It’s that time of year when singles of all ages and backgrounds lament about being alone. It’s holiday time, right? People tend to couple up and cuddle or enjoy family traditions. For many folks one tradition is being asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”
(My family never asks this, by the way, as if such an idea is just crazy talk.)
But there are things that are really cool about not having a significant other during the holidays.
Here comes a list.
- No splitting holidays!
How many have done the — “Okay, we’ll spend Christmas Eve with your parents, Christmas Day at my Grandma’s and Christmas dinner at your sister’s.
Or this year we’ll go to your family and next year we’ll visit mine — as if your respective families have some sort of court ordered visitation schedule forced upon you. Children of divorce have been during this for years. Once you are half of a grown up couple, you’ll find yourself doing it again.
Single? You can sit at your own mom’s house — or your own damn house.
“I ain’t going nowhere.”
2. Less Gifts To Buy
AKA save your money for something for yourself, charity, or pay off credit card debt you racked up when you had a honey to buy for, his/her family to buy for and back when you bought all the crap to make you look good 24/7. It makes sound financial sense to be single, particularly from Black Friday until right after President’s Day.
The money blogs tend not to encourage break ups, but they should, and say:
Ways to build wealth:
First, cut up your credit cards,
Second, cut loose your BAE.
(Yes, I said BAE, I’ll show myself out.)
3. Less Gifts to Receive
I’ve gotten some bad ones. When I was only a mere 19 year old a future brother-in-law gave us a gift card — to a hotel!
A HOTEL GIFT CARD AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT TO BE OPENED IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE FAMILY!
And then there was a time when slim, young,and I thought pretty damn cute me was given a pink nylon track suit.
The kind you see worn in nursing homes.
Wait, what? Have you seen me? I mean I’ve never been a slave to fashion, but I’m not completely devoid of .. of . . .giving a shit what I look like! C’mon, now!
And then I had to find a way never to wear it, or claim that it didn’t fit and return it. (I believe I returned it, although it was clearly a one size fits all situation.) And I still had to endure the disapproving looks from my husband.
Later on my my marriage we used to go to a white elephant Christmas party where everyone brought ugly, useless, yet nicely wrapped gifts to exchange for laughs. I had a seemingly endless supply of tacky items that had actually been given to me — lighted moving flowers in plastic cases — that was a crowd favorite.
Anyway, when you’re single you get less —- crap.
4. Your decor, or lack thereof,is your own
It doesn’t matter if somebody is allergic to real trees. You can get one. It doesn’t matter if you’d rather hang lights on your potted plant or toilet. It doesn’t matter if you would prefer not to decorate anything at all. It doesn’t matter if a lapsed Baptist girl wants a Menorah. You don’t have to start or maintain anyone else’s traditions or preferences. It’s all you, baby.
5. No work party discomfort
You don’t have to convince a significant other to go, and you don’t have to explain why your significant other is not there with you (“He’s working tonight.” This was my favorite work party lie.) But when you are single, you can show up on your schedule, make the rounds and leave whenever you damn well please. (All the big stars leave early. Look at the talk shows.)
Or, if you’re having fun you can stay until the bitter end without having your date do the raised eyebrow, tap the invisible watch, shoulder shrug combo which means,“You promised we wouldn’t have to stay long. I want to go home and watch Die Hard.”
6. And the best one?
You have no idea what things will be like next year.
Being uncoupled, you haven’t promised to honor the same — time-sharing, lame gift giving and receiving, fake tree, awkward party-duty, 24 hours of A Christmas Story — Christmas simply because that’s what you did with your partner last year, and every year.
Nope. You’re free.
Next year, you might try something different.
Next year, you might be someone different.
Next year, you might be with someone new, or not (remember to consider cleaning house mid-November, your bank account will thank you).
The possibilities are endless.
Just Me With . . . no one. And that’s alright with me.
See also Annual Holiday Christmas Party
I have written about this guy three times before.
1. The Landscaper Guy — Not Digging Him — I meet a man.
2. The Landscaper Guy and the Female Chandler Bing — I give him a shot. (I shouldn’t have.)
3. The Landscaper Guy and A Phone Smarter Than Me — I shoot him down, and miss. I have to take better aim and shoot again.
