*Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Have you ever felt like a caged bird? I’ve even felt that way in the midst of several other people. They didn’t seem to be caged. At times, I was just accustomed to it, and I made do, laughing and enjoying myself. Though I must admit, there was always an underlying feeling of being trapped, and perhaps, a knowledge that I chose this trap myself. This entry is not about marriage being horrible, and it is not to rant about the atrocities of my marriage, nor is it to slam the wives I was acquainted with while married. It is just my experience, brought up by a thought that popped in my head after eighteen years, “Where are they today?”
This social circle of wives was something that formed whenever our husbands all went out together, or when there were celebrations, such as my son’s second birthday, or someone moving to a new house. We bonded when our husbands made long treks to refill on beer or liquor so the party could go on. It made sense, though. Most of our husbands had worked together in the Navy. Many of them got out in their early twenties to pursue education, a job, a life in one place. This was the age when we were getting engaged and married, and then pregnancies and babies came along. We were all around the same age. I was cut off from my high school friends. Part of it is how shy I was in high school, another is, I never really attempted to keep in touch with any but maybe two close friends. I can gladly say I’ve gotten better about that, though.
I started thinking about our little group of wives lately. I just wondered about “The Millers,” whose baby was born weeks after I took my toddler with me and left my husband. I even spoke to Mrs. “Miller” after leaving him, trying to be friendly by phone, explaining my side of the story since my husband was incredulous as to why I’d want to leave our marriage. She gave advice. Lots of advice, that mentioned seeing my husband, dating him, but living separate. I was not interested in seeing him or dating him; I was interested in piecing my identity back together without him. He was not to be trusted with my deepest thoughts; it seemed he would always twist them and use them against me. I spoke to one other wife, “Mrs. Smith,” whose husband left her a few months after I left mine, and it was mentioned that they were partying together, hinting that maybe my husband’s newfound freedom looked good to him and influenced him to leave. They also had a child, a one year old, at home. Now, all of these friends drank heavily. I am not implying that Navy men are heavy drinkers. There are some who are not. My ex-husband simply did not seek them out as friends. I think I heard him refer to them as nerds, or too straight arrow.
It is not surprising that Mrs. Miller would encourage me to stay with my then husband; her own husband had already put her through all kinds of financial hell, and she stayed, for whatever reason, and that’s her own business. Not surprising either that Mrs. Smith hinted at my ex-husband’s influence in her husband leaving her. You see, it came out that she never trusted my husband. She mentioned his “beady eyes,” and that when he came around (before we met), she knew that he and her husband were going to get drunk and rowdy. What must she have thought of me? Did they all think that? Poor Pam, quiet, patient, she has to put up with all this. Why does she put up with all this? She must not feel she deserves any better. I was a part of a circle of wives who looked down on me. Who could blame them? I sure didn’t choose my own friends. There were many times I felt fear and desperation that I could share with no one, but my mother. She herself worried that I had no one to really confide in. At least, toward the end of our marriage, I was chummy with a young woman at work, and a man, who was married and I had no intention of fooling around with, yet it buoyed my spirit being his friend, and feeling I had an identity out of what my husband would choose for me. Yes, I told my husband about these friends. Needless to say, they were never invited over for dinner. He tried to make me feel guilty for having a male friend, and to convince me the young woman must be too wild, because she hangs out at a certain country bar.
So, it is apparent that the wives’ club was in existence for convenience. Throwing a party meant my husband’s friends and their wives were coming over. It was nice to have gals to talk to that were in similar experiences as mine as far as house buying, family planning, new parenthood. But when I left my husband, it became apparent that they did NOT see me as a person separate from him. I could not befriend them. He would always be a fixture in our conversations. When my best friend from high school moved back into town, as her husband’s job took them all over the Northeast for years, we’d get together and talk about what a loser my ex was, and yes, hers too. (He eventually became her ex). We’d talk about what we wanted in a man, without any guilt. We’d share book recommendations of women standing up for themselves and starting new lives. That is what a true friend does. When you envision ill-fortune befalling your ex, it’s so good to tell someone, and have her laugh with you, and say, I get it. You are not judged; you are encouraged to share. One good, understanding friend; that is better than belonging to any group of women.
It is only with a small hint of sadness that I think of them, and where their children are now. College? Marriage? Good lives? Hopefully not trouble? I don’t pick up the phone or try to contact them on Facebook. I am a different person now. I will leave that life behind. If I should run into them, I will smile and ask all the details about their children; I will truly wish them well. After eighteen years divorced, I have developed my own circle of friends, through work, church, former employment, even some high school friends with the help of Facebook. That, again, is better than belonging to a circle of wives. I may or may not be a wife again, and there’s nothing negative I imply about being a wife. The point is, what I want to be is a loving person, a friend, a writer, a lover of life, dog lover, poet, and maybe the best I can be as a teacher. That’s it; it is all I need to be part of, and I meet many lovely people in my life, several that I would call friends!