divorce, family, love, marriage

The not so wicked stepmonster…

Last night, I did something I have never done before in 20 years of marriage. It feels kind of momentous, especially since I have technically been a stepmom the whole time I’ve been married.

I sent my younger step daughter a birthday card. If memory serves, she’s turning 29 today… although Bill thinks he might have been celebrating the wrong birthday for all these years. I know for a fact that he told me her birthday was on the 6th, but then last night, he said he remembered the day of her birth was on a Wednesday, which he thinks was the 8th. Now, that was a Wednesday in 1993, so I don’t know if he actually remembers the date properly. In any case, I tend to have a better memory about these things than he does, even though I wasn’t in his life when she was born.

I actually sent her an e-card from Jacquie Lawson, rather than a physical card. I like them, because they’re creative, interactive, and cool, and they’re easy to choose and send. Bill’s late Aunt Betsy used to send them to me, so I subscribed to the service, too. And then, as I was about to schedule the card to be sent, I asked Bill if he thought maybe younger daughter might like a gift card. He said she would, so I looked to see what was available.

At first, I thought maybe it would be good to send her one for Cold Stone Creamery, since I know she likes ice cream and she has little kids… Then I remembered we just sent her a box of macaroons from France, and that might be sweetness overload. Then I wondered about movie passes, but I wasn’t sure if she has AMC Theaters near her… Then I thought about getting a gift card to a restaurant, but then I remembered that she mentioned having car problems recently, which could make a date night problematic. I finally settled on a $100 Target gift card. I figured she could use it on anything she wants. If she has a pressing need, and is short on cash, she can use it for that. Or, if she just wants to splurge on something, she can use it for that purpose.

One thing I remember about being 29 is that I was always broke, mainly because I was in graduate school. And I didn’t even have kids, while younger daughter has three! Some of the best gifts I got during that time in my life were in the form of money… so I could pay bills. I remember one year, my sister sent me $100 or so, and I used it to pay my health insurance premium. It was a huge load off my mind and truly appreciated.

Maybe it seems odd for me to feel wonderment about sending my husband’s younger daughter a birthday card and a gift card. But you have to realize, I have never had a chance to be in her life, and for a long time, I never expected I would ever know her. For years, I was very angry with her for the way Bill was treated. And then, once they did finally reconnect, I didn’t want to intrude, as Bill gingerly tried to reconcile with his long lost child. They had a lot to discuss between themselves, and I felt that I shouldn’t get in the middle of that. One thing that I’ve often heard from stepchildren is that they often feel like stepparents, especially stepmothers, interfere and intrude too much. So I wanted to give them space to bond and heal.

I’ve only met my husband’s daughters in person once, and that was in 2003. At the time of our one meeting, Bill and I had only been married for about seven months. After that meeting, Ex determined that I was too much of a “bad influence”, and refused to cooperate with visitation requests. For the next fifteen years, I felt like there were these “ghost children” in the midst. Then, in 2017, Bill started talking to his daughter again. I started trusting her sometime in 2018, when I could plainly see that she wasn’t her mother reincarnated. In fact, she appears to be the complete opposite of her mother, thank God.

Last night I was feeling generous… and then Bill reminded me of how, when he finally got to see her in the flesh back in March 2020, she sent me a beautiful and sincere “Thank You” note for loving Bill. This year, she sent us a lovely card congratulating us on our 20th wedding anniversary. And it’s very obvious to me that in spite of what Ex claimed, back when Bill tried to assert his parental rights, younger daughter never forgot who her real dad is… nor did she ever regard him as a mere sperm donor (don’t even get me started on that). I do think she was afraid to talk to him for a long time. Ex had told her a lot of lies about Bill, but I also think maybe younger daughter worried that he’d be angry with her. She had no way of knowing that her father is one of the most even-keeled, reasonable, decent men there is. All she had to go on were her own memories of Bill, and the ridiculous stories her mother told her.

I don’t expect that younger daughter will ever see me as anyone more than Bill’s wife… but I can, at least, be better than #3 has been, and show a sincere interest in her. I can be a better, saner example than her mother has been. Aside from that, I like to shop, and I’m damned good at it. 😉

Hopefully, I got the birthdate right. Bill has already sent her a gift, which she accidentally opened sooner than she was supposed to… a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, as well as a couple of other kitchen implements. I’m sure she’ll be surprised to get something from me. 😉 But I can be full of surprises, you know…

By the way, the featured photo was taken on my birthday last June… We were in Antwerp, Belgium. I’d probably pick a different dessert for younger daughter, as I believe I had a Colonel– that’s citrus flavored sorbet with vodka poured all over it. I suspect that would not be something she would ever order. But I know Bill would look as happy as he does in that photo, if he could be in Utah to help his daughter celebrate in person.

