In which I sound like a Lifetime movie

Let’s talk about trying to be something you aren’t.

He Who Shall Not Be Named’s step-dad had been married previously and had two kids. He referred to his ex as SFB, as in “Shit For Brains.” A little harsh, granted. But SFB had put him through a hellacious divorce and married her shyster longtime beau two weeks after the alimony ran out.

SFB and Step-Dad had a deal when they were married. He was working his way up the corporate ladder and got transferred every two or three years. SFB agreed to the moves across the country on one condition: the new house would be bigger than the house they were leaving. Step-Dad explained this upward mobility to me in detail one day as we drove around looking at new construction, killing time while He Who Shall Not Be Named’s mother – a low-maintenance and well-loved woman – slept in a hospital room.

After the divorce, SFB started keeping time with The Shyster, a born salesman who always had an in on The Next Big Thing. They married, and eventually moved to Florida, where they moved from time share to time share. They had all the flashiness – new cars, lots of jewelry, lavish gifts for the kids, you name it.

Funny, though, that things weren’t what they seemed. They had been living off of a trust SFB inherited from her parents. And then they dipped into her kids’ trusts. And then she put her foot down. And then he slammed her head against the side of the bathtub, buried the body in a shallow grave and declared her missing.

It was January and the sun was bright when we buried her for good a week after he fessed up. Step-Dad hired an off-duty cop to attend the funeral to keep The Shyster’s family away from SFB’s children. They’d identified the body with dental records to know they were burying the right woman – burying her next to the deceased parents who had scrimped and saved their entire lives to ensure a comfortable and safe future for their offspring.

All of this came flooding back to me yesterday, the first really nice day after an eternity of bitterly cold days. The winter sun made me think of that day in January five years ago. And it made me sad, too. Now that I’m not a part of that family, am I not to feel grief over this? Am I supposed to forget? And who starts a story with “My ex-boyfriend’s step-brother’s mom got killed …”?

And then I thought about how she probably knew for a while that things were a little off, but, like so many of us, pretended that all was well. She kept up appearances. She pretended that things were fine, even as the money was running out and tension was growing. She was trying – they were both trying – to be someone she wasn’t.

He Who Shall Not Be Named listed body piercings and tattoos as turn-ons in his online dating profile. He also mentioned that he’s looking for a woman who is Buddhist, Hindi or Taoist.

He’s a Midwestern boy who started lying about what high school he attended after his old hood fell on hard times. I don’t know who he’s pretending to be, or why his real self isn’t good enough. I thought his authentic self was pretty damn awesome.

There’s a fine line between personal growth and pretending to be someone you aren’t. It’s all about foundation – personal growth builds on your past. Pretending adopts a past that never existed – completely discounting the fact that experience shapes a person.

I think this self that He Who Shall Not Be Named has invented isn’t much different than the out-and-out lying done by The Shyster. At the end, The Shyster’s alibi fooled no one but himself. I have a hard time believing that He Who Shall Not Be Named will fool anybody for very long either, which is really a shame. Deep down, he’s just a desperate, wide-eyed boy.

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