Mark’s exact words about me in a text message to my ex were “She’s being such a pain in the ass.” But it didn’t end there. Words of agreement buzzed back from Adam. (Didn’t our 10 years together mean anything to you, man?!) Complaints about my behavior. The betrayal cut like a knife.
But that exchange two years ago solidified it: Adam and I had hit rock star divorced couple status. The two most important adult men in my life were friends.
Don’t get me wrong. They’re full of crap. I’m never a pain. I’m Mary freaking Poppins in a Vietnamese body. And I’m fairly certain they both committed a cardinal sin in the unwritten Rules of Divorce, which clearly states that under no circumstances are you permitted to commiserate with the ex. Punishment? Death. Definitely death. Okay maybe not, but only because the idea of finding another mate sounds exhausting. Do I swipe left? Swipe right? It’s very confusing.
So here we are haphazardly traveling into the less explored territory known as Very Friendly Exes, which is riddled with potholes and detours. Every now and then I feel lost, and there’s no Waze for divorce. No fastest route from A to B. No ways to see the obstacles ahead. When I figure out that app, I’ll be a millionaire, but until then, thankfully being lost is my usual driving style. (Just ask either guy. They’ll attest to it—apparently to each other.) I know I’ve got this under control, but just when I think I’ve memorized the route, it changes.
What began as a 10-feet limit and a thick wall of silence at soccer skills sessions when Ethan was 3 years old grew into conversations at practices and then sitting next to Ethan’s stepmom at games to chat. We were pretty sure that for a while people thought we were a lesbian couple and Adam was his nanny. I don’t even want to know what they thought of Mark who would make the occasional appearance since he was living in Virginia Beach at the time.
In kindergarten we crammed into one car to drop Ethan off for his first day of school. He would later call his dad to fill him in on all the exciting first day happenings. For the last two years, we meet for pictures in the morning and gather at my house for dinner to take advantage of the one day a year where the answer to “How was school?” isn’t just “Good” or “I don’t remember.”
Halloween used to mean sticking next to Ethan while he wandered through his dad’s neighborhood and catching up with neighbors. These days, there are drinks at Adam and Michelle’s beforehand and even a coordinated costumed Star Wars family. Ethan quickly put the kibosh on that after one year because no matter how much he wants his parents to get along, not being embarrassed appears to trump it all.
Birthday parties were always joint, but this last one was the first in what will be many years of tradition to gather our blended family for a small dinner on his actual birthday. I sat there regaling Ethan with stories of my labor while he ignored me and his stepmom kept trying to divert him back over. “Ethan, she’s trying to get sentimental over there,” she joked.
And the blending isn’t just with Ethan. Last night Mark and I were talking about the family NHL Stanley Cups bracket contest. The college kid, aka Aaron, set it up and sent the link out to everyone—everyone but me that is. That obviously meant instant berating for Aaron. “So you sent the bracket to my ex but not to your stepmom?” There goes your next care package, kid.
We get an invite to the birthday party for Adam and Michelle’s daughter. I have come home to find Adam jamming in the basement with the teens. Avery wants a Porsche. He says he’ll ask Adam. (Even he knows which “parent” is most likely to even pretend to help him with that pipe dream.) Aaron calls and emails with Adam at school. This summer he’ll be interning with him. To top it off, Adam is listed as one of our first emergency contacts for Avery. Even in this uncharted territory, there is deep-rooted trust between all four of us.
That’s not to say we haven’t hit a wall—not a Trump U.S./Mexico-style wall, but a wall that makes you stop and rethink direction. The last wall may have come in the form of a question. “Would you invite Adam and Michelle to your wedding?” As I opened my mouth to answer, I heard Mark promptly say, “No. I love them, but no.” Mouth snapped shut. Uh, yeah, totally what I was going to say…
Wait, why not? There I go again. A little off-roading adventure never hurt anyone.