Standard
divorce, Ex, family, lessons learned, marriage

Repost: An open letter to angry adult stepchildren… 

I wrote this post on October 15, 2010. I am reposting it because I see that it got over 11,000 hits, and some people might find it useful. My personal situation has changed a lot since I wrote this piece 12 years ago, so please keep that in mind if you read this… For instance, one of Bill’s children now speaks to him. Sometimes things can turn out better given some time and perspective.

Before I start with today’s post, I want to explain that my thoughts today are not necessarily directed to my stepchildren. After all, in eight years I have only met my stepchildren once and, since then, have had absolutely no contact with them. No… today’s post is for angry stepchildren who still talk to both of their parents and, for whatever reason, hate one or both of their stepparents. 

Yesterday, I was hanging out at one of my favorite online communities when I noticed a post written by a guy who was very upset with his father. This fellow, who is very open about being a homosexual, had recently written a heartfelt letter to his dad about his homosexuality. He was asking his dad for understanding and support. His father, apparently, didn’t respond to the letter the way the writer had hoped he would. 

So my online friend was understandably devastated about this turn of events and, in the course of describing his pain, happened to refer to his father’s wife as a “heinous harpy”. He did not explain why he thought of his stepmother that way. In fact, most of his posts were about his relationship with his father. But I couldn’t help but notice that, for some reason, he seemed to hate his stepmother and felt the need to express his hatred in a post that, at least on the surface, had nothing to do with her.

Here’s what I’d like to say to that guy, along with anyone else who hates their stepparent(s), yet still loves their parent(s). You may have a very good reason for hating your mother’s or father’s spouse. Or you may not have a good reason for hating them. But have you considered the reasons why your parent married that person? Put aside your personal feelings for a moment and think about it. Just spend a few minutes looking at life through your parent’s eyes.

Divorce sucks. It sucks for almost everybody, including many stepparents. Yes, if you are a child of divorce, you absolutely have a right to be hurt, confused, angry, etc. But chances are, your parent is hurting too, and would like the chance to try to be happy with someone else. Do you really expect your parent to go through life alone, just because their first try at marriage didn’t work out? Would you actually want them to be alone as they get older and less independent? 

Like it or not, your parent made a choice to invite another person into his or her life. Your parent had his or her own reasons for doing so. Maybe you don’t agree with your parent’s reasons or taste. Maybe your stepmother or stepfather is cruel or hateful to you. Maybe you feel like he or she takes your parent’s attention away from you or tries to shut you out of your parent’s life. Perhaps your parent’s remarriage has destroyed any hopes that your parents might reconcile.  

All of these issues are valid reasons for you to feel the way you do. But I’m asking you to stop and consider your parent’s feelings. Think about why he or she made the choice to invite this new person into their life. Then, if you’re able, take an objective look at your stepparent. Is he or she really worthy of your hatred? Does your parent genuinely love his or her spouse? Have you taken a moment to see what your parent sees in their wife or husband? 

Then, think about this… Did you decide to hate your stepparent? Or did your other parent make that decision for you? Consider this. I have met my husband’s daughters just once. During our one meeting, which barely lasted 48 hours, my husband’s daughters and I seemed to get along just fine. One of them went as far as to give me a big hug and refer to me as her other mother. But not long after that meeting, my husband’s daughters mysteriously started distancing themselves from their dad until finally, in 2004, they stopped talking to him altogether and, in 2006, actually sent him letters demanding that he let their current stepfather adopt them.

Since I haven’t seen or talked to my husband’s kids since that one meeting which had seemed to go so well, I can’t help but think their mother was somehow threatened by me and told them they should hate me, as well as their dad for choosing to marry me. In other words, the girls didn’t decide to dislike me until their mother decided for them that I was a bad person. Incidentally, I have never met their mother, and she has very limited knowledge of me, so I’m not sure how she determined I was so evil. I try not to take it personally, since I have a feeling she would have hated anyone my husband had chosen to marry.  

Here’s something else to consider. Relationships are always a two-way street. You may hate your stepparent and that may be all very well and good. But your stepparent may also reserve the right to feel the same way about you, especially if you’re an adult. You might not care about how they feel, but if you want to have a good relationship with your parent, you might be wise to reconsider the way you treat his or her spouse. There may come a time when you’ll wish you were on better terms with them.  

Marriage is a dicey business at best. Statistics show that about half of all married couples eventually divorce. Many of those people will have children, so there are lots of people in the child-of-divorce boat. Moreover, a lot of those children-of-divorce will eventually grow up and be divorced themselves. If that ever happens to you, would you want to spend the rest of your life alone just to spare your child’s feelings? Would you want your child to have the right to choose your mate for you, especially since most kids eventually grow up and have lives of their own?  

