It’s a nice Saturday, and I’m hoping to get out of the house for a little while. But it’s already just after 11:00am, which means we need to get a move on if we’re going to go anywhere or do anything.
Bill lost his brand new brown cap (pictured yesterday) while he was gone on his trip. I ordered him another one, plus one in olive, since he liked the first one so much. Maybe I should put his name in the caps, too, since it looks like someone made off with the last one. It would have been nice if the person who found it had dropped it off at the lost and found.
While Bill was away, he quit shaving. I think it was because he worked overnights, and shaving was just a chore after a night of working. He is currently sporting facial hair for the first time since 2016. Bill actually looks really good with a beard. He grew one before we went to Ireland for the first time, around the time of our 14th wedding anniversary. But I don’t really like kissing his beard, and I guess he prefers the clean shaven look. He got rid of the beard and hasn’t grown another one until now.
Last night, I joked that he looked a bit like the old cartoon character, Snuffy Smith. I used to love reading Snuffy Smith in the Sunday comics. Looking back on it, I’m not sure why I enjoyed reading the comics so much when I was a kid. It probably had to do with the colors and simple language. 😉
Looks like 8 o’clock shadow…
Bill says he’s going to make a video for younger daughter, so she can see him with a fuzzy face. After that, he’ll probably shave. Below is a photo of him with a beard, back in November 2016.
Not everyone can pull off a beard. I have to admit, I think he looks debonair with facial hair, so I won’t protest if he keeps this look– even if I prefer to kiss him without the hair. It’s his face, so whatever he wants to do is up to him. I just look forward to seeing him looking a little less unkempt. A good night’s sleep has already helped, though. He was pretty tired last night.
Anyway… I know this isn’t the most exciting blog post. I don’t have time to do a deep dive. It’s Saturday, and I desperately need to get out of the house for awhile. So I think I’ll close this post and get on with the day. Enjoy your weekend!
I was about to title this post “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”, but I figured it would be better to use an animal friendly alternative. One of my particular gifts is a love for animals, after all. Even if I weren’t an animal lover, that particular expression would make me cringe at the violent imagery of it. Besides, who the hell is skinning cats these days? Certainly not anyone I’d want to know.
Since I’m a singer, I happen to know there’s more than one way to sing a song. In fact, as I write this post, I’m listening to Kenny Rogers sing “Desperado”, a song that was made famous by its composers, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, and their celebrated band, The Eagles. It has also been done beautifully by many different performers… Linda Ronstadt comes to mind. Karen Carpenter sang it with her brother, who reportedly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end when he heard it the first time. Clint Black also sang it for an Eagles tribute album. I do a pretty mean rendition myself, if I may be so bold. However, I won’t be recording it for YouTube, because Don Henley is a bastard about copyright claims. 😉 Not that he doesn’t have the right to be…
I often read articles to Bill– ones I’ve written, or ones I’ve found in any of the newspapers I regularly read. This morning, I came across “The R.T.O. Whisperers Have a Plan”, a fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine (unlocked) by Emma Goldberg about managers who have been trying to get people to stop wanting to work remotely and come back to the office. Instead of reading the article, I decided to play it– listen to it being read by a narrator.
The well written piece was all about how some workers are rebelling against the traditional requirement to work in an office setting. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily made remote working a necessity. Now, people are finding that they don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things, and office managers are having to adjust. They’re even bringing in “whisperers” to try to figure out how to lure workers back into the traditional office environment, and doing everything from making goodie bags to hosting yoga classes. They’re finding that some people would rather quit than go back to the daily office grind, while others are much happier working away from home.
I knew this was going to happen years ago, though not because of a pandemic. I just realized, even back in 2000 or so, that people would one day be able to work from home with ease. Sure enough, I was right. Some managers are now having to change their perspectives and their attitudes to maintain competent staffing.
There’s more than one way to sing a song…
My first experience with remote work was when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. I was a graduate assistant, and my boss, a very progressive nurse who had gone into working in public health legislation, hired me to help her research legislative and maternal and child health issues. After some time, she started telling me to work from home, which worked great for me. Looking back on it, she may have done that because she didn’t like having me around the office. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t always have the easiest personality for some people to take.
