Zed: The Zoomer Book Club
In an excerpt from her new memoir, a 59-year-old divorcée recounts the moment she should have ditched her new beau and run for the hills
An excerpt from The Bright Side, a divorcée’s memoir
TThe Bright Side: Twelve Months, Three Heartbreaks, and One (Maybe) Miracle lies in its relatability, which is underscored by Toronto author and journalist Cathrin Bradbury’s wry voice, black humour and frank assessment of the world and her place in it.
In the following excerpt from the story of a modern woman’s family and love life, Bradbury is staring down 60 and has moved into Phase Two with her new beau, whom she calls Promising New Man, or PNM for short. He’d wooed her with a ferocity that would have had her running for the hills in her 30s but, at a battered 59, it was a spray of catnip. She began to feel that she deserved to be adored. “It wasn’t anti-feminist, it was just my turn,” she writes earlier in the chapter. —Kim Honey
Somewhere that fall, my early reservations about PNM left me. The more I loved the idea of what he offered, and the force with which he offered it, the smaller the step became to loving the man himself. What was so wrong with a man who was on my side? Who saw me and what I wanted now, which was a solid, conventional man, “so thoroughly square,” the kind of man Professor Higgins pretended to be? A man who relished opening utility bills. A man who was there, to take it down to its most basic level.
“I miss partnership,” I said to my good friend Ellen, a writer and also separated, who lived up the street in an elegant condo with a sweeping balcony where we often talked over wine. Before PNM, Ellen and I had taken a couple of stabs at online dating. One of her dates showed up in arm gaiters. “Not only that, he talked to me about his arm gaiters for some time.” When she declined to see him again, he said a woman her age (that is, his age) would be lucky to find anyone. After that, we made up imaginary boyfriends whom we occasionally fought over. “Peter the Architect just asked me to go to Oaxaca,” I said. “That’s odd,” Ellen replied. “Peter and I just got engaged in Paris.” It was funny until it wasn’t. “I miss partnership too,” Ellen said on the phone. There was a pause. “As if either of us had that.”
But now I had a shot at it, a second chance. I began to picture a life in the country, with Promising New Man barbecuing and me writing and reading; a quiet, partnered life of mutual respect. Leaning into his bulwark of a body, just leaning there, being safe. Waking up in the night and patting his face; walking into a party on his reliable arm. Finally, after months of getting to know this man, I did something I hadn’t done for a long time. I fell in love. I hadn’t been swept off my feet. I’d come to this love slowly and carefully, until it felt not just believable but reliable. I trusted him and the life he offered us, together. I gave him the gift of myself, all in; it was what he’d said he wanted.
This was also more or less when, as winter snowbanked the city, Promising New Man began to cancel things: a weekend in New York because of a sudden work meeting; a night at Number 9 after the dust from the rewiring made him sneeze. I heard the faintest warning bell ringing far in the distance, as across a mountain village. But none of that mattered because he had a plan, one that I loved: to take me to Sicily for my birthday in February. My sister Laura had wanted to throw a bash for my sixtieth, but Promising New Man said no. “I’ve got Cathrin’s birthday covered.” Instead, Laura shared her hiking maps of Sicily and her favourite place to stay, and I stayed out of the rest because it was a birthday present and not for me to boss my way into. I’d long since forgotten about the pro/con pad of his strengths and weaknesses in the bedside drawer. Now I began work on an equally complex and possibly more important list: What to pack for Italy?
The Bright Side: Twelve Months, ThreeHeartbreaks,andOne(Maybe) Miracle by Cathrin Bradbury will be published March 2 by Penguin Canada.