Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

Killing Me Softly

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People ask what prompted me to write a 430-page novel where I kill off the protagonist, the antagonist, the villain, many secondary characters, and a big ol’ list of walk-ons. Over and over again. Well, to answer the question, I have had the kind of experiences that prompted me to write that novel – a nasty, in your face, go to hell novel where someone gets killed off every 30 pages of the manuscript. You are laughing. I can hear you. Right now you are laughing because you are imagining me doing this. Yes, someone gets killed off every 30 pages in the manuscript.

A pivotal experience kicking up this urge to smack a character started kindly enough. I was explaining to a friend about my first husband. Saying the usual stuff.

“We married young.”

“The marriage went as far as it could go.”

“He is basically a good man and we had a lot of fun for a while.”

Truth be told, I was a tad relieved when my first husband moved to Chicago after we divorced. I felt a sense of freedom and let’s get on with life. The divorce happened in the middle of my master’s program at a state university. So I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and took out a loan to get through the last year. It wasn’t too horrible sleeping on a friend’s pullout sofa. What is it about that bar in the middle of the mattress? And why did I always creep towards the bottom of the bed to get my feet tangled up in the metal frame? I learned to like cereal – I will never love it. I reframed the first union as “a starter marriage,” one that should be respected, where I learned many skills essential to my second marriage. Overall I felt really good about the first marriage until the day when I learned how he explained the end of the marriage.

He said I had died. Yes, I had died.

At a coffee shop, I ran into one of his business colleagues. She looked stunned. She stammered. I kept talking until I ran out of words. She was quiet. We looked at each other. She didn’t blink so I didn’t either.

“What’s up?” I asked with a wide-eyed smile.

“Uh. You’re still alive.” Her eyes were as round as the saucers under our café au laits.

“Yeah. I think so.” I blinked to show that I was not the Undead (Twilighters will get this reference).

“He told us you died.” Tears filled her eyes.

“What?” Massive blinking on my part.

“D*** told us you died then he moved to Chicago.” She hiccupped spilling tears.

“You’re kidding?” I blinked with my mouth open stopping just before I drooled.

“No.” Both of us sat down. I shrugged, stopped blinking and drank some cold coffee. I shook my head from side to side.

I thought I may need to rethink my understanding of my first marriage. I called Social Security to check if he had accessed any death benefits. I called the advertising agency in Chicago, explained who I was and the first words out of his colleague’s mouth were, “I thought you had died.”

“No. Not yet,” I said into the phone.

I tracked him down to his house in California using the Internet. During a series of phone calls to ad agencies, I explained my live status. One person hung up the phone. Another person dropped the phone. It was hilarious. If I was dead, did I need health insurance? Would I need to pay taxes?

So that is where I get my comfort with a plot full of characters who return from the dead, again and again and again. To tell their story. Yet again.

 

 

What We Remember

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I miss the Fish-Fucker. Twenty years after his death, I don’t think of him every day or even every month. But now and then, when my face is half-turned or my body settles into the space between breaths, the death pause, I hear his laughter and expect to see his large green eyes crinkling at me. Then guilt rushes in because I haven’t been thinking of him or even missing him. Because I have moved on. Grown away. Like the lover who was once the center of your universe but now you struggle to remember his name.

While the features of his face have become fuzzy, I remember him as Fish-Fucker. He earned that name. It was given by friends one night when life had a summertime feeling of infinity. Love was taken for granted – it was rock solid.

We had gone to our friends for the night. They had a big house with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking their dock. Our usual group of friends had gathered for a potluck and billiards. We drank and ate plenty. The kids were enjoying some Disney Princess tape on the big screen TV covering one wall of the den and we were settling in for the night. Couples had grabbed extra bedrooms. We had lain out our stuff on the beds to drift back to the den.

“Let’s go skinny-dipping,” Peg said.

“Yeah,” said her husband.

“In the pond?” I asked.

“Yeah,” they said in a chorus.

Rod had looked at me. I shrugged. “Go. I’ll stay with Denise and look after the kids.”

“Okay,” he said.

I think the skinny-dippers got naked outside on the dark porch. There was a rustle of leaves and some thuds as they must have made their way down to the pond. Denise and I heard a series of loud and not so loud splashes.

“Guess they made it in. Trevor give your sister back her Barbie,” Denise said. We played with the kids as the tape wound down to the end. Various splishes and splashes were heard from the area of the pond.

The night was dark. No moon or stars to throw light so were we surprised to hear a line of feet running across the deck, hooting and hollering, then a mass of pale bodies streaking across the long line of windows.

“Is that Daddy?” asked Trevor with his toddler lisp.

“Yep,” said Denise.

There was a clamor as doors were thrown open and naked people scattered into their rooms. Denise and I turned to look at each other.

“Kids let’s get ready for bed. First one dressed and under the covers gets a tummy tickle,” I said.

A half hour later, the kids were tucked in as the adults floated into the den, showered and smiling. Smiling pointedly at me. It was unnerving. I looked around for Rod.

“Where’s Rod?” I asked.

“Do you recall stocking that pond with bass?” asked Denise’s husband.

“Sure. We helped build the dock.”

