Latest Podcast

Follow on Bloglovin

Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
You can also find Monica's writing here:
Search The Girl Who
Thursday
Aug102006

Long, Hot Summer


I plod tiredly into the brightly lit "Pharmacia". Relief envelops me like the ice cold air the AC is valiantly pumping throughout the building on this hot day. Relief, not in the cool breeze, but because I have a purpose. If only for the ten minutes I will wander the aisles with a goal. Q-Tips. Soap. And yes, Tylenol PM that I will abuse in the wee hours. I will shuffle down every aisle, enjoying the chilly environs, glad to be doing something. Crossing items off a list makes me feel useful. I have a purpose!

A man gestures for me to go ahead of him and I nearly tear up. I've been doing that lately. Nearly crying over the the kindness of strangers.. because it seems so lacking here. A smile, someone who pets my dog, opens a door. I tear up! I am that messy.

I'm trapped between two worlds. On the one hand I long to be a free spirit.. sponge up every bit of unemployment, visit Coney Island, Central Park, stroll Fifth Avenue and just do my thing, whatever that is. On the other hand I am envious of friends back home in Utah with their steady paychecks, big homes, backyards and cozy little family units. And then I scorn suburbia and the safe life.. Five minutes later I long for it Then detest it. Then long for it, for giant grocery store chains and sport utility vehicles with curves like J-Lo that will transport me to said grocery stores without the usual sweaty subway combat.

I should be on the olympic T.V. Watching team. I would garner a Silver Medal in Wine Drinking. I would be awarded the Gold in Thinking Too Much. I alternately hate myself for feeling low then hate others for being so fucking put together. Or at least pretending to be.

Who are you? Are you happy with your life? Disappointed? Are you where you thought you'd be by now? Do you hate yourself? Do you like yourself? If you met you would you like you? Would you be friends with you? Do you even contemplate that kind of stuff?

I'd be friends with me... but I would annoy the fuck outta me with my social anxieties. I would tell me "don't you know how good you've got it? You stupid bitch! You have a husband who's crazy about you, good friends (that you've been avoiding lately).. What is WRONG with you?

I don't know.

Tuesday
Aug082006

The Guy With The Money

5 RULES FOR DATING A MARRIED MAN:

Ask no questions he'll tell you no lies
Never think you come before his 'small fries'
Don't believe when he says he was out with the guys
Keep to a minimum the who, what, when, where and why's
And be ever alert for private eyes!
These five rules will keep you healthy and wise..
-Monica Butler 1997

When my name was Monica Butler I dated a married man for nearly three years. Oh sure he was getting a divorce. That's what he said anyway - for three years. Like violent waves imperceptibly desintegrating a shoreline, over time his lies (or omissions of truth, as he called them) eroded my feelings for him until there was nothing left save for a slight tugging at my heart strings when I saw a white (he would say 'cream' and really, that's a red flag, ain't it?) Jaguar (the car not the animal) or heard Sinatra.

Ryan was 22 years my senior. When I turned 22 he was 44. Ryan liked money. Correction: he liked the power his money gave him. He liked to use his power and money against me. His cologne reeked of money. He had a second home in The Hamptons of L.A. - Palm Springs. He wore expensive suits. His shoes screamed American Express Platinum. Buttery leather loafers (with tassels! Red flag #2) that he maintained with clunky wooden shoe trees. He trimmed the blossoming silver from his dark hair twice a month and was ALWAYS on his cell as he tooled around the city in his sleek Jaguar or strode importantly to and from big business.

We met when he and his wife hired me to babysit his youngest child. 'The Nanny' she liked to call me. As if that elevated her status to supa-star. His wife; more concerned with keeping up with the Jones' than with her husband's extra-curricular activities. Prone to braying uncomfortable observations ("Monica, you bleached your hair.. the color is interesting) and forever snarking behind neighbor's backs (Isn't Paula hideously skinny/Well, hellooooo Paula you look faaabulous!) She was not likable. She spent her mornings in the gym honing her physique while I looked after her son. She then spent afternoons doing her hair and make-up as her son watched animated videos.

So there I was... 19, burdened with a heavy duty father complex that manifested itself in my dating Ryan. It sounds terrible. It was. In my defense, I quit the job working for his wife as soon as I could. But there was a period where I babysat her son by day and rendezvoused with her husband by night. I know. Scandalous. I look back now and wonder where my brain was... the same question I'm sure my friends and family asked themselves throughout the years I dated Ryan.

Initially I was in awe of the money he tossed around like P-Diddy, the ritzy trips on which he'd take me. I felt light years beyond that sad girl who grew up in Orem, had never tried sushi, never been on vacation, never had nice things. Ryan took care of me, helped me buy a car, condo, clothes... he helped buy me the charade of self-esteem... I say charade because secretly I hated myself for being with him.

I spent the first three years of my twenties not chugging beer at Frat parties although there was plenty of running to the bathroom - not to vomit - it was a vengeful case of diarrhea, stress clenching my stomach into a fist and then releasing at the most inopportune moments. I was sick to my stomach with the fear of being found out.
"I'm getting a divorce. It's just tricky. There's A LOT of money involved." I respected Ryan when he unpacked the list of Reasons Why I Am Not Divorced Yet from the piles of baggage he had dragged into our 'relationship'. At the tippy top of the list was concern for his children's well-being. He was a teriffic father and what girl can't respect that?
"Why aren't you divorced yet?" I'd whine.
"What? You want me to destroy my children's lives? You don't care about their feelings?" He'd list the reasons why not in verbal bullet points... bullets pointed at my heart.

But when Thanksgiving approached, gave me the bird (and I ain't talkin' turkey) and ambled by whilst Ryan luxuriated at his Palm Springs condo with the wife and kids.. I grew concerned. Then Christmas came....
"I can't move out now. It's Christmas for God's sake."
And went...

Soon an entire year from the prime of my young life had slipped through my grasping fingers. And Ryan still lived at home!

Eventually I became disillusioned with life and love... as is evidenced by a journal entry in 1997:

It's difficult to relay effectively with words. I'm not rooting for them to divorce. I love that family dearly. I just want what's best. And I want to know. It's been way to long. I don't want to wake up and be one of those stupid bimbos who dates married guys who claim they are leaving their wive's... Thing is, if he truly wanted a divorce he could just tell her it's over and he wouldn't have to lie and sneak around. But he continues this goddamn charade... This is bullshit. As I write it down it becomes clear and I feel like a gullible ass. We shall soon see."

Who is that girl? A sad, lost soul who was sorely lacking a father figure during the formative years. She latched on to any man who could provide stability. Despite making me hate myself, Ryan made me feel safe and at the time stability and safety were more important than whether or not I liked myself.

Ultimately he divorced, built a house for us, bought a diamond, began discussing marriage. Ah, the siren song of stability.. I would never use food stamps, never be poor, never have to worry about money again. Everything I'd wanted for my future.

But it was wrong. He was wrong. Despite his offers of a "better life" I disentangled my thrashing legs from his seaweed clutches and kicked like hell, made for the surface as if my life depended on it. Because it did. Who would I be had I relinquished control? Let go of myself... Acquiesced to the man with the money.

I wouldn't be the girl slashing her way through life and love.. living in Brooklyn, married to The Surge..
Monday
Aug072006

The Girl Whisperer

I've just come off a 3 or 7 hour stint watching THE DOG WHISPERER. If you don't know who this brilliant gem of a man is then do yourself a favor and turn on the National Geographic Channel. Right now! It's DOG WHISPERER week!

The show's opening credits show us the silhouette of a lone man against a fiery Los Angeles sunset. Behold, it's Cesar Millan A.K.A. The Dog Whisperer. He's jogging steadily toward us, golden sunlight tinging the dust he kicks up.. Behind Cesar? His dog pack. A deep voiced announcer booms "When good dogs go bad, there's one man who's their best friend: Cesar Milan". Cue Cesar voice over as a montage of genius dog rehab moments flash before our eyes!
"No dog is too much for me to handle. I rehabilitate dogs, I train people. I AM The Dog Whisper."

