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Annoying windowshield

January 29, 2013

A commenter took exception to my last post.

You’re transparent. You hate the way he sits in a car? Please. You’re just going to do the exact same thing with somebody else. I’ve never met you, but your life-path is as obvious as an impending train-wreck.

Oh dear.

So last summer I went to pick my ex-husband and the kids up to drive them to the airport, because he had asked me to, and because I (selfishly) figured it would accrue good airport-driving karma. If it’s too late or too early to impose on a friend, and if I am coming back from somewhere with the kids, it would be nice to be able to ask my ex-husband to pick us up or drop us off. Doing him a favor first would make it easier to ask for a favor, and I didn’t mind. So I got up before dawn on a Saturday and drove over to collect him and the kids.

When I got to his house, the cottage formerly known as Dream, the kids were outside. So were the suitcases. We loaded them into the back of the station wagon. The kids were giddy, happy to see me, happy to be going to California to visit their cousins and grandmother. We got into the car, leaving the front passenger seat vacant, and waited.

Eventually my ex-husband came out and got into the car.

It wasn’t just that we were in one of the marital cars, one we’d ridden in together a million times. It wasn’t just that he was six inches away from me in an enclosed space. It wasn’t just that the kids were there, and it wasn’t just that I was a tiny bit miffed (petty of me, I know) that he hadn’t come out to help us load the suitcases. It wasn’t just that he made us wait after telling me the time we needed to leave. It was the way he got right in and stared straight ahead without saying hello or thank you or good morning or anything at all. It was the way the kids chattered to me in the back seat–to us, really–and I was the only one who chattered back, as my ex-husband stared straight ahead through the windshield, not responding to anything, not speaking, not taking part. It was the way it felt totally familiar, because here we were, the four of us, in the car, and it was exactly like when we were still a family! But we weren’t, and I had come to realize that a family in which the father sits and stares and does not speak is not the kind of family I particularly want.

Driving next to my ex-husband, as he sat there like a bump on a log, made my skin crawl. I don’t care how amicable your divorce was (and ours was not particularly amicable)–sitting next to your ex in a tiny cocoon, a tiny cocoon you sat happily in while married, is bound to provoke distress. It is almost like climbing into bed together–chastely, mind you–and lying side by side, the way you used to without thinking, and then trying, in your new divorced state, to fall asleep.

Maybe the fault is entirely mine. Maybe when you leave someone you forfeit the right to feel that he is bugging the shit out of you as he sits there without even acknowledging your presence as you drive him to the airport in your car. Maybe you don’t deserve even to think, Huh, if I were the one getting driven, I would make a small effort towards cheerful conversation. And maybe you don’t get to think, But of course this is completely normal, this is how it always was, he doesn’t talk, he doesn’t make an effort unless he feels like it, he doesn’t see the point, this is just how he is…and it’s not at all normal, it’s rude and shitty and I can’t believe I put up with this sort of thing for so long. Look at the kids, chattering away. Look at how he doesn’t even seem to hear them. Look at how cute they’re being, and look at his blank stare, and look at how we’re here, at the terminal already, and he has not said a single thing or made eye contact. He has not held up his end of things, is what you think, and you realize you’ve made excuses for him for many, many years. At the same time you know you are being unfair, and that it’s obnoxious to read too much into this. It’s early. He’s tired. He’s not a morning person. And yet. You are presently involved with a man who would make the effort, who is chivalrous almost to a fault. You have gotten accustomed to something different, and your ex-husband’s general morning mien affects you like a slap to the face.

Maybe you don’t get to call your best friend the minute he and the children disappear through the terminal’s revolving door, the children waving and blowing kisses, your ex-husband glaring fiercely ahead, and tell her how excruciating the whole thing felt. Maybe you haven’t earned the right to tell her how much you fucking hate the way your ex-husband sits in your car.

But you do it anyway, and she knows exactly what you’re talking about. He didn’t say thank you, you say, and somehow he took up a hell of a lot of space. You can still smell him, still see his greasy hair, his profile, and you try to dissipate all the tension that lingers by making your best friend laugh and laugh as you describe him over the phone. You hang up feeling better. You drive the rest of the way home, and when you get there you realize it’s too late to go back to bed.

But it’s too early to get up. You make coffee, and drink cup after cup of it, and read the paper until it’s finally time for another day to begin.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2013 9:03 pm

    Ha! Really, you absolutely didn’t have to justify your crawly-skin reaction to your ex’s proximity to the anonymous disapprover, but I’m so glad you did because it was funny. And totally understandable. People in my past, when it’s been time – or past time – for them to go, the very way they breathe can make me murderous.

