The week’s Sex Blog Roundup at Fleshbot commends the cats who stay light on their toes, keeping their minds clear and ready for whatever may come their way during the holidays.
Speaking of minds, I need a better frame of mine.
Beginning this weekend, and for the next three weeks, my den of iniquity will be transformed into a cheery bed and breakfast as I host a stream of family members. This means putting away the sex toys, condoms and lube, scouring the tiles and assigning sleeping arrangements that will often find me on the couch. This doesn’t bother me so much; I’m glad to welcome family home for the holidays.
However, it does make me grouchy that every time I say “see you later” to my friends and lovers, I have to add “some time next year.” With so many family obligations, it will be nearly impossible to socialize. Don’t even ask about sex—let’s just say that Rosie and I will be getting reacquainted.
Even that isn’t so bad. I mean, please, the action at my place during the other forty-nine weeks of the year leave me little room to complain about a holiday break. Why, perhaps I’ll even find it . . . refreshing.
What has me in the doldrums are the days I’ll spend with my ex. There’s no way around it: for three solid days, Christmas cheer will be mitigated by her icy stares and frosty words. She will make no special effort to put aside her rage to make the holidays more comfortable for the family. On the contrary, we can all brace for her annual outbursts and tirades, with yours truly joining her mother as a favorite target.
Even that I can stomach. Why, until the other day, I was preparing myself to laugh it off. Really, her hostility is so over the top, and so unwarranted, that it really is kind of funny.
But sometimes, I’m reminded that it’s not so funny at all.
Last night around one, I closed up shop to retire for the evening. The kids were nestled and I had passed a pleasant few hours writing, plotting a threesome, and cruising YouTube for Bing Crosby clips at Madeline’s suggestion.
With bedtime calling, I brushed my teeth as I reflected on my day.
Five minutes later, I was sitting on the toilet trying to calm down.
I had just cussed out Lucy in absentia, but good. My mouth was frothing with toothpaste as I watched myself in the mirror, lip synching an imaginary screaming match with the maniac it was my misfortune to marry.
I had hoped that the time of waking nightmares had passed, but apparently a few remain.
What sparked my sotto voce outburst was the upset of a recent encounter with Lucy and anxious anticipation that the coming weeks promise more of the same.
Jason has just turned thirteen. That’s right: I’ve now got a teenager under my wing, in addition to my distant teenage daughter Rachel.
For his birthday, Jason wanted a sushi dinner with the family. His mother and I arranged to meet at the restaurant he has favored since he was in diapers.
Jason was to arrive with his mother. They showed up late to find me waiting with Collie and Lillie.
I kissed my man and ignored Lucy’s look of evident displeasure at my presence.
We ordered California rolls for Collie, a spider roll for Lillie, and platters of the good stuff for the rest of us. As we waited for the meal, Collie picked up an earlier conversation with his mother. He wanted to talk about leadership.
“So you know how I’m a team leader in class?” he began. “What’s so hard is that when you are a leader, you have to listen to so many people. Everybody has to have a turn to talk.”
“I know!” Lucy agreed. “And it doesn’t matter whether what they say is smart or dumb. You have to listen and nod . . .”
“Exactly!” Collie said. “It’s so frustrating because you can be thinking ‘this doesn’t make sense, this is dumb,’ but you just have to wait and listen.”
“Well, you can also paraphrase,” Jason noted. “You know, that can help to summarize and make people get to the point.”
“What’s ‘para’ . . . ?” Collie asked.
“’Paraphrase,’” Jason repeated. “That’s when you repeat what someone else says, but in your own words.”
As the boys discussed leadership skills, their younger sister sat between them, listening but not quite following. She smiled blankly.
I was impressed by the quality of this conversation between two fine young men.
Evidently, so was Lucy.
“You know,” she leaned to me. “Lillie’s just not going to be as smart as the boys. She’s just not.”
I was taken aback. “Well,” I stammered. “She’ll always have her looks.”
Lucy raised a menu to her face so that the children could not read her lips. “No, really, I’m serious—she’s just not going to test as well. It’s a problem.”
