The Trouble with Tough Love

From the father to Uncle Sam to shrinks, no one's cutting slack on my ADD lapses.
ADHD & the City | posted by Jane D.
Jane D.

I was invited to my first Jewish birthday party over the weekend. My friend and fellow swim buddy, Barbara, celebrated her big 6-5. It was at a hole-in-the-wall Romanian steakhouse in Chinatown.

But before that, I had breakfast with the father at a cafe across Grand Central. He tells me that Uncle Sam sent back my tax form because I forgot to fill out a line – very ADD of me :) – and he hands me all of these checks from the flexible spending account reminding me of all I have spent on the Buddhaman and on the shrink woman, who, by the way, is leaving and will be replaced by someone else. I'm sad about it. For a while, it was nice to have someone who was sympathetic, rather than drill sergeant-like, even though I know I need tough love.

The father keeps telling me that if I want to date men, I need to undergo some behavior modification, like be more understanding, do more listening, less talking. He says that sometimes I talk too much. I wonder how much of this is me versus ADD. It's the whole chicken and egg question, which came first? I said I am trying.

In some ways, I have become increasingly more empathetic with the adults who I teach swimming lessons with on Saturdays. I feel for them. One of them is a woman in her mid 40s, a mousy woman with Tammy Faye Bakker-thick mascara. She looked like she was going to cry when I said that we'd go under the water together to just get wet. Like a shower, like the rain. Blowing bubbles was like blowing out birthday candles, I told her.

She was shaking and kept saying repeatedly, "OK, OK, OK," but I knew it wasn't OK. It seemed obvious and easy to me, but not to her. In the same fashion, someone could look at me and tell me to calm down, do less, focus more, but it's easier said than done.

At the Jewish birthday party, I drank a lot of wine, munched on crackers topped with chopped liver, did shots of egg creme, and looked at the tables of friends and how happy they all seemed. We sang Happy Birthday to Barbara as she held hands with her 90-plus year-old father. Their happiness seemed genuine, too.

Afterward, I drowned my sorrows and the guilt of egg creme, macaroons, and cake by heading to the pool. At the end of the workout, I saw the ex walk in.

He's weird, because he looked at me, stayed around as I swam, and then he said, "a pleasant surprise." I'm starting to feel like it's all empty words anyway. Why should I care? I like him, but there's that old saying, "If you love someone, set them free." Very cliché, but I'm starting to like clichés. They make me feel good like chocolate.

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