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Saturday, November 10, 2012

If you can't say something nice, say, "Woobie Pants."

The bottom half of the PJs I wore this morning were the blue, plaid, fleecy jobs I call the "Woobie Pants."  My ex-husband, "Mark," gave them to me.

Gifts from exes can be complicated little items but I know exactly how I feel about these.  I love them.
I love them because they improve chilly mornings, soothe me when I'm sick, and give me something positive to say about Mark.

The value of that last characteristic can't be stressed enough.  It can really come in handy, especially if someone brings up the ex in conversation.  This happened to me recently as I shared dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in over a year.  Because she had missed most of the divorce stuff she had all kinds of questions, including about logistical stuff like where I had lived during that time.

This friend knew that Mark and I had torn down my old house --a quirky three-bedroom rambler in Falls Church that I loved--and built in its place a 6000 square foot yuppie prison that I loathed.  The builders finished the house just a couple weeks before we separated, so Mark and I never moved in. My soul and I had narrowly escaped confinement.

She looked confused.  "So wait a minute, if you didn't live in the new place and you couldn't go back to Mark's house, where did you go?"

"Oh, I went to Lynne's," I said, referring to my older sister.  She, her husband and their two kids lived in a single family house in a suburb outside the Beltway.

"Isn't her house pretty full already?"

I nodded. "But the basement wasn't, so that's where I stayed."

The below-ground portion of my sister's house is a large, fully-finished space with a spare room and full bath.  The basement accommodated me and most of my stuff with plenty of room to spare so I felt quite comfortable there.  But I guess for most people, my friend included, the word "basement" doesn't conjure up visions of a soothing retreat.  She looked indignant.

"Let me get this straight: At age 40, you went from having your own single family home to living with your sister and her family in their basement?" I nodded again.  "It's not fair that you're the one who ended up homeless. You must've hated your ex for that. I know I would have if I'd been in your shoes."

"Oh gosh no," I said. "I didn't hate him for that." In fact, if given the chance I might have thanked him for sending me to my sister's basement.  Lynne and her family were the threads that kept me together when divorce threatened to rip my life and heart apart at the seams.

As I explained to my friend, you can't stay in the pits of despair for too long when your 9 year-old "roommate" comes home from school with a family tree she drew that has five branches instead of four and shows you on the branch just below "Mommy."  Or when your 8 year-old roommate tells you that you should take his last name until you get your old one back.

With reluctance my friend accepted that my living situation during the divorce didn't cause me any ill will toward Mark. But she refused to believe I felt as charitable about the rest of the whole mess, and she was right.

I was about to make a less pleasant observation about Mark when I remembered that maxim about staying silent when you can't say something nice.  And also its corollary: "Don't say anything if you can't improve on silence." (Aubrey,  a NaBloPoMo comrade, reminded us about that one.)

A scathing remark desperately wanted to escape but I didn't let it.  Instead, I pointed out that Mark had at least given me some beloved fleece pajamas.

My random gambit caused her enough confusion to back away slowly from the subject of Mark.  So the next time I don't have anything nice to offer or can't improve on silence, I think I'll give "Woobie pants" another go.


  1. Yuppie prison...love it! A well written piece. I enjoy your writing style and I found you on yeahwrite

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind words! Stumbling on to yeahwrite a few weeks ago was one of my better moves. It introduced me to your blog, too, which I've been enjoying!

  2. I vote we add the term woobie pants into the dictionary. Your roommate comments... Sweet and bittersweet. Snifffff

    1. I'm all for adding the term to the dictionary, and the item to your Christmas list--these pants rock! As do my little roomies. I'm a lucky lady.