My serious drinking started when I was in my mid-thirties. I joined a social group for singles. I’ve never been a social butterfly — always afraid of rejection if I took off my mask. I’d smile, and if anybody bothered talking to me, I’d talk back, but most people didn’t hang around long enough to get to know me. I just wasn’t good at flirting, small-talk or witty comebacks.
I discovered a new me when I drank. I think that because I was overweight, a lot of guys didn’t want to dance with me. When I asked them to dance and got turned down, I sat on the sidelines with my wine, talking with the other unhooked ladies.
I was lucky that I never got a ticket for driving under the influence. I had no idea how I made it home in one piece! I used to jokingly say that my car was trained and knew the way. On one occasion I actually sideswiped a parked car and drove on. A hit-and-run was something I’d never do if I was sober. I felt so guilty. It’s one of the ugly things about drinking too much.
Pretty soon, the urge to have a drink was a daily event. The drinking did not interfere with my ability to hold a job during the daytime. It did, however, cause my doctor to raise her eyebrows and (the nerve of that woman) ask me if I ‘always’ drank at lunch time. She could smell the wine cooler I’d had at lunch time, even though I sucked on some mints before my appointment. I told her, ‘No,’ although I don’t think she believed me. She recommended that I go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Phooey, I thought, I don’t drink that much. I did attend a few meetings, then I’d go home and drink some wine. I didn’t need AA — no, not me.
One of my most humiliating, embarrassing experiences was at one of the singles group parties, which were held at different members’ homes. Parties at Glo’s house were always fun. Her spacious house and good dance music made it a popular site, as well as Glo’s warm personality. She made the best margaritas and I was downing them as if they were soda. She even asked me at one point if I could handle another one, and I cheerfully assured her, “Oh yeah, I’m doin’ jush fine!”
Those margaritas crept up on me. I was joking around with Tony (he was a friendly party animal) one minute, and passed out on the sofa the next. I threw up on the floor, too — right there at the party, amongst people I knew. Glo was very kind and, when I was conscious again, I could smell the stale booze on me. She offered to let me stay overnight. I felt better, albeit embarrassed that I had gotten so drunk, and decided I was able to drive home, wearing my sweater which still had vomit on it. After that experience, I stayed away from parties for a long time.
My daily routine became pretty boring. I’d go to work, come home, drink wine, and be in bed by eight o’clock. I slept so hard I even wet the bed sometimes. I wasn’t a happy woman. I felt ugly and unloved. I still went to the singles group discussions and barbecues, but they didn’t fill the emptiness inside.
I started dating a man from the social group. His name was Al and we went out for coffee with a group of other club members. I never get invited to join after-party coffee dates on my own. He’s new and already fits in with the ‘in crowd.’ He was loud and boisterous compared to my quietness, but I laughed at his coffee shop antics.
Our third date was at my house. I had invited him over for dinner. That was the night he said, “I love you,” and proposed marriage.
My instant reaction was, “I’m not the domestic type.” I had been divorced from my first husband for eleven years and pretty much alone during that time. His saying he loved me was music to my ears, but he was moving too fast!
He laughed heartily and said, “That’s not a big deal — my last wife wasn’t the domestic type either.”
He had lied, I discovered later. He proceeded to tell me all about his five previous marriages. His reasons for the marriages failing seemed plausible enough, with the exception of his first marriage, and he admitted being at fault. He ran around with other women when he was married to his first wife, although they did have a son together. The second wife had children from a previous marriage and when he tried disciplining the children, she got angry. He and the third wife had nothing in common, and lived in two different worlds. I don’t remember what the problem was with his fourth wife. The fifth wife and he had two little girls. She cheated on him with his best friend from the bus company. I met her one time when we went to pick up the girls for weekend visitation. He was right about one thing — she wasn’t very domestic.
My idea was to date each other for at least six months and get to know each other better. Meanwhile, we could live together. During the next week I packed all my belongings and we moved me to his mobile home.
He took me shopping for an engagement ring. It was in a set with a matching wedding bands for the bride and groom. I was happy, but kind of numb. This was still going too fast for me. We were getting along playing house. He was showing me his best side. I basked in the glow of his professions of love, his humor and attention. Somebody loves me, maybe I’m not such a loser after all.
About six weeks later we took a trip to Arizona. He wanted to buy my stepfather’s pickup truck. During the train ride to Arizona he was his usual gregarious self, getting acquainted with other passengers, playing cards and joking around. At first, I thought he was funny. But when I became the object of his jokes, it wasn’t so funny. He made sexual innuendos with his talk about the delights of whipped cream. I just wanted a hole in the floor through which I could fall.
He was friendly with my stepfather and they seemed to hit it off. He bought the truck and when we were about ready to go, he said, “Since we’re so close to Vegas, let’s go get married now. I’d really like us to live together legally in marriage.”
