When you get divorced people tend to ask a lot of questions, most of which are uncomfortable. I won’t bother going into all of them and limit myself to the most frequently asked one: How are you going to feel when your ex brings a new partner around your son?
The sexist implications of this one always irked me (feminist that I am). It seemed to suggest that my ex-wife and son were possessions that I needed to guard,. Another person–presumably another guy–messing with my goods was a circumstance one ought to confront aggressively. Not reacting in this fashion further suggested a lack of male fortitude (which is a nice way of saying if you–as Dad–can’t beat up someone trying to be you–as Dad–then Dad–or you–is a pussy).
Truth is, right after I split with JP’s mother I wasn’t sure how I would react when and if she found a new person. I thought I wouldn’t care–one of the reasons I knew I wanted a divorce was that so little about my ex could rouse emotion in me (other than anger)–but it was hard to predict. I tried to play scenarios out in my mind, imagining what it would be like to see JP in the playground with another person caring for him. Nothing really came of it.
Ultimately, I did feel something when my ex got serious with another person (they live together now): relief. I was never able to communicate successfully with JP’s mother while we were married; interacting with her when we no longer were proved no easier. But her partner, at least on a superficial level, was someone I could talk to. Now if I have to arrange things relating to JP, I try as much as possible to involve his mother’s partner. It makes my life simpler, reduces the number of fights, and allows me to deal with someone who seems more rational than my ex (although the choice of taking my ex as a partner does tend to make me wonder).
I figured this all out only recently, when JP, after years of bitter, agile, asymmetric, VC-like resistance, surrendered and began eating his vegetables. Is he thrilled by asparagus? Amused by arugula? Enthralled with cauliflower? No. But he eats them, with only a pro forma effort at arguing, negotiating, and weeping.
When this began I asked my ex what she had done. I certainly hadn’t come up with any solutions. She told me it wasn’t her, but her partner who had gotten fed up with JP not eating his vegetables, and with methods the CIA might recognize and approve of, had broken his will and set him in a more positive direction.
This is a good thing, and no threat to me at all. I’ll just have to teach him how to throw.