As I listen to my husband read “Hop on Pop” to our 22-month-old daughter, I still find it hard to believe I met this man through Craigslist.
I came to Los Angeles to escape my falling-apart first marriage. When I discovered my newly estranged husband had moved on rather quickly with a much younger dancer, I fell the rest of the way apart on my own.
It was 1997-98, the winter of El Niño. The heavy rains helped me grieve. It was also a time when Beck’s “Loser” seemed to be constantly on the radio, a time of belting out, “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” while sobbing on Laurel Canyon Boulevard as trash cans floated downhill past my car, going faster than I was, thanks to the traffic.
Since I was prone to bursting into tears at the slightest provocation, the only job I could get was living with a rock band and taking care of their dogs while they went on tour. I was a doggy au pair, and as much as I helped those dogs, they helped me more. They were diabolical pooches, jumping out the window of my moving car onto Mulholland Drive, but they kept me going, one muddy walk after another.
Other men eventually came along, all oddly named the same as my ex-husband. But after 10 years of Todds, I found myself 40 and alone. I was scraping by with freelance writing jobs and struggled to come to terms with being a woman who might remain alone forever.
It was almost as if the moment I turned 40, I stopped being approached in coffee shops or even set up on blind dates — except by my meddling mother back in Brooklyn who desperately signed me up for six months of eHarmony, which turned out to be an online version of male/female age politics. The only men online who were interested in meeting a 40-year-old woman were grandfathers in their 60s. Or older.
I spent the next five years writing and working hard, watching my friends get married and have children. My mother stopped asking if I had met anyone because she already knew the answer.
At 44, I attempted a career change. I decided to embrace reality TV and started working as a gal Friday for a reality show producer. I was fired after two hellish months of pretending to care.
A dear friend took a group of us to Hawaii for my 45th birthday. One night in the hot tub I saved a baby gecko’s life as he churned in the jet bubbles and the four of us screamed like kindergartners. Somehow I scooped the little lizard out of the human stew and he took off for the hills. The next day a Hawaiian lady told me that saving a gecko’s life was going to bring me great luck.
Two weeks later I found myself manning a yard sale to pay off my Hawaiian vacation. I was cleaning out the garage of a wildly successful female architect who decided she was finally ready to park her car in the garage, which was jam-packed with the debris of her first and second marriages. I posted her drafting table from Harvard Architecture School and a bunch of other stuff on Craigslist and waited in the early September heat of a South Pasadena morning for the potential bargain hunters to show up.
He was late. At least an hour. But finally his old Mercedes Benz station wagon pulled into the driveway and he climbed out of the car and smiled at me. A very calm voice in my head told me, “Oh, that’s your husband.”
The oddest part of meeting him was that he seemed familiar to me. Once we started talking, we realized we had worked together 10 years before, on a TV show in Vancouver. On that set we must have walked past each other 20 times a day for two weeks straight, but since he was planning his first marriage and I was going through the turmoils of my divorce, we never met.
Three years after we met in South Pasadena we eloped to Mayra’s Wedding Chapel on Normandie below Melrose; it was 10/10/10 and we were the only ones willing to pay extra to get married on a Sunday.
One year after that, we adopted our daughter. I am now 51, happily married and ecstatic to be a parent. The three of us live in a Craftsman bungalow in Echo Park and almost every day I thank the three Todds and that ridiculous reality TV show — if it weren’t for all of those relationships not working out, I might not have found the one relationship that did.
Dennehy is a writer living in Echo Park.