I was seeing little red flags, and pointed out to myself that we hadn’t given our relationship the six-month test. Besides, after the train ride I wasn’t sure I could stand him.
My stepfather chimed in, “Go ahead, Joyce. He seems like a pretty nice guy.”
Being the impulsive type, I said, “Yeah, it is convenient. Let’s go for it!”
Vegas! The town that never sleeps. We stopped at the courthouse and got our license first. Then we chose a chapel. We both liked the name, “Wee Kirk of the Heather” and went there for the ceremony. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. I wore a pastel-printed top and pale green slacks. We had brought a few essentials for an overnight trip to my stepfather’s place, not a marriage in Vegas, but we made do.
It was a short, sweet ceremony, and by the way, Al had brought the rings from L.A. without my knowing. He had this on his mind the whole time! This was one of the many surprises I was finding out about him.
Our next stop was the Stardust Hotel, where we got the honeymoon suite. We had just gotten married, but we spent the night in the casino playing Blackjack. Other players were saying, “What are you doing down here?” Well, I guess after the cow has left the barn so to speak, where’s the romance, anyhow? I don’t remember how Al responded, but it was probably something like that. He could be pretty crude.
When we got back to L.A. and I returned to work, one of the girls said, “Six weeks ago you didn’t even have a date, and now you’re married.” We joked about it, and I, too, thought I had truly been in a whirlwind.
I had been seeing a psychotherapist every week for a couple years because of depression and relationship issues. Al thought I could quit therapy because now I could talk with him about my troubles. Now I have the urge to roll on the floor laughing when I think about what it was like talking with him about problems. “Well, whose fault is that?” was a characteristic response.
Six weeks into the marriage I knew I had made a mistake. His previous wives didn’t work outside the home. I had a job and liked to enjoy my weekends. He wanted me to spend my Sunday afternoons cooking a full-course dinner like his mama used to do. My response was, “Remember, I told you I wasn’t domestic.”
“I thought you’d change after we got married,” he said.
“Well, I didn’t. I work all week and it’s my weekend, too. I don’t want to spend it in the kitchen!” I cooked, but it was never elaborate.
He professed that he loved, loved, loved me, but there wasn’t much I did that pleased him. “What do you love about me? You’re not happy about anything I do!”
In some ways we got along pretty well. We both enjoyed video games. This was before PCs. He had an Atari on which we played Pac-Man, Breakout and some other games. We also used to have a big jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table which we both worked on.
He was a sports fan, which I wasn’t, and he wanted me to come into the bedroom and watch the games with him. He had two TVs plus the radio going at the same time. Ugh! One time he mentioned to me that there was dust between the two TVs. I told him that if he didn’t like looking at it, he could dust it. That went over like a lead balloon! Poor disillusioned Al, thinking he had married a Susie homemaker even though I told him from the get-go that I wasn’t.
He was a bus driver on the extra-board, which means he had a variable shift because he took over the route when other drivers were on vacation or sick. When I made plans to take a class, for example, and he happened to be off, he said that I just wanted to be away from him. He could’ve been right at that point, but I told him, “I never know what your days off are going to be.” He knew that. He just liked to bellyache.
One thing, among others, that really irritated me was his baby act. He’d be awake while I was getting ready for work, and in that little boy tone of voice, say, “Joycie-poo, would you get me a cup of coffee?” Never mind that I’m busy getting ready for work. However, to keep the peace — “Sure, dear,” and bring him a cup.
“Thank you,” he’d say. Then “kissy-poo.” Oy, I thought, and kissed him. Then, back to getting ready.
“This would be perfect with a little more cream,” he’d say. I didn’t respond out loud. Silently I said, “Get it your own damn self next time and leave me the hell alone!”
He also didn’t want me to hang out with my single girlfriends anymore. After all, I was a married woman now, and he was worried that we’d go to bars and pick up men. We were taking a class in Tarot card reading! Besides, I knew my girlfriend long before I knew Al. I wasn’t going to give up my friend because I had married this chauvinistic galoot.
We just weren’t communicating well at all, and he’s the one who suggested that we both go to my therapist for counseling. He, too, wanted us to communicate better. He wanted me to be able to talk to him.
Yet, when I tried the communication with him on an honest level, his response was, “Can’t we just be pleasant for a change?” (Smile) So much for communication! I kept seeing my therapist on my own.
I coped by turning to my escape route of drinking. He could always tell I had been drinking. Although he didn’t condemn it, I knew he didn’t like it, even though we drank other liquor together sometimes. In spite of our ups and downs, I thought, the first year is the hardest, so I’ll stick it out. I stuck it out for eighteen months. Then I moved out and filed papers for a summary dissolution.
Single again and living in an apartment on my own, I continued my wine drinking and rejoined the same singles group where I’d met Al. This story will be continued as A Sweet Trade-off.