Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Trophy; A Letter To A Single Mom


Everyone knows single parents have a tough job, no matter what percentage of the time they have their kids. Raising kids is meant to be a two person job, so whether it's for a few hours, a few days or all the time, taking care of those kiddos' every waking want, need and demand can wear anyone out. Occasionally we all have that especially difficult week of parenting, where we are ready to throw in the towel on life, lock ourselves in our room to sleep just for a few hours and pray that whatever destruction is waiting on us when we emerge, can be repaired.

Unfortunately, whether due to being a responsible parent, or just out of fear of the destruction that would surely be waiting for us on the other side of that door, this voluntary confinement is usually just not an option. So rather than locking ourselves away to recover, we keep going and instead, we let our friendships and romantic relationships suffer the consequences of our sleep deprivation. We start questioning our romantic partner and wondering just why that girlfriend or boyfriend is still with us, since we see them giving so much, but receiving so little from us in return. We let our overly-active and sleep-deprived imagination run wild as we are wiping applesauce off the floor and simultaneously trying to soothe a crying toddler who has already forgotten why he or she is upset. Eventually we start jumping to ridiculous conclusions that usually revolve around our partner only wanting to be with us for some selfish unknown reason.

I have been on both sides of this situation. I have been with women who poured everything they had into our relationship; knowing they would receive much less from me in return. I have also been the one in relationships who was contributing everything, while my partner was giving almost nothing. No matter the situation, sometimes the only way to get your true thoughts and feelings across to that emotionally unavailable partner is to put your words down on paper.

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Dear Single Mom;

One day, after a particularly rough week, I asked what you were thinking about and you told me that you were afraid I only wanted to be with you for the relationship title and not because I genuinely saw a future for us. You told me that sometimes you think I only see you like a trophy wife, then you immediately followed that comment up with "not that I'm any kind of trophy." But I disagree.

You are my trophy; my trophy girlfriend, perhaps my future-trophy wife; the trophy I had been seeking all these years since the day I first woke up, got over my fear of "cooties" and realized that maybe girls were not actually gross.

You're right, I love that title: "girlfriend", "fiancee”, "wife". I love putting your picture up at work and having my coworkers say "wow, THAT'S your girlfriend?" I love their jealousy. I love knowing that they know you are mine. I love having them know that of all the men in the world, you chose me.

But as crazy as it might be, and as much as I love you for your stunning beauty, I love you more for your imperfections. You can find beauty at any bar or club. Fake physical beauty on the outside,
exaggerated by excessive makeup, expensive clothes and cocky "I'm better than you" attitudes. Beauty that fades with age and apathy. That isn't for me. I love the things that make you feel insecure. I love your stretch marks; they aren't something to be hidden. They are a badge you earned by bringing your beautiful children into this world. I love that you flinch when my hand drifts to them. But not because of your insecurity or your fear of judgment. I love it, because I know at that moment, I am appreciating and loving you for something no one else in your past has appreciated you for. I love that even though you have been made self-conscious and told they are a flaw, beneath your insecurities, you secretly love how my hands are drawn there to trace my fingers across them, rather than avoiding them.

You work so hard to make sure your hair, makeup and clothes are perfect when you leave the house. I love that about you. I love that even if it's just a boring night at home, I come over and you're dressed up, seemingly just for me. But the time when I find you most beautiful isn't when you dress up to go out with me. It's when I wake up next to you in the morning. Your smeared makeup, your matted hair and your morning breath. All the things that make you turn away when I lean in to give you a good morning kiss. I love those insecurities, because your only fear is that of being seen as yourself; a person you have been told for years wasn't good enough. You've been told by people from your past that you need to work tirelessly to "fix" yourself in order to be accepted and deserving of their love. But that just simply is not true.

When I wake up next to you, your morning breath is the last thing on my mind. All I can think about, every single time, is "holy shit, she chose me!" Sure, you might have your weaknesses, your downfalls, your crazy moments. You might have your momentary "freak out" situations where you suddenly transform into that self-conscious, overly-sensitive and overly-insecure female. But you are mine. You are the woman I have been dreaming of since long before I realized how attractive an amazing mom really is.

So maybe at some point one or both of us decides this relationship is no longer what we desire. Or it's no longer meeting our physical, mental or emotional needs. Maybe we decide we are better off without each other and that no amount of counseling can change that. Regardless, you will always be my trophy. The prize I worked for and earned. But more importantly, if that happens, you will be the one that got away. I don't believe in soul mates, but if I did, you would be mine.

Love always.
Single Dad

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This letter is a rendition of a note I wrote to a woman from my past. A woman who at times, absolutely drove me bat-shit crazy. But at the same time, without even realizing it, she turned me into a better man. She turned me into a patient man; not just with her, but with my family, my friends, my coworkers, my daughter and even my daughter's mom.

She taught me that while I have to be patient and kind sometimes when I can hardly stand it, I also have to be willing to stand up and take what I want. I have to be prepared to challenge people sometimes when I disagree with them on a subject I'm passionate about. She unintentionally taught me to try and find humor in any situation, no matter how shitty it might be. This woman welcomed me into her life, and eventually even let me get to know her children.

Looking back on it, I'm not even sure she realized what that meant to me; to have her trust me so much that she would allow me to meet and form relationships with the three people in her life who
were more important to her than her own well-being. While most women who are caught up in the intoxicating intimacy of a relationship might ask their significant other to promise he will never leave them, or that he will always be there to support her. This woman was different. She never asked me to promise I would never leave. She asked me to promise that if anything ever happened to her, I would make sure her children were taken care of.

I would say I was shocked at such a selfless request, but honestly, I wasn't. That's how this woman was. She was generous, especially to her kids. If there was a toy or outfit they wanted, she would skip meals and work extra hours if that what it took to be able to buy it for them. She believed that no matter what her financial situation might be, her children deserved the best of everything. While I would never say she spoiled them, she did everything in her power to provide for them and to not let them miss out on any aspect of childhood.

Unfortunately, shortly after writing this letter, we ended our relationship. We had both just individually come through the most emotionally traumatic time of our lives, and I guess our relationship just wasn't strong enough to weather the storm. We tried couples counseling for a while, but it was just too late to save our relationship. Regardless, when she asked me that one quiet evening to promise her kids would be taken care of, I agreed without so much as a second thought. Not because I was drunk on love (or vodka), but because that's how much she meant to me; that's how much her kids meant to me, and that's how much I respected her for her commitment to her family.

I haven't spoken to her since the day we ended our relationship. Admittedly, I've looked her up on Facebook a few times and she seems to be pretty happy now. I want to hate her. I want to be angry and blame her for all the problems and heartbreak in my life. But I can't do it. No matter how badly she hurt me when she walked out, I can't hate this woman. I miss her and her kids every day, and more than anything, I hope they are happy. Realistically, I know she has parents and siblings who would make sure her children were taken care of if anything ever happened to her. But I made a commitment to her that night, and if anything were to ever happen to her, I would stand behind it as much now as I did the night I made it.

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Originally published on The Good Men Project, September 22, 2016.

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