Bargaining with the Cheapskate

The lawyer I saw two years ago for my first divorce attempt is helping again for this final one. We sat together last week to try and draft a consent paper. My soon-to-be-ex husband was also present. At the end of the meeting I thought that we had agreed on everything, but a day or so later husband came back with a counter offer, which I found insulting. One more day of ugliness and name-calling followed then another revised offer. I am not about to fight over a thousand here and another there, so I basically agreed on whatever he suggested. I agreed on pathetic terms for child maintenance and spousal support, but then I am hoping that I will not need this small change. Besides I have reached a stage, where I do not mind buying myself out with some small concessions to his pocket. So we are finally in agreement about the settlement, but my soon-to-be-ex still chokes on small stuff. He always has, and onces a cheapskate always a cheapskate.

I know that I said I took the word divorce out of my system for good, but the lawyer convinced me otherwise. Why should I stay married in name only to this guy, and let him get the benefit of our joint estate and avoid being accountable for maintenance? It might suit him but not me. Now at least I know what I will end up with and what to expect (or not to expect) financially. For all I care he can keep the dubious satisfaction of telling whoever comes next that I was the one who divorced him.

A Day at Kirstenbosch

I have been to Kirstenbosch only once before, when I came to Cape Town for the first time on an educational trip with African Eagle, the tour company I worked with while we were still living in Johannesburg. So it was natural that I would jump at the chance to go there again with Britt and her children. In the past few weeks Ron had been on several outings this way with his new friends and I felt it was only right for me to get out as well.

Robert enjoyed the day in the sunshine. He was a model child sitting on Britt’s mat, eating rice cakes and just playing with his toys and my water bottle which he emptied on the grass soon after we arrived. Britt had a harder time with her little girls, who are both fully mobile, especially as we sat near one of the small water features in the garden. It was such a beautiful day which I tried to enjoy although I was heart sore.


As I sit here near the Southernmost tip of Africa wearing shorts and sandals, my sister still perches north of the Arabian peninsula and dons her headscarf to go out shopping.

When I first heard about my sister’s conversion to become a newborn Muslim, if I may use the expression, I was fuming with anger. How dare she, I thought. It is the ultimate betrayal of women’s rights and liberty to bend to the needs of society and cover one’s head. It is absurd, since the head and the face are neutral parts of our anatomy and cannot be considered seductive. Not even the thickest and most bouncy hair can be considered sexually alluring, or am I thinking again in the logic of western societies?

I grew up in an Arab country, where Christians and Muslims live side by side. The increasing religious zeal was apparent as I grew up. It has resulted in clear distinctions between the so-called secular or non-practicing Muslims and the orthodox faction. The absolute majority is orthodox and their pressure on the rest is very strong. After all they have the voice of Allah on their side and literally the threat of hell.

If you couple this with the prevalent misogynist view of society, you come up with a situation where the morality of society is dependent on the way women dress. I have been brought up to the tune of : “Men are creatures of lust and they cannot control it, it is a woman’s duty and obligation to put a stop to their advances”. Women kindly dispense of such advice to their daughters and female charges, while turning a blind eye to the dalliances of their sons. I think it is ridiculous to expect women to carry society’s morals on their shoulders, as if they do not have feelings and desires like men. Men are secure in the knowledge that they aren’t the ones to get “caught” and therefore, and in true male fashion they just pass on the responsibility onto the female.

The society I was born into does not give evenhanded instruction to young men and women when it comes to sexual knowledge. Women are prohibited from any sexual adventures prior to marriage, yet it is acceptable for men to have such an experience. It is purposely overlooked that this sort of experience will only come about with willing female partners. Whether these are frustrated married women or poor girls who are willing to go loose for a new item of clothing, or just girls who have slipped once and no longer need to preserve their image of purity. Regardless of what sort of woman gives the man his first initiation into sex, her existence makes this patriarchal society even more distrustful of women. Therefore men try to enforce veils on their women, to prevent other men from ogling them. This is another one sided solution that does not require or expect the participation of men in enforcing morals. Women are forced, coerced, or convinced to cover up in the manner of the last century, while their husband walk alongside wearing the latest fashion. They would never dream of wearing the ‘dress’ of the prophet and his ilk except to prayer. And while their own women are safely covered there are hundreds others whom they can freely ogle. The fact that they are not covered up labels them as available and willing prey for flirtation and maybe more.