Not surprisingly, I loved remote working. I am able to be very productive in my home office. It’s an environment that works best for me. Much of what I did for that job involved writing and research, and working from home made it easier to concentrate. I also loved not having to get dressed up, sit in traffic, or deal with interpersonal conflicts and personality clashes with others.
After I graduated, I went looking for work in the Washington, DC area. Because I was an Army wife, I knew that the clock was ticking, because military families move a lot. I remember suggesting remote work to a hiring manager, who had a very strong reaction against the idea. I remember thinking that guy was going to be in for a rude awakening, because even in the early 00s, I could see that remote work was going to be a wave of the future. There’s a lot good to be said about it.
Yes, it’s hard for some managers to trust that their employees are going to be productive when they can’t actually watch them working. But people who can work from home don’t have to waste two hours a day in traffic. They don’t contribute to road rage, traffic accidents, or air pollution. They don’t spend as much money on dry cleaning or child care. Those who like remote working, whose jobs can be done remotely, and are capable of handling the responsibility, can be very productive and, more importantly, much more satisfied with their work. Moreover, a lot of time is wasted in office environments. Some people in offices spend time chit chatting and doing other stuff rather than doing their work.
The article that I linked specified other reasons why some people prefer remote work. Some of the reasons are issues that might not immediately seem obvious. For instance, the article mentioned that some people feel more comfortable working at home because of racial tensions in the workplace, or having to deal with people who are intolerant about other things they can’t help, like their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Or, perhaps they are more comfortable at home for other reasons. Recently, I watched the film, The Whale, which starred Brendan Fraser, who worked at home as an English professor teaching online classes. Fraser’s character, Charlie, was enormous, and he was ashamed of his appearance, so he turned off his camera, so his students couldn’t see him. This allowed him to earn a living, without having to endure the pain of his students visibly regarding him with disgust, or trying to maneuver in a world that doesn’t accommodate people who are literally huge. I’m not saying that’s the healthiest attitude to adopt. However, that movie does present a fairly realistic scenario highlighting a reason why some people would rather do their jobs from home. Some people work best on their own.
As for me, after that interview in which my suggestion to remote work was quickly shot down, I later scored some remote writing assignments. I found that I was able to complete them quickly, and well enough to earn bonuses. If we had stayed in the DC area a bit longer, I might have carved out an actual career, complete with a livable salary and benefits. 😉 As it was, I ended up leaving the formal workforce altogether.
Ah well. Maybe I could have had a conventional job until 2007. But then, we moved to Germany, and after that, moved three more times until Bill retired in 2014. Then we moved BACK to Germany. It would have been hard to build an in person work history when we were constantly moving. By the time Bill left the Army, we had truly made things work so that I didn’t really have to worry about working for money. Bill gradually proved himself over here, earned a couple of raises and promotions, and then started drawing his military retirement, which is literally like a second salary. We don’t own a home or other expensive property, and we’ve paid off most of our debts. So here I sit… a “professional” blogger and mediocre housewife. 😉
There’s more than one way to sing a song…
This certainly wasn’t what I had planned for myself. I did try to find a conventional job for several years. One day, Bill told me to stop trying to find a “real job”, because the process was really making me miserable, and we had enough money to make the household work. I remember, back in 2005, sitting in our Army provided house at the card table that served as our dining table. I said, “This is temporary. We are going to have a good life. It’s just going to take some time and discipline.”
Not long after that, I got a lucrative writing job that paid for a new dining table, a couch, and loveseat. I was able to do the whole project from home.
We’ve had some genuine perks related to my not having a “real job”, too. My not having a job meant that someone was there to take care of the dogs, do the household chores, and be available to deal with other domestic issues. It also meant that we only had to consider one work schedule when it came time to travel somewhere. Granted, during the early years of our marriage, we didn’t have much money for travel. But, when Bill went to Iraq, we had some extra money, which I used to pay off debt. I paid off all of his high interest credit cards (which he had because of the financial hell of his first marriage). I started paying extra on my student loans. Before long, we were ahead on our bills, and had some extra. I started saving and investing it. I supported Bill in his work, which meant I spent a lot of nights alone. I continued to write and made some money… not a lot, but something.
