I was just talking with a girlfriend about the spaces we need. I don’t have many girlfriends. Having more than one female friend is a new area of growth for me, and even then I don’t call the ones I rely on. I see them when I see them and open up completely when I do. There are a few amazing exceptions, but for most of my life, I have had a hard time making a connection with other women. I’ve heard people say that women are too full of drama but that’s not my cop out. I was never all that girly and that lack of girliness was obvious and uncomfortable. My loaner and somewhat Tomboy side is my weakness and my strength.
I’m not into purses and shoes, but I love hand me downs from my sisters because they come from my sisters. I get my retail therapy in grocery stores because I love food. I hate clothes shopping. It’s necessary at times. I get that, and I will shop but I hate it. In high school I wore a 36DDD bra. At my largest I was wearing a 40G. I’m not a fan of looking for clothes that I love and can never wear. I play in makeup sometimes, but I’m not an artist. It doesn’t always occur to me to wait for someone to walk around a car and open the door for me because I can do it myself. I still don’t know my way around a curling iron and only got the hang of a straightening iron in recent years. In Junior High one of my great (male) friends named me “Lion Lady” and he loved to pull my puffy mass around my face. (I didn’t mind. It was better than being called Chewbacca for the same reason when I was younger.)
I had a friend right after high school that always wanted to hang out and I loved nights when all I planned to do was stay home and do laundry. She wanted to be attached even then and her need for connection ended a friendship I couldn’t appreciate. Most of my friends at that time were guys. We hung out and drank together. This was my pizza and beer crew. We hit night clubs together.
I watched my male friends in their relationships. Part of it was the maturity level we were at, but they needed space at times. They were ready to romance their girlfriends and hook up with others in between, but they needed their time with the boys where they could claim their brotherhood meant more than whoever they were playing with that night. I’ll spare you the phrases that rang loudest while they were pounding beers and smoking cigars and cigarettes. They needed space to reset. I understood that. They were gaming on a console or balling on the courts. They were street racing their rice rockets. It was a thing. This was their reset.
When the ex wanted to go out with friends and paintball all weekend, I got it. When he wanted to go on concert tours for his rap music, it was okay. He was chasing his dreams. When he wanted to go deep sea fishing all weekend, I remembered to wash his fishing clothes separately so we didn’t all have to smell like fish guts and sunscreen. He needed to reset with the boys and I understood it and didn’t complain. My job as mom was to be with my kids. That was how I usually felt. It was the life I accepted.
I had my impressions of what a mother was from Joan Cleaver but more so from my own parents. They were usually hard at work or sacrificing for our family. Dad took a road trip across America and that was when Mom decided she was done. Their divorce was final the same month I turned 18. I have never even seen either of my parents drunk or high. Dad used to smoke pipe tobacco. It was cherry vanilla, but they were the example of family first that I grew up with. My adolescence had a reality check and rude awakening once I became a parent. I couldn’t do what I wanted to, and I felt I was supposed to want to be a stay at home mom. When I found out about my ex’s first girlfriend after we got married, I decided I needed to finish my schooling. I needed something that was mine and had nothing to do with being wife, mom, daughter, or sister. I needed something that was selfish and all about me.
After one of my last finals at Glendale Community College, I was planning on meeting a friend and his girlfriend at a local bar. He was one of those guys I used to hang out with. I was one of the guys to him and one summer he picked me up after work every day and we would stay for a while at Manhattan Beach where he was learning to body surf and I was soaking in the sun. We’d go through an 18 pack at my place and he’d fall asleep on the couch. I covered him with a blanket and he called me mom. That evening it was just hanging out for drinks at a local dive bar. It was really one drink. I ordered a Cape Cod that was too strong and slowly nursed it, begging my ice to melt and sucking on my lime wedge. I ordered a second one I couldn’t finish. My ex insisted on taking me and we didn’t have a sitter so he waited in the family van right outside with our kids while I had a drink in a bar. We had been married around 4 or 5 years at this point and I had learned by then that going out wasn’t always worth it in the end, but I really missed my friend. As a wife, eventually going to Target or the grocery store meant he would call me around an hour after I left to make sure I was okay and coming home soon because the kids were being kids and he needed help. Then I would get home and usually unload and put all the groceries away myself.
Now we have shared custody. My time alone starts tomorrow after they leave for school. I’ll have a five day stretch to do whatever strikes me as fun. I’m thinking of heading to the beach in jeans with a sweater because I expect it to be cool. I’ll watch waves and pack a lunch. I may take the streets there and back. I’ll come home and taste the burn of alcohol and I won’t worry if I’ve had too much to drink or acted too drunk. I’ll put on loud music and probably dance in my underwear while drunk because that sounds really fun right now, but my kids are home and I will not stress them out with my need for freedom. I’ll watch bad television and read mediocre prose with a good storyline.
I like these spaces. I don’t want to give these spaces up. These spaces make going solo on expeditions my first choice and dating is not an option if I want to keep these spaces as my own. These spaces help me see the abuse in the spaces I didn’t have. Even if checking on me was framed as needing help, it was control that was taken from me. These five days are mine. I’m eager for the chance to kick the joy into them.