Women need to carry the weight of children and family, in addition to keeping the integrity of their marriage. They are also responsible for the immorality, women are the root of all evil. Meanwhile, men can contemplate this sad state of affairs while watching scantly clad women on satellite television, or while conversing with other buddies over tea and bubbly (water pipe). What a wonderful life.

This Time it is Over

We are definitely getting divorced. This time I will not chicken out or make an about face, because I have had enough.

I am packing boxes of books and yarn. My clothes and baby’s are still waiting to be packed. This makes a fourth time for me, I have dismantled my life three times before for the same man or because of him, and this time I want my own life back. A life where I can call the shots this time, and make my own decisions.

In the end it turned out that people do not change that much. Perhaps he tried to change, perhaps he wanted to, but he finally realised that he couldn’t. I never offered to change, and if I had I don’t think I could change either. It is the way things go.

I still bear him some grudges, especially because he lied and pretended to be what he isn’t. Because he put a child in this world because he “thought” it would make him happy. In contrast, I KNEW that I was ready for a child, and I knew that having him will change my life. I am glad I did not know what the future held because I would have missed out on the most wonderful thing in my life.

Seven Months: Moving Quickly

I forgot to take pictures for Robert’s seventh month birthday. A lot of stress is going on in our lives at the moment and that is why it is hard to keep track of simple pleasurable things. However, I am still very aware of the time we spend together and how we spend it. I try not to communicate my negative feelings to the little one, and I put on a happy face when I am around him. Robert does his magic to my act and after some minutes in his company I feel genuinely happy and so blessed. No matter what else happens, I have him to love for the rest of my life.

This month Robert has become mobile. He is crawling all around and covering a lot of ground with increasing speed. I took some pictures of him wearing a small baby jacket I crocheted for baby Olivia, who was finally born on the 26th of March. One can tell that he is not overly impressed with wearing pink.

He is finally starting to utter da da da, and sometimes tha tha. I note, though, that he still has a marked preference for ma ma ma. Last week Ron had the late babysitting shift, and told me that the baby was whiny, complaining a lot, and calling ma ma ma. Obviously he had some stomach ailment characterized by frequent spit up and general indisposition. The food couldn’t have caused such a problem, and my only explanation is that he is now exposed to a wider variety of germs, tramping around on the floor, whether here in our flat or at Jackie’s place. Of course, the endless teething can still be the root of all trouble. I can feel the outline of the two little bottom incisors but they haven’t put in an appearance yet. It seems unlikely now that they will show up before the end of the month.

Another interesting development is Robert’s new-found ability to pull himself up to a standing position. This can happen anywhere but mostly in the cot. It follows that it is more difficult to keep him lying down when he doesn’t want to sleep. Because he pulls himself up to a standing position and continues to complain until somebody comes to the rescue. One morning I was waiting in vain for his cries to subside, and decided to check on him. I was surprised to find him holding on to the cot’s edge and complaining. It was the first time I saw this happen, so I burst out laughing at the funny pictures. Robert did not think it was funny at all, and started crying with bitterness and hurt feelings.

Miriam has gone AWOL. I think that she has finally found an office job, and frankly she is more than capable for a regular job, and overqualified as a nanny. Pity, because I really liked her and Robert did too. But I had a feeling throughout our acquaintance that she wasn’t really interested. I have to trust my instincts more, they are usually very accurate. Now I have some complex arrangement to look after Robert and they will probably work out for a few weeks in our new and evolving circumstances.

I am starting to take more pictures of Robert in the park. The nannies love him and often carry him and play with him. I am also starting to get more involved in our play together at the park. He enjoys being on the swing and crawling around on the grass.



Finally, here are some funny pictures of my little boy:

Standing in his crib and razzing with great concentration

A somewhat glum expression

Crawling into small spaces.

Reaching up for trouble.

Since he is capable of all this, I have removed the bassinet from the crib, and he now sleeps on the lowest level, and cannot possibly jump or lean out.

Kak Day?

