I met my ex-husband’s girlfriend for the first time a few weeks ago at my daughter’s baby shower – a shower that I hosted for 42 of my friends and family. Dinner and a show. No pressure.
In the weeks leading up to the shower, I might have overthought the situation. It’s in the ex-wife job description. Knowing this episode of “When Worlds Collide” was getting ready to go into production, my head and heart began to play ping-pong. I didn’t feel thin enough, blonde enough, funny enough or anything enough to play a leading role. Who was she? And what would she think of me?
I’d been vowing since November to lose the extra 10 lbs I’d carried since summer. Unfortunately, the more I thought about losing weight and meeting his girlfriend, the more Hershey Kisses I grabbed from the kitchen pantry every time I passed by. Personal best, 13. My palms are small, but I have extremely long fingers. That’s the secret, really. The secret to gaining five more pounds.
When I went to sleep at night I wondered what he had told her about me. Was he kind? Was he brutal? Was he honest? Was he brutally honest? I’m not sure why but I craved her approval, her respect. But, I didn’t know what picture he had painted of me inside her head and heart. Would she want the worst for me? Would I be able to see his version of me in her eyes? In her voice? Would there be gloating? I hate gloating.
All of this angst was a reminder that, at least for him, I wasn’t enough. That “we” weren’t enough and would never, ever be enough. ‘Til death do us part. There had been nothing we could do to control the unraveling.
Someone pulled the thread and no one knew how to tie a knot. And we just kept pulling.
The gaping, ragged hole that remained left me feeling, well, less than enough.
And when I didn’t feel enough, I put pressure on myself to be and look like someone I wasn’t. And a small part of me wanted to one-up her. Show him what he was missing. I’m not a saint. The thoughts cycled through me during the day like bad Mexican. Lose weight, lighten the hair, spend money on some ridiculous outfit. Be some form of fake fabulous. To try to impress someone I didn’t even know. To make myself feel better about who I was. To attempt to make her feel worse about who she was. I was worried about all of this shallow, self-defeating, embarrassing, cliche bullshit – and I knew I was above that most days. I’m a nice person. At least that’s what the Hershey Kisses told me as they melted in my nervous little hand.
Then his girlfriend entered my thoughts, and I wondered what it was like to be her. I let her live inside me for awhile. I began to feel deeply for this woman, walking into our old world, overflowing with 26 years of children, friends and family. So much “ours” would be inside those four safari-themed baby shower walls.
The only thing of hers in that room would be him.
Was she obsessing about her hair or her weight? Was she at home hurling outfits on the floor in fits of not enough? The thought of that tore at my heart. I hoped she wasn’t going through that. It’s not a pleasant place to be. My hole began to fill. I suddenly didn’t care about how I looked or what I wore. I didn’t want to be someone I wasn’t or try to out-blonde her. I just wanted his girlfriend to feel like enough in this shower of ours.
When they walked in the door, the celebration was in full motion. My heart raced. I took a long, large gulp of wine. I studied them from across the room for a moment as he introduced her to someone of ours. I saw how she made him happy, how she hung on his every word and covered his essence with her smiles. There was an intimacy there when they looked at each other. Two people in love. It didn’t matter what she wore and I didn’t pay attention to her hair. I just wanted to meet her, get to know her. My kids were fond of her, and I hoped to be fond of her as well. I watched as ours turned to shades of gray, becoming theirs as well. And with that, I walked over, took a deep breath and gave her a big hug.
She slapped me. (Not really, though that would make a much better story. Isn’t that how TV portrays it, two women scratching each other’s eyes out?) Neither of us is better, we’re just different. And that’s what makes her right for him, and not me. And that’s okay.
In reality, we held each other tightly, perhaps a second longer than we should have. Two women holding on while their insecurities melted away. When we pulled apart I told her how excited I was to finally meet her. And, I truly meant it. We clasped hands, smiled, and took each other in. And together, we were enough.