Over sharing seems to be endemic to the chump experience. In your shock and trauma, you’ll dump your bucket of emotional slop on anyone standing too near — the guy next to you at the grocery, the telemarketer, your kid’s school teacher, or in my case — the man installing my furnace.
I’ve told this story several times here, but when my first D-Day hit, we were having a new gas furnace installed. About a half hour after I got the call from the mistress, and before my cheater came home — I had to write the guy a check (from my account, of course) for $8,000. I burst into tears and told him I’d just learned my husband was cheating on me.
He stood there dumbstruck and then said very solemnly he was going to “lift me up in prayer to Jesus.”
Totally awkward. And very kind. And I wanted to sink into the earth from mortification later.
Another over sharing moment in the early days — I was waiting at the courthouse to get a protection from abuse order, scared witless, blubbing, trying not to, waiting my turn — and it was an ordinary waiting room. There wasn’t like a special sitting area for domestic abuse. Nope we were all lumped together. There was a mildly retarded Amish man, and his driver. The Amish guy was in some kind of trouble for having all his dairy farming tax receipts in a shoe box. There was another woman, tough looking, with a little boy — she was also in for a PFA (she kindly told me to stay strong in the ladies room. God bless her, I guess I over shared in the ladies too). And there was this Puerto Rican kid with some criminal charge sitting next to me.
He asked me what I was “in for.” And I told him. Probably too much.
He very gallantly said, “Man, that’s awful. I hate guys like that. I could push him out of a window for you if you want. That’s the kind of guy I am.” As if pushing a cheater out of a window was all in a days chivalry for a dude like him. Never took him up on it, but I appreciated the thuggish offer. He seemed really sincere about it, too.
But probably my most EPIC over sharing moment was after my first marriage. I used to tell this story — chumps, it’s one of my FAVORITE STORIES — but I stopped doing it because it’s too dark and grim and people didn’t get it. You know, happy, non-chumpy, no drama people. But when I was living this shit, OMG, this was the funniest thing that ever happened to me EVER. So… I’m telling it now.
In January 2003 I was having a party to celebrate the end of the worst year of my life. (Ha! Little did I know what life had in store for me, huh?) In the previous year, I had finally gotten divorced, endured that trial, a custody trial, and my friend Ed committed suicide and left all his tools for me locked in my bathroom. (That was in October — oh, I over shared on that one too. Home Depot used to make me cry.)
So, it’s early January and I’m taking down the Christmas tree and I’m in my bare feet and the floor feels really WARM for January. But the room feels really COLD. And my radiators are making this weird gurgling noise. It’s a Friday afternoon. The party is the next day. I start calling plumbing/heating companies in desperation and this one company offers to send someone out.
So this enormous 300-lb pipe fitter shows up at my door and I let him in. He inspects my radiator. And my floor. And in this Virginia drawl he goes “Ma’am. You burst a pipe.” (pronounced PAaahp.)
“Yeah, I’m gonna have to shut your heat off. Can’t get anyone out here til Monday to give you an estimate. But the pipes under your house burst and all that hot water is pouring out under your foundation and that’s why the floor is so warm.”
I had just bought the house out in the divorce, within the last year. I own it — NOW THIS.
How much is this gonna cost?
“Well, burst pipes aren’t usually covered by insurance.”
I’m trying very hard not to lose it. So instead of crying — I totally manically over share. I keep saying “I can’t believe this is happening! I can’t believe this is happening! I’m having a party tomorrow to celebrate the end of the WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE — and you’re telling me MY PIPES JUST BURST? Please tell me this happened in 2002 — I cannot start the new year with burst pipes!”
So then the guy gets curious. “So why was it the worst year of your life?”
“Well, I finally got divorced, got sued, and my friend killed himself.”
Then the guy asks, not unkindly — “How’d he do it?”
“He shot himself in the head.”
“Well THAT’S A GOOD WAY TO DIE!” the big, scary pipe fitter says with actual GLEE. Like he was RELIEVED to hear my friend Ed shot himself in the head. And so then HE commences to over share with me. “Well, that’s a coincidence, because MY FRIEND, just killed HIMSELF last week!
