»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
All In A Day’s Shirt
Mar 22nd, 2010 by Christina

On Friday during my lunch hour, I went shopping for a birthday present for R on the girls’ behalf. As usual, they had grand ideas about what they wanted to get their dad–all of which were way out of my price/affection range–and no ideas about when we would actually have time to do the shopping required in the 24 remaining hours prior to his birthday.

I tried to convince them that the most meaningful gift would be something they made with their dear little daughterly hands–something out of Sculpey, maybe? (I love Sculpey, btw.) I should have just pinned a “kick me” sign on my butt, given the withering, disgusted looks that sweet suggestion inspired from my teenager. (Sometimes I worry that her eyes will roll so high into her head, we’ll have to go to the ER.)

So, fine, I offered to grab R a shirt on their behalf—a shirt being the default 11th-hour gift for all men.

This is the kind of task that you still have to do even when you’re no longer married to your kids’ father. Even if you don’t care anymore about appropriately acknowledging your ex’s birthday, you need to make sure your kids do.

And if you’re me, such an exercise reminds you that you did care once, which leads to having a blog-worthy experience in the men’s shirt department at H&M. (No, nothing like that.)

In the old days, back when I loved R, I would have spent weeks trying to find the perfect item, even if it was just a pair of socks, even if it required me to splurge on something at Barney’s or Bergdorf Men. I would not have dashed into the closest, cheapest store I could find, hell-bent on getting out of there with enough time to eat my sandwich in the park.

But, because I tend to analyze everything to death,  I became profoundly aware of my ever-shifting level of investment in the shirt purchase. Here are a few of the thoughts that went through my head:

  • Does R still like muddy green colors? Are button-down collars OK, or does he hate them? It’s one of those, but I forget which. Wow, how weird that I’ve completely forgotten. For all I know, his taste in everything has changed. Now what do I do?
  • OMG, this is the most hideous shirt I’ve ever seen–something a pimp would wear. Maybe I should get this for R, who would have to wear it because it’s from the girls. Ha! Should I? No, too passive/aggressive—plus the girls would be mad at me.
  • I wonder what his girlfriend will get him for his birthday. Ick, is that my gag reflex acting up? Why the @#$%^&* am I wasting any time on buying him something, anyway? Oh, right, it’s from the children–plus, I vowed to take the high road whenever possible.
  • Now, this shirt would look really good on S. Aww, S is so cute. I want to get him a shirt too. Wait, no, that’s weird. You can’t go to the register holding shirts for your ex-husband and your boyfriend at the same time. That’s just wrong.
  • Oh, look–it’s a whole wall of men’s underwear. Someone really needs that pair with Daffy Duck on them, but I don’t know him, fortunately.
  • Hey, this is a nice shirt for R. And so is this. And this. I’ll just get all three. Then I’m outta here.
  • I should probably take a quick look in the women’s department on my way out. Nothing wrong with that, right?

  • Share/Bookmark
We are Family (kind of).
Mar 8th, 2010 by Christina

Last Thursday was my younger daughter’s birthday, so the four of us went out for dinner to celebrate.

The four of us means R was there.

We’ve done this before, of course–re-enacted scenes from our former life as an intact family. We’ve done it on Christmas morning (twice) and on the girls’ birthdays.

I realize it’s good that we can pull off the amicable thing. I sense how happy it makes the girls to have both of their parents in the same room. According to Constance Ahrons’ rubric in The Good Divorce, R& I are “Cooperative Colleagues.” She defines five types of divorcing couples, ranging from “Perfect Pals” (i.e. such good buddies that they should just stay together) to “Dissolved Duos” (think icky, mean Hollywood-style splits). Says Ahrons: “Cooperative Colleagues don’t consider each other close friends, but for the most part cooperate quite well around issues that concern the children … They spend occasional time together–usually special occasions, such as birthdays, school plays, or parent-teacher conferences.”

As sad and second rate as it is, I take pride in the fact that we effortlessly deceive restaurant staff into thinking we’re just another intact family, one where the parents don’t regularly meet in a mediator’s office. We leave the restaurant and walk together down the street, with the youngest daughter up on Daddy’s shoulders. We totally pass.

I find these times of temporary togetherness both grounding and unsettling. On the one hand, I’ve so adapted to my single-mom role with the girls that when R joins us I feel vaguely intruded upon–like, who is this guy who thinks he knows my kids so well that he can tell them what to do as if he’s their parent or something? But it’s also such a gift, one that I took for granted during all those years when the-four-of-us was a given. Another parent? Seriously? Someone who understands these two children–their dynamics, their strengths and weaknesses, their histories, their everything–exactly as I do? Someone around whom I can let down my guard a bit, as if I’m not the only one in charge? It almost sounds too good to be true.

When R showed up at the restaurant the other day, part of me wanted to say: “What are you doing here?” while another part wanted to shout: “Well, it’s about time you showed up! Where the @#$%^&* have you been for the past 20 months?”

But, being that we’re so amicable, and that it was our daughter’s birthday, I simply said “Hi.” Then we ordered sushi.

  • Share/Bookmark
Random Musings of a Blocked Blogger
Mar 3rd, 2010 by Christina

This week I am officially blog blocked (blogcked?). It’s never that easy to come up with ideas for posts, but usually something strikes me in time for my Monday deadline.

And here it is, Wednesday already, and I’m still sadly sans inspiration.

Here’s why I think I’m having a harder-than-usual time forming a post this week:

  • My whole life has been re-arranged since I started my full-time job two weeks ago and I’m a little discombobulated. In one way, it has made everything more orderly and calm. I have clear, defined, manageable responsibilities for which I receive a bi-monthly paycheck. I spend a prescribed number of hours in a relatively pleasant cubicle working amongst a nice group of people. Plus, there is an H&M across the street, where I go almost every day during lunch and giddily buy cheap clothing.
  • On the other hand, I am now officially a single working mother who happens to live in a slightly 1950s-ish world (which makes no sense, given that I reside in the hippest, Heather-has-two-mommies part of Brooklyn, NY). It’s hard not to feel like a caricature of a divorcee when you’re the only female on the block out there shoveling her own snow.
  • I just finished reading Mary Karr’s new memoir, Lit. She is such a gifted writer that it feels pointless to crank out another sentence.
  • The main problem, though, is that I’m a little confused about which way to go with this blog, having gotten mixed messages from my readers lately. Some tell me that the honesty and openness in my posts is disarming and brave. (One person said reading my blog made him “more than a little uncomfortable, in a good way,” which made me more than a little uncomfortable in a not-so-good way.) Others tell me I skim the surface and should dig deeper. I struggle enormously with this myself. I want to reveal more about certain aspects of my life and separation, but then, just as I’m on the verge of oversharing, I am paralyzed by the thought of certain people reading certain things. It’s vexing.

Thanks for letting me ramble (not that you had a choice). I’d love some thoughtful feedback on that last dilemma. If you write about personal stuff, how do you decide where to draw the line?

  • Share/Bookmark
»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa