On Monday night, I sat with my son at an awards' banquet. He and I sat at the back table--I always like to be close to the exit--and his friend's family sat with us. Small talk commenced at the table, as usual, but other than that I kept to myself. As the ceremony started, a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could sit at the empty chair next to mine. He'd come late and his family sat in front, but had neglected to save him a seat. I, of course, told him he could sit there.
That's when the trouble began--oh, the glares--downright hateful in nature--came my way followed by whispers and people turning their heads to, you guessed it, glare in my direction. I chatted with the man next to me while we were served our three-course meal. Later in the bathroom, one of the women who had been glaring at me, confronted me saying, "I know his wife." Etc. I won't repeat her whole diatribe. I walked away.
Seriously? I can't chat with a guy who I have known for 14 years without the gossips assuming I am flirting? His son and mine were best buddies throughout preschool and elementary school. They used to call themselves "brothers from another mother." Oh, but now that I'm making small talk at an awards' banquet I'm a whore? Why would this be? Oh, yeah, because I'm a single parent so MUST be out trolling at an awards' banquet.
C'mon, people, stop being assholes.
For ten years, I've been the solo parent in the house--the only adult here to manage bills, household repairs, run the kids to their various sporting events, help them with their homework, read them to sleep, teach them about life's losses and joys, keep them clothed and fed, wiped their tears and celebrated their accomplishments, chopped down trees and figured out how to run a chainsaw, and dealt with snotty people who thought me saying, "I'm a widow" in response to being overwhelmed times (but still getting it all done) was some sort of "cop out". Guess what? Stating that I'm a single mom is NOT a cop out...it's a fact. Here I am keeping the lights on while stretching both the budget and the time--solo. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week--all me. And I have done it all while building not one, but two businesses.
And you think you know me? You don't.
You don't know how many nights I have cried myself to sleep from being overwhelmed and lonely. You don't know how the knowledge that I used to have all of you as friends but you vanished when my husband died has impacted my trust of others. Or maybe you vanished because I wasn't as "fun" as I used to be--who the hell knows? I don't. You don't know that I still love my husband even after all this time because I loved him the day he died and I see him in my kids' eyes. You don't know that I miss having girlfriends. You don't know that I don't date because every man (single, by the way) I attempted to know has called my kids "baggage"so I gave up because I choose being a mom over being a girlfriend. You don't know how I've crumbled to the floor in despair over not being able to pay all my bills and wondered how I'd survive. You don't know that I remember every broken promise you all ever made to me or my children. You don't know that, yes, I am angry at being abandoned, but not by my husband, by all of you who said you'd be there for me and weren't. You don't know how I look at my kids on awards' night and am amazed that we've not only "managed", we've excelled as a threesome.
You don't know.
So the next time you're judging a single mom for talking to a man and decide to whisper lies and assumptions--shut up. Perhaps go up to the woman--someone you used to call 'friend' before tragedy intervened--and say a simple "hello, how are you?" Because you don't really know, do you?
Melissa Rivers recently did an interview saying how Joan had always been on the outside looking in, never invited to the parties (that were usually couples only), and carried the stain of her husband's suicide with her to the very end. Always excluded. Always lonely. Always judged despite being a smart businesswoman, funny lady, and charitable soul.
So I know this isn't "just me." It happens to many of us--whether divorced or widowed, male or female--the single parenting road is hard and it isn't something we have chosen, but it's something we do. Yes, some do it better than others, but the driving force for all of us is love.
Have I gone out whoring to find a man to take care of me? Obviously not. I've taken care of myself and my kids and am deserving of respect, not glares. So why the assumption that I'd be flirting with some married guy I've known for 14 years at an awards' banquet with my son sitting next to me and his wife two tables up? It's insulting! If anyone has a "morality problem" in this scenario, it sure as hell isn't me.
I do feel like I am pressed against the glass, staring at a life I used to know while being excluded from all the festivities because I lack a certain "accessory", and wondering where is the compassion? Where is the benefit of the doubt, the kindness? Why must women be the first to tear down one of their own and choose to believe the worst rather than discover the truth?
The truth is that I'm pretty damn spectacular and you've all missed out on this journey. Do you know where I traveled last month and the amazing people I met? Do you know where I'm going next week? Do you know how kind and wonderful my children--now a young woman and young man--have become? No, you don't. That's too bad--for you. Maybe you could have learned something because, one day, you may be in my shoes on the outside looking in and wondering what the hell happened.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.