Thanks Modern Love of the New York Times for yet another romantic tale of conscious uncoupling. This last Sunday’s column was an OW’s cute How We Met story — Mother’s Day (the chump’s). On a barstool. It was “love at first sight.”
Modern Love. Come for the cliches. Stay for the sociopathy.
Yes, another smug, faux-self-deprecating OW tale of love and superiority with the Super Understanding Chump Who Is Her New BFF. (Spoiler alert: They get mani-pedis.)
Of course a bazillion of you sent it to me. Of course I will UBT it.
Beka told me about her self-care plans for the day of her final divorce hearing as we were getting pedicures. Her two daughters sat between us in child-size pedicure chairs, chattering away and paying no attention to our conversation.
“I scheduled a facial, a massage, and lots of drinks beginning at 2 p.m.,” she said. “I’m going to need this. We know half the attorneys in town, and I bet we’ll see someone in court. Watch it be one of the loudmouths.”
We both laughed and sipped our wine.
I WIN THE PICK ME DANCE! LAUGH AND SIP YOUR DOOM, MOTHERFUCKER!
Beka told me about
her self-care plans her sad attempts at normalcy for the day of her final divorce hearing my triumphant victory.
Beka is my boyfriend’s wife, and the girls are their children. I met her husband, Josh, the summer before, on Mother’s Day, which coincided with their 12th wedding anniversary. Beka had shooed him out of the house to host a mother-daughter tea, and he appeared in the seat next to me at a neighborhood bar.
Beka is the woman I conspired against to win my boyfriend, and the girls are the collateral damage sitting in child-size pedicure chairs. #sorryaboutyourparentsdivorce #sparklytoenailsmakeitallbetter
He says it was love at first sight, while I thought he was just another sexy married guy — strictly off limits.
Here’s a dreamboat for you — a man who spends his anniversary AND Mother’s day in a bar!
Picking up random skanks Falling in love with strange pussy ME.
I know it sounds all wrong, but I’m just that kind of irresistible siren.
Over the next two months, as I cycled in and out of tumultuous relationships,
Over 8 whole weeks I’ve had relationships (plural) and managed to create entire chaos cycles. But let’s call it “tumultuous.” It sounds so much more Hallmark movie channel rom-com that way. #borderlinepersonalitydisorder #dateme #oriwillboilyourbunnies
he kept popping up.
I’m passing this off as kismet, but cheaters tend to pop up when you give them your number.
Occasionally we would wave across a coffee shop or exchange a few words on the street. One day he took a seat next to me at another bar, where we joined in the happy-hour conversation about politics and sex.
Neither of us have gainful employment, which frees us up for hours spent at coffee shops, bars, and Talk Sexy to Me Trivia Nights. #justwaving #exchangingglances #okayiwillblowu
When he left to pick up his children, I wasn’t surprised when he said, “Can I see you again?”
Generally men don’t ask to see me again. #alone4breakfast #WHYWONTYOUSEEME #tumultuous
I thought: “Just another creep trying to fool around behind his wife’s back.”
I had a fleeting moment of lucidity. It passed.
But I agreed to meet him again, mostly because it was easier than explaining why I wouldn’t and because I was certain I would never have an affair with him.
I agreed to help destroy the family of two small children and an innocent woman because it was easier than giving out a fake phone number. There would have been NUMBERS. And probably pens. I grow faint just thinking of that kind of exertion.
I was wrong about Josh. He wasn’t a creep or even a cheater. He was a man who loved his children more than anything.
So much so, that he ditched their mother on Mother’s Day to profess love to a stranger on a bar stool. He could’ve been assisting with the girls’ tea party, or out shopping for presents, or changing the oil in his wife’s car (Happy Anniversary, darling!) — but in a totally, uncreepy, utterly monogamous way, he was picking me up in a bar instead.
He was a man who loved his children. And then he met me!
Josh and Beka were a powerhouse couple — affluent, attractive, highly educated, generous — and the backbone of upper-middle-class respectability developing in my bohemian neighborhood.
I want upper-middleclass, powerhouse respectability. But that probably requires a job and less barstool sitting. Alas, I will never achieve these things, so I’ll steal them from Beka instead.
They had married in their 20s because they got along, had a lot in common (both are lawyers) and the timing was right; many of their friends were tying the knot.
He NEVER loved Beka! It was just the timing and peer pressure. That’s what Josh tells me over and over and over again when I threaten to simmer Fluffernutter. LOVE ME OR THE RABBIT DIES!
#answermytextsJosh #whats4dinner #fluffernuttersoup
Twelve years in, their marriage seemed to be compatible and right. But it was a union of practicality more than passion, and Josh was miserable. He didn’t think he had any right to be miserable, but he was.
Josh wasn’t a creep or a cheater. He’s a man who loves his children. Who tells random women he meets in bars that his wife doesn’t understand him.
Beka? I’m sorry you can’t be me, who is both compatible AND right. While you have zero passion with Josh, I have ALL the passion. And you have… well you have nice toenails now, Beka. #BFFs
I didn’t understand why Josh was willing to break apart everything he had to be with someone like me.
Yes I do. It’s because I’m AWESOMELY SPECIAL AND BETTER THAN BEKA! #humblebrag
I was a struggling academic recovering from a messy divorce, deliberately childless at 40. My devotion to my students and my love for my dogs served as a stand-in for stable and nurturing human relationships.
I don’t have stable and nurturing human relationships. Ergo Josh looks pretty good.
After many years of struggle, I recently had learned I had bipolar II disorder, which meant I finally had the right medicine. But I was wrestling with shame as I realized how many of my spectacularly bad decisions had been influenced by mental illness. I had to learn how to trust others and myself, and at times it felt like I would never get there.
Perhaps the meds aren’t working. Josh is a spectacularly bad decision. Need more Clozapine to drown out that thought. #BPDmademedoit
Josh said he liked me simply because he did. “I am married to a wonderful, successful, beautiful woman,” he said. “By any calculation, I should be happy. But I’m not, so I have decided that I am not going to calculate anymore.”
As we spent more time together, everything about our relationship felt natural. There was no imbalance in our love for one another, and we shared the same values and sense of humor. It turns out that Josh’s refusal to calculate — and my distrust in my ability to calculate — led us to the best decision of our lives: to do what it would take to be together. But that meant inflicting undeserved pain on others.
But what the hell! Inflicting pain felt natural. Resisting did not. We share the same values — putting ourselves above others.
On a sticky Sunday in August, when Josh and Beka’s children were staying with his mother, he asked her for a divorce. At first she refused to believe he was serious. Then she grew so angry that she shook.
Josh told me this!
A visibly upset Josh met me after she told him to leave the house. He was ashamed, relieved and almost physically sick with sorrow.
Beka threw him out! Josh is physically sick with sorrow to be with me! #winning!
“I could handle her anger,” he said. “And I agreed with everything she said. It’s unthinkable for me to dismantle all we’ve built. But I fell apart when she started to cry. She put her head on my chest while she cried. I’ve never felt so horrible in my life.”
Who’s the powerhouse NOW, Beka? Huh?
There, there, Beka. We can be besties later, and you can tell everyone how losing your marriage was For The Best, because you failed to sufficiently appreciate Josh. Who feels really horrible about it. (But not that horrible.)
About a month later, he told Beka about me. This time, her anger was not tinged by sorrow; she was furious. After hours of shouting, however, she began to feel better than she had since Josh first mentioned divorce.
“It makes more sense for the divorce to be about another woman,” he said. “Many of our friends are going through divorces for the same reason. And I’ll admit, she felt a lot better when I told her you’re four years older than she is. She assumed you would be about 25.”
Bitch cookie! My fuckbuddy is age-appropriate!
Then Beka surprised us both. Through Josh, she invited me to dinner.
“What?” I said. “Seriously? How is that going to work?” I didn’t see how a dinner could be pulled off without the whole thing erupting in open conflict or stalling into awkward silence. But, again, I was wrong.
“I had to meet you,” Beka said as she opened the door. “Josh wants you to meet our girls, but I need to get to know you first.”