  2. January 29, 2013 9:23 pm

    Anonymous troll on your site bugged me, but at least it inspired an interesting story! Best description of annoying sitting I’ve ever read.

  3. January 29, 2013 9:26 pm

    I am with you on this one

  4. longest sentence yet? permalink
    January 29, 2013 9:34 pm

    I thought that comment was out of line and was contemplating how to say so; glad you’ve spared us that by just up and repeating it, in boldface no less.

    Meanwhile I rather suspect that once you get through the strong reaction, to this account of the quotidien lack of social effort you now retrospectively see as hard to have lived with for all those years, you will proceed down the road to a point of not being driven quite so insistently and immediately crazy, able more calmly to consider that past in which such silences were apparently normal, perhaps even remember it one day even as he takes up space in your non-marital car — the odometer will say 92,476, and you will drop him off, and he will say nothing, and you will know perfectly well that your mature self happens to prefer people who strive for bits of conversation (and say thank you for rides), and your day will just go on from there, maybe with a small shake of the head. But not much more.

    Maybe you’ll still be blogging? 🙂

    Oh, and I was with Korinthia on the windowshield thing; I’m amused that even the wonderful wordsmiths can get the syllables stuck together oddly from time to time!

  5. Bea permalink
    January 29, 2013 11:22 pm

    I’ve never understood peevish whining sorts of blog trolls. I read several blogs; sometimes I don’t agree with a post and sometimes the frequency of disagreement increases. Good grief, I just remove them from my reader and go onto something better aligned with where I am or what I believe. For goodness sake the author didn’t invite me to critique their life or writing. Now; please keep up the damned good work for the rest of us!

  6. Annette permalink
    January 30, 2013 3:46 am

    Phew — at first I thought maybe you were paraphrasing my comment, and I was all like “I didn’t mean THAT at all!” The relief!
    Now, with all the gory detail, I understand the whole thing so much better. Before, I was almost feeling sorry for the guy – now I’m not. And it must be really hard not to react, and react viscerally, to this kind of treatment, especially if this has been his modus operandi over the years.

  7. January 30, 2013 5:15 am

    Hello, I’ve been a long time follower, but I haven’t comments before. Whoever the anonymous idiot was who posted that comment, they need a good dose of shut-the-hell-up.

    I completely understand why the way someone sits, or even just the way they breathe can send you in to near apoplexy. The tiny things that you ignored or excused for years can bring sudden flashes of (almost) unjustifiable anger.

    Why someone would feel the need to leave a comment like that instead of just not reading your blog anymore baffles me!

  8. January 30, 2013 5:15 am

    I was right – he WAS an ass…
    Not as much as an ass at that mean commenter however. WTF? Who has the time to be rude and nasty like that? Why would you be bothered? Just remember people – Karma will catch up….
    But as everyone else has said – silver linings etc, we all got to read a wonderful post. God, he even annoyed ME the way he was just sitting there, like a lump of self-indulgent misery. Beautifully written, as ever.

  9. Linda Koftan permalink
    January 30, 2013 6:40 am

    Kudos to you for being the adult (instead of the inconsiderate, immature, self-absorbed ass, like he is) and not saying anything to him about his rudeness. Even though he totally deserved to be told off for his behavior, it would have put a damper on the event that the kids were obviously so excited about. As your kids grow up, they will eventually see what a pain in the butt he is and that you dealt with it by ignoring it and not making it worse for everyone else. But sometime, when no one else is around, I hope you have the occasion to bring it to his attention that there are other people in the world (his children, mainly) and you intend to see that the kids do not grow up to be sullen, self-centered, ungrateful adults, in spite of the example he sets for them.

  10. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    January 30, 2013 8:53 am

    Happily, my kids get along quite well with their father, and at the same time neither of them is much like him. (The sixteen-year-old LOOKS exactly like him, which is unsettling at times, but he does not ACT like him.) Both kids are chatty, forthcoming, polite, and emotionally transparent. They are physically affectionate with me and with each other, they are warm and kind and sweet and very very talkative. They have lots of friends. Their dad is just…limited. He could force himself to be more outgoing, but he doesn’t seem to need or want to be, and he doesn’t really seem to need or want any friends (he has his girlfriend, who’s lovely, and that’s about it). Since I rarely spend any time with him any more, it’s always shocking to be reminded of his silent ways. That, basically, is what happened in the car.

  11. anonymous permalink
    January 30, 2013 9:09 am

    I guess I’ll have to assume that that commenter has never had a friendship or a love relationship fall apart. How very lucky she (?) is. How very rare. In real life, where people and relationships are complicated and messy, most of the rest of us have had something that once was good become something no longer good, and I would be hard pressed to find a single human being (that I know, anyway) who would not cop to exactly the feelings you expressed in your first post on this. I agree with the commenter above who said that some people drive her crazy just the way they breathe. Been there. This does not mean we are cruel, heartless, or have expectations that are unreasonable. It means that we are healthy people who finally realized the toxicity of a relationship that we have long endured and refuse to any longer. I have many friends, and a life partner as well, who have been in my life for a very, very long time, and although they (and me too) have their quirks, there is little I would complain about because of all the happiness they bring into my life. HOWEVER, I also have some ex-friends, oh and an ex-husband too (who was aso a non-talker), who are not on that list. I endured them as long as I could and then I learned how to stand up for myself and not take it anymore. And that did not mean I was “just going to do the same thing with someone else.” I am actually quite patient and kind toward humans and their foibles. As I hope others will be toward mine. But I have come a long way from being other people’s doormats or otherwise suffering from what unhappy people inflict on me. Life is too short for that, and there is so much more to be gained from surrounding oneself with loving, supportive, communicative friends and partners. They make me a better person (and they say I do the same for them. Isn’t that what human relationships are all about?).

    • cbrks permalink
      January 30, 2013 10:37 am

      Well, that troll brought out some supporters too! I have been reading forever and have never commented but feel compelled now. Great response. 🙂

  12. January 30, 2013 10:51 am

    I got divorced when I was 21(!) after 8 months of marriage to a man who sounds shockingly like your husband. I spent a few years reeling (divorced at 21!), but even now 12 years later when I can objectively assess his qualities (smart and astonishingly competent – he could build / fix anything, and is now CIO of a Major Tech Company), I am just so happy I did not spend any longer in a marriage with a complete asshole. I made excuses for his behavior too, but deciding it’s not worth the effort to be kind and civil to people, let alone family(!) is a real problem.

    Your story resonates.

  13. January 30, 2013 12:43 pm

    Been there, done that. And I think that is why I like to read your blog . . .

  14. January 30, 2013 12:58 pm

    Oof. I find myself agreeing with Korinthia, though: the extended version of “I can’t bear to sit in the car with him” is much more entertaining.

  15. January 30, 2013 1:23 pm

    Of course everyone’s definition of an “asshole” is different, everyone’s tolerance for certain behavior is different, but that type of behavior? The I-don’t-have-to-say-a-word-or-be-in-this-conversation-or-even-say-thank-you type of behavior? Well, I am sorry but that epitomizes an asshole in my book, so I can completely empathize with your feelings! You have every right to be reminded of just what a creep your ex is (and was) and to be relieved that you no longer have to live that experience.

  16. penny permalink
    January 30, 2013 1:53 pm

    I believe that so many of us who follow your blog find comfort in your writings knowing that we aren’t the only one out there that have been through pure hell. (Sometimes you can feel so alone when the world seems to be caving).
    It’s too bad when people leave nasty comments… they should keep their mouths shut for they do not understand the road you have traveled. I believe that the majority of us are just trying to do our best & get through this life. Nasty people with nasty comments are not welcome here. 🙂
    I’ve said it before on here… you don’t have to agree or understand but have some love for those out there who have been through so much.
    Your blog really does help so many of us.
    Keep up the great work…. and GOOD FOR YOU for putting your best foot forward & packing his A$$ to the airport. That was a really good step- even though it wasn’t pleasant- it was good for the kids.
    I happen to know- all too well- how crappy it is when your parents hate each other.

  17. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    January 30, 2013 3:05 pm

    I don’t hate him. Just so you guys know. Hating the way he sits in the car is one thing, but I really don’t hate him.
    It actually depresses me a bit that he’s so socially inept. I wish he weren’t so silent and saturnine, but he’s not mine to try to make over any more….

  18. nancyk permalink
    January 30, 2013 7:25 pm

    The more I read about him, he sounds just like my ex husband. And my Ex is a scientist too (although truth is, so am I, and some of my best friends are male scientists). What I have finally decided about my ex is that his overall personality was “stingy”. He was stingy with his words, his attention, his time, his knowledge, his thoughts. He is very smart but could not explain ANYTHING, he could not be bothered. He was stingy with love (even with our daughters). He did not want to talk to me, our daughters, or spend any time with us at all. He does not have many friends and is not close with his family. He was stingy with money, although if there was something HE wanted to spend money on, that was a-okay.