In our society, most people reject the idea of arranged marriages decided by their parents or anyone else. Do you really think you should have the right to reject your parent’s choice for a spouse? Would you want your kids to overrule your choice of whom to marry? And would you be happy if your parent eventually divorced and remarried a third or fourth time? Remember, divorce sucks… and it’s very expensive. I think the only people who could possibly enjoy the process of divorce are those who get a paycheck from it. Chances are, if your parent divorces several times, he or she might not be as financially well-prepared to handle growing older. If he or she wants to remarry, it makes good sense to let them (hopefully) choose the right spouse, once and for all.

I know for a fact that my husband is less lonely and a lot happier with me than he ever was with his ex-wife. We are very compatible with each other. Certainly, things would have been less complicated had he and I met first. But that didn’t happen. We make each other happy and belong together. Most parents want the best for their children and hope they will be happy. I’d like to think that a loving child would want the same for their parent(s). I know my husband’s happiness has led to his being healthier and wealthier… perhaps giving his kids more time to reconsider whether or not they really do want to throw away their real dad for good.  

Life is pretty short and there may come a time when you’ll wish you had more time to spend with your mother or father. If you love your parent(s), I would expect you’d want for them what they, hopefully, want for you… health and happiness and freedom from loneliness.

It’s true that you may have all the legitimate reasons in the world to hate your stepparent(s). All I’m asking you to do is to take a minute to understand where your hatred is coming from and determine whether or not it’s truly valid. Maybe your stepmom is a harpy or your stepfather is a selfish bastard. But your parent chose them to be a part of their lives. They must have had a reason… And maybe you should try to have some respect for their reasons. I’m sure you’d wish for and expect the very same if you’re ever in their shoes.

Standard
anniversary, Bill, love, marriage, memories

What happened after September 12, 2001…

Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of 9/11. I noticed that not a lot of people posted about it, probably because a lot of us are preoccupied with the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II. I know I watched some of her final journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh. Although I’ve seen some posts about how the monarchy needs to be abolished, the truth is, a lot of people loved the queen. Of course she wasn’t perfect, and there were some things she did that angered people. But then, nobody’s perfect… and I’m not so sure it’s that easy to dissolve the British monarchy. Maybe it will happen someday, but I don’t think it will in my lifetime.

In any case, every year on 9/11, I remember what I was doing that day. I even remember what I was wearing. I remember how, all day, I wondered if Bill was okay. He had just been relocated to the Pentagon and was working there on 9/11. He happened to be in the wedge that got hit. In fact, his office had just been moved the week prior. If it hadn’t been moved, he probably would have been killed on 9/11. We were just “friends” at that point, having just spent a truly wonderful Labor Day weekend together. I knew we were developing strong romantic feelings for each other, but we still hadn’t really made our relationship public. And so, on 9/11/01, no one would have known to tell me if Bill had died or been injured.

I remember that evening, talking to my mom on the phone. I told her about my “friend” who worked in the Pentagon. She was an experienced Air Force wife, so she gave me some advice. After I got off the phone, I got a PM from Bill on Yahoo! Messenger. He said he’d tried to call me, but he had the wrong number. We had a serious conversation, and I told him that if he considered me his girlfriend, it might be a good idea to tell people about my existence. He agreed, and we announced to friends and family that we were together.

We also started to date in person regularly. This was a new thing for me, because I didn’t really date much at all before I met Bill. I’d had a high school boyfriend, but that was a very platonic relationship. I had no sexual history to speak of, and although I was only 29 years old, I thought I was going to die a virgin. So it was kind of strange to be dating a man, especially since he was divorced and had children.

Because I lived in South Carolina and he lived in Virginia, our dates involved long weekends at one or the other’s apartments. I came to enjoy those weekends very much, even though we were both broke. We were just so comfortable with each other. We always had a good time doing whatever… watching movies, taking walks, eating cheap food… and then he decided not to practice Mormonism anymore, which was a great thing. I remember going to his apartment once, having left beer in his fridge during my last visit. The beer was finished. I asked him what happened to it, and he said he drank it. I said, “Yea!”

In November 2001, Bill and his mom joined us at our Thanksgiving shindig at my Granny’s house in Virginia. They fit right in with my family. Bill’s mom liked me, and my parents loved Bill, which I knew they would. My dad made jokes about Bill being LDS, but I assured him that when he met Bill, he’d love him. Sure enough, I was right. I went to visit Bill at Christmas; then he flew to Arizona to see his kids. That turned out to be his last good holiday with his kids before his Ex went into full alienation mode.

