Date Archives January 2012

My life as a credit report (or) I’m 40, bitches

Did your lights dim for just  sec on Friday night? Yeah? Sorry about that. That was just me entering a new decade.

That’s right, darling bitches, I am 40.

My daughter Megan LOVES to celebrate anyone and everyone’s birthday. A few days before my birthday I told her, “You know, I’m turning 40 this week. I think I need a crown. Can you make me one?”

Within in 10 minutes, she had this gorgeous piece of headgear ready to go. It was so beautiful that I cried. (I may sound like a smartass, but I’m really a big creampuffy wuss.)

Who's the Queen?

I am very happy and proud to say that the whole turning-40 thing just made me laugh. Years ago, I vowed that I would never lie about my age unless it was for a joke or to get a discount someplace. So now I’d like to add something else to that: I will not mourn any age but instead will celebrate it.

Easy to say all of that now. But I did have a moment that wasn’t quite so pretty and magnanimous …. five days before the Big Day things looked pretty suck-a-riffic.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been teetering on the edge of the financial abyss for nearly a year now. A lot of the professional advice I’ve received about this basically adds up to this: Just jump into the hole. You’re going to get swallowed by it anyway. It only hurts for a minute (or seven years), so you might as well just give up now because then it’s on YOUR terms.

I was resigned to it. You know, that ugly B-word. I hated it. I was really angry about it. It made me sick to my stomach but I thought it was the only way out.

Then that Irish dude showed up. And as my wise friend Stefanie says, you have to haul out your shitbag when you start dating someone. So he got to hear about all of it. And he hauled his shitbag out, too. Turns out, my darling man was recovering from financial ruin himself.

Since then, he’s kept himself up at night a buncha times trying to concoct some way out for me. He has offered to help me dig my way out of the hole — an offer I declined (but not without being a blubbering goon over the fact that he would suggest such an unselfish thing). However, his chatter worked on me to the point where I just might have found my own way out … which is amazing because several months ago I thought that the possibility didn’t even exist.

Part of this grand plan has involved me taking classes to learn about credit and finances. I learned how to read a credit report. Then right before my birthday, the instructor gave each of us copies of our own credit reports to take home and read. I had already gotten my own copy online so I thought that there wouldn’t be any surprises. However, something was categorized in a way that I didn’t expect and all of sudden, all of the numbers looked much uglier than I thought they were. If those numbers were accurate, my plan wasn’t going to work.

So then, instead of feeling like an empowered bitch on wheels who was fighting her way back from the brink of financial ruin with kids in tow, I was a sad, poor, single mother who was never going to be able to move out of this rented townhouse. I was turning 40. I had a failed marriage. I was driving a five-year old car and wearing an 11-year old coat. I might as well just raise my kids and go about the business of getting fat on over-processed, pre-packaged baked goods from the Dollar Tree.

Then the Irishman called and said that he was coming over. I told him not to bother. I was tired, I told him. I was a mess, I said. Enjoy your night out with the dudes, I told him, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

He texted 10 minutes later that he was on his way. For possibly the first time, I didn’t want to see him. I just wanted to sit in my living room and cry over my credit report. I called him and said not to come. He said he was already more than halfway and wasn’t going to turn around.

He came in and I explained that it looked like my plan was going to fail. He picked up my credit report. I didn’t stop him. Talk about emptying your shitbag. “Have a look. Feel free to run,” I said.

“I’m not running,” he told me. “I love you. I love your debt. We’re going to figure this out together.” (Is he good people or what?)

So I grabbed my calculator and starting going through my report item by item. It turns out that one line of credit was incorrectly listed twice and that the mortgage wasn’t listed where I thought it would be. In the end, the numbers were exactly what I’d had in mind. I was on the right track.

And then 40 didn’t feel so bad anymore.

I was annoyed with myself that I wavered and let myself fall into the pit. But I guess the important thing is that I course corrected right away.

And that incident stuck in my mind as I was hitting the big milestone birthday. Because the “big O” birthdays make you reassess your entire life. I have always wondered how to measure things — is everything weighted equally from birth until now, or do things in the present day count more? For example, there were some great and some horrible experiences I had years ago. In the past. I feel like they count because they mattered to my life and who I am. But it’s not like I think about them every day.

Then it occurred to me: Life is like a credit report.

There’s a “public records” line on the credit report. It includes the ugly stuff: judgments, liens, foreclosures, bankruptcies. In the credit report of life, what would be on that line? Divorces, deaths, betrayals, firings, feuds and yes, financial ruin, too.

But in life, there should be an equivalent line for the good stuff: children, pets, marriages (even the ones that fail usually start with joy, so yes, they count), true friendships, fulfillment.

Then, eventually, the bad stuff starts to fall off. It matters less. Yeah, it’s still in there — it’s still part of what made your score. But the idea is that eventually there will be enough good to counterbalance the bad. And did you know that’s how you rebuild your credit? You get as much good credit as you can. Maybe that’s how you rebuild a life, too. Fill it up with great stuff and then you can acknowledge and accept the painful things — but they don’t have to haunt you.

I don’t want to allocate lines for houses, cars, jewelry or riding lawnmowers. Are those things nice? Sure they are. But when you’re hitting a milestone birthday, you’re not thinking, “I’m a winner in life because I have granite countertops and a half-acre to mow every weekend!” Instead, you’re looking around at the people at your table. Your family. Your closest friends who have been through everything with you. Your people who will huddle with you in your rented townhouse with the formica and the linoleum and shovel down your mom’s homemade lasagna on a cold winter’s night in January. The people who will sit in the kitchen long after the meal is over and shout funny stories at each other while the scores upon scores upon scores of kids play everywhere (including the steps). That, my friends, is a great birthday.

 

 

Cheating: Can you get away with it?

Marriage is a complicated motherfarker, isn’t it? I mean, first you have to make sure you pick the right person to marry — and there are so many ways to screw that choice up. Then you have to deal with someone else’s quirks and bathroom habits and bodily functions. Then you have to find a way to keep things interesting and exciting so you don’t die of utter fucking boredom from slapping the same ass night after night after night …

I mean, variety is the spice of life, is it not? And were humans really made to be with one single person forever and ever? And aren’t people living much longer than they used to, so hasn’t “forever” gone from 20 years to about 70 years? And besides, doesn’t monogamous rhyme with monotonous?

Let’s face it, people: Marriage can be a sucky place to be sometimes. When the thought of growing old with someone feels more like a life sentence than a joyous privilege, it can feel like we are all doomed.

That’s when it might be tempting to have a look around to see what else — or who else — is out there …

BUT WAIT! Before you do that — before you let yourself get all swept up in the excitement and novelty of someone new, new, new, I beg you to take a moment.

Take a breath.

And listen to me.

I named this blog According to Trish because I didn’t want to give the impression that I had any sort of credibility about anything, but I’ll tell you this: I know a lot about cheating. No, that doesn’t mean I’ve done it myself and I don’t want to get into details about my own marriage or anyone else’s, but let’s just say this: I’ve seen cheating up close and personal more than I can believe. It has changed my world in drastic ways. I hate to admit this, but it has been a real struggle not to become jaded and suspicious about all relationships. It’s something I wrestle with all the time.

I can’t tell you the number of families I’ve seen that have been torn apart in obvious ways (divorce) and in much quieter ways (as in, everyone silently suffers with the misery of what has happened in order to “save the family”) because of infidelity.

Now, lest I give the impression that I’m going to sit here and rip all the cheaters out there a new one, let me say this: I understand how it can happen sometimes. You feel heartbreakingly lonely, misunderstood, unappreciated and hopeless. You crave connection (emotional and/or physical) in a way that starts to almost hurt. Marriage feels like a life sentence. Relationships, especially those that are meant to be life-long, are complicated places.

But cheating can go down in much less complicated ways, too. Sometimes it looks like the equivalent of stuffing one’s face at an all-you-can-eat buffet. That is, the cheater has the attitude of “What was I supposed to do? It was right in front of my face.”

However it occurs, the aftermath is often devastating. Some things to think about:

1. You’re probably going to get caught. Maybe not right away. Maybe you’re one of those particularly talented liars who can manage to keep up a great front at home. Maybe you’re one of those people who has an irregular work schedule that can help mask your absences. Maybe you can crawl out of someone’s bed and then right back into your marital bed without betraying what you did.

But the truth usually demands to be heard one way or another. And remember: Getting away with an affair isn’t as simple as just telling a few pretty little lies to your partner.

There are bear traps set on “cheater” everywhere.  So even if you can lie with a straight face, you’re going to leave a trail. How does that happen? Somebody comments on your Facebook page all the time and your spouse gets suspicious. Somebody texts a little too often or at the wrong time. You all of sudden have a second phone (usually passed off a work thing). Your partner notices that you quickly switch out of your email or facebook page whenever he or she walks into the room.

Once the BS flag goes up and the spouse recon starts, it’s only a matter of time until you’re totally screwed. Because no one … I mean NO ONE is that good at covering their tracks that they can’t be found out within an hour or two of some very low-level snooping. Maybe you deleted all your lover’s emails. But did you remember to delete what’s in your “sent” folder? Do you intercept every credit card statement or does your partner beat you to the mailbox sometimes? Are there any clues in your car, such as receipts or even condoms?

Or maybe it’s more obvious. Maybe you’ve chosen the wrong person to mess around with and he or she just contacts your spouse directly. What would you say then?

Disclaimer: I think everyone is entitled to their privacy. I have always had a thorough anti-snoop policy. But I have come to believe that if someone is betraying you at this level, you have the right to look for verification. You have the right to know if you are being made to live a lie and possibly being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. If you suspect something is going on, I say snoop away.

2. Life as you knew it is OVER. You can’t unring a bell and you can’t unbang a ho.

(That was a gender-neutral ho, btw. Women cheat, too.)

You might get tossed out of your house immediately. But even if you don’t, things will never be the same again.

Because at that point, your spouse feels so hurt and betrayed that he or she probably feels like they’ll never be able to look you in the eye again. Every single thing you’ve ever said or done from the beginning of your existence with that person will be reviewed from the perspective that you are a person who cheats. No single word that you utter will be believed. It will never be taken for granted that you are where you say you are or that that text really came from your friend and not a lover.

If your marriage is able to be “saved,” it’s probably going to be the re-animated Pet Sematary version of what it used to be: Dug up from the dead, somewhat resembling what it used to be but always having a certain underlying stench of mistrust and resentment. I suppose some people, after years of work, can overcome this, but even then I imagine that it would only take the tiniest of triggers to open old wounds.

Maybe you were ready to call it quits anyway. Maybe you’re happy to finally have a reason to pull the trigger. But be warned: Some spouses aren’t willing to let the marriage go even after cheating. He or she may not just let you walk away, even if you were caught red-handed.

3. Say goodbye to your kids. Even if your spouse doesn’t give you shit about seeing the kids, you’re going to see them a whole lot less. You are now a single parent. Pack up the car, because you’ve just joined the secret society of families who meet in the parking lot of Barnes & Nobles to pass off kids in the middle of Thanksgiving day.

From now on whenever you’re out with the kids, people will first notice that only one parent is present and will then look to see if you have a wedding ring on. If you’re a dad, people will either assume that you’re a dickhead or they’ll feel sorry for you and will treat you like a hero for taking your kids to the mall alone. Some will wonder if you’re secretly mean at home, if you cheated, or if it was your wife’s fault. If you’re a mom, people will try to figure out if you were high maintenance, if you didn’t put out enough, or if you were a doormat. Some people will assume you’re a victim and will look at you with such pity that it will make you squirm.

Now you get to find out exactly how much your partner was or wasn’t doing. If you haven’t done these things before, you now have to grocery shop and make sure there’s kid food in the house. You have to cut someone else’s food before you eat, break up fights, pack diaper bags and keep people from running in the streets.You have to give baths. Change sheets. Remember to give medicine. Get up in the middle of the night. There’s no other adult in the house, so if you don’t take the trash out, it’s not going out. If you don’t empty the dishwasher and refill it, your counters are going to be full of dirty dishes.

4. You cheated on your spouse, so you cheated on your kids. I think people don’t realize this. You’re not cheating on one person — you’re cheating on the whole family. By disrespecting your spouse, you’re disrespecting the entire family unit. You just took a dump in the middle of the dining room table during Sunday dinner.

