Always Something There To Remind Me

The receptionist at the dental office looked at me over her glasses. When she spoke, her voice wavered slightly somewhere between exasperation and incredulity.

"What do you mean, you don't know his address?" Her brightly painted fingernails hovered above the keyboard of the computer where she'd been entering all the facts and figures that would become my son's patient chart.

I felt stupid, and petty, and also kind of incredulous myself. Why the hell would I know my ex-husband's address? It's not like my kids spend any time there. I don't send him cards or flowers. It's kind of like asking a person if they know the address of a long ago lover. Someone with whom they shared a lot of history, but nothing current.

I gave her my own look. The one that, in my head, says I dare you to say something about how lame I am for not knowing this man's address but in reality probably says something like aughhh you're right I'm the worst parent/ex-wife of all time! Condemn me please! Judge me! And please, pretty please, tell me to get over it already!

She kept her eyes on me and told me that she needed it. "We can't take him on as a new patient unless we have all of this information." 

I wanted to tell her that this wasn't the worst part of my awkward and dysfunctional co-parenting situation. I wanted to tell her about the time we ended up in a courtroom in order to ensure that he would be the one who'd provide health insurance for the kids. I wanted to tell her how it befuddled me, his strong and unrelenting insistence to have the kids on his health insurance until a friend explained things to me, things like "tax breaks" and "write offs" and "people who love money so much they'll do just about anything to save it".

Instead what I did was pull out my phone and in a sheepish, shamed voice said, "I'll Google it." And Google it I did, standing there in front of the receptionist with the tanned skin and the shellacked nails. I Googled that motherfucker and tried to act like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Hey Jenny! What are you doing?
Aw, hey there friend. I'm just Googling my ex-husband!

And there, in between pictures of him from his company's website, in between a sickening blurb that said "Big Daddy and his wife Secretary live in Adultery Valley with their four children" (uh, note to the webmaster...time to update that bio)...there was his address. I read it out loud to the receptionist and when she was done entering it she sighed and said, "I suppose you don't know his date of birth, either." 

At this point I was hulking out just a bit and said back to her, "Is that a question or a statement? Because I do know his birthday." I rattled that one out to her with only the slightest pause (because he and my former BFF were a day apart and I always confused them...) and then she handed me the standard clipboard with instructions to fill out the front and back and turn it in when I was done.

These are the kinds of situations you find yourself mired in when you're divorced. If you had a sane, amicable one, the kind where both parties truly parted on good terms, I suppose it makes sense that you'd know each other's addresses and social security numbers and maybe, just maybe, even stats about the new spouses.

A few days prior to the above-referenced appointment, I'd called to see if my son's insurance was accepted there.

It's not bad enough that every time I look at the kid's insurance cards I have to see the name of the woman my husband dumped me for. It's lost the shock value after all this time but part of me still winces. Her name also appears on the child support payments, which again brings up some pangs but also some wtf as well. But to add insult to winces, when I call and arrange appointments for any of the kids there's almost always the barrage of questions about her. The insurance is provided through her employer, therefore it's her information they need.

No, sorry. I don't know her date of birth. (if I'm in a joking mood I'll add, "all I know is that it's like twelve years after mine, hahahahahahahaweep")
Nope. I also don't know the name of her employer or that address or anything else other than the fact that my ex insisted on providing their insurance and now I have to do this song and dance a few times a year.

I don't know much about her other than the fact that when I see or hear her name, all I can picture is her, bent over a desk and my then-husband standing behind her. Sorry. A friend of mine told me a story once, about someone opening an office door and stumbling upon that very scene and I have never been able to erase it. It's half-hysterical, half-tragic and for some reason it's the thumbnail my brain keeps on the file marked "Them".

There was an article somewhere, not too long ago, about divorce and the length of time it takes to recover from one. As usual, there were comments on it from people who were adamant about "getting over it" and admonishing those who expressed sadness or anger or anything other than a giant Xanax smile about being divorced. Lots of "let it go" and "you should really move on". And yes, I agree with them. Somewhat. I believe it's possible to get over a divorce, even a bitter, hurtful one bearing the scent of betrayal and lies and deep wounds. You can get over it. You pick up the pieces, wipe off the blood and shit and take inventory of what you have left and you wake up every day and get the frick over it.

But just like that sweet 80's jam by Naked Eyes taught us, there's always something there to remind me. Some days it's easier to let those reminders bounce off, roll off our backs and slither down into the gutter where they belong. Some days, it's not so easy.