    SO glad I divorced him.

  19. anoncommenter permalink
    January 31, 2013 10:52 am

    Your writing is supremely evocative and reading your text was like being a silent observer of the claustrophobic scene in your car. You don’t have to apologise for being a good writer or for having feelings and describing them honestly.
    I love reading your blog, I find your experience strangely familiar in a weird, uncanny way. Many other readers may relate because they have lived through similar experiences, I find your writing resonates with me on an almost premonitional level, as if I might find myself living through the same trials and tribulations at some point in the future. If I do end up going solo at some stage, I’m sure I’ll derive great comfort from rereading your journey, so thank you for keeping a record of it.

  20. January 31, 2013 9:49 pm

    I had hovered over my keyboard the night that you had initially posted the piece in question (fully intending to reply to, “your conscience”.) I was feeling a little scrappy, but the silly Canadian in me didn’t want to rush in unabated.
    You handled the comment with exquisite wit and grace.

    But, I did want to say this….

    If one can call another a train wreck, it is in a way, a form of a compliment. To imply that another was solid enough to choose a train as a mode of transportation means to me, that the journeyer was brave enough to want to see the distance that they had travelled. You could have rushed forth, wounded, with bandages still flapping in the wind, to a new life without ever considering each step on your trip as being worthwhile- a vital part of your healing. If the train derails at times, it always ends up back on the tracks in short order.

    In some of my proudest and most profound moments, I definitely would’ve been considered a train wreck by much of the world. Nothing will derail a woman of sound strength and wisdom for very long (it is also sometimes mid wreck where the best bits of learning occur.)

    Hoping my metaphor ( is it even a metaphor? that’s the cold meds talking, for sure) makes sense, I am two Niquils and a nasty head cold past the ability to write tonight.

    • January 31, 2013 9:50 pm

      Also – it is your lengthy journey that has provided markers for those of us whom are so often lost on our newly forged paths. Please know how important your writing is to many.

  21. Lea permalink
    February 1, 2013 9:14 am

    And I add my own “Please.” That commenter has never been around someone who annoys the crap out of her? Anyone could have that feeling on any given day, no matter whether it is particularly justified. It’s part of being human; there is no one who is magnanimous all the time. I suspect not even that commenter, who must have a big chip on her shoulder about something.

    • February 1, 2013 12:35 pm

      Especially since the commenter sounds so annoyed with the blogger whom he/she doesn’t even know! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black (or a train wreck).

  22. BB from Dot permalink
    February 1, 2013 3:06 pm

    Does your ex-husband have Aspergers? Or maybe what a friend of mine calls Engineers’ Syndrome (i.e. is he a computer programmer)?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 1, 2013 4:59 pm

      I’m not really sure. You’re certainly not the first to suggest it. He’s a neuroscientist….

      • February 16, 2013 4:47 am

        Oh! Does he buy into all that women-are-from-Venus “neurononsense”? That’d be a definite dealbreaker for me!

  23. Therese permalink
    February 4, 2013 10:55 am

    I agreed with your original post and I agree with this follow-up — my skin crawls every time my (soon-to-be) ex comes over and basically ignores me unless he absolutely cannot. Our divorce is not particularly hostile but he just feels this need to be a shit-head for some reason. I don’t really have an issue with it — my ultimate freedom from him and his shit-head ways being the ultimate goal — but he looks like a complete ass in front of his kids when he does this and I know they are seeing it and noticing. Which is why I force myself to be civil and hold my tongue — let him close his doors with them, reap what he sows, so to speak. My conscience will be clear down the road while HE wonders — or maybe not, maybe he’ll know and just not care — why the relationship with his children will be the mess that it’s becoming.

  24. February 8, 2013 3:07 am

    I agree – sounds a bit Aspergers to me. Either that, or incredibly egotistical and socially awkward, not to mention plan ill-mannered. Even if you vent to your friend, you’re still a generous person (and the winner here!) Thank you for (as always) writing so truthfully.
    PS. That other comment was also out of line.

  25. February 16, 2013 4:49 am

    Another possibility: Do you think he’s putting a “look how heartbroken I am” show for the kids in the back of the car? (Dad was so gutted, he couldn’t say a word on the way to the airport!!”)

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