Turnabout Is Fair Play…I Suppose

It’s 1991 and, apparently, time for another major change…

Chuck always said that major events came along every three years: married in 1983, child in 1986, beginning of Project Relocate to “Broken House” in 1989 (bit of a stretch here). It made perfect sense, then, that 1991 would be a year of change. My Ph.D. and new job weren’t dramatic enough. Something bigger, more memorable, had to mark the year.

What? Bigger and more memorable than those hats, fancy pants and cumber-buns? I doubt it.

Not in charge Unhappy at his job where advancement was impossible and he felt underappreciated, Chuck and an opportunity collided in the form of buying out a business. He could do what he did best: be the boss let his creative, entrepreneurial spirit fly. He talked me into it. We discussed this at length. Chuck was a smooth-talker and arguing with him was like throwing Jello on Teflon. It was his turn to follow his dream, having spent the last eight years of our marriage supporting me through alcoholism and my Ph.D. Stability and security was now my responsibility. How could I argue with that? I figured if he used this kind of smooth-talking with his clients, he’d make us the ton of money he envisioned and the “Broken House” would be broken no more.

And this is the best part, Hilary, er, Monica, um, Lorna. We can write off the house repair expenses on our taxes as a business expense. Plus, you owe me. Trust me, this is a total win-win!

Over-head was low considering he set up his new business in our house and some of the rooms didn’t even have ceilings. Because clients would theoretically come to his “office,” he had to fix up at least a few parts of the house. That’s when I learned a great deal about “business expenses.”

Here’s what was great about Chuck owning his own business and having it in our home:

  1. He was happy and energized, looking forward to going to work without pants.
  2. Some rooms that were “broken” got “fixed.”
  3. If Alex got sick, he was there (most days) to stay at home/work with him while I was in class (but this was true in his former job).

Here’s what wasn’t great about Chuck owning his own business and having it in our home:

  1. Before we could afford to fix what was broken, he set up shop in various locations in our home: in the middle of the living room and in a vacant space outside our bedroom. While mostly it was just him and K, the assistant he hired to answer our phone, file, and generally keep him organized, there were often awkward, underwear moments.
  2. When his business slowly grew and the private spaces in our home couldn’t accommodate the occasional client and a growing staff a whole section of the house was rehabbed into his office space. The potentially grandest part of the house was cordoned off and filled with desks, file cabinets, and wired for computers—not the vision I had for my dream home.
  3. The other, “private” areas of our home, except our bedrooms, were fair game for strangers. Employees and clients had to use the bathroom. Lunch and coffee breaks were kitchen affairs. In the summer, I couldn’t be seen in just a bathing suit; it was unprofessional.

For me, the most difficult and unforeseen result of Chuck’s foray into small business ownership was that nearly all of our resources (and more) went back into the hungry mouth of the business. After renovations to make his office area look proper, work on the house halted. We became indebted to the business with the promise that, in the future, the rewards would be vast. Chuck worked incredibly hard to build his business; it just devoured needed both him and our money.

Um, the "Broken House" actually looked better before. I know you are designed to keep moving or die, but could you just chill-ax and spend some time with your, remember me, wife?

I worked steadily, doing what I loved (teaching) and believed that his fanatical myopic dogged devoted attention to his business would moderate and he would recognize remember pay a little more attention to his family life. I gained weight during this time. Maybe if I was a bigger target, he’d see me. If he did, he didn’t say so. Alex did, though. He asked when his little brother or sister was coming. I told him to enjoy being an only child.

Yes, we lived in the country, but still you'd think Chuck would've noticed me. Especially with that lovely necklace I purchased from Avon.

Enter S, a guy he met through a client. S became the “brother” Chuck never had but always longed for. If Chuck needed a break from the stresses and demands of running a fledgling business, he found it with S. They biked together and Chuck even spent times on the weekends helping S with his home repair projects.

My “double-Ds” didn’t just stand for my bra size—I felt Discarded and Dumped. Ever the “pleaser,” though, I focused on Chuck. He was pursuing his dream, had found a great friend to have fun with, and still made time for Alex. He was a hard worker and great dad. My needs, I decided, were selfish, so I bought larger clothes and became the best college professor, mom, and wife-on-call I could be.

Oh, no, Deary, Glinda, ahem, Lorna is not in denial. She knows in her heart that her magic costume works. It's the glittery poof-powder. Oopsie-Poopsie! Silly Good Witch, er, Good Girl! It's Poof-power, not powder.

Is Lorna’s marriage in trouble? Again? Or is just Lorna in trouble?

