-blank why I got divorced. “Why Did You Get Divorced? The Dreaded Question.
I saw Marla again over the weekend. I was alone, the store wasn’t busy, so we had time to talk.
Marla, an older woman, is petite in stature, slim in girth. She manages to look quite stylish in her grocery store uniform, which is a brightly colored tee-shirt, smock and visor. Her hair is curly, worn pulled back as required, but she always has wavy tendrils hanging down and framing her face, and she sports side bangs. I’ve never seen her without full make-up on her olive skin, including heavy eyeliner and blue eye shadow, and she wears big dangly or hoop earrings.
I felt differently about chatting with Marla this time, because this time she didn’t ask about the divorce. She asked about me.
She wondered what I do for myself, asking whether I’ve been getting out, having any fun, doing something other than taking care of all the children.
Again she launched into a series of compliments, saying that I’m so beautiful and have a great smile and I’m so nice, that I work so hard for all my kids. She commented on how difficult parenting is, queried whether my ex-husband gives me a break, noted that men don’t want independent women like us, etc. She said, not to worry, all things come around.
Then Marla said, pointedly — really, she actually pointed at me with a crooked finger,
“You’re gonna have it all. Mark my words. This Gypsy Lady says you’re gonna have it all!”
Whoa, she’s a Gypsy?
Now that’s a whole different take on things.
Just Me with some good fortune coming my way, because the Gypsy Lady told me so.
I live in a strange neighborhood. I engage in running narratives about my neighbors stemming from my over-active imagination and my lack of social life coupled with my tendency to snoop and their odd behavior.
Brian, let’s call him, is the man I sometimes refer to as Creepy Neighbor Number Two. For a long time I suspected that Creepy Neighbor One might be a serial killer, but I digress . . .
Brian is more odd than creepy. I found it suspect that he and his wife, let’s call her Nancy, had a baby that we rarely saw, nor did we see evidence of said baby. On the couple of times when I saw either Brian or Nancy with the baby, they didn’t seem to know what to do with him. On one very cold day they had the baby in the stroller at the grocery store. He had on a hat and jacket, but nothing on his feet. Nothing at all. I hoped they’d get him home soon. Then other times, for weeks at a time, the couple would hold weekly yard sales, selling antiques, and though both were home, the baby was not.
When I was in the midst of exterior renovations and landscaping, Brian used to walk behind my home at least once a day, say hello and sometimes chat. He was painfully thin, with short-cropped hair, had bad knees and sometimes walked with a cane. Brian was always friendly and gregarious. I admit I’d go in the house when I saw him out and about. He made me uncomfortable.
But then, he was gone.
After Brian dropped off the face of the earth, I’d seen his wife Nancy from time to time, but not the baby. One fine afternoon she was walking a seriously drunk and belligerent friend home. On another occasion my kids witnessed her having a heated argument with a guy on a bicycle in the alley behind my house. My kids thought it was a drug deal gone wrong. Clearly, they’ve inherited their mother’s tendency to fill in the blanks. The last time I saw Nancy was at a convenience store — she didn’t acknowledge me and was very jumpy and very, very thin.
Drugs, it had to be drugs. Plus, she had no baby with her.
Then in the Spring Brian reappeared in the neighborhood after having been gone for at least a year. His appearance had changed. At first I didn’t recognize him. His hair is much longer and he’s put on a few pounds. He seemed healthier, had no cane and often was on a bicycle.
Plus, he’d taken to going shirtless — most of the time. He is not cut. I mean, on a beach or in his yard this would have been fine, but every day walking or biking around the neighborhood? No.
On Friday evening Brian knocked on my door and invited me to his home for Saturday night. He wanted to cook me dinner.
“Hi Diane. How are you?”
“Good, It’s Roxanne.”
“Oh all this time I thought it was Diane.”
“Well, I have the house fixed up and I wondered if you wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night, I’ll cook for you.”
“Oh wow, tomorrow? I don’t think so, not tomorrow.” I was caught off guard.
Awkward silence, which I then felt compelled to fill, bad Roxanne, bad Roxanne.
“I’ve had a rough week,” and after another awkward pause, “and plus I have plans with friends that may or may not happen.”
“Oh, well, if you’d like to come another time, just let me know.”
“Okay, I’m glad you’ve got the house together.”
“Yes, well, it’s coming along.”
“Okay, well, see you later.”
Ouch, right? Why didn’t I say yes? Did I actually have plans?
