Whenever Tom and I are together and someone finds out we have three daughters, the person usually looks at Tom and says, “How do you do it, Man?”
Tom shrugs and replies, “With a lot of patience and a couple of beers.”
Everyone chuckles, and it is usually left at that. No one sees how Tom has to manuever through a 1200 square-foot, one bathroom house and four females. No one seems to understand that when three teenagers are all pre-menstrual, Momma will probably be pre-menopausal. Female hormones are like fruit flies in an unkept restaurant: they are insidious little creatures that we think we have in check, but there they are again, buzzing around the bottles!
Last weekend, my friends got to witness Tom’s method in play.
As I have stated before, I am in a poker league that meets every other Friday from November through April. When asked to join by my friend Scott a few years back, I was slightly hesitant. Not only did I question my poker playing abilities, but I did not know some of the league members very well, and I did not know if I would be welcomed. Scott assured me it was a safe, welcoming group, and I decided that it would be fun. Two seasons later, most of these people I consider friends, and I look forward to the chance of hanging out and having fun with them on poker nights.
Last Friday, we needed a sub. Every so often, a regular player cannot make the bi-weekly game and a substitute player is needed to fill the whole. This time, Tom was asked to be the sub. I was elated. Tom and I love to gamble together, and I feel that I play better when he is in the room.
We arrived at Scott’s house and the game got underway. As is with most evenings, we talk intermittent while playing the hands.
My girlfriend Kim brought up my blog. She, like many of these friends, are regular visitors to this blog, and she was curious what I had in mind for the coming months.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “But I want to definitely keep writing. I love it! I love the random hit from Kenya and the regular hits from Portugal. I love everything about writing for these people who happen to read from anywhere in the world.”
“Wow,” she said. “That is cool. Do you know, is there anything in particular they seem to read?”
I shrugged. “No, not really, but there are a few posts that get hit all of the time. Like the post: “I Have the Statue of Liberty in My House.”
“And you don’t know why?” she asked again.
“Nope,” I said, but deep down I was thinking because it is well written, because it strikes a chord with anyone who has ever found their parents’ interests slightly embarrassing, because it tugs on the heart-strings of any child who has felt true love for a parent. However, these self-gratifying thoughts were quickly interrupted.
“Well, it doesn’t hurt that I hit it every day,” Tom said sipping his beer laughing. Looking at our friend Mike sitting next to him, he said, “Sometimes twice a day if I am really in the mood.”
I heard ringing in my ears. My head began to spin. The room literally felt like it had changed hue. Someone was telling me the bet was to me, but I couldn’t even look at my cards Was this true? Was one of my favorite posts I have ever written really been just a joke to my husband? Is all of this work and dedication and illumination and motivation from all of these readers really just a facade? If he truly is padding my blog hits, what does this say about how serious he takes my writing?
The hands kept playing and I kept folding. I could not concentrate on cards. I wanted to throw my glass of beer in his face. I wanted to jump up and tip the table on top of him. I wanted to scream and shout and punch a wall. I felt so much anger and rage and humiliation, I did what I always do when I feel lost in an emotional void– I started to cry. Tears crept down my cheeks, and at first, no one noticed, but I couldn’t make it stop. Within the minute, everyone was staring at me.
I looked at Tom with what I assume to be hurt in my eyes and said, “You invalidated everything I do.”
He looked at me calmly. “Cher, you know I was kidding. I only read your blog off of my phone, and I can show you my Safari history.”
“But you said….”
“I know what I said. I was kidding.”
He said nothing else because Kim stood to give me a hug. The game needed to continue. I needed to stop crying; I knew this, and her hug brought me back into the moment. I wiped my face and tried to process everything since Kim’s line of questioning.
While we all sat in uncomfortable silence, Tom decided to pick up his phone to check his email and send a text to the girls. He remained calm and did not make eye contact with me.
Twenty minutes later, I decided I had blown the whole thing out of proportion. Anytime the Statue of Liberty blog gets hit, it is because someone searched Statue of Liberty lamps. Now, would Tom really go into Google and search Statue of Liberty lamps almost every single day? Would he be that committed to bolstering my stats by six-ten hits a week? No, it was impossible. I decided he was trying to be funny, and I had gotten excited and upset for nothing.
Scott looked over at me perplexed. “This was one heck of a scene between you two.” Tom and I made eye contact and laughed.
“Yeah, why is that?” I asked. Scott has known me for almost twenty years; he knows me to be sensitive, so I was curious what was odd about my, yet again, breaking into tears.
“Well, you cried, I get that,” he said motioning to me. “But Tom! I have never seen someone remain so calm. You said your peace and then just played with your phone and waited for it to pass. We all sat on egg shells, and you were cool as a cucumber, not a care in the world, it seemed.”
Tom smiled. “I live with four women. It’s either learn how to tread to get the least amount of tears possible or die from the stress.”
Scott looked from Tom to me back to Tom. “Well played, my friend. Well played.”