~ by Lorna's Voice on October 10, 2011.

37 Responses to “Turnabout Is Fair Play…I Suppose”

  1. I once went to a Halloween party and the hosts had each couple write their epitaphs on a mock gravestone. The thing I came up for my husband and me was: “Here lie Lorna and “Chuck.” They are finished but their house is not.” It won the contest for the funniest stone. The house is still unfinished (but much improved in the 20 years I lived in it) and, while my ex and S are still great friends, he got married, adopted 2 children and moved clear across the state. Their career aspirations didn’t jive. Hope I didn’t spoil anything for you!

  2. I’m a Scorpio, so I don’t think that is a moon child sign. I’m not all that familiar with astrology… I just love the moon. 🙂

  3. Yes it is. It makes me wonder, when you say child of the moon… are you also astrologically a moon child? I am a cancer, my birthday is in June… and I am not a big astrology follower, but I have noticed that the desire to make others happy over self is a major moon child trait.

  4. A business from home: I’m still in one. We have been running one for 28 years from home. Sometimes, you do stay in jammies for awhile. I guess that’s a good perk for all the hard work. ~~~~: – )
    I know the house is going to be magnificent. I just want to know if Chuck and S get an office together. It could be a perfect soltuion. Mmmmmm …!!!!

  5. The blog stories are the “bones” of the book. I’m leaving out some details and stories for the actual book, but most of it is being “previewed” and “reviewed” here. Thanks for asking. I appreciate the interest and don’t consider you nosy at all. 😉

  6. Actually he did when his house was more under control. I really appreciated his help.

  7. Too bad S didn’t help you guys with home repairs…

  8. Will do but I’m bracing up.
    By the way, how goes it with the book? Or being on the nosy side, sorta, are you turning your blog into a book?

  9. Relax the shoulders, Totsy. We still have a long way to go and you need to keep loose to let your creative juices flow! 😉

  10. Yes, he did, too…we all did.

  11. OK, so I too dream of going to work without pants (without being a stripper). But that all sounds incredibly difficult! Even if I loved my work as much as it sounds like Chuck loved his business, I don’t think I’d want it consuming my home like that. I need that separation of work and “life.”

  12. Lotsa sweat and tears going into business. And the no privacy deal is a toughie. I don’t know how you managed that one but if it kept Chuck happy…
    (hunching the shoulders and wishing you luck).

  13. Thanks, Androgoth. Good to know that you’re keeping tabs on me!

  14. Thanks! There’s still a long row to hoe, but it still got some interesting dippsie doodles.

  15. Another neat phrase you coined: “arguing with him was like throwing Jello on Teflon” fabulous visual leaped into view – “interesting” progress towards liberty and sanity Lorna, cheers catchul8r molly

  16. Another excellent posting Lorna,
    I know that I don’t always add a
    comment… but I am reading 🙂 😉

    Have a brilliant rest of week now

    Androgoth Xx

  17. My polish was pretty thick, but, you’re right. The cracks showed…eventually. You’re a wise woman.

  18. Excellent point. I’m in the business of story-telling not justifying…

  19. Someone has to be the brave one. You were. Good for you. I was brave in my own way, but I kept hanging on, believing it was the right thing to do. I’m happier, too, now. He must be, too.

  20. That was a very invasive set up there in your home, Lorna. It’s too bad Chuck couldn’t have found an inexpensive office somewhere to set up shop. But…it was meant to be the way it was.

    I was married for over 26 years too and my ex was a big risk taker whereas I was like you and wanted to put nice, safe, permanent roots down. Like you said, not a good match. But I was the one that finally saw the futility in our marriage and packed it in. I have felt so much better ever since.

  21. That sounds really preachy. Let me add that I am familiar with how easy even strong, independent, intelligent and healthy women can get sucked into that vortex through the tunnel of emotion.

    The veneer can’t hold the cracks forever!

  22. Women who want to please too much could benefit from looking deep into the eyes and the (capital i) I s of this story.

  23. Yes, Phil. I understand that part of his need to get away. He spoke of the stress of never being able to leave work behind and, since the business phone was our phone for a while, it’s like he was open for business 24-7. I’m sure He didn’t anticipate this element of working at home either.

    We were also in that stage of marriage that is often deemed “auto-pilot” where the couple focuses of the child(ren) and career(s). But, you see, I am this Middle Child Good Girl who has always needed attention. I was doing what I thought were all the right things and getting rejected for my efforts. The perfect storm for something was brewing. But I’m not a stormy person. I don’t get angry or act out–never have and I don’t think I ever will. Well, except for my trademark “cleansing breath.”