In light of the ongoing developments in our life, it is a fitting title.
I planned that Miriam will babysit today while Ron and I were out attending to the legal issues pertaining to out impending divorce. The good woman, however, dropped me late last night saying that she had misunderstood the day. Of course this is not true. I think she has found another job and I will be surprised if I hear from her again.

Jackie was the emergency babysitter for the day. We dropped Robert at her house and went into town. The meeting was less stressful than I expected, and relatively painless considering the circumstances. After we finished, Ron dropped me unceremoniously at Jackie’s and left me there. I was so hungry and agitated, so we went out for an impromptu lunch. Robert kept us company in his pram while we enjoyed smoothies and wraps. I gave him some sips of the smoothie with a straw, and he enjoyed that immensely. We had just finished with our lunch when Robert delivered the package of the day. Unfortunately his diapers were already wet and could not absorb the stinky mess, and it leaked out, green and wet down his legs.

Jackie got me some additional napkins while I tried to stem the flow with our unused paper towels. Fortunately we were only a few blocks away from her house and we rushed home after covering baby’s diaper and the offensive leak with a blanket. Halfway home the funny side of the situation kicked in and we laughed all the way to her front yard. Jackie suggested that we hose Robert’s sticky butt right there on the front lawn. It was a good suggestion, and the little one enjoyed it. What followed was a meticulous routine of cleaning and disinfecting the pram, soaking blanket and clothes, and generally getting things back in order.

No pictures of the incident are available.

Inside Dialogue – Ways of a Strange World

There is a full moon outside, and it is the last full moon I will see from this window. I remember seeing the one just before Robert was born, and thinking that when the next one comes I will be holding a baby in my arms. I spoke up my thoughts and dreams at the time to Ron, and I thought he shared them.

Now there are no more future plans for us to share, no more dreams. The pain is intense, it tears at my gut, and along with it there is furious anger that wants to claw out at his eyes, and tear his heart out, like he did mine. Anger and pain alternate in waves, and my head throbs with their intensity. At the end of the day, I feel drained, yet sleep eludes me. It is hard to sleep next to a stranger, and harder still to lie next to a loved one who has become a stranger.

I lie awake and think, of words, intimacies, and laughs we shared, and I wonder how many of them were contrived. For two years I was very happy, but my castle was built on sand, and it crumbled as all sand castles do. I will need time, to sift through the rubble of this marriage. I was married to two different men, and someday I will know which of them was real. Tomorrow we put an end to this. I will try to get over my feelings of bitterness, anger and disappointment. I do not want to waste further energy on destructive emotions. I would rather put my energy to better use. The most profound hurt, though, is the fact that I still love Ron. I know it, because I am still capable of making excuses for him and his behaviour. I am being too kind on him, though. There are other people out there, who come from broken homes and abusive families; people who survive violent crime, wars and torture, and can still rise above their pain, and give back to humanity. In fact, strong people can move on beyond the hurt of their past. They make it good, by breaking the chain of hatred and refusing to pass it on. The weak are the ones that wallow in the misery of the past and spread it like a disease. At this juncture of my life, I don’t want to pass along the pain, indignation, hatred and disappointment onto others, especially not onto Robert; I will not criticize, vilify or degrade anyone. The passage of time will be the greatest test, and the future will tell on everyone, as it did before.

This month among my close friends there was the wedding of Jason and Fiona, and in a few days’ time, a little girl ‘Olivia’ will be born to Monique and Bart. My friend -and future house mate Jackie broke up with her boyfriend, and I am getting divorced. I remember the irony of Ron saying that 2008 will be great. “What was he thinking?” I ask myself, and it is a question that will keep coming up for some time, and in relation to much of his actions in the last two year. 2008 is a leap year, and in my culture leap years are billed as difficult and unlucky. I do not agree with this theory; I think that a leap year is a period of adjustment and purge. It clears the slate and heralds new beginnings, and things that are waiting to happen tend to occur. Ailing people die, and also ailing marriages; people tie the knot after long engagements and babies are born. We are just part of the dance of human relationships, on simple or leap years. Change is always part of life.

