The funny thing about hitting rock bottom is that you don’t always know you have reached it until you are on the way back up. It’s not like there is a “thud” sound. I’ve fallen into the black hole of despair on more than one occasion but the good news is that I have only hit rock bottom twice. The bad news is that I have hit rock bottom two times. The second time was last September when I started to drown in the toxic soup. The first time was in December of 1990 after I made the biggest mistake of my life. I threw away the best thing that ever happened to me. Fortunately, the first fall to the bottom has a happy ending.
I never expected to get married or have children. I was the brainiac of the family and my father’s expectations of me—and my expectations for myself—were that I would have a career as a lawyer.
I was the typical dorky, spectacled geek all through school. I always wore the ugliest glasses because my father would only pay for the cheapest pair of frames in the store. We would go in and he would say “show me the cheapest pair,” and that’s what I would get. It didn’t matter how hideous they were—and some of them truly were. He said it was because I was just going to grow out of them anyway so way pay a lot?
In truth I think he wanted me to be unattractive. He was a control freak and if I was unattractive, no one would want me and he would stay in control. He would say I was pretty in a way that suggested that I wasn’t, but that he loved me anyway.
So I always believed I was unattractive.
There was one person, however, who did not think I was unattractive. He thought I was hot.
By the time I was a junior in college, my parent’s second marriage to each other was disintegrating, and my mother told me not to come home for the summer. So I signed up for summer classes and stayed in Williamsburg. I also got a job waitressing at a local hotel restaurant.
On my first night on the job, the manager introduced me to the chef, a 30 –year old guy with little hair but bright blue eyes and an easy smile. The manager introduced him as Billy. My first thought was, “what is a 30 year old guy doing with a kid’s name like Billy?”
His first thought was, “I wonder what she has underneath that blouse.”
A few weeks later, my roommates and I had a party and I invited Billy. The rest, as they say, is history. We started what I assumed would be a summer fling, and it has lasted almost 30 years. With one big exception, which we have come to call “The Missing Years.”
We got married in 1985 after my second year of law school. After I graduated, we bought a house near Richmond and I started working at the law firm. After dreaming of becoming a lawyer since I was 12 years old, I had finally achieved my dream, and I hated it. I walked into my office for the first time and thought, “I have to do this for 40 years?”
I don’t know when our marriage started to fall apart. In 1987, we got custody of Billy’s son from his first marriage, who was about 8 at the time. Given what I have written about my childhood, it should come as no surprise that my parenting skills left much to be desired. I was way too strict. Billy, on the other hand, was way too lenient. We could not come to any compromises on child rearing.
Then, to make matters worse, I listened to someone who obviously didn’t know what she was talking about and let her convince me that I could do better than Billy. I was a lawyer, after all, and he was just a chef. I decided that I needed to be with another professional like myself. What an idiot I was. I moved out of our house in the summer of 1990 and got an apartment near my office.