As Bill’s Army career came to an end, he worried about what was coming next. Once again, I delivered a prophecy that turned out to come true. I said, “I think your time to shine will be in your post Army life.”
Sure enough, in Germany, Bill has been a bright, shining star… He is much in demand for his diverse, yet hard to find technical skills. He’s also very well-liked and respected by his bosses, co-workers, and his clients. Meanwhile, I started saving and investing more of his salary, growing a modest $1000 investment to fifty times that. Bill opened an IRA. We paid off my student loans in 2018, nine years ahead of time. Last week, he got a nice raise. Now, we’re quite comfortable. My 2005 prediction has come true.
There’s more than one way to sing a song…
Why am I writing this story? Because I want to point out that there’s more than one way to be successful. There’s more than one way to get through life. Just because someone isn’t doing things the conventional way, that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of space or not contributing.
For years, certain people have given me a ration of crap over the way I live my life. Most of the people who have had a negative attitude have been people close to me. My dad had a real problem with the fact that I didn’t work outside the house. One time, when Bill was deployed, he called me and demanded to know what I was going to do with my time while Bill was in Iraq. He suggested that I get a job– even if it was waiting tables, so I might have more self-respect. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that how I spent my time was NONE of his business.
I suspect that he made that suggestion because it was embarrassing for HIM to feel like he needed to tell his friends that I was a housewife. He didn’t accept that I am a writer, or that writing is a “real job” for me, for which I have even earned some money.
After years of hearing my dad’s criticisms of everything from how I laughed, to my appearance, to who I dated (though he ended up loving Bill– probably more than he loved me), to where I worked, I was fed up and not about to take it anymore. So I told him to mind his own business, and stop harassing me about how I lived my life. It felt great, especially since there was nothing he could do but react with appropriate sheepishness and finally, STFU.
I’ve also heard comments from people wondering how we can buy certain things. Like, when we bought my car in 2009, my sister wondered how we could afford it and actually had the nerve to ask me. We got a discount and paid it off early. I still have it 14 years later. Years of paying things on time means that Bill and I both have outstanding credit ratings. When I met Bill years ago, that was not the case for him. His credit rating was in the 400s. I told him we would not be doing things the way they were done in his first marriage. We live within our means, and now we both have credit ratings in the 800s.
Other people– family members, acquaintances, ex landladies 😉 … and strangers– have looked down on me for living life the way I do. They think I’m lazy and don’t contribute, because I don’t obviously pull down a salary, and I’m not raising kids. They don’t realize that I contribute in lots of other ways, nor is it really their business, anyway, as long as the bills are paid.
The way Bill and I have done things doesn’t work for everyone. Not all couples can pull off what we have. However, the point is, our lifestyle HAS worked for us, and I have, actually, used that “fancy” education in making this lifestyle work (the finance classes were helpful). Living this way involves a lot of mutual trust, suppression of egos, and understanding. Frankly, given what Bill went through with his ex wife, I’m surprised he trusted me. It did take some time. But twenty plus years later, here we are, and it all works fine for us.
Now… if I needed to work outside the home for our survival, of course I’d do it. But, in our situation, it’s simply worked better for me to stay home. As I sit here, contemplating where we’re going to go on vacation, I can’t deny that it’s worked out fine.
There’s more than one way to sing a song!
After all these years, I feel kind of vindicated, even if it’s still sometimes hard to accept that in a conventional workplace, I was kind of a failure. But that doesn’t mean I’ve failed at life. I’ve just done things kind of differently than expected. And frankly, I’m grateful I didn’t have to spend the last twenty plus years in a cubicle, trying to think outside the box.
Not having a “real job” has also allowed me to make the video below… my version of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love of Love Today”, a song from 1976 that is sadly still so relevant in 2023..,
The featured photo comes from our new lighting projector… Isn’t it pretty?
