I'm sitting cross-legged on my therapist's couch 4 months after my husband's announcement that he wants a divorce when my therapist informs me that he thinks I should start dating again.
I had told myself and others that I was going to take time off to concentrate on myself for once. Between a husband and three boys, I didn't know who I was anymore. I just wanted to hang out with my girlfriends, drink martinis like a fish, and let the hair grow long on my legs if I wanted. I had even gone so far as to announce to my friends that I was going to take a full year off from any kind of relationship.
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Man #29, The Kept Man, Part 2
On the night of porkfest with The Kept Man, I dressed in black slacks, a shiny, dark pink, sleeveless, silk top, which everyone seems to think is red, and a simple black cardigan. I painted my toenails a dark pink to match my shirt and put on black strappy sandals. I chose some sparkly, dangling earrings and a matching bracelet to pull everything together.
We had agreed I would meet him at his place in Magnolia, park my car there, and we would ride to the restaurant together.
As I pulled onto his street, I gazed around at the beautiful houses, the manicured hedges, and the tidy, edged lawns and tried to figure out which place was his. Then, there it was. I spotted the house number and my heart sank. His house was on the uphill side of the street, and I could barely see the stairs leading up to the front door because of all of the English ivy growing over the retaining wall. Plus, the house was in dire need of a paint job. I didn’t know Magnolians were allowed to let their houses get like that. Didn’t they have rules about that sort of thing in this neighborhood? He had told me he had a housekeeper who came every Monday, but maybe he also needed to hire a landscaper.
Anyway, I parked my car and started my ascent to the front door. There was no handrail, the front edges of the concrete steps were chipped away making navigation in 3 1/2 inch heels treacherous, and the ivy was so overgrown it was brushing against my sweater as I climbed the stairs to the front door. It grossed me out.
Ever since my twenties, when I worked in landscape maintenance for a couple of years, I get grossed out by English ivy, and I’ll tell you why. Rats. Big fucking rats. The woody vines of ivy provide a perfect cover in which rats can make their homes. Back in the day, I wouldn’t go near ivy without boots and leather gloves, and here I was surrounded by it, being brushed on both sides by ivy, possibly by leaves the rats had peed on, in my fancy clothes and heels. It makes me shudder even now to think of it.
I finally made it to the front door and rang the bell. The Kept Man opened the door and said, “Wow. You look beautiful.”
“Thanks,” I said, “How are you?”
“Fine. Did you find it ok?”
“Yeah, it was pretty straightforward.”
He invited me inside, offered me a glass of red wine, and a seat in the kitchen.
Wine in hand, I started to relax, trying to put the ivy ordeal out of my mind. A couple of sips into my wine, I was visited by a cat. The cat jumped on to the kitchen counter and started rolling around to get my attention. Now, while I tend to be an animal lover in general, that love is primarily focused on dogs, especially my Thorcito Burrito. I really only have a tolerance for cats, and that tolerance does not extend to cats on the kitchen counter, especially when they are rolling and shedding all over. I was suddenly thankful we were going OUT for dinner.
The cat then started to try to rub on me in my black clothes. I tried to avoid contact.
“If he doesn’t get attention, he starts knocking things off the counter,” The Kept Man said. I gave in and stroked the back of the cat’s head. God forbid, I anger the cat.
After a few more sips of wine, The Kept Man asked if I was ready to head to the restaurant, and directed me toward his garage.
“We have to go through here,” he said, motioning toward the back of the house.
We exited out into the backyard, past a concrete brick patio that looked like it had not seen people or a broom in ages, and he directed me towards yet another set of steps. These steps were so overgrown by a large, evergreen shrub I had to put my left arm up to block the branches while leaning far to the right to again avoid contact with my clothes. Even hikes through the Cascade Mountains don’t involve this kind of trailblazing.
His garage and car were also a mess, and I couldn’t help but wonder; what was he doing if he was home all day and not working? It was so obvious that he wasn’t taking care of his home.
We chatted in the car on the way to the restaurant, and he told me about a business deal he had been involved in back before his kids were born. I started to notice that everything he talked about was past tense. We arrived at the restaurant, valet parked the car, and were shown to our table in short order.
Metropolitan Grill is fantastic. There isn’t one bad thing I can say about The Met. Our waiter came with menus and suggested we start the evening with cocktails. The Kept Man ordered The Aviation, a combination of gin, lemon juice, and maraschino cherry liqueur, while I ordered the 820 Manhattan. Yum!
We sipped our cocktails while we perused the menus even though we both knew why we were there. It was porkfest after all. We had come for the free-range, acorn-fed swine, but although we knew what we wanted as an entrée, we still needed to decide on side dishes. The Kept Man wanted the asparagus with béarnaise sauce from the regular menu.
“Did you see these wild mushrooms?” I asked.
“How do you feel about mushrooms? I’m thinking that since the pork comes from the woods and the mushrooms come from the woods, they might make a nice combination. What do you think?”
“Sure,” he said, “Let’s do it. We’ll get those too.”
Over dinner I asked him about his future plans. He planned on continuing to stay at home with the kids for at least the next five years, and then, he wasn’t sure. Maybe he’d get back into his former career. I tried to keep an open mind, ask thoughtful questions about the situation, and imagine what I would do. I failed. Technology waits for no one. He was already over 50, had been out of the workforce for 10 years, and was planning to just dive back in to his former profession in another five years? I didn’t see that as a likely scenario.
The more he talked the more it reminded me that we were dining on his ex-wife’s dime, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. When The Kept Man again started talking about his out-of-control son and the hoops he jumped through for his ex-wife, I started to think about what I had seen at the house. I suddenly felt like I could understand why his wife ran away. Imagine being in charge all day as a powerful executive while your husband stays at home, then coming home to a household that is falling apart with a cat rolling around on the counter. I mean, sometimes you just want people in your life who can get things done without being told. I was having a difficult time understanding how The Kept Man contributed to the household.
There was also something else about the language he used in talking about his life. I started to listen more closely to the things he was saying and realized that, unless he was talking about the drama with his family, he had little to say. He was a victim, and I don’t deal well with victims. I started to feel like I probably had more in common with his ex-wife, and since she was paying for the meal, I might have been happier going out with her.
I needed a second dose of bourbon and ordered another cocktail.
The pork chop and mushrooms were amazing. It was like they were made for each other. I’d like to think the chef had planned for them to dance together on my plate.
As I continued to sip my 820 Manhattan, The Kept Man started telling me about this man he used to know who used Elliot Wave Principles to predict movements in the stock market. I don’t even know how we got on the subject, but suddenly he was talking about Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio. As the second Manhattan started to kick in and after I had challenged him on a couple of points, I realized I didn’t really care. I’m probably more of a Boglehead investor, so the chances of me adopting an investment strategy told to me by a man who doesn’t have his own money are probably slim to none.
Despite my desire for crème brûlée, I gave in to The Kept Man’s craving for the nine layer chocolate cake with two forks for dessert.
Overall, it was a good date. It didn’t suck. The venue was awesome, the meal was amazing, but as The Kept Man revealed more and more about himself, I realized his ex still had him on a leash, and I had a lot more questions. Primarily, what the hell did he do all day? And, what was he going to do when the child support stopped?
We left the restaurant and headed back to his place. I had to traverse the backyard, back through the bushes from the garage to the house, in the dark this time. I sat for a brief moment in his kitchen as his cat again tried to molest me, and then announced that it was late and I needed to be getting home.
At the front landing, I peered out into the darkness to find the trail I would need to blaze to get back down the hill to my car. There were no lights to help me safely get down, and I know rats are more active at night. As I said goodbye to The Kept Man at his front door, I knew it was very unlikely I would go out with him again.
When I got home I sent him a quick email, thanking him for a lovely evening, and went to bed.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks we exchanged a few more emails, but they became more and more infrequent and I never went out with him again. The last time I heard from him, the new drama in his life involved legal troubles with his sister. She was the new female villain in his life, and, again, I found myself taking her side. I didn’t return his last email. I thought about it,…
…and playing a female super villain is not the role I’m willing to play.