I once read a Maya Angelou book that I loved into worn and dog eared pages. It was weighted with the pleasures of words that resounded deeply in the wistful and angsty corners of my heart. The most profound (to me) thought she shared was on jealousy.
“Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening”
The beauty of online dating is the ability to hide certain details like where exactly I live and work. That’s the benefit of hiding behind a keyboard. I let potential suitors know I’m available when custody shifts to their capable Dad, and I usually have a couple of offers lined up for Wednesday because that’s my first kid free opportunity. Last week and again this week, I was asked to meet at the California Pizza Kitchen in Burbank. I work in Burbank and that seems to be the solid choice because it’s across from Ikea and everyone seems to know how to get there.
For years it was our place. My ex and I went there for date nights, and we shared many family meals there. I went there last week with a lanky guitarist/skateboarder and learned from the staff that still remembers me that it’s still my ex’s favorite place with the new woman in his life. I was surrounded by scent memories and nostalgia in a restaurant that has slowly shifted into something new and trendy in shades of my favorite colors.
My date probably had first date nerves, but I wasn’t so into him that sharing a first meal with him mattered to me. He relaxed into the evening when he realized I really don’t bite. He had yet to impress upon me the benefit of his presence. As cocky as that sounds, I am picky. I’m on four dating sites, and have swiped left enough times that I’ve exhausted both Clover and Bumble’s list of potentials because I’ve narrowed my criteria and rejected as many as they had for me. I like a clean shave because that’s a preference. I like fair skin and light eyes with a solid jawline. At the end of the day, he has to be doing better in life than I am, and not feel like dating is the same as a sex interview and that’s where they tend to crash and burn. I’m very interested in not having to take care of anyone else, and I refuse to date younger men. As of right now, I have 237 likes on Clover in the past 3 days and 90% of them are still in their 20’s. It’s a cougar’s market.
“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.”
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I’m meeting someone else at that same restaurant this week. I hear his insecurities when he brings up my ex. He wants to compare and contrast but that’s not a game I’m interested in. I can hear his need when he tells me how carefree my smile is and that I have a magnetic charm he has wanted to get to know for some time and then he talks about his insomnia. He thinks he needs what I have but I don’t know how to share it. It’s who I am. He’s a bit jealous of the ex and I don’t think he can tell I don’t care to see that.
I have jealous moments, but it’s not for the man my (still) husband has become, but the life we used to have. It’s gone. We’ve both changed too much for that history to become a future. I have moments in the bustle of a busy restaurant with friendly smiles and fresh yeasty bread with a crackling crust and the aroma of fresh pizza sauce that catch me by surprise in memories of spilled soda and laughter and even a bit of hand holding when we shared each other’s rings. I’m sometimes jealous for the life we shared before this last year changed who I am and forced choices I never imagined I would have to make. I’m no longer jealous of the woman that called me a horrible mother, an ugly woman and that I deserve how my husband treated me as she spent long nights and days texting my husband and sharing family moments with her children and mine in restaurants and at their workplace, replacing me at my children’s birthday parties that are now separate celebrations. I’m no longer jealous of the in laws that treat her like family and told me I was no longer family because I was thrown away. I was thrown away.
I think of the ignorance and joy of a life as a wife that never imagined a “what if” or “when . . . I will” because I once had a marriage that didn’t have a contingency plan. Our future was camping trips and growing old together and it doesn’t look like that anymore. I’m jealous of the certainty of that.