Well, I ran into him today. Again. Seems he has a vehicle now, a vehicle that needed gas, as did mine.
He was, again, wearing white but topped it with a blue jacket. No head scarf this time.
I said a passing hello like I would to a stranger, a stranger who looked somewhat familiar. He said “Hi” back with a look that said, You don’t have anything else to say?
I smiled at him, being polite, but not starting any kind of conversation. It was, after all, 7:45am.
He followed up with a “Hellooo” drawing the word out, raising his eyebrows at me. It was that kind of ‘Hello’ that wasn’t a greeting but rather a complaint of some sort. It said, You got nothing else to say to me?
I gave the ‘I’m just being polite‘ smile and thought, “Shoot, I’m supposed to know this guy. I have no idea who he is.”
He said, reading my mind– or my face, “You don’t remember me, do you?”
“I’m sorry, no, I don’t. Are you a neighbor?”
“Yeah,” he humphed (Is that a word? Because that’s what he did. He humphed.). Then he said, “Yeah, a few houses down. You live on Maple Street, right?”
“Yes.” I was starting to remember, but not his name. “Um . . . Oh yes, we talked a couple of times.”
“What’s wrong with dinner? You didn’t want to go to dinner?”
“Um . . . ”
“You still feel that way?”
“Yes.” What the hell?
“Why?” WHY DOES THIS GUY ASK WHY? WHY WHY WHY????
“I’m just not going out much lately.” This was the response that had failed me previously. It was all I had at 7:45am.
“But dinner? What’s wrong with that?” And he let out a humph again, “Just you and your dog . . .” (I ask you — Why’d he have to bring my dog into this? Oh, my dog was in the car, looking at him, probably judging him, I hope. Woman’s best friend and all . . . )
“I mean, you’re single, right? ”
“Yes.” I refused to lie, and he refused to STFU. As discussed in Where Did I Put My Fake Boyfriend there are some aggressive men who only accept the reported presence of another guy as an acceptable reason to decline a date.
“Well, I don’t get it. What’s wrong with dinner? I’m not talking about a relationship or anything. Dinner,” and he wasn’t done.
He added, incredibly, “I mean a woman like you shouldn’t be alone — for years — like this.”
WTF? I cannot believe he said that to me.
“I’ll be alright,” I replied and offered a purposely fake smile, one that I hope really conveyed, ‘You, sir, are an asshole.‘
He laughed. “Well.”
“Well. You have a nice day, now,” I said. This is the way Northern US women say the Southern US women’s ‘Bless your heart‘ which really means, ‘I’m done talking to you. Kiss my ass.’
“Alright,” he replied, shaking his head, which probably meant, ‘Bitch’ and truthfully, I don’t give a shit.
Just Me With . . . a full tank of gas, next to an ass.
For other run-ins with the men in my neighborhood, see:
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.
Well, I did it. I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in my own house for my parents. It was just the three of us. The children were with their father.
Since my marriage ended years ago it has been our practice for the children to be with my ex-husband for Thanksgiving and with me for Christmas. See, All I Want For Christmas is My Kids. So, I’ve been kid-less for many Thanksgivings. I’ve spent a couple of Thanksgivings with my best friend and her large, extended, ethnic family. They are very nice and welcoming and I had a good enough time, but it started to feel weird being alone with someone else’s family. Two years ago I did absolutely nothing (I think, I can’t remember). Last year I went out for Thanksgiving dinner with my parents. We didn’t go to a really nice or fancy restaurant, more like a diner, a nice diner, but a diner, nonetheless. The food was okay, but I found the whole scenario depressing. There were a lot of older people, elderly people. It smacked of a refuge for souls who had no where else to go.
So this year, I decided to stay home and cook dinner at my own damn house. I decided this on Monday, declining my mother’s offer to have Thanksgiving at their house. That can be (has been) depressing as well, going “home” for Thanksgiving, completely alone, feeling like a grown child, the only child who never moved away (which I count is a personal failure), knowing my sisters are with their families at their homes, knowing that my children are with my ex-husband’s wife’s family. Just thinking about going to my parents for Thanksgiving felt like it was one small step above being the middle-aged single man living in his parents’ basement.
