Last week I had an “anniversary” of sorts, though not one to really celebrate, I suppose. My divorce has been finalized for a year. In that year, I have accomplished a great deal, including a lot of healing. A whole lot of healing. I’m now a member of a club I never intended to join, but like anyone who has been through difficult times, you see the world differently when you rise from the ashes. Whether that means I actually see more clearly or not is up for debate, but it at least seems so.
The new perspective which comes from being a middle-aged divorcee isn’t so bad now that the disappointment and pain have gotten to a point where they can be covered with a band-aid as opposed to requiring staples, stitches, and surgical tape.
It’s kind of fascinating, really. When I look around and see couples and families in different stages, I wonder why some of these men are willing to stick it out even though the challenges and monotony and perceived spousal neglect of early child-rearing is clearly bumming them out. Yet, others use the guaranteed chaos and the hard work involved with being a husband and a dad as an excuse to disconnect and/or cheat. (And I know there are wonderful, healthy couples to offset the miserable ones, but allow me to profile the unhappy couples out there,for the sake of keeping my diatribe brief).
Women are so maternal, so I think often times men are somewhat mothered by their girlfriends in those early stages of twitterpation. This amazing combination of having basic needs taken care of and having attraction and all that comes along with it leads into surely blissful marriage. But, then when the baby carriage comes, well, we females have to triage. The newest born generally gets the most attention. I guess some men can’t make that transition from being the number one baby to being a partner without becoming infested with resentment.
I’m not absolving women, by the way, in my sweeping generalizations. I observe a lot of women who, once kids come along, forget they used to treat their man like a king. They suddenly bark orders at their husbands as if they were the hired help, and then feel totally irritated that their mate didn’t carry things out as they would have, or didn’t read their mind. They withhold affection and barely mask disgust and resentment towards the man that once rocked their world. Why should men bother when they get no credit for anything and there is no physical/emotional rewards in their relationship anymore? And so, the vicious cycle goes on for so many young families, spiraling toward potential betrayal and the big D.
I might briefly note that this is not at all my story, in spite of my tone of expertise on these matters. My story is a whole other Lifetime movie….but I digress.
I was sitting at urgent care on my “anniversary” because I contracted vile strep throat from my own little offspring. My immunity seems to be decidedly down as a result of burning the candle at every end these days. I’m nothing but a wick at this point. No wax to pad me. So germs seem to find me a delectable tightrope for their twisted circus act. My own doctor couldn’t see me so I bit the bullet and committed to three hours at the UC.
While I was signing in, a family came along – a mother and father with a boy and girl. I sat near them and couldn’t help but observe a bit. The husband was cute – probably early 30s, average height and physique, glasses. Kind of a hunky nerd. The wife was an adorable girl-next-door. Nineties Meg Ryan would play her in the movie version of her life. I could picture their wedding photos. They were probably so stinking adorable and happy on that day, with the ocean behind them, their friends and family wiping away tears as they made their vows, looking deeply into each other’s eyes, and ready to embark upon their life together, full of promise.
They had no idea then that urgent care visits, screaming children, and crappy communication were their future.
Their son, Gavin, was 8, and clearly felt he could do a better job parenting his little sister, which they yelled at him for several times. Yet mom and dad wouldn’t take their faces out of their phones, so how could poor Gavin be blamed for stepping in?
Their daughter was probably about 3, and loud as anything. She was cute, but she was the definition of a handful, running around the waiting room like a tornado trying to invade the personal space of all of these people who didn’t feel good. The efforts of the parents involved a lot of yelling from their chairs without really looking up from their phones. “Serenity!” they would shout. “Get back over here!” I think I heard, “Serenity…no!” at least 100 times.
The pure amusement over the fact that this boisterous, hyper child should be named “Serenity” of all things was not lost on me. When she entered the building, there was nothing serene about it.
Finally, they got her settled down with some food so that they could enjoy their phone surfing and not have any connection with one another or their children, whatsoever. That’s when Meg Ryan mumbled, “organic cheese slices are on sale at the Whole Wheatery.” She didn’t look up, but was clearly annoyed that hunky nerd didn’t jump for joy over this news.
Sighing, she said (irritated and louder) “Hello?”
He repeated back in a monotone voice, gaze plastered to that smartphone screen, “Organic cheese slices on sale.”
There was no acknowledgement between them after that, but I just found myself struck by the sadness of it all. I don’t blame phones for this, by the way. This isn’t a lambasting of the downfall of society because of the advent of technology. Phones are just another of so many ways that people hide from each other when they’re disconnected in a marriage.
For Gavin and Serenity’s sake, I hope haggard nerd dad takes Meg Ryan by the Whole Wheatery on the way home to buy cheese slices without her even mentioning them again, with a big smile on his face, thanking her for being budget conscious. And I hope Meg Ryan thanks him back with a big hug and kiss and calls him the best, most thoughtful hunky nerd husband in the world.
The needs of the parents in a family with young kids seem so minuscule when you’re watching from the outside. It’s astounding more people aren’t able (or willing) to meet them.