Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Chapter 22: Divorce Diets Work


Currently Listening To: “HAPPINESS” by NEEDTOBREATHE
March 2016 – September 2016
My vagina was taking a beating. But the guy in the corner I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Even in the midst of the pain radiating from my crotch and my concern about not being able to walk the next day, I kept glancing over to him mid sweat wipe. Where were the endorphins to get me through these last 15 minutes? Where was the cushioned seat I had read about on the Internet? This man in class though, if my pelvic region was on fire, how were his balls doing? I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Did he have any? Did he tuck them away somewhere? Was he wearing dude Spanx to keep them in a safe position? Maybe a cup? We were up and down so much on the bike that my downstairs was nearly rubbed raw that first session. There’s no way that this man wasn’t feeling it every time his testicles slapped the seat. I was worried. Would he be able to have children?
Once class was over and I had made it through, I asked the teacher, “So, what’s the secret?” 
She answered, “Just get through a few classes and you’ll get used to it.”
And she was right. Spin class, amidst the sweat, the perfect asses that would cycle away in front of me and my upchuck reflex that would come alive when I ate too close to starting time, became my solace. It became my safe place. It became my Zen. I loved it. I loved the drive downtown. I loved how much of a badass I felt like once I got back in my car after a 50-minute session. Admittedly, I also liked when I would bribe a friend to come along. More specifically, Maddison, who would go through Steak’N’Shake drive through with me ordering patty melts, sides of cheese for our fries, and turtle nut milkshakes afterwards. It was our reward. We’d eat in the car as to ensure that no one saw that my eyebrows had melted off. And we’d pour the crumbs from the fry bag right into our mouths without shame or onlookers. They were the best nights of that summer.  
I was already down about thirteen pounds. I was eating normally again. And being able to slide into a pair of jeans and wear them in public feeling confident after a solid three years of hiding them away in the closet felt incredible. I had been teetering on the lines of a size 14 since I got married but I was finally back to a size 12 and confident in it. I graduated high school about thirty pounds lighter but that’s also the size I wore when I threw my cap into the air and hit the road to Disney World. I’m not completely sure why women’s bodies are so weird. 
My hair had grown out too. The previous Thanksgiving, the last one I had shared with Norman, I had donated about ten inches to Locks of Love. He was creeped out by the chopped off ponytail I had brought home and sat on the bench in the dining room before packing it up to send off. I was getting it all back though. It had become so much more bouncy and wavy since pregnancy and I was embracing it. I could tell I looked better than I had since I was 16-years-old. I was making myself over from the inside out, top to bottom. I was healthy and I was regaining my confidence. 
I had a dream that I had gotten a few new tattoos too. I saw myself sketching them in a small notebook I kept in my pocket. So, I decided, since I hadn’t gotten one since I was 18 that it was time to do that too. I scouted out a few new places but it wasn’t until I ran into someone with an umbrella tattoo on his pinky finger that I felt like I had found the right person to do the job. 
Mom and I pulled up to the local coffee shop in our hometown. It’s nothing fancy, its name is literally “The Coffee Shop,” and they only have one giant-sized iced coffee you can order but it’s delicious. The young man at the drive-through window had a ton of ink. Sleeves and small pieces throughout his hands, but it was the umbrella that caught my mom’s eye. Although she isn’t a huge fan of talking to strangers, she struck up conversation with our new barista. He told us all about Flash City Tattoo in West Nashville and that’s the same day I made my appointment to get the first design I saw in my dream. 
I’m not sure if it’s the most popular thing to do, but I went to the tattoo parlor on a Monday morning with my 21-month old and my mom in tow. They sat in the waiting room while Claire looked through questionable magazines as I received a small tattoo under my left collarbone. It read, “clarity,” and ended with the “y” cascading into an umbrella. If there was one thing I learned throughout all the mess, it was that I always had the power of clarity. I couldn’t let the denial muddy it. All you need is an umbrella to help you see through the rain, and Claire was mine. She helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 
I was trying really hard not to become bitter. I didn’t want to be bitter about love or relationships and I surely didn’t want to end up becoming bitter about marriage. Inevitably, I still wanted that. I still wanted a completed family. I wanted more children too. I wanted it for Claire even more. So, when I decided to apply for a job at Arzelle’s, a bridal store downtown, the irony completely surpassed me. 
Waiting for the divorce to become finalized was daunting. I didn’t feel free. I felt like I needed to walk on eggshells. I was afraid of flipping a switch with Norman, causing him to plot some type of revenge plan by making the legal process harder than it needed to be. So, I tried to think of ways to get my mind off of things. Since I work from home, I felt even more stifled. I needed to breathe outside of the walls that I shared with him. That’s why I decided to apply to Arzelle’s. I had been writing about weddings and wedding gowns for years. I always toyed with the idea of one day having my own bridal store, so I thought, “Why not spend some time learning the business?”
I didn’t go about it in the most professional of ways. Instead, I was completely honest and upfront. I e-mailed the owner:
Hi there!
I'm just popping in to see if you have any job opportunities happening at Arzelle's. 
Since I graduated college in 2011, I've been a full-time freelance writer - mostly in the fashion realms and particularly the wedding genre. One nook that I never had the opportunity to experience was working at a bridal boutique, interacting with brides and just being around something I enjoy so much.