Working Through It

Robert is thriving despite our problems, and it is a balm to my heart to watch him grow and share moments of play and laughter. This week he started clapping his hands with enthusiasm. I don’t know whether it is the rhythm of the music or just a reflex, but he did it for the first time as we were listening to some of the songs on my MP3 phone. Yesterday, he gave me such a laugh. I wanted to put him to bed for one of his morning naps, but he wasn’t ready to go to sleep yet, and his complaining kept getting louder and louder, so I went to check on him and found him standing up, holding the edge of his crib, with an indignant face. At the sight of him I burst out laughing, and I guess he took offence because he started crying bitterly with real tears. Of course, I had to carry him in my arms, and hold him for a little bit, and apologize for making fun of him.

Saturday Miriam showed up and we went through the whole baby routine together, and I was hoping that she will show up on Tuesday, when Ron and I had an important appointment, but she has something else planned, and now I need to find alternative arrangement. Thank God for Jackie, she always comes through for me at the correct time.

And that’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

If I had thought that I was going to tackle raising a child on my own, I would perhaps been daunted by the sheer magnitude of the task. Maybe I would have chickened out and lost my chance to have one. I am therefore glad that I was too short-sighted to glimpse into the future.

Over the first six years of our marriage, I did everything Ron’s way. I gave up my simple dreams for his grand ones, and I even talked myself into completely adopting his dreams instead. Whatever I did, or did not do, failed to make him any happier. Ron’s unhappiness sucked my energy and I only experienced glimpses of contentment when I was away from him. His constant grumpiness was frequently blamed on me: My inadequacy, my poor cooking, my substandard cleaning and lacking organization skill, and my overall laziness. My unhappiness though had one reason: I was living my life in a mindless pursuit of some lofty goals and dreams he set for us. The days were rushing past and I was missing the pleasures of the journey, because of intense concentration on the goal. Also, I was getting older and it was becoming harder for me to lie to myself and deny my longing to become a mother.

When I left Ron for these reasons, he was the one who came back to me. He claimed he was starting to see things my way. He wanted to join me, living the good and simple life. He came on very strong, saying all the right words and making all the right moves. He charmed my friends and made them sing his praises. Everyone expected me to give him another chance, so I relented even though I was still enjoying my hard earned independence. As Ron grew more confident of my presence on his side, glimpses of his intense and grumpy persona started to show. Again, I was party to long conversations detailing his woe; I was sucked into the trials and tribulations of dissolving the business, and finishing the work on the house. And although I had left the past and all its baggage behind I tried to come with supportive advice and encouragement. I did not want to be part of any decision that involved the past, but Ron insisted on making me part of it. The pressure made my cool analytical mind realise that the conflict of interests between us is still very real, and that I needed to break away for good. Yes, I staged the break-up in a very cruel manner, intentionally perhaps, in order to make it final and drive the point home. In the end, however, it was out of my character and I suffered for it.

Last time the pain was unbearable for me. In theory I am more capable of finding happiness without Ron. I can take pleasure in simple things, and enjoy the here-and-now without lamenting over what or where I could have been if I had made different choices in my life. The burden of regret and blame was a main feature in our married life; Ron was on a mission to recapture his position in the world, the position and prestige he lost through the break-up of his first marriage. I felt as if I was living the consequences of decisions he had made even before we met. I would have been perhaps better off without this baggage. Still, I could not take the final step on my own. The price, for me, was too high, because it meant giving up permanently on someone I loved. I desperately needed to love someone, and Ron has filled this need for so long. When I realised that I cannot live with a cruel ending of our marriage, I begged Ron to give us another chance. I honestly thought that Ron and I were capable of patching things up between us. If it was possible for him to let go of this hunger for things that we could not attain, maybe we would have been both happy. But in the end his hunger won, and our “happiness” in the past two years proved to be an illusion. For my part, and at the risk of sounding stupid and naïve, I admit that I was blinded by my own happiness which became absolute with the arrival of Robert. Ron grumbled frequently, and I played counsellor to his outbursts of discontent, but I wasn’t extremely alarmed by them. Ron had an aura of unhappiness about him ever since I knew him, and I was beginning to accept that perhaps it was just part of his personality. He is just a chronically unhappy man, and I needed to get used to it. Maybe one day he will learn that happiness is a choice, it is the wisdom to be content with what you got, and stop regretting missed opportunities. Unfortunately things did not work this way. The fight for my marriage is over, for good this time. Ron has given up the fight, and I have learnt that one person cannot win, no matter how hard they try.

