Raining on the Honeymoon
J: If you ever want to know what people really think of you, or what people you thought you knew are really like, start dating a guy, recently split from his wife, and in a very small town. All sorts of judgment will come out of the woodwork. Within a month, you will be able to separate those who never jump to conclusions from those who think they know everything.
I learned very early on in my adult life that things are never as they seem and that having an opinion about someone that you know nothing about is ugly and judgmental. When I was newly married to my first husband, he had a friend over who was recently divorced and had to pay child support. His friend was going on and on about how every time he saw his ex-wife she was wearing a new outfit and that she was spending the child support money on herself. I didn’t really know his ex-wife, but I knew where she worked. My husband was commiserating with his friend and agreeing, blah, blah, blah. I piped up, “Are the children being fed and clothed when they are with their mother?” Oh, the daggers I faced from those two men. Needless to say, a fight ensued after the friend left. That argument stayed with me. I did not jump on their hate train. I was defending a woman that I didn’t know.
I’m not perfect. It’s human nature to judge, but I have it within me to stop and catch myself, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart or what goes on behind closed doors.
M: Most long relationships don’t end overnight. For some there’s the big “blowout” I suppose, but usually a couple’s relationship will wax and wane through months or years of soul-searching, therapy, and lengthy conversations with friends before the couple decides their differences are “irreconcilable.” My break up was like the latter. My ex and I had a long and private struggle over the course of years and ended things mutually; no big “blowout,” no drama, all under the radar. The unexpected consequence of this was people were shocked; family included.
So when I started dating someone almost immediately, there were some pretty interesting reactions. The general theme was “Whoa, why not let the dust settle for a few months?!” I guess for me the dust had settled. The break-up marked the end of a long, tumultuous time of my life. I was ready to explore my new life. I couldn’t wait.
J: Mike and I went into this with our eyes wide open. We were very much aware of the timing. We were friends who became more than friends very soon after his marriage ended. We knew people would talk and speculate and form opinions and that there was nothing we could do about it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t bothersome, especially for me. Mike seemed to be able to let the scuttlebutt roll off his back. It wasn’t so easy for me. I did care what other people thought and even though I knew I had nothing to do with the end of his marriage, I realized some might think otherwise. I wanted to do damage control. I wrote My Boyfriend in an attempt to squash a few rumors then immediately took it off my blog because I felt it was too soon. I walk a tightrope of trying to be sensitive to others’ feelings and wanting to share my happiness with the world. Eventually I put it up again, and eventually, I let go of what I couldn’t control.
But in the beginning, the “too soon” part concerned me as well, especially for him. When a couple of his friends staged an intervention under the guise of “Let’s have drinks,” I wondered if they might be right, but only for a second.
M: It wasn’t as if I’d clicked a button in my heart and deleted that last 16 years of my life. I was still a freshly divorced mess feeling like I didn’t have much to offer anyone romantically. I had moved into a one bedroom apartment and still had to face the heartbreaking storm of custody and settlement agreements, but I also had a hot single friend. Jodee and I had met through a writing group called “40 Days of Writing” and had become fast friends. We had a similar sense of humor, shared interests, and after hosting a trivia night together realized we had great chemistry as an entertainment duo. She was one of the first to learn about my break up because her 20-year marriage had ended not that long ago and we could commiserate. We valued each other as friends, but when newly-single me asked her out on a date she responded with a resounding “hang on a minute, pal.”
She’s a practical girl and admitted concern over the timing, but my “it’s only a date, jeez!” argument was irrefutable. Our first date ended with plans to get together again, those plans lead to more plans, and so on. Some friends of mine quickly noticed a trend and invited me out for a drink ASAP.
“Dude!….What are you doing??!!”
Their advice, in a nutshell, was that I simply explain to Jodee that I needed to forego subsequent plans to spend time with her so that I might be free to pursue multiple sexual encounters with many women over a relatively short period of time.
“That’s a great Plan B you guys, thank you. First I’m going to see how things go with Plan A.”
J: “Maybe you should sew your oats for awhile. Be single. See how it feels,” I said to Mike. I really did wonder if a few months or a year down the line, he might feel like he jumped into things too quickly with me. I was worried about my own feelings, too. What if I really fall for this guy and then he dumps me for that much younger, single, cute girl. There are many in this town. One night I even tried to list a few prospects for him. That didn’t go over very well, but it did go exactly how I wanted it to go. Finally he said this, “Why would I risk losing you, someone that I truly care about, to sleep around with someone who I don’t?”
I’m sure there are naysayers in this town; people who think it won’t last. It’s a slightly unconventional union and not just because of the age difference. We were on different paths in our youth. He waited to have children and I didn’t. This makes him and my son nine years apart. When I was his age, my son was 18. His are only two and four. Unless I remove the gray from my hair, which I have no intention of doing, I’m sure his two towheaded kids will be thought to be my grandchildren by some who don’t know us. And why wouldn’t they? My son could potentially make me a grandmother sooner rather than later so yes, unconventional fits.
M: You never know how things like this will play out. After the end of a long relationship it’s a perfectly normal thing to want to get out there and meet someone new, or maybe give that innocent crush you had for years a call. They call it “rebounding”. But it’s not supposed to actually work out, right? Well things with Jodee and I were working out, and this was a bit of a problem. What would people think? What kind of guy moves on so soon and flaunts it around town? Let’s be honest, an asshole, that’s who.
So, it took awhile to feel comfortable even leaving the house together, longer to be seen at social gatherings, and I think only recently have we started holding hands when we’re pretty sure no one is watching. It didn’t take long for word to get around our small community. I recognized the subtext in the looks from some people and even endured some not-so-subtle disapproval. “Go home to your wife!” shouted from a moving car was my personal favorite. I was anticipating this kind of reaction, but what I didn’t anticipate was the support. There was so much support! In fact the consensus from my friends was “we were sad to hear your marriage ended, but so happy to see you and Jodee together.” My god, are you serious?! I couldn’t believe it. Why hadn’t I given people more credit? The guys who thought I should go “get some” had their hearts in the right place, but quickly saw I was on the right path. Even the guy who shouted marital advice from the moving car later came to me mortified. Apparently he hadn’t heard about the separation yet and thought he was being funny, poor guy. He even shared his own break up story with me.
I’m finding a lot of people have been through painful break-ups, and when they hear of one in the life of someone close to them, they sometimes internalize it. For most, it brings out empathy. They’ll remember what they went through and encourage you to follow your heart, wherever it takes you. I think those people saw that I was following my heart, and to those people I say “thank you, truly.” For some, however, it brings out something uglier, ranging from silent judgment to speculation and pernicious gossip. To those folks I say “Keep it up! Seriously.” You’ve shown a spotlight on my true friends and I’m thrilled to find I have so many.
J: I know I began this blog with a paragraph about how our situation revealed who was looking down their noses at us with pinched faces and phony smiles, but what was also revealed was that there were far more people in this small community who supported us. When you genuinely care about your friends, you want them to be happy. And it’s perfectly fine and normal to be sad about a break-up and happy about what follows. There are no sides here. There is just life and love playing out.