Well, I had plans with old college friends I rarely see that were never confirmed so no, no real plans. It is true that I’d had a hellish week and didn’t want to have dinner with him — or anyone else.
But let me paint a picture. Three of my kids were standing or milling about behind me and heard the whole conversation. I was mortified. He saw that the kids were there and asked me out anyway. The invitation did not include the children. It was painfully awkward. Plus, the kids knew that I had been avoiding this guy and that while I don’t think he’s a bad or menacing guy, I do think he’s strange. If I’d said yes, they would know either that I was lying about not liking him all along, or that I agreed to have a date with him out of pity. Not good either way.
To be fair, I’ll admit that I knew the invitation would be forthcoming. He’d told me weeks earlier that once he got his house fixed up (his wife had trashed it) he would have me over for dinner and tell me all of the horrific things that have happened to him. In true overly polite and dating challenged Roxanne fashion, I’d said, “Sure,” thinking, hoping it would never happen.
Should it ever become a reality, I had decided that I would not accept his dinner invitation.
When Brian made a followup nonspecific dinner suggestion more recently I’d given him the classic girl response,
He had not been dissuaded, however, and he had showed up at my door.
This time, I just had to say, “No.”
Though I’m single and I need more purely social interaction with adults, I don’t have to date the guys that walk by my house, just because they ask.
Plus, he’d previously turned me off by saying stupid things, like;
“We should get together sometime. Wait, how old are you?”
Dude, no, seriously?
And repeating the same statements to me. “Did you know you can get free mulch?”
One week later: “Did you know you can get free mulch?”
Another week later: “Did you know you can get free mulch?”
And he’d stopped by to chat on one of his walks, reeking of liquor. He’d done the same with the workers at my house, reeking of liquor. Though this was before the disappearance.
More recently he knocked on the door and asked to borrow DVDs from my son, though we had never had a previous conversation about sharing movies.
Just the other day he waved at my house even though no one was outside.
He’s just not quite right.
Call me shallow, but these are red flags to me.
People can get down on their luck, I know I am. But my instincts told me to say no.
And let me add more color and texture to the picture I’ve painted. The last time I had a conversation with Brian he confirmed some of my suspicions, telling me that his estranged wife is indeed a drug addict– a coke-head actually, and she’s crazy, that his child is in foster care (hence no evidence of a baby), that he’d been in prison for the last year for trespassing on his own property. Ahhh this is why he’s been, as the lawyers at the firm used to say, “out-of-pocket.” But for trespassing? Really? Now, given my experience with my own War of The Roses situation, I know that absent physical abuse or a restraining order one cannot be arrested for being on a property that one owns jointly with a spouse. So it must have been something else, or there was indeed a restraining order against him, which opens another can of worms. Brian also told me he used to make a lot of money in computers but is now unemployed and that Nancy and her mother had scammed him out of everything he had, including his unemployment checks. He also offered that he had recently called the police to have his wife removed from the house when she showed up uninvited. This information did not make me want to pass a pleasant evening at his home.
What if his drug addict wife showed up again?
Yet, even given all that, Brian seems like an “okay” guy, and it sounds like he’s trying to get his life together. If he has an addiction of some sort, it’s always a good sign when a person puts on weight. Truthfully, I’d been worried about the baby and was relieved to hear that the child has been removed and is in a safe, temporary home. But I didn’t want to hear any more of his stories, not over dinner alone at his house.
Maybe he needs someone to talk to and is reaching out, but he has always made me uncomfortable. Plus, I just wasn’t in the mood. Thanks to some of my own problems, I probably wouldn’t have dated any of People’s Sexiest Men Alive last weekend. So the usually shirtless Ex-Con didn’t have much of a chance.
I wanted to be alone, truly.
Still, when I refused him, he looked so sad I and I felt guilty. I hadn’t meant to hurt him.
It’s okay to say, no, though. It is. I don’t have to date the guys who walk behind my house unless I really want to. This I know. This, I’ve learned. See Not Digging the Landscaper Guy – Part I, Landscaper Guy and the Female Chandler Bing, Part II, The Landscaper Guy and The Phone Smarter Than Me – Part III and The Snowman.
Just Me With . . . no date on a Saturday night. And that’s okay.
Damn, this is an unusually long post that I apparently needed to write to convince myself that it was okay to say a very short word, “No.”
I had Another Encounter With The Ex-Con which confirmed my decision. Even the dog knew something wasn’t right.
