Feelings: A Guide for the Step-Mom-to-Be

IF A GIRL is at home in a short kimono and white hoop earrings, and then you find out she is also wearing stockings and high heels, then you know that girl’s a prostitute.”

This I was trying to explain to my seatmate on a 747 flight from L.A. But men—they don’t have a certain intuition that we have. And let’s face it, maybe it’s just as well.

I felt nothing for him as yet. He was a typical . . . let’s just say he looked rich.

“No, I’m afraid I don’t agree,” he replied. “To me she could be a tired salesgirl from a store.”

He almost looked mad as he waved to the girl for another Scotch. He also lit up another Virginia Slims. Kind of interesting! But the last thing I needed was a man in my life right now. I was a successful consultant at that time, in love with my life-style.

And why not? Commitment at that time I didn’t need.

I looked out my window, and mentally went over the presentation I would be giving to the Phoenix, Arizona, Chamber of Commerce the following day. I kind of sensed he was still irritated. Maybe I should have been more on my guard, because one thing I know about me: the kind of man I like is the kind that looks very handsome—full lips, preferably—and kind of irritated. That does it for me.

AND THAT IS why I wrote the guide you are reading. Because I wound up with this guy, a doctor, for a husband, living the domestic life in Phoenix. His license plate says IMADOC, and he finally gave in, so so does mine.

And the reason I wrote this guide is, I have had to adjust to having kids—his, of course! — that he had with his ex. And all they know how to say is “Hey, cool!” at everything, but more about that later.

Todd told me when we got married that he felt a very deep commitment to these kids, a very deep one. Sometimes they call him and he’ll talk over their problems in a mushy voice. When I hear that, I say, “Hey, buddy boy, you’ve got to let them go sometime.” But sure enough, every Christmas they come over.

And this is where the guide comes in: it’s difficult, but whatever they do, don’t say anything in front of their father.

One time his kids and I teased Todd about his hair.

“Don’t blow-dry it anymore. That’s out.”

The man would not budge. He feels that his hair is like Steve Lawrence’s and he should treat it the same.

But that was an exception. Normally, don’t say anything openly while they’re there, or you run the risk of some kind of family dynamics that even you may not understand. And you never know when you’re going to trigger a family memory, even if it is an unpleasant one, which you may do by coming out to breakfast in rollers and fluffy rayon slippers. Then of course you may have them ganging up on you. For reasons only God knows. So don’t try.

Last Christmas his daughter broke a large memento of Steuben crystal, “accidentally on purpose,” as she admitted when I confronted her in private. Todd said he would replace it, but I just bit my tongue. How could I explain that you can’t replace it? I had that piece since 1978. Well, all of us have had these kinds of things happen. As long as Todd and I are still happy—still with the license plates, still with the blow-dryer . . . but I guess it’s not the end of the world.

Family Issues

1. Who is old enough to go on vacations?

In my case, my husband, Todd, believes ten years old is old enough for an adult vacation. Apparently, he feels that nothing is more romantic than stopping off every minute at the VIP Youth Program at the hotel, “just to see what’s going down with the kids,”

One time — and I should have foreseen this—some kind of astrologer was giving readings to the kids. Todd had to sit down and hear every kid’s fortune told so that afterward he could ask them whether it was accurate. Like, he would take an eight-year-old boy aside and say to him, “So, Jason, do you feel you really will be the type who has to be his own boss, even though it may mean less financial security at the start?”

It’s the way Todd is. He wouldn’t budge until they were all sent to bed and they turned the lights off in the tent. He just wanted to find out if there was anything in it. Meanwhile, there I was in a Galanos dress, my satin high heels (emerald color), sinking in the lawn. And our friends, a very nice couple, sat politely waiting at a table for four.

2. Two careers? Who pays for the new sneakers?

I’ve always been a woman first, a media consultant second. After all, it’s only natural. And yet, a few years after my marriage I resumed my career.

This brings up the question: Am I (or you) responsible financially for keeping his kids in the latest fashions—be it school notebooks or Adidas shoes? Or the two pounds of bologna consumed in one weekend that you bought?

3. When your husband is confronted by temptation at his job.

If you are married to a wealthy man, he will be confronted by temptations, I don’t care if he’s a movie actor or a junk hauler. But if the guy is a doctor—forget it. There are plenty of good excuses for women to cry and throw themselves at his big tremendous chest, and this can give the stepchildren a means of irritating you. Just once Todd’s daughter tried stirring up something about this. She was spending the weekend, and that weekend she spent crying in her room. Sure enough, she told me when I went in, she thought her father had a new girlfriend. I just laughed, because personally I am not worried.

“I’m so scared he’ll get divorced again, Lois!” she screams.

My advice in situations like this: Don’t rise to the bait.

4. Finally, aging: What is it?

Life has plenty of problems in it, but all of them can be helped by looking younger. True, men don’t think about it that much—let’s face it, there is always some girl around the corner. But the last thing you want to do is let stepkids ruin your looks.

I personally made a decision never to try to take their mother’s place. For one thing, I haven’t got the figure for it and never will, God willing! But seriously, it is a real dead end. God knows where you wind up. Probably like her, in the divorce court.

It’s like Todd has said so many times, and I think he’s right: one of these days they’ll have lives of their own, they’ll be all wrapped up in their own spouses or live-ins, et cetera. So relax! □