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My early-marriage nemesis

I read this little poem (below) as a new bride. From college to career to marriage took a few short years, so I was still in a learning mode. Still figuring out how to be a woman and a wife.

Our new home in a squeaky new subdivision was inhabited by Army officers and their families, so we had lots of commonalities. Husbands came home from the Post around 4:30 every day. Lawns got cut and watered on Saturday mornings. Guys had ‘strak’ haircuts and the gals all sported the bouffants of the 1970s. Our husbands had either just come home from Viet Nam or were about ready to go back.

Everyone blended together so well … except for “The Lady Next Door”. She was the exact person that Judith Viorst was writing about in this poem!

viorstShe wore a full coat of makeup with meticulously coiffed hair and hot pants (yes, hot pants) to carry out the trash. And to walk their little dog. And to get the mail from the mailbox. And to the commissary and PX.  And everyone’s husband noticed … except perhaps hers.

It was hell living next door to “The Lady Next Door”.

The Lady Next Door
A poem by Judith Viorst

The lady next door,
Who weighs eight pounds less than I do
And wears peach face gleamer and tawny lip gloss to take out the garbage,
Has lately been looking at my husband
As if he were someone like Robert Redford,
And she were someone like Ali McGraw,
And I were someone like Mother of the Year.

The lady next door,
Whose children go to analysts and Choate,
And whose favorite drink is a dry white burgundy with a smidgin of crème de cassis,
Has lately been looking at my husband
As if he were someone with inexpressible yearnings,
And she were someone who majored in how to express them,
And I were someone who played a lot of hockey.

The lady next door,
Has lately been looking at my husband,
Who has lately been looking back,
Leaving me to contemplate
Adult education courses,
An affair with one of those rich Greek eighty-year-olds who prefer younger women,
An affair with one of those alienated twenty-year-olds who prefer older women,
Or maybe an affair
With the man next door,
Who has Cardin suits, a rapier wit, a Ferrari,
As well as close friends in the arts,
And who has lately been looking at me
As if I were someone who knew how to sew on buttons,
And he were someone who needed someone to sew them,
And my husband were only someone who deserved
The lady next door.

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