Recently a fellow tweeter had lamented about having been asked the question, “Why did you get divorced?” It truly annoyed her, being asked such a personal question. I came up with some snappy comebacks but admitted that I am rarely asked. I’m not sure why this is so, but I live in a small suburb and it was big gossip for a while, and I think most people my ex-husband and I know already have heard some version of why so there is no need to ask.
Just the other day, though, while I was getting some cold cuts at the grocery store that I stop by two or four or five times a week, the counter person, a woman maybe in her 60’s started chatting away. By the way, I hate guessing ages, so much depends on factors other than the number– hard living, for example, can make a person appear older, she very well could have been younger. I see this woman regularly, she knows my kids and she’s commented on the twin thing and always has a kind comment or pleasantry.
On this store visit, I only had one kid with me. In our house we call that — pretending to be an only child — but I digress . . . The Deli Lady, whom I’ll call Marla, saw us and immediately gave a loud and sweet hello, like we were old friends. Nice lady. Then she remarked that she saw my “hubby” with the kids a few days ago, that he must have been giving me a break. I may have shuddered a bit, feeling the ick.
This remark was icky and irksome to me for many reasons. First, he’s not my husband, no, he most definitely is not my husband. I have papers and forcibly spent $35,000 and counting in the process of making him not my husband. Second, the cutesy term of endearment “hubby” is antithetical to this man to whom I am decidedly not endeared and I no longer see as “cute.” Third, my “hubby’ wasn’t giving me a break, he was seeing his children pursuant to a court custody order and he was shopping at “my” store — most likely picking up food to take home to his new wife for her to prepare and serve to my kids. So, no, my hubby didn’t have the kids to give me a break. See Weekends Off.
Understanding that these are my issues and not hers, I was going to just let it slide, as I often do with people I don’t see often, but she continued to talk, asking where I was when he had the children. Considering that I see this woman a few times of week, that she knew me by name and was trying to learn the kids names, I might as well stop the happy marriage train.
“Well, he’s actually my Ex-Husband,” I offered.
“What? He’s your Ex? You’re Divorced? ” She said, shocked, truly shocked. Leaving me to wonder, had he allowed her to think we were still together?
At this moment, I wished I’d said nothing. The one kid I had with me was the one who had the most lingering hostile reaction to the divorce, and didn’t like to hear about it or talk about it. I sometimes refer to this kid as The Angry Child, i.e. She Wants To Break Me, but she’s been so much better these days. She really has. As luck would have it, as I turned to see if she was listening, she’d flitted off, probably to find her favorite snack to throw into the cart.
Good, I thought, I can get this conversation over with.
Marla, was shocked, still, by my revelation.
“Divorced? . . . . Why?”
And there is was. The question I am rarely asked. I thought of my Twitter friend, and wished I could channel her support in my head. But, I was In Real Life (IRL if you only have 140 Twitter characters) and I didn’t even have my phone out. Plus, Marla was waiting for an answer. She wasn’t even slicing my meat. She was waiting.
I think I kind of stammered and shrugged my shoulders, rolled my eyes, and said, “Well, you know.” I understand that this is not a definitive answer. But I thought my body language and facial expression would have been enough to change the subject.
But Marla apparently needed a real answer, in real life, right then and there.
She asked again.
“Why did you get divorced?”
Now all the snappy comebacks I’d joked about had left the building like Elvis. I had nothing. Actually, my snappy comebacks were mostly to put the other person on the defensive. I figured it they can ask me something personal I should come back with something just as personal, like,
“Well it’s a long painful story. How much did you make last year? And are you having regular sex?”
But I didn’t want to be rude to Marla. And I couldn’t even come up with, “I don’t want to talk about it.” It was a deer in headlights situation, for sure.
Marla is good people. I like the banter I have with her and many of the people I see in stores while carrying out mundane tasks. Marla is funny, friendly and compliments my kids. This makes her royalty in my book. I didn’t want to insult her or put her on the defensive. And, unlike my snobby ex- neighbor, see Holiday Party post, she wasn’t judging me because I am divorced. Marla was genuinely surprised, really surprised.
So, I finally answered, leaning close to the counter, “Well, he was a bit of a player.”
This isn’t exactly true. There weren’t a lot of other women, to my knowledge, but you know, there were more than there are supposed to be, you know . . . when you’re MARRIED! Still, I figured this shorthand answer would do the trick and end the topic of conversation before my kid got back.
But it didn’t.
It actually opened an opportunity for her to share her own personal life which included two husbands and four children and the proclamation that she will never marry again, which, had we been in a coffee shop or at a bar would have been good girl talk. But we were on opposite sides of a deli counter in a grocery store in my hometown, and where, apparently, my Ex-Husband still shops — while on his visits with the children.
I added with another shrug while I perused the meats that, “Yeah, well, he’s remarried now, so . . .” I don’t know why, but I thought that information would help end the conversation.
But it didn’t.
Marla shared more about her life. I found out about her ex-husband’s new ex-wives, and how one of them told her what he’d said about her, and how his other children are no good, etc. Then, the conversation turned back to me, as I hoped it wouldn’t, but feared it would.
“Divorced? Really? And you’re so pretty . . . and smart . . .” Now, I’m not trying to blow my own horn here or provide self-gratuitous comments, but Marla went on to compliment me very highly, noting that I am slim (not the healthiest comment for me to hear, see Confessions of a Skinny Mom and Angela Jolie posts) and she thinks I’m brilliant, which, considering our only interaction is at the meat counter — I find to be very astute — heh heh heh. I took her compliments in kind, though a little embarrassed, being at the deli counter and all. But, hell, it’s nice to be appreciated.
While finally cutting my meat, Marla added, “Leaving a girl like you. . . . I don’t understand it.” And she just shook her head. “I just don’t get that. You are something. I think you’re great.” And she smiled, looked me up and down, and shook her head again.
Now this tugs at my insecurities.
In my tortured mind Marla is thinking, “There must be something wrong with her that I can’t see.”
My damaged self asks: Is Marla trying to figure out what dark secret or hidden insufficiency I must have which caused my husband and father of my beautiful children to leave me? Is that what everybody thinks — that there must be something wrong with me that they can’t see?
I wanted to scream, “I’M GOOD IN BED — HONEST!!!” But that didn’t seem appropriate.
So there it is, my problem. And it truly is my problem. Not Marla’s and not my Ex-Husband’s —- and I’m working on it. I need to slow down and control those ill-informed, overly chatty people — not the ones in the grocery store — the ones in my head.
It’s simple, really. I don’t like being asked why I divorced because it’s personal and I don’t like to talk about it unless I bring it up. But more than that, I don’t like being asked because of all the time I spent crying on the kitchen floor Amy Winehouse style wondering why I wasn’t enough for him.
Truth is., he was done. It really doesn’t matter why now, and it shouldn’t matter to my lunch meat friend. After a excruciatingly painful period in my life, I’m done analyzing why and I’m done, too. Unless I have brought it up and I am in a place mentally and physically where it is appropriate to talk about it, my final answer actually is, “Well, you know, whatever.”
(In my head I’ll say it’s because he’s an asshole. I’m not a saint.)
My daughter eventually flitted back with her cheese sticks and Marla had the good sense to change the topic, asking my daughter if she helps me out at home, which, I pointed out, she does not do nearly enough, prompting a devilish smile from my girl. A smile, not a denial, mind you. That kid is lucky she’s cute . . . but I digress.
Just Me With . . . American Cheese, ham off the bone, Southern fried chicken breast and some discomfort and insecurity . . . sliced thin.
Special thanks to @CRobbieLV for inspiring this and sharing her experiences with — The Dreaded “Why?”
Postscript: See Good Fortune and the Dreaded Question, Part II
I just finished a road trip with my five children. I know no one asked, but I thought I’d share what we listened to and watched on the ten hour drive home.
Piano Concerto No. 2
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Piano Concertos 1 & 3
3. “The Foundation” by The Zac Brown Band
Because you know I like my chicken fried . . .
4. Soundtrack to West Side Story
Can’t believe I almost forgot this one!
5. The Radio — remember that?
“Momma said, ma ma ma momma said . . . ”
7. Les Choristes — A beautiful French language Film about a music teacher for troubled boys in 1940’s France.
8. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo — Comedic Japanese (manga) Anime.
(I don’t really understand Bobobo, but there was lots of discussion about nose hair.)
For the most part, each of the choices were approved and enjoyed by all of the tween and teen kids
. . . and myself.
Just Me With . . . an interesting collection . . . of children.
I was living in the suburbs and working in the city. Consequently, I lived and died by the train schedule. Each day I drove to the train station, parked, and caught a train to another world. The trains ran rather regularly and had express routes during “rush” hours, but after the commuter trains stopped there was often an hour wait between the trains which made — every — stop. If I missed the last express train, I would be very, very late for work.
On this particular day, I had trouble finding a parking space.
“Damn,” I thought, as I drove around the lot. “I cannot miss this train. I can’t.”
