Sara and I were in line at Peet’s when two women walked in and got behind us, midstream in flinging the celeb dirt.
“What an ass! Can you believe his vitriol?”
“I’d never let a man treat me that way. And to a new mom!”
It was clear they who they were talking about.
“That Mel is crazy,” Sara whispered to me.
“Yeah, I guess so …” I mumbled.
“What?” Sara asked with a puzzled look.
“Well, this is pretty embarrassing given what’s happened since, but he used to be my fantasy guy.”
Suddenly, everyone in the coffee shop stopped and stared, like they’d all been shot by Mr. Freeze.
“Shhhh, for God’s sake!”
“It was back when he was gorgeous, with those amazing blue eyes and wild hair on a horse. And, you know, he was normal and funny, not
a raving mad man.”
“Yeah, he was pretty hot in ‘Braveheart.’ What the hell happened to him?”
“I’d guess Oksana Grigorieva is asking the
And isn’t that the scariest part of the whole
sordid saga — that we can fall in love and have a baby with someone who then turns into a total freak show on us?
Weren’t there any red flags?
Can people hide their true selves that well that no one knows the real person until it’s too late — you’re married, you’re having babies together and you then you end up black and blue and in an abused woman’s shelter or hawking your sex tapes?
Sure, sometimes, shit happens — a social drinker becomes a total boozer or an occasional pot smoker turns into a meth addict. But I’d bet the red flag — addictive personality! — waved at least sometime during the courting phase.
Was anyone paying attention?
Without being revisionist, I look back at when I first met Rob and it’s clear to me now that I missed — ignored, actually — more than a few glimpses into The Troubles that were to be our destiny.
For one thing, I was as good a spin artist as any six-figure Beltway flack. Drinking? Ha, we were party people! His record of cheating on ex-lovers? He’d just fallen for the wrong women; no way he’d do that with me!
Now, I don’t know for sure that if I had paid more attention to the flags, I would have dumped him; I might have ended up as Mrs. Rob anyway. That would be more of an issue with me than him. And that, of course, is the real problem.
Rob was waving his little red flags, even if he wasn’t aware of that. He was letting me know, Warning! This is who I am. Can you live with this?
I, evidently, said, “Bring it on, baby!”
So, back to Mel and Oksana. I’ll admit, Mel has proven himself to be, well — and I’m being generous here, given all the times he, uh, pleasured me so well — not a very nice man. I no longer want to strip him naked, throw him on the bed, hold him down and do my thing with him. I have moved on to others who still seem nice (or, better yet, naughty, but in the good ways) — Brad, Johnny, George, Robert … And my fave fantasy, Sean, whom I get to enjoy in the flesh, too.
But, could he have possibly have not waved any red flag at all?
- Can someone do a total behavioral 180 on us?
- Or, are we being ever so slightly oblivious to the warning signs?
- Even if whatever lunatic rants of the equivalent in our lives never get taped and distributed, who among us has never seen them coming?
- And, what sort of flags do you wave, hmm?
Sean had done something that pissed me off.
It wasn’t a big thing, it was just a “thing.”
Actually, I’m not even so sure if I was pissed off or mildly annoyed or whether it spoke to a deeper insecurity or just a relationship burp.
Now, I’ve learned that when I feel that way about something and I’m not exactly sure why I feel that way, it’s best not to say anything, at least immediately; better to think about it and understand what’s the “thing” behind the “thing.”
So, that was my unspoken plan when my cellphone rang.
“Hi back” I said.
Busted! Good God, am I that transparent?
Now that I was stripped bare (and not in the good way), I had to say something. As all guys know, when a woman says “Nothing,” it doesn’t mean everything’s OK; actually, it means there’s a huge problem.
So, I came clean, kinda: “Well, I was upset by something you did and I’ve struggled all day wondering if I should say something to you and if I was going to say something, how I was going to say it to you without sounding like I was crazy or insecure because it’s the kind of thing that could be misconstrued as
something crazy or insecure but I have feelings about it so I’m not sure how to ask you this.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone, a long, deep silent silence, one that made my heart pound like I’d had a triple espresso — intravenously — and my head hurt as if I were surviving on two hours of sleep after a night of mixing cheap red wine with bad vodka at a heavy metal concert.
After what felt like an hour had passed, he finally spoke.
“What are you talking about?”
I detected a slight annoyance.
Beyond that, well, it was a good question; what was I talking about indeed? But, even if I’d figured out just what was behind the “thing” and decided, yeah, this was a fundamental disconnect that we needed to address, I know in my heart that that’s just not the way to talk about it with Sean, or any man for that matter.