And I'll be completely honest; right now I'm going through a divorce (one I was blindsided with no less) and have become a single mom overnight. I'm not looking for a full-time job, as I'm still writing my days away. Instead, I was looking for a new and fun opportunity and an experience I would love to have, shake up my routine a bit, get out of my head, the whole shebang!
I remember coming in to Arzelle's and shopping for my own gown several years ago - now a bittersweet memory - and I loved the experience there so much I even sent in an e-mail praising the day, although I didn't even purchase my gown there. 
Although this may be a shot in the dark, I didn't see that you were hiring or anything like that, I thought I would shoot you an e-mail either way. Even if it was just a 1-2x a week opportunity, I'd love to dive in!
My resume is attached.
Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
She called me in for an interview a month later and I landed a position. It wasn’t until I was at counseling with Charlie did I recognize how ironic the situation was. 
“You’re getting a divorce so you decided to get a job as a bridal consultant,” he asked.
“Well, I didn’t want to be bitter,” I explained. 
He told me that he was really proud of me. And for some reason, when a therapist says they're really proud of you, it feels different. This was around the same time I started going to spin classes and tried a round of kickboxing at a local gym. I was proud of myself for beginning to feel better, especially because I was also working really hard on trying to find the humor throughout my days again. Life isn’t as bad when you can laugh and, sometimes, real life is far funnier than situations that you could make up in your head.
For example, a few months after I started working at Arzelle’s, I was chatting with Drew. She was a young, scatter-brained sweetheart that I quickly fell in love with. It’s like she was the little sister I always needed to have around and I was her older sister, showing her the ropes and giving her advice she’d never take but always wanted. We were headed into the fall and my feet from my new black booties were aching so I sat on the bench and grabbed the iPad to check the e-mails rolling in. I went through some sales pitches and jotted down new appointments when I recognized one of the names in the inbox. “Rose Casey: Job Inquiry,” it read. 
I started laughing. Imagine my surprise when I saw the name of one of the girls my husband cheated on me with show up at my work. I hated to think that I’d run into her again. She may not have realized how her actions helped to perpetuate the ending of a marriage. As such a young girl, she may not have realized that being picked up from your parents’ house by your boss was terribly inappropriate and unprofessional. She may have never realized that when she was hanging out with my husband I was at home caring for a baby cutting four teeth. She may not have realized that he planned to marry me within the first month of dating. She may not have realized that he planned to have a baby with me either. She may not have realized that I put off getting my master’s degree, the master’s degree I could have gotten from Johns Hopkins University to do it. I was accepted there without having to the take the GRE because my GPA was so high, higher than her's I noticed from her resume. I read her e-mail silently correcting its grammar and hoping she had one hell of a summer with my husband. While she played kickball with him at night and went out drinking for Irish-fest, I was at home, taking care of the baby we so carefully created together. Claire had RSV that night. I wanted him to bring her Pedialyte but he chose her instead.
“Sure, come work with me,” I thought, “We’ve already shared so much.”
The same week in autumn that Rose reared her ugly head again, I had another Tinder debacle. He was tall with a bald head and a scruffy beard. I saw that he worked at Vanderbilt as a nurse. He looked semi-nice, so I decided to swipe right. We instantly matched. And then he instantly messaged. I messaged back a total of three times before I figured out that I wasn’t interested. Then I deleted Tinder altogether. Later that evening a friend of mine sent me a screenshot of Norman’s new and “secret” Facebook. We noticed that he had been tagged in a post by someone we had never heard of. We clicked on the name and quickly realized that it was the latest Tinder guy, who had been hanging out with Norman the night before downtown at 2AM. I nearly vomited. 
The poor guy had no clue that he was hitting on his new buddy’s ex-wife. The adorable little girl in my photos, the one that he commented on and said how much she looked like me, that’s his daughter! I never once thought that it was all a set-up. Norman didn’t have anything to gain from that. Instead, the scenario just proved to me that he was acting as though we never existed. I did learn that his new buddies had really great taste in women though, so there’s that.  
           All of those funny scenarios gave me another little boost of confidence though. I was realizing that the divorce diet was actually working for me. It was a shame that I had to have something so horrible happen to my family for me to feel so much better about myself. I was knocked completely to the floor and was able to build myself back up again, whichever way I felt like fit best.
I discovered James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm album during this time too. The irony of it is that I knew most of the songs from riding in the car with Norman. He probably was already planning on going to the show at the Ryman. I hoped I would run into him there. Because I knew the day he ran into me he’d remember. The day that we would spot each other from across the room, his knees would go weak, and his stomach would drop and he’d remember. I’d be with my friends feeling a bit more carefree than I’d had been in years, dressed like the girl he fell in love with when she was 17, and he’d remember how much he loved her. But it would be too late for him. Because I never forgot about the boy I fell in love with when he was just 19-years old with a crooked smile. Most importantly, I didn’t love the man he became a decade later.
When he did finally remember though, I’d be ready to date again. It may be weeks after the divorce is stamped and final. It may be months. But I know that when it’s time to make out that dating profile – we all have them – it’ll read:
I refuse to date those of you who wear scarfs or ankle pants. It’s still to be confirmed as to whether or not my ex-husband is gay. And I’m not taking any chances this time around.
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