“Well. Something out there said thank you,” said Peg.

Oh no. I walked, walked fast to our room. “Rod honey. You okay?” Muffled sounds came from the bathroom. “I can’t hear you.” Some slight whimpering came from under the bathroom door. “I’m coming in,” I said twisting the door handle.

My husband was sitting in a t-shirt, pant less on the commode. He said, “Something bit me.”

“What?”

“Something in the pond bit me,” he said with a catch in his voice.

“You’re kidding?”

“No I think it was a fish.”

“Where did the big ole fish bite you,” I said in a not very sympathetic way.

He pointed down, down there. “I can’t see it.” Rod tried to bend his 6’3” frame to look at his down there.  “Do you think I need to go to the ER?”

“Well. Let me have a look,” I said mentally squaring my shoulders. Taking a deep breath, I looked at his dinkie. Sure enough, Rod had two tiny, really teeny little bite marks.

“A vampire bass?” I asked trying to smother my giggles.

“It’s not funny,” said my husband.

“Okay dokey,” I said trying to assume a serious face.

“It was a bass,” said Rod without a hint of a smile.

“Sure, large-mouth. Uh huh,” I said.

Out in the den, I asked our friends, “Any hydrogen peroxide available. Maybe a bandage?”

Everyone fell over laughing, belly spasming, whooping laughter.

“How is the Fish-Fucker?”

“I’m sure he’ll recover nicely or his dinkie will fall off,” I said. Always the soul of practicality.

From that night on, among a few select friends, Rod was known as the Fish-Fucker. He took the name in the spirit it was given – the good-natured poke of friends. Always responding with the caveat, “It was a large-mouth bass.” I will never forget this memory.

Tonight, to avenge Rod, the Fish-Fucker, I am going to eat fish.

20 Pounds or Happiness

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Everybody is exquisite. Truly, stunningly beautiful.

I keep learning one concept over and over again. As a counselor, a yoga teacher, a massage therapist, a writer, and in my own life.

This week, I am collaborating to combine story with photographs. Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble, I was sitting with the photographer discussing our model choice for the project.

“Wow she’s lovely.”

“Yes very photogenic.”

“And she’s athletic.”

“Yeah, the long torso implies that she was a gymnast. Bone plates shortened.”

“The other model has longer legs … “

“Let’s use both. Different looks.”

“The differences will spark more ideas.”

We grinned at each other. Two people in their 50s, feeling great about our work and about being able to see the possibilities, sweet possibilities of two very different body types. I went to get some lemonade. Walking back to our table, the beauty of every person in the store stole my breath away. I teared up. We could have used any person in the store. A cascade of memories followed the joyful epiphany.

I thought back to my first husband, initially an art director, now directing TV commercials. He was so very persnickety about how each feature of the model had to line up with his vision. I left the marriage for many reasons but there was a defining moment for me one night.

I never felt good enough, pretty enough with him. He was always checking out other women. I always felt lacking stacked against his model choices. A big issue was my weight.

“You could have made it as a model if you lost 10 pounds,” he said repeatedly.

After seven years of this, I snapped.

“I am a size 8 not a size 4. Get over it. I have other things to do with my life than live up to your celluloid ideal of beauty.”

He had stepped back. I hadn’t yelled but stated the words with a flat and factual voice.

Something changed after that. From then on, I did not let him take my power nor define me. Read that sentence again. The important words were, “I DID NOT.” The power dynamics shifted in our marriage – based upon a realization of my own worth. I wanted to be in relationship with someone who saw the beauty of the entirety of me.

After years of practicing compassion, I came to the conclusion that we had loved each other as best we could at that point in our lives.

I met my second husband when I was working my way through graduate school. Uncharacteristically, I was a size 4. I dated Rod for four years. He did not judge me; he would gently point out when I was judging him. I had unconsciously incorporated the behaviors of my first husband. With much effort, I learned to accept all the parts of him, not to judge him based on one aspect of his being.

A year before our marriage, two things happened. First, I became very ill. Treatment included medications that added twenty pounds to my body.

Second, I had to get a copy of some divorce-related papers from my first husband. The phone call to my ex went something like this.

“I don’t know where the papers are,” he said.

“Well if you remarried, they are probably near your marriage certificate. In a lock box? A file?”

“Oh yes, I remarried. You should see her. She’s young, beautiful and stylish.”

“Aaah. This is why we divorced,” I yelled.

Not my most graceful moment as I took the phone and beat it against the strong metal desk bringing my fiancé rushing into the room. He took the phone from my sweaty palm, said to my ex, “Call back when you have the papers. We’re getting married soon so we need the papers.”

Two years later, on our first anniversary, when I was well and had shed most of the 20 pounds, I felt I could ask my second husband, “Why didn’t you say anything when I gained the weight?”

“What would it have helped? Anyway that’s not all of who you are.”

I didn’t know what to do with his statement of acceptance and love.

Now I know what to do. With every person, I look for his or her one, at least one, beautiful attribute. My heart meets them from that place whether I say something about it or not.

This week, I will thank our models for their courage in showing themselves to us. I will bring them water, sandwiches, pasta, fruit, and brownies – their choice.

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