I was working at a law firm where they proudly told new associates the story of how the founding partner died at his desk. This was something to aspire to, according to them — so long as our time sheets were in order (Ha ha — and by that I mean, not funny at all . . . but I digress . . . ).
Needless to say, strolling in late was, well, frowned upon.
Finally, I found a semi-legal parking space and ran down to the tracks just as my train pulled in. But I was “running” in dress clothes and carrying a briefcase. It wasn’t pretty — or effective, especially since the train pulls in on the opposite side of the parking lot and I had to run down the stairs, cross under the tracks, and run back up the stairs to actually board my train.
I didn’t make it.
As I climbed the steps on the other side I witnessed my train pulling away.
The next train, which was not an express and therefore would take the full 43 minutes to get to the city, would not come for another 50 minutes.
Sure, I could drive into town and pay an arm and a leg and my first-born to park, but I would still be late for work. I cursed myself and the world — Damn, damn, damn. I hoped the partners wouldn’t see me coming in late. I should have left earlier. I had no one to blame but myself.
I wished with all my heart that I’d made that train. I ached to have caught that train. But all I was left to do was just stand there — all alone — watching my train pull away. I was left there like the last dog at a shelter.
I think I even whispered out loud, “Come baaaack” before I hung my head in defeat.
(I hope you can feel the tragedy of it all. I was having a very bad day.)
But then, I looked up again.
The train . . .
The train . . . was . . . coming . . . back!
I thought I’d lost my mind. I did the cartoon character rubbing my eyes with my fists thing. I looked around to see if anyone else could see this, because it was surreal. But I was alone. Everyone else had actually caught the train — which was slowly, but deliberately, coming back.
Had I willed this to happen? (Was it like in that first Harry Potter when Harry makes the glass around the snake cage vanish, yet is totally oblivious of his powers?)
Was I being Punked? (Where were the cameras? Ashton?)
Things like this just don’t happen. Not in real life. Not in Suburbia. Not to me.
But sure enough, the train pulled back into the station.
Tentatively, I stepped up to the now open door.
“Can I get on?” I asked the conductor, sheepishly.
“Yeah,” he answered. I must have looked spooked because he volunteered that there was some sort of switching problem.
But you couldn’t tell me that I hadn’t brought that train back out of the sheer force of my will — or it was divine intervention — because almost as soon as I embarked, the train started again, and took me into the city, express style.
I smiled the entire trip.
It was a commuting miracle. A miracle, I say.
So, when I’m feeling a little blue, sometimes I think of the miracles in my life. And it’s not always the obvious or the big stuff — like births and graduations and crap. Sometimes, I think about the day the train came back . . . just for me.
Just Me With . . . a commuting miracle.
I bought a new vacuum cleaner over the weekend. The heavy-duty big fancy one I’d had at “The Marital Home” never worked as well as I’d liked and it was a mess to empty. I tried to sell it at a garage sale and ended up just giving it away. In my down-sizing frenzy for my small home, I bought a little stick , cordless, bag-less number that only worked a short while before dying in a corner, unloved, unused.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been sweeping my area rugs.
But I broke down and went to the store to get a vacuum cleaner this weekend because that’s how I roll. Don’t be jealous, it was one of my more exciting outings lately, but I digress . . .
Once I arrived at the store I felt visually assaulted by the displays of the bright yellow Dyson vacuums. You know, the state of the art industrially designed models that cost between $300 and $700. They are different from other vacuum cleaners because they have that fancy ball thingy — and maybe something new with the motor? I don’t know, but I bet they work like a dream. They should for that amount of money.
I will never buy a Dyson, however. And it’s not because of the price (though I could/would not pay that much for a vacuum cleaner at this point in my life).
No, it’s because of the commercial, the first commercial that introduced the product and that has always just pissed me off. I’m not going to link it here because it still irks me. If you know what I’m talking about you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The commercial features James Dyson himself with his gorgeous English accent, which to us Americans automatically makes him smart. Well, according to the advertisement, Sir Dyson’s wife had asked him to vacuum. Dutifully, he took out their vacuum cleaner —- but he didn’t vacuum. No, he examined the device and decided that it had serious design flaws. So instead of vacuuming, he took their vacuum cleaner apart, analyzed it and eventually designed a prototype for a new vacuum cleaner to which he gave his name — the Dyson.
The rest is history.
Now, the wife’s perspective. Though I’m sure she’s reaping the benefits of the Dyson vacuum cleaner’s wild success, I think that on that day, in that moment, she just wanted her husband to vacuum the freaking rug. That’s all. Just vacuum. No analysis necessary. No deconstruction, no prototypes. Just vacuum the freaking floor!!!!!
