The Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Married Exes


A blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach
Snagged on a recent trip to Oregon. The subject is random, but the message is relevant.

Snagged on a recent trip to Oregon. The subject is random, but the message is relevant.

Upon discovery that yet another ex-boyfriend was about to marry the girl he dated after me, a friend my mother’s age said in consolation, “don’t worry, you’ll hear from him again. All of my married exes called me in their late thirties. It’s what they do.”

Why?” I asked. “To cheat?”

“I think they miss the freedom that you somehow, by NOT being the girl they married, still represent. Your carefree relationship, your fun loving antics,” she replied.

“Ha. Right. Carefree. We were a laugh a minute, that’s why we broke up, we were having too much fun.”

But she insisted that while they change diapers and visit in-laws, their minds will wander to the other girls in their lives. The single girls. The girls who got away?

Well, I’m not quite in my late thirties yet, and I look forward to knowing whether my friend will be right. But this idea has gotten me thinking, if I represent one thing to those exes who have successfully moved on, what else do I represent?

When I started online dating a little over a year ago, I put in my preferences that I’d like to meet a fellow aged 35-45. I got a lot of replies from men aged 41 or older. They were ready to settle down. They wanted to start families. It wasn’t so much a case of them looking at my boobs instead of my eyes, but my uterus. The idea of searching in the early 40s range, for me, was to find a dapper James Purefoy or Jeremy Piven type, but apparently those types don’t online-date, so I reconfigured my preferences.

Then, on some talk show that shall remain nameless (remember I’m freelance), I heard a woman say she prefers to date divorced men, because they know what goes into a relationship and are obviously not afraid of commitment. So, in a way familiar to unsaid talk show, I “put-out-into-the-universe” that late thirties and divorced was my cup of tea, and the universe responded. Be careful what you wish for.

I think they liked me because I had never been married, I was still rather childlike and carefree (on first glance) and probably nothing like their ex-wives. Perhaps a bit bohemian like the illustrator Don Draper was seeing in the beginning of Mad Men. Some of these men were more mature, ready to start something real, but some of them were just happy to be single again. The fact that they were divorced didn’t make much of a difference, except about half of them had kids. It seemed more that being divorced is a natural byproduct of being in one’s late thirties, and that made me realize things had changed.

It’s like everyone went on a hike. They climbed the mountain, and somewhere above the tree-line, they all married each other. I was in grad school, in the cave under the mountain, playing with the dragon’s gold. The exit tunnel from the cave was on the far side of the mountain, and I emerged on their descent. So now I meet are those who married at the top, those who married then divorced at the top, those who started the hike but got lost along the way and are just finding the group again, or those who cut through the cave as well because they weren’t interested in running out of breath.

The people I meet these days are no longer simple, they carry packs, with maps, mess kits, and gorp. Some tote a sleeping bag to roll out under the stars, and others need a full pick-up truck’s load to set up a comfy camp. They are complex and adult and experienced, and I think that’s great, because maybe I’m a bit of that too. Occasionally I feel a pang of loss for a clichéd innocence, running-in-a-sunny-field and rolling-in-the-surf kind of carefree young love. But I don’t miss the ignorance and confusion that went with it, and I’m more content to deal with a complex vintage of man.