Abby makes me wonder. How do girls like that get raised? It probably starts with the Barbie. They are not allowed Barbies. I am not a big fan of the Barbie myself, but that’s mainly because I disagree with the lurid pink aesthetic. No, these girls are denied Barbies because, in spite of all her career accomplishments (how many women do we know who are simultaneously an engineer, a doctor, a singer and an astronaut), Barbie is pretty and surrounded by a bevy of Kens. To these girls’ mothers, there is something inherently offensive about prettiness. Maybe it’s their ancestral memories of hating Hester Prynne, I don’t know, but they encourage their daughters to dress like slobs, keep the number of boyfriends to below two at all times, and think Dangerous Liaisons is about careless knitting. Lola seems to have taken to Abby, at least. Said she was going to take Abby shopping.
Now that I have decided that the path of righteousness is what my Manolos were meant to tread, I have planned a very special girls’ night out. It will be my annual “I am a good and charitable person who tries to compensate, in a small way, for all the terrible road-to-perdition things I do the rest of the year” gesture. The motley crew will be the happily-divorced Devika, as well as Lola, me and (here comes the charitable part) Abby.
The program will feature a jazz club, drinks and explaining to Abby the facts of life. You know, birds do it, bees do it, and your husband does everybody, including the uneducated fleas. All right, am not naming the uneducated fleas. John is a friend.
But still, this night will be (I hope) a way of letting Abby know – for when she does find out, and she will, as her mental defogger is obviously kicking into operation – that, if there are women who survive the Nazis (Lola) and husband’s near impotence (Devika), she can certainly live through one jerk’s infidelity. Incidentally, I wonder how I would react if I caught my husband cheating. What with the steady stream of willowy first-year residents and the availability of hospital closets to the staff, he could probably find an opportunity. Doubt it would bother me much, somehow. Probably I am just not particularly possessive.
I was told today “to check my privilege.” As a matter of fact, I do. And I don’t just “check it.” I also take it in my arms, stroke it gently, gaze at it lovingly and whisper, “Darling, thank you for being there for me.” Can one do fairer than that?
Erik asked me to dinner. Showed up at my office (I really must tell him to stop springing himself on me. On the other hand, if he didn’t spring himself on me, I’d just say “no” to everything and never see him again, so, perhaps, he has a point).
First, I said yes. Then, I said no. Then I told him I was married. Not that me being married had anything to do with dinner. I mean, dinner is fine, but not when one is married. Finally, I marshalled my errant thoughts enough to tell him my husband was very much insistent on all my free time being reserved for the family, and so Erik promptly invited us both (husband included) to dinner. Said that, surely, my husband could not object to catching up with an old law school acquaintance and, besides, seeing that he – Erik – was leaving for Ottawa, what could be the harm?
I agreed that there was no harm, when he put it like that, and told my husband that an old law school acquaintance asked us both to dinner. Deep inside, all plastic surgeons must hate all women, and my husband is no exception. In spite of his professed dislike of formal dining, he accepted the invitation, when I told him; and added that he could not understand why I wanted to waste my time on ghosts of law schools past, but was willing to humour me, being such a good husband and all.
We had a lovely evening. The boys found plenty to talk about and charmed the pants off one another (I wish). I had to stick to drinking nothing but water, certain that, if I permitted myself any alcohol, the words “So, fellows, what are your views on threesomes? Like, right now,” would have leapt off my tongue. And that would have been wrong. Quite wrong.
So, I had nothing to worry about, after all. Erik had gone to Ottawa and that is that. I’m not even that disappointed. After I watched Abby deluge my hand-embroidered tablecloth and listened to Devika hiccup her way through the conversation, I am kind of off the whole adultery thing. Nor am I sure I’m happy about Erik being here after all.
Turns out, I was perfectly content to let him stay an erotic memory I could peruse on an as-needed basis. Besides, if things were ever to get serious with Erik, I am not certain I would enjoy my husband getting hurt. If I concentrate really hard, I can still remember how in love with my husband I had been. At some point.
Come to think of it, my husband is not that different from Erik; Erik’s two huge advantages being that, with him, I am not sharing a mortgage and two children with the social graces of Darth Sith.
So as far as men are concerned, my options are about as varied as Lily’s breakfast choices. Yogurt muesli or oatmeal, that’s it. Although, unlike me, she always knows which one she wants.
Devika phoned me at two in the morning. She was first bawling, then hiccuping, then sniffing, then, at last, coherent. She went out on a date with a hot guy she really liked, from one of those dating websites. They were having a lovely night. He took her to a restaurant – and informed her, over their coffee, that, while Devika was charming in every particular, her charming particulars did not interest him.
As an aside – so interesting, how men choose to dump unpleasant things on you after dinner. Using themselves as a point of reference, they assume that a woman would be mollified by a good meal. Waiting until desert also makes sense, as the knives and forks will have been cleared. From a woman’s perspective, of course, it is a height of perfidy. Because now the excuse of forthcoming sex no longer applies, and the criminal number of calories she had just ingested becomes unjustifiable. Ditto for the effort and cost of waxing and any new outfits acquired specifically for the date.
So Devika was upset. Not about the website guy per se – although, she felt, he could have at least waited until they had slept together. She was more dismayed about dating in her thirties, when the pool of eligible men had gotten so shallow, it could be crossed without ever getting wet.