It’s hard to see your kids endure even the momentary pain of getting a shot. That’s nothin’ compared to holding your sobbing child after you tell him or her that mommy and daddy are getting a divorce. You’re going to have to answer hard questions — for years — about what happened and why. You’re going to have to wonder if your spouse will tell your kids what you did.

5. Welcome to the bread line. If it’s hard to run one household in this economy, it’s even harder to run two. You’re either going to feel like you’re paying too much or like you’re not getting paid enough.

6. Your relationship with your lover is probably going to fail. First, let’s be honest: It’s probably not the utopia you think it is. You haven’t test driven this relationship in real life yet. You haven’t wiped butts, pulled weeds or paid bills with this person. You haven’t seen him or her pushed to the point of losing their cool.

Then let’s think about this: How many happily-together, long-term couples do you know who have a story that started like this: “Well, we were both still married when we met so we used to park behind the dumpster of the Best Buy so we could do it in my Pathfinder…” (A married woman I met at a New Year’s Eve party years ago actually told me that she was late to the party because she’d just had a rendezvous with her married lover —  in her Pathfinder behind a dumpster. I don’t even have to make this stuff up.)

You’re starting your relationship with the idea that you’re both OK with a certain level of deception. Maybe it won’t matter for a while. But eventually it’s going to bite you in the ass.

*** A special note: This is for people who knowingly have affairs with married people: You have blood on your hands. (Imagine that I’m saying that in a booming, Wizard of Oz-like voice.)

You are doing nothing less than contributing to the death of a family. Did your lover tell you how horrible things are at home? Did he or she tell you that things are just about over anyway? Clearly, this person is comfortable with lying — after all, he or she is lying to their spouse about you, right? How do you know you’re not also getting a story so the nookie train doesn’t get derailed?

But he/she really loves you, right? You just know it. It’s magical. You’ve never felt like this before. OK, then. Here’s my suggestion: Step away. Tell your lover that you will be happy to continue the relationship after he/she moves out. AND THEN MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN VERIFY THAT THE PERSON HAS MOVED OUT  because people lie about this all the time. Why? It’s hard to pull the trigger to end your primary relationship and many people are cowards. I think a lot of people would rather just continue cheating than to actually go through the mess of a divorce.

Here’s a bonus for insisting the person move out before you continue the relationship: You’re going to find out real quick if this person is feeling any magic toward you.

Well, this was fun, wasn’t it?  I know my last few blogs have been … heavy. But hey, this stuff is real and it’s going on all the time. Maybe we all need to talk about it more.

Would love to hear all of y’alls thoughts on this. Send your comments my way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giant Man-Baby Phenomenon

Good God, people. Divorce is RAMPANT in my world the last few years.

I am one of the happiest divorced people I know and even I’ll tell you this: Divorce sucks more than Jenna Jamison on a comeback tour. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

While there are many reasons for divorce, I keep noticing one all-too-common scenario the past few years. I call it the Giant Man-Baby Phenomenon.

Now I do not think all men are giant man-babies. But I’ve seen enough of them in action to know that they’re not uncommon, either.

So before I describe the man-baby in detail, I’d like to issue a warning. Men: If you see yourself in any of the following descriptors, know that your wife secretly (or maybe not so secretly) hates you at least part of the time. It’s highly likely that she’s joked with her girlfriends that it would be easier if you just died in a freak accident so she could collect the insurance and wouldn’t have to get divorced. Yes, they’ve laughed at your expense.

Sounds harsh, right? I know it does. But I speak the truth. And if this pathetic blog entry can get one man-baby to grow the hell up for the sake of saving his family, then good.

So if you suspect you’re a man-baby, clean up your act, dudes. Because your wife has already had enough of you and in this day and age, very few of you get unlimited chances.

Also, a note to all the men out there who are not man-babies: If you know one of these guys — and you probably do — don’t encourage his pathetic behavior. Warn him that if he continues to treat his marriage like a litter box he’s going to end up 45-years old, sleeping on a friend’s couch with nowhere to go on the holidays. You will be doing him a favor (and also, keeping him from crashing on your couch).

