It’s a Saturday night, my kids are just back from their dad’s, and I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner when my boyfriend walks into the kitchen.

“Would you be okay if I went out tonight?” he asks.

I feel a surge of aggravation.Why is he going out? This wasn’t discussed.

“Matt from back home is in town, remember him?  He’s a friend of the family…”

I vaguely recall Matt from ‘back home’, which in this case is England.  I believe his mother and my boyfriend’s mother are close friends.

“He just got into town and texted me,” he explains.

This is a generational moment.  He is twenty-four, I am forty-one.  Texting at the last minute to go out on a Saturday night is no longer part of my social arsenal, having long since been replaced with passing out on the sofa by eleven.

“He’s been traveling for eighteen months,” he explains.

“Why don’t you invite him for dinner?” I suggest as I leaf through a cookbook trying to mask my irritation.

“Yeah, will do.” He looks at his phone again as another message comes through. “So, you’re good with me going out tonight?It’s just gonna be a few guys down at the Tavern.”

Few guys, meaning I’m not invited.Not that I would go anyway, since my kids just got home from their dad’s. In truth, I don’t mind when he goes out on other nights.Tuesdays or Thursdays are fine, they’re like an episode of Cheers, but Saturday nights are more like those Bacardi Mojito commercials (you know the ones with all the gyrating girls in mini-skirts).A drink out with your friend on a Thursday is social.A drink out with your friend on Saturday is basically abandoning your family.Despite our numerous conversations on the matter, his need to have a social life, my need to feel secure in a relationship that is really not accepted by society, we always end up at the same place.I feel resentment and he feels guilt.I’m not in the mood for either, so I decide to take the high road. “Have fun,” I say.

As I eat dinner with the kids, I put on a good face.No sense making a big deal out of this, after all how often do his friends from England come to town? But once he leaves I smell his aftershave lingering in the air.Suddenly I’m six again.It’s Saturday night, I’m visiting my father who has been working all day, and now he’s going out with his new wife, leaving me home with some babysitter I don’t know.The scent of his aftershave lingers in the air, as I wonder why he never wants to stay home with me.

So is this a dad thing?Or is it an age thing? Or is it an age thing that’s activating a dad thing?My mind never ceases to exhaust me.I must toughen up and try to remain in the present.My boyfriend moved here from England to be with me after all.Now he’s got friends, and he’s putting down roots that extend past the kids and me.A therapist would say this is all good.

After the kids go to bed I read for a while, but mostly I wonder what he’s doing?I wonder if girls are talking to him.They always seem to love his accent.Then I feel sorry for myself.I’m the only forty-one year old woman in the neighborhood home alone.Some ‘cougar’ I am.

I finally get into bed around midnight.I’m restless because I have to get up at five to take my daughter to a soccer tournament and I’m worried I’ll oversleep.Just before two I hear the front door open, he’s home.I feel relieved.More than that, I feel pathetic for feeling relieved.He climbs into bed, slides in next to me and pulls me in for a hug.I exhale, wondering why I made such a big deal out of this.But as I try to get back to sleep, I hear someone rustling in the other room.I think it’s my daughter.Maybe she’s nervous about her game tomorrow. I get up and poke my head out of the doorway but instead of my daughter I see a man in the kitchen. I immediately jump back into bed and shake my boyfriend.

“Who’s in the kitchen?” I whisper.

He mutters, “It’s the cab driver.”

I try to process this but my nerves are shot from the five-hour spiral that proceeded him going out.Now I’m just angry.I nudge him again, “Why is the cab driver in the house?”

Honestly, I’m too old for this crap.

“I told him he could stay and I got him a blanket and pillow.Just go to sleep, it’s fine. ”

It’s fine?This may be fine in the world of twenty-four-year olds, but in my world, this is not fine.I nudge my boyfriend again, but he’s been up since six, and is now out cold.I need to do something, although I’m not sure what.I tiptoe into the kitchen and see that the cab driver is now on the sofa.I move in closer and see that he is asleep.Snoring, no less.This is ridiculous.I feel like a hostage in my own home.All my worst fears about my boyfriend are confirmed.He’s irresponsible, he’s selfish, he’s immature; more than that, he doesn’t care about us.The cab driver could be a pedophile!

