How Bitter a Thing


At a senselessly weak moment I agreed to attend Arabella’s home cookware party. There I sat with unlike minds getting recipes and diet tips from a saleswoman half my age and twice my size. She was Arabella’s age and about her heft. She and her mother pulled a major guilt trip to get me there. Girlfriends do that to each other. I don’t claim to know why.

5ca4eb6c25714f4506b25285bb68fd9c[1]I ate some “prepared in twenty minute or less” Frito casserole and microwaved pound cake then purchased a fifty-three dollar garlic press which will arrive in two to three weeks. It was a pity buy, and if truth be known, I did feel sorry for Arabella. She was lonely, so forlorn that she’d recently pledged loyalty and devotion to a cyber-man from a third world country, one she had never met… probably she never would… and she quit dating local boys. She hadn’t met anyone with a romantic soul and this internet guy, she said, wrote poetry.

“He’s probably sending the same poems to ten other girls. Look at Ramella, She’s twice your age and she finds romantic men, don’t you Ramella?”

“I have been lucky in that area,” I admitted.

“Tell her how many men have sent you flowers in the past year.”

“A few,” I lied. I didn’t want Arabella to feel worse.

“You could find a man here, get married and have a normal life.”

“But I love Carlo.”

“You haven’t met Carlo. There are good men out there. Just find one,” said this woman of a mature age who coldly flaunted her popularity. No sooner had she returned from a business trip with one man when she had dinner with another. A younger friend with benefits brought her the orchids displayed on the buffet. Her only disappointment (since widowhood made her rich) was this unwed daughter who still lived at home without prospects.

“Maybe men of our generation are more romantic,” I added, but my feelings toward Arabella were colored by memory. I’d watched her one year at the fair licking candy so suggestively that I could almost swear that she made frequent trips behind the waffle stand. Arabella had not yet learned that if you slept with the boy you just met, you haven’t given him the chance to be romantic. Few are going to stop and say, “Hey, Babe, let me go buy flowers before we…”

My daughter stopped being friends with her in middle school… even on Facebook.

This young woman was desperate to find love. Believing that a man actually took the time to write poetry from afar was a respite from waffle stand quickies or the boys who took pleasures and ran.

Arabella cleared the remaining dishes. As she by passed me her hand slipped and I was covered in leftover casserole.

“Oh, Ramella, I’m sorry,” she sniffed and ran to her room in overblown tears. Her mother grabbed napkins and paper towels, brought out a tee shirt for me to wear home and offered to launder my blouse.

In hindsight I think this was a surrogate dump. Arabella had neither the ability to deal with her feelings nor the courage to toss that mess on her mom. Consciously or not, I denoted her problem. She was a heavy girl who believed herself unlovable. Her mother and I were older, neither of us were thin, but we were comfortable in our bodies and like it or not, I had been an unwilling participant in the dumping-on of Arabella… for years… and at that point she finally dumped back.

People like people who make them feel good about themselves. Neither Arabella’s mother nor I had done that. We lived our lives for ourselves and shared lack of judgment for each other’s choices. Veritably we were a united front against those who would criticize. Perhaps that is why we have been friends for so long, not that we had so much in common.

I thought of my own daughter playing Barbie dolls with Arabella. Separately they navigated their teen years and grew into the women they are today. My daughter’s behavior has always made me proud but mine had a father who adored her. Arabella didn’t have that luxury and her mother could have been much more discrete.

I thought of the Shakespeare quote, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” I believed that those words, all three of us could heed.

I’m sorry, Arabella, sorry your life sucks. I was once young, fatherless and knew too many boys. It’s time to grow a life of quality and quit blaming others for your own unhappiness. Learn to love yourself. That will lead you to trust yourself again, and for God’s sake, Arabella, don’t do yourself wrong!

You are a beautiful young woman. Be worthy of what you hope for. Be faithful to yourself.


  1. Superb vignette, Jonna; your phrase: “…if you slept with the boy you just met, you haven’t given him the chance to be romantic” hit me right between the eyes and reminded me of a military experience of mine many years ago (long before I met my wife). Holy smokes. Your writing is wonderful. You should have been at the NCWN conference in Greensboro this past weekend.


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