She is right, of course. There are happy starts and unhappy endings; there are miserable beginnings and lovely conclusions, but wading through chaos is never pleasant.
After listening to her for an hour, I crawled into bed with my adorable warm very present husband and swore to myself to never, ever do anything that could possibly toss me out into the cold world of divorced dating.
My husband took the girls to the countryside for Easter, to visit their grandparents. That makes Easter my official favourite holiday.
Christmas, not so much. Aside from the horror of the gifting where you spend inordinate amounts of money on others, and get pointless crap in return, there is the fact that I’m absolutely not allowed to skive off visiting the in-laws. Insidiously, this had become a tradition!, tradition! and, whenever I am roped into it, I appreciate the wisdom of “get caught cheating and never see your in-laws again.” My husband comes from a large Irish Catholic family closely knit in mutual one-upmanship. It used to be not too bad while Uncle Sean, an inveterate admirer of quick-witted pretty women was still alive, but these days there is nobody to save me from listening to the relatives’ tall tales of their children’s accomplishments.
But on Easter, after I had volubly disapproved of putting my children on a three-day diet of chocolate, marzipan, cream puffs, freezies, more chocolate, pastries, cookies and who knows what other crud that had made Tess break out in hives one unforgettable spring, my husband wisely decided that everyone’s fun would be enhanced by letting me stay in the city and just takes the girls. Since I had the three days of glorious unsupervised freedom, I chose to celebrate by meeting Devika, my best friend, for lunch and failing the Bechdel test by talking about Erik.
Devika is currently divorced. We met in law school. Back then, she was dating a guy who made a living photographing swimsuit models. At the end of her weekends with the fellow, she’d fall in through the door and stagger like a sailor on leave to her bedroom, bleating, “Darling, what day is it tomorrow? What do you mean, Monday? Like, we’ve-got-class- Monday kind of thing? Oh, my god.” Then she’d pass out. By Tuesday, she’d be able to walk normally, but I still remember the uncomprehending gaze she directed at any girlfriend who ever complained about being with a sexually uninspired guy. A sort of “How do you live like that, you poor poor child?” gaze.
Then she got married. To a different guy. She decided that she did not want to bear offspring of a man whose only protection against communicable diseases carried by swimsuit models, was a photographer’s lens. Her husband was so squeaky-clean, he belonged in a Tide commercial. After five years, sex was expunged from their marriage as a pastime. She informed me that sex had served its one and only purpose, i.e. their adorable little boy was enrolled in a private school, and nobody had any time for such nonsense when the lawn people needed constant supervision. She lasted two more years.
The best part was when they went into marriage counselling. She said they had gone in together to talk about their marital problems.
“So,” I asked, “did you tell the psychologist that your husband sucks in bed … or, rather, doesn’t, and that’s a problem too?”
“No,” she said, “I could not embarrass my husband that way. I said I had a problem with the way he did the dishes.”
“You have a dishwasher. What could possibly be a problem with the way your husbands does the dishes?!”
“Well, when he does, and it’s only once in a blue moon, he takes this cleaner thingy, and it’s way too short and he sort of swirls it around ineffectually with no point or purpose. Who washes dishes like that?! I could just kill him!”
Now, the psychologist was a man. So it is likely that, being an only male in a female-dominated faculty, he was busy shagging when all the girls minus one were in class learning about Freud. He missed the point.
“What did the the psychologist say?”
“Umm … he turned to my husband, and asked ‘How do you live with this bitch?’ Something to that effect, anyway. Not going again.”
The short of it (another problem the psychologist had missed) is that two months later, she ran into a high school sweetheart. (Every woman’s must-have accessory. For those “You’ve pissed me off so much, I’ll go and fuck the first guy who asks” moments in all happy marriages). He also had a marriage where supervising the lawn people trumped pointless sex, but he was very good at doing the dishes. They spontaneously combusted in a nearby hotel, where they ended up without knowing how, and so did their two marriages in the ensuing months. Later, she found out he had paid his way through university by photographing swimsuit models.
Anyway, she enjoys the single life a great deal. Signed herself up on every dating website and is apparently having a blast. When I told her about Erik – well, not about Erik, not as such. I presented it as gossip. As something told to me about a woman lawyer I hardly knew, but she was married, and would you believe what some people get up to – Devika leaned towards me and said, “Every woman should have an affair. At least one. Because if you don’t and then you die … you’d be dead, and not having had an affair. And then you wouldn’t even be able to blame anyone for having missed out!”
Gee, darling. Thanks a lot.
Husband’s home tomorrow. Yay.
Every woman who has gone on a last-ditch, trench-warfare “the thighs have got to go” diet will tell you how, as soon as she firmly resigns to mortify the flesh, appealing little dainties topped with chantilly whipped cream, glazed cherries and chocolate hunks, I mean chunks, will parade in front of her and practically ram themselves down her throat.
Erik caught up to me. Right outside my office, as bold as brass. I stepped out into the April dusk, and there he was, the spring breeze ruffling his hair, the fading rays of sunshine gently resting on his broad, broad shoulders.
So when we stood in the middle of the street kissing for a good twenty minutes, entirely unaware of the passer-bys all of whom could have been lawyers, friends, Romans, countrymen and John, it made total sense. It is Easter, after all. Which means I’ll be nailed to the cross when my husband finds out, and no mistake.