I grab my son from his bed, carry him into his sister’s room, put him in the trundle bed and then climb in with her.When five a.m. rolls around, I wake up my daughter and explain that there is a person sleeping on the sofa, and that she shouldn’t be alarmed.She could care less, she’s only worried about whether her coach is starting her.I put my son in the bedroom with my boyfriend, and in a final bold move, I leave a note next to him on the pillow expressing my fury.It reads: this is bullshit.

*

Hours later, we return from the soccer tournament.The cabdriver is gone, the blankets and pillows have been put away.Nothing has been stolen.My son is playing, and my boyfriend is in the kitchen preparing our Sunday Roast.This is something he does every week, and it’s a tradition that we have become known for around the neighborhood where the suburban Sunday norm has become take-out.There’s usually a good-sized group in attendance, my parents, the kids, and a handful of my boyfriend’s twenty-something guy friends who yearn for a touch of family.It is the epitome of tradition inside our non-traditional world and it’s the way we finish every week. As soon as we get in, my daughter starts setting the table, her delegated job.I head into the kitchen where my boyfriend is busy peeling potatoes.

“I invited Matt,” he tells me, but I’m in no mood for chit-chat.

“Why did the cabdriver sleep over?” I ask pointedly.

He looks at me. “What are you talking about?”

“Didn’t you see my note?” Surely that three-word missive left on his pillow would have summed up the entire situation.

“It was very cryptic.I wasn’t sure who or what it was directed at.”

“The cab driver was sleeping on the sofa.Apparently you authorized that!”

He looks at me like I’m nuts. “Matt slept over.”

Now I’m confused.Matt the family friend from England who’s been traveling for eighteen months and probably wanted a comfortable place to sleep?

My son comes in to get the glasses. “I didn’t know Matt was a cab driver,” he says to my boyfriend.

“There was no cab driver,” he says.

“But you said he was the cab driver.” I realize the self-righteous ground beneath me is beginning to crumble.

“I say a lot of things in my sleep.I once told you there was a monkey in the fridge.”

This is true.He talks in his sleep, and most of it makes no sense.How did I forget this?

“Oh, dear Buckley…” he says mildly amused. “Did you really think I would have let a cab driver sleep over?”

I look at him, and shake my head ‘no’.Of course he wouldn’t do that.I stand there for a moment, watching him peel potatoes, our two Saint Bernards at his feet, my kids jostling him to get to the silverware and dishes.He’s not irresponsible or insensitive or even immature.I wonder how it is that in his brief absence my image of him can disappear so easily and be replaced with such a twisted version.

“Why don’t you have a nap,” he suggests. “I’ve got dinner covered, and we’ll wake you when it’s ready…”

He puts his arm around me and leads me out of the kitchen.I want to try and explain myself, to explain those trap doors that seem to open up in my mind, and how I fall through them sometimes when he is not around, but before I can even attempt to, I’m in bed and he’s pulled the covers up around me.

“You let your mind get away from you,” he says as he kisses my forehead.

I nod my head.This is true.

“Sleep now,” he says, and I do.

At seven my daughter wakes me. “Dinner’s ready, Mom,” she smiles.

I get up, shake off the sleep and head to the dinner table.My daughter has chosen a lively green polka-dot tablecloth that will soon be spotted with gravy and red wine.My parents are there, along with my kids, my boyfriend, our two dogs who always hover for scraps, and of course there’s Matt.

“Hi, I’m the cab driver,” he smiles, and everyone laughs, because they’ve heard the story already, and I laugh as well as I sit down at the table.It’s almost as if our Sunday Roast is like some magical inoculation against all my doubts, and my fears.Suddenly last night seems so silly.How could I have been so ridiculous?How is it my thinking could become so clouded?I look around the table, everything I love is right here, exactly where it was the week before, and exactly as it will be a week from now.We are a family, however non-traditional we might be.Maybe someday I will learn to trust that.

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KRISTEN BUCKLEY is a screenwriter, memoirist, and novelist. Her produced screenplays include How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, 102 Dalmatians and the upcoming Shoe Addicts Anonymous. Her first novel, The Parker Grey Show, was published in 2002, and her memoir Tramps Like Us was published in 2005. Her essay, "What I Am Is What I Am" appeared in About Face (2008, Ed. Christina Baker Klein) and her horribly embarrassing personal tale, "Escape from Downtown" was recently included in Larry Doyle's, I Love You Beth Cooper (Larry now owes her). She currently lives in Los Angeles. You can read her daily posts on her website KristenBuckley.com.

31 responses to “Saturday Night in Cougar Town”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Kristen this is so funny!
    I would have acted in exactly the same way as you did.
    Trust me on this: if he ever can’t sleep, do NOT let him take Ambien.
    I have experience to back me up.
    He’s weird enough in normal sleep.

  2. Matt says:

    “I once told you there was a monkey in the fridge.”

    Now THERE’S a quote that deserves to go down in infamy.

    Welcome!

  3. Richard Cox says:

    In all honesty he did say it was the cab driver. But if it was that out of character for the English boyfriend then you also could have woken him up to clarify.

    I love the “This is bullshit” note. Such anger directed at such an innocent scrap of paper! Did it make you feel any better? Even for a moment?

  4. re the note — It made me feel better for about a nanosecond!

  5. Slade Ham says:

    I can relate to pretty much all of this but the happy ending, hahaha. My imagination used to play games with me a lot with my ex. Of course, she was actually out doing blow and gambling away all of our money, amongst god knows what else.

    Sunday afternoon family gatherings though… those tend to fix everything.

  6. Slade Ham says:

    Oh, and welcome aboard.

  7. Zara Potts says:

    A Sunday roast fixes everything.
    I loved this. I love the honesty and no bullshit in your writing.
    Welcome to TNB, Kristen. I look forward to more…

  8. Judy Prince says:

    Kristen, you thought wisely and did everything exactly right. Only thing I would’ve done differently is wake him up immediately upon his saying “cab driver” to get The Whole Explanation. Better that—-for you, your kids, and him—-than your working yourself into a knot and all the attendant later guilt. Which reminds me that now YOU seem to be the butt of the “joke”, whereas it is your boyfriend who should take the laughs on the chin.

    You’ll love TNB—glad you’re here!

    Judy, who loves a younger man who happens to be dear Rodent

  9. Jessica Blau says:

    Great story! At first I was jealous of you (the joys of a 24 year old boyfriend!) then I was feeling sorry for you (of course a 24 year old would bring the cab driver home, that’s what idiotic 24-year-olds do!), then, in the end, I was jealous of you again.

  10. Funny thing is Matt ended up staying with us for a few months and turns out he’s the nicest person in the world – although he is a very slow eater…

  11. Jessica Blau says:

    Ah, the slow eating problem. Can make a normal eater feel like a ravenous pig–someone with spit-clumped food flying out of their mouth as they shovel more in. Slow eaters make me anxious.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Mouth breathers make me nervous when eating.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Hahahahahahaha. That’s awesome, Zara Potts!

        I have the opposite problem. I take one look at my plate and the food disappears like Sara Goldfarb’s in Requiem for a Dream. If I’m on a date I have to distract myself from the plate, like count to ten between bites or pretend to be interested in what she has to say.

        Just kidding.

  12. Jessica Blau says:

    Mouth breathers make me nervous in general. I have an uncontrollable urge to place my open palm under their chin and shut the contraption.

  13. Just think how much crazier this story would have been were there a cab driver in your house pocketing trinkets.

    I mean, from a literary perspective…

    Scratch that.

  14. Quenby Moone says:

    Man. I so feel the awkwardness of this situation because I’m prone to these same flights of fancy! My imagination takes hold of whatever tiny shred of weird exists and I run with it to its illogical extreme. Usually my husband is dead and I’m being evicted, I have to start selling everything I own to move in with my mother and her husband and then find a really awful job after years of being “retired.”

