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May 2008

Posts from April 2008

Holocaust Memorial Day

I spent the day today with a Holocaust survivor. I was her mode of transportation to and from school, and I listened to her speak about her experiences during the Holocaust in front of an audience of a few hundred teenagers. Afterwards, she explained that at first she did not think to talk of her experiences because she hadn't been in a camp, and did not see her experiences as so bad. Then she spoke of a friend who escaped from Europe during the Holocaust and stayed in Cuba until the end of the war. She said that that friend doesn't talk of her experiences because she feels that she had it "easy." This woman then said that she realized that each person's experience is part of the whole story, and that each story must be told and understood, to grasp and acknowledge and learn from what happened in Europe less than a lifetime ago. Each person's life and experiences are of importance. The telling is never easy, she said, but she realizes how important it is, how helpful it may prove to be.

She connected that drive to tell the story to the AIDs Memorial Quilt, and how each panel represents a life and a part of that tragic story.

Pain. Degrees of pain. Perhaps the extent of the pain a person lives through, and with, must be accompanied by a telling, with a talking through, to help the self and those around oneself. A person suffers alone, a person retells together. Is that the affirmation of life after such incredible suffering?

Zechor. Remember the six million Jewish people killed in the Holocaust. Remember, too, to fight all forms of hatred and oppression.

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt One

In the very late 70’s, I graduated from high school in New York City at seventeen and went off to college in Buffalo. At twenty, I got my BA in English. Two months later, I took off on my version of the ‘grand tour,’ traveling by myself in Israel, England, Scotland and Ireland. At twenty-two, I moved to Israel, a country whose language and culture I barely understood, and where I knew only a handful of people. My parents did not try to stop me, they respected my decision (and, I suppose, my ability to make it on my own), and stood proudly by (or so they claimed) as I packed my things into a bright red backpack and took off to live in a country seven time zones away. It seems that I had become quite the adventurous introvert.

So how did this person who did not need her parent’s permission or guidance to move half-way across the world come to need to explain to her husband where she was going for an hour? How did I go from packing a backpack for a year without a guidebook in sight, to not going anywhere unless the itinerary was discussed ahead of time? How did I go from seeing Broadway shows by myself to sitting at home waiting for my husband to come home? And, how did I go from purchasing—and wearing—a bright yellow straw hat to needing my husband’s okay to buy a pair of black slacks?

Am I exaggerating, did I really need permission or did I just want to please him and so yielded to his desires? Or was it more, was it a feeling he conveyed that made me not want to antagonize him, not want to get on his bad side, not want to pit myself against him? No, it was definitely more than a feeling, it was a stance; his concerns were always right and my lack of worries was always wrong. So this impulsive woman, who could not always explain her choices and actions, became as a pawn to this man who lived life as if it were a chess game, planning all moves ahead of time. He gained control because of the dynamics of the kind of person he is with the kind of person I am. We were opposites attracting and then turning against each other; until we were rent apart as he sought to retain control over me while I sought to regain control over myself.

Some of it may come from his growing up in a patriarchal society (Israel). But why, then, did he chose to be with me, when I openly worked to subvert that kind of man-centric society? And what about me, why didn’t I realize that his concerns indicated more than caring but a need to control? Oh, to be young and in love. It can be a curse.


It’s Finally Over (4): Basic Human Needs

The following are what I perceive as the basic human needs of a woman living with a controlling man, or in an abusive situation, or recovering from being in one. These are based on my life and my thoughts, so they may not correspond to what you need. So, once you go over this list, think about yourself and your own needs, change the list so it reflects the basic needs of your situation. You may also want to note if you have fulfilled those needs, or what you need to do or happen so that they will be fulfilled.

