noun: coward; plural noun: cowards
- a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.
- weakling, milksop, namby-pamby, mouse; More informal: chicken, scaredy-cat, yellow-belly, sissy, baby, candy-ass, milquetoast ”the cowards were the first to give up”
- The way my husband choose to tell me he is having an affair.
I wake up to a quiet house, which is rare with a five-year-old. It is unusual my husband and Emma are not banging around, making all sorts of noise, this early on a Saturday morning.
I text him.
Me: “Where are you two?”
Husband: “We’re at Griffith Park. Come meet us.”
Me: “Ok…I’ll be there in about 15 minutes.”
I get dressed and drive the two miles to the park.
It is unusually clear, a beautiful day, and not too hot for July in Los Angeles. It is a beautiful day.
I park the car.
I see my husband sitting on a blanket about three yards from the little stream my daughter enjoys. Our daughter, Emma, and I come to this park a few times a week to play. I know exactly where she will be, and she doesn’t disappoint. I smile when I see her.
Me: “Hi sweetie pie!”
She runs into my arms and gives me that giant bear hug she reserves for me each time we meet again, whether we’ve been apart for 15 minutes or three hours.
She releases me and runs back to the water, where she continues to play by the banks of the stream. I turn around and sit down on the blanket, in the shade, with my husband.
Me: “Hi honey.”
My husband is acting strange. He’s on edge. He can barely muster a hello.
My husband has always had an anxious quality to his personality, but today, it is more so. After 11 years of marriage the slightest change in him registers loudly to me. Now, even the way he is holding himself is quite different. I feel his nervous presence and I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Me: “What’s up? You’re acting strange.”
Husband: “I’m moving out and moving in with…”
White noise. I can’t hear – things get…fuzzy.
Me: “What? What are you talking about? Who?”
Husband: “You know…Hailey, Cody and Zoe’s Mom…”
I start to get upset. Had he hit his head on something and is now experiencing amnesia and his brain can’t remember that he is married to me and we have a five-year-old child? I start to talk loudly.
Me: “No…I don’t know…I don’t know what you are talking about. Who is Hailey, Cody and Zoe? Have you lost your mind? And why are earth would you tell me something like this with our five-year-old 15 feet away?”
Husband: “I’ve been having an affair.”
There is no sound because I can’t think straight and, for once, lost for words.
Me: “And you have chosen to tell me in front of our five-year-old? Why would you do that? So I can’t get mad at you. What do you mean you are having an affair..who is she…”
And with that, life changes.
I knew in that moment things would never be the same again. The trees, grass, the entire park starts spinning and I feel like this is a bad dream. I know, it’s a cliche, but the cliche turns out to be true. When you hear news like, “I am having an affair” or “You have cancer” for the first time, life speeds up and slows down at the same time, and you can’t find your bearings.
I’m in shock. My mouth is parched and words escape me. My lips forget how to move to form words, to speak sentences. My throat is dry and I can’t swallow or breathe or think straight or move, however, running on a continuous loop in my stunned brain is,
WHAT? What did you say? Why are you doing this? You are moving in with who? You are leaving me for who? Who is she? What does she look like…I don’t think I know her…do I? She has THREE children…who go to…Emma’s school? You are having an affair with a mother from Emma’s preschool? How could you? And what kind of mother allows a man she barely knows to move in with her THREE children?
I can’t ask any of these questions because my daughter is standing within earshot, and I was starting to lose it. If I started asking the questions I had the right to ask and expressing the appropriate outrage, my daughter would hear.
He robbed me of the right to be upset in that moment. He took from me the right to express the justifiable anger welling up inside of me, the appropriate amount of rage simmering just below the surface – as I watched my daughter playing innocently right in front of us – to express the correct amount of anger and hysteria and indignation he deserves to have thrown at him.
Isn’t that the definition of cowardice?
The fact that he had been lying to me was bad enough, but worse than that, he made sure to use a five-year-old child to deny me that moment I so deserved. The right to be incredibly upset; he hid behind his own daughter to protect himself from the force of my anger, sadness and disappointment that was due him.
This was the first time – after the affair itself – he chose to put himself, and his wants, before our child. It was the first in a long line of instances to come. He would continue to make poor choices that would put our child at the very bottom of his concerns.
“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations