Friday, September 26, 2014

Burning the Book


Everyone’s divorce story is boring.  Except mine. Mine’s amazing.

When you first find yourself dumped and alone.  Left for another woman. A single mom, with two babies in diapers.  Pathetic.  Fat.  Wronged.  Fat.  Angry.  Fat. You will tell anyone in the world your story.  And you think they care.  But they don’t.  I mean, mine they care about.  But yours, they don’t give a shit. 

In a long list of people that cared deeply and never got tired of hearing my incredibly unique divorce story, one man stood out.   My beloved UPS man, Peanut.  Out of all my paid friends, Peanut was the most sympathetic shoulder to cry on. 

Peanut and I had been front-door-best-friends for 6 years.  Being alone in a house with two babies day and in a day out, Peanut’s deliveries were THE highlight of my day.

I’m not certain Peanut was his Christian name but he wore it well.  Peanut was small in stature but a mighty moral force. After my divorce, I found myself buying things on Amazon just to see his tiny face.  I would one-click a single pair of socks if it would beckon my beloved Peanut.  He would deliver a package and I would deliver him a tale of a woman wronged for what seemed like hours because it was hours.  I would cry as he stood in silence. 

Peanut had developed throat cancer and had had his voice box removed.  When he really wanted to tell me how sympathetic he was to my drama, he would take out his artificial larynx, place it to his throat and a robot voice would say, “Eugenia, I really must be going.”  I like to think that I helped Peanut during his cancer battle.  Showing him that, in fact, things could be worse. 

This past weekend, my new, shiny husband Zack and I went on a much needed trip to San Francisco.   While there we ate and drank and ate some more, which I find is the only thing to do in San Francisco.  When a city is known for a bowl made entirely of bread…well, for me, it’s a city of bad decisions and carbohydrates.
When I eat out, there are certain rules I must always follow or I will make for a terrible dinner companion.

Number 1: Do not sit me in front of or near a mirror. 
I will spend the whole night staring at myself, which will lead to self-loathing and regret because I ate bread, which will lead to a conversation about bulimia and how lucky those girls are, which will lead to more guilt because bulimia is a serious disease, which will lead to me accepting me for me, which will lead to a late night Domino’s Pizza delivery in my bed while watching re-runs of The Golden Girls, which will lead to me being sad that I stopped writing, which will lead to me being sad that I have nothing to write about, which will lead to me blaming my ex-husband for not being more supportive, which will lead to me telling my divorce story, which will lead to absolutely nothing.

Number 2:  Never sit me near another table. 
Their conversation is far more interesting than anything my husband and I can talk about after several days together.  There are only so many times he can explain baseball, tell me how much he loves me, and try to convince me that I’m not fat.   He’s so stupid.  I’m sitting in front of a mirror.  I’m not blind.

I was digging into my second piece of artisan San Francisco sourdough bread convincing myself that because it was made in San Francisco there were less preservatives making the carbs in some way less carby, when a woman, her pregnant friend and her pregnant friends husband were seated exactly one and one half pieces of teardrop shaped bread away from us.  From my perspective, we were dining together.  My immediate impulse was to introduce myself and ask the pregnant woman, Erica, when she was due. 

I could tell right away that this was Erica’s first pregnancy. I could tell because she was proud of her baby bump.  When I was pregnant, I would hold my belly to make sure people knew that yes, I was morbidly obese but with child, not just plain old regular morbidly obese.  Erica was holding her stomach as though it needed support or it would fall off because she was so skinny.   She’s so stupid.  Erica didn’t realize that being pregnant is embarrassing because there is a human living inside of you that will eventually make its way out of your vagina and everyone knows it.  She didn’t realize that after the baby crawls out of her, she will find herself in a jumpy house unable to control her bladder at a childs birthday party and blame a toddler named Spencer for the wet spot.
Erica needed all of my wisdom and she needed it fast.  I had to tell her how to breastfeed.  How long to breastfeed.  About the too-infrequently-used “side-hold” position.  I needed to tell her about all the recalled baby products.  Is she taking her pre-natals?  What brand? Has she taken a babymoon?  Does she know how to swaddle?  Has anyone explained to her that you bite a newborns nails off?

My wheels were spinning as my husband gave me a familiar look.  It’s a slow headshake where he psychically tells me, “No.  They don’t need any of your wisdom.”   He’s so stupid.  I was about to gift the pregnant woman my knowledge anyway when Rachel, the single friend hijacked my would-be conversation. 

-Rachel is doing great.  Ryder and Natalie are also doing great.  Well,  not great.  They are doing as well as can be expected for two children whose father just up and walks out on them.  It’s just, why would Todd introduce them to his girlfriend without speaking to Rachel first?  If they are to co-parent shouldn’t Todd have introduced Cindy to Rachel first?  But it all goes back to Todd and his selfishness.

SHUT UP, RACHEL.  Nobody cares.  And so began the two hour meal with my husband and our dinner companions Rachel, Erica and Bob.  I was irritated to say the least.  There was no time for me to insert my expertise. Not an opening for me to brag about tandem breastfeeding.  No.  Instead, I had to listen to Rachel and her stupid divorce story. 

-Ryder and Natalie don't eat junk food.  They just don’t.  They don’t drink soda.  To them, juice is a special occasion.  They’ve never had McDonalds.  Well, maybe they do at Todd’s house.  He never cared about their well-being before the divorce but maybe he does now.  Maybe Todd being on his own will open his eyes to being a decent father.  Although, this latest stunt with Cindy is proving that he’s the “same old Todd”.

Yawn.  Who cares?  Get over it.  I looked at my shiny new husband.  I gave him the look of, “Well, now I need to insert myself into this divorce story. She doesn’t know a divorce story till she hears mine.”  Zack slowly shook his head.  Psychically reminding me, no one needs your knowledge.  He’s so stupid.  Rachel needed me.   

-And it’s not like Rachel was a prude.  She and Todd have always had a very intense sexual connection and that’s why the whole Cindy thing is making it weird.  For Todd not for Rachel.  Rachel’s doing great.  Rachel can tell that Cindy is jealous.  And Rachel feels terrible because all she wants is Todd’s happiness.  Nothing else.

It was at this point that I started to hear some oddly familiar divorce story lines.

“I don’t want you to take a side.   He needs friends right now.  He’s really broken.  You just have to ignore the fact that he walked out on his family for some young chick.  I’m sure Cindy is a great girl.”

I recognized it immediately.  The desperate attempt to seem sympathethic while passive-aggressively explaining that if they ever speak to Todd again, they are dead to you.  What Rachel had yet to learn, and I was dying to teach her, is in divorce there is a science to splitting the friends.

You keep your original friends.  The ones you came into the marriage with.

The couple friends that you made together, you split as follows.   If they are work friends that need Todd for financial gain, they sell their souls and stay with Todd.  If they are parent friends with kids at your school, they stay with you and go straight to heaven. 

There is one exception.  If you give someone the option to stay friends with the “Todd” of the marriage, they’re going to stay friends with “Todd”.   And here’s why.   While you are out there, scorned, trying to show people how “super” you’re doing, Todd’s actually doing “super”.  He’s not whining about you being a bad mom.  He’s in hog heaven.  He’s rid of you.  The nag who wouldn't let his kids have a McDonald’s happy meal.  And now, he’s got another woman to take care of him.  So, while you went from an intact family to a single mom raising the kids alone, Todd went from one woman to another. Someone is still cooking him dinner.  Someone is still washing his unders.  The only difference is you’ve been exchanged for a younger model who thinks Todd is a god.  And now, Todd’s a good-time guy.  He’s good company. You are the buzz kill.  No one cares that Todd lets the kids eat McDonalds.  They don’t care about anything at all except that Todd doesn’t bitch and complain while they are binging on artisan sourdough bread.

Rachel got up to go to the restroom.  Erica grimaced at Bob and said, “Wow, poor Todd.” 

And that was the end of Rachel’s friendship with Erica and Bob.  Rachel was pathetic.  And I used to be Rachel.  Sometimes I still am.  I looked at my husband, ashamed.  He got it.  And he loves me anyway. I guess he’s not that stupid. 

The meal ended.  My dinner companions left.  I still didn’t understand baseball.  I was still fat.  Zack still loved me and no one cared about Rachel’s divorce story.

And that’s the sad truth.  No one cares.  If you want people to see your ex for who he really is, you are wasting your time.  He’ll reveal himself.  And when he does, no one will care.  You won’t be vindicated because you will be a distant memory.  No one will feel sorry for you.  They don’t care.   They cared for exactly one week when it was gossip.  Then they stopped caring.

And if you land on your feet.  Married.  Happy.  Healthy.  Skinny.  Well, then Todd looks like the big hero.  Cause now you’re so much better off.  Todd did everyone a big huge favor by leaving you.  Thanks, Todd.  Dick.

It’ll take time, but you finally realize you need to put your divorce story to bed.  Close that chapter.  Close the book.   And your friends, your original friends who know where the bodies are buried.  The ones that have watched you feed your children Chicken McNuggets while complaining that Todd feeds the kids junk.  They share your story.  They lived it with you.  They hate Todd.  I promise.  It’s time to burn the book.  To look forward and live for the future.   The new book is going to be so much better.  The stories will be filled with everything you need.  Love, laughter, family, your original people, a bread bowl, Peanut the UPS man and world peace.  Also, if anyone wants to hear my divorce story, it's a real doozy and I'm happy to share it.