We had quite an interesting weekend. It was our first in over twenty years without a beagle in the house. I miss Arran’s presence already. His presence was a constant, because he clung to us. He wanted to be with us all the time. Now, there’s an empty space on the Zane memorial rug, and no one is waiting to help me dry off after a shower. Noyzi only visits on occasion, when he wants something or is curious about a Dodo video on YouTube. I swear, Noyzi used to be terrified of the television, but now he LOVES watching animal videos. It doesn’t matter what kind of animal it is, either. Somehow, he just knows when there’s a critter on TV, and he wants to watch it. I’ve found that turning on animal videos is one of the best ways to summon him.
We went out twice, which we used to do all the time, but had gotten out of the habit of because of COVID-19 and Arran’s cancer. We are slowly getting more acquainted with Wiesbaden, which is crazy, since we’ve now lived here longer than we’ve lived anywhere else in our marriage. But again– the craziness of the past three years has caused us to be somewhat delayed in getting to know our environs.
I notice that today is the 20th, which is also the day three years ago, when we tried to adopt a new dog and failed spectacularly. I don’t want to dwell on that memory. I almost wonder if Arran’s recent passing wasn’t a way to help us forget about that tragic incident that ended in an innocent dog’s untimely death and a lawsuit… which fortunately didn’t directly involve us.
We also talked to Bill’s younger daughter a bit. Every time we talk to her, I’m alternately stunned by how kind and bright she is about some things… and how “stunted” she is in other ways. We shared some more with her about how Bill and I got together, and my mom’s hometown, Buena Vista, Virginia, which is where Southern Virginia University is. My mom is an alum of Southern Seminary, which is what SVU was before it was taken over by LDS businessmen. I explained to younger daughter that I knew the wife of one of the businessmen who started the LDS version of my mom’s alma mater. I didn’t get too far into it, but I suppose it will eventually come out about how the invasion of Mormons kind of changed the local culture. Maybe it’s for the better, as that area used to be pretty depressed, although it was, and still is, also beautiful.
Younger daughter talked about her decision to go west for college. Ex had been vehemently against it. She brought up all sorts of “reasons” why it was a bad idea for younger daughter to go far away for college. She had wanted her to stay in New England, live at home, and commute to college.
Younger daughter said she used to think her mom was “worried” about her, but now she knows she just wanted younger daughter around to take care of her and provide income in the form of college loan money. I caught a look of bemusement on younger daughter’s face as she spoke of older daughter, who still lives with Ex and takes care of their youngest sibling, who has severe autism. Older daughter is back in school, and younger daughter said something along the lines of, “My mother doesn’t care that my sister is $100,000 in debt. It’s not her name on the loans. She just wants someone around to take care of her and relieve her of her responsibilities.”
I couldn’t help but practically explode as we were responding to younger daughter. I told younger daughter that although I barely know her, I was so proud of her for having the guts to chart her own course. What she did took a lot of courage and determination. She made decisions that led her out of years of misery and practical “slavery”, borne out of fear, obligation, and guilt. Younger daughter is stunningly astute, as she tells us about how her mother uses guilt to maintain control of her adult children.
We learned that when younger daughter had her wedding, Ex couldn’t leave her alone, even when she was on her honeymoon. She tried to get younger daughter and her husband to move back east. And while younger daughter was hours beyond taking her vows, Ex was sending her constant texts, trying to get her to go to the hotel where they were all staying and go swimming and eat pizza.
Ex complained bitterly, even when ex stepson (Ex’s eldest) and his wife temporarily moved to the east and were living just an hour away. They weren’t close enough. They didn’t come by often enough. She wanted them to live in her home with her, even though it meant NINE people under one roof… in a house that couldn’t accommodate them.
On the surface, it sounds like Ex “loves” her kids too much, but I think she just wants an army of people who will do the work for her. She wants people to control, and is constantly trying to guilt her kids into taking care of her fifth child, who will almost certainly have to move into a “home” at some point.
