Before 7am on the Sunday before Christmas, I showed up at my local grocery store with glitter eyeliner and a ridiculous, off-the-shoulder Christmas tree shirt with a giant red bow on it and large, clanky buttons sewn on as ornaments. I made it myself for a tacky sweater party last year, and, admittedly (and understandably, no?), I am quite proud of it.
As I walked through the automatic door, I smiled at how silly I must have looked, and fantasized about what sort of story I would have made up for myself if I had seen me walking through the door. Worse, I began to dread what I would say if the lone checker asked me why I was dressed like that, with candy cane arm-warmers even, at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning.
“Oh me? I am just stopping here to buy cold medicine for my not-really-ex-husband, because I am on my way to a party at his house to celebrate Capitalism Day (a holiday he invented) with him, our toddler daughter and some of my ex’s friends whom I have never really met. And even though I don’t live there, I will make breakfast when I arrive, and I will prepare and serve a whole turkey to the guests, and at the end of the night (because I will stay there the whole day), I will be thanked by one of the guests for hosting the party. Oh, and then I will leave and go see my boyfriend.”
Crap! I am not buying enough groceries to say all of that! How can I answer honestly and not share my entire bio? This is a question I have been struggling with a lot of late. My current bio is way more complicated than I would like for it to be — than I ever imagined it being. House. Picket fence. 2.5 kids. Marriage. It all sounded so good to me (well, maybe not that poor arm-less child). I didn’t expect to be in this spot, driving to my legal husband’s house, where my daughter spends the night some of the time, to celebrate holidays platonically with my ex and his friends.
Like asking that arm-less child to pass the salt, I have been pretending everything is normal and nothing is wrong since before my daughter was born. I have signed thank you notes from the three of us, I have referred to my ex as my husband to distant relatives and insurance agents. It’s been easier than unpacking the whole story, the back-and-forth of it, the up and down of it. Slowly, over two-and-a-half years, the word has spread — I couldn’t quite conceal moving into a new house alone with my daughter. I couldn’t hide when my ex posted on Facebook that he was “single,” and then, “in a relationship” with another woman.
Last night, I went out dancing, and struck up a conversation with another woman — a stranger. We spoke of our children and bemoaned that it had been a while since either of us had been out dancing. She asked me what had brought me out again. ”Oh, I got dumped, so I needed to dance.”
“Oh, were you and your daughter’s father having problems?”
“Oh, no! Not him! He dumped me ages ago. This was someone else! Whew-hoo!”
I cheered at the ridiculousness of it, and we both laughed. When she was whisked away to dance with someone else, I was left feeling that I had exposed too much, that I was a little too naked. I suppose, like being arm-less, I feel like my current state of in-between-ness is visible to everyone — obvious.
So here I sit, no longer wanting to ignore the obvious: we are separated, I live alone with my daughter, I have a divorce lawyer, I take out the trash, I date other people, and not wanting to dump the obvious on everyone I meet just because I feel like they see it already.
Just writing these words makes me realize how long I have been dancing around these issues, writing ambiguously so as not to reveal my heart, my reality, my soul. So, even though one of my New Year’s resolutions is to dance more, this is not the dance I want to do. I need a place to share my soul, to dance my truth. If you know me and are uncomfortable with the possibility of hearing it, this is your chance to sign off. My parents both just graciously (at my request) agreed to stop reading my blog for this very reason. (And, Mom, if you are reading this and not telling me, that’s cool, too, and I love you. So much.)
As I left the supermarket that early Sunday morning (I had managed not to tell the checker the details of my story — she, instead, had told me about some great Halloween costumes she’d seen in the early morning hours of November 1st), I said aloud to myself, “I’m visiting family!” That’s what I could have said had she asked. I am on my way to a family party! Ha! So elegantly simple. So true. I found myself laughing again. And then, as I digested how I must have looked in that moment, still with the gaudy outfit, now not just smiling to myself , but laughing and talking to myself, too, I laughed harder.