Single In The Suburbs, Installment 21

In this installment, it’s time for our columnist to face the music…and have a heart-to-heart with her beau Leo.

By Sara Susannah Katz

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

fter an uncomfortable date at our columnist’s house with her kids present, Leo calls and says, “We need to talk.” Is this the beginning of the end of their relationship?

Wednesday, 9:37 p.m.
When someone starts a conversation with “we need to talk,” the assumption is you’re about to talk about something significant and grave. If it’s a significant other, the topic is usually a) I need my space; b) I’m having an affair; c) This just isn’t working out; or d) All of the above.

Since I’ve been looking for a convenient escape hatch, any of those options would have
I know a good escape hatch when I see one.
been desirable.

I hear a click on the line. Call-waiting. “Leo? Sorry. Can you hang on a minute? It’s my kid.”

Leo sighs loudly (he’s losing points with me rapidly) and says, “Go ahead. I’ll hold.”

Wednesday, 9:39 p.m.
“Mom?” It’s my daughter, upstairs in her bedroom, calling me from her cell phone. Her voice has that familiar edge of hysteria I’m hearing more and more frequently as the hormones of adolescence flood her brain. “There’s a horrible bug in my room. It’s gigantic, Mom. You have to get rid of it. Now.”

That used to be Craig’s job, killing the scary bugs (along with such other unpleasant chores as unclogging the toilet and disposing of dead pets). Now it is up to me, and I have tried, if somewhat feebly, to rise to the occasion.

“OK. I’ll be right up.” I click back to Leo.

“Can I call you in a minute? My daughter’s having a crisis.”

“What kind of crisis?” he asks.

“Tell you later.” I hang up, race to the coat closet, and drag the vacuum upstairs to my daughter’s room.

Wednesday, 9:42 p.m.
I am in my daughter’s bedroom, my 8-pound Oreck in one hand and a massive wad of paper towel in the other. “Where is it?” I try to sound fearless.

My daughter points to the wall above her computer. Given her tendency to hyperbole, I fully expected to see an ordinary house spider or maybe an ant. Oh God. The hairy yellowish-gray creature crawling quickly up her wall is without question the most
I fleetingly consider calling my ex-husband.
hideous bug I have ever seen. I fleetingly consider calling my ex-husband.

Unfortunately my vacuum is an upright so I can’t easily suck the bug up with a hose. While my daughter writhes in horror, I hoist the Oreck on my shoulder and hit the switch.

“Thank you, Mommy.”

I love it when she calls me Mommy. It may well be the only vestige I have left of the adoring little girl who vanished when this crazed teenager appeared in her place.

Wednesday, 10:10 p.m.
Somewhere between brushing my teeth and setting the alarm clock, I realize that I have forgotten to call Leo back. I dial him.


“Leo. Sorry. It’s Sara. I got caught up with, well, you know, kid stuff.”

“Actually,” he says, “that’s what I wanted to talk with you about.”

What could he mean? He wants to have kids with me? He’s been caught hitting on another of his students? Or maybe he’s going to tell me that he’s really not short, he’s actually only eight years old.

“Well,” he says, “I realize it didn’t go too well with your kids the other night.”

“Oh, that’s OK.” Why am I always rushing to make other people feel comfortable?

“That’s the thing. I’m not sure it’s OK. I...” he pauses. “I have a hard time with kids.” Leo proceeds to tell me that he once lived with a woman — the closest he ever came to marrying — but the relationship fell apart because of her son. “The kid was the devil’s spawn. I’m not kidding. And, well, ever since then, I’ve been wary of kids. I don’t really have a knack with kids, you know?”

At this point I could console Leo, tell him that nobody gets along with the devil’s spawn and he shouldn’t be so hard on himself. I could tell him that my kids are basically normal, and it will take time for everyone to get to know each other.

But I know a good escape hatch when I see one.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Leo.” I give him a moment to prepare for the heave-ho. “I understand that not everyone’s into kids. But my kids are really central to my life. You’re a great guy, Leo, but...”

“It’s OK. You don’t have to go any further. I can see where this is heading.”

“Alright then.” I force myself to stop blathering and let the conversation take its natural course.

“So this is it, I guess.”

“I guess,” I say, already feeling that heady combination of relief and joy. “Good luck, Leo.”

“Thanks. You too.” Click.


Wednesday, 10:30 p.m.
I can’t help myself. I’m back online, logging on to my dating site, ready to read my new messages.

Goodbye Leo, hello... Sleep Apnea Guy?

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 22

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