The sign is about to go up. The sign for the this year’s high school musical. This is significant to me, because, as I’ve written before — I remember things, so many things. It’s a gift — and a curse.
The local high school here has a very well-respected music and theater department. Going to see a play at the high school isn’t something that only a parent of a performer would put oneself through. It isn’t a painful two hours required by some familial connection to some pimply faced kid. No, it’s kind of like going to a “real” show. It is actually enjoyable, yet since it is still just a school production, the tickets are cheap. When my kids were little, I would take them to these shows and to other local high schools if they had a decent theater department. It’s a night out, and a way to introduce live theater to children without having to take out a second mortgage.
My kids’ high school usually alternates between a classic musical or one of the lesser known newer ones and they “recycle” ones they’ve done before when enough time has passed.
This brings me to the personal significance of the sign going up. Apparently, enough time has passed that the school has decided to repeat its production of the musical they did when my marriage ended. Let’s say it was The King and I — it wasn’t — but that’s the one I’m going with for purposes of this post.
Over the years I’ve only danced around the actual happenings surrounding my husband’s departure, dealing more with the fallout after he left than the painful process of his leaving. I tell myself I’m saving it for my memoir, but really — I’m extremely uncomfortable talking about it — still. For me, I guess, not enough time has passed for a revival.
Sometimes, though, you just have to raise the curtain — a little.
So here it is. It was about three weeks after he’d told me, “I have to go.” Those three weeks consisted largely of me begging him not to leave me, until one Friday night I finally said to him — “I guess I can’t force you to stay.”
That’s all he needed to hear.
By the next day, Saturday, he had booked a hotel room, and planned to sleep there that night. (Say what now?) That joker wasted no time. The plan was to tell the children on Sunday (aka the worst day of my life). After, he would officially move out.
So Saturday night? Separation Eve?
We went to see a play.
Our family was too big to get seats in one row. Musicals are a hot ticket in town. So I sat behind my husband, we each were flanked with kids. I remember thinking it was a mistake to sit behind him, because I’d have to see him, the back of his head, if I looked up at the play. And I didn’t want to cry. I remember trying very hard not to cry during the show, though there was comfort when the lights went down that my tears wouldn’t be noticed. Too bad it wasn’t really The King and I, I always cry at the end of The King and I. No matter, I had tissues to cover any escaping signs of my emotional turmoil. I always carried tissues with me from that time on. Trying not to cry or be seen crying in public became almost my vocation in the next year.
I remember during the play reaching out in front of me and caressing my husband’s shoulder. I just needed to touch him. I needed him to know I was there. Still. There. Hurting. I remember him acknowledging my touch without looking at me, as if he were saying, “Oh bless her heart.” I remember the awkward Intermission, when small talk with my soon to be ex-everything seemed so wrong and eye contact deemed so dangerous, as it might trigger the tears. I talked with someone I knew in the pit orchestra instead, I recall.
And I remember the play, “The King and I.” I remember thinking this would really be good, except for, you know, my life falling apart.
I was in a fog, a fog of shock, denial and accommodation. I’ve since had some clarity on the subject. And I don’t love him anymore. Haven’t for years. Still, I remember things.
The kids were oblivious. They enjoyed the play, having no idea that their world was going to be completely turned upside down — in a matter of hours.
When the show was over, we all went home and put the kids to bed.
Then my husband left our home to stay at a hotel. I knew that when he returned the next day it would be so that we could tell the kids he’d be moving out and he would, indeed, move out.
But that was then . . .
And enough time has passed (apparently) that it’s okay for the high school to put on the same musical. My kids aren’t little anymore. One is in college. The rest now go to this same high school, which means that I will see that sign every day, multiple times a day, until the show is over.
I used to hope that my kids would get involved in theater at the high school. None did. But, I think, this might be a blessing.
Because I don’t have to go to this show. Because if I did go to this particular production, I couldn’t help but relive that night, the beginning of the hardest days of my life and the long journey since.
If I had a kid performing in the 2015 production of The King and I ?
I don’t think I would handle that well. I remember things. It’s a gift and — oh hell — it’s a curse.
So, the sign will go up soon. Enough time has passed for a revival.
But no one asked me.
It will take all the restraint I have left in my being not to run the damn sign over.
