I was warned as a newly divorced man about the classic “rebound” relationship—one that shortly follows the ending of a previous one. Rebounders are supposedly needy, distressed, emotionally unavailable, and lacking the capacity to make good decisions about a partner. This not only describes me, but also most men I know in Los Angeles. Nothing personal, guys.
Still, I set out optimistically one night for a Jewish singles event called “Opera Under the Stars.” Granted, I’m not a huge opera fan, nor am I a big stars nut, but it sounded classy and romantic and, okay, a friend talked me into going. The event’s producer took over the backyard of a Brentwood home, brought in a tenor and soprano to sing arias, served cheese, crackers and wine at intermission, took our $30 admission charge, and wished us luck. Love for sale in L.A.
Luck appeared at intermission in the person of a woman I’ll call “Amy.” I immediately perceived Amy as intelligent, attractive, funny, Jewish, available, and, most important, of course—interested in me.
The greatest benefit of an exciting new relationship? As any divorced man knows, going from a situation of infrequent sex and no sex—to one where you’re suddenly with someone who actually wants to have frequent and enthusiastic sex with you. It’s heaven, the life-saving oasis in your romance desert.
The abundant sex can also, of course, cloud one’s vision, especially in conjunction with the aforementioned rebounder traits and the accompanying rose-colored glasses through which you’re viewing your new object of desire. Those rose-hued glasses make it that much more challenging to make out the red flags directly in one’s path. And so when Amy eventually suggested that I give up my writing aspirations and return to school to learn a trade, I said nothing.
Nor did I breathe a word of my disappointment one day when during our walk through an outdoor mall in Santa Monica, Amy looked around at our fellow mall-goers and disparagingly referred to them as “shleppers.” Shleppers is a Yiddish term defined variously as inept, stupid, ill-dressed, sloppy in habits, an annoying person who always wants a bargain. It struck me as an incredibly rude, snobbish and judgmental thing to say. But, again, I said nothing.
As the relationship developed, I kept my mouth shut about many of these kinds of things. Didn’t want to rock the girlfriend boat. Preferred focusing on the things that were good, and there were good things, to be fair (Amy said to me on more than one occasion, “You’re the man I’ve been searching for my whole life.”)—that at the time I felt compensated for the insensitivities from “La Princessa,” which is how Amy referred to herself.
My greatest regret about not speaking up was when my children invited me to join them at Passover Seder at their mom’s place. A little back-story: Although Amy was also divorced, she had no children. Didn’t, in fact, seem all that taken with children and not especially eager to spend time with mine. Would even complain that on the nights I was having dinner with my children, she had to be eating all alone. By all this, did Amy expect me to not see my kids? Or to just have me feel guilty about her being alone?
In any case, Amy made it crystal clear that if I accepted that invitation rather than joining her at her family’s Seder, she would perceive it as a clear sign that I would be putting her in second place—and our relationship would be over. I joined Amy at her family’s Seder and to this day regret that decision.
Any man with just a bit of gumption and self-respect would have realized what was happening and walked away. But this is me we’re talking about—the guy whose gumption was hidden behind his rebound relationship, his newfound sexual activity, and his rose-colored glasses.
The wake-up call I so desperately needed finally came—from, oddly enough, Amy herself, who did in fact walk away. I came home from work one day to find all her clothing removed from my closet. That was how she chose to tell me it was over. She was unreachable until four days later, when I got her on the phone. She’d decided to break things off due to my putting my kids over her and my refusal to give up the life of a writer and return to school to learn a trade. She said that each of her sisters were married to doctors and living in big houses in the Valley and she realized she’d never have that with me. And why she couldn’t break up to my face? “It would have been too uncomfortable for me.”
If it sounds like I’m bitter or resentful, far from it. In fact, I’m grateful to La Princessa for helping me get my head straight about my priorities in life and love. Billy Connolly once said, “I love Los Angeles. It reinvents itself every two days.” I think we have to do that in life and in relationships, too, to stay on course. So, now I speak up a lot more. I have meals with my kids and am clear about their being my first priority always. And I wear those rose-colored glasses far less frequently. Oh, and I keep writing. That is, when I’m not hanging out with shleppers.