And, so instead of an exploratory questioning of whether my feelings were valid or not, we were facing a potential relationship “crisis.”
Not to stereotype, but guys really need to have the issue presented before them ASAP — spotlighted, highlighted, underlined and frontloaded. In other words, get to the friggin’ point. Now.
Not us women, however. If you lay it all out on the line without first setting the mood and making us feel secure and loved, then whatever the issue is, no matter how small, it’s going to take over our thoughts, dietary choices and girls’ night conversations. In other words, we will obsess.
OK, I’m making generalities, but still.
Yet, I get confused. My kid tells me all the time that I’m guilty of wasting his precious teenage minutes by going on and on with unnecessary back story, irrelevant ramblings and nagging monologues. But if I cut to the quick — “Make your bed!” — then he sees it as being disrespectful.
Sean, too. When I’ve come right out and said something that upset or bothered me, he’ll sometimes get defensive, which of course shuts down any hope of open-minded listening and thus communication. Even when I’ve started with the oft-lauded “I” word. I felt bad when …
I don’t think we can take for granted how our partner needs to have a “talk” just because of his or her gender. We just might have to ask — how would you like me to talk to you about something that’s an “issue”?
Of course, I did ask Sean exactly that once. As usual, he was honest.
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
Well, that’s one way to deal with it!
- Guys, do you really want us to get to the point, and then be done with it?
- Gals, do you want the same, or do you need your partner to make you feel secure first?
- How much of relationship talk is much ado about nothing?
More “talky” stuff:
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I was late, standing in line during my lunch hour to return a shirt The Kid spent about a half-second glancing at before making the most horribly disgusted look I’d ever see on his face, when the 6-year-old in front of me starting acting up.
“Please, Mommy. Please!” she cried as she waved a pink-boxed doll in her mother’s direction.
“I WANT IT!” she screamed, and then took the box and smashed it into her mom’s leg.
Mom looked pretty horrified.
Of course, I can remember when Trent pulled similar antics on me. What parent — well, modern-day parent — hasn’t experienced that?
But that little scenario never crossed my mind when I was imagining what having a baby would be like. I thought about carefree days at the beach making sandcastles; baking chocolate chip cookies together; biking and hiking and exploring the wonders
of nature. I thought about the fun times.
I never once imagined having a kid would involve meltdowns in the checkout line at
Target or sleepless nights holding a croupy
child in a steamy-hot bathroom or moments of sheer panic when he disappeared at the park
or how many times Rob and I were exhausted, pissed off, fought or were resentful over something related to The Kid.
And if I saw that happening to others, I thought, “It will be different for me.”
“Children may provide unrivaled moments
of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak,” writes Jennifer Senior in “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting.” “Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.”
But, isn’t that the same for just about
When I met Rob, it was magical — we laughed,
we talked, we dreamed, we had great sex, we played so well together. “Oh, so that’s what we look like as a couple,” I thought.
Then we got married.
And a new couple emerged. It’s not what I expected. Resentment, frustration, anger, obliviousness — where did these things come from?
Then we had Trent. Again, a new couple, emerged, and a new me — me as Mom.
It’s not what I expected.
Then I got divorced.
During the confusing, painful months before and after our marriage busted up, I didn’t know what to expect — and that, oddly enough, made me open to the possibilities of what was, not what I thought it would be.
I had no expectations of what my future would be like; I had no friggin’ idea. It wasn’t part of the plan — you know, fall in love, get married, have kids, white-picket fenced house … I had never been a 40-something divorced mom of a kid in suburbia. And so I never felt like something was wrong (well, despite my grieving over my marriage, which was fast becoming my past) or right. There was no road map to follow, no blueprint of what being a 40-something divorced mom of a kid in suburbia looked like.
Everyone talks about how having unrealistic expectations messes things up — dating, marriage, parenting — but it’s hard not to have any expectations. Still, the fewer we have, the happier we seem to be.
So, I realized you can take what Jennifer says about kids and replace it with whatever you’re struggling with and it still makes sense:
- “Dating may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
- “Marriage may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
- “College may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
- “Work may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
Because we think we know what they “should” look like, and then we get disappointed when it differs from our expectations.
I had no expectations of divorced life, and, you know, it has moments of joy, frustration, anxiety, heartbreak. But, I am happier than I ever could have imagined. What do I make of that?
- What have you ever gotten yourself into that you think, “Hmm, it’s not what I expected …”?
- Have you ever gone into something with no expectations, and been happily surprised?
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