Single In The Suburbs, Installment 40

Yes! Her new guy says he’s freed from his ex… but our writer gets some seriously shocking news about her ex?

By Sara Susannah Katz

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

n our last installment, our writer learned that her new beau Kevin had finally severed all ties with his last girlfriend… but why doesn’t he seem relieved? Read on for the details.

Saturday, noon
Kevin assures me that he has not had break-up sex. Miss Seattle was devastated by the dumping. Sex was the absolute last thing on her mind. This begs the question, of course: Was it on Kevin’s mind? But I decide for once to use a little discretion. I keep my mouth shut.

The problem is that Kevin has seemed distant all weekend. I try to get him to
I realize Kevin hasn’t told her about me…
open up but the more I prod, the tighter his mouth clamps shut. I don’t know if he’s feeling sad or wistful or guilty. Either way, he’s not talking much and hasn’t really touched me, except for a brief hug as he walked through my front door. I’m disappointed. It’s another example of how my fantasy of the way things ought to go doesn’t quite fit with reality.

Monday, 9 p.m.
I’m online, doing “home teller” on my bank’s website. It’s near the end of the month and I want to make sure I have enough money to cover the last few expenses.

When Craig and I were married, I never had to check my bank balance because I never had to worry about being overdrawn. I could buy any big-ticket item I pleased — new patio furniture, season tickets to the theatre, a new freezer for the basement, whatever — and there was always a nice cushion in our checking account. I’d hear people talking about living paycheck to paycheck and, of course, I felt sorry for them, but always assumed that I’d never know what that was like.

Before Craig and I negotiated our divorce settlement, I consulted with a financial counselor who specialized in women and money. She used a computer program to determine what my financial status would be after my divorce based on my estimated income and expenses. The picture was bleak indeed. According to the analyst’s projections, I would have wiped out my savings within the first three years. She was off by a year. Two years after my divorce, I finally knew firsthand what it was like to live paycheck to paycheck.

My checking account information finally comes on the screen. Oh no. Apparently I am overdrawn by $162, and I’ve been charged another $25 for “overdraft privilege.” (Some privilege.)

I click “history,” and discover that I’m overdrawn because I am still paying for Craig’s life insurance. Two years ago he promised that he would do the necessary paperwork to transfer deductions to his account, but Craig’s a
“I’m getting out of this thing,” Kevin says, “but I have to do it my way.”
procrastinator and he never got around to it. Three months ago, when I noticed yet another deduction from my account, I urged him to make the transfer, and he swore on his mother’s life that he would take care of it.

I call Craig and ask him to deposit $187 into my checking account to cover his insurance and my overdraft fee. He tells me I’m being petty. Why should he have to pay my overdraft fee?

“Because I wouldn’t have been charged it if you had transferred your life-insurance deduction.”

Craig then proceeds to lecture me on the importance of keeping a cushion in my checking account “for these situations.”

I’m fuming now. “I don’t have enough money for a cushion,” I tell him, forcing myself to stay calm. “That’s my point, Craig.”

He says he can’t understand why I’m struggling financially. Between my salary and his alimony, I should have more than enough, he says. “Maybe you just need to tighten your belt.”

Now I want to kill him. I think of everything I used to have that I am forced to do without. A house cleaner (I spend every weekend cleaning, and the place is still a pigsty). The lawn-mowing service (I bought a lawnmower). A handyman (did I mention that I installed a light fixture in the kitchen myself?). Dry cleaning (those little do-it-yourself dryer sheets aren’t bad). I have also relinquished the luxuries, like acrylic nails (I’ve learned to live with my stubby fingers), vacations (I’ll probably never get to see Italy, as Craig and I had once planned), and I’ve abandoned my dreams (A summer house in the mountains? Forget about it).

Craig tells me that he’ll put the money into my account but, “I’m disappointed in you, Sara. I didn’t think you’d fight me for a hundred and eighty dollars.”

Tuesday, 8 p.m.
“So, did you hear the latest?”

My daughter and I are sitting at the kitchen counter, finishing up what now passes for “family dinner” at my house. She had a granola bar, and I had a tomato with salt. As pathetic as it sounds, neither one of us was particularly hungry tonight. It’s too hot to cook, almost too hot to eat.

“No,” I say. “What’s the latest?”

“Dad’s taking Heather to the Bahamas. To celebrate her birthday.”

I can tell that my daughter is waiting for a reaction, but I miraculously manage to keep my face composed. I’d decided a long time ago that getting divorced was bad enough for the kids; I would not drag them into any ancillary drama or bitterness. I’m going to call Craig. But first I wait for Molly to leave the room.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 41

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