Then she said something that really surprised me. She said that Ex, who had been trying to discourage younger daughter from going to a LDS owned college, found her daughter with #3 “annoying”. And #3’s daughter wanted to go to a school close to home, where she could be with her friends from high school (high school was a privilege denied to Bill’s daughters– Ex made them drop out and be “homeschooled”, and didn’t allow them extracurricular activities other than going to church). Ex wanted her to go out west, and live near younger daughter. I wonder if that was because she was hoping to influence younger daughter somehow, via her younger sister. Or does she really want that distance? The whole thing is so bizarre. The kids all had such different and inconsistent upbringings. The only thing they all had in common was chaos.
Ex also made a comment about how her eldest son went to jail… It was probably just an arrest in which he spent a night in jail, due to being busted for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. She suggested that younger daughter might do the same thing! And here’s younger daughter, who is very sweet, innocent, responsible, and religious. Of course she wasn’t going to experiment with drugs! Naturally, that was just an excuse to keep her from launching and living her own life as a capable adult.
The more I hear about this stuff, the more impressed I am with younger daughter’s resilience and resolve. She is amazing. And I can see that she is determined to give her own children a better childhood than what she had. She pointedly said that she doesn’t want her children to be burdened with having to take care of their severely autistic uncle. Then, she added, “half-uncle”.
As someone who also grew up in “chaos”, albeit that of a different sort, my heart goes out to Bill’s daughter. I don’t know what it was like for her to grow up with Ex as her mom, but I do know what it’s like to have a mentally ill parent who is hyper-controlling one minute, and batshit nuts the next. And I know what it feels like to have a parent who seems to want to maintain that familial connection and control as they also do things that are extremely repellant and violate boundaries. Calling your newly married adult child while she’s on her honeymoon? What the actual fuck!!!
All I can do is shake my head…
I might be tempted to write about this on RfM, but I think after that very unpleasant exchange I had there the other day, I might have to look elsewhere for support. Or maybe I’ll just write about it here. It’s probably just as effective.
I have come to realize that I really don’t like controlling people… but I especially can’t abide overbearing, all knowing, overly helpful women. I think it’s because they remind me too much of my sister. That makes me sad, too, because I would like to have better relations with my family. I would like to be close to people, other than Bill. But I can’t seem to get there… and every time I try, it ends in disaster. So here I sit, thousands of miles away, feeling “divorced” from my own family, just as Bill divorced Ex and his kids to save his own sanity. Maybe that’s why we get along so incredibly well.
I still thank Ex every day for “dumping” Bill. He makes me very happy. I think, after we have a vacation, we’ll start looking for another dog who will hang out with me and make me feel less isolated and alone.
The featured photo is me at age 12, on my beloved pony, Rusty… At that time in my life, I figured I might be a mom someday. It wasn’t in the cards for me… Maybe that’s okay. Warning in advance that this is a very personal post.
I continue to learn more about Bill’s younger daughter as every week passes. Lately, we’ve been exchanging emails. This morning, I received one that gave me pause. In it, she apologized to me for being “insensitive” about my “infertility”. I had recently written in an email that I had always wanted to have children, but was never able to have them. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I figured she already knew.
But this morning, I found an email from her, and she expressed kindness over my “infertility”. I guess she assumed I never had children because I literally couldn’t get pregnant. The truth is, I don’t actually know if I was infertile. I am almost surely infertile by now. In any case, I have never been pregnant.
There I was, sitting in bed this morning, trying to decide if it was appropriate for me to tell my husband’s daughter the reason I don’t have kids of my own. I asked Bill, and we decided that I should tell her that Bill had a vasectomy when he was still married to Ex. He later had it reversed, but it was eleven years after younger daughter’s birth. Though the reversal surgery was technically successful, I never managed to conceive.
Then Bill went to Iraq, and we had a bunch of Army moves that made trying to conceive with medical help logistically difficult and financially impossible. By the time we had recovered financially from Bill’s first marriage and paid off most of my student loans, I was getting pretty old. We ultimately decided that not having children was okay.
I carefully wrote this explanation for younger daughter. Bill is going to follow up with more of the story. I don’t want her to think he had the vasectomy because of her.
