The Third Wheel

Learning how to be enough.

On Saturday night I went to a super-fun party in my small New Jersey town and danced like there was no tomorrow.

The luau-themed affair was a fundraiser for our school district’s parent-teacher organization and it was held under a big white tent on somebody’s beautiful front lawn where very cute waiters passed precious hors d’oeuvres and bartenders filled our glasses from big pitchers of sweet mojitos.

I wore my very-favorite Forever 21 party dress, the one I picked up on a trip to San Francisco with my sisters maybe eight years ago – back when you could still find a gem or two at the now-ubiquitous mall store – and even though it’s made of acetate and cost about $20, it somehow makes me feel pretty whenever I slip it on.

The organizers had hired a fun local band and my gal pals and I jumped around to Hall & Oates and Journey songs on the packed dance floor late into the humid June night. And of the almost 300-and-something mommies and daddies crowded under the tent and singing along to songs from the 80s, I was probably the only one to have purchased just a single ticket for the event.

There are days that go by that I never even think about being single. The thought never crosses my mind. My life is full of my four children and lovely friends and books and writing and hiking and food shopping and juggling this whole shebang of a life and sometimes I’m really surprised when something reminds me that I’m divorced. Sometimes it really catches me off guard.

But Saturday night I really felt my singleness, but want to make it clear that it’s not because anyone made me feel that way. It’s just because it’s my own shit. My own internal hot button that gets pushed when I feel the absence of a plus-one. I feel the humiliation that comes from thinking anyone might be feeling sorry for me. That my aloneness is somehow kinda sad. I hate to think that husbands think of me as their wives’ perpetually-single friend who’s now become their problem.

Because right now I’d much rather be in my own company – which I kind of enjoy – rather than make any kind of compromise just to be a part of a pair. I mean, I’ve written about this before.

I came home from my nephew’s fourth birthday party earlier on Saturday – which had a superhero theme and the highlight was getting to snuggle somebody’s three-week-old baby – and realized I had nobody to go to the luau with. I had not made plans to attach myself as a third wheel to one of my couple friends. I laid down on my bed and struggled to decide which was the sadder scenario: inviting myself to go with friends or arriving by myself. I can’t tell you the wave of sadness that I felt and considered bagging the whole thing except my daughter had given me wavy party hair earlier and I hated to see that, and the $65 ticket, go to waste.

But when you are not a part of a couple, you’re also not included in a lot of couple-driven stuff. It’s not that you’re excluded; coupled folks just don’t think to include you. I have wonderful friends who have scooped me up and wrapped me into a lot of their fun but the trouble probably is that they’re all married.

And really, how am I ever going to meet available men if all I do is married-people stuff?

The feeling sorry for myself part lasted about 30-seconds. I got a little teary eyed and then realized how ridiculous I was being and picked up my phone and started texting friends and in no time a car pulled up and I squeezed in with some of my favorite couples as their seventh wheel. Once we got to the party, the men gravitated towards other men and women did the same and by the end of the night we were all standing around another couple’s kitchen and laughing over cocktails and pretzels and I had long stopped feeling sorry for myself and my single status.

Because let’s face it: we want to be part of a couple and then we are involved with someone and then we wished we were alone and then we’re finally alone again and then we start thinking it might be better to be a part of a couple. It’s crazy.

We’re never fucking happy. Nothing is perfect.

There are wonderful things about being alone – full power over the remote control is just one thing that comes to mind – and there’s lots of good stuff about being part of a twosome – like you never have to arrive solo at a party or sit alone at a bar.

Maybe it’s just a matter of enjoying where you are in the process and for me, it’s knowing that right now, I am enough. And maybe, just maybe, I should just stop thinking and dance.

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Free Falling

For a long time, I resisted change. It made me nervous.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally wanted things to change. Or better yet, I knew that they really had to. I just didn’t know quite how to go about it.

Check that. That’s a lie. I knew exactly what needed to be done. I just didn’t have the balls to do it.

So for what, at the time, seemed like an eternity, I kind of teetered at the edge of a big cliff of indecision. Because there were a lot of things I really liked about my life. I got the family that I really wanted, the multitude of children. I loved our house with the pool and our big golden retriever. We lived in a nice town with great schools where I got to help make pilgrim costumes out of brown paper shopping bags for the Thanksgiving feast in second grade and hot-glued pennies onto a baseball hat to celebrate the 100th day of school. There were dinner parties and tennis lessons and piles of presents for Christmas.

On the outside, it was all so fucking perfect.

But inside – I probably don’t need to tell you – it was a different story. There was sadness and regret. Anger and resentment. People doing shit they probably shouldn’t have been doing along with people not doing the things that probably really needed to be done.

But we suffered in silence. Literally. The silent treatment was an often-used tool for conflict non-resolution around here. Because what were the options? I mean, I guess I had a pretty good idea what they were, but they were big and scary and things that other people did, but not me.

But then, as luck would have it – although I did not think of it as very lucky at the time – a series of events occurred that gave me the kind of push I needed to make the leap into the unknown.

I said I wanted a divorce and things began to unspool.

Not long after that, I took my four children north to stay at our friends’ place in Vermont for a few days. The kids swam at a local waterfall and we ate sticky cinnamon buns at our favorite farmer’s market. We made the windy drive up Mount Equinox and passed monks walking along the side in flowing white robes and arrived at the top to find it shrouded in a thick layer of fog obscuring our view. The kids swam at night in the condo complex’s indoor pool, running along the tiled deck before diving in while I sank into the steamy water of the hot tub, letting the bubbles swirl around my neck as I considered the Pandora’s Box I had just unlocked. All of the shit that I had unleashed.

One day we drove over to the quarry in nearby Dorset and dove off the big blocks of marble into the icy green water below. The swimming hole is bordered on a few sides by cliffs of varying heights, which the more intrepid visitors leap from into the 60-foot deep pool. We ate our sandwiches and watched people of all ages – parents, teens, kids – stand at the top and contemplate the fall while others shouted words of encouragement from the comfort of their picnic blankets below.

Some recklessly flipped backwards off the 20-foot cliff like it was nothing while others sheepishly made their way back to the bottom on foot.

“The girls should do it together,” announced my oldest daughter and the three of us picked our way up the dirt path that led to the top of the cliff and looked down.

Now, what some of you might have already surmised, things look a lot less threatening when viewed from a distance. When considered in theory. But when you’re standing with your feet dangerously close to the edge of a cliff and there’s nothing between you and some really dark, cold water but 20 feet of air, you start to lose your nerve. Well, that’s if you’re like me. I started to rethink my earlier bravery and weighed the embarrassment of retreating down to my blanket in defeat versus falling into a protruding ledge of marble on my plummet down or hitting the water at a bad angle. There were a million things that could go wrong.

“Don’t overthink it!” yelled one of the parents standing below who watched me move close to the edge and then back away.

“I’m really nervous,” I told the girls.

We debated whether we should jump at the count of “three” or the word “go” while my oldest son stood below and shouted for us to hurry up, tired of having to wait for us to jump and so he could take our picture as I had instructed.

I stood at the top of the cliff with my daughters standing on either side of me and thought about all the things I’d never done because I was afraid. I thought about how I never wanted them to see me timid again. How I wanted to show them what it looked like when you do something that scares the living shit out of you.

And then I heard my older daughter say, “Go,” and the three of us leapt off the side. We flew together through the air and plunged hard into the cold, dark water and then kicked our way back up to the surface. We bobbed in the water for a bit and languished in our bravery. Our badass-ness. Then we swam to the ladder laughing and pulling ourselves up to stretch out on our towels and bask in the hot August sun.

And much like the more allegorical jump I’d made a few months earlier, leaping into the pool of divorce, my dive off the steep marble cliff taught me to have faith in the unknown. It showed me how flying through the air, either real or metaphorical, was sometimes the only way to really live.

Taking the leap, 2009.

Taking the leap, 2009. Credit: Max Walsack.

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Here’s the Story

IMG_3118 2Okay, now I get it.

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to figure out where they were, the guys my age. At least the ones who weren’t married and were straight.

As many of you may remember, I’ve spent a little time dabbling on I say “dabble” because I’ve gone ahead and created a profile, uploaded photos and exchanged a few emails with dudes and ultimately went on exactly one date. And it was totally meh.

But of all the emails, favorites and winks I’ve received on the dating web site, none of them are from men in their 40s. I’m plenty popular with the young guys in their 30s and the older dudes in their 50s and 60s, but men born around the same time as me are scarce.

Now I know why.

As I was trolling Facebook yesterday, something I am wont to do in my semi-retirement and looking for things to keep me busy, I saw the following tidbit posted by the Today Show:

All the young boys love Florence.

All the young boys love Florence.


The guys my age are trying to date 80-year-old Florence fucking Henderson.

That explains everything.

That explains why I not only don’t get any emails, winks, nods, pokes or whatever from 40-year-old men on Match, but when I actually send messages to men my age who don’t look like they want to keep me in a cage in their basement in Queens, I get no response.

Like, crickets.

And of course there is the possibility that the notes I’m sending are perceived as weird, my profile boring (one man did observe that it seemed I really liked to watch TV), my pictures are ugly or I have too many kids.

I get that.

But today, I am going with the notion that they’re just too busy trying to get it on with Carol Brady.

That’s the better story.











