[Note: On the rare occasions when I write something personal about people who are not dead, I don’t identify them. My ex-boyfriend never followed my blog, and his friends don’t know it exists, so I figure no harm, no foul.]
My ex-boyfriend was wearing this cap when he came on Saturday to start moving his stuff out of my house. I knew he and a friend were coming—he’d sent me a text telling me that at 1 a.m. Saturday—but I didn’t know when they’d get here. At 9 a.m. I woke up to odd noises and the dogs barking at my (closed, thankfully) bedroom door. I staggered sleepily down the hallway in my pajamas, peeked into the dining room, and saw two strangers. The second, who was wearing a baseball cap backwards, looked like a sixty-something Eminem.
Astonishingly, this was my ex-boyfriend, a man I had never known to wear a hat. He didn’t glance at me or say hello. He and his friend were discussing how to move his massive CD cabinet out of the closet in the dining room. Meanwhile, the front door and its storm door were standing wide open.
One barking dog had retreated warily to my bedroom. Worried that the other one might dash out the front door, I grabbed a leash and chased her in a merry circle through the living room and kitchen and back into the dining room, where I was again ignored as the two guys walked down the hall to the spare bedroom my ex had been using as an office.
When his friend stepped out for a moment I confronted my ex. He still seemed like a stranger: in my craziest dreams I wouldn’t have imagined him wearing a baseball cap backwards. Full of righteous anger, I asked why he hadn’t had the decency and courtesy to let me know he and his friend were there. “I sent you a text,” he said, all studied incomprehension. “I MEAN LET ME KNOW YOU’VE ARRIVED, THIS MOMENT, NOW,” I said. “Not just appear in my dining room with someone I’ve never been introduced to and ignore me. Why aren’t you acknowledging my existence? Jesus! I was all ready to be nice, but you’re acting like a jerk.” He didn’t answer. I stomped off.
I actually am a nice person most of the time, but I get angry when I’m mistreated, and lack of communication always had been our downfall. This diatribe doesn’t reflect very well on me, but you have to consider the context. When my ex and I decided that moving out was the only option, I’d told him I didn’t want a protracted move-out; it was too painful. But I hadn’t heard from him for nearly a week. He ignored my phone calls and texts asking him when he was coming to get his stuff. It seemed like he had simply vanished.
Mid-week I gave him a deadline, via a text that also went unanswered, for moving his things out. On Friday I used Google to hunt down a phone number for the guy in whose house he was staying and left a message asking if my ex-boyfriend was all right. I do care about him, and things do happen. (A on-again/off-again boyfriend of mine died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest a few years ago and, alas, I was the first person to guess what had happened. Sometimes worrying is justified.) His friend relayed the message, which finally induced my ex to do something.
Still later on Saturday, when I thought we were alone, I told my ex he should have been in touch and asked why he hadn’t been. He tried on several flimsy excuses. (Really, guys. Please don’t insult our intelligence with specious excuses; women don’t fall for them, and they just betray disrespect.) Finally he admitted that he could easily have taken five minutes to let me know he was very busy with something unexpected, but that such communications “usually didn’t go over very well.” Well, no, they don’t, because he had obligations to me that should have taken priority for the past year, not just the past week. But let’s skip over that.
“You were afraid I’d be angry,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “After a year and a half, didn’t you know that I’d be angrier if you didn’t communicate at all?” I said. “I need to know when you’re going to be here, especially if I’m going to be hiring you for work. And if you can’t be here when you’ve planned to be, you need to let me know.” (My ex is a handyman, and after he’s finished painting the inside of my house to repay me for a rent-free year and a half living in my house, I had planned to hire him to paint the exterior and build a new fence.) I was talking calmly but assertively.
“That’s reasonable,” a voice said, and I realized with dismay that his friend had been standing within earshot the whole time. The tone of his voice betrayed him. In a flash I realized with further dismay that my ex had told him I might get angry, that there might be a scene. I didn’t know whether to be even more exasperated with my ex or just to be grateful that the friend was pointing out to my ex how sensible I was being.
Stonewalling and procrastination followed by absurd excuses seems to be a classic “guy” modus operandi to avoid women’s anger. At least, every guy I’ve been involved with has resorted to it. Maybe it’s just me: Am I fearsome? But I’ve talked to other women, and they’ve experienced this phenomenon too. And they hate it.
Guys. You can’t expect that a woman isn’t going to be angry if you treat her shabbily. But if you combine shabby treatment with procrastinating about eventually facing the music, we get a lot angrier. You know this, I bet—most of you, anyway.
As for my ex, he isn’t a bad person. He’s quite a good person, for the most part. For example, the house he’s moving into is rented by an organization that grows food for the homeless. Among other commendable qualities, my ex has a highly developed sense of social justice. He has empathy for others, in a general way. He just doesn’t understand that a relationship means having empathy for your partner, too—empathy based on understanding each other well. A close relationship isn’t what he really wanted. It’s just what he thought he wanted.
Anyway, today he left behind the cap. A friend had given it to him to keep his hair out of his face when he drives, something he’s heretofore tried to prevent by using bobby pins and frightening quantities of hairspray.
I tried on the cap before I photographed it, but my ex’s head is shaped differently from mine. It didn’t fit.