A few weeks later, we were online, and I told Bill I wanted to give him a candy pop ring. He said, “Don’t do that… because I want to give you a ring.”

“Does this mean you want to get married?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said.

“So are we now engaged?” I asked.

“Yes, I think so.” He said.

I went into my last semester of graduate school unexpectedly engaged to be married. I never thought it would happen. Two months later, before I got on a plane to Jamaica to attend my sister’s destination wedding, Bill took me out to dinner at 1789 restaurant in Georgetown, where he presented me with a beautiful engagement ring. I’ve worn it every day since then. My finger has a permanent groove in it. 2002 was a big year for us… I finished dual master’s degrees and got married. I became a military wife and stepmother. Of course, I barely count myself as a stepmother, given how alienated Bill’s daughters were. But at least one of them came around, eventually.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for almost 20 years. In just two months, we’ll pass that milestone. It seems like yesterday, we were online friends, and I was wondering if he’d survived 9/11. I’m so grateful that he did survive, because I could not have imagined a more perfect husband for me. We are ridiculously compatible, which is no small feat. Like I said, it’s not like I dated much before we met. I look at the state of the world now, and I feel fortunate that Bill and I have been together to experience it. We’ve shared a lot of incredible life events that have run the gamut, happy, sad, infuriating, amazing… And we still light up each other’s faces. Below is a photo I took on Saturday, after we’d been drinking wine in the rain at our village’s wine fest. It amazes me that after twenty years, I still smile like this when I’m with Bill.

No makeup… and my chins showed up, too.

Anyway… I didn’t mean to get all mushy. I guess I just wanted to write something kind of sweet for once, instead of something angry, snarky, or depressing. The day after 9/11, we were an official couple.  Four months after that, we were engaged.  Ten months after we got engaged, we were married at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.  The last twenty years have flown by.  Despite my bitching, grousing, moaning, and negativity, it’s mostly been a wonderful trip.  But it definitely hasn’t been without its challenges, as any regular reader of this blog knows.  

I’m so glad I took that leap of faith.  I would not trade my life now for what I was preparing for when Bill and I met.  It would have been a very different life for me… I might have been successful.  Maybe I might have even found another man to love, although I think it might be hard to find one that is as compatible as Bill is.    

I don’t get crushes anymore.  I don’t have any temptation to be with anyone else.  I don’t know if that’s normal, but I do know that while I might notice a good looking man, I don’t feel like trading Bill for that other guy.  I don’t wonder about intimacy with other men.  I don’t wonder how it would have turned out if one of my old crushes had liked me back.  I don’t know if that makes me unusual or lucky.  I just know that the one thing in life that I really did do right was get married to Bill.

While I don’t cherish the horrific memories of 9/11, I do think that 9/11 pushed us together sooner. I don’t think we would have been as quick to get together if it weren’t for that terrible day, when I didn’t know if he was dead or alive, and he didn’t know if he was going to survive. Bill was recovering from a truly toxic relationship, and I was just nervous and scared, and wanting to finally launch a career I might have been proud of. I guess the universe simply had different plans for both of us. I really can’t complain. In fact, every day, it amazes me how things have turned out for us.

Thank God for guys like Bill… who appreciate complicated women like me.  I can’t imagine being with anyone else…

Standard
Bill, Ex, marriage, mental health, relationships

“Quick! Eat this before I give it to an animal!”

Here’s another life lesson, courtesy of the late, great George Carlin… Please keep in mind, this is just one way of looking at things, and it comes from my perspective. Your mileage may vary.

Years ago, when I was still in high school, I bought a bunch of cassette tapes by the late George Carlin. They were mostly his concerts from the 1970s and early 80s. I was a new fan, having been introduced to Carlin by HBO (Home Box Office), which I watched incessantly as a child. That probably explains a lot of the stuff I write about as an adult.

George had a funny routine he did back in 1981 called “Ice Box Man.” It was included on his album, A Place for My Stuff, which I listened to repeatedly on cassette as I drove from Gloucester, Virginia to Williamsburg, on one of my many work assignments there. In that routine, he talked about how it was his job to monitor the refrigerator and freezer. Naturally, that led to him making many nutty observations about humans and their relationship with the food they store in the fridge.

“Close that Goddamn door!”

I was reminded of Mr. Carlin this morning, as Bill and I were discussing a blog post I recently wrote titled “The latest big dream job“. It was yet another post about Ex, and her many elusive dreams. You know the old 80s song, “Don’t Fall in Love With A Dreamer?” Well, it’s sage advice, especially if you want to keep your sanity. Dreams can be a lot of fun, or they can be a distraction. Or, if someone is hellbent on following an unrealistic dream, they can quickly turn into a disastrous nightmare.

As we were talking about the prospect of Ex jetting off to an exotic place with the son she says has severe autism and runs away from home, Bill said he could only imagine what living with her is like these days. She has so many big ideas. Sometimes she tries to implement them, but they are almost always overcome by events, or somehow, her enthusiasm wanes and she loses interest. Often, when he was still married to her, that eventually meant being poorer, but not always wiser. If you’re the type of person who is responsible and likes a little stability in your life, that kind of shit gets old pretty quickly. It would be easy to be caught up in the dream at first… but then, hundreds or thousands of dollars and wasted hours later, when the dream falls apart, it’s not so much fun anymore.

So what has this story got to do with George Carlin and his “Ice Box Man” routine? I’m getting there.

Back in the late 80s, Bill was a young man who wasn’t very sure of himself. He doubted his appeal to women, and had this really low sense of self-worth. We have a few theories as to where this low self-esteem came from, but to make a long story short, it kind of made him a sitting duck for an abuser to exploit. Enter Ex. She spotted him, alone, in his mid 20s, reasonably handsome, and an Army officer. Her first husband was an enlisted guy, and for whatever reason, he wasn’t ringing her chimes anymore. I suspect she saw Bill as someone she could mold and manipulate, someone who would help her follow and achieve her dreams… someone with more earning power.

Well, I’ve written plenty about what happened after that. What I want to focus on today is the moment Bill decided to “eat food that someone was only going to throw away…” That’s where Carlin’s “Ice Box Man” comes into the story.

Carlin says:

...’Cause there’s a bigger responsibility. And that is getting into that refrigerator and deciding which things need to be thrown away. Most people will not take that responsibility. Most people will just go and get what they want, leave everything else alone and say, “Well, someone else wants that. Someone else will eat that” Meanwhile, the thing is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and is, in fact stuck to the rack. Well, I’ve got to go in there and decide when to throw things away.

“Chocolate pudding? Does anyone want this last chocolate pudding? I have just one chocolate pudding left. It’s only pulled away from the side of the dish about three inches all the way around. And there’s a huge fault running through the center of the pudding. Actually, it’s nothing but a ball of skin at this point. Does anyone want a ball of fault ridden chocolate pudding skin? I’m only going to throw it away.

A lot of us have experienced this, haven’t we? Especially those of us who hail from the United States, where we have big refrigerators, and parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. People who have been deprived tend to be very averse to “wasting” things. It doesn’t just apply to food, either. It can apply to inanimate objects or even relationships. As Jim Bob Duggar liked to say, before his family fell from grace, “Buy used and save the difference!” If you have a shitload of kids and not that much money, it makes sense to buy things used, especially if there’s a lot of good use left in the item. It makes sense to eat what you have before buying more food. Or, even better, learning how to garden so you can grow your own food. Waste is not good, is it? Of course, you have to use up the item before it goes bad or falls into disrepair.

But a lot of us aren’t like this, and we pass up things when they are more appealing. As Carlin observes, “Well, someone else wants that. Someone else will eat that.” And no one ever eats it, but they don’t throw out the item that is wasting away in the fridge, shrinking from neglect, turning different colors, growing fur, or whatever. They don’t toss it, because they can’t bear losing the chance to “waste not, want not.” Even if passing on using the item would ultimately be better for them in the long run than trying to use it would be.

At one time, I’m sure that chocolate pudding Carlin speaks of was appetizing and delicious, smooth and creamy and sweet. But after weeks of neglect, it shriveled up into something ugly, unrecognizable, and in fact, potentially dangerous to one’s health. Ahh… but still, even when it’s clear that something is beyond its freshness or not particularly appealing or appetizing, a lot of us still won’t throw it away. Bill recently cleaned out one of our fridges, and he tossed an unopened jar of pickles that we bought when we still lived in Jettingen, four plus years ago! I have lots of over the counter drugs in the house that are two or more years beyond their expiration dates. Last night, I was looking at flea and tick meds for Arran that expired in January 2020. I didn’t use the meds, but I also didn’t throw them away! They’re still in the closet as I type this! I will be tossing them in a few minutes.

Over almost twenty years of marriage, I have often asked Bill what the hell he was thinking when he decided to pursue a relationship with his former wife. Don’t get me wrong. She’s probably the perfect mate for someone. But she was clearly not a good match for Bill, even if she was the most mentally stable person alive. They have very little in common, other than having gone to the same high school. They don’t have similar interests at all. He likes to go to nice restaurants, listen to alternative music, brew beer, read good books, and live within his means– but in style. He likes working for the Army and doesn’t mind the chaotic lifestyle that can come from that. Ex has a lot of interests, but none of them really aligned with Bill’s. Her big dreams never seemed to mesh with Bill’s reality and desire for stability.

