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Mr. BunglesI was working at a job I loved and that made me feel good about myself.  After all, making other people’s teeth whiter was important work.  And I also had my first business card with my name on it. I got into the habit of leaving them on tables in restaurants or accidentally dropping one in the foyer as I left church.   I gave them out to strangers on the street or in the chip aisle at the supermarket.

My daughter had grown up, and was planning on moving out.  We untangled from each other like octopi backing out of a group hug.  We knew it was what was needed for both of us, but we didn’t want to let go.

My son was spending summers at his grandparent’s home in Los Angeles.  Suddenly I had time on my hands…too much time.

I didn’t know what to do with all that freedom.  After a lifetime of feeling encased in anxiety and grief, I had broken out of the cocoon and was flying on my own for the first time.  I tried to relive a childhood I had missed.  Every minute I wasn’t working I was playing on the beach or windsurfing at the lake.  One sunny morning I went out to the street to look northwest towards the beach.   I wanted to see if there was any telltale sign of fog.   There was.  That meant wind by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m.  I ran back into the apartment and dashed down the hallway, sliding into the bedroom I shared with my eighteen-year-old daughter. I shook her awake and yelled “Kowabunga!” She rolled her eyes and turned toward the wall in an attempt to get back to sleep. She had become the older, responsible one.

I was still the orphan looking for someone to love me.  There was a part of me that didn’t believe God would ever allow me to get into another relationship.  After all, I had blown three marriages.  But then I thought, maybe my definition of marriage is flawed.  I mean, I thought marriage meant that “two became one.”  I was pretty sure that didn’t mean I became one with the STD my husband shared with his latest girlfriend or that my eye became one with the end of his fist.  Still, I felt stupid; the type of woman people felt sorry for; kind of like a dimwit. Oh, that’s Linda, don’t mind her…she can’t help it.  She’s been…shhhh…don’t tell anybody…mentally ill for years now.

The guys I dated were all wrong for me.  I was like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fill that missing piece with guys who just didn’t fit.

I was still giving men nicknames, just as I had in the 1970’s.  It hurt a little less to be dumped by “Wing Nut” than it did to be dumped by Scott, the man I had just given my heart to.

There was “the dentist.”  Seven years younger than I and a playboy with a fancy education from back east…not a good match for the likes of me.  Oh…and he had a pretty blond girlfriend stashed away in England part time.  Whenever her visa ran out in the States, she headed back across the pond for a spell and a spot of tea.  That’s when he would ask me out.  When she returned, he dated her; something he conveniently failed to mention.  I called him at home one day and there was her voice was on the answering machine.  “Hulloo…this is Lady Mary Elizabeth…”we’re” not home just now…yada yada yada.” Oh yeah…I got a million of ‘em.

After the dentist, I met “the pilot/surfer/IT geek.”  He bragged about his ability to do somersaults in the sky.  One day we rented a Cessna 170 and flew from San Luis Obispo to Fullerton Airport.  Soon into the flight I looked out the window and said, “There’s Lake Lopez.”

“That’s not Lake Lopez,” he said.  I looked again.  I had windsurfed that lake a hundred times.  I would recognize it upside down and backwards.

“Yeah, that’s Lake Lopez, alright.” I said.

The engine was so loud that I couldn’t hear the quick chatter between him and the air traffic controllers.  He avoided eye contact for the rest of the trip. I noticed the right half of his face twitching as we entered LAX airspace.  I just thought he had a tic.  When we finally cruised down the landing strip at Fullerton he broke out into sobs. Apparently he had almost flown us into the side of a mountain.  He climbed out of the cockpit and vomited onto the tarmac.  My children already didn’t like him very much. That pretty much cinched it.

That coupled with the cases of beer he consumed on a nightly basis worked to pull us apart.

And I can’t leave out “AJ the Weatherman.”  Most of the time I couldn’t remember what his real name was so I just called him “The Weatherman,” for short.  He reported all the latest weather patterns on the 7:00 o’clock and the 11:00 o’clock evening newscast for the local television network.  When he took me out on a date (rare) he wore his letterman jacket with the station call letters on the back.  This was to impress the cute cocktail waitresses so he could get us free drinks.  He also wanted to make sure I knew that all the cute cocktail waitresses thought he was hot stuff.  Apparently he didn’t see them roll their eyes as he headed over to his table.  I wasn’t impressed either.

I was right in the middle of breaking it off with him during our date on New Year’s Eve.  “No!” he yelled, almost spilling his Bud Light.  “I was willing to give up ever having children for you!”

Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention his stalking behavior.  I caught him hiding behind the potted plants on his deck balcony more than once after coming home from the 11:00 o’clock news report, lying in wait for me to arrive home.  The next day, as I left my apartment, his somewhat shrill “Hey!” would force me to look up towards his second floor patio.  Leaning on his patio railing was all 125 pounds of him, baby-oiled arms, hands properly protected by weight-lifting gloves, his smile looking like a Chihuahua ready to latch on to the mailman’s ankle.  “Oh, yeah, hi,” I answered.

“How’s it going?”


“So, where were you last night?”  Subtlety was not his strong suit.

That coupled with the cases of beer he consumed on a nightly basis worked to pull us apart.

So, I decided it was better if I didn’t date men who lived at “Divorce Central” with my children and me.

By this time I was beginning to think I didn’t know how to pick men or something.  I mean, seriously. I was learning.  Really.  I just wasn’t a quick study.

So then, along came “the Air Force guy.”  He went to my church.  He dressed impeccably.  I was drawn to guys in Italian suits from the Mens Warehouse with $20 Rolex watches from Mexico who drove leased Mercedes Benz’ far beyond their budget.  Well, truth be told, I had never been drawn to guys like that.  I had been drawn to guys in dreadlocks with Jamaican accents, but that’s another story altogether. I’m all about experiencing all the world has to offer.

We began dating, and I found myself falling for him.  I had waited a little while this time before falling in love; at least two and a half weeks.  I couldn’t really figure out what it was about him that drew me in.  He wasn’t handsome.  He had a high voice, like a man pretending to sound like a woman.  If I called when he wasn’t home, I found myself cringing at the recording on his answering machine.  “Hi, this is Todd.”  He sounded like Robin Williams might sound on crack during one of his manic episodes.  But he drew me in.  And apparently he drew a lot of other women in too.  By the time he got done wringing out my self-esteem like a wet, dirty dishcloth, I knew something was seriously wrong with me.  I began to run the track at the high school after work in an attempt to outrun years of rejection and abandonment.

And then, along came “the guy in the parking lot.”