Cesar Millan is a genius with the dogs. He made his career rehabilitating Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans. But if you've got a pissy Poodle or a mean Mutt Cesar's your man. I watched him tame a frothing, spitting Kujo of a dog like a snake charmer for God's sake! The idiot owners stand agog as Cesar deftly works his special brand of canine hocus pocus. Before your very eyes hissing Chihuahua's morph into lovey dog babies. Teeth baring Pit Bulls transform into tail-wagging dog buddies.

Oh Cesar! More calming than my usual medication of sitcoms and laugh tracks. I want to put the diminutive cabbage patch-faced fella right IN MY POCKET. Fuck the dogs! He could be my life coach!.. And when I stumble into this chaotic situation or that I could pull him out so he could guide me in his darling Spanish accent.
"SSSHHHT!" He'd strictly hush his trademark when I begin to blubber. Actually, Cesar would sense the onslaught of tears and "SSSHHHT" me before I had a chance to cry. He's that good. And when I successfully put the kibosh on the tears, backed off from attacking The Surge or the bitch lady on the subway, Cesar would proffer a treat. Perhaps a Dorito or maybe a handful of Skittles! Then maybe he'd ruffle my hair and pat me on the back. I'd like that.

Picture it: I'm pre-menstrual, circling The Surge like an angry Pit Bull, ready to attack him for LEAVING HIS FUCKING BEARD TRIMMINGS IN THE SINK. AGAIN! After I spot the dadgummed trimmings, I immediately bolt down the hall to where The Surge is happily reading The Post, my bare feet slapping the hardwood like hands on a bongo... I'm almost there.. I will give that motherfucker a piece of my------
"SSSHHHHTT!"
What?
Lo and behold! It's Cesar! He sensed my attack and pre-empted! I stop, momentarily confused and then I forget to attack. And I get a Dorito! What could be better? Well, if I'm PMS-ing he better follow the Dorito with a Twinkie.. and all will be well.
Friday
Aug042006

Coney Island

I went to the beach today:

Click here for more photos of Coney Island fun!

And I rode the CYCLONE! Wanna come?

Thursday
Aug032006

Priorities

"You get avacados?" The Surge asks?
"Yup, right here.. As ripe as my fantastic ta-tas."
"I thought you said you could store nuts for the winter under the recent sag."
"Dude.. you don't need to remind me. Just engaging in a little positive self-affirmation is all."
"I'm just repeating what you said. I think you have an exquisite pair." My husband smoothly slides this last sentence into the conversation like a victorious baseball player sliding into home. Evidence that a man is never too old to train. It just takes a lot of screaming, crying, throwing of the wedding ring and the like.
"You think any pair is exquisite." I reply, pleased nonetheless. "Did you get taco shells and hot sauce?"
"Right here. You got onions?"
"Si senor. And tomatoes. I think our work here is done."
"I've only got twenty-four dollars on me. How much do you think this is going to come to?"
"I don't know, but we can't withdraw anything. There's nothing to withdraw. Rent check just cleared. I think our balance is, like, 50 cents. Maybe 60."
"Let's add this up."

We fall silent as each of us conducts our own mentally tally of the groceries in our basket. God forbid, we go above our cash limit, forced to shamefacedly ask the cashier if she can subtract the avacados, we can't afford them.
"Shit. I'm at twenty-one dollars already and we still haven't accounted for Diet Coke."The Surge says.
"We need milk too." I remind my betrothed.
"Oh." His face scrunches up as he runs numbers through his beautiful head like a professional bookie. "We can't afford both" he determines, sadly shaking his head.
"What's it going to be, milk or Diet Coke?" I ask.

We both pause to consider the greatest quandary of our day. Milk? Or Diet Coke? Hmmm... I let the air conditioned air lick my body, can hear electric snatches of Sheryl Crow crowing about soaking up the sun leaking out of the weak grocery store intercom.
"Diet Coke" we say in unison. And there it is.
Calcium? Please. Priorities, people.