·        Confidence that you deserve more than you are getting from your marriage

·        Hope that you can get out of your current situation safely and that things will improve

·        Space where you can feel safe and free from interruptions, tantrums and abuse; a place where you can be and feel free

·        Encouragement from people who listen to you and support you as you work towards imagining and creating a different future

·        Human touch a hug that reminds you that a physical touch is a wonderful thing, so that you do not forgo thinking about being loved and loving again

·        Outings with friends to make you see that there are people who care about you and are concerned about your well-being

·        Career so that you can fill your days with experiences and memories other than what your marriage is depriving you of

·        Job even if you still need monetary support, it will enable you to feel self-reliant and will give you pride of accomplishment

·        Money to hire a lawyer and begin the process of separating and divorcing, and distancing yourself from your hurtful present

Petty, So Petty

Living in the same house with my ex-husband is fraught with comedy (although only if you live according to the lemon-to-lemonade philosophy of life). This weekend, for example, we were back doing some of our standard comedy routines. Unfortunately, he takes it all very seriously, and I find the ridiculousness of it so absolute that it simply can’t bring me down. They are like life preservers, forcing me up rather than bringing me down. I mean how can I get depressed when a “grown” man talks to his imaginary friend on the cell phone at ten at night that he is going to call the police because I changed the temperature on the thermostat!


One: If His Door Is Open, Then Mine Must Be Closed

It seems that there is an unwritten law that the door to his bedroom (excuse me, master suite) may remain open but the door to my bedroom (smallest room in the house) must be closed. (These rooms are at 90 degree angles from each other upstairs where the bedrooms are located.) It seems that some doors are just better opened, and some are better closed. This routine goes like this: I like to leave my door open, because, well, I like when doors are open because I like the feeling of openness (can you tell?). But he thinks that my door must be closed. So if he sees my door open, he closes it and leaves his open. I can think of a few reasons for this: it is a way of denying my existence, of covertly telling me to leave, of showing that he is boss and can decide things, of wanting to prove (once again) that he is an immature ass.

Yesterday, when he came back from wherever it is that he goes and saw that his door was closed he went to the room where my daughters were and asked each of them if she closed the door. They said that no, they hadn’t. Then he opened his door and probably scribbled in his pad about what I had done. (Can you tell that he used to be a lawyer?) He went out again, and again I closed his door, but I kept mine closed since I was going to sleep and I don’t want my door open when I am not conscious and he is about. This happened again with the same interrogation of the girls. What does he think, that I divorced him because I still want him to determine how things will be? Doesn’t he realize that I divorced him because I was fed up with his deciding things for me and that by my protesting his actions I am standing up for myself?

Two: Countertops Cleared of My Things

The house is on the market for sale and since the kitchen is certainly not 2008 state-of-the-art, I at least try to keep it as neat as possible, with the countertop as cleared as possible to make it seem spacious. But apparently he hasn’t watched any episodes of Design to Sell, so he thinks that putting an ugly butcher block contraption with knives in it on the countertop is what is going to make people buy the house.

So began the Battle of the Countertop. At first I put his knife thing away, in a cabinet. Then, when I was elsewhere, he put my coffeepot in the cabinet and took out his knives. I want to say that this happened only one time and then we both laid off (with nothing on the countertop), but I can’t. I decided that if I was going for the clean look, I might as well leave the coffeepot away, but not those knives. But he was undeterred. And there we were, jockeying to be the last to leave the house yesterday before some potential buyers were coming to determine where the knives would be: on the countertop cluttering up things or underneath, in a cabinet, with a clear and confident formica countertop. In the end, I couldn’t take it, the ridiculousness of it all, and just left. Of course, when I came back it was on the countertop. Did I say that we didn’t get an offer yesterday?

Three: Thermostat, Let Them Freeze (in summer)

Apparently it is against the law for me to touch the thermostat. I have been threatened a number of times that the police will be called if I change the temperature. For God’s sakes, who made him lord of this manor and who said that only he can be comfortable? And, it is not that he is trying to save money (why should he bother, he doesn’t pay any bills any way, he let’s me—who makes half of what he makes—pay the bills. I am so waiting to hear what he has to say to explain this when—IF—we ever get to court). So, in summer it is freezing. He likes the thermostat at a comfortable 64 degrees. And in winter, he likes to still be comfy in shorts and a t-shirt so it is comfy in a Florida-like way, at about 72 degrees. Unfortunately, since he leaves the house last, the thermostat stays in its ridiculous location all day, keeping our dog very comfortable.

Next time he threatens to call the Thermostat Police, I think I’ll call. I really would like to hear an oversized six foot tall man with a temper explain to them how I, a 5’4” woman who generally looks downtrodden by the end of the day, is violating his right to be comfortable in his castle. Life preserver: that’s another life preserver just thinking about it.