Just Me With . . . a night at the theater. Too bad it isn’t Chicago, about famous murderesses . . . and their men — who had it comin.’
And I’m glad it wasn’t really The King and I, because that is a beautiful show and I would hate for it to be ruined.
Postscript: The damn sign is up now.
My Daddy Moved Out — What one kid said about it at school.
Happy Birthday to My Ex-Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend — Because I remember everything.
Worst Super Bowl, Remembered — Again, because I remember everything
My Cheating Husband was Packing Viagra — I helped him pack.
Six Days of Separation — I was a mess the next week.
I Don’t Love Him — self-explanatory.
When I Needed A Helping Hand — To move his stuff.
I’ve been invited to a dinner party. A fancy sit down dinner party with a cocktail hour preceding it. It’s a happy occasion, celebrating the wife’s successful battle against cancer. I still remember her tearful message on my voice-mail, canceling her son’s lesson because she had found out she had cancer, “I just want to see my boys grow up,” she’d said.
But after multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she’s been cancer-free for ten years, hence the party. I’m not usually invited anywhere, let alone a society-like dinner party. And even though I often avoid social settings, I decided that I would go.
The pink invitation was addressed to me, “and Guest.”
I immediately started to think of who I might bring, though no good choices came to mind. It was a bit of a stressor, still, I fantasized about what it would be like to bring a smart, well-spoken man who knows his way around a dining room table. My old college friend (with seldom used benefits)? No, too complicated. As I was pondering my situation, I eventually checked my voice-mail. Cheryl had called to make sure I’d gotten the invitation. She was afraid I’d gone away on vacation and would miss it. She added that she didn’t know whether I was seeing someone or had someone I take to events like this but she wanted me to know that she’d be happy to see me come alone. She said I should feel totally comfortable coming alone and that would be just great. They’d just be thrilled to see me, and I could come alone.
That was nice.
She wanted to make me feel comfortable about COMING ALOOOOONE.
I delayed in responding. I’d recently attended her son’s graduation party alone and though it was nice, I was a bit uncomfortable and felt very conspicuous. See I Almost Crossed One Off of My Bucket List of Men to Do.
As I continued pondering, a possible potential date came to mind — a man I’d met through group therapy. He’d recently quit group so it was completely appropriate (if freaking weird) to see him outside of the therapeutic context. I was going over in my mind how I’d introduce him. “We used to work together,” sounded plausible. (Yes, we worked out our tortured psyches, but no one need know that part.) It would be weird, maybe too weird, since he knows much more about me than a casual friendly date would need to know. But he’s a smart guy who, I have no doubt, would be able to talk to the people at this dinner. I tweeted a random query about it to my friends who live in my phone about whether that would just be too weird. I received a response that I should just go alone because being single is awesome.
There it was again, “Go alone.”
Suddenly I felt that it was some sign of weakness that I even considered bringing a companion.
In the end, I left a message for Cheryl saying that yes, I would love to attend, but that, “As it looks now, I’ll be coming alone.” I guess I just wanted to leave the door open, even just in my mind.
Shortly after, I happened to be outside when Cheryl drove by my house (in her very nice Jaguar convertible). She stopped and exclaimed how thrilled she and her husband were that I would be coming. Then she elaborated. She said she thinks it’s just great for me to come alone, that she was single for a long time and she became so tired of bringing someone she’d have to entertain. She started going places alone, she explained. “I can’t tell you how many weddings I went to alone. I’m just like you. It’s better not to bring just anybody. If it was somebody special, sure, but there’s no need to have to entertain somebody else. Plus, there will be plenty of people you know. Some of the folks from the graduation and The Martin’s and . . .” She proceeded to name couples.
The one couple I did, in fact, know, but I’ve ever had any meaningful conversations with them. At the graduation party they extended a warm hello and then walked around the pool hand in hand. I can’t fault them for that, I mean, it’s not their job to entertain me.
Then Cheryl said — again, “I’m just thrilled you’re coming and I think it’s great that you’re coming alone.”
I know she meant well. I do not fault her at all. But it had an effect on me. I abandoned any thought of bringing an escort.
But why wasn’t I encouraged to bring a date? This is a dinner party! It’s not a wedding, Baptism or Bar/Bat-Mitvah. For family religious ceremonies it doesn’t really make sense to bring a rent-a-date. Those occasions are sacred and there will be pictures that the family will look at forever — and I don’t want them looking at a picture of my random date and think — “Who the hell was that?”
