. . . unless your aged gardener has a crush on you. In that case, learn to love hothouse flowers and stay the hell out of sight.
I offer you this pearl of wisdom free of charge. Well, it’s free to you. I paid for it dearly.
We’ll call him Carlos. Names have been changed to protect the innocent—except for mine, of course. Which I really wish I could do, but I was not smart enough to be totally anonymous about this blog. So here we go.
Carlos had been doing our landscaping for a couple of years when my divorce began. He’d always been respectful and friendly. Other than asking me occasionally if my boys and I would like to visit his winter home in Chile, nothing out of the ordinary. Probably should’ve occurred to me that my husband at the time was never invited. But, I don’t usually spend much time thinking about invitations I know I’ll not accept. In hindsight, though, first red flag.
Last year in the spring, I walked outside to tell him that I could no longer afford him. When he asked why, embarrassingly, I burst into tears. I said I was divorcing. He told me not to worry. I thought he meant about my landscaping. I now realize he meant about the bigger picture—an incongruous one, in which I think he pictured himself as my sugar daddy. Given he was 40-some years older than me, I give him points for self-image and confidence. Not much else. Really? I mean, really? That’s chutzpah.
In the months that followed, my yard became an explosion of color and fragrance. He and his assistant edged, weeded, mulched, fertilized, cut, chopped and planted every day. I mean EVERY darn day. Including the weekends. At no charge. That, in conjunction with the hundreds of plants he planted—free of charge—should have been red flag number two. Red flag number three—candy on Mother’s Day. Number four—the flowers he brought me on weekends to put inside the house. I’d go on but it’s getting embarrassing. Cue the Barry White mood music.
Don’t judge me, people. I was a bit preoccupied with the flurry of nastygrams from my ex’s attorney; keeping my kids safe, healthy and even keel; and working to dig us out of a financial hole so I could keep a roof over our heads. I was not truly looking for the pinings of an 80-something man I barely knew. Particularly not one who was married with an ailing wife.
I thought this was a nice old man feeling fatherly. Taking pity on me and helping me out during a tough time.
Not so much.
My first clue occurred when I was working outside on my deck. Carlos had given me a rare orchid in a pot and I realized it was dying inside. I brought it out and put it on the table where I was working so it would get some sunlight. As he peered over the bush he was trimming, he said, “I love that you put the flower I gave you right next to you while you’re working.”
I smiled quizzically, saying, “It was dying inside.” And went back to work.
Next, Carlos started to show up after hours. Around 8 p.m. or so, he’d come over to turn on my sprinkler (And no, that is NOT a euphemism for anything. Get your mind out of the gutter, people. Really.). He would show up around 10 p.m. to turn it off. And each time, despite living within walking distance, he would drive his orange corvette (Yes. Truly. I couldn’t make this stuff up.) over, dressed in his nicest clothes, reeking of cologne.
I began not to answer my doorbell when he rang. I went inside to work when he came to the yard. A former Chilean freedom fighter, he was not deterred. Presents were left on my doorstep. I half expected a soliloquy or serenade outside of my bedroom window. Which is why I kept it shut. And locked.
When I started to catch on, I got feisty. Unfortunately, he seemed to like this side of me. I told him I was perfectly capable of watering my own lawn and he should stop coming over to do it—that my water bill was skyrocketing. He told me he’d pay it. To which I responded, “I pay my own bills. I don’t need a man to do that for me.” (Raised by a bit of a feminist, I was—see here.)
He told me he stopped by to ask me something about where I wanted a bush planted, but saw me sleeping through the window. Given I was sleeping on the family room couch and he would have had to walk onto the deck and peer in to see that, I’d say the creepy factor was upped substantially. I let him know the doorbell was his only option.
When he called my eldest “the boy”, as in, “I told the boy to turn off the water at such and such a time”, that’s when I blew. I told him “the boy” had a name. That I was the only one to tell him what chores needed to be done. And that again, we would figure this lawn thing out on our own.
Previously, I had hugged this man and baked cookies, as well as cooking meals, for he and his wife. I knew she was not doing well and felt it was the least I could do. But the final straw was the day I guess my hugs had been interpreted as something more than what they were. Carlos asked if he could kiss me “just one time”. I told him “no” and managed to avoid seeing him for the three weeks or so left of the landscaping season. Ick. I am sure someone will one day create a sitcom episode like this and I will laugh. Because it will be happening to someone who is NOT ME.
My male friends heard this story and told me, “Men are not nice for no reason. Nice usually means they’re hitting on you.” (Granted, these same men drank more beer in college than Germany can produce in a day. And were nice to plenty of coeds. Usually for a reason. Hmmm—maybe they have a point. Neanderthals.)
I hope they are wrong. I hope we’ve evolved more than that in our gender relations. Perhaps not the elderly Chilean freedom fighters, but maybe the rest of us? Yes, I jest. Don’t need hate mail from aged Chilean freedom fighters.
Carlos was obviously operating per chauvinistic, antiquated rules. Or, maybe he was just dense. And a pig. Either way, I’ll never know. He still refuses to stop cutting our grass. I have my son do it anyway. It gets mowed far too often but if that’s the price I pay, no matter. I think I have it all figured out now.
You see, another alpha female has moved into my house. Her name is Bailey. She is a fierce black lab mix. She and Carlos are not on speaking terms, shall we say. She took an immediate dislike to him. I’m applauding her good judgment. Him—not so much.
I have a feeling I’ll be gathering my rosebuds in no time. With a big black dog by my side. And, blessedly, no one else.
Score one for the ladies.