She then lay down on the sofa and stared blankly at the ceiling. How I loved him, she said to herself. And now it’s all over. I’m stuck in an impossible situation. I can’t forgive him but I can’t forget him either. He’s probably in her arms right now. Although she had never met Lisa, Karen had a graphic mental picture of Michael having sex with a big-breasted woman. Even if we tried to get back together, it would be impossible to trust him again, she tried to convince herself that she made the right decision. At the same time, however, the thought of a permanent separation was unbearably painful to her. In spite of what her fiancé had done, Karen loved Michael even more now that she had lost him for good. She needed to talk to someone about this. In the absence of any close friends, she decided to call her older sister, Maggie, who was indifferently married to a plumber with whom she had two kids plus one on the way. Generally speaking, Karen preferred to avoid discussing personal matters with family members. But this time she felt desperate.
“Hello?” Maggie answered.
“Hi, it’s me… ”
“Karen? Is something wrong?” her sister asked her, attempting to sound concerned about her evidently distraught tone, then addressed her eldest daughter, to the side: “Miranda, leave Adam alone!” Karen overheard the six year old voice a few squeaky protests, to which her mother replied, “That’s okay. He can play with your toys. What did I tell you before? You need to share.” After a pause she added, apparently in response to her daughter’s further objections: “So what if you don’t like his toys? The point is that if you did, he’d have to share them with you.” Then, recalling that her sister was still on the phone, she repeated, “Is something wrong?”
As if on cue, Karen began crying.
“What’s the matter?” Maggie asked amidst the background noise of feuding children. “Hold on a sec.” She then shouted in an imperious tone: “That’s it! Miranda, go to time out. And don’t you dare adopt that tone with me, young lady!” the mother added after the little girl questioned the fairness of her decision, since whatever she was being blamed for was all her little brother’s fault. Maggie let out a sigh. “Sorry about the interruptions. These kids drive me crazy. I hardly have a minute to myself.”
Witnessing other people’s problems helped soothe Karen’s nerves. “I broke up with Michael,” she announced more calmly.
“What? You mean the wedding’s off?”
“Everything’s off. We’re no longer together.”
“Why? What happened?”
Karen hesitated for a moment. “Promise not to tell Mom about this?”
“She’s bound to find out eventually if there’s no wedding anymore,” Maggie pointed out.
“I know. But I want to tell her myself. If I ever find the strength.” Before meeting Michael, her mother had been predicting for years that she’d end up a lonely old maid.
“So why did you guys break up?”
“He cheated on me with one of his students.”
“Some slut with big boobs.” Having gotten this bit of information off her own modestly sized chest, Karen regretted sharing her problems with her sister. The last thing she needed now, she belatedly realized, was a show of fake sympathy.
But Maggie didn’t try to console her. As during a dispute between her children, she wanted to determine the facts first. “Are you sure about that?”
“One hundred percent. She left a sexually explicit message on his answering machine.”
“You heard it with your own ears?” Maggie persisted, intrigued.
Karen recalled Lisa’s chipper tone and suggestive language. “Yes,” she confirmed. But she couldn’t bring herself to give her sister any of the sordid details that the latter, waiting in silence, seemed to expect. She felt humiliated enough as it was.
“I’m sorry…” Maggie finally said. “Listen to me. I’ve been married for eight years. I know how men work. These little trysts don’t mean nothing to them.”
“They sure mean a lot to me!”
“Probably John’s been no saint either,” Maggie said, referring to her own husband.
“You mean he cheated on you?”
“Who knows? He’s a plumber. He goes from house to house all day long. I’m not there to monitor him. Most of the time, it’s the women who wait for him at home. But as long as he puts our family first, I don’t give a hoot about the rest.”
“How can you not care if your own husband sleeps around?” Karen asked, surprised by her sister’s permissive attitude.
“Because he draws a line between me and the other women. Those floosies are disposable to him, like Kleenex tissue. When it comes right down to it, it’s me and the kids he loves and supports.”
Karen attempted to process this information. “Do you have a lover?” she reached the only possible conclusion that made any sense to her.
Maggie laughed out loud. “Don’t I wish! I hardly have time to brush my teeth, let alone tend to other body parts. Why? Do you have somebody in mind for me?”
“How can you joke about something like this?” Karen objected. Her sister’s inexplicable tolerance got on her nerves. “I don’t see things the way you do. I could never forgive Michael.”
“It’s up to you. But mark my words: no man’s a saint. The best you can hope for is someone who takes good care of you and treats you with respect.”
“How does a man treat you with respect when he’s cheating on you?” Karen countered.
“Bah! A little fun on the side don’t mean nothing. Plus, now that you left him, he’s probably learned his lesson.”
Though still intolerant of her sister’s first argument, Karen was open to the second. “So you think he won’t cheat on me again?” she asked her sister, in need of reassurance.
Maggie obliged. “Well, if I were him, I’d think twice before messing around next time. I mean, losing a good, decent woman--my future wife no less--over some floozy!”