But a dinner party? Why not bring a companion, even if he’s not someone special?
I know why. It’s the new black. It’s the new black for women to go alone.
Well, it’s not so new for me. I’ve done it for years, both before and after my divorce. See, ” The Night I Became Cinderella” and “The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman, Going Out Alone.” My ex-husband hated going anywhere. I could get him to go to my work formal once a year and that was about it for those kind of events. Other times I went solo and told people my husband had to work. After we had children, I would just say my husband was home with the kids. So for me, I’ve done the new black. For me, it would be the new free to go somewhere with a man.
I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll talk to people. I’ll be my own designated driver and won’t drink. See, “My Kids Think I’m an Alcoholic.” I’ll be prepared to be seated with all couples. But truthfully, sometimes that’s just not festive. See, “I Went To A Wedding Alone.” Yes, as Cheryl pointed out, I would have had to entertain a date, but he’d also have to entertain me. If the couples are uncomfortable or just not gregarious I’d know I’d have someone to sit with. Let’s face it, this isn’t a get together with old college chums or a girls night out. It’s a sit down dinner party in the wealthy suburbs, and all that that implies.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but being single means I can have a date if I want, right? Isn’t that the bonus of being single? Choices? Options? — Even if the options put me outside of my comfort zone? But according to Cheryl, my only logical and fiercely independent option seems to be to go, bravely, alone, yet again.
Damn it. I’ve been out of the game for so long now I’m not even allowed to have a partner — for anything!
In the end, even though the invitation originally said I could bring a date, the multiple congratulatory comments persuaded me to RSVP for one. ( I chickened out.)
I needed Cheryl to say, or for me to say to myself, “You can go alone, but it’s fine if you want to bring a date, or companion, or whoever.” Oh the sweet freedom — to bring a male friend, or gay male friend, or hell, a paid male friend (not that I could afford that — heh heh heh).
But because of the new black, it has been made abundantly clear to me (in my warped mind) that I should go alone. So I will.
Screw the new black. Next time I want someone to walk in and out with, and know who I’ll be sitting with ahead of time. Yeah, yeah, I can go alone, but I don’t have to, damn it.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Or maybe Cheryl is planning to fix me up with one of the older men of means who is similarly unattached.
Just Me With . . . no date, boldly going where no man has gone before . . . or with . . . at least, not as my date, anyway.
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”
Although my husband and I were regularly engaging in “the physical act of love” (channeling Ross from Friends), whenever he wanted, and I mean, I really mean — whenever he wanted, see Sex On Demand, let’s just say that such activities did not require a huge time commitment.
I had suggested that my husband talk to his doctor about it, but he declined. No, he would not. No.
Fast forward to after my husband “broke up with me” and moved out, taking surprisingly few possessions, saying he’d come back for the rest. As I discussed in When I Needed A Helping Hand, I didn’t want him to keep coming back to get his stuff so I decided I’d pack it up for him–not to help him, but to help me. Like mothers often say to children — “in or out,” he had chosen “out,” despite my begging, and I mean, I really mean — begging him to reconsider. So, I thought I’d help the process along if for no other reason than to keep him from prolonging it.
One night, after the kids were in bed, behind my closed bedroom door, my sister, a friend, and I packed up his shit. At one point I pulled out one of his suitcases he’d used for his last trip, an island vacation which I’d recently discovered he’d taken with a lady friend. See My Worst Super Bowl, Remembered. I intended to use the suitcase to pack some of his things.
The suitcase, I noticed, still sported the airport tags.
It also contained some papers, which I read.
The papers turned out to be receipts for my husband’s prescription for Viagra, well actually Levitra, a “sister” (or should I say ‘bro) erectile dysfunction drug . The prescription had been filled in the week prior to my husband’s romantic island vacation with his sweetie.
What the . . . hell?
I read it, showed it to my sister and friend. They both said, if I recall correctly, “Ew.”
There it was, in my hand, evidence that my husband had pursued the best that modern western medicine had to offer in order to enhance his sexual relationship with another woman, the woman he was not leaving me for, or so he said, though they had secured an apartment together and that’s where all his things were no doubt going.