Imagine her surprise when she walked into the room and instead of finding a clean floor she found her husband — on the floor — surrounded by vacuum cleaner parts, dust and debris. Anyone who has ever tried to take apart a vacuum cleaner knows that it makes a bloody mess. (Note the English vernacular? Yes?)
All that woman wanted was for her husband to vacuum the carpet. It’s a simple request. But instead, he likely retired to the garage to begin to build his prototype for the best freaking vacuum cleaner ever invented, because what men and women — and his wife — had been using for ages was woefully insufficient, malformed, mis-designed, inconvenient and just not up to par.
But for all of his superior, nay, grand design plans which revolutionized carpet maintenance as we know it, Dyson did not vacuum the freaking floor when his wife asked him to!!! Instead, he picked that moment to take their vacuum cleaner apart.
And we’re supposed to buy his Rolls Royce of vacuum cleaners?
What a pile of bollocks!
I say to Sir Dyson, I know you are brilliant, but:
Just freaking vacuum the floor. Then, after you are done, design your fancy, superior, super-expensive, ball-having, yellow vacuum cleaner.
That’s all Dame Dyson wanted. I don’t think she was asking for too much.
Just Me With . . . a Dirt Devil.
Of course Mrs. Dyson can probably afford a golden vacuum cleaner and a maid and butler to do all of her floors, but it’s the principle of the thing for me.
Yeah, I know, Father’s Day is over. But here’s a story about my Daddy.
When I was little my dad was a teacher, but at a residential school for delinquent youth. This meant that in addition to his classes he had to work night shifts at the school. When I was in kindergarten he worked from 1 to 9 pm. My mom was teaching during the day while my older sisters were in school. So it was Just Me With . . . my Daddy in the mornings before I went to afternoon kindergarten and he went to work.
One day my dad was fixing my lunch, which meant he was heating up a can of soup. He’d put the soup on the stove and went outside. My dad is not the kind of guy who sits still for very long. I think he was working in the yard or something.
But he forgot about the soup.
My five-year-old self saw the soup boiling over and ran outside,
Of course he didn’t come right away. But I persisted and screamed,
“Daddy, Daddy, come QUICK!”
I’d made him listen to me. He ran inside, turned the burner off and the crisis was averted. The house did not burn down. All was right with the world. I had saved the day.
He was so proud of me for making him listen. He was so pleased in fact that he took me out to the toy store and let me pick out a Teddy Bear.
Now, we were not a wealthy family. We got presents for Christmas and birthdays, I’m guessing picked out by my mom, and our parents provided us with what we needed, but “just because” presents were few and far between. Plus . . . I’m just going to say it, my Dad is, well, . . . frugal (the voices in my head are screaming CHEAP!!!!!). My Dad buying a gift for me when it was not a national holiday was a big deal. Even at five I knew that.
Most importantly, my Daddy made me feel like I saved the day. He was impressed with his baby girl and let everyone know it. It might not sound like much, but it must have meant a lot to him. He has retold this story countless times over the years. And to hear my Dad tell this story, mimicking my little girl voice — “Daddy, Daddy, Come Quick!!!” — is just the sweetest thing ever! Notably, he usually leaves out the part about buying me a Teddy Bear.
I had made him listen, and he made me feel important — and a little bit like a superhero.
That Teddy Bear was one of my most precious toys, she stayed with me for years to come. I credit my Dad with instilling in me the feeling that I matter in this world and that I can make a difference. It’s the little things.
And bonus, my older (evil) sisters were sooooo jealous that I got a present. Heh heh heh
Just Me With . . . a Dad who made me feel like I have the ability to save the world! [insert Superhero music]
I think I’m done. I’m done agreeing with the generalized small talk and factually inaccurate praise of the mere suggestion of the presence of my Ex-husband in our children’s lives — like he’s some kind of magic man.
People who know, know better.
An ex-neighbor dropped by yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in over a year. We don’t have much in common and she does not read people well. She’s had four husbands, yet when my husband up left me and the children and I was visibly devastated, dehydrated and malnourished, she went on and on about how we should stay together and that maybe there’s hope.
“I wish I’d tried harder. Don’t give up. Maybe he’ll come back. I hope you can work it out.”
That’s what she said to me. She said this to me, though she knew that my husband had, suddenly, cruelly, left me. Now that I’m thinking back, it is quite possible that this woman is a nut job.
She was one of the people I avoided back then. Some people say the wrong things. They can’t help it, they won’t change.
Yesterday, she dropped by unannounced to invite me to her mother’s memorial service. She arrived just as the kids were preparing to go on a dinner visit with their dad. Like before, she went on and on about how that’s so good that he sees them, that –the alternative in her mind — total abandonment — is so bad, and told me a story about how her daughter-in-law’s absentee father showed up on her wedding day and practically ruined it. So she reasoned that my situation is so much better. blah blah blah
I don’t recall asking her opinion at all.
I did not enjoy our one-sided conversation. There are always stories of the most horrendous parents, male and female, but if you set the bar at those folks, hey, everybody looks good. I have one good father and know many more. The fatherhood bar is high in my world, or actually, it’s where it needs to be, but I digress . . . Not only did this woman irk me, but she went on and on while there was a child within earshot. I wonder how it makes kids feel to hear an adult praise their father for merely seeing them? Completely clueless, the ex-neighbor didn’t notice when I tried to change the subject by talking about the children themselves, their accomplishments. I was being polite. Perhaps too polite.
“Bitch, you don’t know my life.” Is what I wanted to say.
I’m sorry folks, I don’t usually talk like that, but sometimes people piss me off.
In fact, I’m a polite sort –to a fault, really, I can make small talk and seem to agree to the most ridiculous statements for the sake of decent society. But sometimes, it seems, this gives a pass and an exaggerated sense of importance to people who don’t deserve it, as well as an acceptance of past, current and likely future bad behavior. And sometimes, it just makes me mad.
As we sat in my tiny living room, on a house on a busy street, in the neighborhood of “The Help” that I had to work my butt off to get the Hoarders smell out of , it seems that no matter what transpired and how well the children have adapted to and excelled in a difficult situation, the most important thing for her to discuss was the seemingly magical appearance of their father.
I call bullsh*t.
So now, instead of nodding politely, I’m going to try to opt out of the small talk that makes me blinding mad. I think it’s better that way, don’t you?
And before I get the “What about the kids?” speech, I’m talking about conversations between grown folks. Children are not invited.
From now on every time some random acquaintance inquires about the time my kids spend with their dad and says,
“Oh that’s good, he still sees them.“
My new response will be,
“Yeah, I hear there’s gonna be a parade.“
And then I will launch on full-out campaign, an attack, if you will, describing the awesomeness of my children in excruciating detail. And I will note that my elderly parents, even at their advanced age, rarely miss a concert and get to many sporting events each season — because they enjoy it and they are so proud . . . and the kids are . . . wait for it . . . AWESOME!
And then I will turn and leave, because, you know, I’ve got things to do. I will not talk about or allow discussion of the perceived importance of the (magical) father’s (mythical) encouragement of said real accomplishments by these awesome kids. His is not my banner to wave, or shoot at. As I said, I’ve got other things to do.
My point is this: It is presumptuous to make sweeping statements about the perceived importance of an absent party, without any knowledge of or inquiries into the actual situation, and expect me, the one clearly in the trenches, to agree.
And frankly, it’s rude.
Just Me With . . . good manners.
The general public’s persistent blanket praise of fathers who may neither be good men nor good fathers is a disservice to men who are both. It’s a disservice to the mothers who are doing the best they can with or without (or in spite of) the existence of “the father.” It’s a disservice to the brothers, cousins, friends, sisters, uncles, aunts, neighbors, teachers, grandparents and whole loads of people who provide support and encouragement and love even though they have no parental ties nor court ordered obligation to do so. It’s a disservice to the kids, the children who should expect parents to do for them, without kudos.
So I’m opting out.
I have other things to do.
For other misinformed comments, see: Weekends Off .
For other misplaced praise, see: The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations
I danced around it on my Angela Jolie Post, my Adultery Diet Post and I described some of the effects of it with We Thought You Were Dead, Mommyand the Twilight Zone posts never really say it. Even here and now within the constraints of a blog post I’m not going into great detail, not in one post anyway. Plus, posts are supposed to be short, right? I can only write so much here. (Thank goodness.)
There have probably been seeds of it implanted in me from my childhood, and in young adult life when I did a miniscule about of modeling. Years later I lost a lot of weight after my children were born, initially as a result of breastfeeding multiples and later from sheer exhaustion. See Fertile Myrtle.
But somewhere in my mind I have had this fear of “getting fat.”