“Yes, but would you forgive him? This isn’t the first time he’s done it, you know. It’s the second time I caught him.”
“As they say, boys will be boys. If I were you, I’d give up all those romantic ideals floating in your head.”
Softened by the moment of rare complicity with her sister, Karen felt like she had just been slapped in the face. She recalled why she generally avoided confiding in Maggie, or any other family member, for that matter. “I don’t think that expecting mutual fidelity between future husband and wife constitutes immaturity.”
“Maybe not,” her sister conceded. “But life will teach you that nobody’s perfect. If you love Michael half as much as you say you do, you should find it in your heart to forgive him.”
“Give me a break! How much did he love me when he was in the arms of another woman?” Karen exploded. “Besides, I already forgave him once. And this is the thanks I got.”
“Well, you could give him just one last chance,” Maggie proposed a reasonable compromise. “If he screws up again, he’s out. Like in baseball. Three strikes and you’re out.”
Karen contemplated her sister’s advice. Although she rejected the truisms validating philandering, she wanted to believe that Michael was worth a final chance. After all, no matter how much he had hurt her, surely he still loved her. And maybe Maggie was right. Maybe this time Michael had finally learned his lesson. Seen that she meant business. Understood that she wouldn’t put up with the kind of mistreatment that some women, including her own sister, were apparently all too willing to tolerate from their men. She had higher standards. But she also had a strong spirit of generosity and forgiveness. In fact, if she took him back this time, Michael would be so touched by her magnanimity that he couldn’t bear to hurt her again. “Yes, I can forgive him,” Karen declared, speaking more to herself than to her sister. “We could start over from a blank slate, as if nothing happened. Otherwise it wouldn’t be real forgiveness, now would it?”
“No, of course not,” Maggie concurred, preoccupied with the fact that Adam had spilled Cheerios on the floor. “Please pick those up!” she instructed the four year old.
“I better let you go,” Karen said, overhearing the little boy’s whinny protests. “Thanks so much for our talk. It really helped,” she added, to her own surprise, with some sincerity.
“No problem. You’ll see. Michael will straighten out real good,” Maggie predicted.
After saying goodbye to her sister and placing the phone upon the receiver, Karen walked up to the mirror. The sight of her reflection made her freeze on the spot, locked in her own evaluative gaze. Her face was pale, her eyelids swollen from tears. Her arms were too thick, she decided, as her disapproving glance glided down to her slightly flabby stomach. Suddenly, Karen felt that she finally understood the root of the problem. It wasn’t him, it was her. How could Michael possibly love someone like her? When there were all these women with large boobs, slim waists, flat stomachs, curvy hips and tight bottoms prancing around in miniskirts, how could he possibly want her? Starting with this physical self-examination, Karen began to sense a more fundamental imbalance in their relationship, which she had always intuited but never consciously admitted to herself. Compared to her, Michael was more educated, had more interesting interests, more charisma and humor, better looks and far more appeal to members of the opposite sex. It was this constitutional asymmetry between them, which Karen painfully sensed anytime another woman flirted with her boyfriend, which made her feel so profoundly insecure in their relationship. If she had less to offer as a woman, then she had to hold on that much tighter to her man, she deduced.
Karen longed to start from a clean slate. To prove herself to Michael and regain his respect. She wanted to show him that she was worthy of his faithful devotion. She’d exercise enough to acquire a toned, slim body, like the kind of women who attracted him. She’d become less inhibited sexually and more affectionate, just like he wanted. She’d read interesting books, to expand the scope of her interests and knowledge. She’d be light-hearted and fun. All of the assumptions he had made about her during the past two years, well, she’d work on her personal growth to prove them wrong. Except for the qualities he claimed to like in her, like her loyalty, fidelity, generosity and soft skin. Those she would keep, of course. Everything else would undergo a radical transformation. Then Michael would fall in love with her all over again, only this time more deeply than ever.
Karen entered the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. She removed the gallon of therapeutic ice cream and tossed it straight into the trashcan. The Dove ice cream bars smothered in chocolate were the next to go. The blueberry waffles were also purged. The bacon, egg salad and white bread disappeared next. Finally, all the bags of candy stashed away as stress relievers throughout the house were condemned to the garbage as well. Her parents would also have to go on a diet, she belatedly realized, since most of the food she had disposed of was theirs.
Karen then sat down at the kitchen table, armed with a piece of paper and pencil in hand. She proceeded to write down the following list:
1. eat ONLY healthy food (no cheating allowed)
2. exercise four times a day (yoga in the morning for flexibility and relaxation; followed by a 45 minute walk up and down the hill; after lunch go to the gym for some cardio; and in the evening, swim)
3. lose the glasses and get contacts
4. wear make-up and buy new sexy outfits and shoes
5. read some of that erotic literature that turns guys on and, last but not least…
GET BACK MY MAN!!!
Check out chapters of The Seducer