Where was I? Ben needed childcare...right. So if you know me in real life, you know that I am physically incapable of saying no when it comes to watching other people's kids. 99% of the time, it's not a big deal, in fact, it's a case of the more the merrier. The other 1% of the time? It turns into an uncomfortable situation.
This one started out all fine and dandy. By this time I had already met his kids, but he had yet to meet mine. So we decided to take the whole bunch out to dinner for a little getting to know you meet and greet. Ben and his kids were fond of this schlocky alien-themed restaurant here in Minneapolis, kind of like one of those Chuck E. Cheese places for grown ups? I forget the name, I always call it Ben and Jerry's but that's not right. Whatever. Not an integral part of the story..
So we got the whole gang together. Molly was immediately pissed that there was a new man in my life. She was (and still is) funny about "sharing" me with anyone else. I could tell that this new drain on my attention was not getting a favorable review from my girl. Henry and William seemed to be getting along with Ben's boy, but then again, we were surrounded by video games, big screen t.v.'s and french fries. I think they would have had a good time with Osama Bin Laden.
Then I did something that surprised even me. I suggested we do a big sleep over. Yeah, I know, pretty sharp change in direction for someone who balked at even letting her kids know she was dating. But what can I say...for a brief moment it felt so completely freeing to not have part of my life livable only during certain days on the calendar.
So the kids were thrilled, Ben and I were tingly at the prospect of spooning and canoodling on this, one of my forbidden weekends...the slumber party was on, baby.
At some point during that night I realized that Ben's son and my Henry did not get along. Ben just chalked it up to both of them being tired, but a mom knows when two socks don't match, if you catch my drift. I could see that they were going to be at each others throats more often than not, and I began to second-guess my decision to watch these kids.
Taking care of other people's children can be tricky. It's one thing if it's a playdate, a little get-together that you know can be quickly shortened if need be. It's also one thing when it's your friend's child/children and she needs some short-term or occasional help. It's something completely different when it's the child of someone you're sleeping with. There's always the thought of "what if", like, "What if we end up married and they have to live together??" or "What if my kids and his kids killing each other gets in the way of our relationship?". Stuff like that.
But I toughed this one out. It was ok, at first, Ben's kids joined us on our everyday activities. We went to the park, watched Charlie and Henry play park baseball, went to the beach, relaxed at home. Ben's daughter fell in love with Walter, and so she quickly became my walking buddy. She and I would take short walks with Walter, her holding the leash and me praying that Walter didn't catch sight of a squirrel or quivering blade of grass and drag this small child across any streets. I genuinely liked this little girl, and just writing about it now makes me a little sad. I hope she's doing well.
The boys, though, that was like a special kind of testosterone hell that appeared suddenly in my family room. Henry and Ben's son were like oil and water. And for every 10 minutes that they did get along harmoniously, there were at least 5 where I seriously worried about them injuring each other. And this wasn't a classic case of my sweet kid vs. his evil kid, oh no. I didn't sit there and think to myself that the guy who kept his inhaler on my nightstand was the father of savages and that my little blonde angel farted rainbows and kittens. No, I saw that this was a case of two kids who could be total dicks to each other, and usually were.
One week of Jenny's daycare stretched into two. Ben would come "home" after work, he'd make martinis or Manhattans or whatever and we'd sit back, drink up and chat about our days. It was eerily cozy, comfortable. I would ask if there was any word about the daycare situation, and Ben would just sort of brush it off, or say that he was waiting for a call, or that he was working with his ex-wife to see if they could arrange something. Then the novelty of this new domestic situation began wearing off...our everyday ebb and flow was staunched now, things like regular playdates and spontaneous outings weren't as easy as they had been when it was just my crew.
But anyway. So maybe it was the burgeoning resentment about the kids, or maybe it was the self-destruct timer that is installed on every one of my relationships, but my feelings towards Ben started to wane. Little things started to bug me, like the fact that he had to have a t.v. on while he slept. And the show that he liked to fall asleep to was Spongebob Squarepants.
Then there was the dinner with his boss.
