I first posted here four months ago. I offered some tripe about "whining" and I want to take it back and say that I've learned a lot here.
Here is a story:
When I was in college, I met a woman and we got to be friends. We started spending more and more time together and soon enough, hormones grabbed the reins and we started screwing. We didn't really "date" because we were both students of modest means. I wasn't really thinking about where things were going until one day, out of the blue, she mentions she has a child. I was stunned. It helps to understand that I was something of a hippie back then. I thought this was a perfect time to show how "modern" and "enlightened" I was so I said this was cool. The fact that she was also married came to light soon afterwards. Of course their marriage was failing and their divorce would be final any day. I wanted to believe it was true and she wanted me to believe that she believed it was true so we got along just fine. Usually this story is told with the genders reversed but it works both ways I can tell you. I was thinking with my groin but even now, in my forties, with my waning libido, I still think she was the hottest piece of ass there ever was and I cut my younger self some slack.
The next few elements of this story come in pretty rapid succession. It is easy to look back on it and see the point where I should have walked away and not looked back but when it was happening, that point was not at all obvious.
I thought it was kind of cool dating a married chick. I thought I was "sticking it to the establishment" in my own way. I pictured her husband as a lout who deserved what was happening to him. I was young and I was an idiot. I decided I didn't care about her being married and I didn't mind living at her convenience so as not to complicate the ongoing dissolution of her marriage. I decided it worked in my favor to go along with her game.
The next thing was that I met the woman's little girl. I found out that you get attached to little kids and they get attached to you, very quickly. That little toddler would bring me the diaper bag when she was ready for a change. She would snuggle up to me as she slept and wake me up in the morning bouncing playfully on my chest. This was another place where I thought I was being Mr. Sensitive, New-Age Guy. I wanted to impress the woman with my "co-parenting" skills and I wound up getting very attached to a kid that wasn't mine. Any ideas of this being a "no expectations, nobody gets hurt" kind of relationship were long gone. I thought this was the real deal.
The next thing that happened was that I began to see different sides to this woman's personality. We had always been very respectful and considerate of each other until one morning she called me and told me the trip we were planning was off (non-refundable tickets already paid for etc.) She wasn't angry. She wasn't even upset. In fact she was laughing, like it was a big joke to her that I ever thought we were really going. After our first real argument, the trip was back on but she had established that any relationship we had would be on her terms. I found out later that she gotten together with some of her girlfriends and they had convinced her to "take charge." It was a lesson that has stuck with me ever since: a woman's girlfriends are her sacred council. Women exchange intimate details of each other's lives at every opportunity. If a woman does something completely out of character, chances are she's been to see the coven. These might be people you have never met but they know all about you and they have opinions about you.
The trip went ahead but things were never the same with us after that first argument. It was on this trip that she told me she was "late." You know, "late." We had been going at it like bunnies and using birth control in that haphazard way of young idiots. Yes, she was pregnant. Things start happening even faster here. If I could open a window in time and yell back to myself at this point, I honestly wouldn't know what to say. It would be like yelling advice to someone as they speed past in a burning car toward a cliff. I think I would just watch in grim fascination to see what the poor bastard (me) was going to do.
In those progressive public schools of the early 80's, I had been taught that pregnancy is a venereal disease that will destroy your future. I did not react with joy at the news of my impending fatherhood. I moped and sulked and wondered what we were going to do. She was insulted by this. She compared me to her husband who had swung her around in a joyous hug and bought her flowers when she told him of their child (before they were married.) I found that annoying and so we spiraled down in our dealings with each other. She called me one afternoon and said she had been to the doctor. I knew this was to be her first prenatal visit and I was excited to hear the news. She said she was not pregnant.
I was confused. I had gotten past the denial phase. She had been barfing for several days, her abdomen was beginning to swell, her period was 40 days late. She went on talking about what a relief it was and how we should get together to celebrate but there was something in her voice that didn't sound right. I asked her flat out and she told me she had had an abortion.
The conversation took a nasty turn here as she informed me that she had only had the abortion because of the way I was acting. I can remember sitting alone that night with a bottle of tequila, wondering how I had gotten so old so suddenly. I was 24 and I knew that I would never be able to smile or laugh again without thinking that a tiny, innocent child was dead because of me.
We drifted apart after that but it was not a clean break. She could still use her child to get to me. She'd show up with her little girl and ask did I want to take a walk in the park and we would have fun together. She would call me up late at night and say her daughter was with a babysitter and could she come over and show me her new purchase from Victoria's Secret and yes, we'd screw our brains out. I tried to focus on other things and get her out of my life but my life was miserable then. I was trying to finish school. I had no social life at all and I felt like a failure and a bad person most of the time. She called me up after one of our "reconciliations" and said she thought she was pregnant. I sat with a gun to my head for a long, long time and only the most primitive instinct for self-preservation kept me from leaving a mess for my landlord. She called me a week later and said she was not pregnant. I knew better than to breathe a sigh of relief. She called a few days later and said she felt guilty for not telling me she had had another abortion.
I dropped out of school for a while. I spent my days walking around because it kept me from thinking constantly about ending my life. I would walk across bridges, wondering if they were high enough to ensure a quick and relatively painless death so I started walking my neighbor's dog because I knew I wouldn't commit suicide and leave the dog. I held on to life by a fingernail and gradually began to heal.
I eventually went back to school and eventually let my brother set me up with one of his co-workers. She was nice enough and little by little, life became more normal.
Today, I am in a crappy marriage with that woman who saved my life without even knowing it. I will be staying with it until I am dead because leaving my wife, or letting her run me out, would leave my kids without a father. A random string of men would parade through the home I helped build and they would treat my kids just like what they would be: someone else's. My life would spiral into the gutter because I would no longer give a shit about anything; everything I do I do for my kids, they are my whole world and I don't give a rat's ass what anybody thinks of that.
I don't have the slightest idea what I will do once the kids are grown and off on their own. I really don't