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March 4, 2013 posted by Lindsay Ferrier

Time Travel

Time Travel

The strangest thing happened Saturday.

Dennis and I dropped Punky off at her Saturday acting class, then went on to the downtown library to spend some time with Bruiser on the children’s floor. We stayed there an hour or so there before heading back out to retrieve Punky from class. As we were leaving the library, we ran into one of my stepdaughters’ teachers from junior high. Dennis and I both stopped in the narrow hallway that led to the parking deck to say hello, pleased to run into a teacher that we hadn’t seen in eight years.

She greeted Dennis warmly, and asked what my stepdaughter was doing now. He told the teacher about her college and her major, and she expressed pleasant surprise, before asking a few more questions. Although I was standing right next to Dennis and clearly “in on” the conversation, and although I had seen this woman many, many times while attending events for both my stepdaughters during junior high, she resolutely avoided my gaze. It was as if I wasn’t there. And she very obviously intended for me to feel that way.

Suddenly, it was as if we had entered a time warp and Dennis and I were newlyweds again. Back then, teachers and parents used to pull this kind of thing all. The. Time. To some, my brand new Second Wife status marked me as an outsider, a woman who deserved to be ignored. Ostracized. Scorned. Certainly not everyone acted this way– In fact, most people didn’t. But I could count on a good snubbing from a mother or teacher at least a few times a week, whether I was at a parent’s night or a recital or a soccer game. Some ignored me. Some muttered comments about me under their breath. Some asked rude questions, like whether both my children had the same daddy.

All of the feelings I had after being treated this way came rushing back as my stepdaughter’s former teacher continued to ignore me. Despite the fact that she wouldn’t glance my way even for a second, I pretended like it was a normal conversation, smiling, nodding, doing all the things one does. But none of it worked. I could see Dennis was uncomfortable with how she was acting, and trying to end the conversation. “Well, it was good seeing you,” he said as soon as she paused. “Good seeing you, too!” she gushed. “Yes, it was good seeing you!” I added brightly. Her smile faded as she looked at me for the first time. “Hello,” she said flatly, and went on her way.

I didn’t say anything as we walked on to the car. You know how this kind of thing goes. You process it for a while. You make excuses for the other person. You wonder if you were being too sensitive, if it was unintended, if you’re reading into things that weren’t really there.

“Wow, she was so rude to you,” Dennis said as soon as we were out of earshot. “That was unbelievable!”

“I KNOW!” I exploded, relieved that it wasn’t just my imagination. “That was so weird. It hasn’t happened to me in YEARS! But it made me realize that that kind of thing used to happen ALL THE TIME.”

Yeah, that used to be normal. MY NORMAL. I just took it. I got used to it. And over time, people got used to me and the animosity faded away. But every year or two, someone from our past comes along and does it again, and all of those snubbings from my first few years of marriage come rushing back.

Now, ten years later, the occasional hostility doesn’t make me feel bad about myself like it did back then. It just makes me incredulous, I guess, that people can be so mean. So judgmental. And for what? I happened to meet and fall in love with a divorced man who had two daughters. That’s shocking, I know. What’s worse, I handled their carpool. Attended their recitals. Brought snacks and drinks to their soccer games. Quit my TV news job and worked from home so that someone would be around when they got home from school.

Clearly, I was a brazen hussy and a bad example.

I wish now that I could go back in time and tell my twenty-something self that I was doing a good job. That I was trying my hardest.  That I had done nothing wrong. And that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, by anyone. We all have these moments, don’t we? Unexpected run-ins that put the past in stark perspective. I’m actually sort of glad that teacher was so rude.

Because now, for the first time, I can see that the problem was never me.

 

  • Suebob

     That stinks. Some people really know how to hold a grudge, I guess. I have a question – would you prefer that Dennis try to insert you into the conversation, or would that be even more awkward?

    • suburbanturmoil

       This actually happens a lot, although usually it’s because people recognize him from TV and want to have a conversation with him. Now that we’ve been together for 12 years, we’ve gotten really good at instantly gauging whether it’s worth it for him to introduce me and work me in, or just try to get out of the conversation quickly. This was one of those latter times. I thought he handled it perfectly, considering the fact that we wanted to leave, rather than standing around and expose the awkwardness.

  • Kimberly

    That is shocking!  But it just made her look ugly really.  I have learned (as you have too obviously) that behavior like that is really about them and not about you at all. 

    My husband and I have a 9 year age difference.  One of his best friends who is the same age as my husband had a wife (now ex-wife) who was a little older than her husband.  She used to love snubbing me.  The only reason I could come up with was the age difference though I could be wrong.  One time in particular we went to a wedding and she happened to be the one who opened the door when we first arrived.  She smiled really big at my husband and greeted him by name but completely ignored my presence.  After a while though it just became funny to me.  I mean you just have to laugh at silly behavior like that.  What else can you do?

    • suburbanturmoil

       I totally agree. I wrote about the best “snubbings” on this blog after they happened- I think my crowning moment was wearing a t-shirt that said “Trophy Wife” to a parent’s night at my stepduaghters’ high school. But looking back, the humor was an obvious band aid for some painful things that were going on. And some people just sucked, frankly. I can look back now and unequivocally say that. ;)

  • Beth

    My stepdaughter’s pediatrician used to do that to me. The doctor was recommended by the ex-wife’s sister so there was some family history there. This doctor treated me so badly that my stepdaughter asked why was Dr. V so mean to me all the time. Never mind that the ex-wife did not have custody, barely saw her daughter and certainly never took her to the doctor, I was evil. My husband couldn’t believe it until I made him go to a well visit once. Thank God she retired.

    • suburbanturmoil

       Crazy. Now that a majority of American families are blended, you’d think people would GET OVER IT, and stop assuming the worst.

  • http://amandamagee.com amandamagee

    I imagine that sting will never quite go away, but what a gift to have the clarity of time. She was wrong, they were all wrong, but you persevered. Honestly, I think that 20something is still inside all of us on some level. Be good to yourself now and to other women you meet and in doing so you are caring for your 20something self.

    • suburbanturmoil

      I think you’re right- We all do have a 20-something still inside us. To be honest though, I identify even more often with the 12-year-old that’s still inside! ;)

  • bereccah5

    I was all set with some smart comment, but all that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is “Poo poo dunder heads!!!!!!!”

    • suburbanturmoil

       YES!!

      • bereccah5

         Simple, yet effective. hee hee!

  • Franklin Mom

    Wow, I can sympathize. I think much of that animosity comes from people who assume that the second wife had an affair with her husband while he was still married to the first wife, therefore you must have stolen him away. So often that’s not the case, and even if it is, why is all the blame on wife number two and not on the husband? Such a double standard.

    • suburbanturmoil

      I think it’s that, and I think it’s also what I represented to some women. Some were first wives themselves and others, I think, were afraid they were headed that way. I just wish they had taken a moment to see it from my end.

  • Knewman4

    The problem was NEVER you. I really don’t understand people. I really don’t. It sounds AWFUL.

    • suburbanturmoil

       At least it doesn’t happen anymore. Usually. ;)

  • Melissa

    People should never make snap judgments without knowing the backstory. It’s something we struggle with as a human race. It’s sad that people judged you that way and still do. Those people missed out on knowing you and possibly on a great friendship. 

  • Beth

    I realize you sorta addressed this, but I will chime in and say that I do think your husband really should have said something like “And you remember my wonderful wife, Lindsay…” when speaking with the teacher. If the teacher continued to be rude to you, then your husband should have ended the conversation immediately, even if he appeared rude.

    • suburbanturmoil

       Thank you, Beth. My husband and I have been together 12 years now and we’ve developed an unspoken way of handling this kind of thing. If it’s someone we want to keep talking to, he introduces me (or vice versa). If it’s someone we want to get the heck away from, he doesn’t (or I don’t) and the one who hasn’t been introduced knows to do something indicating that we need to go. If it’s someone whose name we can’t remember, we say “This is my wife/husband Lindsay/Dennis…” and pray to God the other person introduces him/herself. This took a few years to work out, but now it’s pretty foolproof. :)

      • Beth

        I’m glad you two have devised a system that works for you.  :-)   I guess even though I don’t know you in RL, I feel almost like I know you after reading your blog for *mmmrff* years and I want to personally punch anyone who’d dare diss you. (I would never do that because it’s not ladylike. But I would give them one hell of a stinkeye!) I remember those old blog entries and I still feel righteously indignant on your behalf. Looks like I have to catch up to you in the graceful handling of this issue.  ;-)

  • Marie

    Ouch. That’s painful and astonishing. I’m always shocked when someone acts like an ******* and can’t even put on a decent social face. But you were a class act! It’s sweet to not stoop to that level in return. Leave her to stew while you go about your happy life. :)

  • Heather

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m four months in to my first marriage to a man with an ex-wife and a child. We have his 11-year-old half the time and I am still struggling with the extremes (newlywed couple on our own one week, parents of an 11-year-old the other). It’s feeling super tough. I’m also struggling with BEING a second wife including all of the stuff you describe – and then some! I would love any additional advice or support.