Finale: Visualize a SOLD Sign

It seems that the best analogy I can come up with for his behavior is that he is a male dog, marking his territory wherever he smells that another dog has been. But guess what, I have had it with being peed on. So, I will keep opening my door, and moving his knives, and adjusting the thermostat until we move out of this house. (PLEASE, VISUALIZE A “SOLD” SIGN!) For all of those people who say that I have to keep my sanity and just move out, let me just say that this is not a question of anyone winning or losing, we have both lost. And this is not just about my sanity today, but about my self-respect in the future. And that of my daughters’.

It’s Finally Over (3): BLAME GAME

Spread the blame around. Looking at the people listed below, try to see how you can apportion the blame. It’s not all your fault is certainly true, for no one is individually to blame for any failed relationship. Now is the time to see how much everyone else is to blame, too. Just don’t make this into a bitter mental list to carry around with you. It’s just an exercise to think about where others might have been better for you and to you. It can help you reach out for help; understand how you can have a more successful life and relationship in the future, and to focus on where things went wrong. Remember, though, it is your life and you are responsible for making it better.

  • Husband
  • Child(ren)
  • Parents
  • Family
  • Spouse’s family
  • Current friends
  • Former friends
  • Old boyfriends
  • Spouse’s friends
  • Teachers / mentors
  • Spiritual leaders
  • Therapists
  • Lawyers
  • Lovers
  • God

Property Settlement Agreement: Two Essentials

I know, I know, I was desperate to get divorced. I couldn’t wait to sign the paper that would sever my formal ties from the man who has embittered my life for the past few years. But I sorely regret that I didn’t understand the extent to which the Property Settlement Agreement (PSA in lawyer lingo) would rule my life. It’s not that my lawyer didn’t tell me how important it is, but he didn’t express forcefully and thoroughly enough how it would determine the quality of my life post-divorce. So, I give this to you, my words of warning: DON’T SIGN IT IF YOU ARE NOT ABSOLUTELY COMFORTABLE WITH IT, AND UNLESS IT COVERS EVERY CONTINGENCY THAT YOU, YOUR LAWYER, YOUR FRIENDS AND YOUR FAMILY CAN THINK OF!

Maybe because my ex is so stubborn, or maybe because the housing crisis is so deep (and we haven’t been able to sell the house), but the ordinary PSA is just not enough for me. I need a pumped-up version, but all I got was the standard version. And since I just read that in about 50% of divorce cases the former spouses don’t talk after the divorce, it seems that many people should be getting a super-charged PSA.

Granted, one of the problems is that the people who need the extra-strength version are those who probably have the most stubborn ex-spouse-to-be, which makes it difficult to get what you want/need in the agreement—but fight—stand him down—don’t waiver. If you think you need it—don’t give in. Give him the toaster, the couch, the dog, the big-screen TV, but don’t give in on the essentials—the things that will make your life easier to deal with (and possibly bearable).


My ex, I and our two daughters are still living in the marital residence until we sell the house. (See below.) And while we live in the house, the approved format for communication is notes. So, I leave notes for my ex. There they are, on the kitchen table (the approved locale), in plan sight. The notes may be asking for information about summer vacation, asking him to pay his 50% of whatever bill came in that day, notifying him about an event that involves the children; anything that has to do with needing a response from him. The notes either stay there for days or are taken away immediately. But that is it. They are never answered. And so I put out new notes, asking for responses, but they, too, disappear to some unknown location, but they are never to be responded to. NEVER.

And when I tell my lawyer that I need to do something to get him to respond (that he needs to do what he is supposed to do), that it is impossible to live like this, my lawyer always answers: “What does the PSA say?”


His response has been that the ex-spouses usually communicate. Lucky me, it seems that I am so special!


I know that the housing crisis is not my ex’s fault, nor is it my lawyer’s fault, but why weren’t there more “and if it doesn’t sell by” clauses in my PSA? We only have one: if it doesn’t sell within two months the price MAY be reduced a small amount. Well, after seven months on the market he would only agree to lowering the price half the possible reduction, and I couldn’t get him to agree to reduce more.

And now, oh God, it is the end of April and the house has been on the market since JUNE. But it’s worse than that, we have been physically separated (not sleeping together—ugh! at the very idea—and not doing anything as a couple) since April 2005. We signed the PSA in May 2007 and the judge signed the divorce decree in August 2007. So, for over three years my daughters and I have been living a stalemated life. And I am stuck in the same house as this man because of the housing situation/crisis, and the lack of clauses in the PSA dealing with the possibility that the house won’t sell within one month. And I don’t have the money to move and still pay what I need to for the “marital residence” (Thanks for the advice from concerned acquaintances who say “just move.” By the way guys, there is no money tree.)

