Sometimes this is merely interesting. Sometimes it can lead to peril.
I was in an airport awaiting a flight to Florida some time ago. Walking ahead of me was a woman in a brown leather jacket with a long, beautiful ponytail swishing attractively in high contrast to the dark leather. I just could not help noticing and admiring these beautiful locks. Imagine my surprise when she turned to expose an equally-impressive beard, a grizzled, worn face that I would never have put with that ponytail! This was, in fact, a man!
It happened again, to a lesser degree, on the same trip. I was deplaning in Houston to make my connection, standing in the aisle. I was behind a young African American woman. I “knew” this because she had attractive braids streaming down her back, a cute figure dressed in jeans, and a stylish purse to die for hung over her shoulder.
Then she turned impatiently and said to me, “And I thought I was being smart getting right up from my seat…it seems we are going no where!”
Well, she wasn’t young. She was maybe a little younger than me. And her face told me life had not been a walk in the park.
I had a layover and headed for some breakfast. As I sat at my table for two, back against the wall, in she walked, looking around for a place to sit. There were plenty of seats, but I thought “Why not?” and motioned her over. She came.
We ordered our food and exchanged pleasantries, my tablemate bowing her head to say “thanks” when our food arrived. Another lone woman sat down on my right, well-dressed and in her fifties. It wasn’t long before another nearly-thirty-type woman took her place on my left. We were all within easy spitting distance and each started out trying to respect the space of the others.
“Yolanda” and I continued our exploration of each other, and she was quite interesting. She lived in California and was unemployed. She made her small living selling her hand-crafted bags. She had two daughters, twins who were recently out of high school and were working. The talk turned to the men in her life, and it wasn’t good.
Her first husband, father of her children, had abandoned them all. Child support had been sporadic over the years, and he was in and out of their lives. Second husband had been more helpful for a while but this, too, turned sour with alcohol and other women. She was now separated from him with no formal separation action and no help from him whatsoever except when he waltzed back in occasionally, apparently at will. She knew that she should not allow this, but she had no money for a lawyer. She felt powerless; he sometimes helped financially during his “visits” home. Her mother had paid for this trip to visit family just to give her respite.
This revved me up, and I began to lecture, I’m afraid. What I most wanted her to do was to encourage her daughters to get into school and prepare themselves for a different life than their mother now faced. I wanted her to help them avoid a life of dependence on men.
We began to talk about the divorce situation in general, and my profession as a divorce attorney came out. That’s when the facade of “not eavesdropping” by Ms. Fifty-Something on my right and Ms Not-Quite-Thirty fell like a ton of bricks. The elder was first to make a move.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I overheard your conversation. Did you say that you are a divorce lawyer?” She scooted her chair around to the side of our table. She revealed she was from Florida, flying to close a deal on their second home.
At that, Nearly-Thirty turned her chair toward us saying, “Can I join in? My roommate is in a terrible situation…” She was from D.C.
So, there we were, a cluster of butterflies in an airport coffee shop, from the four winds, in a huddle of grievances against men. Sounds dreary, doesn’t it? Yes, I agree, but it is necessary. A metamorphosis was required in all these lives we were discussing.
Ms. Florida’s concern was a friend, a woman who had been married 25 years and had two children still at home. Husband was “in love” with another woman and was openly cavorting. He was still officially living at home but was doling money out to wife, and she had no real idea about what they had or where it is located. Wife had been a devoted stay-at-home Mom.
Ms. Florida was afraid that this man can’t be trusted not to cheat his wife financially (duh!), but her friend was like a deer in the headlights; immobilized by fear. She held hope that if she did not rock the boat he would return to the marriage. Ms. Florida was afraid that he was only solidifying his financial advantage.
Ms. DC’s roommate was a co-worker, a little older than DC, who had moved in with her when she discovered her husband’s infidelity. They had all three gone to church together, and he had been leader of DC’s small group at that church. His betrayal had been a shock to all. He had promised to straighten up but wife had found evidence to the contrary. She had no children and had wisely decided on a divorce on the theory that he can’t be trusted. Smart Girl.
DC, however, was concerned about roomie. She was depressed and emotionally exhausted. She searched ad infinitum for ways she could have prevented his straying, shouldering blame. DC said she felt it might be damaging her.
I began to quote statistics on divorce rate and about how many men commit adultery and the studies that show that even a wonderful wife and relationship can be victim to betrayal. A wife taking blame for husband’s infidelity is something I have to fight with my clients about all the time.
The women were keenly interested, voicing that they had no idea how widespread this was. Ms. F spoke up saying her friend needed to hear that statistically her straying husband was never likely to again put his wife and their children first. He has gone into “me” mode, entirely, and is not likely to pull out of it. Friend needed to spring into action before money slips away, if it isn’t already too late.
DC’s friend needs to know she must not blame herself for her husband’s moral failure. DC says that she, herself, had learned from this that she was going to be darned sure to be on firm ground herself and not rely on a “Mr. Right” to take care of her because statistics show that it is ill-advised.
And Yolanda, well, her situation was hard. She has no money and, truthfully, neither does her no-good husband. There is nothing to save or get from him. I just want a new psyche for Yolanda, one of independence that will impart to her girls the urgent message that they need to grow their own wings.
Because things (even marriages) aren’t always what they seem—they aren’t always what our rosy imaginations make them out to be. It just may be that the ponytail is just a cover up for a grizzled life. C.