A Short Story

I’m a self-proclaimed student of the human condition. It’s fascinating to observe interaction between us and how personalities and relationships interact. I had myself a very intriguing subject. And I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass.

I always knew there was something a bit odd about her but she was the life of the party and hard to resist. She lit up a room with her vibrant aura (not to mention her vivacious wardrobe and accessories!) and her funny stories riddled with cuss words and gestures. In a way she was a magnet. Always drawing attention to herself in a humorous and flamboyant manner.

But she had a dark side. Every now and then you’d catch a glimpse of a shadow of sadness and anger. It came and went in a flash so you were never certain or able to pinpoint it. Most of the time it was laughing (a bit too loudly?) and joking (forced?). And that’s the image she wanted us all to see. Fun. Independent. Happy go lucky.

In mixed company she was the flirt. She challenged everyone to find her a date. Yet in girl groups she made single life sound like the best thing. She had been married a couple of times, after all; she should know, right? Guys thought she was funny but most were able to see through her facade and joked about her. Men have a different filter on their perspective I think; their bs meter is a bit more acute than a female’s and they don’t read into things. They’re black and white where we are gray.

Men would say she’s fun but flaky; tough but vulnerable; flirty but unavailable; independent but needy. She was a dichotomy of the female condition. What was the true story? I needed some facts and information.

Her relationship with family was a challenge. Her grown children were distant and aloof. Her siblings were, essentially, persona non grata. It was the relationship with her mother that was most telling and perplexing. Once I met her mother it was clear that their friction was due to their similarities. They were so alike it was mind boggling. In order to know the daughter I would have to study the mother.

Her early years were unremarkable; she was your average country girl. But her family was well off and they had a very nice lifestyle. Like many young girls of that era she was expected to find a suitable partner, get married and have children. And she did. Her chosen partner was not well to do but he had a steady job with a decent income and he provided for the family. She stayed home to raise the children and keep the house. They had a good circle of fellow country friends and often socialized as a group. But like many young couples who transitioned immediately from high school to family/work/responsibilities the pressure was high and the resentment caused anger. A dad that just wanted to come home after a hard days work was faced with a houseful of kids and a frustrated wife. It’s a recipe for disaster if you don’t have a means to cope.

There was always a home made meal on the table and lots of other made in house items such as clothing and crafts and preserves. It was a way to pass the time and save money. And saving money was a common theme that passed down the generations. My theory is, for families who strive to get ahead but always hit a road block, that they resent having kids. They think of how simpler and more enjoyable life would be without the extra everything (time, money, responsibility etc) that having kids means. Most parents I’m sure have this notion but keep it private or between the sheets, while others vocalize and transfer it to the kids. Knowingly or not their resentment penetrates the psyche and settles in the subconscious. That was the first layer of the wall; a layer of protection to a child that really wanted to be cuddled and loved.

The mother wasn’t warm and fuzzy. She was demanding and competitive especially with her daughter. I think having your husband showing any love or affection towards another woman (their daughter or mother) strikes a jealous nerve. Perhaps that’s where Daddy’s Girl comes from? Nonetheless the kids grew up and were expected to leave the nest as soon as possible. That’s a good plan: we do our job raising kids then we launch them into the world and carry on our single life that we loved. And that’s what happened. Even though the daughter wanted to get a post secondary education it was not supported. Why would a girl need a degree? She’s just going to get married and have kids anyway? What a waste of precious money.

So the kids get launched but the daughter defiantly goes to school. The others scatter in the wind happy to be on their own. The parents are alone and they like it. The daughter realizes she’s on her own too. She wasn’t ready to be launched and she’s afraid and lonely. It was the second layer of the wall; the hard protective shell is starting to form. She’s alone and feeling unloved. She forces herself to put on a brave face and a smile. Just like her mom did.

Done with school. Now what. Career? Family? In no time she is attracted to the man who shows attention and love to her. She’s never been with a man; her mother had successfully drilled the repercussions into her head. But this man (who is really a boy) sweeps her off her feet and in no time they are planning a wedding and a wedding night to remember.

Planning the fairytale wedding is many a girls dream. The process of getting every detail right (amenities, venue, flowers, attire, food, photos) and on budget is a feat. The daughter and parents unite in purpose; the love and attention are intoxicating. This is the best thing ever. Once the plans are executed and the wedding over, what happens to the fairytale? Is it over too?