My lawyer tries to tell me that my ex wouldn’t have agreed to that. But so what—he needed to have informed me that I shouldn’t sign it without that, that I could be living in limbo if those contingencies are missing.

Would I still have signed it without those contingencies knowing how much I needed to be DIVORCED from that man? Maybe. Maybe not. It didn’t seem so earth-shattering in that conference room at his lawyer’s office. I didn’t really think that the house wouldn’t be sold soon. Granted, we were all in suits and we had a mediator (a retired judge—female) going back and forth between us since we were in different rooms (she spent MUCH more time with him) on the two days we spent in 10-hour meetings, so it was a serious occasion, but unknowns were harder to focus on than knowns. We spent hours hammering out a ridiculous custody agreement (the girls will go back and forth between our homes—at some distant time—far too often) and what we need to do if we don’t agree on a realtor, and not enough on IF THE HOUSE DOES NOT GET SOLD! And now I see that that was the most important thing—since it is ruining my life, and my daughters’ lives since we are all living together in what has come to feel like an evil experiment in how stressful divorce can be. (Ever tried to date after revealing that you’re still living at home with your ex? It doesn’t work very well.)

And I was worrying that I am spending so much money in the mediation paying for hours of my lawyer’s time and hours of the mediator’s time. But I am still paying my lawyer since now I need to go to court to somehow force him or the court to change the price of the home. And, it turns out, that evil phrase “if it’s not in the PSA the judges don’t want to deal with it” has come to haunt me.

Lastly for today. As good as your lawyer is, she may forget things. And she will not know as much as you do about your spouse and how he may try to manipulate things. Try to pick her brains about “special clauses” that she has put into other agreements and don’t just go for the boilerplate version.

SO, PLEASE, PATIENCE. Think of the PSA as a person who you will need to live with and not just as a piece of paper. (Although I wish for you that that is all it is.)

Perfect Parents and Divorced Parents

People whose children have not yet developed pimples and body hair, and who did not try to parent their children through the breakdown of a marriage should not presume to tell others how to parent children.

This morning, as I was outside planting hot pink and white begonias in my front garden (hoping to tempt someone to buy the house because of my garden), my neighbor from across the drive came over to talk before he went out for his run. He and his wife have three children (six, four and three, or some close combination like that, they just moved in a few weeks ago, so I have an excuse for not remembering). They seem to be a very close family (but who ever knows what goes on inside a person’s home?); she is home-schooling their oldest daughter, and presumably the others as they reach school age. He told me that he took his elder daughter rock climbing the previous week and that they have been going riding-running, where she rides her bicycle and he runs alongside her. And, he went on, this will keep them close as she grows up, that doing things together will keep them close.

His surety got to me. That confidence in a formula: if you do A and B with your children, then your children will be C. But in my experience, you can do A and B, and X will be the result (or perhaps just the temporary result in the tween and teen years). I didn’t feel like letting him bask in his glory, so I said to him, “you know, you can do things together, but that doesn’t guarantee that she will want to run with you when she’s fifteen.”

He didn’t seem to want contemplate a downside: What, if you do everything right it won’t necessarily turn out right? So he just replied that it wasn’t a guarantee for success, BUT it MAY guarantee success. I did appreciate that he acknowledged that it might not always work. But did he say that just to make me feel less bad and not really consider that it could happen to him and his wife? That perhaps their daughter might not want to hang out with her father when she is sixteen? That perhaps her parents’ struggles between themselves might alienate her in spite of all the shared songs and meals and exercise routines? That perhaps parenting is an exercise in improvisation more than anything? That a parent of a six-year old has nothing on a parent of a sixteen-year old, and maybe he should ask for advice?

While his comment was understated, a man who I had dated told me what I need to do to get my daughter to be better behaved. (Although he did deny it, but only, I think, so that I wouldn’t be mad at him so that we would still have sex.) He was pretty blunt in stating that I had missed something in the parenting formula, or that I didn’t follow it correctly. But his formula was a strict one involving taking lots of things away. And, if I remember correctly, it didn’t have contingency plans for: if your husband calls you a “bitch” in front of your child, and you tell your child it is wrong, what is she to think about the use of the word “bitch”? And, how is she to think about each of her parents: her father for using that word to her mother, and her mother by reacting by ignoring him, or telling him to be quiet, or walking away?

