Because of circumstances I cannot alter (reproduction), I must maintain an ongoing, apparently nonhostile relationship with my ex-husband. I consider this a detente situation. We'll stay in the neutral zone and discuss the weather, the basic deficiencies of current politics, and my exemplary parenting skills.
On second thought, the weather is a no-fly zone. We once had a heated discussion about the difference between sleet and freezing rain that lasted until my behind melded with the chair. Under no circumstances do we discuss events that may affect world peace, like the Yankees chances for the World Series or the children's bedtimes. My ex cannot grasp the delicate nuances of the situation.
Therefore, I thoughtfully crafted some guidelines for him.
1. Don't come in my house without knocking. There's a reason I have a door with a deadbolt instead of strings of love beads.
2. Don't sift through my mail. If there's a bill there with your name on it, you can bet your fuzzy dice I'll make sure you get it. Likewise, if you've won the lottery, my attorney will alert you.
3. Don't eat my food. You couldn't come to my table for the ten years we were married without making the piggy face at the broccoli casserole, so you don't need to browse through my kitchen like it was the buffet on a cruise ship now.
4. Don't tell me what career I should pursue. Sure, I may have a gift for journalism. Apparently I have a knack for attracting insensitive, egotistical men too, but that doesn't mean I want to apply for the position of Host on the television Dating Game.
5. Do not, and this should not come up in casual conversation, ask for a key to my house. See rule number 1.
6. Do not get upset when the children make bad grades in math. I was an English Major. My helping them with math homework would be like asking the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to bump up our space program.
7. Feel free to offer to keep the kids overnight when I look as if I need a break. You can tell this might be the case if my face looks like a window shade that's been rolled up tight for several decades, my nails are digging trenches through the lifeline in my palm, and I've developed an eye twitch that makes me look like I'm trying to pick up random truckers on the highway.
8. When you keep the kids overnight, have them eat at least one balanced meal. It makes it hard on those of us who insist on a passing familiarity with vegetables to discover that at Dad's house they eat ice cream sandwiches for lunch.
9. Pay child support regularly and on time. The fact that your pay-per-view party the night of the big boxing match wrecked your budget causes me real pain, but I'm growing two children who bear the brunt of poor bloodlines when it comes to eyes and teeth.
10. Feel free to offer me extra money when you happen into a windfall. I'm truly excited that you've joined a new health club and that you bought the children golf clubs (do you need a whole set for putt-putt?) and tennis rackets. However, they expect me to purchase a cool dozen rolls of wrapping paper so that they're eligible for the school's high fundraiser prize, and they're hurt if I don't buy school pictures even when they appear to have styled their hair with barbed wire and Vaseline.
11. Don't ask me to wrap your gifts. Speaking as a person who received an entire Christmas presentation package from Rent-A-Center, I'm not interested in the baubles you're giving your current girlfriend. Which reminds me,
12. Don't tell me about your latest girlfriend. I am the mother of your children, not Dr. Ruth.