I’m in New York for the holidays. And I don’t even know which holidays I am here for. But it always feels like a good time to go. Someday I will learn why.
When I first arrived, I dragged myself to my friend F’s neighbors Christmas Eve party. This is the 3rd or 4th year I have gone. There are people I am happy to see and who are happy to see me, even though we have never seen or communicated with each other outside of the moments we share at this party and they know so little about my life. And then I look around the room where I don’t know anyone and try to find someone who looks like they would invite a conversation. So I give it a whirl. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
When I arrived at this party 2 days ago, I was my met joyfully by F’s soon-to-be-ex-husband. A big reason why he is soon-to-be ex is because he is an alcoholic. An entertaining exuberant alcoholic, but I could not fathom having to deal with that day after day… and raising 2 children on top of all that. It sounds like an unmanageable hell. Anyway, the soon-to-be-ex, Peter might be his name, immediately greets me as I enter the house and gives me the warmest hug and a peck on the cheek. And says, “I have to confess. I am very drunk.” And I said, “That’s OK. It’s the holidays.” He looked confused and asked “Which holidays.” And then I reminded him.
Then he told me how miserable he was, since F threw him out of the house. And I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry this is happening. My heart goes out to you.” And it really did go out to him. Especially since F was there at the party. Keeping at least a room’s length distance. He told me that shortly before the party, F and he had a really good talk and “hugged it out.” I sighed one of my deepest sighs. He then told me that he had started to return to gay bars (he once was and probably still is gay), but that all of the guys are half their age and they don’t look up from their phones.
I sighed again. But in my own way, I have been through this. Not the marriage or former marriage or gay or ex gay part. But it felt very familiar to me. How many times have I been at parties or social gatherings where someone who has just rejected me is also present? How many times have I tried to act as nonchalant as possible, unfettered, while at the same time trying to exude such wit, joy and charisma that could only rekindle and win back the heart of my rejector. It’s a terrible horrible position to be in. Probably not as terrible a situation as being thrown out of the house by partner of umpteen years. Probably not as terrible as battling alcoholism or addiction. Since I haven’t experienced either of those, I consider myself fortunate. But alienation and rejection and a decimated heart are not lightweight matters.
If I could really have been candid with Peter, I would have suggested that perhaps not showing up at social events completely plastered in your soon-to-be-ex’s presence might be a good place to start. But obviously this is one demon I have not confronted.