Maybe people need the formulas because otherwise they wouldn’t know what to do, but I’m here without a formula, and I’m just trying to do the best I can. When someone is so darn confident that all will be well, I know I should pat him on the back and say to myself GOOD LUCK TO YOU (and mean it!). But I need, desperately, for people to understand that you can do all of the things you are supposed to do (and by this I mean in marriage as well as with children) and still things don’t work out the way you had thought they would when your child was six. Maybe then their words won’t outline what you need to do, and instead reveal some empathy and compassion.

Looking for Love on Craig's List

Part I.

Responding to their Ads: On-line Encounters Only

When the time came to look for love after my divorce, I realized that I don’t meet any men at work since I am a high school English teacher. So I headed to the internet. After all, a cousin had met her husband on JDate, and a colleague had met her husband on Yahoo Personals, and stories kept coming about people who met their true love on-line.

I went to the CL site for my area, and under Personals clicked on “Men Seeking Women.” Since I had already determined that I was looking for men in my age range, I didn’t have many ads to read, since most postings were by men in their twenties and thirties. After skipping over (after a cursory reading, I admit) the postings by men who were looking for sundry aspects of non-traditional sex roles and activities, I came upon the posting by an artist from Ireland. It seemed interesting, and I figured that a creative person would be sensitive and intelligent. So I emailed him, and the dialogue began.

Things looked good; we seemed to be interested in what the other had to say. That is until I read his response to my question about his marital status: “Pulled a 12 year stint in NYC with the same female. Fathered a young son, 6 years ago.” What was that? Would I be a “female” or a “stint” with this man? Could a caring man actually say that he “fathered a child”? Without any qualms, I decided to not contact Artist man again. But, I guess I had intrigued him (lucky me). His 6pm email to the unanswered 9am email asked if I wanted to meet for a beer. My response was, “Don't think so. I have to say, your responses to the personal questions were kind of cold. What’s a ‘stint’ with a woman?” To which he promptly replied, “Oh, I have been concentrating on deadlines. Good luck to you.” Obviously, he should stick to work. After momentarily considering a response, I decided to let it go, what could I possibly teach a man who sees people as two-dimensional objects?

Back to CL. Unfortunately, “seeking like spirit – 45” wasn’t interested in a “46-year old mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, and teacher,” so he never got back to me. Nothing I can do to change those things, nothing that I figured was offensive except, maybe, my age?

Onward. Next was Harry* who, how shall I put it, put me off with his “pic.” As I scrutinized his picture I kept trying to imagine wanting to kiss him. And I couldn’t. So I didn’t get back to him. As a sign of what goes around comes around, I did not get to see Springsteen with John or to a basketball game with Steven because, well, they didn’t like my pic. I tried to ease my ache by telling myself that they probably wanted someone younger, but I have to say to be rejected online for my looks is tough. It’s not like at a bar or a party where you don’t go up to the people who you are not attracted to or to whom you can with a simple expression let them know that you are not interested. Oh the pain, oh the angst, oh the bluntness of it all. I know, I know, I rejected Harry because he didn’t appeal to me, but ‘tis easier to reject than to be rejected. It started sinking in that meeting men online was not going to be as easy as I had initially thought. There is a lot of culling going on with so many people to choose from. Realizing that you have been tossed so readily is hard to take.

The desperation grew. How could it be so hard I kept wondering? I tried with “Looking for LTR for My Ex-Husband—50” but the ex-wife decided that I was not worthy of her ex-hubby. Then there was the “atypical ad” where all of the words, but one, began with an “a.” Okay, a bit corny, but I am an English teacher and such attention to language interested me. I was pretty blunt with him, even letting on that my thighs are not my favorite part of my body. But, alas, honesty got me nowhere.

“You seem like a pretty wonderful person. Sadly for me, the way you described yourself doesn’t sound like what I’m looking for physically. So with the  physical incompatibility, you living in suburbs, not living alone, being a mother, being in your 40’s… all by themselves may be ok but together they present too many cons to justify anything other than  pen-pals.”