According to Bill, once she had him hooked, Ex turned into a different person. Ex often made fun of Bill’s interests. She denigrated him in front of other people, and shamed him when he expressed goals and desires for his own life. She had completely different goals, and would not work with him. In fact, she often sabotaged his efforts to get ahead. Her idea was to be the Queen Bee, and he was expected to be a Worker Bee. So, in her mind, he had no right to make decisions for their life together. That was solely her job.

Some people would find this quality in Ex very attractive, as they don’t know what they want, and it can be comforting to be with someone who doesn’t mind being in charge of everything. But knowing Bill the way I do, I think that the chocolate pudding Ex promised quickly turned into a ball of pudding skin. Still, he held onto that shriveled up pudding skin for almost ten years before he finally decided to “throw it away”… He mistakenly believed she was the only person who would find him attractive. When they got together, he even saw himself as shriveled up chocolate pudding, waiting to be “thrown away”.

Carlin continues:

Do people do that with you? Offer you some food that if you don’t eat it, they’re only going to throw it away. Well, doesn’t that make you feel dandy? “Here’s something to eat, Dave. Hurry up, it’s spoiling!” “Something for you, Angela. Eat quickly, that green part is moving!” “Here, Bob. Eat this before I give it to an animal.”

There was a time in Bill’s life when he had very little confidence, especially around women. Although he’s always been a very pleasant, likable, attractive person, he somehow got the message that he wasn’t appealing to other people. He was shy, and reluctant to approach women. But, like a lot of people, Bill also hoped to marry someday, and have a family. Ex presented him with that possibility when she showed up on his doorstep in Germany with her toddler aged son. She was friendly and charming, and willing to relieve his loneliness. They knew each other from their high school years. In his mid 20s, Bill was watching his contemporaries get married and start families. Ex was offering him that chance, and he wouldn’t have to put himself out there to get it. She was pursuing him, which was flattering and deceptively made starting a family seem “easy”. And… he also felt kind of sorry for her. She told him horror stories (probably false or exaggerated) about her first husband that stimulated the “white knight” rescuing aspect of his personality.

So, even though they weren’t a very comfortable match, Bill decided to marry Ex. In retrospect, it seems kind of crazy–like taking a chance on eating that ball of shriveled up chocolate pudding skin and hoping it doesn’t make him sick or kill him. And yet, people do that all the time, don’t they? They take a chance on that questionable food from the fridge, some of which they may not even be able to identify anymore.

Carlin says:

…Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is to reach into the refrigerator and come out with something that you cannot identify at all. You literally do not know what it is. Could be meat, could be cake. Usually, at a time like that, I’ll bluff. “Honey, is this good?” “Well, what is it?” “I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks like…meatcake!” “Well, smell it.” (snort, sniff) “It has absolutely no smell whatsoever!” “It’s good! Put it back! Somebody is saving it. It’ll turn up in something.” That’s what frightens me. That someone will consider it a challenge and use it just because it’s in there.

“Honey, is this good?”

Then there’s the concept of “leftovers”. I think about how I wound up spending a year of dysfunction in college, because I needed a roommate. I found myself agreeing to live with a woman with whom I was completely incompatible. And, in fairness, she agreed to live with me, and she probably feels about me the same way as I do about her. Yet, we still agreed to be roommates. This wasn’t because we were “simpatico”, but because we both needed a warm body to occupy our dorm room.

It was quite a year. We survived, but not on particularly friendly terms. I guess you could call us “leftovers”. We were two people– not friends– who needed someone to share a room and hadn’t ended our first year of college with a buddy with whom we could bunk. It wasn’t a good match, and I’m sure we were both equally glad when the academic year was over and we didn’t ever have to see each other again. It’s one thing to do that when you temporarily need a roommate. Bill had his share of incompatible roomies, too. But it’s really not a good idea to start a marriage with that mindset, especially when children are in the mix. Marriages are supposed to last most of a lifetime, even if they often don’t.

Carlin says of the food in the fridge:

It’s a leftover. What a sad word that is. Leftover. How would you like to be…a leftover? Well, it wouldn’t be bad if they were taking people out to be shot. I might even volunteer. But, y’know, leftovers make you feel good twice. D’ja ever think about that? When you first put them away, you feel really intelligent- “I’m saving food!” And then, after a month, when hair is growing out of them and you throw them away you feel…really intelligent- “I’m saving my life!”