Ben was invited out to dinner with his boss and his wife, and he asked me if I'd go with him. This was a big step in a fledgling relationship, and a big step for Ben, who was trying to work his way up in his small company. We met them at a decent restaurant and proceeded to have a long, fun evening filled with good food and of course lots of drinkies.
The waitress finally came up to our table and asked if we were ready for the bill. The boss man said, "You bet!" and then Ben said, with a straight face, "Can we get three separate checks?". At first I couldn't figure out what he meant by that, and then it hit me: the fucker wanted me to pay my share.
I just looked at him, I'm sure my expression was that of someone on Punk'd, before they knew crazy Ashton was lurking behind a table. There was a long, awkward silence and then the boss spoke up. "Ben, don't be ridiculous. It's on us!". I could see that even boss man and his wife were mortified over this total act of anti-chivalry, but Ben didn't seem to notice. He thanked them, I thanked them, and then we headed back to my house.
Ben didn't need his inhaler that night. I believe that was also the night that I expressed to him my true feelings about being lulled to sleep by Spongebob and Patrick. I hate falling asleep with the t.v. on, that's why God put sleep timers on our remotes. If you're going to fall asleep with the tube on, anyway, it had better be with something good playing. Like a "Dirty Jobs" marathon. If I'm going to have any t.v. personality jumping into my subconscious and playing in my dreams, I'd like it to be someone along the lines of Mike Rowe.
The final blow to this hausfrau/rocker romance happened a couple of weeks later. Ben had finally gotten the daycare thing figured out, and just in the nick of time. School was starting the next week and I was seriously worried that I was going to have to find out about enrolling his kids in with mine. Seems as though his ex-wife had been having some "troubles" and that's why he was hesitant to send them back to her. "And as long as we're talking about her," he started....
"There's something I should probably tell you."
This ought to be good, I remember thinking.
"She and I, well, we're not exactly divorced" he said. I remember I said, "What does not exactly mean?". I mean, really. Was it like "the papers have yet to be signed" or "things are held up on her end", what? What the hell does 'not exactly' mean? Turns out it's kind of like someone saying that they're a "little pregnant".
Ben and his wife were still married. Obviously not living together, but they weren't even legally separated. He said that neither one of them could afford a lawyer. "But we're totally not getting back together" he assured me.
And as if this little afterthought wasn't enough of a nudge, he then started explaining their relationship to me in a little more detail. Turns out that she had been a stripper with a drug problem when they'd met. She kicked the drugs, had the kids, and then started going downhill again. They fought. One time, the fighting was severe enough to warrant a police visit, a visit which resulted in Ben's arrest. An arrest which resulted in some sort of really bad domestic assault charge, which then led to Ben serving a year in PRISON.
Here's my disclaimer: I have nothing against strippers, drugged out or sober, or the men who get married to and breed with them; nor do I hold any judgments towards someone who has served time. But these things are kind of like a herpes disclaimer: something that should be dragged out into the light pretty early in a relationship. Let the person you're becoming involved with decide if it's something that they're willing to work with. The drugged stripper thing? I get it, kind of. The jail thing? I had trouble with the domestic part of it. Ben claims that he didn't hurt her, that he couldn't afford an attorney and that the "one provided for him" screwed things up. I know that things happen in the justice system and innocent people are penalized for things they didn't do, but I wasn't in a place in my life to deal with this.
The not divorced thing? That clinched it. I don't care what your excuse is, be single before you start trolling for love. You can bet that eHarmony got an earful from me about this one. I found it unbelievable that we were asked to fill out endless pages of a questionnaire, literally hundreds of mind-numbing inquiries about what makes us giggle, what makes us sad, etc., and then asked to pay hundreds of dollars, without the assurance that we wouldn't get matched up with married felons. They sent me a form-email and thanked me for my business. And wished me the best of luck on my quest for love.
Ben acted surprised about my choosing to end things. But in true bad boy, rocker fashion, Ben played it cool. He ended up getting tickets to the Van Halen reunion concert that fall, and sent me a text asking if I wanted to go. I chose not to, but told him to have fun.
That was my last experience with eHarmony.
And wouldn't you know it, just a few weeks later I met someone else.