My father also had a vasectomy after I was born. My parents always made it seem like he did that because I was such a “difficult” child. Of course, now I realize that decision had nothing to do with me, personally. My mom hadn’t expected to get pregnant again after my sister was born. Eight years later, there I was… and I was a big, colicky baby, with big lungs. Mom didn’t want another child. Quite frankly, she hadn’t really wanted to have me. So, to keep the peace, my dad got snipped. I don’t think he had wanted to have a vasectomy, but my mom insisted.
In Bill’s case, he decided to have a vasectomy mainly because of financial reasons. Ex had her son from her first marriage, plus the two daughters they’d had together. Bill was supporting the whole family on his income, which, at the time, wasn’t much. He was an Army captain at the time. Ex got pregnant with ease, but she wasn’t a very attentive mother.
One time, when older daughter was a toddler, Bill came home from work to find that she hadn’t been fed. Ex was in bed, depressed, and older daughter had pulled a block of cheese out of the refrigerator. It had a knife plunged into it. I’m not sure where ex stepson was at the time, but it was clear that Ex wasn’t taking good care of the children.
Then, because his Army career also wasn’t going that well, Bill temporarily got off active duty. The family moved from Washington State to Arkansas, and Ex’s sister and young daughter moved in with them. Bill was supporting his family, plus Ex’s sister and daughter, on the piddly amount of money he made working at factories in Arkansas and from National Guard duty. It would have been disastrous and irresponsible for them to have another baby.
Bill was also concerned about the bizarre way Ex behaved when she was giving birth to younger daughter. He said she had kind of disassociated from the pain, crying that she would “be still”, as if she was hallucinating about being abused. At one point, she even refused to push. Bill had to tell the nurse that Ex was a victim of abuse and was apparently having some kind of traumatic flashback. The nurse realized what was happening and managed to get Ex to snap out of her spell and give birth to younger daughter. The scene was disturbing enough that Bill didn’t want to see it happen again.
Bill did propose to Ex that she get her tubes tied, since she clearly had issues with being pregnant and giving birth. Ex, of course, shot down that idea and shamed Bill for even suggesting it. So he had the procedure done, which in the long run, was probably a blessing. Ex clearly wasn’t done having kids, and she would have gotten pregnant again with Bill if he hadn’t gotten snipped. She had two more babies with #3. I don’t know what their births were like, but according to younger daughter, Ex is still neglectful and abusive.
Of course, a few years after Bill made that life altering decision, he met virginal me. I appreciated that he was willing to have the reversal surgery. The Army also offered reproductive and fertility treatments, but we needed to be living in an area where they offered the therapies. We lived in the Washington, DC area when Bill had the vasectomy reversal, so that worked out for us. After that, we frequently moved (five times in seven years), and sometimes to places where fertility treatments provided by the Army weren’t always readily available. We weren’t willing to go more into debt to try treatments with a civilian provider.
I had always wanted and expected to have children, but Bill was my first and only sexual partner. So I don’t have children… and the whole mess surrounding the vasectomy is another major reason why I’ve been so angry with Ex all these years.
It wasn’t enough that Bill left their marriage infertile. She also severely alienated the children they did have together. It’s only because younger daughter is a kind, loving, and thoughtful person, like Bill is, that he’s able to know his grandchildren. Ex wanted to deny him that, too. She told them many lies about Bill and me. Making matters worse is the pervasive attitude among people that fathers are expendable and second wives and stepmothers are always homewrecking whores.
I wrote to younger daughter that I’m “okay” with not having children. I suppose that’s true, at this point. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a baby now, at this time in my life. But I do feel like that decision to be mother was taken from me. Yes, I know there are people who will try to point out to me that I could have married (or just had sex with) someone else… or adopted… or gone through fertility treatments. Those kinds of comments are very belittling and discounting. I specifically wanted to have a baby with Bill. It’s taken a long time to come to terms with the fact that I can’t. Now I realize that it’s probably better that way. Fortunately, Bill is enough. I love him very much and wouldn’t choose another partner, regardless of everything that has happened.
I hope that my email to younger daughter isn’t too much of a bombshell. I honestly thought she knew about Bill’s vasectomy. He will write back to her and explain it more, since he was the one who made the choice. I just want her to remember that infertility isn’t always due to the woman. For all I know, I was infertile, too. We never had the chance to find out for sure.