Then there was the negative reinforcement of the world, it seems, when people said,
“You don’t look like you have five kids . . . “
It is meant as a compliment. But it probably got my psyche thinking, “What if I didn’t look like this?”
So, after the children, I kept busy (as if I had a choice with all those kids), watched how much I ate, and stayed slim. And I’d pretty much given my body to my husband, “Sex On Demand“.
Maybe I was still feeling vulnerable from my his stupid brief affair with a much younger woman.
“Maybe,” I thought, “I can’t get younger, but I can make sure I don’t get fat.” I don’t know.
Maybe I felt out of control because I suddenly had so many children and was completely overwhelmed yet somehow needed to make it look effortless. The Superwoman Syndrome.
So I stayed slim, but not yet dangerously so. I got some new clothes, highlights in my hair and was trying to give myself a home makeover — the new me — still fabulous after five kids, who were finally out of the diaper, toddler, and preschool grind. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we’d be able to leave the house soon?
But then . . . my husband left me
. . . and I pretty much stopped eating.
Ironically his love interest at that time was younger and significantly heavier than me. My being thin and sexually available was ultimately unsuccessful. Maybe I just should have become an incredible cook . . . but I digress . . .
At first I was too devastated to eat, and that, simply, continued.
I never used laxatives, or induced vomiting. (I absolutely hate throwing up). I just stopped eating, or really ate just enough to keep from falling over. I had a lot of other “behaviors” — they call them. Whatever, I don’t want to think about it now. Though it never got as bad as those horrifying pictures one sees on the internet, I admit it makes me uncomfortable to look at pictures of myself during my worst times . . . and I have destroyed most of them.
I was a bit like Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, except not nearly as glamorous.
I was in the throes of a deep, deep depression. But I had children, so I continued doing what I had to do for the most part, except . . . I failed to nourish myself. Or, I nourished myself just enough to continue to take care of the children, short-term.
Was it a cry for help or a form of suicide when suicide was not an option?
Funny thing happens when you don’t eat much or often,when you do eat you are rewarded with pain and nausea. Hardly incentive for a person who was crying all day long anyway. So I ate just enough to function, but my resistance was down, physical strength drained and when I started having dizziness and heart palpitations and losing my hair and a couple of hospitalizations and a blood transfusion later? Well, perhaps there was a problem. (Ya think?) Not to mention my historically unhealthy relationship with my estranged husband, see My High School Self, and the crap I was dealing with when he left. It was a rough time.
Call me Forrest Gump, but that’s all I have to say about that — now, anyway.
They say I suffer(ed) from Anorexia.
I actually don’t feel like talking about this stuff. I mean, I’m hardly the face of —- gulp — an eating disorder. I’m an adult woman of color who has been diagnosed with a disease whose poster child is the face of a 14-year-old white girl. The stereotype for me is either the big mama in the kitchen or the strong, sassy and proud single mother. Well, I was/am neither. Food and cooking holds no interest for me and I did not choose, nor do I wave the banner of my suddenly single mother situation, it’s just something I have to deal with.
No matter, “Anorexia” is in my medical charts, I have been referred to and evaluated by a facility for eating disorders where they determined that because of my family obligations, I should be treated privately. Whatever. I don’t feel like discussing it right now. Wait, did I already say that? It’s too much for a blog post, anyway, right? (Thank goodness).
Long, painful, story short, I’m so much better now. Therapy, medications for depression and medications for my chronic stomach ailments caused by my poor eating habits have helped tremendously. Though I’m off the daily anti-depressants now, see Getting Off The Meds, I’ve found that changing my lifestyle and removing triggers — as much as I can — have helped tremendously also.
So I eat now, not always well and not with enjoyment, but regularly. I’m at a good weight, or so I’m told — I never, ever look. People tell me I look great. (People in the know are careful not to exclaim that I’ve gained or lost weight.) To look at me now, no one would know of my “issues.” Still, when I am down or stressed, I don’t eat. And sometimes, I just forget. It’s probably something I have to watch for a long time, maybe forever. But whatever. I am much healthier than I was, which is the most important.
Just Me With . . . well, they say it was anorexia. They say.
P.S. This may be the first post I delete.
Other health related posts:
Before I get beat up in the comments because I’m a mom and have to take care of myself for my kids, etc. , know that this just skims the surface (I mean people write whole books on this stuff), that I love my children and have worked my behind off for them, have tried to protect them and have provided a good home (a good part of which I built myself), that even mothers can go through a bad time, having children does not make one immune. I’ve learned that I have to feel good about me. Period. The rest will/has to come from that.