“Hmmmm.” I sipped my beer to buy a moment. I changed the subject by asking Collie a question. Lucy joined in the boys’ conversation.
I smiled at Lillie.
Her seven-year-old face was frozen in a thought that she will one day articulate as what the fuck?
Of course she had heard the conversation. It was a small table. Even when hiding her lips, Lillie’s mother hadn’t bothered to lower her voice.
I regretted making a joke of Lucy’s comment, but I was at a loss for what to say. I only knew that it was an extraordinarily inappropriate comment to make about someone in her presence, much less if that person happens to be your child.
The comment was so outrageous that it needed to vanish. It needed to go back to whatever place spawned it and reconsider the possibility of its birth. I could not allow the comment to enter into conversation, even if only to refute it.
We simply could not have that conversation in this context.
Thankfully, the sushi arrived moments later.
What baffled me about Lucy’s comment is that it was so unwarranted. Lillie is a bright, precocious child. No one—no teacher, no family member, no one—has ever suggested that Lillie would fare any differently than the boys in school, or in any other facet of life.
I once heard someone say that if you raise a girl after having had boys, then it doesn’t matter how smart the boys are—you will realize they’re retarded.
That’s an old parenting joke, but I will say that once Lillie came along, we realized that the boys had completely ignored toys that were then newly infused with rich lives and multifaceted relationships by a girl who saw that everything is connected to everything else.
Still, if you had asked me which of my four children might possibly be the least mentally acute, I could only stare at you blankly. They are all very bright kids.
Forget how rude it was for Lucy to say such a thing. Where on earth did she get such a notion?
A little later, Collie proposed a toast “ to Jason and puberty.”
Lucy laughed and echoed, “To the first teenager.”
“Well, the second,” Jason said, holding his glass aloft. “Technically, Rachel is the first teenager.”
“Yeah,” Lillie chimed. “Rachel is our sister.”
“Your half sister,” Lucy corrected. “Let’s hope Jason turns out better.”
Collie looked at me and shrugged.
“We should all be so great and courteous as Rachel,” I said, a little pointedly.
“Yeah, you did a fine job on that one,” Lucy sneered. She sipped her beer and returned to her conversation with the boys.
If she had been anyone else, I might’ve called her to the alley for a fight.
How on earth could she find fault with Rachel? Assuming she could, why would any of those faults be attributed to me? Rachel was raised by her mother and stepfather, and Lucy had also been an adult in her life. I was in no special position to influence her for ill. My primary advantage in my relationship with Rachel was biological, and because I am her father, my daughter had always seen Lucy as a member of her family.
Then I realized the trait shared by both Lillie and Rachel.
They are girls.
I flashed on Lucy’s consistently argumentative relationship with her own mother.
Holy fuck, I thought.
If my life were a movie directed by Luis Buñuel, at that moment hooded terrorists would have stormed the restaurant, machine guns blaring. Patrons would have scrambled for cover as bullets pocked the walls overhead. The children and I would have sat unperturbed and quietly eating while beside us, Lucy’s body twitched with the impact of uncounted bullets.
In the next scene, Lucy would be fine. There were no terrorists. She would sit as before, talking and laughing with our boys, sure in the knowledge that her daughter, like my elder daughter, would never measure up.
After dinner, we said goodbye to Lucy. The kids and I began to walk home.
“Hey, Dad,” Lillie asked. “You want to hear a joke?”
“Sure, let’s hear a joke,” I smiled.
Lillie stopped and reached into her pocket. She pulled out a carefully folded Post-It Note. On the outside, she had written the word “joke.” She opened the note and read aloud.
“What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence?”
“I don’t know. What time is it?”
“Time to get a new fence,” she laughed. “Get it?”
“I sure do, smart girl. That’s funny!”
That night, as my mind screamed at Lucy, I told her that this was it. Three years after the separation, we are finished. I had once hoped we could be friends again. But now, I’m biding my time. We have to raise these brilliant kids, but once we are done, you can go fuck yourself, you sorry, sick shit.
You don’t get to abuse them the way you did me.
I didn’t want to go to bed furious, so I returned to Bing. He brought out . . . well, you know who.
It was positively therapeutic.
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