Yesterday, younger daughter and Bill exchanged Marco Polo videos. Bill is finding that he has to dispel some impressions that she has, as well as offer her some basic history lessons. I can’t help but think that if they had been able to have a relationship for all of these years, they would both be so much better informed. But hopefully, they can make up for lost time.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Bill really should have fought harder for his daughters. But dealing with a malignant narcissist is very difficult for the unaware and ill equipped. Unfortunately, when he and Ex split, Bill wasn’t in a good position to fight harder for access to his kids. So now, all he can do, is damage repair and restoration. Still, I am relieved that just like the song, younger daughter is truly lovely. She really is Bill’s daughter, in spite of everything. I’m finally starting to love her. Thank God for that.
Dear Carolyn: My 27-year-old stepdaughter has made it clear that I am not welcome at her upcoming wedding. She’s blaming it on her mother not wanting me there.
But I’ve been married to her father for more than 10 years, and although we live in different states, I have tried my best to be kind to her. I certainly don’t expect any role except to watch and enjoy her happiness and her father’s pride.
How do I get past my hurt feelings and anger at her?
My response, as well as Carolyn’s, was basically this. Hit the spa, sister! Carolyn went deeper and wrote:
Not Invited: How fabulous a trip/adventure/staycation of your own can you plan for the time you would have been at the wedding? Because she and this and they and it all sound utterly not worth a moment more of your angst.
It’s hard and painful, yes, and you probably have some emotional details to work out with her father on this step-relationship going forward — but, really, after All We Have Been Through lately, I am coming to lean hard toward the … how can I say this in a Washington Post-friendly way … “no ducks left to give” family of answers. Take this as license not to care about her or her mother’s crap for multiple days. Pencil in some bliss. Live the dream.
My heart goes out to this stepmother because I have been where she is. I think Carolyn’s response was right on, too. The stepmom should take the day and do something for herself, if she has the means. I would add that it could be a good sign of solidarity if her husband also opted out of the wedding. However, I understand that taking such a step might possibly ruin the letter writer’s relationship with his daughter. Not knowing anything about the family in question, I don’t think that would be good advice for Carolyn to give. However, depending on the actual family dynamics, it might be warranted.
What I want to comment on today, though, has less to do with this particular letter. I noticed a whole lot of people, most of whom obviously didn’t bother to read the comments at all, were assuming the letter writer is “the other woman”. Nowhere in the original letter is that possibility mentioned. People get divorced for all kinds of reasons. It doesn’t have to be due to infidelity, nor are men always the cheaters when infidelity does happen.
In this case, the letter writer left a comment on the post that she was NOT the other woman. She hadn’t met her husband until after he was divorced. That was how it was in my situation, too. I did meet Bill online before he was divorced, but we didn’t meet offline until about a year after the split was official. And Ex had #3 living in the house Bill was paying for before they were officially divorced. Bill was completely platonic toward me until he was legally divorced. I didn’t even know about Ex until several months after we first bumped into each other in a chat room.
People have asked me if I was “the other woman.” I find that an incredibly rude and offensive question. Not only isn’t it anyone else’s business, but even if I had been the other woman, it’s not like I’d tell them. I don’t think people should try to have romantic relationships with people who are married. I also realize that sometimes, you don’t know the other person is married until some time has passed. And sometimes, situations are complicated or difficult. Personally, though, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get involved with married people, even if the marriage is just distilled down to a business arrangement. I wouldn’t do it.
However, I also don’t think the so-called “other woman” necessarily should get all of the blame. She isn’t the one who made a promise or a commitment to the other party. And I highly doubt that “other women” have the power to “steal” someone else. The vast majority of times, the committed party goes willingly. Yes, it’s a huge betrayal, but the other woman is not necessarily the one who made it, when it comes down to brass tacks.
That doesn’t mean I think it’s appropriate for women to hit on obviously attached men. I don’t think that’s right, either. I simply think the man who goes willingly to another woman is the one at fault, most of the time. I also think any person who does that once is liable to do it again.
