Today, I caught myself in what must be a “mid-life” moment.
It’s hard for me to accept that I’m old enough or pathetic enough to fit this stereotype, but there I was chauffeuring my kids around town, daydreaming about my neighbor.
The crazy thing is that I’m not particularly attracted to the guy; I’m just bored and thirty-something–wiped out from a decade of mothering and the complacency of a stable, happy marriage (not to mention wide hormonal fluctuations.)
“Why is that man holding up a stop sign, Mommy?”
An inquiry from the back seat puts me behind the wheel of a mini-van. I press on the brake and chastise myself for the imaginary affair.
How did I become so cliché? I can’t be one of those desperate housewives having mid-life fantasies. (It’s bad enough that I AM a housewife.) I used to be so cool, so original. I went to college in London, backpacked through Europe, ran a restaurant at twenty.
It’s rainy day and a Monday at that, so the boys and I started out early for our “Mommy and Me” dance class downtown. I’d been waiting for years for my youngest to be old enough to enroll in this highlight of the parental week.
Stopping for the road crew at the edge of town ate up some of the extra time so I didn’t even complain when a utility truck passed us, knocking over a traffic cone, and delaying our passage even further.
The construction worker holding up the stop sign assessed the situation without a moment’s hesitation– jogged across the wet road to the fallen cone, kicked it in the air, and with one fell swoop of his work boot, set it back into place.
Wow, I thought. What self-assuredness!
Before he could turn his sign to “Slow,” I was off on another fantasy, hoping that as I drove past, there was actually a decent looking younger man under all that bright yellow gear.
“Mommy, why did that man kick the cone in the air?” comes the question from the backseat, derailing another fantasy.
Although I truly adore my husband, what I miss most in him is the type of competency and confidence. At every turn, I am greeted by his fumbling… buying a used lawnmower that only works once; taken by surprise by meetings, appointments, and events that he wrote on little pieces of paper instead of a calendar; unable to open the refrigerator and come up with something for dinner–beyond hotdogs or ordering pizza.
I know that I should be perfectly pleased with a man who loves me and who helps with the kids and the home, but I still want the cool, smooth stuff.
Is that too much to ask–at my age?
When I really think about it, I used to see my husband like that, only he wasn’t a husband or father then, he was just a guy, like the cone kicker.
I can picture him the morning he arrived at the staff orientation, almost eighteen years ago, and smiled at me, his new boss, across the span of a banquet table filled with new waiters and waitresses.
How he, just shy of twenty, carefully balanced confidence with humility, charm with sincerity, flirtation with tenderness–and thus was the first, in a long line of hopefuls, who knew how to take on my fierce independence–allowing the little girl inside to soak up his love and attention.
Only last night, with a child wedged between us, my cool guy brushed his clunky foot against my shin in a romantic goodnight gesture gone awry–scratching my knee with his jagged toe nail in the process.
“Yuck!” I thought. “Disgusting!”
As I turned away to drift off to sleep, I knew it was over.
In one fell swoop of neglected hygiene, I wanted to wash my hands of him forever.
In the morning, when I awoke to a fresh cup of mint tea and his goodbye kiss, I was a bit more rational. I remembered our days in the restaurant, how he carried a tray full of drinks with ease, and how he handled all of his customers (and now me and the kids) with such kindness and flair.
I’ll try plugging him into my fantasies today.
Kelly Salasin, 2003
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