Category Archives: Relationships

Bitches, Bourbon, Burdens…

I’m all into bourbon and back episodes of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead this fine evening. I’m an avid TV watcher. I say that with pride, not shame, because theme, plot, characterization, hubris—what-have-you—can pack the same punch via the television medium as, say, The Great Gatsby might have affected reading audiences before television or radio existed. Why hold on to old entertainment and wisdom at the expense of the new? We’re not readers anymore—not entirely, anyway. We’re watchers, and listeners, and readers.

Anyway, this new half-season of FTWD is all about grudges—two warring communities are in a position to put aside pre-zombie-apocalypse grudges in order to survive the new enemies. Some can do it, some cannot. We’re talking people sitting down at the table with others who’ve murdered their lovers, family, or friends. How do they do it? Well, some of them can’t. That’s what I like about Fear the Walking Dead. Some have what it takes to put the past behind them, to move forward into a state of truce, of relief. To some, peace is a relief. To others, it doesn’t supply the closure that their angry hearts have demanded. Now you’ve got a conflict worth watching!

I wonder while I watch this show if I have what it takes to put such rancor behind me. I hope I never need to test it. I still nurture a grudge from 1998, the year my grandmother died. I took a week off from my waitressing job in the Midwest to fly home for her funeral. When I returned to work, the other waitresses shunned me. One of them had poisoned the others with her suspicions that I was using my grandmother’s sudden death to take a week off. I came back to work full of grief, and they gave me more, and I’ll never forget the slight. In fact, I still Google the witch from time-to-time, hoping to glean some sort of contact information. I’m not above reaching out to her after all these years just to tell her how much she sucks.

It’s a First-World kind anger we feel over situations like this. I think many of us have been there. We haven’t had to face real grudges or make real truces with real enemies in order to survive. We’ve been lucky.

There’s been a First-World grudge festering in my family for three decades. It’s aborted relationships with cousins. It’s complicated family events like weddings, and funerals. Someone has always gotten pissed off about someone else’s refusal to acknowledge said slight. My cousins and I grew up with this shit. My grandmother suffered for it. We all suffered for it… except, I believe, its creator. To her, this enmity is still fresh and real. For her, we must suffer.

Even in the light of a recent tragedy, good old Aunt What’s-Her-Name still clings to her vow of silence. She’s quite tenacious. She sits high in her fortress of malice and judges. First-World luxuries. I wonder sometimes what she would do in a zombie apocalypse or some other grid doom. I’m pretty sure she’d find few friends, even among family, willing to put their necks out for her. There are so many other family members who do so much more, who shine love and light. Unfortunately for her, simmering anger is always palpable. It makes others uneasy.

I told my husband once about my little hobby of Googling that nasty waitress from time-to-time. He thought I was completely nuts. He’s a man with no ill will.   It’s what I love about him. In his honor, and in the honor of my sick mother, my patient father, my departed uncle, I think I should put that incident behind me. The blackness in that woman’s heart, if she’s still out there somewhere, is probably enough of a burden.

A Week in the Life

This has been a heck of a 40something week.  A friend sent me a thank-you letter for driving six hours to attend her mother’s funeral a year ago this Monday; one of my mom’s closest frenemies passed away the day my mother got back to town from her month-long visit to relatives’ houses.  Mom had her knock-off Michael Kors on her arm and the car keys in her hand when she checked her email for the hospice address and found a follow-up:  “Don’t bother.”

What else happened this week?  Well, I realized that my self-prescribed 40mg. dose of Flouxetine is a bit much in sobriety.  On 40mg. of Flu, I don’t sleep the very rewarding-because-I-gotta-get-something-out-of-this deep sleep of the non-drinker.   Instead, I wake up 100 times and stare at the ceiling fan or rearrange my arms and legs around my blankets and pillows, just like I used to do when I’d wake up at 4 in the morning with a sugar high after a long night of designer beer with high alcohol content.