  24. My uncle started cleaning his refrigerator parts (fix-it business outa the garage) on the dining room table. It still took my aunt forty years to leave. I often wonder if I quit on my 70’s relationship too soon, but after hearing some of the stories out of the 80’s, maybe not.

  25. I wanted things to work between us because I was afraid of anger, afraid of being one big disappointment, and because I wanted to believe what he promised was true. I didn’t believe in myself enough to stand up and speak my mind because I was so used to just going along with him–it was easier for a girl who grew up making sure everyone was happy. I don’t think he realized how oppressed I felt. But I know he knew how lonely I was. Amazing that our life stories are so similar in their themes…

  26. I really appreciate your comment, Victoria. I didn’t think there was much humor in this one, although I tried to keep it light. Your comment helps me know that I at least hit somewhere on the target and didn’t completely miss the tree!

  27. Well, thanks for the necklace compliment. Me and the girls picked out identical ones down at the General Store, don’t ya know!

    As for how this turns out…expect the unexpected. 😉

  28. Many a person told me that thought it was a miracle I stayed married to him for over 26 years. Heck, I’d still be married to him if he hadn’t left me–and that is just plain hard to admit as I do this retrospective. I get that he was a rolling stone. Some people are. It’s just that we shouldn’t have been glued together for so long, since I wanted to be as still as a big boulder in a river. Doesn’t make us bad people, just the wrong people for each other, pretending to be the right people for each other for far too long. I suppose that’s a story a lot of people can tell.

  29. I’m really glad you told me that, Diana. I wrote and rewrote this one, trying to make it a bit more light-hearted each time. It just had this seriousness to it that I didn’t want to project. I want to be sure not to portray myself as a victim–just a person bumbling through a wonky set of circumstances without the advantage of that good old 20/20 hindsight.

  30. You take the most stressful situations and make them funny. It’s too bad the humor isn’t obvious while it’s happening. It would make life a whole lot easier.

  31. Lorna, After owning 14 small businesses that turned into bigger businesses, I hear your story and know it far too well. i know that those businesses can consume a person. i still have several businesses and I’m working full time and wrangling not just the propoerty on this island (which is commercial), but other commerical ventures on other islands….

    the worst part about this is that I keep looking at new things to sink my teeth into…like buying land in puerto rico and building beautiful small rentals for vacationers near the rainforest…all of them fully green…no water piped in, (just like other areas in the Caribbean cisterns rule the water), no electricity, since I’d do solar and wind, and I’d do it like I always do everything fit and finish that is exceptional not just beautiful and functional…

    Am i obsessed? yeah… am i lost? no…just passionate to keep being productive… I feel your loss…i feel your frustration… why do you think i move through so many women? It’s hard to keep a man happy who is never happy with not changing things to fit his way of thinking… hard to measure up to a man’s expectations when he seems like the only one able to give the results…


  32. I have a sneaking feeling this is not going to end well. And that necklace looks fab on you, Bessie! Er, I mean Lorna.

  33. You have the gift of telling a sad story in an funny way without diminishing your own experience.

  34. Love this post Lorna, I can very much relate. It’s amazing what you will tell yourself that YOU need to do for the other. The control/word game that they master to make you feel like a complete selfish shell of a person just blows me away. It’s funny to look back at things like this because inside I know I am a strong person… so it makes you wonder, why am I here? Why am I listening to this? And why for a second am I buying all the crud he is selling me about myself?

  35. I think you were at the confluence of a number of factors. Working out of the house has many drawbacks – it becomes your “workplace” and as such I can actually understand (not support though mind you) why Chuck felt the need to be away from the environment, which included you and Alex as well. He unfortunately wound up linking all of you to his business, which seemed to be struggling and a major source of stress. Again, not saying it’s OK to be and act that way; I’m just trying to understand why someone might.

    The 80’s were chock full of stories of independent entrepreneurial success. Not much attention however was focused on the struggles and failures, leading to unbalanced expectations. Perhaps that is why you were willing to be so patient.

  36. When you’re in the midst of it, you don’t see it. Looking back, I shake my head and wonder how I could have been so oblivious to the “Danger!” signs back them. Maybe I wasn’t and just wasn’t willing to acknowledge them. I don’t know. All I know is I was willing to go along with it all, thinking/hoping for the promises to manifest. Only time would tell…

  37. Ok. I’m getting a bit nervous now. Starting the business is fine.Many do it and some succeed. The house “takeover”. A bit excessive but these things happen. But neglecting his wife to spend time with his new best friend. Thats not so good

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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