Guy Talk

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.

I’m missing male conversation. It’s almost dried up in my life, and I didn’t realize it or why.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

My day job has a heavy base of male colleagues, most of them married. Over my entire career, I’ve had friendly relationships with quite a few of them. Platonic, friendly,respectful of one another. We ask about each other’s kids and we’ve known each other’s respective spouses on sight and by name.

But something strange happened after my divorce. My female divorced friends tell me they have experienced the same, though my male divorced friends have yet to report anything similar.

At first, nothing seemed to change in my relationships with male  colleagues.  Then again, I didn’t advertise  my marital problems or that I was in the process of a divorce. Most of my colleagues  found out in the  last month or two of the proceedings, if that early. So nothing changed in our friendly, chatty work relationships. Many of them still sat with me at lunch and talked about their dreams of writing books or starting their own businesses.

That’s stopped now. They’re very careful now. They’re no longer willing to be seen-most of them-at the food court with me unless it’s in a group. They no longer drop by my office to say hello. We no longer have long conversations.

The first time I noticed it was with a man who’s been a work friend for at least 16 years. We’ve had lunch often, and I’ve seen pics of his kids on vacation, and I’m positive that he and his wife bought both my girls baby presents  when  they  were  born.  But  after  my  divorce,  I stopped by his office to let him know, before he heard the news  elsewhere and felt left out for not knowing. I did that same with two female colleagues who worked in the office next door to him because I knew word would seep out within a few days and I wanted them to hear it from me. No details. Just status. Since then, he’s always very nervous  around me and I rarely see him anymore. When I do, the conversation is all about his wife…whom I like but who has never  really  been  the  focus  of our chats before.

Then it happened again a month or two later with an- other man who’s been “work friends” for years. Married with kids. He used to stop  by my office for job advice once a week. I’ve run into him once since he found out about my divorce, and the moment everyone else with us walked  away,  he  practically  ran.  In  the  brief  time  we talked, it was all about his wife-to an absurd degree. He finally confessed to me that his wife didn’t mind him talking to happily  married  women but single  women  were off-limits.

I noticed it at a meeting a few days ago. Five or six men who were always friendly toward me, men I hadn’t seen in the past two years, saw  me at the meeting and their eyes lit up. I no longer worked in their area and they all came to my table, some of them giddy, and started to chat. It made me remember why I so loved working with this particular group of rocket scientists and for the next 15 minutes,  I  just  loved  that  feeling  of  coming  home again to their group.

I heard all about who remarried and who has a new baby and whose kids are now in college. In response  to “What’s new with you?” I mentioned that Shannon’s now driving, I have another book coming out soon, Aislinn’s so big you wouldn’t recognize her now, and oh, yeah, I’m not married anymore.

Zoom!

Talk about  clearing  the  room!  No  one  asked  what happened or if I have a boyfriend now or what my plans are for the future or if I still love to talk about science as much as I used to or anything else. Just, oh, look at the time!

I don’t  know  if they  think I’ll suddenly  jump  their bones (they’d be disappointed to know, I’m sure, that I’m not attracted to any of them) or if they’re afraid word will get back to their wives that they were seen talking  to a (gasp!) divorced woman, but all these good Southern men used to be  sources  of wonderful,  intelligent,  intriguing, platonic conversation.

No more.

I miss that.