After my most recent “relationship advice” post I decided it’s time. It’s time for me to take (another) logical look at my life. And it’s time for you to grab a seat and let me tell you the story of my life. Well, at least my life over the last twenty or so years. You’re going to love the spectacle of it because there’s love, life, laughter, tears, and downright crazy shit.
I promise that the ridiculous spectacle which is about to unfold is true as I recall it. And the names were changed to protect the willfully ignorant. Oh, and my application of the DSM-5 may or may not make any sense to actual psych professionals.
So now let’s take it all the way back to 1998. A time when I was still recovering from my childhood. Which was a spectacle in itself. Tough parents, a mildly rebellious teen. My childhood was pretty textbook for the times. But in 1998, I was almost 22. And I didn’t know where my life was going to go. You know, a lot like today, only I was younger. I just, as my friend likes to say, “suffered on the inside, like a winner.” Gen X is a tough old brood.
February (or was it March) 1998
It seems only appropriate that a spectacle of this magnitude would start out at a sketchy dive bar.
It was a chilly night in the Old Pueblo. I had put on my stretchy pants and oversized cable knit sweater (to downplay my double d’s) and headed for the bar. It was still early, but there were my mom’s coworkers making their own spectacle. Partying, drinking, and doing whatever divorced thirty-somethings did in the late nineties. The scene was wholly different from anything my parents would embrace. But I needed a night out. Plus, I could have used some sex. And would’ve settled for some heavy petting.
Spectacle Diagnosis #1
See, we didn’t get too far into this spectacle before uncovering what is sure to be one of my many self-image issues.
“To Downplay My Double D’s”: This stems from a healthy dose of parental scrutiny by a very vocal and intimidating Italian mother. She had issues with her own self-image, so naturally she would transfer those on to me. And because I had a very womanly figure from 15 years old, she sought to keep me modest. Apparently my body was a spectacle and I was in no uncertain terms told not to call the “wrong” type of attention to myself. After all, “you don’t go asking for trouble.” In retrospect it was a huge waste of a tight, early-twenties body.
Double D DSM-5
My entire childhood was an effort not to make a spectacle. There were a ton of behavior expectations placed on me from a very young age. And my parents weren’t known for their gentleness when communicating them. Don’t get me wrong. I accept my parents for how they were raised and who they became because of their backgrounds. But there’s a possibility that a long line of truly “crazy family members” were indicative of a genetic-predisposition to behavior-inhibition. Sprinkle in my environment and what you have left is a solid ten years of a great set of natural double d’s and a Social Anxiety Disorder, with some anxiety co-morbidities thrown in for added flare. Which is also, coincidentally, the exact recipe for making a spectacle at some later point in life.
My First Taste of Liberation
You see, from 1996 to 1998 I had a solidly passionate, clandestine booty call with a much older man. He was handsome. Like, ridiculously handsome. So many women wanted to be with him. And he wanted me. Total ego boost for a girl who struggled with her self-image. We were discrete for the length of our steamy affair. Definitely not a spectacle. But it was the encouragement and acceptance I needed at that time in my life. Which is why I’m still quite grateful for having experienced it.
There was a moment, I think, that I wanted a relationship with him, but it never came to be. So I resolved myself to just sex. That was the best part anyway. Sure, I dated other people. But it was as though he always knew the moment of the breakup because he would inevitably page me a day or so later. God that was nice. Never had to chase that one. But I was in a bit of a dry spell and it was time to have some fun. Little did I know I was going to meet the proverbial man of my dreams. *insert dramatic music, and eye roll*
This is Where the Seed of the Spectacle is Planted
The seed of the spectacle that my love life became began that night at the dive bar. It would be the night I would decide to forever swear off that sweet booty call I had for almost two years. But it was worth it…or so I thought.
Was he ever handsome. Tall, broad, blonde hair, blue eyes. He had it all. I found myself commenting on him to my acquaintances. The could’ve cared less. They were talking to a much older man with significantly less hair and a sport coat with elbow patches. I’m not kidding. I think the woman who looked a lot like Jon Arbuckle went home with him. Needless to say he was entirely too much of a challenge for them.
But apparently my want of a sex life gave me courage and before I knew it, twenty years went by.
Marriage and Unmarriage
By the time I was twenty-three I had a few spectacles under my belt and a splash of misdirection. But then I started over. I moved out of the desert southwest and north to Denver. At twenty-four I married the love of my life. Well, I thought I did. Truth is, he was the love of what I knew of my life. All in all, my parents were good parents. Difficult, emotionally unavailable for their own reasons, and my guy (whose name loosely rhymes with penis) took me away from all of that. He accepted me without criticism. He was funny, charismatic, handsome, and liked to have a few beers and watch football. I had found the perfect all-around, red blooded American male, and he loved me…and I adored him.
