Coffee With An Ex

31581048030_dc0a4e0f4e***Check me out over at The Washington Post. I wrote an essay about a day when I was a super grown-up.***

I was once told that I was the reason that stepmothers get such a bad rap in Disney movies. My crime? I’d written an essay about my complicated relationship with a divorced father of three, and in it I’d admitted to the occasional bout of jealousy in the beginning of our relationship. I wrote that sometimes, I couldn’t help but feel a little left out of the things I wasn’t allowed to participate in yet: vacations, the kids’ sports games, birthday dinners.

In the comments section, one reader said that if jealousy was a problem for me, then I was responsible for all the bad PR stepmothers get. Then she used some very colorful language to tell me to grow up.

I was just trying to be honest: As someone in her mid-30s who never planned on having kids, being the girlfriend of an older man with three teenagers is a challenging place to be. And in the beginning, it could be a lonely place.

Then last month — three years into our relationship — my boyfriend Kevin received a text from his ex-wife: I’d like to have coffee with Dani.

Oh what I wouldn’t give for the days when I felt left out.

Click here to find out what happens at coffee.

photo credit: CJS*64 7am via photopin (license)

10 Things to Know About Dating a Divorced Dad

A photo by Danielle MacInnes. unsplash.com/photos/1DkWWN1dr-s

*This was originally published on Scary Mommy.

My relationship with a divorced father of three has been one of the most grueling, maddening, fulfilling, self-revealing things I’ve ever done, and it has taken me a ton of wrong moves and bad fights to find my way. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  • It’s not personal. Despite wanting to smack someone whenever this is said to me, the fact is that it’s true. His kids dislike you only as a concept, not as a person — they’re just looking for that same safety and stability we all are, and you just happen to be the embodiment of all that threatens that.
  • It’s not personal except when it is. While it’s true that his kids wouldn’t like anyone with their father, it isn’t anyone — it’s you. You’re the one who’s there, feeling resented, in the way, and often pushed to the margins of his life. You’re entitled to your feelings about that, and you get some space to make it about you too. Because some of it is.

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Guys Like Us

I’ve been working on this one for 25 years, and finally I was able to find the words for it. Here’s the first part of it, make sure to click the link at the bottom to read the whole thing. photo-1437943085269-6da5dd4295bf

My father has never made it easy to love him, mostly because it was never easy for him to love the life he fell into. Marriage, children, a medical career—all things he was told to want, and so he tried to believe that he did. And you could almost see the weight of all that responsibility bearing down on him, pressing him into shapes that were so unnatural to him that even when he wasn’t fighting against them, you could see how much effort it took for him to stay in them.

Whether the soft spot that he had for me was a cause or an effect of the love we shared for the New York Knicks, I can’t really say. What I can say is that my relationship with my Dad was never more right than when we were watching or discussing Pat Riley’s rugged Knicks of the mid-90s. Those were the teams I grew up on. Ewing, Starks, Oakley, Mason—those were my heroes, the first great sports loves of mine. And those assholes were constantly toying with me.

They were always dangling a championship in front of my face like meat in front of a cub, dragging it closer and closer until it was inches from my face and I was in a trance, watching its juices drip to the ground, absolutely certain that the next drop was mine. And then Reggie Miller would happen, or John Starks, or a missed finger roll, or a playoff brawl, or a head-butt, or Michael Jordan or any of the thousand other things that snatched that meat right back. I grew accustomed to starving.

This, some people say, was deserved. The wider world saw those Knicks as a pack of thugs muddying up a beautiful sport, either of their own volition or Riley’s. Maybe they were.     Truth is, my father and I wouldn’t have loved them as much as we did if everyone else hadn’t hated them so much–how else would they have shown us what not giving a shit looked like? He rooted for them because they did what he never could; they became something other than what they were told to be. Rooting for Starks and Oakley and Mason was, for my father, a chance to fight back against the inevitability of the life he was living. It was a strange search for redemption by proxy, but because it was also his way of reaching for me, it brought him even closer to the life he was trying to escape.

Sometimes, the only way out is back in.

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To read the rest and find out how the Knicks taught me to love my father, check out the full piece at The Classical.