Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Ex-factor -- A Story of Cowardice and Redemption

Setting the Scene

For reasons too mundane to go into here, we decided to actually leave our house last weekend -- to venture to a "Peach Festival" at a Friends Meetinghouse nearby. In the very least, it seemed like something a suburban family of four should do --to soak up small town charm and all that heart-warming stuff.

We arrived at the official start of festivities, paid our donation, and joined the short line for cake, homemade ice cream and a heaping mound of locally grown peaches.

As we sat on the lawn with our plates, a photographer from a local weekly newspaper asked if he could take a shot of our quaint family scene. During which all I could think was "Must...hide...thighs!" With a skin tone best described as alabaster, it takes a certain amount of mental fortitude just to wear shorts in public, let alone be photographed in them.

But one of the fringe benefits of having small children is that you can position them in front of you to hide various figure flaws, which I scrambled to do.

Having leapt over that hurdle, we then were presented with an even greater challenge -- a balloon-animal-making clown. Sometime in the near future, I will blog my dissertation on clowns; in the meantime, suffice to say that there is much about the whole clowning thing that eludes (and frightens) me.

And although my kids aren't enamored of clowns either, they do have an unnatural affection for balloons. So we were obliged to stand in a seemingly never-ending line so they something along the lines of a goofy staff with a heart balloon on top.

(Which makes me wonder, is there a market for x-rated balloon creations? There's so much other tasteless stuff in this world that you'd think so. But I digress...)

If you want to get straight to the point (or closer to it, at least) start reading here:

So, anyway, as we're standing in this balloon line, my husband says, "I think that's my ex-sister-in-law over there" and points her out to me. A few minutes later, I glance in the same direction and say to him, "I think that's your ex-wife over there. See there -- with the orange hair." ("Orange" meant as a petty dig -- I'm not above it.)

She was standing maybe 15 feet away, in the now-long cake + peaches line. Her back to us, except when she turned to the side in conversation with her companions.

Thus, our dilemma begins. Do we act like well-adjusted mature humans and go over and say hello? Or do we do our best to blend into the scenery?

Well, we may be mature, but well-adjusted? It would seem not.

Meanwhile, we're hoping the kids aren't paying attention to our under-breath conversation. Because our five-year-old is the loudest child ever placed on the face of the earth and would surely be overheard making some awkward comment if she caught any drift of what was going on.

Luckily, our girls are entranced by the balloon creations being handed out to the children at the head of the line -- so much so that I'm thinking that possibly I could create a race of zombie children who would follow every rule, if only they had a balloon doggie to fixate on.

Then the rationalization begins -- if we ignore her we're not being rude, on the contrary, we're trying to spare the ex an uncomfortable encounter. After all, we haven't seen her in, like, ten years...

And it wasn't the most angst-free divorce. Although she has also remarried, I still haven't gotten over the feeling that she might wander over to our house in the middle of the night sometime and try to kill me while I sleep.

Anyway, as she progressed with the food line into the meetinghouse, I figured we had about 10 minutes to make a clean get-away before her party would re-emerge.

But my timing was off. After procuring balloons from the creepy clown, we had decided to grab a bag of peaches on our way back to the car, and as my husband was paying for them, I noticed the orange aura of ex-hair directly to our left. She and her party were seated on the ground - 10 feet away at the most, and directly facing us.

I wish I had a juicier ending to this tale. Like she came over, tapped me on the shoulder and pushed a plate of hand-churned ice cream in my face. And as I wiped the dairy product from my eyes I hissed, "Who colored your hair - Bozo?" (I can't escape clowns, even in my twisted imagination.)

But, no...I whispered to my (unaware) husband something along the lines of "Exit stage right" and put on my best oblivious face as I casually made a beeline back to the parking lot.

What about the redemption in the title of this blog? Well, I just liked the way that sounded. I suppose that our re-hashing and should-haves when we were back in the safety of our padlocked home qualify in some way. We were just trying to avoid any discomfort (mostly our own, but hers too.)

Plus, I was wearing shorts --Heaven forbid, if I have to confront the ex I want to at least be wearing something that doesn't reveal my weaknesses (cellulite) and shorts are my kryptonite.
And it really wasn't anything personal -- my husband and I often go to extraordinary measures to ignore many people we know, not just ex-wives. It's kinda amazing this situation doesn't present itself more often . I didn't marry until I was 35, so there are a number of dubious characters in my past that could be run into.

Then again, there's the distinct possibility that sometime, somewhere, one of them has seen us, and run the other way without saying a word.

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