Social anxiety disorder may diminish after an individual with fear of dating marries
and may reemerge after divorce.
Time passed and we did all that newlyweds do. We got good jobs, bought a house, got a couple of amazing dogs, and I even went on to get a Masters of Business Administration. But somewhere in that timeline bigger versions of tiny red flags I never even noticed started to raise. I remember one time at dinner I asked if he remembered telling me he loved me for the first time. I loved that story.
Flashback to 1998
We sat in my car outside the pool hall we frequented after I got out of class and he got done with swing shift. He said after I gave him a card speaking to my admiration…oh my god, I’ve almost all but forgotten, anyway, he said, “I think I’m falling in love with you.” That was it. We went from casually dating to full-on, reject amazing booty call from other guy status.
I’m pretty sure this is the moment I began watering that seed of the spectacle.
Back to the Future
One night I asked him about the first time he told me he loved me. We were at dinner. In that booth at On the Border he said flatly, “It was a line”. Shock. Utter shock. If I could name the moment that the seed of the spectacle germinated, that was it. From there things just seemed to begin to fall apart. But like a good wife, I swallowed it down.
Over the next few years, consideration dwindled while the bar tab added up. He was less patient and more irritated all the time. He was cruel at times when I truly needed a loving shoulder. But I persevered and established my career. And he was all too happy to enjoy the perks of my new income. After about six years I changed career paths and started a business. He was completely supportive. Until the money got tight and inevitably ran out.
My grandmother used to say, "When poverty comes in the door, love goes out the window."
Love was already long gone. But I was about to see what he was really made of.
We See What “Or For Worse” Meant
I’ll be honest. I had stopped having sex with my husband long before my business got shaky. Well, not completely, but almost. Sex had become a bargaining chip for me. “If I do it, you have to be nice to me today.” That’s how it always went. So, with the added stress of my floundering financials and his usual bad attitude, he wasn’t even remotely appealing to me.
Then one day, Valentine’s Day, to be exact, my husband and I met a man who was charismatic and wonderful…and in a similar situation. Floundering financials, estranged from his spouse, and desperately needing intimacy. That story in itself is another spectacle. Because it is dynamic, romantic, and gut-wrenching in every way. (Let me know if you want to hear it…because it’s entirely too big to write in this blog.)
There was instant chemistry and quite honestly, I needed chemistry. My husband was turning into someone I didn’t recognize. And I was painfully alone. The new guy and I didn’t even have a chance to get the slightest bit tawdry when my husband said he wanted a divorce. But our financial situation just wouldn’t allow for that.
Full Blown Spectacle
So there I was. Emotionally separated from my husband. No job. No business. Money was painfully tight. I had moved into the spare bedroom and began licking the wounds of my spectacular failures. My husband and I already knew that we couldn’t get divorced right away. I needed to get back on my feet financially. I had no idea it would take five years and a ton of meditation and self exploration to begin to rebuild my confidence.
But over those five years my husband took every opportunity to remind me of how much he’d done for me, and what a loser I was. (“Loser” is one of the more polite names he would use.) His behavior toward me alone was a spectacle. I was torturing myself, and took his torture, too. The guilt was almost too much to bear. And it seemed I was going to have to relearn how to “be” in the world. Can’t forget that happy little anxiety disorder that was destined to rear its head after divorce.
But there was a light. A new guy who I could be friends with, maybe even fall in love with. But the kicker is, my husband and this new man became friends, too. So, when my husband and I agreed that we could see other people, I began spending all of my time with the newbie. He would come to my house, where my husband still lived. The three of us would hang out, have some laughs, and then retire to our separate rooms.
Fuckin crazy, right?
Spectacle of Years Past
The spectacle of my life went on this way for years. It seemed to work. And although my husband and I are in process of a divorce, we seem to have strengthened our bond. Not as lovers, or even romantic partners. But rather, as friends who “have each other’s backs.”
The last five, almost six, years of my life have been a spectacle, to be sure. In every possible way – career, love, money, you name it. But honestly, looking back on the magnitude of the spectacle makes me infinitely more grateful for accomplishing what I have so far. It’s weird. It’s uncommon. But it’s my story. And it made me who I am today. So, social anxiety be damned. I’m all good.