Lucky girl . . . she got his stuff, and his stuff on steroids . . .
Looking back, I remembered I’d previously discovered (and suppressed) facts in support of this information — facts that suddenly made sense.
His doctor had called the house to confirm an appointment.
I had wondered: Why? Why? When we were going through this god-awful thing, was my husband making doctor’s appointments? I was the one who was sick, wasn’t eating or wasn’t sleeping and was constantly crying — why was he going to the doctor?
The pharmacy had called to tell him his prescription was ready.
I had wondered: What is he taking? He’s not sick! He’s a mean son-of-a-bitch, certainly — but he’s not sick!
Later, after his stuff was packed and gone, at some point in my post-separation cleaning frenzy –I’m the polar opposite of a hoarder, when I’m upset I throw everything out — I’d found a letter from the insurance company, dated right after the romantic trip time, stating that yes, based on his doctor’s recommendation, the unnamed medication in question would indeed be covered by insurance.
I had wondered: What? Had he paid the full price for the Viagra in order to get it before the trip because insurance hadn’t kicked in yet?
According to the dates and bank receipts which showed a $200 plus expenditure at the pharmacy on the eve of the island trip, yes, yes, he had.
Ouch. But it all made sense now.
I wanted to scream, “Did he tell his doctor that he needed this medication for use with his girlfriend and NOT his wife? DID THE DOCTOR KNOW THAT LITTLE FACT?????”
Not that it mattered.
I tried not to think of his chemically enhanced love-making to this woman. She brought him newness and adoration, he brought . . . drugs.
I packed his crap a little faster after this discovery, as I recall. Just a little bit faster.
And I think I washed my hands.
Just Me With . . . a medical discovery.
After everything was packed I called a friend When I Needed A Helping Hand.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in receipt of what I now refer to as “Nanny Texts” — when my ex-husband gives me instructions on the preparation of the kids for an event he’s taking them to.
— Have the kids wear clothes, shoes.
— Make sure they shower.
— No t-shirts or shorts.
— Have them ready by 3pm, this should give you plenty of time.
By the by, all of the kids are teens, and pick-up time is technically at 10am, though often the kids have activities that prohibit early pick up. On this day, however, they did not and the Ex had been informed of this.
As to the directive, “Have the kids wear clothes,” obviously he’d forgotten the word “nice” — he wanted them to wear “nice” clothes. But still it was funny. Sometimes I just read or show or forward the Nanny Texts to the kids to minimize my work as the middle man, so there is no mistake as to what he is requiring, and that it’s coming from him, not me. This time I simply showed the text to the kids, missing word and all.
One girl quipped, “Well, I always manage to wear clothes.”
Another girl said, “Yeah, I was planning to go naked.”
My Ex-husband was taking them to a graduation party of his oldest friend, let’s call him Jerry. Jerry is much older than we are and was actually my ex’s teacher in Middle School at one point. They became friends later as adults. Jerry had been a man approaching middle-age, single, and impossibly neat. People who did not know him well thought he was gay — “not that there’s anything wrong with that” — but folks in the inner circle knew that Jerry was very much like the Jerry Seinfeld character — not quite marriage material, string of women, classic commitment issues.
Jerry had been the Best Man at our wedding and years later when Jerry, a long-time bachelor, suddenly married a woman he’d met on a blind date, my then husband gave the toast. My husband was even (temporarily) named as Godfather to their first-born, and we both visited and held the hours-old baby in the hospital. Jerry’s second child is only seven weeks younger than our first and we have the cutest pictures of the two baby boys together. We were always at all of Jerry’s big family gatherings– kid’s birthdays, baptisms, Super Bowl parties, and when my husband and I started having kids and birthday parties and such, Jerry and his wife and kids were always in attendance. Jerry only came around on special occasions, though, my husband didn’t want him at our house to just hang out because he didn’t think our house was nice enough.
Back when my husband announced his plans to leave me, I suggested that he talk to Jerry about it because maybe he needed to talk to someone other than the two women who had his ear: me and his girlfriend. I thought that the opposing dueling arguments from the two women who have a huge stake in the matter were just canceling each other out.
Well, actually, no, the girlfriend clearly won those rounds, but I digress . . . . My husband refused to confide in Jerry, though, saying that he knew Jerry would just try to talk him out of it and tell him it was wrong.
