It’s not that I’ve had a bad life. But I’m not exactly thrilled with where I find myself.
I spent my childhood out of trouble, making friends, but not the wrong ones. I spent school days working my brain, but not challenging authority. I went to a really “good” college, got a glimpse of freedom, but followed the conservative lessons of my parents and got married, had kids and put all my eggs into supporting my spouse. After all, I was raised believing that this was the right choice.
I was a good wife, a good mother, a good citizen. Hell, I’d say I was great. I volunteered at church, at the kids’ schools, in the neighborhood. I played with the kids, let them get dirty, but made sure they read and ate healthy foods. We tithed and I gave to the needy. I encouraged my husband, never turned him down sexually, never really asked for anything. I kept myself up, worked out, but was always careful not to spend too much money. I picked up odd jobs that I could do from home when finances were tight; I worked three jobs to allow my husband to go through law school without working. I told myself it was an investment in our future. He decided, after law school, that he didn’t want to be a lawyer. No matter, he found a job he liked and worked, and got promotions that moved us around the country and the world. With each move, I’d pack up, uproot the family, and make sure that we landed with our feet on the ground. All that mattered to me was that the family was together and I was a good wife, a good mom, a good neighbor.
At this point, you, the reader, can probably guess what happens next. Well, maybe not the details, but details make the story, not the lesson. Yes– my husband had an affair because he didn’t feel I paid enough attention to him; decided he didn’t have enough freedom, he was undervalued. Selfish S.O.B. He left for several months to pursue the relationship with the neighbor (oh yeah, there’s nothing classy about that story). I’m left holding the bag with the mortgage, three young kids, no career because I’d been making the “right” choices for my family. Oh yeah, I also get half the credit card debt he rang up trying to buy his way out of his hollowness and into another woman’s pants. I guess I made so many right choices, he had the leeway to make wrong ones.
I still tried to do the right thing when he started to have the realization that maybe the other woman wouldn’t fill the huge, gaping hole in his soul. I put up with every humiliation you can think of to try to save the marriage, the family, and the kids’ sense of security. I found myself tending the pathetically juvenile wounds of a man who had wounded me deeply. He never apologized for any hurt he caused me, just wanted to find some external reason for his choices so that he didn’t have to look in the mirror. I lost every shred of respect for the man, but I still tried every therapy under the sun in blind hope of brainwashing myself back into believing that all those selfless acts, all those smart, wise choices I had made weren’t for nothing and that the marriage could be saved.
I’m pretty. Tall, athletic, big boobs. And although I had never paid attention to advances that other men had made on me before, all of a sudden, I found myself wanting those looks. Wanting to see if that guy would look at me. Wondering what it would be like if I were with a man who actually spent a little bit of time thinking about me, the “good” girl. And that’s when I finally decided to end the marriage. It was the last choice that a good girl ever thought she would make. After all, marriage was forever, right? But there I was, still trying to make the right choices, because I knew that I was so desperate for attention that I would otherwise end up in my own affair if I didn’t get out of the marriage. Considering that by this point I was trying to hide the fact that my husband made my skin crawl just by walking into the room, and that I had tried for four years to regain my respect for him, I finally felt okay with bagging it. It was just the beginning of the realization that all those right choices, stretching way back into childhood, didn’t amount to squat.
I had listened to my parents, listened to teachers, priests, common wisdom and just about anyone who had something to share. Yes, I wanted to be a good girl. I had long ago bought into the idea that smart choices would lead to a happy, fulfilling life. Turns out it was all bullshit. And here I am now.