"She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Chapter XVIII "A Flood of Sunshine"
I had two serious male relationships in my life. My daughters father and my husband. There was nearly a 10 year span between one ending and the other starting. During that time, I dated here or there. Nothing serious. A dinner here or there. No more than two dates. No sleep overs, no lengthy time together, no introductions to my family.
While I could easily chalk this up to slim pickings, I can tell you the truth is that I gave off the “not interested” vibe. I am quite confident anyone who knew me during the time I lost my daughter to when I met my husband would tell you I was distant, cool, detached, hard to get to know, way too introverted. Stuck up, a bitch, avoidant personality disorder affected.
I recall, quite clearly, deciding I was never going to have another relationship after losing my daughter and her father. It just hurt too much. Relationships sucked. They got you pregnant, discarded and abandoned. I was better off alone.
When and if I did meet someone, even a female friend, I often felt compelled to tell them about my daughter. It was a litmus test of a relationship. I can confidently say that it did scare some people off. I had someone, a male friend, (not a boyfriend, just an acquaintance) literally stop talking to me, calling me, looking at me in the office once he learned of my daughter. I had others, female friends say, “I really don’t want to know about this”. I had others look at me strangely, claim it was no big deal, yet they started excluding me from events.
Was it my Scarlett Letter status or did I come across as some neurotic freakazoid? I may never know.
People, males especially, did not want to associate with a woman who had a child by another man AND gave that child away. No matter the circumstances; she/I was damaged goods.
I had convinced myself of this for ten years. Perhaps it was my parents talking, the agency, or my catholic teachings. I had straddled the fence of madonna-whore at 17 years old and I felt onto the whore dirt. I fell HARD. I was quite convinced that whore was tattooed across my forehead. As such, I behaved much like one of my idols, Hester Prynn, and retreated to the pretend world inhabited only by me and my daughter.
When I met my husband in the mid-90s, he pursued me rather aggressively. Again, I wasn’t interested. He amused me but that old fear of that Whore syndrome reigned supreme. He deserved better. He would find out. He deserved to know. NO MAN WANTS A WOMAN WHO HAS HAD A CHILD BY ANOTHER MAN. I really don’t know where I got this from. But it screamed loudly in my head for many years.
We did eventually start dating and as per my modus operandi, I shared my dirty laundry with the scarlett embroidery somewhat early in our relationship.
Was he horrified?
Did he cast me away?
Did he make a hasty exit that left tire marks?
He said he was sorry that had happened to me and that he wished he had been there with me.
The reaction I had expected from him did not come until many years later. Truthfully, early our relationship, niether one of us had any clue of the depth of my pain. I could not have possibly told him how damaged I truly was. I had no idea myself.
That knowledge came later when I thawed out. Unfrozen. Awake. A true mother of loss that fully comprehended and accepted what she lost and how.
Our relationshiop has never been the same since.