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Single In The Suburbs, Installment 18


Our writer is still reeling after her beau, Leo, makes a shocking confession…and her next move is a surprising one.

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

n our last installment, our single-mom writer summoned her courage and asked her beau Leo about the rumors she’d heard from his ex. Leo revealed that he did indeed have sexual harassment charges made by former students… now what?

Monday, 7:20 a.m.
As expected, Craig calls me first thing in the morning to find out whether I talked to Leo about the sexual harassment charges. I don’t have time for this
My ex calls, in part looking for gossip.
conversation. I have ten minutes to fully rouse my daughter, let the dogs out, slap on makeup and jump into the car. I’m also irked that my ex husband is keeping such close tabs on me. Some of it is genuine concern, but the rest is probably just Craig’s love of delectable gossip.

“Can’t talk now,” I tell him. “I’m running late.”

“Wait a second,” he says. “Is it OK if I have Molly tonight?” Pause. “Heather wants to take her shopping for school clothes.”

Hmmm. As I recall, the last time Heather took Molly shopping, my daughter called me from the dressing room, in tears, because Heather looked great in everything (“She’s a size zero, Mom. A zero!”) and Molly wound up feeling fat and ugly. My daughter also told me, choking out her words, that she felt like Heather was a sister “and we were both competing for Dad’s attention.”

I’m not sure I want her to go through that kind of drama again. But what am I going to say: No, your 24-year-old girlfriend can’t take Molly shopping for school clothes because she’s a size zero and she’s young enough to be your daughter?

“Last time Molly went shopping with Heather it wasn’t exactly a happy experience for her,” I say, choosing my words gingerly. “I really don’t think we want her to go through that again.”

“Heather promised she wouldn’t try anything on this time. It’s all about Molly. OK? Are you down with that?”

Am I down with that? Good grief. “OK. Just have her home at a decent hour. It’s a school night.”

“So. Sara. Was I right or what?”

“Huh?”

“About Leo.”

I let out a loud, exasperated sigh. “I gotta go, Craig.”

Monday, 6:50 p.m.
“Mom?”

It’s my daughter. She’s whispering.

“What is it?” I ask, though I already know it’s not good. My 14-year old has two emotional modalities: she’s either upset or ecstatic.

“Mom.” She’s whining now. “Heather just tried on this denim skirt. Right after I told her it made me look fat. She got it in her size and it looks awesome on her.” Now Molly is crying. “It’s not fair, Mom. I’m so fat!”

“Oh, honey, don’t cry. You’re beautiful, sweetheart. You’re perfect. Heather is. . .” I search for the right word. “A freak. Nobody’s that skinny. Does she even eat?”

Mom. I can’t believe you said that. She’s not a freak.”

I am in a no-win situation. I’m trying to be supportive of my daughter but I keep forgetting that Molly actually likes Heather and wants Craig to marry her so that she can experience some semblance of a family again.

“I’m sorry I said that. She’s not a freak. But she’s very skinny. It’s not normal.” I am floundering now. “Maybe you shouldn’t go clothes shopping with her anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Because look how upset you are, that’s why not.”

“Whatever.” Click.

Tuesday, 10:15 a.m.
I’m at my desk, proofreading my department’s annual report, when the bane of my existence strides into the office: Clarissa O’Connell, operations director.
Clarissa would be comical if she weren’t so menacing.
Clarissa stands over six feet in heels, is dressed head to toe in lavender, wearing outsized, clanky jewelry and encircled by a Gucci belt that has to be fake. She has studded stiletto sandals on her claw-like size 11 feet and enough makeup to make Bozo the Clown blush.

Clarissa would be comical if she weren’t so menacing. She’s golfing buddies with my current boss and, as a result, seems to have his ear. The day my former boss retired I asked her directly: Is there anyone I should watch out for? Her immediate response: Clarissa O’Connell. “If she doesn’t like you, you’re as good as doomed,” Janey told me.

I wasn’t particularly worried. Most people seem to like me. I’m friendly, diplomatic and generally compliant. I can coax smiles from the most hardened curmudgeons and have a knack for navigating sticky situations. None of that matters to Clarissa O’Connell. She hates me.

“Sara, what the hell were you thinking with this ad?”

She is towering over me, scowling. I can see up her nostrils. “What do you mean?”

“This ad, Sara. It’s sub-par.”

Clarissa is a bean-counter but, unfortunately for me, she fancies herself a writer, too. I am entirely confident that my ad is good but that doesn’t matter at this point.

“I’ll be honest with you, Sara,” she says, jewelry jangling in my ear. “My faith in your function is tanking quickly.”

That’s how Clarissa talks. It makes me homicidal.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” I don’t know what else to say but I am thinking: I need this job. Dear God, please don’t let Clarissa get me fired.

I’m feeling sorry for myself and want to cry. I never had to defer to jerks because I never had to worry about keeping my job. This is new terrain for me, and I don’t like it.

Tuesday, 2 p.m.
Still at my desk. I hear a door creak open, the signal that one of my buddies has logged on. In truth, my list of buddies is pathetic. I have my kids, Craig, and now Leo, who had begged me for my screen name. I hesitated. I preferred to get to know Leo the old fashioned way — by email — but he insisted and now here he is, sending me smiley faces and trying very hard to get my attention.

“Yoo-hoo! Are you out there?”

I am suddenly queasy. Note to self: Pay attention to your gut. Literally.

“I’m here,” I write back.

“Did I scare you away?”

“I’d be lying if I told you I was thrilled with your revelations,” I type. “But I appreciate your honesty.”

“So, did I scare you away?”

“Not yet.”

“Good! Want to see a movie tonight?”

I’m tempted. I want to spend more time with Leo. I like him. I also want to see whether his bad news has contaminated my feelings for him. But I’d planned on a family dinner with both kids. We’ve been eating on the run for days. Impulsively I invite him to the house.

“Really?” he writes back.

“Sure. You can meet my kids.”

I figure, if he passes the kid test, maybe there’s hope for us.

“OK. What time?”

“How about 7?”

“I’ll be there with bells on!”

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
Leo will be here in 10 minutes and I’m panicking. The kids are at each other like a couple of wild dogs and all attempts to calm them only seem to intensify their bickering.

In the meantime, I overcooked the lasagna — the top layer is a hardened shell of dried pasta and burnt mozzarella — one of the dogs pooped in the family room, and I look like hell.

Tuesday, 6:35 p.m.
There goes the doorbell. He’s early. Courage, Sara.


Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 19


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