Alrighty then. Anyhoo . . .
Apart from his club activities, my husband had few friends, Jerry was the only one, really. So it was expected and appropriate that when the marriage ended Jerry and his family would remain friends with him, and not me. I’ve not seen or heard from Jerry or his wife since my husband moved out many years ago.
I actually don’t know whether they socialize regularly now. My Ex-Husband has reinvented himself in many ways.
However, my now Ex-husband was going to attend the Jerry’ s first-born’s graduation party. He would attend with his new wife, their children and our children, who had been directed to wear . . . clothes.
After the teen drama at home about finding the proper clothes, the complaints about why they had to go to this thing, that they don’t really know these people, blah blah blah . . . they managed to get themselves (with my prompting) ready only slightly after the 3pm deadline. But no matter, the Ex didn’t show up until 4:15pm. While they waited, one girl said, “I hate it when he does this,” and her twin, who didn’t even start to get ready until 2:50pm, said, “I told you I’d have plenty of time.” In true Ninja Ex fashion I escaped before he arrived, going to a different graduation party alone. See I Almost Crossed One Of “My Bucket List of Men To Do”
And off they went.
The Nanny Texts piss me off, but I’m used to it now and I know how ridiculous they sound. But later I realized something that did feel weird, though — that my ex-husband and our kids were attending this party with his new family, among people who knew us when our kids were babies and when I was visually present.
Now I certainly didn’t want to go to the party. God no, I didn’t want to go. Nor did I expect to be invited, of course. It just felt a little strange that my (appropriately dressed) children were going to be there (paraded) with the Ex-husband and his new family celebrating with people with whom my ex-husband and I had shared many major life events. It was hard to believe that that hours old baby I had held (and I think it was the first time I’d ever held an “hours old” baby) was graduating high school.
I don’t know, it felt kind of like I’d been photo-shopped out and new people photo-shopped in and that no one would or could acknowledge it, despite all that we shared in the early years.
Just kind of weird.
When the kids returned, though, one of them said,
“Mom, some lady told me to tell you hello.”
I’m not sure who it was. It didn’t matter. It made me smile.
At least someone remembered that I am here . . . or was here . . . or had, at one time, been there . . . or . . . whatever.
Just Me With . . . The Nanny Texts
If anyone is wondering why I did not simply curse my Ex out for the Nanny Texts, my failure to engage with him can be explained in blogs like:
The short answer is that it wouldn’t help. I pick and choose my battles.
A while back I wrote a Bucket List of Men to Do. On it, I included an Too Old For Me Rich Guy saying, “At this point in life this is my only route if I want to be photographed as the pretty young thing on someone’s arm.”
This past weekend, I thought about checking that one off my list.
I had been invited to a graduation party of a former student. The student’s family is wealthy. Not surprisingly, it appeared that their friends are similarly well off. As per usual I attended alone. As per usual, it appeared as though I was the only woman attending alone, except, of course, for the widowed grandmothers. As per usual, I was the only woman of color, and as per usual I knew hardly anyone there. The point is, I kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. Well, maybe not sore, more like a bare thumb, among French manicured pinkies. But these are really good people, we go back a long way, and I was happy to have been invited. Sometimes I just tire of going solo — all the time — but I digress . . .
I got my food and took an empty seat among strangers, though the host did eventually join us. He introduced me, explaining that I was his son’s music teacher.
Well, an older gentlemen seated across from me was simply fascinated, almost smitten. Now I don’t discuss the specifics of age but considering my wealth of life experience, a man significantly older than me has got to be pretty darn — experienced. Nay, old. But this man, by his dress, demeanor and comfort level led me to assume that he had means. I seriously doubt that this dude needed to check his balance before going grocery shopping.
I didn’t catch his name. But let’s call him Jack. Jack was quite complimentary, noting that he certainly would have stuck with his music lessons if he had a teacher who looked like me. “Wow,” he said, and inquired as to whether I had any openings . . . heh heh heh. “I don’t know how the boy could learn anything with you as his teacher.”
I tell you, I almost giggled. This flirtation from an older gentlemen of means made me — me, a grown-ass woman of feminist sensibilities — positively girlish! I’m not sure, but I think I may have flipped my hair.
I took the comments in kind and did not pursue the matter, but . . .
Let the record reflect that I object to the way younger women romantically involved with older rich men are maligned, called gold diggers and such. It’s offensive.
But hey, Gold Diggers, I get it now. (Shhhhhhh)
Just Me With . . . giggles. I really wanted him to buy me something shiny. I’m just saying . . .
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:
I’ve written before about being a nosy neighbor, being hit on by Brian, the strange man who lives around the corner, and feeling uncomfortable (at first) about saying no. See, I Turned Down a Dinner Date With An Ex-Con.
Recently, I saw Brian again. I’ve seen him, on and off, of course, from time to time, but since I’d turned him down he hadn’t stopped to talk or come by to borrow things.
I have creepy neighbors, but I also have “normal neighbors.” The kids and I help normal neighbors with their new puppy, Bailey. And by “the kids and I” — I mean, usually, me. When I was walking Bailey the other day, I found myself walking in Brian’s direction.
It was a deer in headlights situation. I was walking toward him. He was walking toward me.
Brian’s appearance has changed — again. It’s Winter now so he doesn’t go shirtless anymore. He’s cut his hair, which is a good thing, because he seemed disheveled before. I’d seen him on crutches a couple of weeks ago, but now the crutches are gone — as are his glasses. He looks different without his glasses. I wonder what happened to his glasses? But I digress . . .
Bailey the puppy is a bit timid, but once a stranger speaks nicely to her, she gets very excited and friendly.
She was terrified of Brian.
He tried to be nice to her. He did what you’re supposed to do — offered his closed fist, fingers down, for the pup to sniff, but Bailey was still afraid. She started to run (on the extendable leash) and when I pulled her back she was visibly shaking.
It begs the question: What does this dog sense about this man?
“Hello, Roxanne, I got your name right this time!”
“Yes, yes, you did.”
Brian has found at least two other names that sort of rhyme with Roxanne that he’s used. But on this particular day he got it right.
We exchanged the “How are you, blah blah blahs.”
“I saw your daughter the other day,” Brian added, “and I thought she was you. That just tells me how young you look. But you won’t tell me how old you are.”
“No, I won’t.” (Dude, will you please STOP asking how old I am. That is so not cool.)
A dog can be a nice distraction, and as I turned to calm the puppy and explained she wasn’t mine, Brian placed his hand on my back and slowly and deliberately caressed me with his thumb.
What the hell?
It was a move too “familiar” to be casual.
Why is he touching me?
I backed away, continuing the small talk, and making my excuses to leave. But then he put his arms out to hug me.
“Well, it’s good to see you,” he said.
It was a reflex really, but I allowed a hug. I don’t know why. I don’t know why. I DON’T KNOW WHY!
I immediately felt the “ick” and could smell the cigarettes.
Ah, maybe that’s why Bailey the puppy was so upset. Different smells bother dogs, and Bailey’s owners (normal neighbors) don’t smoke. Maybe that’s all it was. I hoped.
Feeling uncomfortable I said,
“Well, I gotta go,” and started to walk.
I was seconds from a (not completely) clean get-away when Brian asked,
“So when are we gonna get together?”
“Uh, I don’t know,” I said, while shaking my head no, and looking at the ground. I thought I was being dismissive.
“Still thinking about it, huh?” This was Brian’s response to my non-answer.
And in typical Roxanne fashion, I replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The voices in my head screamed, What are you saying? Shut up!
What Brian said next gave me the “ick” — again:
“Well, we live close to each other at least, so it would make it easy.”
It would make WHAT easy? The voices in my head screamed.
“Yeah, I guess.” I mumbled, this time, with an accompanying awkward laugh. “Okay, bye.”
Me to me, in my mind: Will you please just SHUT UP! NOW!!
Brian walked toward his house. I continued in the opposite direction until it was safe, then doubled back and went home.
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just say, “Sorry not interested” when I need to? It’s a problem. There’s a pattern. And why did Brian touch me, why did he touch me like he was my boyfriend? Why did he hug me and why did I allow it? And most importantly, What does the dog instinctively know?
I’m never leaving the house again. Never.
Okay, I have to walk to the dog, and there’s my kids, and life . . . but shit . . .
Just Me With . . . a case of the “ICK”
Other posts when I couldn’t just say “NO!”: