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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
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Thursday
Oct132005

He Said, She Said

Being married is hard. Nope. That sentence just isn't enough. Doesn't impart the gut wrenching, tight rope walk that is unholy matrimony. The moments, check that, the hours... no... the days of outrageous, self-righteous indignation, coupled with spirals of self loathing in the aftermath of a fight during which, in a split second of uncontrollable rage, you spewed every hateful, hurtful sentence you could spit through clenched jaws. And when HE responds in a similar manner, you play victim. Of course you cry. Then, when he feels bad about your tears, the self satisfaction spreads through you like a shot of liquor on an empty stomach. After all, the argument was his fault because he said... Wait! What did he say? That's right, he said.. erm... it was something extremely offensive. Of that I am certain. If I could just remember. How did this fight start? Surely it was because of some insensitive bit he tossed out carelessly. The fighting renews, only this time you're arguing about what you're arguing about.
"You're the one that said..."
"But you said..."
"It's always me isn't it?"
"You said it, not me."

He said, she said. I say being married is hard. The topic has been done to death. Marriage is a cliche, a comic's stand-up routine, sitcom fodder, Hollywood's joke. It's a dying institution that people afraid to be single cling to. It's a traditional, romantic gesture for soul mates. All I know is I had to get married the way I did or I never would have gone through with it. Quick and dirty, my friends. No time for second thoughts. Hell, no time for first thoughts. Not a quiet moment to reflect on the sentence 'for time and all eternity' or 'til death do us part'.. No chance to really get to know him or I would have pulled out.

Get to know someone and a bit of the passion dies. Fuck off romantics (likely bleary eyed singletons still searching for their 'soul mate'). It's true. Get to know someone and you also become acquainted with their faults. 'Howdy! Not so pleased to meet you Mr. Loud Chewer! Not so glad to make your acquaintance Mr. Never, Ever, Under No Circumstances, Clean the Bathtub!'.

The catch 22 is, the deeper the waters of wedded bliss become, the nearer you come to drowning yet somehow manage to dog paddle through the high tide of tough times, the deeper in love you fall. In that way, I suppose, the passion meter jumps back up from it's dormant position.

Get to know faults = passion takes a header = love him anyway = fall more in love = passion meter jumps. Strange isn't it? Besides, how can I not be passionate about the man who bares witness to a sobbing, snotting girl who can't stomach the thought of another week on the graveyard shift writing about death, death, and more death and loves her anyway?
Tuesday
Oct112005

But Why?

"But why?" I ask, unshed tears already prickling my eyes. He looks down at the porch on which we're sitting. I can feel the cold leaking through my thin, cotton, workout pants. Yellow-white sunlight filters weakly through a neighbor's tree and dapples the side of his face with patches of light and dark.
"It doesn't matter. It's just... it's me." He casts his eyes askance, acknowledging the cop out of this sentence.
"Just tell me." I try to maintain control, keep my voice low, but a small tremor on the word 'me' gives me away.

I hadn't seen this coming. Yeah, we'd been fighting lately. A lot. Wasn't that par for the relationship course? Nobody hits holes-in-one all the time. Do they? I'd chosen to be myself, or what I thought was myself, in this relationship. Venting every little frustration under the guise of being real.
"I hate my job."
"I'm so fat."
"The stylist completely fucked up my hair, I am NOT going ANYWHERE looking like this!"

Isn't this what REAL relationships are made of? Full disclosure? Total honesty? Revealing the real me. No fake-fronting. Love me or leave me. This is girl power! Isn't it? And then. The sentence.
"You just aren't the girl for me." He says this while looking off into the distance. Away from me. From us. I try to power through the overwhelming urge to burst into girly tears. But you know how it is. The more you try, the more you cry.

I turn inward. Heeding Ani DiFranco's advice, I dilate. Fuck you and your untouchable face, I think. I grab this tough-girl thread in hopes it will lead me to my familiar tough-self. The self born of being a child of divorce, battling three brothers, growing up on food stamps, getting a job at fourteen, moving out at sixteen, pregnant at seventeen, abortion. The self that sharpened her edges by living alone and trusting no one for nearly ten years. But she is no match, because she is just 'not the girl'. He has confirmed what she always feared. Back when parents of friends wouldn't allow their daughters to play with her because she was part of 'That bad Butler family'.

Something breaks inside my chest and fat tears spill onto my cheeks. I actually see one plop onto the porch like a raindrop. He shifts uncomfortably. Not because he wants to wash his hands of the girl crying on his porch, but because he's made me cry. See? He's a good guy like that.

I thought I was living authentically. I thought he 'got me'.. And so I let my shadowy shallow self into the light, mistakenly assuming that was 'being real'. But being 'real' turned me into a whining, complaining weakling. I thought he'd see beyond the bad behavior to the real me. But the bad behavior was the real me. He realized that before I did. Then I made one of the biggest realizations of my life. I discovered my pattern with men. In my relationships, I'd let it all hang out. All of it. I'd spew everything that's ever happened to me. Some good, but mostly the bad and the ugly. Then I'd stand defiantly, arms crossed, waiting to see what each boyfriend would do. Could they handle me? Will they see through my bullshit to the real me? Never realizing that the bullshit was the real me.

I was shattered for two years after this conversation. Mangled self-esteem, slowly gluing the pieces back together. But I limped from that wreckage with an important lesson that I use every single second of my married life. Just because I am loved, just because I am understood, I do not have a hall pass to do and act as I please. Because I am loved, because I am understood, I must try harder to filter out as much of the bad behavior as I can.. Not wave it like a flag, daring someone to love me anyway, under the mistaken notion that if they put up with my shit, it's true love. Now, it's more important than ever that I put my best put forward, for my husband. That's true love.
Sunday
Oct092005

His Heart is the Bums on the Street

I have an art collection hanging on the milk white walls of my tiny Brooklyn apartment. Bold, beautfiul, colorful, unlike anything I've ever seen. It's all original. One of a kind. The artist; Joseph, the homeless man who lives in the path tunnel that connects the L train to the Seventh Avenue subway platform.

The Surge and I literally stumbled across Joseph late one night as we giggled drunkenly, staggering toward the L, arms clasped around each other for support. There, camped along the side of the underground path was Joseph. His toothy smile, a beacon in his chocolate colored face. The Surge, always one with an eye for the unusual, the artistic, gently guided me toward the grinning stranger in the dirty overalls.
"How much?" The Surge was holding one of the brightly colored, crayon drawings. Initially annoyed at this disruption of my drunken revelry, I relented and squinted my vision to 20/20 and took a closer look.

Depicted in the drawing; the subway under attack. A crowded train, throttling through shadowy buildings, as invaders from space hovered above, taking aim. One flying saucer had unleashed beaming, orange fireballs at the train. A direct hit! The caboose was plummeting to earth from the elevated tracks. I was captivated. By the concept. By the man, with seemingly, not a care in the world but his art.
"Five dollars". Joseph answered The Surge.
"We'll take it," The Surge replied. "But on one condition. Will you sign it for us?" Jospeh's chest puffed with pride. His art, validated. He took the picture, scuttled to his briefcase of crayons and colored pencils, (such an adorable attempt at professionalism) considered his options then carefully selected a black Sharpie. He hunkered down as dozens of Manhattanites rushed past, barely glancing in his direction, and scratched 'Joseph 05' in the corner of the drawing.
"Sold!" The Surge rubbed his hands together. I stood apart from the transaction and watched my sweet husband peel off five dollars and proffer a hand for Joseph to shake. And that's how it started.

I am now the proud owner of six Joseph originals. They hang grandly on my living room wall, a splendid display of art, its' importance to its' creator and what it can teach the rest of us. Not only the art, but the lesson The Surge taught me about the kindness of strangers. My husband, The Surge. He's like that. Ever mindful of the beauty to be found in everyday objects, everyday people. He regards things I would have walked right by. And I had. I had passed Joseph every day for a month, not casting a glance his way. Now, he's a friend. He'll wait for me, a new creation in hand, a smile dawning on his face like morning sunshine when he sees me approaching.
Saturday
Oct082005

Caught On Camera

Brace yourselves. Really. Woke up to the following text message from my Mom.
"Went to film Jordy's (my nephew) first football game. Was completely traumatized for life. Caught a snippet before I could shut it off. Your tape was left in the camera??!!"

The tape my unsuspecting mom is referring to is The Surge and my attempt at porn stardom. Within the confines of our humble Brooklyn abode, of course. When we set out for New York from Utah, my Mom generously loaned us her digital recorder. Well, actually I forced her into lending it to us as it was I who gave it to her as a Christmas present in the first place. She finally came for a visit last week and, as planned, took the camcorder back home with her. In my hurry to pack for London, I must have left a cassette in the player, The cassette, unfortunately, starring The Surge and myself in all manner of nekkid horseplay.

It was about two months ago. As I was feeling frisky, I agreed to humor my always frisky husband. Moments later, we were off in Pam and Tommy land. After each 'episode', we'd turn back the digital recorder and watch ourselves in all our glorious glory. It was anything but a turn on.
"Look at my ass jiggle!"
"Do I really look like that?"
"My boobs! They are flopping and flapping like a ballon in the middle of deflating!"

The Surge rather enjoyed the whole entrepreneurial affair. As for me, after watching my jiggling joggling bum and flopping and flapping boobs for all of thirty seconds I decreed from there on out, the only private porn I'd be making would feature me securely on bottom, effectively securing my bottom to the couch. And so, once again, we strategically placed the camera on the counter and went to town. I liked the result of this last attempt all right. It's not something I'd go back and view for kicks, mind you, but it was interesting to give it a go. Now I'm left to wonder which version my Mom laid unlucky eyes on. She's just texted me, "I think over time and therapy I'll be okay".
Friday
Oct072005

One Hour in Harrods

We push through the gold etched glass doors, leaving the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge behind, innocent to the beauteous bounty that lays ahead. Like entering a portal into another dimension. From clammy, nearly gray colored air tinged with chill, to vivid colors with posh perfumes rushing forward to welcome us to Harrods.

That the owner of Harrods is Egyptian is reflected in the architecture of this London gem of a department store. Ornate carvings rear to life from solid, gargantuan marble walls. We are in the Egyptian Hall, and for all I know about Egypt, this tomb could very well resemble the interior of a pyramid itself with its' gold trim and massive arches. Humungous hutches crouch against walls, filled with dazzling displays of Lladro, an homage to the ancient tradition of porcelain. These finely handcrafted porcelain figurines from Spain occupy shelves, all individually lit, demanding undivided attention like the spotlit star of a Broadway play mid-monologue. The Surge and I follow our noses from The Egyptian Hall to the food sections.

Such an array of magnificient decadence I've not yet seen in my nearly three decades on earth. Meat, Fruits & Vegetables, and Desserts each occupy their own grand room. Stuffed to overflowing with all manner of ravishing food item accoutrements. I am hypnotized by the most beautiful confection creations I've ever beheld. Sparkling display cases containing miniature masterpieces. Tiny desserts resplendent with glossy fruits, drizzled chocolate accents. Each elegant sculpture, tantalizing in the soft light.

