For the Woman Who Has Everything

So, funny story– years ago my husband, immortalized in my early Posse posts when we were still married, gave me a lovely, expensive strand of pearls. The strand broke recently and I took it to my favorite local jeweler, the guy who does my ring repairs. I got to chatting with him across the glass counter about various options and ideas for re-stringing and he seemed … politely confused by all my dithering given that the pearls were, you know, fake.

“What?!” I squealed. Then, after a pause: “That. Cheap. Bastard!” Followed by gales of laughter, much to the relief of the jewelry guy, who laughed along nervously.

The joke’s on the ex—he may have saved a bundle on those pearls, but he’s paying a heavy price for his life choices now, and I’m not talking about money. Anyway, turns out those pearls were worth something—as grist for this story, told to a number of friends in the past week (and now you)!  I think I’m going to put those loose pearls in an envelope and mail them to him with a note that says you jackass. It’s not like I needed them – I do all my pearl-clutching with the very nice, very real strand I got when his mother died.

Those memories of my former life are now a well-healed wound that reminds me it’s there with an occasional twinge as I go about my day – or maybe it’s a phantom limb, or a vestigial reflex. I was with him for a quarter-century; we had four lovely children; I adored him. He was the giant in my fairy tale. He was my dark sun, the dying star around whom we all revolved. Yes, he was difficult in later years, but honestly? He didn’t seem any more demanding than the men my friends were married to.

He was charming, exciting, enthralling, intoxicating. At the end there was no slow lowering of dosage. One day I had to quit and, like the addict I was, suffer through the brutal short-term consequences. I wrote him a letter recently, a letter I’ll never send, that said I loved you once; I remember why. He writes me letters full of complaints and self-pity that I keep in a file labeled Goat-Head (downgraded from Voldemort) which was his brother’s nickname for him. Now, there’s a sign. Maybe I should have paid more attention. Or not. I used to say, laughing, well, at least I’ll never be bored!

I remember. We went to New York for our twentieth anniversary; left the kids with family, stayed in a nice hotel, had some honeymoon sex. I remember dinner that evening; not the meal itself – not where, or what we ate – but that he, with a smile and a flourish, handed me an envelope with my name scrawled on the front. I remember opening the envelope slowly—the heavy, bespoke stationery he always used– wondering what it held (plane tickets to Florence, maybe? A note telling me to look for a small blue box in his right coat pocket?) and inside was … a check.

I believe he thought I was rendered speechless by his generosity. What I was thinking was, so, here’s mine, apparently, and all the rest is yours? You wrote me a check? I felt like an employee, or a whore. The next day, over lunch near a gallery in Soho, I ventured that he was being unfaithful on his many solo overseas trips, and he stunned me by casually acknowledging it. Then we went to the gallery. I remember we got ice cream on the walk back to the hotel. The rest, who knows?

I remember during my miserable divorce I went to a tattoo parlor. My husband thought tattoos were an abomination, so. On my back is a snippet from my favorite Loren Eiseley poem:

Now you will own
nothing that is not yours, yourself
down to the naked bone.

Every summer I add something to that tattoo – a dogwood blossom here, a honeybee there. It’s a work in progress. I forget I have it, mostly.

So it’s almost Valentine’s day and here I am, alone…. with my four kids, two dogs, and hectic, messy, mostly joy-filled life. Well-meaning friends try to set me up and I tell the truth – good relationships include compromise, and I have not an ounce of compromise left in me, I used up my lifetime allotment in my marriage. I compromise for my children (children are compromise) and that’s it, I’m tapped out. It’s been, what, six years? and I’ve not been on a single date. Don’t be sad. I’m not pining.

Anita and I are planning another trip. She says I’m the perfect travel companion and I say, yeah, sure, because I’ll actually go somewhere! I’m tired of traveling by myself all the time. We’ve been to Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Chicago, Virginia, North Carolina… she just sent me some Mitsouko, which I adore, as you and she well know. I’m wearing it now. I think we’re driving north this summer? That’s the plan at the moment: New England in June, but now it’s cold, wet February, and I gaze out the window and listen to the rain and dream.

 

35 Comments

  1. God I love you March, always have. I missed your sassiness when you were distracted dealing with life a while back. You’re a beautiful strong woman who writes like a dream, please never stop.
    And if you start writing elsewhere, please let me know, because I’ll want to read it. ??

  2. Great story, you are such a talented writer. Having been through a couple of bad husbands, I am with you on the compromise thing.

  3. I remember when my sister told my soon to be ex-husband “What goes around, comes around. And it’s coming for you”. It did too..,.in spades. Married now to the love of my life I am forever grateful for being set free. Funny how life works.
    The beautiful writing! Such a gift you’ve been granted. Thank you March for allowing us to bear witness to your honest, strong, vulnerable heart.

  4. In the end you’re a woman, true to yourself, a born survivor. Life has its own strange ways but you have kept your big human heart and shared it all over this lovely post.

  5. What a lovely post. Having been miserably married and through a messy divorce, I totally agree with you on compromise and dating. I’m happy to not have to compromise these days and to be learning to take better care of myself. I love the poem and the tattoo and that you add to it every year. What a great idea. Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us. I’m sure it will give strength to some of those who are alone on Valentine’s Day.

  6. Beautiful! And now that I’ve read it through once, looking at the title made me laugh! Thanks for linking that poem–I am not familiar with Loren Eisely’s work. Your ex sounds like an–interesting–guy. So many of ’em are… I love it that all the compromise can burn away, leaving a fascinating, daft, traveling and light-hearted Mitsouko wearing warrior woman. Blessed be.