No, I have a home, I reasoned, and even though the children wouldn’t be there, I decided that I would serve Thanksgiving dinner to my parents. Plus, it’ll give them a break.
I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, but that was in The Big House (formerly the marital home) for my (now Ex) in-laws. This was different. This is my home, alone (except for the bank). My little home that gets very few visitors, despite its extreme makeover. My little home to which some of my kids are too embarrassed to bring their wealthy friends. My little home which has a very nice, slammin’ new kitchen.
So I cooked, for me, for my parents. Cooking does not give me any joy. See Confessions of a Skinny Mom. Still, it was so much less awkward than being at the restaurant. My Mom and Dad ate my food; they were appreciative, and it was good. And though my long-married parents have a tendency to bicker (huge understatement), today they did not. I can’t help to think that it was the locale of the dinner. Had they been at their own home, they would have fought.
In some ways it was my first grown up Thanksgiving, because it was my home, and more importantly, my decision, as opposed to just figuring out how to pass the time while the kids are gone or making sure my parents have somewhere to eat (or, in the old days, doing time with the in-laws). Now I’ve christened my house as our family home. It only took three years.
Weird that my first Thanksgiving dinner in my own house did not include my children, but at least they know that holidays can happen here in our new
Just Me With . . . leftover Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and something crossed on my bucket list that I didn’t even know was there.
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.
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. Over the years she 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. They kept separate apartments in the city.
When I was a junior attorney Erin scared the crap out of me. My work best friend and I vowed never to have a meal with her. But 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 that firm anymore. They never made her partner so she found another firm that did. She had ended her relationship with “Mr. Big Can’t Commit Guy” for good but 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 uncovered my pain. 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 had never been impressed with my Ex and she didn’t mince words. Ever.
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, and that I should not be looking for a boyfriend or someone to love. These dates should simply be a means to an end, a way 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 (and physically ill) to seriously consider it. She sensed that, and added, in her usual 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 looking back on it now, I see that she is a smart woman, a really scary, brilliant woman.
Just Me With . . . the good advice, that I just didn’t take.
Dating, well non-dating posts:
I know, it sounds juicy or scandalous. I assure you, it’s neither.
I spend time with married men from time to time.
These men are happily married. And it is not one of those situations when the men are unavailable for or forsake their wives and family to hang out with me. No, these guys are good to their families, first. And these are not “emotional affairs” either. Nobody’s saying, “Oh, if I wasn’t married . . . (wink wink)” or “My wife doesn’t understand me.” No, nothing like that. These are men I’ve met professionally or from my old neighborhood. It’s lunch, every once in a while during the work day, it’s dropping by to say “Hi,” while out on a run. It’s helping with a household project, or moving or carrying something which requires man strength and then staying for a cold drink. It’s random phone calls to chat. Although my girlfriends and I check in from time to time, I would say my face and phone time has been with married men more frequently than girlfriends or family recently.
I confess also that there are benefits, plenty of them — just nothing sexual. In addition to having someone to move the refrigerator — which, I’m convinced is a man’s true purpose on this earth — but I digress . . . The emotional benefits are that they make me feel like more than — a mother. One even asks if I’m seeing anybody and thinks that I should. I rarely get that question from family or girlfriends, a fact that may be the topic of another post . . . but I digress again. When my married male friends tell me I look nice or that it was good to see me, etc. . . . it makes me feel good. Occasionally, I can even go a semi-professional event with one of these married guys, to avoid the dreaded and frequent “The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone.” So, it’s nice. These married guys genuinely like me as a friend, still acknowledge that I’m a woman, and offer statements of admiration for me and what I’ve accomplished in a difficult situation. It’s nice to see that in a man’s eyes.
Yes, benefits abound, with pants on.
