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.
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.
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.
I miss that.