Don't Let The Ex-Wife Tell You That You're Not Family
by Dani Alpert
I need to take a moment and give pseudonyms to those that I am constantly writing and ranting about. From now on my boyfriend will be called, Reny (short for Renaldo), his daughter is Laura, and son is Luke. Yes, that was done intentionally and yes, I think it’s hysterical. Move on.
It was Luke’s 8th grade graduation last week and the night before the big event, Reny and I were talking about what time the ceremony was. And let me say just for the record, I don’t remember having an 8th grade graduation.
I do remember the 8th grade dance. My best friend and I ran around the halls, outside of the gym, where the dance was taking place, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting classmates in strapless dresses, throwing tiny things at them. On one occasion, pulling down a girl’s tube top, top. I’m pretty sure that it was my friend who committed this heinous, and sort of gay-curious, offense. I wouldn't have had the balls, or interest.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, graduation. I asked Reny if we needed tickets. Somewhere in the back of my mind, where I store unimportant information, I remembered that most graduations require tickets. He didn’t think so but he sent a text to the ex and asked.
I love Reny dearly, deeply and madly, but when it comes to being on top of things (get your mind out of the gutter) as far as it relates to school, he’s not exactly top in his class. It is usually I, the Girlfriend Mom (GM), who knows little to nothing about such things, that has to remind him.
The ex said that we did need tickets and that she received hers in the mail and had gotten one for Reny and Laura. I got bubkis. I know. Sigh. Tears. Whatev! I told Reny that I would be upset if I didn't get to go.
Oh, and the ex made sure to also text that she was sorry but the school was only giving tickets to family because of space. Ooh, nice one, well played. That was going to leave a mark.
I asked Reny if he would call the school in the morning and see if he could get another ticket. He felt bad for me but he didn't know what to do with those feelings, so he took laissez-faire approach behind door number one. These situations are awkward all around and we try to avoid them but sometimes it’s just beyond our control.
The morning came and I asked him if he had called the school. They hadn't opened yet. About an hour later, he had to go to a meeting, and asked me if I wanted to call the school myself. If not, he’d do it from the car. I said that I’d do it and kissed him good-bye. I was on a mission and I dug in my heels.
The woman on the phone couldn't have bee nicer when I told her that I was the… wait for it… STEP-MOM and needed a ticket. I didn't want to have to explain why and how I was the Girlfriend Mom. She can read the book. She apologized for the dearth of tickets and put my name on a waiting list. She was calling families to see if everyone was using theirs. I would be notified in a few hours if a ticket became available.
As I went about my day, I thought about why going to the graduation was so important to me. I wanted Luke to know that I cared and that this was what significant people in his life do. I’ve been around for seven years and although we only see each other every other weekend, I am significant. I know that as a 14-year old, he’s probably not processing things like I am, or at all, but perhaps down the road, he’ll remember that the GM was there.
Through the GM process, I continue to test myself. I stick a toe into a situation and I see how it feels. There was a time early on, when I was afraid to even do that. It’s difficult to completely let go of the dreams that we had for ourselves and the lives that we thought that we wanted. I am learning to relax, loosen up on the reins and walk into the deep end.
Back to graduation.
I got a call in the early afternoon from the principal letting me know that I had scored a golden ticket. That’s how it felt. I was getting a manicure at the time and I shared my joyous news with Denise, my manicurist. I don’t want you to think that I’m all about my nails because I’m not. It’s just a coincidence that I mentioned my nails above and now when I heard the good news.
Anyhoo, he said that I either had to go to the middle school and pick up the ticket or I could ask one of my parent friends who’s also picking up extra tickets, to pick mine up for me. He started rattling off names of the moms. I giggled to myself and pondered whether I should tell him that I didn’t do much (or any) socializing with the other moms. I told him that I would drive over and get it myself.
When I got home, I told Reny that I had scored a ticket. He was glad. He smiled when he told me that his ex would be surprised when she saw me. I told him that I was counting on it.
When we got to the ceremony and I saw the ex, there was a huge part of me that wanted to be all, “Oh, yeah. Didn’t get one for the GM? No problemo. You can’t keep me away. Ya know why? Ya know why? Because I am family. So eat it.”
The funny thing is, we all sat together. Laura sat between her parents and I sat on the other side of Reny. Everyone was as sweet as apple sauce. The processed kind, not the organic, no sugar kind. We smiled and laughed at how the girls dressed like hoochie mama’s and we all took pictures. You would've thought that we were besties.
These potentially awkward and uncomfortable encounters are situations where any GM or step-mom needs to step it up and rise above.
It’s not always easy, but there is a lot of power in owning a situation and doing what you have to do to feel true to yourself.
Even if that means driving an hour to get a ticket that no one thought to get for you in the first place.... and then, growl, walking into the event without anyone even once asking to see your golden hall pass.
I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
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