The wedding night is full of expectation and pent up emotion. This act of all consuming love and adoration is the final touch. The piece de resistance. The hoopla and crowds left behind now it’s time for a meeting of mind and body as one. An act of love so profound that it defies reality. But in this case it was not to be. The man child was not prepared for the emotional avalanche and the bride was painfully ill prepared for the reality of the matter. It was clumsy and mechanical. It was a means to an orgasm for him and a basket of let down for her. This was her life now. Dedicated to this man and the family they would create. It was a devastating realization. And another crusty layer formed. This one to allow personal invasion without reciprocal pleasure.

After having children the grim state of affairs was evident. He still had his friends and fun while she was to be happy at home with the children. Why couldn’t she be content to cook, clean and sew? This was the generation of equal rights for women. But they didn’t marry men raised by that same standard. They married men who grew up in households like her: mom minds the house and family while dad provides the means financially. It wasn’t that simple anymore. Now she had a husband that couldn’t love her the way she needed. Children who depended on her. Parents who had moved on without her. She was entirely alone again.

Mustering all of her bravado she soldiered on to try and be the everything mom. Kids. Career. Home. Independent. And in doing so forgot that she was married. She alienated her man child. He wanted some of her super powers but she had none left to give. By choice. Now her fierce shell coating is in place. She doesn’t need anyone to make her happy; she will make herself happy. Alone.

The divorce is bitter. Financially she takes a beating ; she’s done well for herself and he’s determined to get his share. Her children are caught in the middle of her ego and his outrage. Her parents refuse to get involved in any way: physically or emotionally or financially. She made her bed after all. This was her mess entirely. Now she has all the confirmation she needs. She is firmly alone and the master of her own destiny. Happiness and love have abandoned her. No. They have eluded her; they were never there at all. She had learned to fake happiness and would have to continue to do just that.

Somewhere, though, in her thought patterns and interacting with other moms or coworkers, she opened the door a crack to another relationship. Others seem to enjoy an active love life. Others have partners who engage and reciprocate in all areas of the marriage. Maybe I chose wrongly. It sure would be great to have a partner in my life to share things with.

But there was a catch. Her idea of perfect partner was someone ambitious who would financially take half (or more) of the burden. He would be a strong meaningful mentor to her kids. He would sweep her off her feet romantically. Oh. He would also be tall and devastatingly handsome. And his mother would be dead. There was no consideration to what she would bring to the table. It was all about her. What was best for her. It was a new theme in her selfish life. If she was going to look out for number one she was going all out.

Instead she met a man who had a steady job and life. He made practical sense for her. She needed to adjust her list of must haves to accommodate her present situation as a single parent. The best way her ex had to hurt her was to ignore her and the kids; shows the caliber of man she chose as her life partner. Working and parenting were not compatible and she needed help. She quickly married the man who could fill the gap. He promised to take care of her and her kids and she thought that’s what she needed. It didn’t work. He forgot to tell her that her side of the bargain was to be a good wife. He wanted the fun loving (fake) girl he met at work. What he got was the bitter physically drained and emotionally vacant single mother with a suit of armour.

That’s that. Number two bailed out. It was likely mutual since no one’s expectations were being met. Back to single. Back to fake happiness. Trudge on and see what happens. At least until the kids launch. Then she would work on the partner thing again. Maybe.

The kids move on. She’s alone again. Her girlfriends are either married or committed. Except for a few. She analyses her situation and decides she doesn’t really need a spouse; she needs a roommate. Someone to split costs with and go to the odd event with. A companion with no other strings attached. It’s a eureka moment for her. She has found the perfect solution to her current problem. Except she can’t find anyone to share the concept. All her single girl friends are actively seeking mates. She neglects to notice that they are all on number two (or want to be) but she’s been there done that already. They aren’t entirely jaded and crusty. However, this fabricated let down by her friends has only solidified her resolve. She was in it only for herself from here on.

So that’s where we find her today. Alone. Afraid. And in a stage of her life when she has both time and money. Her own self imposed limitations and restrictions are preventing her from happiness. And finding someone to share it with. Her friends for the most part have moved on happily with their partners. Her family is scattered and fragmented. There’s a very important lesson to be learned from this lady: treat others as you would be treated; honour their contributions to your life and choose (not fake) happiness.

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