    Then my husband walks in from his errand and I realize we just might make it through another day.

    Whew! Glad I’m not alone.

    Welcome!

  15. Judy Prince says:

    QB, you’re a sweet goofy goose! Yes, you nailed the feeling we often have about our blokes.

  16. angela says:

    this is a great post. i too feel that insecurity when my boyfriend goes out without me. and he talks in his sleep as well. luckily what he says never makes any sense.

  17. Mary Richert says:

    Perfect. Ending. This is exactly something that would happen to me. So funny! I’m glad it ended well and your boyfriend didn’t turn out to be a thoughtless moron. I hope everyone enjoyed the roast. 😀

  18. Gloria says:

    I’m really glad to read that, in the end, the boyfriend is a good guy.

    Now I can’t get “Won’t you take me to Cougar Town” out of my head. (Sung, of course, to the tune of Funky Town.)

  19. Becky says:

    My husband is 3.5 years older than me and we have the same kinds of issues. Age has nothing to do with it.

    Granted, he has never told me that we were playing host to a strange cab driver, but at 35, he still lacks anxiety and neuroticism enough to suit me.

    The bastard.

    (Never mind the 3 or so boyfriends I left because I was a “free spirit” and they were too anxious and neurotic. Can’t they just understand that they must be–and most importantly SEEM to be–whatever we want them to be at given moment? Pigs!)

  20. Simon Smithson says:

    The most awesome thing I’ve heard someone blurrily say during sleep: “The pyramids smell better from down here.”

    I can totally sympathise.

    “It’s almost as if our Sunday Roast is like some magical inoculation against all my doubts, and my fears.”

    Now there’s a good meal!

  21. Joe Daly says:

    There is so much about this piece that I loved, that I can’t just settle on one or two quotes. I admired the way you deftly placed yourself under the magnifying glass without overstating anything. Who doesn’t have those insecurities? I’m sure I would have (probably actually have) acted the same way. Although if I had a girlfriend and she brought home a cab driver, maybe I would have made a few supplemental decisions…

    Anyway, great read! Keep ’em coming!

    Oh, and from someone who’s 41, I resent these 24 year olds moving in on my dating pool!

  22. Cheryl says:

    Kristen, what a great post, and great story! I feel the same way when my husband goes out without me, and the age difference is negligible. If he had a British accent, though, I might not have the strength to let him out of my sight 🙂

    Insecurities are strange things. Starting when I was pregnant, I really had a problem with my husband going out without me. Not because I was jealous about him talking to other women but because until then, I had pretty much been one of “the guys” and we would always go out together. Always. Being pregnant, I had no energy to stay up past 9 or 10, what with the growing of a human being inside me and whatnot. And after our daughter was born, there were logistical issues. Everything had to planned ahead of time, instead of just walking over to the pool hall after work for some drinks and few games of pool; or meeting some friends out on the spur of the moment.

    I had to come to terms with the real issue – I was insecure because I didn’t want to become The Wife. Instead of Co-Conspirator, Ultimate LifeLong Best Friend With Benefits, Partner in Crime, Trash-Talking Pool Partner. The Wife, as in, “I’d better get home so I don’t get in trouble with The Wife.” I hated the very thought of it. It took some time for it to sink in that becoming parents was a big change for both of us, and that he doesn’t, didn’t and never would see me as The Wife (not my nightmare, sitcom version of the The Wife, anyway.) I am His Wife, and it encompasses Co-Conspirator, Ultimate LifeLong Best Friend With Benefits, Partner in Crime, Trash-Talking Pool Partner and so so so much more. I think I’m okay with that.

    Jerk better call next time he’s gonna be late, though 🙂

  23. Confession: I L’ed OL at the monkey in the fridge. A proper laff, not just a snort. Hang on…was there a monkey in the fridge?

  24. No monkey in the fridge — just a monkey in my brain!

  25. Marni Grossman says:

    24-year-old boys aren’t known for their good sense. I would know: as a 24-year-old woman, I know many. They are often scattershot and unpredictable. Irritating as hell.

    So glad to see that you’ve got yourself a good one. Welcome!

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