Could he find anything else to say to reject me? And he didn’t even know that I have BAGGAGE from my marriage.

After that, the were rejections flying: my pic not loved, or their pics not loved. That is until Mark, a recently divorced man with two children. When Mark wrote that he would be the happiest man in the world if he could have a horse, I once again sat opposite the computer and pondered. Now I was confronted with a middle-aged man who felt that he would be fulfilled by a horse. I had my horse phase (when I was in my early teens), but the idea that a horse would make me happy now was so absurd that I figured we would not be compatible.  But rather than let his email fade into the night, I felt that I should reply. “I think I'll pass. Good luck to you in this new chapter.” Alright, not a great response, but I at least did not ignore him. He then emailed me asking me:

Was there something wrong with asking you if you were busy?  I wasn’t propositioning you. More confusion.  I really don't understand women today, but I’m new at this and will keep trying.

I should have just let it go, but I felt that I needed to inform this man how women think.

We’re still the same women you knew twenty years ago, in the same way that you are the same man you were twenty years ago. No, I did not see your email as a proposition but asking out for a date, which is fine—nice even. I just had the sense, from our emails, that our interests are different. Nothing deeper than that.

That didn’t seem insensitive to me, it said what I felt and said it in a nice way—I thought. But not, apparently, to Mark:

Thank goodness I've grown and I'm not that same man I was 20 years ago.  Back then, if someone didn't interest me, I'd say "I think I'll pass".  Today I would probably respond with the things I like to do to see if there might be something in common.

Why does he think that he should be the one to decide if there might be a connection between us? Why couldn’t he accept that I had realized that it wouldn’t work and take that at face value? And I certainly did not like that he was telling me how to respond to him, and that he would have responded in a better way. The main reason that I had divorced my husband was because he was trying to control me; this email made me see how insidious that controlling urge was in some people. (I want to say ‘men’ here, but I have a friend whose wife is quite the controller.) Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive, but that is where my life has led me, but still, isn’t that the advantage of emailing, you can delete the people who you fear will simply lead you to repeat past errors?

Ah. Then there was H. Mile who for one day emailed me ten times, and then abandoned ship at about five pm. Maybe things were boring at the office that day and I was a diversion. Who knows? Oh, and then Alan was in my inbox. I didn’t find him particularly interesting or attractive, but felt a great need to go on another date, and since he didn’t do anything too offensive, we made plans. But a day before our date Alan emailed: “I have met someone and we decided this weekend to be exclusive as we have the same basic desires and dreams.  I'm sorry.  Good luck with your search.” Thanks Alan. His response made me feel the pressure, the pressure of all of those men and women looking for love on CL—now.

Things seemed to change when I began a wonderful exchange with Chris, who told me that he smiled when he saw that he had received an email from me, and that they would go down in the annals of Craig’s Listian lore for their eloquence and humor. Alas, they came to an abrupt end after our one and only phone call. When he asked, “Where’s your ex?” I replied, truthfully, unfortunately, “In the house, he won’t leave and we haven’t been able to sell it yet.” I could feel the tenor of the conversation change. So, instead of meeting a man I seemed to finally click with, I was alone again, still. These men don’t seem to like baggage or complications, but what is a 47-year-old woman who has lived life to do?

But I had not given up hope of finding love on CL until Terrence’s email. When I didn’t get back to him when he expected me to, he emailed me:

I knew you were going to have an excuse, which is so typical of women. God, what scares you women so much from telling a man he’s not your type? Such cowards. You always dodge, duck and make up excuses. So what? So you don’t like my looks? Big deal? I will just find another woman who does. You have nothing that every other woman doesn’t have.

God, I wish you women would one day be honest.

I decided it was break time. I had enough exposure to the vagaries of men's personalities for a while. This whole meeting via email seemed like such a good idea (easy even!) in the beginning, but the unfiltered entry into some of these men's minds was so off-putting that the bluntness of a bar was beginning to appeal to me.

But maybe “Ready to Meet Someone New – 44” is different?   

* All email names have been changed.

I’d love to hear your experiences with on-line dating.

Conversations with (Divorced) Friends

During a conversation with one of my friends, after she unburdened and then I unburdened (on the phone), and as we were about to reassess and re-analyze our woe, she asked: “How did smart women like us end up like this?” I had no answer for her.

But when I put the question to a different friend, in the midst of our unburdening (at a sandwich shop), she had an immediate answer: “Because we’re smart women, we ended up like this.”

I smiled and nodded when she said that (any compliment is appreciated here). But later, on the drive home, I thought some more about it. Did it mean that we expect too much from life, from our husbands? Do we have too many expectations that cannot be met by most men, in most relationships? Did we even know what we needed to be happy? Was our constant need to understand getting in our way? Were we “smart” girls so unhappy in our marriages because we were relentless in our smartness? Do most men—even the smart ones—need women do be “dumb” sometimes? Or, compromising too often? Did we refuse to cede the stage to them on an ongoing basis? And did this refusal begin the battle of the sexes that we each lived through in some way during our marriage and its deterioration?

A dull headache settles into my head as these questions come. It’s too unsettling to think about. Maybe my questions are the wrong ones, but they are ones that come to my mind, which means that, to some degree, they are the right ones—for me. And that is what I need to change in the future. I need not lead myself or let myself be led down “no exit” paths. The problem is how can a smart woman make it so that if that question is ever put to her again, it will be not from sorrow, but from pleasure, from marveling at how wondrous—lovely, even—life has become for yet another smart woman!    

"It's Finally Over" (2): Game for Miserable, Separated & Divorced Women

The second game in this It’s Finally Over series of games is composed of questions to ask yourself. All of these games stem from my own need to understand why my marriage had failed, how I had failed in my marriage, how my husband had failed me, and then, eventually, what I could do to get myself out of the funk and on my path to being the contented—or even happy—person that deserved to be.

Why did it take so long to finally begin the process of ending this horrible relationship? For so long there was no love between us, there were no conversations (that is, if you don’t count his insulting me and me telling him to stop insulting me), there was nothing except a past. That seems to be a critical question. Here are some things that I thought of in response; you can add to this list or change it to suit your situation. These are simply some basic questions to help you contemplate your marriage and yourself.

Essential Questions:

Did I stay in the marriage so long because I felt that:

-- I deserved to be in a bad relationship?

-- I deserved the insults?

-- There was truth in the insults?

-- I was committed to the marriage (I had to stay in)?

-- I could not survive on my own?

-- I could not support myself?

-- I could not find anyone better to love me?

-- No one else would love me?

-- I would be alone?

-- He needed me?

-- He would be lost without me?

-- I was being selfish?

-- The marriage would improve?

-- It was just a temporary bump?

-- I would be a failure if my marriage failed?

-- It wasn’t so bad?

-- It was too hard, confusing and uncertain to embark on a divorce?

-- I was the failure and I needed to improve to make things better?

-- If I was better, wiser, stronger, lovelier, smarter, thinner, …, the marriage would improve?

-- Life together was better than life alone?

-- I still loved him?

-- It takes a long time for love to work its way out of your system.

Pajama Talk

It’s 6:43 pm and I just put on my pajamas.

My last stop before going home to stay for the night (I had gone home before, but that was to prepare dinner for later and then to take my daughter shopping) was the tailor shop. As I walked over to the man who works there, he looked at me and said, “You should go home and rest.”

“I will, thanks,” I said as he took my receipt. At first I didn’t realize why what he said had made me feel warm, appreciated. Then I realized that it was the nicest thing that anyone had said to me today. It was, indeed, the only thing that showed some degree of concern or care for me, and it came from a man who I have seen about ten times in the past seven years. And it made me feel that lacking all the more.

It’s not that I’m isolated. I have my children, but they want all of my concern, they rarely give any back (at least so blatantly). I have my colleagues, but they are generally involved in their own lives and seem to shy from “intruding” in each other’s lives by asking personal questions. So if you don’t say anything, no one asks. And I have my friends and my parents, but I guess they are like white noise, you take them for granted for being there—and so you don’t notice their presence as much as you should because it is a basic underpinning.

So, as I sit here in my pajamas before the sun has set, I realize that most of my days are spent with women, and so having a man express concern for me was perhaps part of my surprise, pleasure even. Maybe that’s one of the hardest things about being single once you have been married, not having a man show you that he cares for you, that you are important to him, that his well-being depends on your well-being, that he is there to soothe you as you try to release the tensions of the day.

But as I sit here contemplating having a man knowingly kiss my neck and then sit down next to me, picking up my legs and massaging my feet as I tell him of my day’s travails, I realize that I never had that—it is an illusion that never came true for me. It seems that I was always the one soothing, but never being soothed. When my ex-husband would come home I was always asking how his day was, and serving him (but never, never, foot massages—he had disgustingly thick toenails).

Perhaps, when I realized that neither my feet nor my ego would be massaged by him was when I realized that the marriage was over, that I am more alone with him because each day I am confronted with what I don’t have—what I will never get.

We have no toilet paper. I have to get dressed and go to the supermarket. Maybe the clerk there will ask how I am.

"It's Me."

My ex-husband, who, thankfully, hasn’t called me on the phone for months, left me a message the other day. He started his message by saying, “it’s me.” I played the message twice to be sure that I had heard correctly. What right did he have to say “it’s me” to me? I looked at the phone angrily; “don’t say ‘it’s me’ to me!” I wanted to yell. He relinquished his right to use that term a long time ago. Let me think, maybe it was after he called me “bitch” the first time. Or maybe it was when he said that I was “useless” for the tenth time. Or perhaps it was that one memorable time when he said that he is “waiting until he can stand on my grave and spit on it.”

To me, “it’s me” is a term of endearment. Using it is something that one aspires to at the beginning of a relationship, and, once attained, signifies that you are, thankfully / happily / finally, in a relationship. His use of that term offended me: there is nothing in the present between us that is positive in any way, so his use of that term was offensive.

Who gets to say “it’s me” to me? Unequivocally, God may certainly use that phrase without any prior interactions. (That would be on his behalf, on mine there certainly have been prayers and far too many pleadings in the past few years.) If the deity would use that phrase, well, then that would be all the proof that I still need of the Supreme Being’s existence. And it certainly would be an incredible honor and validation (of my worth).

But other than that, no one can use that term without having established a prior level of intimacy or acquaintance, after all, you need to be able to recognize the person’s voice easily. And doesn’t one’s use of that term show that you want to be in a me-you relationship; a relationship that is direct, where eye contact would certainly be part of the package? Only one or two friends use “me,” my mother is “us” (encompassing my mother and my father), and my daughters are “me” (although sometimes I get those two “me”s mixed up).

The last time a man used “it’s me” with me was months ago when the supposedly separated man I had dated, who, a week after he went back to his wife, called me, drunk, at one in morning, exclaiming, “it’s me.” Yeah, so?

Hmmm. Maybe there’s a pattern here. In my life, the men who use “it’s me” are not sincere, or maybe they are stating the obvious (which took me far too long to see) that “it is me” really means that it is all about HIM. Perhaps men who use that term when it no longer fits reveal their self- absorption?

I’ll need to wary next time (if there is ever a next time).


This occasional series will present some ways that you can be playful during and after your divorce process (or even when you are in the decision-making phase). For me, there was so much stress and sadness that led up to my decision to get divorced, and in that interminable process of getting a divorce, that I thought up these games as a way to relieve my own stress. And boy, did I have fun coming up with these ideas. They brought much joy to my life (and some perverse smiles, too).

As someone who generally (okay, always) skips the “reflection” or “fill-in” sections of self-help books, you’re on your own here: you can do what you want with them (there’s no checklist at the end). But, whatever you decide to do, know that they were created as an outlet for my thoughts—and yours.


So much of our lives are lived in our heads, with thought bubbles instead of conversations, we keep so many words and thoughts and discussion to ourselves. Now is your chance to think beyond the standard, to expand those thoughts and the people you want to talk to. You can, of course, say what you want internally; write it down then send it, or rip it, or save it; say it out loud—shout it out loud; or tell that person in a face-to-face conversation. I had a lot of fun coming up with this list—and making my own thought bubbles. (I must admit, I even let myself get nasty! But I never went past the thought bubbles.)

You might consider matching people to conversations that need to be said, so take one from column 1 and one from column 2, and then express what you need to express.

Column 1—People to talk to • Husband • Child(ren) • Parents • Family • Spouse’s family • Current friends • Former friends • Old boyfriends • Spouse’s friends • Teachers / mentors • Spiritual leaders • Therapists • Lawyers • Lovers • G-d

Column 2—Things to say • Regrets • Realizations • Remembrances • Accusations • Disappointments • Questions • Expectations • Hopes • Statements • Connections