Saturday, July 15, 2017


March 20, 1981
      Ed has a new doll for his collection—and I discovered her. 
      In December Marion Marsh invited me to attend a Unitarian social gathering at the home of Robert Rimmer, author of The Harrad Experiment. The book created a sensation in 1966; today’s youngsters may wonder why.  The plot concerned a coed university where students were required to change sexual partners every few months.  Rimmer argued that this would provide valuable insights when the time came to select a more permanent partner.
      We were served wine and cheese and taken on a tour of Rimmer’s book-lined house.  Dozens of copies of each of his books filled the shelves.  After the tour, I found myself sitting next to Stanley, a balding, pleasant-faced man.  I was enjoying the subtle undercurrents a woman senses when a male acquaintance appears to appreciate her conversational skills.  As I delivered one of my better quips, however, I noticed Stanley was no longer tuned in.  His gaze was fixed on an area over my right shoulder. The undercurrents had made a treacherous detour.
      “Hi, Cleo!” my ex-companion called, leaping to his feet.
      Was this the Siren of the Nile?  Peering around Stanley, who was holding out his arms, I looked her over.  Cleo was tallish, blondish, fiftyish, and hadn’t given up the fight yet; I could tell by her figure and false eyelashes.  I leaned toward Marion, who was standing nearby, and whispered, “Who’s that?”
      “That?  That’s Stanley Nesbit.”
      “No, no, that woman he’s fawning over. Is she married?”  
      Marion said she’d seen Cleo in church, didn’t know her last name, thought she might be getting a divorce.
      “I hope so,” I said.  “She’s Ed’s type if I ever saw Ed’s type.  He’s never been able to resist a pair of false eyelashes—and he’s shopping around.”
      Marion thinks I’m crazy.  She keeps asking when my ex and I are going to quit kidding and get married again.  She pooh-poohs my arguments that his house is too hot, his TV too loud, and his poodle too undisciplined.  Marion is sure that for my sake Ed would turn down the heat and TV and spank the poodle.  But it wouldn’t work.  It exhausts me even to think of weekly treks, watering can in hand, through the burgeoning jungle he has created, like some botanical Frankenstein, in his living room.  Watering his plants takes more time than I have left.  Let Cleo do it.
      I liked the way she was bantering with Stanley.  Any woman who waters Ed’s plants must have a sense of humor.
      Two weeks later I bumped into Cleo, standing with a friend in front of the perfume counter at Jordan’s.  I sidled up and muttered in her ear, “Personally, I wouldn’t care for all that partner swapping in The Harrad Experiment, would you?”
      She looked at me blankly for a moment, then laughed. “I stick to swapping recipes.”
      We stepped away from the counter and small-talked.  Then I plunged in and told her about Ed. 
      “Any ex-husband of yours must be a nice guy,” Cleo said.  “Why don’t you bring him to church next Sunday afternoon?  They’re having a get-together for singles.”
      Ed was seeing Aliceann Sunday night, but he said sure, he’d go to the singles thing with me in the afternoon.  What did he have to lose?
      “I’ll pretend you’re my brother,” I said .  “Otherwise people will wonder why we have the same last name.”  
     We signed in at the door, stuck on our name tags, and drifted over to the wine and cheese table.  I nudged Ed.  “She’s over there—in the red dress.”
      He stared for a moment, then said, “How do I get to meet her?’
     I introduced them.  Cleo linked her arm in Ed’s, gave him a flutter with those eyelashes, and that was that, mission accomplished.
      They’ve seen each other several times since then, but my ex is in a quandary.  He doesn’t know what to do about Aliceann.  He asked her to marry him a few months ago, with my enthusiastic approval, but when she learned pets weren’t allowed in his Florida condo, she said no.  Then she heard he’s seeing someone else and called me to ask my advice.  Refusing to marry him didn’t mean she was ready to give him up.  She said she didn’t know who this other woman was, but she was just going to hang in there, didn’t I agree that was what she should do?  I felt crumby because I really like Aliceann, but Ed comes first in my list of priorities.  If only everyone could find exactly the right partner.  Maybe the solution would be for me to find someone for Aliceann.
July 24, 1981
      At first I was pleased when last spring’s matchmaking worked out so well.  Cleo thought Ed was a “dear man,” and Ed thought Cleo was not only attractive but sympathetic and undemanding.  (“She never asks me who else I’m seeing or what I’m doing when I’m not with her.”)  As time went by he began reshuffling his social calendar to see more of Cleo.
     Then I began to notice he was seeing less of me.  He was no longer my dependable golfing buddy; instead he and Cleo were going on picnics or planting rosebushes.  
      A couple of times even our Thursday night dinner date was called off for one vague reason or another.  Once, he said he’d see me Friday night instead, then begged off with the excuse that he was too tired.  What could be making that man so tired?  Of course, all I have ever wanted with all my heart and soul was for Ed to be happy.
      But not that happy.
      I didn’t complain openly.  I did a lot of empathizing with Aliceann, though.  Following her example, I decided I’d hang in there.  Ex-husbands like Ed are hard to find.
      He hasn’t abandoned me entirely.  He invited me to join Cleo and him for dinner at the golf club.  His rationale?  “I want her to get used to you.”  I said no.  She’ll get used to me soon enough without my encroaching on their dates.
      Meanwhile, Ed, Aliceann, and I are still a threesome, attending doll auctions and antique shows together.  The Pied Piper of Scituate is doing his best to keep everyone contented, as well as in line.  He seems a bit dazed by it all.
February 29, 1982
      Cleo has ended her relationship with Ed.  She felt she was standing in the way of someone he could settle down with permanently.  Ed wants either marriage or a live-in mate; Cleo wants neither.  I advised Ed to marry Aliceann.  He said, “Don’t lobby me; lobby her.”

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