My friend called me late at night with the worried tone in her voice she usually gets when contemplating global warming or the potential extinction of the Western Lowland gorilla. But the object of her concern was not global. Instead, it sat just a bedroom away, in tears.
Her college-aged daughter was weathering a breakup. Now, there are breakups and there are breakups, right? This was not the love of her life (although she may have thought so, temporarily). This wasn’t even a “nice” guy. Oh sure, he appeared to have the credentials any parent would love—handsome, charming (when necessary), bright, athletic—but those very things had made him a complete cad. He never really had to work for much—the grades, the girls, the summer job at his father’s firm. And it showed.
Without all the gory details, her daughter (we’ll call her J) had been dumped—and had realized her boyfriend had been anything but faithful. When I walked into her room the next night, she was into what I think might have been her second pint of Rocky Road (an oh-so-appropriate break-up choice—I applauded it in my head).
Given that I had just finished an unpleasant and unsavory run-in with my own cad, my friend thought I could share some wisdom with her daughter. “I need a warrior princess,” she said. “And honey, you know I’m no warrior princess. You’re 5’2” of pure feminine mettle.”
I was not sure if I felt like Xena, but I certainly felt competent enough to help J. I dragged her daughter out of her bedroom and to my house for dinner. I didn’t poke or prod– just let her sit while I cooked. I hummed as I worked and laughed at my dog’s attempts to wheedle some ground beef out of me.
“Didn’t you just go through a breakup?” she asked me.
“Sure did,” I replied.
“So why do you seem so happy?” she asked, bewildered.
“Because I am, honey. I dodged a bullet. The Universe came through for me again,” I said, giving her a smile. “I ignored my radar with this one. Convinced myself I was interested because it was summer and I wanted a playmate to do all those summer things with. I ignored a few warning signs because of that. He turned out to be a liar and a cheat, but I get to walk away from his muck–he has to live with it. All that means is that I should have listened to my gut. I didn’t. The Universe stepped in early—I was protected.”
“Huh,” she said. “But doesn’t it hurt that he wasn’t straight with you?”
“It only hurts him in the end. Not me,” I answered. “I did not give him my heart and soul. I at least knew better than that. I was kind. I was human. But I wasn’t stupid. And neither were you.”
“Yes, I was,” she wailed, bursting into tears. “I feel so stupid.”
I took a deep breath. How to say it in a way that makes sense at 21?
“Listen up, Toots. You are bright. Attractive. Kind. Giving. There will be many Tony’s in life—cads and the like—but there will also be bright, attractive, kind, giving men. Some improve with age. Some remain a permanent adolescent and you will learn to spot those like a fly in butter. But you will end up with the sexiest of men—a man who is masculine enough to be kind, gentle and strong all at once– because you know who you are.”
She took in what I said, stirring her iced tea.
I knew she was ready for the finale. “Are we so very fragile that one man who will make his own misery drags us into it?” I asked. “Trust me, being Tony will be its own version of hell. That boy has a lot of ick on the way. But you, my dear, you will reap what you have sown. Karma, babe. Pure karma.”
“Mom always calls you a steel magnolia, Kristine,” she said. “She says you’re feminine but strong and that’s a rare combo.”
Oh my dear girl, not so rare. An army of us exist. And I think I just added one to the ranks, if the smile on your face is any indication.
Booyah. Chuck that Rocky Road and bring on the Empower Mint.