I have often pointed out to Bill that, while he definitely suffered, having married Ex when he didn’t really love her, Ex also suffered. Because who wants to be the charity project of someone who just feels sorry for them? Ex used to complain to Bill that he didn’t love her enough. Bill would try to show her that she was wrong. Of course that never worked, because she already knew what he didn’t want to admit. He hadn’t married her because he loved her and wanted to be with her. He married her because he’d pitied her, and himself… and he didn’t have enough self-respect to give himself the chance to find someone more compatible. He also didn’t have enough respect for Ex to give her the same opportunity, thus sparing themselves and their children a lot of pain.

Bill had made the mistake of regarding himself as a “leftover”. He also regarded Ex as a “leftover”. And he had decided, with her agreement, that they should try to make it work, even though there were many signs that it was not a good idea. Getting married to another warm body simply because someone is willing and available is not exactly a great way to start a family, is it? I mean, many people have done it… and some may have stayed together for many years. But how many people find happiness that way?

It works in the movies sometimes, but not so much in real life. Like having an ill fitting shoe, or a dental crown that doesn’t quite fit right. Maybe it functions, but it’s not comfortable or pleasing. You end up with blisters or inflammation that makes you miserable. Or maybe, to keep with the food theme, the leftovers take away your hunger and keep you from starving to death, but leave you with diarrhea or heartburn. Not all leftovers go together, you see. Who wants to mix cherry cheesecake with stinky cheese, roast beef, and peanut butter?

There’s more to Carlin’s brilliant “Ice Box Man” routine, and I highly recommend that you listen to it, especially if you haven’t heard it. Carlin was a wise, observant, and brilliant man, who was also very funny! I have learned a lot from him over the years.

As for Bill’s formerly “Ice Box Man” approach to marriage, I would say that not all is lost. He came away from that experience with a lot of wisdom and insight. He has a daughter who has come around after years of estrangement. He’s got three grandchildren. And he has the satisfaction of knowing that he was able to survive some pretty horrifying shit. Now, he’s thriving, and he’s found someone with whom he is very compatible… ME. 😉

God knows, I have often thought of myself of a leftover, too… so I am very happy to have found the right person against tremendous odds. Especially if you know how and where we actually met… but that’s a story for another day.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on “stuff” purchased through my site.

Standard
Bill, family, love, marriage

Few people manage to “come see the softer side of me…”

Some years ago, before its recent financial woes, the retail store Sears had a catchy jingle that went, “Come see the softer side of Sears.” It was about how the store, known for its hardware, heavy mechanical goods, and power tools, also sold things like fuzzy sweaters and silky nightgowns. Potential customers were invited to “come see the softer side” of the retailer and maybe go home having bought new sheets or a fluffy bathrobe.

It’s not lost on me that, especially online, sometimes I come off as a really cantankerous person. There are a number of reasons why I’m like this. A lot has to do with my own personal baggage and traumas from my childhood. A lot of those damages were caused by my family of origin. Some were caused by people outside of the family. I’m not necessarily trying to blame anyone for this, by the way. I think everybody has the potential to unintentionally damage other people. We all have baggage, don’t we? Sometimes, that baggage causes pain to others.

For instance, I know that my father wasn’t an evil man. Most people who knew him would never think that about him. He was outwardly a very nice guy– at least to those who didn’t have to live with him. They saw him as a “peach”– soft, sweet, and fuzzy on the outside. But the truth is, he had a lot of personal problems that were brought on by his own upbringing and situations he was forced to face in his lifetime. Like, for example, his time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. He went over there and came home with PTSD. But he was also the eldest son of a violent alcoholic who was abusive. He never dealt with that issue adequately, so he passed that crap along to others. I was one of the recipients of his crap, and sometimes I pass it along in the form of being cranky online.

I don’t necessarily blame my grandfather for my dad’s crap. Like my father, my grandfather wasn’t an evil man. But he did have problems, and sometimes his problems became problems for other people. I know that my grandfather caused his family significant pain. I also know that he was a very funny man, and according to my Granny, he was a very kind person… when he wasn’t drinking. He was, in part, a product of his environment, just like we all are. He didn’t come of age in an enlightened time. I’m sure our strong Celtic heritage didn’t help matters much.

So anyway, this morning, I noticed that one of my sisters went on Facebook last night. She is a “friend”, but she almost never visits Facebook, and comments and “likes” by her are even rarer than that. I was surprised and amused to see comments and reactions by my sister. Then I looked at my Facebook feed and realized that an average person looking at it might come away with the idea that I’m kind of a bitch. I mean, seriously… it’s like looking at The Atlantic’s feed, which lately mostly consists of “doom porn”. A lot of my status updates are cranky. My blog posts, which I share on my personal page, often have cranky titles. I often share “bad news”. On the other hand, I do try to share “cute” stuff, too… like funny animal videos. But, by and large, my feed is kind of pessimistic and crotchety.