I can nearly taste the sweet sumptuousness of the Red Raspberry Chocolate Tart on my tongue. I linger near the case, then like a kid in a candy store, this adult in a dessert shop crouches next to the banquet of baking and presses her face against the glass. Silently, I whisper the names of each delicate dessert, one more succulent sounding than the next. Cafe Religieuse; a light choux pastry filled with coffee flavored creme patisserie and finished with coffee fondant. I peer at the diminutive dessert for ages, admiring every carefully crafted swoop and swirl of rich, dark chocolate before sliding my eyes to its' neighbor, Ms. Strawberry Choux Bun.. a light and flakey pastry filled with fresh strawberries and a liberal sprinkling of golden toasted almonds to finish. I exchange wide-eyed, eyebrow raising grins with a six year old ogling the same row of pastries and move on to the next work of art. Lavendar Valencia; this dessert with a femme fatale of a name. For that's what she is.. a chocolate enchantress. She uses her milk chocolate caramel mousse to lure you in. Once she's got you in her sticky clutches she gives her heart to you. A lavendar brulee center on a Dacquoise sponge base that has you begging for more when she's gone. And the icing on this petite cake? A praline glaze that will have you licking your lips in bittersweet chocolate agony over the memory of the sweet seductress that is no more.

I make my getaway, toward the eclair counter, and pause to count the many kinds available. Pistachio, Green Tea, Tonka Bean, Ilychee and of course, all the usual suspects like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and the like. That's when the smell of rich, chocolate envelopes me like a pair of cozy flannel pajamas. I see The Surge then, beckoning me to the source of the aroma. It's a chocolate fantasy of decadent indulgence.

Willy Wonka has nothing on Harrods chocolate counters. Chocolate squares in all shapes and sizes.. Combinations of nougat, caramel and nuts oozing soft, luscious centers with flavors such as mint, smooth vanilla, and rich coffee then bathed in milk, dark or white chocolate. The delectable delights include Chocolate Rum Truffles, Passion Armande, Sucree Salee, Truffe Paillette Cafe, Fabiola..

Having overdosed on visions of milk chocolate baths by candlelight, The Surge tugs me toward his favorite; the meat displays. On our way we pass a full sushi bar where dozens of Brits are whiling away the rainy lunch hour. The delicate din of silverware clattering against posh plates laden with fresh fish accompanies us until we turn the corner.

Todays Market; Dutch Veal, Scotch Beef and English Pork Mince. Butchers in full regalia labor beneath meat hooks laden with heavy shanks of animal flesh. Generally not one for the raw meat, I decide the whole affair is elegantly barbaric and leave The Surge to observe what he calls 'The coolest job in the world'. Entranced by the cleaving, chopping and carving, he barely notices me moving on.

The Vegetable and Fruit Section is a rainbow of colors. Each fresh piece polished to high sheen then tucked into burlap filled baskets that are nestled into mounds of clean, sweet smelling hay. I am eying exotic and extravagent sounding concoctions (tins of caviar - 2,000 English pounds! Streamlined, clear, glass bottles of cordial, ginger beer) when I nearly topple a carefully stacked pyramid display of fresh Welsh Mountain Honey. The fragrance of baking bread wafts into my nose and proves to be my breaking point. I extricate The Surge from his visions of owning a butcher shop and we work our way upstairs.

Past luxurious fabrics, and sharp suited saleswomen, dodging posh perfume sprayers, Nicole Farhi, DKNY, Roberto Cavalli, Dior, Armani.. we make our way to our ultimate destination, The Harrods Christmas room.

From the contemporary starkness of high end designers to a festive frenzy.. Multi colored lights, twinkle every which way, splashing color onto ornaments on display, refracting, and sending rainbows all around. The lights have been wound around the room, Chevy-Chase-in-A-National-Lampoon's- Christmas-Vacation-style.. Even Santa himself would scratch his snow white head in wonderment of it all. High on perfume, The Surge and I clutch each other in delirious dizziness.. Everywhere you look, spangles and sparkles catch your eye and beckon you come closer. Christmas music dances throughout the room, partnering with the lights to the beat of The Little Drummer Boy or the happy chimes of those familiar Jingle Bells.

We've decided to buy one Christmas ornament for our tree.. Oh, the deliberations! The drama! Which one will it be? There are balls of silver and gold, purple, pink, red, green, yellow and every hue in between. Matte, glossy, orbs with designs etched in, those with a sprinkling of snow, a powdery sugar finish that looks so tempting you almost venture a lick.. Finally! We settle on red and silver and exhaustedly make our way outside..