Oh my God, I’m so sorry.
“Well, it’s okay really. Because he was an asshole.”
I’m so sorry.
“I just feel really awful about the way he died.”
At this point — I really don’t want to know how this guy’s friend died. I do NOT want to know! I feel awful for him, but I do NOT want the details. But he has opened the flood gates of over sharing too, and I’m standing there. And we have this thing in common — I mean, what are the chances? We both know people who offed themselves in the last quarter.
“Some girl broke up with him, so he killed himself. I just feel bad about the way he did it. He hung himself with a CHAIN.”
Oh that’s terrible.
“Well, it’s a really slow way to kill yourself, a chain just cuts into your neck.” (He gestures to show me). “Really slow, suffocating way to go. And a chain is so heavy! What was he thinking?”
He goes on and on and on in this vein. About all the different ways to hang yourself. The different methods, how a chain is really a poor choice for the job. And I keep saying “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s just awful. How sad.”
And then he goes “BUT YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE FUNNY PART IS?”
There’s a funny part?
“HE HAD A GUN!”
“He could of shot himself in the head like your friend! Because that’s a GOOD WAY TO DIE!”
God bless this guy. He was trying to comfort me — and seek over sharing comfort — in his own totally emotionally tone deaf way. He wanted to point out that however fucked up my friend Ed was for killing himself, at least he didn’t half ass the job. Unlike his asshole friend who used a CHAIN. I suppose this is the way pipe fitters think. You got a job to do, use the right tool.
And you’d think after that surreal life episode, that would be enough over sharing. But there is abundance in nature, and the very next day the pipe fitter sends over his supervisor. A man named “Ron Outlaw.” For real. A very nice person, who comes over on a Saturday to give me an estimate because I’m living in a house with no heat in January. (Space heaters and a fireplace — and yes the party went on!)
I’m cooking for the party, to celebrate the end of the worst year of my life, and Mr. Outlaw asks me out of the blue if I would like a bread machine.
“Is this some kind of promotion? Spend thousands on burst pipes, get a free bread machine, kind of thing?”
No, he explains. He’s going through a divorce and every time his wife serves him papers, she gives him back a different household appliance.
“Oh. Does it have bad divorce mojo? Because I’ve had enough of that.”
Oh no, he assures me. No bad mojo. He just doesn’t want it. But I look like someone who cooks, so maybe I’d like it?
“Sure,” I say. And the guy goes out to his truck. Apparently, he was just driving around with this thing. Looking to find it a good home. He hands me a bread machine and I say thanks, and I really mean it.
My over sharing story is STILL not over.
A few days later, I’m still living in the house with no heat and workers are jack hammering out my foundation. I work from home. My boss on a project for the World Bank is in Michigan with her dying mother and we’re on deadline. Her dying mother trumps my burst pipes. So I’m huddled up in my coat, wearing fingerless gloves, typing furiously to finish this project. And for some reason, it’s just all too much and I start to quietly lose my shit in my office. Crying. Typing. Miserable.
There’s a knock at the door and it’s Ron Outlaw. He sees that I’ve been crying and he says very firmly to me “It’s just money. That’s all. It just doesn’t matter. It’s just money, okay?”
I start to bawl some more. Because it felt like fucking EVERYTHING that day. The punishment of breeding with a deadbeat, lawsuits, single motherhood, a dear friend’s suicide, ghastly plumbing repairs, the World Bank deadline. When was the universe going to give me a FUCKING BREAK?! I was having a total pity party.
And then he says to me “It’s just money. It’s just a house. It doesn’t matter. Some things really do matter, but this isn’t one of them, okay? I just lost my 21 year old son last year in an accident. It broke up my marriage. When that happens, you see what’s really important and it’s never the same.”
He said it so matter of factly. So kindly — that I just marveled at him. I don’t really know how he was standing after something that tragic. Let alone fixing my pipes. Let alone giving me appliances.
And see, that’s the beauty of over sharing. You might mortify someone. Or you might just find comfort in the most unlikely of places.
Next post, I’ll examine why I think we over share.