October 1, 2016 — Before the reunion, I just started to date again. I told myself that I was only looking for flings or friends-with-benefits, nothing serious or complicated. “I’m over drama,” I told Jake one morning. “But I want to have some fun.” At the time, my daughter’s father isn’t taking her overnights, or even very far from my house.
Her dad, my alcoholic ex-boyfriend. At the low-point of our relationship, I realize her dad is secretly drunk every night in the basement. I start lying to friends and to myself. Finally, when confronted, he’s drunk and screaming in my face. He towers over me. I’m cornered. He throws my phone across the street as I reach to call for help. The commotion causes his 13-year-old (his son from his last relationship) to wake up and intervene. A line is crossed. The relationship is dead. I reel. Then, after he shows up at my son’s birthday party drunk, he implodes: he quits his job and moves to Pittsburgh. That lasts about a week.
When he comes back, he’s angry. He begs for his job back and gets a studio in Manhattan — requiring two trains and a bus to get over to my house. For visits with our daughter, he hangs around my house watching cartoons or takes her to the playground a block away. I let him keep my house keys in case of emergency. I try to handle him the same way that Jake and I communicate, but it’s increasingly hard to ignore his passive insults. Things like: “You’re a two-time loser with multiple kids and dads, who would want you?” are pretty toxic to my self-esteem.
I fight with myself to recover from the emotional devastation. I reach a turning point while reading Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus. I write a poem about it called Stars:
We have only so many opportunities
To weave in and out of this fabric
Of night sky and starry climb.
Our breath, our earth, our fleshy
Limitations – the changes for these
Earthly intersections are not innumerable,
Though uncounted yet. Each is a price
Jewel, filled with fire and danger and joy.
We accept these gracious, graceless
Gifts, and will die with our might
And want ever-lifted to the sky.
That we all feel the same triumph
And struggle is the common thread
Upon which we can, and should, rely.
Despite his negativity, I persist. I recover. One summer day I get a cute guy’s number at the grocery store. In my defense, the Foodcellar Market is very high-end gourmet grocery. We meet at the salad bar. And he has a ridiculously cute New York accent. Jake offers to watch my daughter for the night so that I can “go out.”
Instead, grocery guy and I stay in — and have wild sex all over my house. Seriously. We broke my bed. And then it turns out that he’s 26. I’m 38. We have nothing in common — he tells me he’s a Trump supporter (and I am persuasively able to make him reconsider) — but for all he lacked, he had stamina. He made me feel beautiful. He didn’t care that I have kids or stretch marks.
I reactivate my OKCupid profile. Online dating is a minefield anyway – even if you are young(er) and have less baggage. But I have three kids, two different dads, a divorce, and I divorce people for a living. In fact, I was just hired on a high-profile “Real Housewives of New York” case. My business is so insanely booming that my free time is few and far between. How to convey to any guy that he’s last place to my work and family? My profile is all snark. Still, I meet some interesting dudes and figure out some times for possible dinner dates. I text with another lawyer in my neighborhood whose profile reads like I wrote it. He seems great.
An old flame from law school and I reconnect via Facebook. He wants to see me for a long weekend that promises to be fun (based on our fling as students abroad in Greece). An old friend from high school also texts me about work and life and love. He proves to be massively emotionally supportive.
“How will your ex- handle it when he finds out you’re dating?” Emma chimes in one day. “I bet that’s a recipe for disaster.” Her negativity is palpable. Her new theory is that we shouldn’t expect to find one person who can love you, fuck you, and be mentally stimulating and emotionally supportive. Having never found that unicorn, I wonder if she’s right. “Why should we ever expect to find all those things in one person? It doesn’t make any sense,” she concludes.
But sometimes, that’s exactly what happens.