You might be a Giant Man-Baby if:

 

1. You refuse to acknowledge that you no longer live in your room in your parents’ house. You act as if any of the adult responsibilities that come along with life are your wife’s fault and that she is a total drag for suggesting that any of these items enter your world.

Examples: Cleaning out the rain gutters, caulking the shower, wearing a tie when appropriate, or going to family functions. Every time you act like a poorly trained bear that she has to guide through life, she loves you a little less.

Listen, I love the idea of unconditional love but it’s really hard to love someone who’s a lazy ass and who treats you like his personal assistant/mommy/keeper all the time. A woman might still be able to muster up some love for that person, but she sure as hell doesn’t want to live with him.

How to know if you’re this guy: Your partner has removed all responsibility for household chores from you out of frustration that you keep screwing them up. Your one regular task is to take out the trash, which you do not do unless reminded.

*Ladies: A friend once had a man confide to her that he purposely messed up chores so he wouldn’t have to do them anymore. If your partner is clueless, keep in mind that it may be learned helplessness.

 

2. Your wife has to “request” time off. You act like helping with the kids is a massive chore. If your wife wants to go out for an evening, she has to “put in” for time off first and then get your grudging approval.  She never even bothers to ask for a full day.

How to know if you’re this guy: You tell people you have to “babysit” if your wife goes out for a few hours.

 

3. You’re very busy and important. I’ve seen this one happen so many times that it’s almost funny to me now — except that there’s nothing funny about it.

Here’s how this one starts: You’re working more. Or you’re in school. Or you have some other activity that becomes all consuming. The point is, you have something Very Big and Important to do that requires a crushing amount of your time and your focus. Your wife doesn’t love this, but she wants to be supportive. She wants you to be happy and/or she wants you to get ahead in your career, so she deals with it.

At first she waits up for you and saves dinners for you and worries about you if you get home late. She explains your absence at family events and tells everyone how hard you’re working. You get a taste of freedom and you start to use your Big and Important Activity as your ticket to even more time away from the house: another gig, another meeting, a study group, etc. Something always seems to come up, doesn’t it?

Your absences are starting to grate on your wife. She has to attend family events without you. She gets tired of “waiting for daddy” to do family things and starts to go without you: road trips, the beach, amusement parks, etc. She stops saving dinner for you. She gets tired of explaining where you are at family events. Eventually people stop asking.

When you actually are home, the tension is thick because your wife is so pissed at you for leaving her holding the bag with the kids, the house, the errands, the social calendar, your parents, etc. You will begin to see your wife as a humorless hag. You wonder why you don’t have sex all that much anymore. You stay away even more.

How to know if you’re this guy: You get treated like a special guest star if you actually show up at a family event.

And #3 leads directly to #4 …

 

4. You’re cheating. If you’re spending that much time away from your

wife and your family, you’re going to forget that you’re supposed to be faithful.

Keep in mind, you’ll eventually get caught. It might take a while, but it will happen. You’ll beg your wife not to “break up the family.”

However, you’ve already trained her how to live without you, so she may do just that. Plus, if you’re doing a bunch of the other things on this list, she’s not going to see losing you as an actual loss. She knows she can cover the day-to-day stuff just fine. No, she doesn’t know how to fix things around the house, but you don’t, either, and that’s what they make maintenance departments for.

How to know if you’re this guy or if you’re in danger of becoming this guy: You create extra events on your work/school/activity calendar to buy yourself additional time out of the house. You’re at bars with women at inappropriate hours (which would really be any hour if you’re a married man …). You don’t wear your wedding ring. You tell people you’re divorced or that you’re just about to get divorced. You delay mentioning that you have children as long as possible.

 

And there is my list.

I recently read somewhere that marriages that end up in trouble are often skewed heavily to meet one person’s needs over the other person’s. This is one way it can look. I’m sure a man could write a rebuttal to this or even craft a list about what it looks like when the woman calls the shots. If so, please send it to me and I’d be happy to post it here.

And now, with much fear and dread, I press “Publish.” Let the backlash begin.

 

For more on this topic, see the comments below or check out these posts:

 

The Return of the Giant Man-Baby: A dude weighs in

Oops! I Married a Giant Man-Baby. Now What?