Thursday, August 13, 2009

Red freakin' flags

The past week has been full of introspection. And yes, it's the same old song - how could I marry such a dolt? He's moved on to Wife #3 (yes, that's three, for those of you playing the at-home version of our game) and will likely repeat the same pattern of love and destruction with this one. The man is a creature of habit the likes of which I've never seen.

So what's a girl to do when faced with the removal of that final veil? Look back in gratitude, and wonder how she missed so many obvious red flags. Let's take a look.

Oral hygiene. He doesn't brush his teeth. Ever. Doesn't own a toothbrush, or at least he didn't. Made his gums bleed, he said. See the dentist, I said. It hurts, he said. After awhile, you get tired of trying. And, frankly, of kissing the bodily equivalent of a garbage disposal.

Roughing it. He didn't like camping. I love camping. I do it in a luxurious way - I have to have my pillow, and my air mattress, and showers and real toilets and an iHop within a drivable distance, but I love camping. I love listening to nature as I fall asleep. I love the sound of rain against the tent. I love the way the air smells. I simply love it. His idea of roughing it was a hotel without room service. Definitely not a good combination.

'til death. He never had anything nice to say about his first wife. Now I understand that he's not gonna be her biggest fan. Nor will he be mine, for sure. But he married her, for heaven's sake. There has to be some redeeming quality, some reason for making that commitment. I guess not, for him.

A girl's best friend. He didn't care that I didn't want a diamond. I hate diamonds. They're not rare. They do nothing but line the pockets of the DeBeers family. But he insisted, telling me his first wife never let him forget that he never gave her one. (She didn't, btw.) And what's worse, he insisted I have one, but he was more than willing to let me pay for it. What a charmer. (I wanted a sapphire. I will eventually buy one for myself.)

Pickiest eater ever. Okay, he was lactose intolerant. But he also didn't eat beef or pork. Do you realize how difficult it is to find food that has none of the above in it? How do you make dumplings without milk? Mac & Cheese? Turkey burgers only go so far, and don't even get me started on how lacking in flavor pulled chicken barbecue is. (Epilogue: Near "the end", he went to White Castle with Rice and I, and ate one of my sliders. I should've stabbed him in the eye with my plastic fork. And I hope he had the shits for a week.)

The Late Chris Rathunde. He couldn't ever get his act together to be out the door at a reasonable time. It's simple, really: figure out what time you have to be somewhere, how long it takes you to get there, and back it up by that amount of time. That's when you have to leave the house, unless you happen to run on CMR time. Oy. I run late sometimes, but it's not a habit. I respect my friends and family too much to keep them waiting.

Mouth breather. He can't breathe through his nose, and won't have a doctor look at it. Which means he breathes loudly, through his mouth, all the time. Sometimes he clicked, like an 8-track tape switching tracks. It kept me up at night until I started wearing earplugs. That offended him; I couldn't win.

It was just jewelry. I love my wedding ring. Yes, I said that in the present tense; it is a thing of beauty. Engraved on it in Hebrew is the verse from Song of Solomon: "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." It is a beautiful symbol of a love I thought would last a lifetime. However, to me, it is still only a piece of jewelry. There were times I would take it off and forget to put it back on. I never felt any less married when I didn't have it on. I get where he was coming from, but I can't be convinced that this was a punishable offense. It's one of the first things he complained about to the latest Mrs. Chris Rathunde, in the 300 pages of instant messages I procured from his computer when he wasn't looking. And let's face it, at least I didn't destroy mine by slamming in in the door. Twice. Mine is at least still round.

I should've left him there. I bailed him out of jail. Twice. Once, in fact, I had to call a friend's mother to borrow the money because I didn't have access to enough cash to spring him. Traffic violations had piled up because he was living in Arkansas (hell, that should've been a red flag, too) and it wasn't like the Illinois cops were gonna come find him. So yeah, I bailed his sorry ass out and got the car out of impound twice before that SOB cleaned up his record. Not to mention the fact that I bought the damn car to begin with because he moved into my apartment with nothing but bad taste and wrinkled clothes. Shit, now I'm pissed at myself.

16 candles. Only once in the eight years we were together did he make my birthday special. And that includes the fact that we got married on my birthday. He rarely even got me a card. My first birthday with him, though, he was creative and sweet. There were cards everywhere. In my lunch bag; in my briefcase; in the bathroom; on the coffee maker; in my car at the end of my workday. It was a simple gesture, and it made me feel like a million bucks. I was hooked. I was also a dumbass.

Temper, temper. He didn't lose his temper a lot, but it was enough. He once barked at his mother, because evidently she asked for one too many favors. Well pardon me, I guess I'll move her furniture myself, then. And then there was the time when he grabbed my nephew by the collar and told him to stop complaining. "Knock it off," I believe, were his exact words. Alex looked petrified. The jackass messed with one of my chickens, and I never looked at him the same way again.

All that being said, there were good things about him. Probably still are. Up until now, at least, he had great taste in women. (Except for the young redhead at the Roosevelt U bookstore I'm pretty sure he banged. That's another pattern - boinking the help.) He made great bread. He never once questioned my intensely close relationships with other men. He laughed at my jokes and wasn't afraid to be silly. He made an effort to enjoy spending time with my friends. He was sometimes incredibly sweet. His first gift to me, the weekend we met, was a beautiful copy of Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet." Right away, he knew how to wow me. Over time, he forgot. I can remember praying that his heart would one day turn back to me.

But that's not what happened, and that's probably a good thing. As my friend Chris Early told me during a recent visit, "Some people belong together. You guys just ... didn't." I think it was hard for him to say, but no less true. We just didn't. And if I'd paid any attention along the way, I would have figured that out long before his old friend from high school popped back into his life, walking away with his heart.

For the record, she can have it.

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