The Dance of Dick & Jane: Part II
by Maggie Barton-McRae
Dick and Jane met at a dance. They had not previously met, but something caught Dick's attention. Dick asked Jane to dance - she agreed, and off they went to the dance floor. It was magic. They not only danced in sync, they felt that they instinctively knew each other. They seemed to connect on some sort of deep emotional level. Within a few months of dating, they felt that they were in love.
Dick was 35 - divorced, with two children. He had been divorced for two years and his wife had wanted the divorce because of his emotional neglect of her and their two children. She had complained that "he was always busy. "
Dick was the oldest of three boys. He remembers his family being poor. His father, on Fridays, would stop at the track on his way home - sometimes he won, but most of the time he lost. Dick remembers his mother suffering in silence; she would just make do and stretch things. He was always amazed at her ability to do this. His parents never argued; for that matter, they didn't even talk much to each other. Dick knew at an early age that his dad was "the boss". His father didn't have to exert his power, his family just "knew". When Dick and his brothers got out of hand, his mother's famous words were "wait 'till your father gets home!" That would be enough.
Dick decided at an early age that he didn't want to live like his parents. He hated being poor. He was ashamed of not having what the other kids had. And he hated most of all that his father would gamble away the much needed money. He resented his mother's passiveness: "why couldn't she once just put her foot down and stand up to his father?" She reminded him of a timid child so often, always deferring to her husband. She couldn't even punish her children - she would always say "wait 'till your father gets home."
Somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10, Dick realized that he was "bright". His teachers would smile and acknowledge him for his skilled work. This made Dick feel more equal to the other kids. He decided that this was his answer: he would do well and that would be his ticket out of poverty. Also, his father seemed pleased with his work and it was an acceptable way to get away from his father's presence.
As a teenager, Dick studied hard, and, for the most part, he curbed his desires to date and to hang out with his peers. He gained a reputation for being a loner, to which he felt safe. Dick was uncomfortable with girls. He thought they were silly and didn't want to spend his time on silly things. He always remembered that he was going to do well for himself and get a well-paying job when he grew up. Dick at times struggled with his loneliness; he really didn't have a single close friend and no one really knew him. He had a reputation with his teachers as being politely distant, but there wasn't a single sole that he felt close with. Sometimes, mostly at night, he would allow himself to feel his sadness and he drank at times to take away his pain. The next day, however, he was back to studying and keeping up his grades.
Dick graduated and went away to college. Yes, he got a scholarship and with the help of financial aid and a loan he was able to go to a fairly good college - not the best, but alot better than what most of his peers were going to. Dick was both scared and relieved to be going away. He could leave his past and no one would know where he came from. This was his ticket into middle-class life. He had decided to study accounting - a good choice. Dick had some casual encounters with a few girls. He still thought that they were, by and large, somewhat silly, but the times that he was close did take some of his loneliness away.
Dick met Pat his third year in college. At first, she as just another girl to him, but he found himself dating her. He enjoyed the security of someone and he was now thinking that a wife could help him with his career. Pat was attentive and not quite as silly as most of the other girls. Pat was studying marketing, however, she was vague about her intentions for the future. Pat & Dick got married soon after they graduated. Dick took his CPA exam and started working for an accounting firm. Pat was not so fortunate with her career, but that was okay. She did not think that she would be working for long anyway, since Dick was doing so well. And, yes, Dick did do well! He stayed late at the office, got his promotions and stayed focused on bigger and better things.
Dick didn't see too much of his parents - it was reduced to an occasional holiday. He much preferred going to Pat's folks - they were much more middle-class than his parents were. That old shame would linger with him when he did make the occasional visit. Dick never spoke to Pat about his feelings: she seemed too uncomfortable to speak about it either.
Dick had his first son when he was 28. It seemed like the right time to start his family. They had purchased a home and this was the right, middle-class thing to do. It made for extra talk at the office. Pat eagerly stopped working. Dick didn't mind, for this also seemed the correct thing to do. It meant to everybody that his wife didn't have to work because he was successful enough to provide for his family. Inwardly, he felt the crunch and the pressure bothered him at times. There was the mortgage and car payments, and Pat wanted to decorate the house. So when his boss had offered him more responsibility Dick took it: more work meant more money, and then he was set. By the time Dick's second son was born, he was taking work home with him and going to the office on Saturdays. He was stressed and getting out of shape. He still loved Pat and the boys were a joy to see - when he did see them. However, most of the time they were in bed when he got home, and in the morning he was always in a hurry to catch the train.
Pat was also tired. She complained to Dick about not seeing him. Her days were long with two small children. She spent more and more time at her parent's house, staying for supper when Dick would work late. Sunday would come, and Dick would be exhausted. He slept late, as much as he could, and the Saturday night dinner dates were becoming few and far between. He didn't mind that, it felt like one less thing that he had to worry about. Dick and Pat's sex life had now become a weekly Sunday-only routine. It was rather matter-of-fact. It bothered Dick that at age 32 his sex life was not frequent. He comforted himself with his work - his boss, of course, was pleased with him, and this was the main thing.
He and Pat had been talking about adding an extension to the house, a bigger kitchen, a study and a family room in the basement. The plans seemed grand. They both felt good about this, it brought them together for a time. Planning out the kitchen, or rather Pat with her mother's help doing the planning, and Dick acting as though he was involved. He felt like they were a team, and to the neighbors and the few friends that they had, it appeared that way. With the completion of the restoration, Dick and Pat were again faced with each other. Pat had joined a bowling league which took her out twice a week. It bothered her that when Sunday's came she started to prefer spending time with her friends from the league than with Dick. Dick didn't seem to mind. Maybe that was bothering her - he didn't seem to mind much about anything except his job. He was caring towards the boys but always seemed preoccupied, never wanting to play fully with them. He would always say that he had a deadline at work and would disappear into the study, which had now become his study.
Pat was bothered, she felt too young to feel so bored with her life. The women in the league and their husbands seemed to have so much more fun than she did. They didn't have such nice houses, but her house had started to lose its excitement. In fact, her house started to feel so joyless that she would walk around a tastefully decorated house thinking to herself "so what?" Pat began to confide her unhappiness to her two best friends. It felt good to be able to share with them. There were times when one or the other would say "what are you doing with him then?" She would panic when she heard this; the thought of getting a divorce was scary to her. However, she had been talking to her mother who was encouraging her to seek some legal counsel. Pat finally did and Dick was informed that Pat wanted a separation. At first, he was surprised and angry, then he didn't care. He didn't protest, he moved out and found himself a nice apartment. A year past, and both Dick and Pat agreed to a divorce. Pat agreed to work and they reached a cordial settlement.
Dick eased his pain by frequenting a local bar. When he told his story he was informed by his bar buddies that "she gave up a good man." Dick thought that too. He had worked hard and look what had happened. At times he thought he should have fought her for the house, but she had the kids so he went along with it. Dick saw his boys on the weekends. It was strained and often he did not know what to do with them - feeling relieved after returning them home to Pat. Dick started to date here and there. He went to a few clubs with a man that he had met at the bar. Dick made dates: dinner, dancing, movies - he didn't mind this. But inwardly he was guarded. He would never let the same thing happen to him again. It was on one of these nights that he met Jane.