I don’t often answer my phone. When it rings, I look at it. If it’s a caller I don’t know, I hit silence and go about my business. If it is someone I do know I make a conscious choice to talk or ignore them.
At times during my divorce proceedings, my lawyer was among those I chose not to talk to. If I was the least bit anxious, his calls went to voicemail. When he called on the day of my ex’s deposition I almost hit silence. My ex is such a skilled liar, I had images of him convincing my attorney that I was a terrible person who deserves no representation. Despite my reservations, I answered the phone. My lawyers first words to me were “this isn’t going to happen but honestly, I feel like I should pay you, this deposition is hilarious”. This was the first time in months anything positive came out of his mouth, so I waited for him to expound, which he did. In spades.
He started by saying he wasn’t sure how long he could talk, they were on a “break” because my ex had stormed out of the room, for the second time. He went on to tell me some of the less offensive responses made by my ex, statements like “she’s not really sick” and “I never took money from the business”. These were statements easily proven by us, so my lawyer did not dwell on them.
Instead, he went in for some of the really interesting tidbits of information. He asked my ex if he’d ever had an affair. Absolutely not, my ex answered. Then my attorney asked him how he placed his work orders. On the work phone or his cell phone, my ex answered. Then my attorney asked him how many cell phones he had. According to my lawyer, my ex literally rolled his eyes as he answered “one”. The first beads of sweat erupted when my attorney put in front of him the receipts for the tracphones he used. My ex looked at the receipts, the irrefutable truth of his lie, and stormed out of the conference room.
His attorney looked a the receipts, excused himself and left to find my ex. They were gone for about 10 minutes and, when they returned, my ex was sweatier than before. He stated that the tracphones were from a long time ago, when he had rekindled a relationship from high school. My ex claimed nothing had ever “happened”, they had only talked on the phone and met a few times during the day, and it was a brief, innocent relationship. Nothing more, and absolutely there had been no one else.
My attorney picked up the receipts and pulled out one in particular. He pointed to the date and said “what is the date for these two 60 minute calling cards?”. This was when my ex started sweating buckets. The date on this receipt was the day we had met with my gynecological surgeon, when we learned I had an advanced stage of ovarian cancer, and chemo would follow extensive surgery. That very same day my ex purchased two 60 minute tracfone cards. This was not within the timeframe of the innocent relationship he had admitted to. He was now sweating buckets.
Using the name of the girl my ex had provided, my attorney asked if this was who the calling cards were for. Before my ex could answer he put on the table the picture of my ex’s mistress – the picture I had printed from my ex’s work computer. Next to the picture he placed the receipt for the flowers my ex had sent her the day after asking for a divorce, and claiming there was no one else. “Who is this girl” asked my attorney. “Is she the girl with which you had this innocent relationship?” This was when my ex stormed out again, and when my attorney called, coining the phrase Sweaty McSweaterson.
My attorney is a well known divorce attorney in our area. He had been practicing divorce and family law for about 15 years when I hired him. By the time he got to this deposition he’d added two more years of practice to his resume. Never, he said, in all of his years of practice, had he deposed a person who lied so much he was soaking wet by his own perspiration. He reminded me that I would have to pay for his time, and perhaps a bill would be written to reimburse him for the damage my ex’s sweat made to his conference room chair – a bill he assured me would be sent to my ex, not me. He then chuckled again, said “damn – Sweaty McSweaterson”. At that moment my ex and his attorney reentered the room and my attorney hung up.
I never asked anything else about that deposition. I still struggle to reconcile my feelings regarding that day. Part of me, the part convinced that all of our problems were my fault, had been certain nothing would come out at the deposition. I was so familiar, so comfortable, with this part of myself that I wasn’t really sure what to do with the side of me that had just been vindicated.
I shared this with my closest family members, and I claimed to feel fabulous that we had proved he was a cheating scumbag. And part of me did feel fabulous. But part of me did not, and does not, feel all that great about this. After all, it was I that stayed with this psychopath for over 20 years. It was I that allowed him to lie and cheat his way through our lives, taking responsibility for every woe that befell us, that befell me. I had done that. I fed the monster.
In what is the ultimate paradox of my life with my ex, it was easier, more comfortable, safer, to accept his lies and cheating than stand up for myself. It was easier for me to tell myself the problem was mine, not his. Because if the problem was me, I could control it. If our ills were the result of my behavior, I was not a victim, I was a perpetrator.
By definition, a victim is to be pitied. A victim is a sucker, a patsy, a loser, a fool. It turns out that for 20 years I decided I’d rather be guilty of being an abusive wife than admit I was a fool.
I think of this often now, when people suggest it’s time I “get back out there”. Me, the woman who found it more acceptable to be an emasculating, horrid bitch rather than a victim of abuse………Me, the woman who had to battle a lethal cancer to face the fact that she’d been a stooge for years……..Me, the woman who continued to have sex with the man she believed was a cheating scumbag to make sure he didn’t leave her….. Me, the woman who was surprised with the request for a divorce, 7 days after she’d foiled her ex’s ability to see his mistress by inviting herself on their date.
How does this woman get back out there?
Yes, the visual of Sweaty McSweaterson validated all I’ve come to hold true – that he was a cheating, lying piece of shit, and I was his victim. Unfortunately, that knowledge is lost in translation. The unveiling of his transgressions does not change me.
I sit at my kitchen window while I write. I have several bird feeders. I have a finch feeder, filled with brilliant yellow and black finches. I have a song bird feeder which, when not occupied by squirrels, is covered with cardinals. And I have a hummingbird feeder. Even though I cleaned the hummingbird feeder regularly, replacing the nectar with a fresh batch, I’d never gotten much action from these tiny creatures. Occasionally I’d catch a glimpse of one sidling up to the feeder, eyeing it over then scooching away, dissatisfied with its offering. Last week I decided to try a new nectar and, as of today, I have 3 hummingbirds regularly feasting in my front yard. Perhaps more – it’s difficult to tell hummingbirds apart; they all look the same! These delicate little creatures were smart enough to know that what I was offering would do them no good. It wasn’t until I offered them something better, something completely different, that they gave my feeder a try, and decided to stick with it.
I’d love to think I’m like these little hummingbirds, able to discern substandard sustenance and fly away. How am I to trust that this is the case, when in the past I settled for Sweaty McSweaterson? When not only did I settle for Sweaty McSweaterson, I defended him. I accepted his assertions that I was to blame, and survived on the toxic life he gave me.
As much as I’d like to believe I’ve become the hummingbird, partaking of only what is best for me, I suspect I am still the scavenging, feckless squirrel, living off of scraps discarded by others, waiting for Sweaty ScSweaterson Jr. to sweep me off my feet.
So I think I’ll stay put at my kitchen window, living vicariously through the animals I feed. Seems a much smarter move.
And perhaps I’ll expand on the Tractor: take a stab at fiction. That might be fun.