At three months pregnant, Hali discovered that her husband, Paul, was having an affair. She’d accidentally stumbled across a peculiar email, and when she casually approached him about it, he crumbled instantly. In tears, his rugged chin down, he begged her to understand that he was in love with this other woman. He believed they were “soul mates”; how could he walk away from her, the “love of his life”? He was just “so confused and lost. Couldn’t she see that? Where was her compassion?” And with that, he abandoned his stunned, horrified, pregnant wife and four-year-old son to go “find himself”—and his girlfriend.
As Hali dealt with the aftermath of betrayal—not sleeping, not eating, emotionally floundering and flailing—I was there for her. I babysat her son whenever possible to give her time to rest and grieve. I listened when she called, teary, at 2:00 AM, needing courage and compassion and commiseration. Even though I was still seeing Graham at the time, I understood her. I’d gone through it with Robert. Little did I know that in a few months, I’d be in her shoes—again—and while the irony was not lost on me that I was “the other woman,” Hali never judged me. It helped that both Graham’s marriage and my own had ended, if not literally, then emotionally. Hali and I each, in our separate and similar ways, understood the scorching pain of deceit and heartbreak. We were both forced to sift through the ashes of our family dreams for a new foundation. Life was tough. We couldn’t have needed each other more.
Despite it all, Hali not only “got through” the next six months of her pregnancy, she did so with a toughness and determination that belied her inner despair. She immediately began hashing
through the legalities of their separation, moved into their just-completed dream house without him, constructed new dreams as a single mom-to-be of two children,
planned a home birth. I admired her deeply. In my eyes, she was the embodiment of a powerful woman.
Hali’s shower was a marvelous success. I’m not sure which was stronger: Hali’s glow or the amount of warmth and laughter in her house. Either way, I knew she was basking in and absorbing the loving energy we’d created. So, too, were the freshly painted walls of her brand new, albeit single-mom, home.
“I’VE BEEN FEELING kind of funny all morning,” said Hali, gently rubbing her giant belly. “I kind of think today might be the day.”
We were sitting in the shopping mall food court having lunch. She was due any day, so I packed the kids in the minivan and joined her on a last-minute foray for baby gear. As we sat finishing our lunches, we kept an eye on the kids as they monkeyed in the atrium.
I looked at Hali closely. She looked radiant.
“Yep. You’re ready,” I concluded.
” she said, patting her belly and smiling. “I am ready to meet my daughter.
“You know what Delaine?” she continued, picking at her salad. “As exciting as it is that I’ll soon meet my daughter, I also can’t wait to get back out there and start dating again.” She leaned in conspiratorially, looking around to make sure no one was listening. “I
want to have sex again. I mean seriously, it’s been a long six months.”
it has,” I said laughing. “Remember how you wanted to go speed dating when you first found out about Paul’s affair? You were three months pregnant, for God’s sake!”
“Crazy, eh?” she laughed. “But I wanted to do it while I could still hide my pregnancy.”
I shook my head, “That is crazy, hon. I’m glad you didn’t do it.”
She smiled, but her eyes suddenly turned more serious. “It just hasn’t been fair. Paul freely spent these past six months feeling giddy-in-love with someone new, while I was left to pick up the pieces, look after the kids, and go through all of this alone. I’ve wanted so badly to lean on another man, to have someone tell me I’m desirable and lovable. But instead I’ve had to give that comfort to myself. Hell, I couldn’t even turn to alcohol or smoking to make me feel better!”
I listened, seeing the weight of her burdens and loneliness shift across her face.
“I know all this was supposed to make me stronger,” she continued, raising her chin. “It
made me stronger, but I swear to God,” she added passionately, “as soon as the midwives give me the thumbs up, I’m going to find me a well-hung man and screw the hell out of him!”
I laughed, full bellied, at the powerful irony of what she’d just said. Visions of happily married pregnant moms gasping raced through my mind.
“So what’s happening with you and Cal?” she asked.
Despite my post-sex dramatics, Cal
contact me again, and we’d met up afterward for a few more sweaty trysts.
“I like him. He’s a nice guy,” I said, shrugging. “But I just don’t see it going anywhere.”
“Why does it have to
anywhere? The sex is good, isn’t it?”
“Sure. It’s okay,” I said. Now it was my turn to lean in a little closer and ensure young ears were out of reach. “I mean, I like the way we have sex—he picks me up a lot and is very aggressive, which is fun—but I’ve never had an orgasm with him. And well, I hate to be mean, but . . .
his penis is really quite small.
Hali burst out laughing. “Really? Like how small? What
small, anyway? I’ve just never had an issue with that.”
“I don’t know exact measurements,” I said, grinning. “But let’s put it this way: When I put my hand around him, I easily cover him from top to bottom.”
“Hmmmm,” Hali said, trying not to laugh. “Not good.”
tell me about it! I mean, if he was into oral sex or he was more sensual, then perhaps it wouldn’t bother me. But he’s so physical.
not sensual. He fucks like a hockey player
” I lifted my elbows and shoulders. “Like an NHL fighter.” Hali laughed and I joined in.
“Anyway,” I said, shaking my head. “We’ll see what happens. I’m not writing Cal off or anything—”
“No, you’re just keeping keep him around till a guy with a bigger penis comes along!”
I laughed and pushed my chair back. “Let’s go run these monsters through the mall. I promised the boys they could look at light sabers at Toys“R”Us, too.
“Sounds good,” she said.
But our shopping expedition didn’t last long: Hali suddenly began having contractions, and within half an hour, she was leaning on the wall breathing hard. It was time to go.
TWO DAYS LATER, Cal and I had a disagreement and that marked the end of our brief tryst. We had different perspectives about dating. Even though we weren’t in a serious relationship, he didn’t want me to stay active on the dating site, and my feelings for him weren’t strong enough to do that.
While my interest in Cal was casual at best, the fallout hit me surprisingly hard. I was still more fragile than I believed. I had mistaken emotional numbness for healing, not self-protection. I was back in that forest, unsure where the path was—or if one even existed. I had no road map, no compass, no idea of what my future would hold, and I had this unnerving sense that I didn’t know who
I was anymore. How would I manage being a single mother of three and how would I support us financially? What if I never again found the kind of love I’d felt with Graham? I still couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I retreated, without resistance, into the shadows of self-pity. I didn’t realize that I could manage my life alone.
Fueled by my angst, over the next eight weeks of summer I met twelve different men from the dating site. I wasn’t just dating “anyone.” I still screened them carefully and adhered to my original age and job requirements. But unconsciously, my mission was clear: Seek and Replace.
The problem was, there wasn’t a single man I wanted to see beyond a first coffee date. I simply wasn’t attracted to any of them. But in place of desire, something else was surfacing. Something I
something I was grateful for. The seedlings of confidence.
“WHAT WAS WRONG with the last guy, the skinny guy in the convertible?” asked Hali. She and her kids were over for a playdate, and we were sitting in my sunny kitchen, drinking tea. Hali’s daughter, Teah, was now six weeks old, and Hali, true to her word, was dating again, too.
I grinned over my teacup. “I liked him, and we got along well. But at the end of our date, he kissed me. And well . . .” I scrunched up my nose. “He gave my face a bath.”
Hali laughed, then said, “Hmmm. A kiss is important. Maybe he was just nervous?”
“I considered that. So I let him kiss me again. But nope, same thing.”
“Yuck. Well that’s no good. If he can’t get a kiss right, don’t risk finding out what he’s inept at in bed.”
“Moooom!” My three-year-old daughter suddenly hollered from down in the basement. “
Evan said I’m a stupid dummy
I rolled my eyes. “Ah, the joys of parenting . . .” I got up and
went to the foot of the stairs. My five-year-old, Evan, was bursting to proclaim his innocence. “Listen up guys: Evan, there will be no name-calling. And that goes for the rest of you, too. Play nice or I’ll separate you.”
,” came their voices in unison.
I sat back down at the table. “Let’s see how long
Hali grinned. “Anyhow,” she began again. “I find it strange that you’ve met so many men and rejected them all. Maybe if you got to know them better, someone would grow on you.”
“Believe me Hali. I
to like these guys. My
wants me to like these guys. I wish I wasn’t so damn picky.” I shook my head in frustration. “But something kind of positive
actually come out of all this serial dating . . .”
Hali raised her brows. “What’s that?”
“When I first started meeting men, and someone would give me a compliment like, ‘You’re so funny,’ or ‘You’re so smart and interesting,’ I couldn’t believe they were talking about me. I literally sat there going,
? I wasn’t able to fully receive the compliments, as if there was a big wall there. But now I’m starting to internalize them a bit. And wow, it feels pretty darn good.”
can tell you why you’ve had trouble believing their compliments,” Hali said adamantly. “It’s because you were married for seven years to a bully who constantly put you down. He ridiculed you
Delaine, even in front of all your friends. I’d sit there growing angrier and angrier, just waiting for you to stick up for yourself. But you just laughed it off.
I get worked up just thinking about it. Thank God you’re divorcing him.”
“But . . . I—”
“And don’t get me started on Graham!” she said, cutting me off. She was on a roll. “You said he was so wonderful. You always said you had no idea he was having an affair. But did he call you when he said he would?
. Did he make an extra effort to see you?
he show you in a thousand ways that he thought you were the most amazing woman on earth?
Not even close.
That’s not love.”
“Okay, okay! Uncle, already,” I said, even though I didn’t think Hali’s assessment was fair. Hali hadn’t seen how he treated me when we were together—how attentive he was, how he looked at me, how he laughed and shared and showered me with his love. The possibility of him cheating with a second woman had never crossed my mind!
“Let’s not go there, okay hon? I’m all about trying to move forward. Speaking of which, what about that guy you accidentally met on your date the other day?” Only Hali could go out on her first date in thirteen years, go to the wrong place, and pick up a
man while she waited.
“Josh? Oh, it’s nothing really. I just gave him my number. I enjoyed talking to him, but in all honesty, I had trouble understanding him. He’s from Newfoundland and his accent is really thick.”
“How old is he?”
“Thirty-three. And he’s
good looking. I mean, he’s okay, but he’s nothing special. God, listen to me, eh? That sounds terrible. Anyway, he might be someone I can hang out with . . . or maybe even have
with,” she added, smiling coyly. “We’ll see.”
Suddenly, Teah started stirring in her car seat. As Hali got up to prepare her bottle, I couldn’t help but admire how pretty she looked: Her blue satin blouse complemented her skin and blond hair, and from behind, she looked sexy in her stylish, hip-hugging blue jeans. “By the way, you really look fantastic, hon,” I said.
“Thanks. I feel pretty good about how I look. But you know me—there’s always a battle raging with body image. Look at this—” She lifted her shirt and squeezed the soft skin around her waist. “See? Mommy belly. It’s so obvious. And I worry that any man I sleep with will get stuck on the fact that I recently gave birth.
“If he has a problem with it, it’s his. You gave birth only six weeks ago! Your stomach is
to look like that.”
“I know I know,” she grumbled as she tested the milk on her wrist. “I’m also really worried about being too ‘loose’ down there.
As if dating again wasn’t challenge enough.”
“Just keep kegeling, hon. Do it for the sake of continence first and foremost. Said by a woman who’s given birth to three! Besides, at the end of the day, when it comes to sex, I think most men are just happy to have it.”
We each sat quietly for a moment, watching Teah as she drank her bottle. “I still can’t believe this is our life right now,” murmured Hali, gently rocking her daughter. “I just never,
, would have imagined myself going through all of this.”
“I know,” I said, shaking my head. “Isn’t it wild that we’re going through this at the exact same time?”
“Yeah . . . But I know that a year from now, our lives will look completely different.
“WAY better,” I said, nodding. I then added thoughtfully: “I remember an older lady once saying to me, ‘Every woman goes through a period of insanity at some point in her life.’ Not as in ‘she loses her mind’ or she ‘caves to hysteria’ but that life tests her so hard that she’s forced to question and own and grow into all that she can be.