Love and life on the rebound
As a newly divorced man, I was warned about the classic “rebound” relationship, one that shortly follows the ending of a previous one. Rebounders are supposedly needy, distressed, emotionally unavailable and lacking the capacity to make good decisions about a partner. This not only describes me, but also most men I know in Los Angeles.
Still, I set out one night for a Jewish singles event called Opera Under the Stars. Granted, I’m not a huge opera fan, nor am I a big stars nut, but it sounded classy and romantic. The event’s producer took over the backyard of a Brentwood home, brought in a tenor and soprano to sing arias, served cheese, crackers and wine at intermission, took our $30 admission charge and wished us luck.
Luck appeared at intermission in the person of Amy, who I immediately found to be intelligent, attractive, funny, Jewish, available and, most important, interested in me.
The greatest benefit of an exciting new relationship? As any divorced man knows, it’s going from a situation of no/infrequent sex to one where you’re suddenly with someone who actually wants to have frequent/enthusiastic sex with you.
The abundant sex can also, of course, cloud one’s vision, especially in conjunction with the aforementioned rebounder traits and those rose-hued glasses, which make it that much more challenging to see red flags directly in one’s path. And so when Amy suggested that I give up my writing aspirations and return to school to learn a trade, I said nothing.
Nor did I object one day when, during our walk through an outdoor mall in Santa Monica, Amy looked around at our fellow mall-goers and disparagingly referred to them as “shleppers,” a Yiddish term defined variously as inept, stupid, ill-dressed, sloppy in habits, an annoying person who always wants a bargain. It struck me as a rude, snobbish and judgmental thing to say.
As the relationship developed, I kept my mouth shut about many of these kinds of things. I didn’t want to rock the girlfriend boat and preferred focusing on the things that were good — and there were good things, to be fair. Amy said to me on more than one occasion, “You’re the man I’ve been searching for my whole life.” That, at the time, compensated for the insensitivities from “La Princessa,” which is how Amy referred to herself.
My greatest regret about not speaking up was when my children invited me to a Passover seder at their mom’s place. A little back story: Although Amy was also divorced, she had no children. She didn’t, in fact, seem all that taken with children and was not especially eager to spend time with mine. She would even complain that on the nights I was having dinner with my children, she had to be eating all alone. By all this, did Amy expect me to ignore my kids? Or just feel guilty about her being alone?
In any case, Amy made it clear that if I accepted that invitation rather than joining her family’s seder, she would perceive it as a sign that I would be putting her in second place — and our relationship would be over. I joined Amy at her family’s seder and, to this day, regret that decision.
Any man with just a bit of gumption and self-respect would have realized what was happening and walked away. But this is me, a guy whose gumption was hidden behind his rebound relationship, his newfound sexual activity and his rose-colored glasses.
The wake-up call I so desperately needed finally came from, oddly enough, Amy herself. She walked away.
I came home from work one day to find all her clothing removed from my closet. That was how she chose to tell me it was over. She was unreachable until I got her on the phone four days later. She’d decided to break things off because I put my kids before her and because of my refusal to give up the life of a writer and return to school to learn a trade. She said that each of her sisters was married to a doctor and living in a big house in the San Fernando Valley, and she realized she’d never have that with me.
And why she couldn’t break up to my face? “It would have been too uncomfortable for me.”
If it sounds like I’m bitter or resentful, far from it. In fact, I’m grateful to La Princessa for helping me get my head straight about priorities in life and love. Now I speak up a lot more and am clear about my kids’ being my first priority, always. And I wear those rose-colored glasses far less frequently. Oh, and I keep writing. That is, when I’m not hanging out with shleppers.
MARK MILLER, a former Jewish Journal dating columnist, has been a writer-producer on numerous TV sitcoms. His first book is a collection of humor essays, “500 Dates: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars.”
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