Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I’m afraid I’ve become one of those women I used to hate.
Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. Maybe it was more spite, or resentment, or maybe I was just annoyed. Maybe it wasn’t so much the people, per say, but the things that came out of their mouths.
You know the girls I’m talking about, the happily married ones with gorgeous husbands who are toting their Patagonia fleece-clad babies around strapped to their chests who say things like, “your life could change tomorrow,” or “you’ll meet someone when you least expect it,” or “as soon as you stop looking that’s when you find someone,” or the ever-popular “you just know when it’s right.”
People would say those things and I would roll my eyeballs so far back into my head that only the whites of my eyes would show as my eyelashes fluttered wildly, like I was having some kind of seizure. If I was feeling especially bitter, my head might start spinning around on my shoulders really super fast or maybe my claws would sprout from my fingertips or fangs would grow from my gums as slobber dripped from my jowls.
I’d always respond with something like, “Oh really? My life could change tomorrow? Well that’s an interesting concept, considering nothing has changed, not ever, in the last 15 goddamned years!”
I guess you could say I was a little bitter. It’s no big secret my track record with men has been less than stellar, what, because I tend to hang onto The Lost Cause like I’ve confused the anvil with the life boat. It was like I wanted to drown.
I’d call my friend Ashley in California and tell her all these horror stories.
“He did what?!?” she’d say, her Texas accent firing like it always does when she’s upset or drunk. “That’s disgusting! I mean, who does that? That’s really sick, Ali! Oh my god. What did you do?”
I’d get all proud and explain to her how I handled the situation with the utmost grace and compassion. “I just explained to him that he doesn’t have to treat me that way, that he doesn’t have to be mean in order to push me away. I mean, it’s a small town so there has to be some diplomacy, right? I told him we’d always be friends and that I’d always love him but that doesn’t mean I want to get back together.”
“You said what?!” she’d reply, her voice getting louder. I could hear her son Noah in the background. “Noahie, Mommy is on the phone with Ali. Remember what I said about interrupting Mommy when she’s on the phone?”
Ashley’s son is almost 4 now and he already surfs. He’s gorgeous and blonde and it’s hard to tell what traits come from her and what ones come from her gorgeous artist husband because they look like they could be related. Even though I don’t always listen, Ashley is one of those voices I can actually hear. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t talk in cliches or maybe it’s because I saw her make the same bad choices I’ve made. Like, before she met Andy she dated a guy who was the lead singer in a punk rock band who had two pit bulls that wore the same studded collars around their neck that he did.
Then she met her husband and they were so in love they couldn’t be apart for two minutes. But now that they’re married with a child it’s hard. “If this is where you’re at now with this relationship, there’s no way in hell you’re ever going to make it. Not if this is your starting point. No way.”
The worst part is she’s been hearing these stories for years about different men and they’re always all the same. But she still listens and she still encourages me and still cheers me on.
So this last conversation we were having about one of the uglier moments in my love life she says, “I feel like you’re at the point where you’re so used to being abused that you think it’s normal. It’s like you’re saying, ‘Guess what! I can eat rat poison all day long and it doesn’t even affect me at all! I’m totally immune to it!'”
That made me laugh even though it probably should’ve made cry. But it hit me. She was right.
Not all my friends were so patient. I had one friend who stopped returning my calls to the point where I started to feel like she was another guy who was dissing me. The rejection was made abundantly clear through her silence. When I finally confronted her about it she said, “I just got so tired listening to you complain about that loser that I couldn’t handle being around you anymore.”
That hurt, but at least it wasn’t a cliche. It might have been harsh, but at least it was honest.
Then all of a sudden I started having these epiphanies, one after another. The first one was in realizing that I would never stop feeling sick until I stopped eating rat poison. The other was that I had to let go of my fantasies about what I wanted and face reality. The third and most important thing was I understood that I had to be OK on my own, that no other person was ever going to make me complete until I was complete first.
And then one day, just like that, my life changed overnight. I met someone when I least expected it, when I wasn’t looking. And I know it’s right.
Now I understand it’s not that I’ve become one of those women I used to hate after all. It’s that I hated the woman I was afraid I might become. Those days it appears, at least for now, are over.
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