(And not to be tangential, but remember when designer beer first started appearing on the shelves?  Prior to those years, I had thought that Molsen Golden was a beer as fine as a seven-and-a-half dollar glass of some local microbrew.  Now the shelves are glutted with choices, and consumers are bored, so they’re making it themselves.)

Which brings me back to my week—friends, death, sleeping, friends.  These are the worries of this 40something woman.  Oh, and then there’s the kids’ growing up and roaming aimlessly after school and not calling you to tell you where they are and then, after you finally track them down right before calling the police, having to have “that talk” about trust and responsibility.   Fuuuuuuuuck.

I didn’t sign up for that part (well, I actually did.), but it’s a hoot compared to my Mom’s stage in her life.  I sent her a sympathy card for her friend, too, because why should only the family mourn the loss of someone they care about?  Even if those friends were co-dependently bonded and sometimes hung up on the other and bitched about the other and then turned around and stepped up for each other, they were still friends.  Some of my earliest living memories include this woman’s children, who are all forty-somethings like me now.  My mother’s and this woman’s friendship has existed as long as we have.

So, friends… I’m still not done with the week.  My dog had a seizure for the first time ever, on a hiking trail.  That’s the first time I realized that if something happened to an 87 pound dog on my watch then I would have to be the one to carry him to the car.  I’m gonna start lifting weights for real.  Luckily, the dog recovered, and I got him to the vet.  His declining health is not the subject of the story, though, but the fact that I used his declining health as an excuse to cancel plans with a friend.

My husband and I are the lord and lady of canceling plans.  We’re building up quite a rep these days.  I know why we do it, though.  We’re NOT in our thirties anymore, and I don’t mean for that to sound like we’ve become geriatric.   We just understand the benefit-cost ratio of honoring certain plans and canceling others.  We want to be active participants in all of them, but when it comes time to accept what participating means—driving forever to someone’s place, not being able to find a parking spot, wandering the Saturday streets full of loud drunks, and then driving home—we recognize the moments ahead of us are finite and decide it isn’t worth the aggravation.  Plus, I’m not drinking, so why go to a bar?  The benefit-cost-ratio is very high in favor of staying home.

And that’s my week, my unedited, written version of my heavily-edited week.  Somehow, I suspect I’m not the only one of my peers to have weeks like this from time-to-time.

Repeating history

I realize that I don’t contribute much to this blog, my only blog, my only writing outlet, in fact. I write a lot of entries that don’t get posted because I don’t know what kind of a point I’m trying to make. I write a lot of entries that don’t get posted because they’re for-real-and-for-true too revealing to the few parties that occasionally read the blog.   I write a lot of entries that just trail off… my boredom revealed in the white spaces at the end.

I’ve decided that I will post this particular entry in whatever state that it becomes. It will address a topic that I believe applies to the theme of 40s are the new 40s—depression, addiction, divorce, adult ADD, children, aging parents, politics, wrinkles, you name it. Everything applies to us, doesn’t it? We’re adults, and as a consequence of our age and our growing cache of wisdom and experience, we can come up with something to say about anything. We’ve been there, done that. And the younger generations that follow us will feel the same way after they’ve stopped believing that they can figure everything out.

Speaking of the younger generations, I have no hostility, some envy, and a whole lot of curiosity about what’s going on there. I have spoken to few people my age who don’t have a fantasy “do-over.” My husband would have been a medical doctor. I would have been a lawyer. My cousin would have been a boat mechanic on a pier someplace where the sun always shines. This is normal to us, and we see the younger people around us as simply younger versions of ourselves—people on the verge of making that one bad decision that will alter their lives. But what if these younger people aren’t like that? What if they don’t have the time that we had in the eighties and nineties to enjoy relative national peace, prosperity, and opportunity?

We know that people decades younger than us have one distinct advantage, and that’s time on their sides, time to figure it out, time to make mistakes, and time to revel in their youth. We did that. But I don’t see them doing that. I don’t see little “mes” in the twenty-something women I interact with and work with. I see women in their teens and twenties moving quickly, being savvy, and getting on with it in ways that make me wonder if these generations are exquisitely different. Did my mother see that in me?

Just like my mother and I are alien to one another and yet familiar, young people today are both alien and familiar to me. I wish them well because “times they are a changin’.” They will confront the new. I’ll observe it. They’ll fight to secure their survival. I’ll fight to secure my old age.   And sure, I’ll fight injustice where I can, and sure, I’ll continue to grow and develop as a human being. Maybe I’ll even write that pilot that I’ve been talking about since 2004. But they have decades and decades of a future to navigate. They’re gonna see some shit that we never will, just like we saw some shit that they can’t imagine (life without an Internet connection? How did we do it?). I wish them well, and I hope—I really hope—that they let us in and ask questions and respect our perspective.

Isn’t there some famous aphorism about history? About how if you don’t know what happened before you knew it all, then you’ll just become a tool to someone else who does?

Random Thoughts on Stupid Holidays

SONY DSCI did what I usually do on gift-giving holidays in our household, and I bought what I wanted—a heart-shaped box of good old-fashioned drugstore chocolates! Russell Stover, if you will, the chocolates of my childhood. My grandma used to serve those on occasions I can’t remember—maybe she just always had them around—just not in the heart-shaped box.

Drugstores are fun places to go on the night before Valentine’s Day. I stood in line behind a man who looked like maybe 65 buying a similar heart-shaped box, and I stood in front of a man who looked like maybe 75 buying a couple of cards and a KitKat. The onus is always on the man in a hetero situation, which doesn’t make much sense because the majority of hetero men have no idea how to celebrate a stupid holiday like Valentine’s Day. Imagine them planning a wedding.

Anyway, I was in line in a Walgreens between two old men buying last-minute drugstore crap for their significant others, the way it should be. Neither of these guys looked particularly affluent because the affluent around here probably give their wives and daughters jewelry and custom sweets from niche shops that charge four times what my box of chocolates cost (I’m sure there’s a woman within a mile of here who found a new car in her driveway this morning). I’d rather stand in a line with these guys in a Walgreens than interact with that other type who drive Mercedes and have no sense of humor.

Anyway, my dad is probably right about now, at 8-something in the morning, looking for a last-minute card in a supermarket. At least that’s what he would do if he were home. He and my mom are on a winter pilgrimage from rented beach condo to my aunt’s and uncle’s house to maybe a visit or two with a cousin and then back home. Takes about a month. I’m sure my dad will find his usual card and write something romantic inside of it like “Love, His Name,” but I’m also sure that—because he’s with my aunt—he’ll do much more. My aunt likes cool stuff and big productions. I’ll Facetime my mom later and get the scoop on the big plans.

So there’s a system for how one eats a box of Russell Stover assorted chocolates. I’m sure everyone has her method. Mine starts with the caramels, always. The smooth caramels go first, followed by the nutty caramels, before other caramel-like consistencies. Here is my hierarchy of an assorted box of drugstore chocolates:

  1. Cream caramels
  2. Fruit & nut caramels
  3. Peanut butter crunch (to give my jaw and my fillings a break after gnawing on the hard caramels)
  4. Molasses chew (caramel consistency)
  5. Nut clusters (dark chocolate first, then milk)
  6. Roman nougats (more caramel consistency, but weird fruit flavors)
  7. Coconut creams (I hate cream textures, but I like coconut flavor)
  8. Maple nut creams (ditto)
  9. Chocolate truffles (weird consistency, but still chocolate)
  10. Vanilla creams (anything beats fruit flavors)
  11. Whatever is left (fruit flavors)

I’m still eyeing that apricot cream with apprehension. My friend and I went out the other night and listened to sad stories live and later discussed our propensity for eating whole boxes of chocolates and/or cookies in one sitting. She, too, used to be a workout queen. She, too, also used to be a drinker. We have that kind of crazy in common that only people who live with addiction for their entire lives can really understand. Another friend of mine claims that these behaviors—hiding wine bottles behind the couch or eating whole boxes of Chips Ahoy or working out for hours—are all symptoms, not the problem itself. I believe her. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

How Do You Get to Know Your Parents?

I’m reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake right now, and it’s affecting me on a very personal level. I know I should wait to find out how this plot gets resolved before I discuss the novel as a whole, but this isn’t a book review. This is more like a dialectical journal, running thoughts I’ve had since little Gogol Ganguli grew up and the point of view stopped being from his parents’ perspective. Here’s how it goes so far:

This nineteen year-old girl in Calcutta marries a fellow Bengali a week or two after their parents introduce them. Her betrothed is studying in the U.S., and so that’s where he takes her after the wedding. The novel begins with this girl, Ashima, trying to make a recipe that reminds her of home using only ingredients that she can scrounge up around their Boston neighborhood in the late ‘60s—I remember Rice Krispies and some other unlikely candidates in the mix. She is disappointed with the flavor. Something is missing. Then her water breaks.

We spend a few intimate chapters inside the relationship of this husband and wife, chronicling the birth of Gogol, their daily lives, their move from an apartment to a house, and the growth of a network of friends, all Bengalis, around the Boston area. Ashima and Ashoke can only afford biannual trips back to India, so occasionally their American lives are interrupted with a tragic phone call—the news of a grandparent’s death, then a parent’s death. The phone becomes symbolic of their alienation.

Then Gogol, their oldest child, grows up. He moves away. He does stuff that college kids do. He finds work, falls in love with girls who aren’t Indian, and he lives an American life. Consequently, he lives two lives, one in which he is Indian, one American. Sometimes, especially around his girlfriends, he’s embarrassed by his parents, ashamed of their beliefs and their habits. Lahiri spends several chapters in Gogol’s head as he compares how his girlfriend’s Manhattan family lives and entertains with how his Boston parents live and entertain. So far, he sides with a lifestyle in complete opposition to the one in which he was raised.

He’s conflicted in a way that I will never be. My parents and I were born in the same area of the U.S. We were brought up with vaguely similar belief systems, food, and cultural norms. But we do have our generational and regional divides—especially now—and they’re big enough for me, big enough that I can relate to Gogol’s (and Ashima’s) conflict. There’s stuff about his parents that he doesn’t understand, and rightly so because they don’t tell him everything. But some things just can’t get told. For instance, there’s no way that Gogol will ever tap into his mother’s emotions on that day in 1968 when she tried to replicate a familiar Indian recipe, the day her water broke. Even if Gogol cared, even if Ashima were capable of verbalizing her feelings on that day, what mother in any culture will share such intimate details with her grown son? In many ways, Gogul will never know Ashima, his mother.

What I’m waiting for as I read this novel is not for Gogol to know his parents but for Gogol to want to know his parents. I think it’s coming. I at least think he’ll want to know his father. But right now, at my stage in the reading, Gogol thinks he already knows them, and there’s the grown child’s biggest mistake.

This recent election and the ideological divides that it revealed between some parents and their children has slowed down one of my most important tasks as a grown woman to date—to find out who my parents are, or at least to find out a few key details about them as people that they wish I knew. Doesn’t have to be everything, just has to be what they want. I don’t want to assume anymore, like Gogol assumes. Assuming we know who our parents are is an arrogant luxury reserved for the arrogant twenty and thirty-somethings.

I am 45, and I want to know my parents, but I don’t know how.   How do I tap into those snapshots of my parents’ early lives—decisions they made that they might have thought at the time were temporary, ideas they had about what marriage should be and what the future looked like and what they expected of their children? I don’t know. I can only guess, and like Gogol, my assumptions are probably wrong.

The Facebook Dilemma

5df6bdfae83c2009884fea46f785bd4f“…la lala lala lala… Should I stay, or should I go now?   La lala lala lala…

If I go there will be trouble (la lala lala la), and if I stay it will be double. La lala lala lala…”

I’m talking about FACEBOOK, that social media site that’s causing intellectual cancer in the 40-and-over community. “It’s for old people,” say the five children I vacationed with over inauguration weekend. And it’s officially ruined the dignity of us old folks by revealing our thought processes. My dilemma today is figuring out which generation I belong to—do I belong to the really old one who abuses social media or to the moderately old one who wonders if she abuses social media?

I heard a stat recently that 50% of Facebook users get all their news from Facebook. Should I be surprised, shocked that the generation that bemoans online culture is as corrupted as our youth?

Not really, cuz here’s what I’ve learned in recent months about the older generation (including myself)—it’s the same as any other. Each generation is populated with its critical thinkers and its mouth-breathers, its diplomats and its reactionaries, its educated and its uneducated. The old farts who bloviate about the indignities of Madonna and memorize political memes simply fancy themselves to be on a higher level than the kids around them, because they’ve “lived,” because they’ve “seen” things, because they “read.” Well, I’ll tell you what—you can spend six or seven decades alive on this earth without acquiring any new wisdom if that’s how you choose to live it. I’m quite certain that many of my own family members have “lived” in this manner—unyielding, loyal to fossilized ideas and suspicious of the ideas of people standing in front of them. They make fun of me for changing up my viewpoint from time-to-time, see that as a weakness. I haven’t considered my ability to think and change to be a flaw since I first read Emerson:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.” 

My father makes the same comments about spending and liberals and welfare that he made in the Reagan days.  My mother refuses to acknowledge new ideas as such, and falls back on simply shutting out thought altogether. And my brother, well, we’ve discussed my brother. They all have their own Facebook communities.  What’s interesting about these three and their Facebook companions is that they claim to be the leading critics of the media that feeds them. My father will only change his mind if the idea is sanctioned by his media source (Fox). The man who lived through the Cold War is now ready to jump into bed with Putin. Maybe my mother learned about Anne Frank in school, but that doesn’t stop her from advocating that we label the Muslims living and working among us. Their media is as poisonous as they claim others to be.

So my thought right now is that I just want to leave one corrupt media source–Facebook–, to avoid the temptation to get my hands dirtier and my dignity crushed. I could leave this weeping, ranting, raging, cyber fray and learn instead to talk to my family. I have never asked the right questions, never asked my mother, for instance, why—before the Republican Party took up the pro-life platform—she once angrily ranted about “those pro-lifers,” but now she has become one. I never asked her what annoyed her then about the movement that doesn’t annoy her now.

I have plenty of friends in my exact age bracket who ignore social media, who are suspicious of it and always will remain so. I respect them. I might not know what they are doing every minute of their days, but before Facebook and MySpace, nobody knew that anyway.

So do I leave it? In doing so, I’ll lose my only contact with people I like, I’ll lose eight years of uploaded photos. I’ll lose those “hey, here’s what you were doing three years ago today” posts. But I might learn how to be a better thinker, better communicator. Should I stay or should I go?

2017, Meh.

2017, Meh.

That about describes it—“meh.” It’s more than just a word. It’s how I felt ringing in a new year that I didn’t look forward to. Everyone around me was saying, “2016 just needs to be over! 2016 sucked!” I don’t feel that way. So yeah, in 2016, the historical pendulum swung into outer space and a contentious president was elected. Sure, in 2016, a few childhood icons died. Regardless, 2016 was my peak. It was one big party that I didn’t document. I welcomed it at the craziest one I ever attended—the party that made my husband and I say to each other in the wee hours of January 1, 2016, “This will be our year.”

So fast forward to now. What did we say to each other this year?

“I am going to control my road rage,” he mumbled in the wee hour of January 1, 2017. He must’ve dug deep into the pits of avoidance to come up with that one. I didn’t even bother: I couldn’t think of anything except all the ones I broke last year. My husband brought up one of our shared resolutions, and then I wondered, “Maybe I have peaked. Maybe this year that I am tossing out right now was my last good year.”

And that was that. Happy New Year! My mother-in-law gave us blue sparkly top hats and noisemakers that I tried to hide from the kids. Shortly after the ball came down (which, incidentally, only about 1/3 of us actually saw—the ball drop has cheapened since Dick Clark), we all went to bed.

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Can’t Say it Doesn’t Matter

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The recent election created some small ripples in my ordinarily placid family dealings. I targeted certain family members, like my mom, and I tried to sway their votes. This caused one of my brothers to threaten to “unfriendly” me (although he never did) and my retired uncle to begin actually using Facebook . My branch of the family tree isn’t much on confrontation (or communication), though we’re pretty good at freezing out.

I have no intention of freezing out any of my family members, even the ones who’ve subjected me to their own cold shoulders over the years, even the ones who never visit (that would be all of them), even the ones who talk shit behind my back, the ones capable of turning on me for little or no reason. Won’t do it. They’re mine. I see little sparks of me in every single one of them.

Perhaps that’s why I spent an hour today trying to decide what to wear to lunch with my brother. I tried on two dresses, two pairs of leggings, three jackets, and four hats.

My brother drives a large white pickup truck with a pair of yellow testicles hanging from the trailer hitch and an airbrushed picture of Mt. Rushmore—behind a Thomas Jefferson quote and the Tea Party’s URL—on the tailgate. He likes to wear extra large cotton shirts because they’re roomy. He embroiders custom slogans on the pockets of tees with an industrial-sized embroidering machine that he gave to his wife as a “gift.” He’s inspired by Fox News.

I will never get into his truck. I question his fashion sense. I listen to NPR, and sometimes I pity my brother’s wife for the weird “gifts” that she’s received from him over the years, like the aforementioned embroidering machine, or the sports car that doesn’t run.

My brother can also build or fix anything. He can build a new computer if he doesn’t like the way his functions. He can drag a dead jalopy out of a junkyard and not only make it run again, but make it run better (which, incidentally, makes me wonder why his wife’s sports car is still in the garage). He can construct his own energy-efficient heating system in his house or fix a jet engine.

I can do none of these things.

I imagine my brother and I appear opposites to anyone who doesn’t know us. My mother thinks we’re too much alike. My emotions concerning him have vacillated from anger to envy to disgust to admiration to a staunch conviction that I will never, ever be like him. I’ve accused him of being smart, stupid, wise, deluded, selfish, selfless, even mildly autistic. Sometimes, when he talks, I feel an overwhelming urge to leave the room.

In true my-brother form, he casually mentioned he’d be in my metro area for a week. It came out when I asked him why he wanted to know about certain bars around there. My brother lives at least nine hours away. He visited me once, for my wedding, in the sixteen years I’ve lived here.   We made plans to do a late lunch.

And so I spent an hour today trying to decide what to wear to lunch with my brother who would undoubtedly show up in a baseball cap and an extra-large Carhartt. I tried on two dresses, two pairs of leggings, three jackets, and four hats. I worried about where to take him, what to show him besides my urban fashion sense. I might detest him sometimes, I might love him sometimes, but I can’t say he doesn’t matter.

Monogamy, for S.

Monogamy. Yes, what better topic to bring up around the holidays, to ring in the new year? Monogamy.

I seem to know a lot of people in nontraditional relationships. I have friends in open relationships, gay friends, divorced friends, asexual friends, never married friends; friends who chose the kids and not the spouse, the spouse and not the kids, multiple spouses… and these are just the friends. I’m not talking about acquaintances or friends of friends or people I’ve read about or heard on a podcast. Those really run the gamut, from all types of polyamorous couples to swingers to people who just do life differently than your standard nuclear family. Whatever you imagine can be done–believe me–someone’s doing it. I suspect if we’ve made it this far in life then we’ve heard the rumors about this writer’s or that celebrity’s penchant for swing parties or polyamorous marriage, or weirder stuff. Well, it ain’t just celebrities dipping their toes in those weird waters. It’s a threatening world out there in the gray area if you are a black-and-white kind of thinker.

Well, I’m not a black-and-white kind of thinker unless I’m trying to piss someone off. Maybe that’s why I have the friends that I do, and maybe that’s why I have so few friends here in La-La Land. I found most of my friends back in the city, once upon a time before I moved. Cities are adult playgrounds. They’re full of galleries and theaters and ballroom dance clubs and beer-making groups, activities for adults. The suburbs are where we go to leave all that, to forget art or live music in order to take up bee keeping and the community association, to talk about school budgets and to transfer our identities to our children (See, I’m speaking in blacks-and-whites here for you suburban readers. Go on, challenge me!). I miss my city friends. I miss the anything goes kind of attitude that we all had in our thirties. I miss the hunt-and-chase mentality of the dating world. Some people my age tell me this is just a fact of life—that with age comes dullness. Just deal with it. I’m not so sure.

I flirt with other men sometimes. I can’t help it. They’re there. The more different they are from my husband, the more compelling I find them. My husband doesn’t seem to mind, though. He doesn’t know how to flirt, at ALL, or he probably would do it himself. We acknowledged a long time ago that we’re human, that we don’t stop finding the opposite sex attractive just because we’re committed to each other. Of course, we’re each on our second marriage, and second marriages often come with better communication and more realistic expectations. I never lie to my husband about anything significant or relationship-altering (although I have been known to cast a little white lie once in while to boost his ego.). I love him. To me, he’s perfect and worth every minute of the havoc, the financial and emotional distress, and the lost time that divorce and remarriage has cost us.

But even the bright and shiny newness of a second marriage, a better marriage, begins to fade. You reach a stage in your relationship where it’s totally ok to wear the same pair of paint-splattered yoga pants and the holey t-shirt for three days in a row. If you work out of the home or have longer breaks from work like we do, you have to jog your memory sometimes to recall your last shower. And sometimes you realize that you haven’t showered for days, as many days as you’ve been wearing those yoga pants. And you ask yourself, “Would I have done this eight years ago when I met him?” The answer is an absolute “no.” When he and I started dating, I spent a lot of time maintaining: I fixed my hair; I wore makeup, which I’ve rarely worn in my lifetime. I even teetered around in uncomfortable shoes and clothes that fit a little too tightly. And when I began to slip back into the comfortable clothes, the air-dried hair, and the no-makeup routine, I still tried to salvage a little mystery by hiding my feminine products and refusing to allow him near my laundry.

These days I’d be crazy to pass up an opportunity to hand him a basket of my worn undergarments and everything else, for that matter (I mean, hell, if he’s willing to do the laundry…). Now we’ve been married for going on seven years, and sometimes I wear the same yoga pants for three days running—just get out of bed, put them back on, and go make coffee. Isn’t there a myth about a seven-year itch? That time in a marriage when the breadwinners of the fifties and sixties (and seventies… and eighties…) would run off with their secretaries or their fitness instructors or their kids’ teachers? Are we there now, at mid-life crisis time? Second marriage or not, eight years is a long time to have sex with the same person. I get it. It was around the eight-year mark when I left my first husband, for someone else, of course. I’m the dude who ran off with his secretary.

But I have no intentions of running off this time around. I find the concept, in fact, absurd. New sex and the thrill of the chase might be a nice distraction; but it can’t replace a good spouse, a good partnership, and real love. Sex might get routine and boring; but new sex, if it’s forbidden, is only going to wreck the relationship, the one you worked so hard to build, the financial security, the trust, all gone. Who wants that? Who wants that drama?

Maybe these nontraditional people are on to something, especially the ones who swing or keep an extra partner around the house from time-to-time. My nontraditional friends are all confident people, confident in their choices, confident in their relationships. When you are forging your own path and not following one that was made for you, your choices for happiness and personal satisfaction seem unlimited.

So it’s been seven years. Time to evaluate. I’ve started by learning more about makeup and hair and skin products, by working my alcohol-wrecked body back into a size six and living clean and rocking some heels from time-to-time. I’m back where I was eight years ago, but that doesn’t change one key fact—I’m not new sex, and neither is he. Can we live with that? Do we really have a choice?