Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel
The wife recently gave me a book, as she occasionally does. But this book ... well, it's not really the kind of book you would expect from your wife. It was a collection of essays, all written by male comedians, called "Things I've Learned From Women Who Dumped Me."
"Just thought you might like it," she said.
Now, I thought I was a pretty darn good codebreaker when it comes to cryptic female-to-male messaging, especially with a woman I've been married to for 17 years. But this one had me stumped. What did it mean?
"Maybe she just thought you'd like it," said Tim Robbins, who's been hanging around the house in his underwear watching "Bull Durham" on DVD ever since his break-up with Susan. My pal Conan, in between teary, whiskey-soaked, wee-hour diatribes against NBC, said just about the same thing. Tiger might be able to help, but he hasn't come out of the basement since Hanukkah.
When it comes to figuring out women, there is nothing quite as useless as another dude.
Eventually, though, I figured it out. The wife, knowing my writerly ego was about 275 times the size of my lowly station in the writerly world, assumed that I would want to write my own getting-dumped story. So, I hereby rise to take the bait, because my primate brain has no means to resist.
By the way, the lessons you learn from the women who dump you are among the most important lessons you'll learn from anyone at any point in your life. That's because all men -- well, at least all adequately mothered men -- come of age seriously doubting the idea that the world can go on without them. Ex-girlfriends give you something that Mom never could: the humbling knowledge that there was ample joy, beauty and happiness before you arrived, and there will be the same after you've gone, that you're not in fact the Sun God, that the world would feel your absence to the same degree that you would miss any one of the millions of dust mites you slough off on your pillow every night, you disgusting pig.
As far as my own story goes, the reader must realize that it lies behind a series of rhetorical safeguards to protect the identity of those involved because 1 my memory's as fuzzy as a 3-month-old tuna sandwich, and 2 it's all very embarrassing and uncomfortable -- at least for me -- and I'd rather slurp down an H1N1 smoothie than face an aggrieved ex, waving a newspaper in my face. So, what follows is true -- or shaded toward the truth -- but marbled with artistic license for dramatic flair.
Her name was Astrid -- or maybe Beatriz, or Fatima -- and we met in Reno -- or Cambodia, or in the Amazon rainforest -- in the mid 1980s -- or late '40s, or during the Peloponnesian War. I was convinced I'd found my soul mate but she was, well, not so much. The entire history of our relationship was, in fact, me waiting around for her to notice what was, to me, as obvious as the sunrise. But I guess she was never a morning person.
To Astrid/Beatriz/Fatima, I was the good-for-now guy. I was a celebrity magazine in a doctor's waiting room, the canned light beer you find in your parents' fridge, that rerun of "Friends" that comes on before the playoff game. But I allowed myself to believe otherwise and we ended up passing many days in each other's company, moving resolutely along the boyfriend/girlfriend axis, though, looking back, in a very passive way, as if we were on a carnival ride, instead of moving under our own volition.
I can live with this, I kept telling myself. In the movies, this kind of situation always pays off. She'll come around. Though, in the process of coming around, she really took me to some weird places.
After a few months, I got to meet ABF's mother, a significant landmark, right? Well, introduced in the mother's sumptuous kitchen, she looked at me pleasantly but did not say what I longed for her to say: "Finally, I get to meet this mysterious man!" or "Oh, I've heard so much about you." No, I got, "Nice to meet you. So, do you two know each other from Cambodia?"
Soon after, to my joy and amazement, she agreed to a cohabiting situation with me. We found a cute little rental house, and I stumbled around in a daze of domestic elation for a while. She was a student of organic agriculture -- or neuroscience, or palm reading -- and, as such, she was gone for days at a time for a research project. No biggie.
But after returning from one of these trips, ABF came home with something on her mind. She had met a man, months previously in fact, and had been carrying on a relationship with him for a while. You're wondering, reader, did I explode in rage? Break her Tom Tom Club records? Vandalize her car? No, I did not. After experiencing what felt like a fatal intestinal blockage, I sat there like a perfect idiot and learned all about this other guy.
Incredibly, this revelation did not lead to our immediate break-up. ABF, perhaps as a gift to me, related all the shortcomings of this other guy, who was named Sebastian -- or, oh, never mind -- to prove she wasn't entirely sold on him either. What she wanted was to continue her double life -- a bit of me, a bit of Sebastian -- like Nefertiti gazing on a footrace between slaves, or something. Astoundingly, I agreed. I stuck my self-respect in a closet, where it was bound and gagged like something out of a Japanese fetish video, and re-oriented myself to win this truly gruesome competition.
Did I win it? No. But neither, thankfully, did the other guy. I lost track of ABF years ago, but I look at her now as a spiritual teacher brought into my life to strip me of some ridiculous notions of my own irresistible-ness. She taught me that love is not a grandiose sales call where determination and bargaining wins the day. So, when I finally did meet my actual soul mate years later -- in Gilroy, as it turns out -- I was ready, prepared for a healthy relationship by the efforts of other women, well-mothered by one and pre-humiliated by another.
Every guy should be so lucky.