That Time I Got Laid Off

IMG_3716The final story I worked on before I was laid off on Wednesday was an obituary and I don’t know what could have been more ironic since I’d been sitting Shiva for that job for about the last six months.

It was similar to the end of my marriage, when I could see the writing on the wall — I knew I needed to jump ship – but couldn’t muster the courage or the energy to make the leap. There was something that kept me sitting in my deck chair long after the lifeboats had sailed.

I had survived a round of layoffs last summer, and had often imagined what it would be like to be let go out of the blue. I knew things weren’t great at my company and realized some bad news might be coming at some point. I just didn’t expect it to be Wednesday.

But apparently I have lifelong issues with reading signs in general. I recently watched the video we made when I gave birth to my third child (minus all the gory details). There I was, sitting up in the hospital bed still out of breath from the ordeal of getting the baby out of me, and while everyone else in the room was bustling about – suctioning the newborn and cutting the cord – I could be heard saying over and over, “Can you believe it?”

I guess at the time I was still bowled over by the whole miracle of life thing, but watching myself almost 17 years later so surprised to have ended up with a baby that day, I can only wonder what everyone else in the room had been thinking.

So imagine my surprise on Wednesday, which started somewhat off schedule as the kids had a delayed opening because of some overnight snow but then quickly got back on course with my regular 9:45 workout – to find out it was also my last day of work.

“Your roles are not part of the go-forward plan,” I was told on a quickly-scheduled conference call with a few hundred of my colleagues. “Today is your last day of work.”

Cue the chopping sound.

And while I’d always imagined that hearing those words would cause me to freak out about the imminent loss of income and health insurance – not to mention the nice laptop and iPhone that had come with the job – that wasn’t my immediate reaction.

I mostly just felt relief.

It had been a long three years as a full-time working and newly-single mother of four, exhausting and overwhelming at many points.

It was also one of the most satisfying challenges I’d ever taken on and I’m proud of how much of myself I put into the job. Other than being a mom, I’d never worked harder at anything in my life and my coworkers were much nicer to me than my teenagers.

And while I could feel miffed by the turn of events, I am left feeling grateful for the experience.

The job – although highly demanding and at points leaving us working 60-hour weeks – gave me so much: A reentry to the work-force after an 18-year absence; an opportunity to hone my writing and reporting skills, not to mention opening the door to mastering 21st Century online media knowledge – I learned everything from how to shoot and edit a video to crafting SEO-friendly headlines.

(Don’t try to tell this to my teenagers because they invariably view me as a struggling Luddite and can’t stand to even watch me text. “It’s painful,” my 16-year-old daughter said recently as she watched me type a message with my right thumb.)

But the job left my life in much the same way it had entered it: out of the blue. I hadn’t been looking for a job three years ago when a friend and fellow journalist told me about a new company that was hiring for a job that seemed to be almost too good to be true, since it would allow me to do what I loved to do AND work from home AND offered things like dental plans and 401Ks.

And it was a great ride and I met so many wonderful people along the way and most importantly of all, the job gave me the self-respect and confidence I so badly needed. I rediscovered that girl I was long before I became a wife, a mom, a dinner-maker, laundry-folder, cupcake-baker and counter-wiper.

Now I know I can be all of those things and more.

So I’ve decided that for now, I am just going to breathe. I think I might concentrate on this blog and bother all of you a little bit more each week and build some momentum on a writing project that had been nagging at me but I lacked the time and the energy to nurture.

I will also have more time now to do things like check to see if my 11-year-old did his homework and ask my high school junior even more annoying questions about where she wants to go to college.

Won’t they be thrilled?

In the meantime, when I wasn’t getting fired this week or frantically trying to transfer three-years worth of photos and music onto another laptop, I blogged about this stuff:


photo(104)Guilty as Charged

I don’t know if it’s the Catholic in me, the mother in me, the daughter in me or just the woman in me, but I spend a fair percentage of each day feeling guilty about one thing or another.

Whether it’s my reluctance to buy into purchasing organic products, the poison I pay a service to put on my lawn to keep it green that is probably leaching into my children’s drinking water, or that I am morally and ethically opposed to wet cat food although it would probably make her a lot less fat, I feel bad about a lot of stuff. (READ MORE … )


photo(102)Snow Kidding

My cell phone, positioned on the nightstand next to my bed and about three inches from my head, rang at 4:40 this morning and because I have this deep-​​seeded aversion to answering any calls coming in from 1–800 numbers, I let it go to voicemail.

I figured it was The Gap calling to tell me my payment this month is like, three days late. I could understand if I was three months delinquent in paying something. By all means, give me a heads up and maybe a little attitude. But The Gap gets snippy when you forget to pay within the allotted pay cycle and starts suspending your card and calling to strong-​​arm you and shit. (READ MORE … )