“That has got to be the stupidest title for a seminar I’ve ever heard.”
Ellie and Gina continued to stare each other down. The other customers in the coffee shop began to look in their direction.
“Can you say that a little louder, please? I don’t think the hicks in the next county heard you.”
Gina broke off the stare-a-thon first. She sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. “Seriously Ellie, who’s going to pay to hear you talk about how to lose their man? Don’t we have enough trouble keeping our men nowadays as it is without having to hear tips on how to get divorced faster?”
Ellie ran a hand over suddenly tired eyes. “You’re not listening, Gina. It’s not about losing your man, it’s about keeping your man.”
“Then why the crazy title?”
“To get people’s attention.”
Gina shrugged, uncrossed her arms and reached for her double-shot espresso. “I think it’s counterproductive.”
“And I appreciate your candor,” Ellie said, though the tone of her voice indicated otherwise. “But my sponsors love the idea and since they’re the ones who give me a paycheck every month …”
“Right. I understand having to go where the money talks ALL too well, thank you very much.” Gina said with a grimace. “I still don’t know how you do this though, given what happened.”
Ellie sighed and ran a finger lightly over the crust of her moist, blueberry muffin. “It actually helps.”
“How can giving out advice about relationships help you get over the fact that Jerry was an asshole?”
“It just re-establishes what I did wrong.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, girlfriend,” Gina said with a snort. “The man had one foot out the door your entire marriage.”
Ellie reached up and tucked a strand of dark brown hair behind her ear. Her gaze landed on the pimply-faced barista behind the counter. The girl looked tired and tense. She also looked a bit sad as she worked alongside the bubbly blonde cheerleader-type girl next to her. She could relate to the tired girl. She knew exactly what it was like to be overshadowed and often times, overlooked, when next to more attractive people.
Ellie’s eyes shifted back on her friend and she heaved a heavy sigh. “I won’t dispute that. I think Jerry was just a restless soul to begin with. He didn’t know what he wanted, let alone what he wanted out of our marriage. But,” she held up a finger as Gina opened her mouth to interrupt her. “I did contribute to the problems.”
“Oh?” Gina cocked her head and looked dubious. “How so?”
“Come to the seminar and find out,” Ellie said with a melancholy smile.
Gina rolled her eyes. “You know I have that conference in Tallahassee that week. I can’t come. Just give me the highlights.”
Ellie sucked her bottom lip in between her teeth and looked uncertain. “It’s not exactly finished. It needs work.”
“All the more reason to try it out on me,” Gina insisted.
Ellie stared at her for long seconds before nodding. “Fine. All right.” She cleared her throat and reached into her over-sized handbag. She cracked her eyeglass case open and reached in for her spectacles.
“Since when do you wear glasses?” Gina asked in surprise.
“Since I can’t see two feet in front of me,” Ellie growled and pulled out a steno pad. She flipped to the correct page before clearing her throat once again.
“How to lose your man,” she began in an authoritative voice.
Gina settled into her seat and crossed her long, thin legs. “This outta be good.”
“I warn you,” Ellie said over her glasses, “it needs work.”
Gina waved a hand to indicate she should continue.
“Number One,” Ellie paused. A small amount of red stained her upper cheeks. “Stop taking care of yourself or,” she paused, “in laymen’s terms, get fat.”
“What?” Gina sputtered.
“Well look at me,” Ellie said with a grand sweep over her plump figure. “I’ve gained about 30 pounds since marrying Jerry — ”
“What does that have anything to do with anything? You look great. And you’re not fat for the like the gazillionth time.”
Ellie gave her a sad smile before shaking her head. “I’m not attractive anymore, Gina. I let myself go.”
“Is that what that SOB told you?”
“No, it’s what my mirror tells me.” She lifted a hand to stop her friend’s tirade. “Think of it this way,” she paused and whet her lips, “you married a really good looking guy. You found him attractive, the sex was good and then … you woke up one morning and noticed he had a beer gut. And he didn’t shave as often, or maybe he didn’t wear as much deodorant as he needed to. Would you still be attracted to him?”
“You should love each other no matter what,” Gina insisted in stubborn tones.
“True. But being attracted to one another is a component of love. And if you don’t have enough respect to take care of yourself, how can your partner have enough respect for you? Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can suddenly stop caring about how you present yourself to him or the rest of the world.”
“I still think that’s a cop-out excuse to end a marriage.”
“I didn’t say it would end your marriage, it’s just one of the steps that leads to that conclusion,” Ellie said.
Gina studied her friend for several seconds, “Jerry didn’t leave you because you’ve put on a few pounds, Ell.”
“Actually, he did.”
“He told me,” Ellie said. “But,” she continued, “I can understand where he’s coming from.”
“You shouldn’t have to change yourself for anyone.”
“That’s right. I agree. You shouldn’t change yourself — for better OR worse for anyone.”
Gina gave her a hard stare before saying, “We’re never going to agree on this point. Let’s skip this and move on.”
“Fine,” Ellie’s eyes went back to her notes. “Number Two, nag him. Men have a fantastic ability to completely shut us out in the best of times. Start nagging him and he’s sure to shut you out.”
“Well, I can certainly understand that one. My boss nags me all the time and I want to throttle the man.”
“Imagine living with someone who thought everything you did was sub-standard or simply not good enough. How do you think that affects your self-esteem after a while?”
“Not to mention how utterly annoying,” Gina shot back. “What’s number three?”
Ellie consulted her notes. “Number three, belittle him.”
“How is that different than nagging?”
“Nagging is always reminding him he needs to do something, or not do something. Belittling is when you make that person feel like dirt as a person. Men have huge egos, belittling them, or emasculating them, makes thim think less and less of you. Who wants to be around someone who makes them feel bad, or not good enough all the time?”
“Oh come on, you didn’t do that.”
Ellie sighed. “Didn’t I? I used to joke all the time how Jerry couldn’t cook a meal to save his life. Or how I was so thankful for Triple A because if I had to rely on Jerry to fix my car, I’d still be stuck in Iowa.”
“But you were kidding. It was funny..”
“He wasn’t laughing,” Ellie said, her facial features set into a humorless mask. “Number four,” she continued, her eyes still on Gina, “become his mother.”
Gina burst out laughing. “Now that’s just plain sick.”
Ellie allowed a small grin before continuing. “It sounds like that, but you’d be surprised by the number of women who are at their husband’s beck and call whenever he’s in dire need of guidance. While it’s great to make sure he has a good home-cooked meal or clean socks, it can get a little overbearing when it’s starting to look like he married his mother and not the woman he fell in love with. Women need to show their men they have their own talents and that they’re the sexy women they married in the first place.
“Number five,” Ellie continued and rubbed her nose. “don’t trust him. Unless he’s given you a reason NOT to trust him, then chill the hell out. To learn how to trust is to learn how to take attention off of him and focus it on yourself. Do what makes you happy and before you know it, unless he gives you reasons to feel otherwise, everything will fall into place.”
“That’s easier said than done,” Gina said with a confident nod of her head.
Ellie reached across and gave Gina’s hand a reassuring pat. “You had every reason to distrust Walt, Gina.”
Her friend shrugged and stared off into the distance.
“Number six,” Ellie continued, “Stay silent.”
Gina’s eyes shifted back. “What do you mean?”
“If you can’t say what’s on your mind without your man going off the deep end, something is definitely wrong. Repressing your thoughts and opinions is stifling your self-growth and before long, you’re resenting the fact that you CAN’T speak your mind. It feels like he’s controlling you because you can’t be yourself around him.”
“I agree with that to a certain extent.”
“How so?” Ellie asked and took a sip of her latte.