Her smile seemed genuine, her eyes kind. She was small and beautiful, somehow elegant in casual shorts. Although I am short as well, I felt huge and ungainly next to her.
Beka surprised us both with her magnanimity and willingness to give up Josh. I was sort of hoping she’d sob and weep some more at her loss, but this “come for dinner” thing threw me.
Then I realized that it was just another opportunity to demonstrate my superiority. I didn’t do a bad thing! See even Beka AGREES that I am BETTER for Josh!
My smugness feels huge and ungainly next to her kindness.
Josh was practically disabled by anxiety during that three-hour dinner.
Goddamnit, who put Beka in the driver’s seat?
As Beka and I got to know each other, he drank nonstop. But Beka made sure I felt totally at ease. Our conversation ranged from trivial matters and uproarious stories about neighborhood matters to serious acknowledgment of our unusual situation.
Beka is offloading her drunk husband on me. We laughed uproariously.
After we all had hugged good night, I thought, “This won’t last.” I braced myself for the wrath to come, but it never materialized. Instead, Beka introduced me to their adorable children, and my immediate bond with them made me silently rejoice that I didn’t have children of my own. It was as if I had been saving my maternal love for Rose and Alice, who were then 7 and 3.
The kind of maternal love that breaks up the home of a 7 and 3 year old.
One day they brought tears to my eyes when, after a raucous game of me holding them upside down and tickling them, we snuggled on the couch to watch a movie.
“I love you,” Rose whispered. “I’m so glad you’re part of my family.”
“I’m terrified to lose my family,” Rose whispered. “If you’re the new adult here, I have to go along with it. I’m 7.”
Beka was the one who worked the hardest to make me part of the family. She invited me to birthday parties and smoothed the socially turbulent waters by introducing me to friends who had been indignant on her behalf. Afterward, we giggled at the shocked faces people made when they met me.
I giggle to watch Beka eat the conscious uncoupling shit sandwich. But really, we are a united front against her indignant friends.
When Josh moved out of their house into a duplex, we had family dinners and celebrated holidays together to ease the transition for the girls. While friends and family shook their heads in bafflement, we forged our relationship based on mutual respect, empathy and an overpowering love for those two beautiful children.
The one thing I don’t know, and may never know, is whether our bond is genuine affection on Beka’s part or the result of her sheer will to make this work, to avoid falling prey to bitterness, to refuse to be a victim.
It isn’t my place to ask such a thing, and ultimately it doesn’t matter.
Does Beka REALLY like me? Or is she sucking it up for her children? It doesn’t matter. What matters is ME. It isn’t my place to consider whether or not Beka has feelings. Or the girls.
I am in awe of the grace and maturity she has displayed throughout what I suspect is the most traumatic event of her life.
I AM SO IMPORTANT! #mosttraumaticeventEVAH
I don’t have any grace or maturity. Maybe I can steal some from Beka.
She even liked this essay, telling me after reading it: “I’m so glad you get it. I wish more divorces ended up like this. It’s better for the kids and the parents.”
“I wish more divorces ended up like this — the OW gets a cheating drunk, and I get a new life with my girls,” said Beka. But I didn’t really catch it as she wasn’t talking about ME.
I have silently mourned with her, though I suspect she wouldn’t appreciate that. She never breathes a word of anger or resentment to her children, and they have never reproached their father or me for the immeasurable disruption we have caused to their lives. She and Josh and I have done everything we can to shield them from the anger and damage so common in divorce.
Every now and again when I have thanked Beka for an invitation to a family event or gone out to get medicine for a sick child in the middle of the night, she has texted me words of gratitude that I treasured even while feeling I didn’t deserve them.
“The girls adore you,” she wrote. “And you truly treat them like they’re your own. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
She might have written “abhor” instead of adore. Anyway, what matters is that I WON. Beka has thrown herself on the live grenades of anger, damage, and disruption for the children, and I’m free to share my values with Josh!
Speaking of Josh, where is he?
And I can’t tell her how much this family we all have forged means to me.
While we were all getting Girl’s Day Out mani-pedis celebrating our New-Forged Family, Josh went to the Bar.
He’s not answering his texts.