  7. March, send a version of this to Modern Love at the NYT. You’re a great writer.

  8. I appreciate you sharing so beautifully and openheartedly part of your life history. I’m sorry for your pain and disappointment; however, I can’t help but feel that you’ve come out better and stronger in the long run. And now you can live your life in your power and follow your passions. Big hug!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing March. I’m so glad you’re doing well after your divorce – I remember praying for you years ago when the proverbial stuff hit the fan. As life would have it, my 20-year marriage also ended not long after that time. I completely agree with you regarding compromise, and although being alone can be tough at times, I find it reasonable price to pay for being the captain of my own ship so to speak. I’ve taken to buying gifts for myself in place of those I might have received from the ex for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, my birthday… amazingly enough I get it right every time! Recommend it highly : ) (I’m receiving a fitness tracker for Valentine’s Day this year – how did I know?!!)

  10. What a great story March! Imagine the same local jeweler confronted with the “fabulous 3 carat diamond engagement ring” that is cubic zirconia. I have witnessed that exchange and it does not end well.

    Your ability to weave a compelling story is superb. I love your writing!

    In a wonderful piece of cosmic luck, I married my best friend.

    I am not the dark star, or the intoxicating one, or the exciting one that makes women melt. All I can offer is my imperfect self, unconditionally.

    It is very hard to disrespect your best friend.

    It is very hard to be cruel to your best friend.

    It is possible for best friends to survive the test of time.

    James

  11. You are a remarkable woman and writer. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. Thank you for this fantastic piece of writing, of realisation and bravery….also, I hope the ‘shop related products’ section at the bottom of the page gives you a laugh 🙂

  13. This is fantastic. It’s so interesting to contemplate our past lives, past selves we were with another person. I should have heeded red flags with my ex- as well, though I have few regrets, since it made me who I am and got me where I am today. I’m glad you’re so kind to yourself — that’s the real triumph. Love and strength to you.

  14. I love your writing, March. Many years ago you wrote about being in a dressing room with your daughter trying on dresses (prom? homecoming?). I always remember that piece. For me, its been 15 years since my divorce, but I still feel like I dont have any more room for compromising and managing someone else’s feelings.

  15. March, dear, I ADORE you. For your insights, for your talent, but most of all, for your bravery. How many reading this WISH they could take the same leap but can’t for various reasons. Reading this from someone they admire and trust, hopefully, gives them the courage to follow their hearts and know that it can eventually be ok.

  16. This was powerful for not only its humor, but also because of the heartfelt words spoken by a woman who lived it and came out on top. Can a blog post become a movie?

  17. How galling about the fake pearls, but I loved your response and your strength. You are such an inspiration and have come so far. 🙂

  18. March, you’re the Barbara Kingsolver of blog posts. Truly. I’m glad your life is filled with children and friends and dogs and dreams and perfume and happiness.

  19. My adoration for you and this post, is instantaneous and complete. For the honesty, the humor, and how you’ve made a new life without Goat-head. LOVE that. I call my ex Hamlet. Or Marvin The Paranoid Android, saying dejectedly, “Ohhh Gooooood I’m SOOOOOO depressed.”)

    Two things. 1) Yes, the proper girlfriend companion for road trips is a gift. 2) And never think you can see how your life will go even now that you’re comfortably on the other side of HIM. I went 8 years after divorce completely dateless, at which time I ended up marrying my first love after what we call our 28-year “courtship”. We’ll be married 10 years this year. It’s an amusing and strange and poignant story too, but suffice to say, life is nothing if not weird and wonderful and terrible and may still have a few surprises up its sleeve for you. I will truly hope that all of them involve REAL pearls. 🙂

  20. Your stories are compulsively readable, and at the end, even when the event is a sad one (the searing pain of divorce) you leave us with a sense of hope and empowerment.
    I was divorced when my son (now 32) was two. I dated some years more than others, and was quite content to live as independently as a single mom can. I up and moved across the country, where I knew no one, back in 2006, for a better job, and some needed change. In 2007, I walked into Starbucks for some coffee and walked out with the man who would become the love of my life. We’ve been married eight years now, and I’m very happy., more so than I ever dreamed of being or deserve to be.
    But being single is also a fine and good thing. Life takes us in funny directions sometimes, and we need to bloom where we are planted. Which you clearly have!

  21. So very beautiful! As someone who was married to someone who sounds very similar, with a divorce that sounds about the same too, the shock of recognition was profound. As was the sense of mutual survivorship. Although our animal reference are a bit unsorted, as your Goat-Head is my Troll under the Bridge! I’m out of compromise for now too, raising a teenager uses that up and I am happy and content. And ready for come what may now that I’ve crossed that bridge. Thank you for the beautiful, vulnerable writing.

  22. March, I needed to hear this story at exactly this moment in my life. And you share such personal experiences with the perfect amount of humility, wit, and sass. I love everything about this post. I hope you and Anita have a perfect trip this summer, too!

  23. Thank you so much for sharing. I admire your strength and your sense of humour; giving you the ability to laugh while still acknowledging the pain.

    3.5 years ago, my spouse of 20 years announced he no longer loved me, and he was leaving. No warning, no arguments, no signs of any problems, even in hindsight. I remember a co-worker asking me why I didn’t ask him to come back and try again and being so shocked that she thought I valued myself so little. If he would do it once, he would do it again.

    Like you, I have compromised enough for 6 lifetimes and quite frankly, refuse to take crap from anyone. I live mainly happily with my old tumble-down house, and my hounds and myself. It is more than enough.

  24. Oh LORD March how I love you.

    I’m so sorry your ex-husband didn’t deserve you. I wish he had. But I am beyond happy that you are you, and that loving yourself means freedom from the things that diminish you.

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