I feel very secure in my marriage to Bill, because I was talking to him online when he was separated. He was never sexual or inappropriate. Our conversations were friendly, not romantic. And they were entirely online. Ex met her current husband playing Dungeons & Dragons. They met up in person before the divorce was final. In fact, he moved into Bill’s house before the divorce was final. But I’ll bet no one has ever asked #3 if he was “the other man”.
I was glad to see a few people on the Washington Post article commenting on the very anti-male, anti-stepmother sentiment in the comments on that letter. It’s as if people don’t realize how common divorce is, or that people get divorced for all kinds of reasons. It’s as if the first wife and mother of the children is always innocent and decent, and the second wife is always a homewrecking man stealer, and mean to her stepchildren.
I will admit, for a long time, I had outright contempt for Bill’s kids, mainly because of the unfair and disrespectful way they treated him. However, I eventually changed my mind when he started talking to his younger daughter. She’s turned out to be a really lovely young lady. I dare say, too, that she realizes that Bill and I are a much better match, and I am a lot less toxic than her mother is, in spite of what some people’s impressions of me might be. Lately, we’ve even had a friendly email exchange. I’ve been writing to her about my days riding horses. 😉
Anyway… because I’m waiting for the laundry to dry, here are a few “choice” comments from the WaPo. People really need to grow the fuck up!
*I’m betting wife #2 isn’t much older than the bride. “No ducks to give” is an appropriate response to this letter from the whining second wife. There’s probably not a lot of love lost in daddy dropping her mom for this piece of work.
*Did LW feature in events leading to the divorce? If so, Mother of the Bride may have great reasons for not wanting to see LW at the wedding – and Bride very well might share these reasons. However, even if this is not the case, the wedding is about the Bride and Groom, and they get to invite who they want to. Given that, Hax’s advice to not give a duck, and to find something else to do that day, is great for this and other such occasions.
*Wondering if stepmom was the other woman.
*I just re-read the letter. I don’t see where the LW says that she loves her step-daughter. She said “I have tried my best to be kind to her”. Since they live in different states, they might have had an opportunity for love to develop. Now there’s more reason than ever not to love her.
*If a bride can’t make her mom happy and comfortable at her wedding, that’s just sad. You don’t know what led to this.
*Sorry, I’m on the side of Mom. You can’t expect to be the cause of a family break-up and be welcome with open arms by the woman whose marriage you helped destroy. This is not your daughter, and while I’m sure she appreciates your “kindness” over the years, why not let her have her day with her mom and pop minus any awkwardness resulting from understandable resentment?
*Maybe the husband was unfaithful and that’s why the ex-wife doesn’t want her there because she wrecked their marriage. Ask the daughter-in-law how she really feels about you personally? That’s what matters. Right now it’s very personal with a couple of elephants sitting in the room blocking the truth. (This one is especially shitty. It’s not possible for someone to “wreck” someone else’s marriage. Adults are responsible for their own actions!)
*If my lying, cheating, thieving ex brings his marriage-wrecking girlfriend to our daughter’s (eventual) wedding, I will rip her to shreds with my bare hands. And then him. Sometimes the circumstances make it impossible for civil faking-of-politeness. (I can see why the ex husband got the hell away from this woman…)
*Did the stepmother have an affair with the bride’s father causing the divorce of her parents? If so I can understand her not wanting the stepmother to attend her wedding where her mother will be present.
*LW doesn’t say, but if her involvement with the bride’s father started before the divorce, perhaps there is wider family animosity that time as not healed. Even though a marriage ends, not everyone is happy for the remarried spouse’s happy new life. I say this as someone who excluded my father’s second wife from my wedding. My parents had a terrible divorce and the aftermath was emotionally scarring and financially difficult for not only my mother but for me and my siblings. This is not your hour to get your way.
Of course, there were many more comments like these. I almost hope some of these people, most of whom are obviously women, wind up being stepmothers someday. They could use an empathy and a reality check. On the other hand, some of these people don’t sound like pleasant people, either.
I also think situations like these, along with the high cost and stress involved with planning a wedding, make the idea of eloping so much better. I hope I never have to plan another wedding. 😉
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