If I try to examine my feelings at these developments I come up with a whole spectrum of emotions. They come in waves of coordinated or contradictory shades.

I swing between sadness, anger, disappointment and worry. Notably absent from my gamut of feelings from two years ago are the guilt and the sense of terrible loss and emptiness. My life has meaning and purpose now, with or without Ron. Robert needs me, and he is someone I can love and cherish for the rest of my life. As for Ron, I hope he will find happiness elsewhere, although I doubt he ever will. Sad really, considering that even when I met him ten years ago he was fond of repeating this mantra: “I just want to be happy”. Happiness my friend is a choice, not a goal. Perhaps you did me and Robert a favour by allowing us to leave this black cloud of gloom behind us. It is going to be hard for the next few months, but there is light at the end somewhere, and we will be happy, with the grace of God.

Thank God for Friends

I went with Jackie this morning to drop off Kirsten at the airport. The sun is just starting to rise over the Atlantic and it is going to be another gorgeous day on the southern tip of Africa. Last night I had a chance to go out with the girls for a little farewell dinner, and we all had a nice evening.

Robert’s adventures during Kirsten’s visit to Cape Town included his first time at a restaurant with mom. Kirsten invited me and Jackie to a Sushi lunch at Saul’s. It was a special occasion for me because I haven’t had sushi in over a year. Robert was mostly obliging but needed some attention midway through the meal, where I had to take a break and give him a feed. It was great that we decided to go out during lunchtime, the restaurant was not too busy and we could pass the baby around and entertain him between us, without much disturbance to the patrons.

During the past week I spent a lot of time with the girls either visiting at Jackie’s or at the park. Kirsten came over to dinner one day, and stuck around many times for feeding sessions, bath and bedtime, while I was home on my own. Her visit was a godsend for me; it helped me deal with the current stress of my life at the moment. I am still trying to get re-licensed for my load control work, and Ron is proving to be a reluctant child-care provider at home. Things are not going to get any easier for sure. I still haven’t heard from Miriam, and if I contemplate the emotional and financial cost of having a nanny it makes me sick, but that is the way things are going to be in the future. From the moment of conception, a baby is by and large a woman’s problem, and this is proving true in my case as well. But no matter how things turn out, having Robert in my life is worth it. He is the reason why I wake up every morning; he simply makes my life worth living.

Ron deals with problems differently. He has now a new constellation of friends, with whom he hangs out frequently. I am not needed in this arrangement, and I don’t think he wants me to ever meet his friends. It is his way of having his own life. He pointed out to me once that I should never try to pursue other interests while looking after Robert or breastfeeding him. “You have to understand that you have no life anymore, your life is the little boy”, he said. Of course, I knew that from the moment Robert was born. He is my life, and I am happy to have it that way. The way Ron said it, however, makes it sound like a prison sentence. At the moment I am trying to come to terms with this attitude, but our relationship has taken strain as a result. Caring for Robert is not a chore, and it makes me really angry when he views it as such. It is a privilege to be around and care for a healthy, happy, and intelligent child. It is wonderful to look into his innocent eyes and see the unconditional love and trust he bestows on us as his parents. I would give anything in the world to be able to care for him myself rather than hand him over to a nanny. In this respect, our priorities and attitudes – as they are over almost everything else- are vastly different.

I am glad that Robert is still blissfully ignorant of the stress. He is mostly happy and contented. If ever he is fussy, then it is because of his itching gum. I noticed also that putting him onto solids is giving him some constipation, and I bought him a natural laxative which the paediatrician recommended. On my next visit to the nurse I need to ask whether it is advisable to use it regularly.

Today’s funny pictures: I tried to catch him on camera in the middle of one of his razzing sessions, and the result is what you see here. It looks like the symphony of razzing requires a lot of concentration. This week also he is starting to make up babbling syllables. I am very excited that he has mastered: ma ma ma, and is starting on ba ba ba. We await the first incident of da da da any day now.