Please be kind to those you know who have gone through this crap. Know that when they do let it get under their skin, it bothers them and it's definitely not them wallowing in it.

And if you're the one, like me, who sometimes lets these little reminders become big fat thorns in your side, please be gentle with yourself. Our reactions to these triggers depends on so much and just one little bump in the road can make it all that much harder to bear: maybe you've had a harrowing morning with the kids, maybe you're PMSing, maybe you were road-raged on the way to the appointment. Maybe you're just plain exhausted. No matter. The thorn will work itself out, and you'll be wince-free again. Until the next reminder comes along. But that next thorn will be just a fraction smaller and duller, and you will find yourself plucking it out with greater ease with each passing year.

Hang in there, my friends. You are not alone in this.

This post dedicated to Kristin J. and all the others who have sent emails thanking me for letting them know they aren't alone. You totally aren't, Kristin. xoxo


Diddle, Rinse, Repeat: The Monotony That Is My Middle Aged Dating

Snap on those latex gloves, ladies, and join me as I perform the postmortem on my latest fling. Yes, this one has run its course, now all that's left to do is analyze it and him and me, assign the moniker and file it away along with the others.

I like to dissect these so-called "relationships" because I am that hopeful fool who thinks there's something to be gleaned, some deep lesson to be learned from each one. And this one didn't disappoint, as far as education goes. I'm going to share with you the most valuable nugget of information I took from it:

If someone tells you they're an asshole, believe them.

Like, if they actually put it out there, in, say...a text: "I'm an asshole." There are many ways we, as women, are hardwired to respond:

The Affirmer: "Oh no! No! You're not! You're awesome."
The Nurturer: "I'm sure you're just woefully misunderstood."
The One-Upper: "You're an asshole? Well, I'm an asshole AND I'm crazy! LOLOLOL"
And my personal favorite:
The Fixer: "Challenge accepted."

Ladies? There's really only one proper response to that proclamation. You say, "Thanks for the heads up" and then you walk away. Thank them for whatever they've given you, along with such a fair warning. Thank them for the dinner or the drinks, for the tingly orgasms or the flirtations that made you blush, for the compliments and the whispered sweet nothings. Thank them and then, girl, you hightail it away from them as fast as freaking possible.

Sometimes the scooter cannot drive away fast enough.

Our time on earth is limited and one of the suckiest things about life is how late in the game we realize this. It's one of the reasons we try to placate ourselves by doing things like trying to see each timesuck as some sort of after school special. It's why I sit here on my morning off, writing about yet another disastrous trip down Lover's Lane.

Because I am, like everyone else, running out of time, I've decided to take the advice given to me by two of my favorite humans. Both of them have stood by me, one physically, the other figuratively, while I've tiptoed through the minefield that is post-divorce love.

The first person is, of course, my best friend Danielle. My moral compass, the one who knows all the dirt and still talks to me. I look to her for guidance because she's managed to not only remain married and still loves her husband despite all of their differences- but also because she tells it like it is. She won't soften blows to avoid bruising my ego, and she is absolutely my fiercest defender and my loudest cheerleader.

The second person is a guy. A friend's husband, actually, whom I've never met face to face but has become my go-to for a guy's perspective. I told him I wouldn't name him here but just for shits and giggles I'm going to give him his own moniker: Casey Jones. I owe his wife a drink and quite possibly more, because she has allowed me to borrow her husband's brain for my picking pleasure.

Danielle and Casey have almost always given me similar advice. The one time they differed was (and still is) in regards to my quasi-relationship with The One Without A Moniker...the guy I trysted with off and on for five long years and decided to stop seeing at the end of 2014. Yeah, that guy. We'll get back to him in a bit.

When this latest fling began a couple of months ago, both of my advisers were pleased. Danielle met him and gave me the thumbs up. Enthusiastic thumbs, no less. She found him to be funny and smart and charming, like I did. Casey Jones was all guy-like, wishing me fun times, good sex and lots of laughs. Both of them supported the venture.

When my gut started telling me this fling was flung, they both advised me to wait a bit. To bench my cuckoo nature and just go with the flow. When it became so completely and hilariously apparent that once again I'd cast my net into yet another shallow, silty pond, they were there with consoling words and encouragement to just keep on trucking.