While we were eating breakfast, I looked over at Bill and said, as objectively as I could muster, “I see that Becky has left me a few comments and reactions. Looking at my my latest posts, I must come off as kind of a bitch.”

And Bill deadpanned, “I don’t think that’s ALWAYS true…”

I had a good laugh at that, and took a picture of Bill, who laughed with me. He knows I’m not always as cranky as I seem. Over our twenty years together, he’s had long talks with me. He’s seen me cry when I listen to especially beautiful or moving music. He’s heard me laugh when he says something funny, which is pretty often. I am easily amused, so offline I laugh a lot, even if I seem like a crab to people who have never met me in person. He’s heard me say loving things to him, and especially our dogs, who accept us the way we are. He knows that there’s a lot more beneath my prickly, bristly exterior. I can be kind and generous and very soft and emotional. But if you don’t actually know me, you might never see that side. Instead, I sometimes look like a jerk to other people. I’m kind of hard, rough, and coarse… kind of like a coconut. But beneath the shell is sweetness.

Bill has a good laugh with me after his observation that I’m not ALWAYS a bitch… Actually, he would never call me a bitch. Compared to Ex, I am an angel.

Maybe it’s not always a bad thing to look like a jerk, though. It’s kind of a defense mechanism, isn’t it? If I manage to turn someone off before they ever get to know me, maybe they aren’t actually worthy of knowing that softer side of my personality. It’s said that real friends are true rarities. Most people want to know you when you’re doing okay. It’s the ones that hang around when things are bad– and don’t have any ulterior motives for hanging around– that are real friends. I mean, a person could be dying of a terrible disease. If they are very wealthy or they have something of value to others, maybe others would hang around in hopes of being named in a will or something. But it’s the people who care for those who can’t give them anything that are real friends. In my experience, those types of people can indeed be rare.

So, when someone is good to me even when I’m feeling cranky or irritable, I pay attention. I give double points to those who make me laugh when I’m feeling like that. And I give triple points to people who don’t mind my many idiosyncrasies. For instance, yesterday I was trying (and failing) to finish my latest jigsaw puzzle, while listening to my HomePod. A karaoke version of the song “Hello Young Lovers” came on. I like that song, so I joined in… Bill complimented my “performance”.

I said, “Thank you. You are a very tolerant man.”

And Bill said, “And you are very talented woman. It would be different if my ex tried it.” Then he gave me a grin, Stanley Roper style.

Bwahahahaha… I’m a Three’s Company super fan.
Kinda like Stanley…

To put this into context, Ex once serenaded Bill with her version of Juice Newton’s 80s era song, “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)”. Because he’s a very good man, he listened to it with a straight face. For all I know, it really was a sweet moment between them. Ex reportedly wanted to study music, but was told she needed lessons before she could major in music at a local college. But now, Bill can’t bear to listen to “The Sweetest Thing” anymore. Ex actually ruined a lot of songs for Bill. Some of them are good songs, too. Like, he doesn’t like “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow, because Ex used it in one of her object lessons. And he doesn’t like “To Really Love a Woman” by Bryan Adams for the same reason. For the longest time, he didn’t want me to play Kenny Loggins’ children’s album, Return to Pooh Corner, because of Ex. Ditto to anything by Sesame Street or The Muppets. But he doesn’t mind when I burst into random song… or when I redo songs, replacing their words with silly, profane, or disgusting lyrics. At least when I sing, I do it with feeling and on key. 😉

Bill has proven to me time and again that he’s a real friend. So he gets to see the softer side of me whenever he wants. Or, at least he sees it after I’ve calmed down and had some dip.

The coconut vs. peach idea isn’t one I came up with. I’ve often heard certain cultures described that way. A lot of people think of certain southerners like peaches. They’re sweet, juicy, fuzzy, and warm on the outside. But beneath that sweetness, there’s a stone pit of a heart in some people. Those sweet “honey lippin'” types who are nice to people’s faces can sometimes be, deep down, hardhearted people who would disown their own family members for being gay or marrying someone who isn’t the same religion or race. And some people think of people from New York City as being more like coconuts. They’re gruff, cold, and hard on the exterior… but when something really terrible happens, they are compassionate and kind. Of course, neither of these stereotypes always apply to every situation. Some people from up north are mean. And some southerners are extremely kind and loving. But you get the idea, I hope…

Toodles!

Anyway, Mr. Bill wants to go to Wiesbaden and get a Swiss “vignette” for our car. We need one because we will be passing through Switzerland on our vacation, which starts next weekend. So I will close today’s post and get on with the day. I hope you all have a good Saturday. I’m really not as irritable as I seem… and contrary to some people’s opinions, I can be quite introspective. I just have some baggage full of peaches and coconuts.

Standard