Okay, jobs, children, laundry, sure. Chumps get the greater share of those, of course. But what feeds your soul? Where do you get your kibbles?
For my husband (a former chump) it was 80 rose bushes. The guy has antique rose mania. You can walk into any garden anywhere, and he can identify an antique rose at 20 paces. “Oh that’s Baronne Henriette de Snoy.” It’s like his superpower.
His snobby superpower. He’s sniffy and dismissive of hybrid teas. And don’t even get him started on knock out roses. “Landscaping trash.”
He’s got his habit down now to about 10 antique rose bushes. Which have a very short shelf life in Texas. One hot day they go from glorious rosebud to withered ash. To love roses in Texas is to be forever heartsick. This isn’t the ideal climate for roses, so you have to be a good steward. Constantly mixing up their favorite foliar feeds, mulching, pruning…
But when properly cared for, rose bushes deliver. They bloom. They smell nice. It’s pretty glorious (if brief).
At the height of his former marriage to a serial cheater, however, the man once had 80 rose bushes. I guess his love and affection had to go somewhere. Because roses, unlike cheaters, are rewarding. He looks back at this time in his life as rather maniacal, and a symptom that things were terribly broken. As long as he had an all-consuming interest, he could ignore the fact that his wife was checked out.
He isn’t the only one. I see this with a lot of chumps, myself included. I used to be something of a crazy gardener myself. (My husband once looked at a picture of my over-the-top garden pots and pegged me as a kindred chump.) I did a lot of things alone while married. I traveled to my parents alone, with an older woman friend alone, to concerts alone. I landscaped alone. I scraped wallpaper alone. I raked leaves alone… I could go on and on.
One place chumps direct a lot of our attention, of course, is our children. And that’s right and proper to a point. But we shouldn’t expect emotional intimacy and kibbles from our kids. It puts a terrible burden on them.
Do you have any version of the 80 rose bush phenomena?
When you leave a cheater and gain a life, however, things fall back into balance. I still had my interests, but they just felt like that — interests — not escapes.
As for us and maniacal gardening? We’re considering an apartment in the next stage of life. With a doorman!
Writing this column, I just asked my husband to identify his favorite rose — and he couldn’t remember.
“Wow. They used to be my friends.”