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The Big Picture - Personal Essay

The Big Picture - Personal Essay

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Published by jedeikin
I find myself, a properly educated 42-year-old woman with a seemingly well-constructed youth, suddenly with the kitchen fixings of a college. The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Magazine features Jenny Jedeikin's essay about recent developments in her life.
I find myself, a properly educated 42-year-old woman with a seemingly well-constructed youth, suddenly with the kitchen fixings of a college. The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Magazine features Jenny Jedeikin's essay about recent developments in her life.

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Published by: jedeikin on May 09, 2010
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11/26/2012

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Jenny JedeikinThe Big PictureThis article appeared on page CM - 20 of the San Francisco ChronicleSunday, May 6, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday MagazineMy compact 6-year-old daughter, Tilly, is standing in the middle of thekitchen in a pink Roxy skirt after dinner, looking serious. There aresmall stacks of dirty plates on either side of the sink, and although it'sonly been an hour since mealtime, the state of the kitchen does notmeet with her approval. "Mom," she says, looking around, suddenlybursting into a high-pitched panic. "This isn't right! The dirty dishesshould be on the other side of the sink!" She is screaming and pointingher finger, gesturing toward the left side of the sink. "Give that to me,"she says, grabbing the plate from my hand. "You don't get it, Mom,"she sighs, exasperated. "You don't even know how to have a house!" According to Tilly, I also don't know how to wear clothing. She noticesthat I dress boyishly lately, and she tells me she wants me to dress
 
more like a fancy woman. She asks me if she can pick out my outfit. Isay I will let her pick out something, but there's no guarantee I willwear it. I am lying on my bed. Tilly finds the fanciest shoes I own andputs them on my feet. They are blue suede slip-ons from Prada."Minna, look at Mommy's feet," Tilly says to her big sister, shielding therest of me from view with her hand. "Just her feet. Don't they look pretty?"My daughters want to turn me into the lady I'm not, but they love meanyway. That's what's so convenient about children; if you don't meettheir expectations, they can't send you packing, as my ex-partner justdid.When Tilly was 2 and her sister 4, I divorced her mild-mannered fatherto live with a woman. I believed she was my long-lost soul mate. Shesaid she felt the same way about me and left her husband, taking alongher two teenagers.It was a radical move, by any standard, but I had fallen deeply in lovefor the first time, at 37, and discovered a piece of my sexual identityalong the way. What could I do? With two little kids and a 6-year-oldmarriage, I found myself suddenly ... gay.I sold my house, which I owned with my solid, wage-earning, soon-to-be-ex-husband, sold much of my furniture and moved myself and kidsinto her new house, bought by her wealthy husband. It was part of their separation agreement. Kate promised to put me on the title. Shesupported me and my young children with her ex-husband's trust fund,but she never did put my name on that piece of paper.Tilly wants to give me a makeover. She has meticulously put pink lipstick on my mouth and is trying to add a coral blush. When I attemptto stop her, she shakes her fist abruptly, "Zip it, Mom; you need this." After pleading with me to look in the mirror, she starts assessing mybedroom. "You need a TV in your room, Mom, so you can do yoga, andit needs to be in a cabinet with doors that shut. People are going tocome over here," she says, "They're going to see this place, so it's gotto look good."Four and a half years into creating a family with my now ex-lesbianpartner -- a pint-size lifetime that included the finest public schools,privileged summer camp, private music lessons, $40,000 Miro paintingsin the living room and a high-end home renovation -- my partnerdecided she didn't want the relationship anymore. She asked me and
 
the kids to get out that morning. I was out, literally with no assets, afistful of debt and completely unprotected financially.I still feel like a fool.Sometimes when Tilly enters a room in our new house, she will takemy hand and ask me to see it through the eyes of the future guestswho will come to our first party."Our new house is missing a lot of the decorations," she says, lookingaround the living room at the bare walls of the 1950s house I rented inthe same school district, with money my father lent me.I smile. I'm thinking of the missing stuff that's not visible, like graters,peelers, colanders, a good cast-iron pan and my soul mate. I findmyself, a properly educated 42-year-old woman with a seemingly well-constructed youth, suddenly with the kitchen fixings of a collegestudent and the desperate aura of a mistaken soul.My partner didn't like the way I handled our relationship around myfamily. That was our core issue. When I divorced my husband, mynuclear family, my siblings and parents, had a hard time accepting mynew life. They stayed close to my ex, and Kate resented it. She wantedme to take a hard stance with them; I was laid-back and avoidedconfrontation with a family that I had been close to my whole life.Rather than work through it, we allowed the problem to fester. After our breakup, I took my kids and went to stay with my ex-husband. I didn't have other options. There were two weeks when Iconsidered living with him again platonically, for financial reasons, butI changed my mind. It's no longer who I am.Tilly has found a box of old photos, and she's looking through a pilefrom when I used to be married, before I was gay. In one picture shespies a piece of art she recognizes from our kitchen wall when we livedwith Kate.She comes running into the living room clutching the photograph."Mom, look at this!" she says, excited. "Shouldn't you still have thispainting, because this photo is from when you were married to Dad?""I do," I tell her, and lead her into my bedroom, to show her where itsits atop my dresser, not yet having made it onto the wall. "I've hadthat artwork for a very long time," I tell her.

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jedeikin added this note
Hi Helen. Thanks for the encouragement. Glad you liked my essay. I was in the Merrill dorm at UCSC in 1981-82. Were you there?
Helen Winslow Black added this note
OK I'm going nuts. Read this before, loved it, could have sworn I commented...but nooo. So I'll say this: 1) every woman has those "how could I have been so STUPID" moments, and 2)stand-up comedy is absolutely the right way to go. What more is there to say? Oh, yes:3) LOVE the picture. a) Were we in the same dorm? b) I would absolutely buy a big fat expensive book w/ this photo on the back cover.
Robin Postell added this note
Rarely does a voice honest and resolved manage to divorce itself from the chaos the way yours did this morning to find me. Solid work, Jenny. R
b.krishna chaitanya added this note
i would love to know what happened next in your story
rasoashley added this note
a very honest telling..by a lady who recognizes and accepts for who she is..
Shyam Adrift added this note
Refreshingly honest without any frills. A very good write by a lady who does not blame, does not surrender, chased her dreams & yet is rooted.. All stars!
Irma added this note
I love the writing. The story is funny. But my heart goes out to Tiily. She has grown up too young.

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