I know by now you think you’ve heard it all, but I’m going way out on a limb and guessing you haven’t heard this one.
When I first met my FW, he would be the kind of guy you’d describe as an “absent-minded genius”. Brilliant in some aspects, and spectacularly clueless in others. But he didn’t seem to grasp simple things like “how to use a cordless phone” or “why you shouldn’t pour hot wax down the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink.” In most basic terms, you or I could see a row of dominoes and understand that knocking over the first one will cause the last one to fall. He just didn’t have that. He could be brilliant in other ways, and unbelievably charming … but dysfunctional on a very basic level.
There’s no big spoiler alert, since I’m here writing to Chump Lady. We know what happened: he was absent-minded not because he was thinking great thoughts, but because he was immersed in a sexual double-life.
In his case, he was gay (or as he insisted on calling it, “bisexual”). He needed me to be the Fuckwit Whisperer, but I never truly had a partner in my husband. I couldn’t have left him alone with a sick child, for example, because there was just no telling what he would do. I couldn’t depend on him for anything. He was great at getting jobs, but terrible at keeping them.
I never did the “pick me” dance. By the time I found out about the cheating, even before I found out how much he was cheating and how much of MY MONEY he was paying to cheat, I was done being his babysitter.
Our divorce was final last January, and I’m working my way to Tuesday.
After I left, he got a roommate (okay that’s odd for a 66-year-old, but remember, he really can’t survive on his own). Apparently the roommate had a pet snake (not that there’s anything wrong with that) which was fed dead rats (it’s the circle of life) which were kept frozen in the freezer (again, this man is no longer my problem – just wanted to get that out there while you go back and re-read). So remember: I am no longer The FW Whisperer, and I think what’s happening is that my adult daughter is being hoovered into the role. However, at the moment there is nobody to advise FW that the fridge needs to be cleaned out once in a while.
My daughter, who is staying with me over the holiday, told me last night that the roommate had moved out, but a short while ago FW called her. He’d decided he needed to cook something for dinner, and discovered an unidentified piece of something frozen in the freezer. FW wasn’t “sure” whether the mystery meat was a bit of chicken or not, so he tossed it in a skillet with some olive oil, well-seasoned with salt, pepper, and assorted spices. As it cooked, he tasted it to correct the seasonings. Also as it cooked, it gradually thawed and uncurled from the frozen lump it started out as.
Chump Lady, I know this sounds made-up, but it’s not. This is exactly how my daughter described it to me. He eventually realized he’d better throw it out – but not before he’d tasted it.
Is it “Tuesday” for me if I’m secretly delighted? Should I just sit tight and trust my daughter will know not to get sucked into the role of FW Whisperer? I know I shouldn’t click “send” but could I at least imagine what I WOULD say if I weren’t the bigger person here?
What would you say to him? Did you pair it with a Sauvignon blanc? There is no insult you could add to such stupidity. The man ate a rat. He is his own worst punishment.
Is it “Tuesday” for me if I’m secretly delighted?
Schadenfreude has no season. I think you’re asking me if you can feel meh (or Tuesday, “the day the pain stops“) and delight in his suffering simultaneously. Yes, you can have contradictory emotions about someone who harmed you. However, I do think as time passes and meh takes over, his idiocy won’t spark any feelings in you, other than confirmation that he is an idiot.
These are still pretty early days. First year out of a divorce. Ending your long career as the Fuckwit Whisperer. Probably a natural curiosity to see how he’s getting on in the world (or if he’s failing spectacularly). And the anxiety that your daughter will fill your chaos janitor shoes.
Let’s tackle that last one. It’s a classic Bred-With-A-Fuckwit dilemma. You escaped, but your child still has to navigate this mess. You can tell her it’s not her job to manage her father, but she had 20+ years of watching you do exactly that. Cover for him, clean up after him, manage his life.
Which is an interesting dynamic. On first blush, how incompetent he is! Needing all this hand-holding. On closer inspection, however, how powerful he is to enlist all these underlings. Czars aren’t cooking their own dinners or dealing with sick children. That’s for the little people.
An “absent-minded” genius is still supposed to be considered a genius. Someone singular and superior. Is he actually forgetful, or have you spackled? Cue the Dr. Simon axiom, “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.” He probably knows it’s not a good idea to pour hot wax down a drain, but whatever happens next won’t be his problem. He disagrees he should be accountable. So, he can do any fool thing he wants. Clean up crew in aisle 6…
Actual absent-minded people (I live with a couple), compensate for their deficits with sticky notes and phone reminders. They might ask for help with Things That Baffle Them, but they push through uncomfortable frustrations. They don’t flop on a chaise lounge and ring for the maid.
I’m sure it comes as a rude awakening for your princeling ex to have to adult now. Perhaps the roommate left because he didn’t want the job. (He must’ve left quickly… he forgot his rats.) So now your ex is turning on the Sad Sausage self-pity channel to tell your daughter, I’m all alone, silly ol’ me, I ate a rat!
(Unsaid: “Come clean my refrigerator and cook my meals.”)
He’s ringing that service bell. Where is my Fuckwit Whisperer? Come at once! Before I do something really calamitous! (Dude, you set the bar at eating a rat. Get a med-alert bracelet.)
Should I just sit tight and trust my daughter will know not to get sucked into the role of FW Whisperer?
I’d have a conversation with her, but I’d avoid putting her in the position of having to defend her father. (Look, she knows he’s hopeless. She told you that story.) Make it about you, a subject you can speak of with authority.
“Daughter, that’s a funny (disturbing!) story. In the past, I probably would’ve stepped in and managed that crisis for your dad. But I learned (through therapy/painful experience/the warnings of a thousand Redditers) that’s not my job. And please know, it’s not your job either. Your father is a (nuclear physicist/master plumber/insurance adjuster), he’ll figure things out.”
It’s never too late to start modeling sane parenting. I have boundaries now! Watch and learn!
And then I permit you to have a private shiver of schadenfreude.