Perhaps, however, there is something sinister going on here. Not with them, but with me. And no, I would never be the “other woman.” Never. I was “the wife” I know what that’s like, I wouldn’t do that to another woman. And these guys wouldn’t do that to their wives anyway. No, what is sinister is that I’m getting my “man fix” without any chance of getting involved. It’s safe. Too safe. How will I find the courage or interest to have dinner with an available man, and all that implies, if instead I can hang with a man who I know I will never have a romantic relationship with, but who will, most likely, share a meal with me, tell me I look nice, and pick up the tab. I don’t have to worry about a kiss goodnight — or more, or when he should meet my kids, etc. Hell, these men either already know my kids or it is completely appropriate to introduce them to the guy because he is just another adult. Bonus — I don’t have to shave my legs or stock my goodie drawer since nothing will ever happen. I get to hang out with guys, but I don’t have to deal with any of that pesky dating stuff. Great, right? Wrong.
At a time when I have to literally force myself to be more social with adults, when I do socialize it is often with unavailable men. Sounds like a bit of escapism, don’t you think? No need for a degree in psychology to figure this one out. What about hanging with some women? Well, my female friends are a force to be reckoned with. They are smart, successful and together. They do not judge me — but I wish I was more like them and sometimes that makes me uncomfortable. Escapism and avoidance. I see it.
The solution is obvious. I need to spend time with men who are potentially available to me in all ways. I know this. And, frankly, it’s probably a good sign, a healthy sign, that the married, platonic friend thing is starting to bother me a bit. It’s not good for me to be so safe. I’m single. I need to spend time with single people. The married guys are all cool, and I want to keep our friendships, but I need to add an available man to the mix. While I’m making that happen, I need to reconnect with my female friends, and make new ones. For me it’s easier said than done, but at least I see it. I own it.
Still, I’d like to give a shout out for the proper married men who do the right thing at home but still take time out here and there to check in on, hang out with, or just help out a single woman going through some tough times. There are true gentlemen in the world. I just need to find one who doesn’t already have a wife.
Just Me With . . . a bit of armchair analysis.
I had an unfortunate conversation with an old friend the other night. Well, the whole conversation wasn’t unfortunate, but she said something that kind of got under my skin. She said, “Online dating? I wouldn’t do it.” She was emphatic, a bit superior. She added, “I don’t need that to meet men. I can meet men on my own.” I pointed out that she has a man, so how does she know? She responded, “Even if I didn’t have him, I still would never do it. I prefer to meet men the regular way.”
It helps to have context here. She is currently living with a man, he’s “the one.” They say they are going to get married, but since they aren’t going to have kids, for them there’s no hurry. Her man is an old college friend. She didn’t date him when we were in college. They didn’t get together until many years later, when he revealed to her he always had a thing for her. (Yeah, romantic crap, blah, blah, blah.) Prior to that she’d had long-term relationships and had gone a significant period of time with no men at all. She’s very attractive. Beautiful skin, face, smile, sculpted arms and a belly that would make women half her age jealous. She can rock a sleeveless belly shirt like no one else. Scary smart and a brilliant conversationalist. She can engage a lamp-post in witty repartee. Consequently, she can meet men, easily. And she’s damn picky about them, too.
Me? I am now single. I don’t feel like talking about my appearance, but “I clean up good.”
Also, I guess it’s relevant that she and I are old enough that when we were young enough there wasn’t really online dating, and “personals” were primarily for the freaks or desperate. Still, she was single and at times unattached during the emergence of the online thing. I wasn’t.
Actually, I was seriously put off my the tone of her comments. I mean, I’m attractive, and I mean shit — I play in a band (sometimes) for goodness sake! The fact that I would consider the online thing doesn’t make me desperate. So I told her, “I get hit on, too. It’s just that the guys that I see in my daily doings aren’t the guys for me.” See Landscaper series I, II and III and the Fake Boyfriend story. She didn’t get it. Whatever.
Online dating is not for the desperate or freaks, but I guess some people will never understand that — because they don’t have to. They don’t have to because they are in a relationship, not because they are pretty enough to meet men “the regular way.” And I’m not even doing online dating now, having decided not to (for now) for specific personal reasons (blog post coming), but not because I think online dating is for the unfortunates. And there are plenty, plenty of dating disasters that did not begin with an online profile.
Her comments bothered me, though. Was I being overly sensitive? Was it Just Me With a little paranoia?
Hell, I might create yet another dating profile now . . . just, well just . . . because . . . humph.
Just Me With . . . a bit of an attitude.
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!