Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
â€œSo whatâ€™s wrong with him?â€ I ask a female colleague whoâ€™s just suggested I have a fling, for lack of a better word for it, with a co-worker of hers.
â€œIf heâ€™s so great, then why is his wife leaving him?â€ I ask, not Â quite believing her assessment. â€œObviously somebody thinks somethingâ€™s wrong with him.â€
Who knows? Â Maybe Â Iâ€™ll Â like Â whatever Â his Â ex Â didnâ€™t. Maybe sheâ€™s right that heâ€™d be a good candidate for a temporary love affair.
â€œNothingâ€™s wrong with him. Itâ€™s his wife. Sheâ€™s crazy. I
Hmmm, Iâ€™veÂ heardÂ thatÂ before.Â EverybodyÂ seemsÂ to have a story about the crazy ex.
Then she points out this prospective love interest to me. And I know him.
Worse. I know his wife. Well. Very well.
I also know why theyâ€™ve separated, and it has nothing to do with her â€œcraziness.â€ It has everything to do with the way he treats her in private. I havenâ€™t seen it myself. But their child has mentioned it to me, in detail. After hearing from the child, I inquired and sheâ€”embarrassedâ€”told me what had been going on for years.
â€œWhy would you think sheâ€™s crazy?â€ I ask. â€œHave you met her?â€
Only at holiday parties, Iâ€™m told. Work picnics.
â€œShe seemed nice, but you can never tell,â€ my colleague says with a knowing look.
â€œThen how do you know sheâ€™s crazy?â€ She scowls at me. â€œBecause she left him.â€
Another colleague joins us by now. A guy who nods a lot and Â tells us about his crazy ex. She was crazy because she didnâ€™t want to be married to him anymore. That was the bottom line. He gives examples of her wanting to have a career when he wanted her to be home and of her finally getting fed up with his insistence that she stay home and have dinner on the table when he arrived at 5:15 p.m. every day. He forgets that I know his ex- wife and that Iâ€™ve seen the bruises on her wrists.
This week, I got called a â€œcrazy ex,â€ too. By a man Iâ€™ve seen maybe once in the past ten years and not at all this century. Heâ€™s never witnessed what happened in my house, yet he thinks heÂ knowsÂ meÂ andÂ whatÂ happened Â inÂ myÂ marriage.Â Well,Â of course, he does! Heâ€™s one of Â my exâ€™s closest friends, though there were many years at the end of our Â marriage where they rarely heard from each other. I guess our divorce has brought them closer together.
Iâ€™ve never liked being around him, not because of his own strangeness but because of his arrogance and his atheism and his Â insistence Â that only what he could see was real. Iâ€™ve never felt that he was mentally stable, something my ex himself had suggested to me on several occasions.
His thought patterns have frightened me enough in the past that one year at a New Yearâ€™s Eve party, I insisted my ex not drive back with him. I was afraid he would crash his car with my ex as his passenger and try to kill them both. Now that may sound crazy, but the things this man said in my presence gave me reason to be afraid. He may have been teasing or not, but he was in a weird mental funk that year and I loved my husband.
Until his attack, Iâ€™d forgotten that this man caused a few major Â arguments in my marriage back in the 1990â€™s. He may have thought it was great fun to see us mad at each other and not speaking, but it caused several days of intense hurt, at least for me. I was actually glad to find out that my husband hadnâ€™t really said what his friend had reported to me and Â once I explained why I was upset, I found out my husbandâ€™s friend had told him Iâ€™d said something equally cruel. Ah, but wasnâ€™t it fun to instigate a marital tiff!
So to be called a â€œcrazy exâ€ struck me as humorous, coming Â from him, considering what my ex has told me about this manâ€™s past experiences with psychiatric wards and once trying to throw a chair through a window on the sixth floor of the Government building where Â we Â worked at the time. I donâ€™t know if those things were true except that he and my ex were good friends. I always thought the chair through Â the window was a bit over-the-top because those windows are way too narrow for a chair to fit through. Hiding my exâ€™s glasses in the freezerâ€¦well, that was classic, Iâ€™ll admit. Or maybe it was a wallet that was Â hidden in the freezer. He was always doing little things like that when he was angry at my ex and my ex would be late for work as a result.
On the other hand, I do understand exactly what heâ€™s doing when he calls me a lunatic, and Iâ€™d want my friends to be like that, too. Defensive. Protective. I think real friends do over- look the faults of a friend, especially if that friendâ€™s relationship is breaking up and theyâ€™re emotionally hurting. They take on the armor for their friends when their Â friends canâ€™t for whatever reason. That I can forgive.
What I canâ€™t forgive is calling me crazy in front of my children. Â They, unlike him, have been present for this whole century. Theyâ€™ve seen Â everything. Not hearsay, but firsthand. Theyâ€™ve seen both sides to the story, and theyâ€™ve seen their own
side. It would be easy for strangers to them to assume theyâ€™re little twits who know nothing and can be that influenced by me to that extent, but theyâ€™re teenagers and they are their own per- sons with their own opinionsâ€”strong onesâ€”and they know the truth of whatâ€™s happened in the past and whatâ€™s happening now without any help from anyone else.
They know about my books, my special projects, and my private Â life. When Iâ€™m called a slut, they know Iâ€™m not. They know how many Â men have darkened my doorways, who they are, when they were here, and Â if theyâ€™re welcome back. When itâ€™s alleged Iâ€™ve been involved with other men and that led to my divorce, they know thatâ€™s untrue as well. They Â know because theyâ€™ve been here all along. Theyâ€™ve seen everything.
I never said my ex was crazy. Ever. He wasnâ€™t crazy; he was manipulative. And as he admitted to me after I announced I was leaving, he knew just how much hope to dangle in front of me to keep me around. He was very good at it and for a very long time. Maybe he can overcome it, but it wonâ€™t be with me. And especially not when his friends question my sanity and motives in front of our children.
â€œSo can I try to fix you up with him?â€ my colleague asks about her hot prospect.
I shake my head. Next time Iâ€™ll think twice when some- one refers to someone elseâ€™s ex as crazy.