Phantom-limb Sweetie sensations aside, Thanksgiving was mostly lovely. The meal itself, held at my mom’s new house in the middle of nowhere, was subdued but delicious, and I got to have lots of quality time with my niece and nephews. My sister and I did our yearly tradition of Black Friday shopping, less for the deals than for the time together.
But while all of that was happening, Sweetie, with the help of my aunt, was packing up the apartment and moving over to the new place. I decided to drive home a little earlier than I’d planned to in order to help her and because I was homesick for my own apartment—as much as I love my sister’s family, her house is perpetually cold and dirty, in contrast to my usually neat and overheated place.
The divorce-grief was manifested by the most first-world of all first-world problems: somewhere in the course of getting in the car, I lost my little pink iPod, which was all loaded up with podcasts to keep me company on the five-hour drive home. I knew it was in the car, but I couldn’t find it. It was a similar feeling to the end of our last visit, when my phone died and Iwas gripped by the temporariness of everything—not sure why my electronics areso insistent on being metaphors for loss.
I felt really not-okay as I started driving home after a half-hour of searching the car. I drove in silence because I was mad at the radio and I couldn’t stand that I was finding meaning in a Miley Cyrus song. (Sorry, but “Wrecking Ball” is actually a pretty good song…) A couple of hours into the drive, I stopped at a rest stop to pee and search some more.
When I still couldn’t find it, I knew the grief had to come out, so I called the only person who could understand—Sweetie. She listened kindly as the sadness came out in gusts—why is the world so cruel, I asked, that they don’t even make this kind of iPod anymore? Why are people so horrible and why do they make things change so fast? And then I apologized, for the millionth time, for not taking care of her, of us, for being no-good. And, as the years had taught her to do, she listened. I cried about how far from home I was, but I realized that all I had to do was get back on the road.
And then my call-waiting beeped, and I wish I wouldn’t have answered it. I told my mom about the sadness I was feeling and she was supportive at first, but quickly became frustrated:
“You know you’re ruining my Thanksgiving, right?”
“No. I am not here on earth to ruin things for you. I never was. I am sad because I’m breaking up with someone I love very much.”
She then suggested that I go back to Sweetie, and I fucking lost it. What kind of a mother tries to send her daughter back to someone she once JUMPED OUT OF A CAR to get away from? For that matter, what kind of person would have, a year ago, sent me back to Sweetie after she locked me in the house, blocked the door, and refused to let me leave? My mom told me I couldn’t do better then, that even if I found somebody new, I’d still be the bad person these things happen to.
“WHY would you SAY that?” I shrieked “Why would you try to send me back to an abusive relationship?”
“You’re not going to find anyone better. I think you romanticize men, they’re not what you think they are.”
“I’ve never understood why you thought I couldn’t have a guy, but I deserve what I want just as much as my sister does. And being bisexual is not just going to go away.”
Contempt dripped from her voice as she said “So, what, you want a husband and a wife?”
In a little, tiny voice I said “That would be awesome…”
“Well, I have to tell you, that’s a recipe for destruction. And you’d better fix yourself before then, because whatever (Sweetie) did, men are so much worse.”
“There is nothing wrong with me!”
“Well, do you think you are behaving correctly right now?”
“What are you TALKING about? I am thirty-fucking-nine years old! And yes! I am grieving because my partner of twelve years is moving out, and I am TELLING YOU TO FUCK OFF.”
I turned off the phone, threw it in my purse, took a deep breath, and got on the road. The sun was setting and I was fueled by anger this time, though no less bored sans-podcasts.
I am almost glad that I had this stupid conversation, just for the insight. I don’t get the idea that my family has that I can’t be with a man—I kinda thought it was in my head, but I can’t believe she said it out loud.
But more importantly, when she said “You have to choose to get happy right now, or you will never be okay,” I started to get why I keep getting in situations where it’s expected that my emotions be tamped down, and why I feel so oppressed and trapped by them. She texted while I was driving to say that even when I was a baby, she would feel like a terrible person whenever I was upset, and that explains why I feel like I’m being a bad girl whenever I’m having negative emotions, whenever I’m less than sunny about things.
What bothers me the most is that she isn’t trying to “make” me happy for my own happiness. She needs me to be her own (very narrow) version of happy so that she can consider herself a success as a parent. It has nothing to do with me at all—I am not a person to her so much as a score sheet that she can compare with her sisters’ children and find lacking. I am amazed and disgusted that she could take something as heart-wrenching as a divorce and make it about her.
When I got home, Sweetie said that my aunt had said similar things about me and the men and how I was sure to find them lacking. Where did this “Who would want one?” manhating thing come from, and how can I get as far away from it as possible?
My mom kept sending texts about wanting me to be happy, and finally, I said this:
“I am happy a fair amount of the time, but it’s for reasons you don’t approve of, and it’s only because I accept the negative emotions too. I am blocking you for the time being so that I can take care of myself. See you at Christmas.”
But I’m not sure I will. Why do we spend the holidays at the ground zero of self-doubt? Maybe there’s a better way to celebrate.
The whole thing made me appreciate Sweetie and myself so much—this divorce isn’t about hypothetical future partners, it’s about knowing that we both deserve so much better than we have done to each other. We are doing such a loving thing, and instead of berating us for it, they should throw us a fucking parade.
I’m relieved to realize there’s no rush to be happy. I just have to take care of myself enough to survive and heal. Rather than trying to “behave correctly” and go about with false holiday cheer, I’m choosing to honor my twelve-year relationship by letting the sadness come, even as I do my best to move forward. I can be the compassionate person who accepts all the emotions, who treats myself as human.