It’s snowing. Charley’s phone is off and I’ve sent him Facebook messages asking if there’s a girl in Moab and if he ever loved me and I’m just feeling generally pathetic about myself.
My mom doesn’t care about my book or my problems.
“You need a job,” my mom says. She doesn’t care if my husband left. She doesn’t care if I need to get out of town and have time away from this house.
I tell her I would need childcare. I don’t have someone to watch her long enough to work. She says the job would give me money. Yea, but you have to be able to work there first.
This book isn’t going to go anywhere. Self-published books by poor people never go anywhere. There’s a Duke in this animated pet movie on Netflix. Now I’m missing my dog Duke and worried Charley is going to starve him or lose him in the Rockies.
Not that I really want to work at a salon but a local aveda salon owned by a redhead (I love all redheads and aveda products) needs help on Saturdays and a small fraction of me wants to just work there as a receptionist part-time and get discounts on massages. But I’d have to explain why my hair looks like I cut it for two years (because I did). And I don’t have childcare. I don’t have money for childcare. I feel overwhelmed.
Mom wants me to teach full time. That means watching other kids while mine is watched by someone less. No. I’m sitting here on a tartan blanket watching a cartoon playing the Beastie Boys, with two dogs and a baby, and I like it. That’s my job, not a high schooler’s job. I just need something more, to keep us going, integrating with the world, being fully alive. Affording things.
It makes me feel a little better when Charley texts that he is very depressed also and couldn’t believe he’d relapsed again. Then it starts snowing heavily and the most beautiful humming bird in the world comes to feed on my little glass hummingbird feeder. It is a brilliant green ruby-chested humming bird and sounds like a child trying to whistle.
Charley’s mom comes over with some mail and a baby book. She doesn’t know what to say about her son. I think she’s embarrassed by his behavior the way I’m embarrassed by his behavior: will people think we are responsible? Of course we aren’t. I have to add the notion that I might look like an idiot for staying in this thing or, worse, a weak woman. But I can’t worry what other people are manufacturing in their own brains about it.
I just want to understand. What is it to want to get away so bad? What is it in others that make them- men particularly- run from responsibility, even if it means being homeless in snowy weather with a starving dog and a random transient kid who is somehow more pathetic than you are? What is it that makes some people drawn to those kids, who appear somehow to take the cake for pathetic when you are in fact already a professional loser?
After I investigate all these queries I’m going to have to ask myself why I feel so compelled to psychoanalyze my own husband and never myself. But first, further research into the peripheral cases of nomadic miscreants.
Turns out I’m very much not alone among women wondering why their men shrug off responsibility and why men these days generally suck. Many women complain about husbands who live at home but refuse to clean or get up for the baby or give a damn in general.
Others insist that this is likely a maturity issue. “How old is he?” (My husband is 28.) Other women say to deal with it. “That’s why God gave us the job of having them.” (Well, no, it’s not a job, and why must patriotic Americans bring God into this?)
Another mom opens up about her hard experience when her husband left her. She has two kids- one four, one seven- and has been totally alone and rejected. She had felt like the world was ending and that she was powerless when her husband left. Fast forward a few years and she is in med school, her kids are doing great, and they have a lot to look forward to at the end of the day. Meanwhile, the ex is alone, still taking drugs and is about $10,000 behind in child support.
Charley calls to just say “I love you.” I love you too, Charley, but I have to face the reality that I might be alone in this because words mean nothing compared to actions, and your actions tell me that this isn’t working.
And you would be here if you wanted to be here.
Another woman says that many men are responsible and if your man isn’t responsible then it’s your fault. “Women shouldn’t get pregnant by druggies, alcoholics, or abusers and expect they’ll make good fathers.” Because it’s so easy.
While I believe knowing how much your husband will shoulder responsibility is impossible, and knowing what will come of your relationship over time is impossible, I do believe that setting out to make a drug addict or alcoholic become sober is a pointless task. If you want a baby or have a baby then that’s what you did (I did it and I am very happy that I did because Dakota is amazing), but don’t expect him to change now because he’s a dad. “THEY ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE BECAUSE THEY HAVE A BABY THE STRESS WILL ONLY MAKE THEM WORSE,” says the mom in med school.
One man in an internet forum says, “If you whore*s had to pay more child support and be held more responsible for throwing your puss*es around maybe we would be more responsibile. Just my thought anyway.” Well!
Another man agrees, and says a girl tried to trap him and he got out of that shit.
And yet another guy says that he raised his son alone after his wife left him for her ex. And so there are “sorry ass women too” and one lady claims that all men and women these days have lost their morals and self-respect and “what is wrong with everybody?”
I don’t know what is wrong with my own husband (I’m guessing bipolar ADHD on the autism spectrum) much less everybody else, but I do know that I can’t let resentment eat me alive. Or insecurity. Or fear of abandonment. Especially not if I am going to be Wonder Woman for my daughter.
One last guy in the forum speaks up: “Don’t you all have anything better to do?”
I first met Charley in Moab at a hostel. We drank vodka and I interviewed him for my article: “Peter Pan Syndrome”, (subtitled, “Exploring the female experience of dating in a mountain town”). The editor and I were having trouble dating anyone who wasn’t also dating someone else or afraid of labels. Google my maiden name and the alternative paper in my hometown and you will find the article.
“This is a ski town, what do you expect?” Charley said. I wrote about him like he wasn’t my boyfriend but rather just a guy, because I had just met him and, even though he immediately moved in, we weren’t official.
“Turner says that while he appreciates the company his girlfriend gives him, he doesn’t want to be tied down or to take anything too seriously,” I wrote. I was very professional.
I interviewed Charley the first night we met. He said snowboarding was better than sex, and then I took him to my tent and we had sex. And then we spent a week together and he moved in. And then the article was published, a feature that documented men saying how they felt about intimacy and women saying how they felt about Peter Pan guys (who never grow up), and Charley says, “I don’t like emotional obligations or being expected to do shit, and being made to feel shitty if I don’t. I don’t know why things have to be so complicated.”
And now we are married, just over a year later, with a baby and a house in another ski town and he runs away to get out of this “being made to feel shitty”. Except he regrets it, and he calls his sponsor from AA. While I’m halfway though a horror movie where a guy is mansplaining in the woods and birds are chirping ominously, Charley texts:
” I luv u dont worry … Miles says theres still plenty of hope ill be the man of ur dreams u deserve ipromise.”
I realize three things: sometimes men mainsplain when they’re trying to impress you; this movie is annoying; Charley is a fucking mess.
In my article I was very much trying to figure out why every guy I dated couldn’t commit. What I hadn’t prepared for was why a husband couldn’t commit to the role of a husband or a dad couldn’t commit to the role of a dad.
“Ski towns are the modern, real-life equivalent of Never Never Land and hence, seem to attract certain playful, childlike personalities. But is the concept of Peter Pan Syndrome unique to mountain and ski towns, or is it a modern, generational phenomenon that just so happens to manifest more obviously in these areas?
“According to a 2007 study from University of Granada, “Peter Pan Syndrome affects people who do not want or feel unable to grow up; people with the body of an adult but the mind of a child. They don’t know how to or don’t want to stop being children and start being mothers or fathers.”
“The syndrome is not considered a psychopathology, given the World Health Organization has not recognized it as a psychological disorder. However, an increasingly large number of adults and, most noticeably, men, in Western society are exhibiting emotionally immature behavior. They are unable to make the shift to adulthood, or at least what society has defined as such.”
The movie is getting dark and creepy. I like it. The romantic beginning was just a pretty illusion of security and joy to be destroyed.
I like drama in movies. I like to keep it there, in movies, separate from my life.
People will think you’re weak and crazy. If you stay with him you’re fucked and if you lose him you’re fucked.
You’ll be like one of those angry bad spellers on the internet complaining about your ex.
I tell myself to shut up. I have a “Blair Witch”-wannabe movie to watch.
In the wannabe movie a couple are separated after the dude, on the verge of proposing, is eaten alive by a giant black bear. Even half of the dude’s face is eaten off. The girl runs, trembling, with the box carrying her wedding ring. She opens it later, after smacking her head on a rock in a frenzy to get away from the bear. She cries, seeing it for the first time and no doubt envisioning the face-eaten dude as a husband, and skips the ring on her bloody finger. It’s like Blairwitch and an opera-tragedie had a baby. It makes me worry about Charley. What if he freezes to death? What if he gets eaten by a bear in downtown Durango?
I can’t stand him and his inconsistency and hipocrisy and dependency but what if he died!?? I couldn’t bear it.
The bear returns by the way. I’d tell you the name of the movie but I just spoiled it and I hate when people do that so I’ll just pretend I didn’t say enough for you to google it.
Someone who doesn’t even know the half of all the bad shit between us (and who doesn’t give advice) emailed me. He gave me some good advice. Or rather, he reminded me of something I already knew but keep ignoring: Charley is toxic. I have a baby now. I can’t let my mom or my husband ruin that experience.
And so I snap out of my cinema-induced romantic trance. A few kind words don’t change what a person does in his life or to my life.
“So what are you going to do now?” Tracey had asked, quietly, as if it hadn’t actually been a question, just a sound of wind outside that I could ignore if I felt like it. But more insistent when I cocked my head to the side: “what are you going to do with him?…”
Still I wait for specifics.
“Oh I don’t know.” I giggle. I don’t want to think about it.
“It’s not like I’m gonna go run off and marry someone else… I’m in no hurry.” Then I tell her about a show on Netflix.