“Isn’t a bit early?” my sister ventured.
We were talking about dating. But to be honest, notwithstanding what I said to my sister, dating holds little attraction for me. I wouldn’t mind skipping all of that and getting straight to girlfriend. But don’t hold your breath — if a whiff of desperation is supposed to be toxic to eligible woman, then I must be Bhopal.
But I could certainly use one, as much for my sister’s and all my close family and friends’ sake as for my own.
Of course, holding hands with someone other than my children, someone to go with to that really neat play, oh and there is the sex thing — these are all good reasons for a bit of the proverbial crumpet.
Then there are those little things that never occur to you until your desperate. “Someone at home can do this,” said the doctor cavalierly after my minor surgery on a completely inaccessible part of my back. No actually….
That sort of intimacy with my partner-for-life had been gone for months before she moved out. I’d say pretty much immediately after your high school sweetheart of twenty years says “I’m leaving” do requests like “can you rub some vitamin E cream on it before you put the new band-aid on” become somewhat awkward.
You find workarounds for these things (my 8-year-old son, as it turns out, rather than my icking 11-year-old daughter) and you suck it up and get used to being single.
However, I am becoming impatient over how long it is taking for family and friends to remove my ex from the conception of me. I’m thinking a replacement — no matter how jarring is the only way it’s finally getting them to that next step.
Hell maybe I should just walk around with a mannequin or dress up a life-size doll — perhaps that would be sufficient to push my ex out of my picture. Oskar Kokoschka — an Austrian expressionist painter at the turn of the century — did a life-sized doll and used to take her to the opera. Could be a plan: a virtual girlfriend, surrogate crumpet, a bit of babe by proxy. Of course, Kokoschka did it of his ex. I bet ya if I did one of Kokoschka’s ex, Alma Mahler, that would be sure to do…. well… something.
This is why I’m so desperate as to consider an ersatz mate.
In the family unit the relationship management realm is stereotypically occupied by the female partner and it was certainly no different in my case. My wife tended to arrange the dinner dates, who was coming to such and such occasions and designate social obligations of various descriptions.
To do this my wife often talked to another woman — sister, mom, mother-in-law, another wife etc. There is a circuit of communication there that is often closed off to anyone with testicles. Through that practical conversation much news is also shared. Through “by the way’s….” and “didn’t you know…” and “of course, I’ll have to work around….” Men tend to uncharitably refer to this as “gossip.” But apart from it being the reason why long distance phone plans are always a good idea in a marriage, it is essential to the function of the extended web of relationships that are family and friends.
Now I have to do it and am slowly getting used to the idea of making sure I’ve got a whole swath of time liberated before I make what I thought, in my male mind, should be a 2 minute phone call to arrange dinner. Often enough these “quick calls” turn into an hour of contextualizing, catching up and gossip.
But there is also an “ex” as well. No one in my family hates or wants to shut her out. Which is fine. And a part from some very particularly protective friends (and she has the equivalent on her side too, of course) most would be totally okay with interacting with her socially.
I’m okay if she’s part of the communication loop with my family or our friends. She doesn’t stop being family just because we broke up. She’s the mother of my kids — she’ll always be family. You know that old canard that you can’t pick family? Well when the deal is sealed with offspring that extends to marriages, too. Until you try to unbind, you just don’t realize to what extent children are “the ties that bind” and how far those binds extend.
But I don’t want to be the junction that connects my ex to that web of relationships. It’s not like the family and friends are trying to get us back together or there’s some sort of grand denial or anything that complicated. Just the habits associated with that history are very hard to break.
So I get asked about her coming to some dinner, or event, or about her job and life etc. etc. My wife asks me about them and their relationships and silly nitpicky stuff to do with who’s bringing which dish to whatever church function. And then I get chastised that someone misunderstood something and why didn’t I make it more clear to whoever that whatever was supposed to actually be wherever at whenever and not thereafter as it actually did occur.
Here’s a thought.
Talk to each other.
On my side, everyone still expects me to know what my ex-wife is still doing. I’ve said it repeatedly, “I don’t know. I don’t want to know. You want to know? Pick up the phone and talk to her yourself.” They just don’t get it.
On the other hand my ex-wife gets annoyed when I tell her my family or some friend is “fine” and don’t want to get into a long involved conversation about them. Sometimes it feels like its my family and wife who did the breaking up with each other and I’m supposed to be the intermediary to keep everything polite and cordial.
The only thing I can think of that will finally break everybody out of this is if another person materializes to fill that particular void — new girlfriend.
So I’m considering signing-up the kids to a circus camp in the neighbourhood. It’s not exactly anything they’re interested in. Frankly they’d be terrified. And there is the whole question of affordability, the answer to which is a firm and resonant “no! are you insane?!”
But that is balanced by the director — my meeting with whom was admittedly brief — an aerealist, with raven black hair and a bearing balancing ferocious strength, with Hellenic grace like she could have stepped out of Minoan bull ring. …And speaking of rings, I couldn’t help but noticing you’re not wearing one… on your hand, I mean….
Oh no, dense toxic clouds of desperation!