Both of them also told me this, and it's taken a while for it to finally begin to sink in:

I'm worth more. I'm not saying this most recent guy isn't a worthwhile person. He's not a bad man. He's not evil or icky. He threw it all out there for me right at the beginning with that one little sentence (remember, the one about being an asshole) but I was too blinded by butterflies and the reverberations of my freshly tickled ivories to really grasp it. Like so many women in my sensible but well-worn shoes, I lug around this tattered bag of hope wherever I go. Life has proven to be less than kind but we optimists...we never give up on that little girl fairytale dream. Someday my prince will come. Someday he won't leave right after he does.

Getting back to the other guy, the five-year-long one night stand? Yeah. We had decided, mutually, to stop doing that as of last year. December 30th, if you want the exact date. It was hard to quit him, not gonna lie to you. He is funny and smart and tall and dare I say, dashing. But I did it. I stood my ground and he stood his and we avoided each other for a nice long while.

We slipped up in May. And then in July. And then again on my birthday which was just a couple of weeks ago. By that time I had realized the Ivory Tickler was done tickling and when I got the message from Mr Five Years my martini-filled belly did those sick flipflops and BOOM there he was. There I was, too, reveling in his dash and his arms and all the excitement.

Until the next morning, when I fessed up to Danielle and Casey Jones. Danielle finally let me have it. She didn't mince words and when she was done I was, for one of the first times ever, speechless. No words but plenty of tears. And then I read Casey's response. Cut to me, standing over a birthday cake shoving spoonfuls of marbled goodness into my mouth while sobbing. Not exactly the way I wanted to usher in my 49th year but pretty much nailed it.

Why the tears? They weren't shed over the most recent lovah. Not one salty drop lost there. They weren't trickling down my cheeks due to remorse over the previous evening's tete a tete, either.

Nope. I was crying because my friends were trying to tell me something and despite all of my resistance, I was finally hearing them.

I know a lot of you are in the same gross boat as me. We are women of a certain age. Our bodies are not what they were the first time we went through this insane dating ritual. We have worries and kids and jobs and so little time to take care of them, let alone ourselves.

We've been hurt. Betrayed by loved ones and some of us are more healed than others but we can all still feel the pain. We love big but we're also terrified of what happens when that big love leaves our grasp, when we stand there on the grass and watch it float away into the clouds. Sometimes it comes back to us intact, but there are times we get nothing other than shreds in return.

If you're like me, you feel ruined by the past. My wholeness is gone, and I don't know if I'll ever get it back. The men I choose to let into my life are so obviously not the right ones, and yet, there they are. And me complaining about it is akin to a fisherman bitching about no bites when he keeps going back to the same barren lake.

My girl Danielle made me cry because she loves me so much it actually makes her sick to see me making the same dumbass choices over and over. My guy Casey Jones made me cry because he managed to sum up, in one Facebook message, what my problem is. Three different therapists have taken a crack at my crazy but only Casey Jones managed to hit it out of the park. I'm going to cut and paste his words here. Obviously they are meant for me and my whackadoo situation but I think there are many of you out there who would benefit from reading them too. With his permission, here it is:

I look at you and Big Daddy, and I see you comfortable in your routine, in the life you two worked hard to construct...but I see him dissatisfied with his lot in life, having given marriage and fatherhood of 4 little ones a half-assed run and found it wanting, leaving him vulnerable to the wiles of Secretary (whom, I'm certain, finds him equally boring nowadays). That's fuckery on a grand scale, to do that to your wife and children, and inexcusable. But what I see sometimes are harsh thoughts on your behalf that you could have done more, should have done more, to prevent the dissolution of your marriage. I can tell you all day long that once BD made that decision, there wasn't a damn thing you could do about it, and I think to an extent you do recognize that cold but honest truth, but I still see you being harsh on yourself at times.  

Where I'm going with this is, because of that fuckery by BD, it's inhibiting your ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship, and leaving you vulnerable to exciting but assholey men without substance and commitment. And I'm thinking that you are OK with those relationships... because you feel like that's all you deserve. And I can tell you all day long that you deserve better than that and be uplifting as your friend, but YOU have to believe it, too. I have faith that in the fullness of time, you'll come to believe it, and you'll find it.

I'm starting to believe it. Look, I'm no prize. I'm filled to the brim with anxiety and insecurity. Even after years of practice, anything over two cocktails turns me into a hot mess with limited bladder control. I'm poor and I drive a hooptie-type car and I'm going to have to work full-time until approximately ten years after my demise. I have a front butt and ham-hock arms and despite good intentions I'll probably always be the "before" picture.

But all of that doesn't mean I'm not worthy of good. Good luck and good friends and good fortune and good love.

Like Casey Jones said, I deserve better. And so do you, my friends. Believe it.

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