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Several weeks ago, I sent my youngest camping with her big sister and my husband’s ex-wife and her family. I don’t (always) think my husband’s ex-wife is evil. In another universe, where I knew her from some other relationship, I could even imagine us being friendly acquaintances. My biggest fears at the time were my little one being abducted in the state campground where they were staying or being hit by a car, drowning, etc. I should have known better.

I was bathing my little daughter the other night and it was time to wash her hair, which is never her favorite activity. We soaped it up and she said that my frenemy told her, when they were washing her hair in the lake, that she looked like a hedgehog.

Because I’ve had a lot of practice with this, I bit back my real response and assured my baby girl that my frenemy was just teasing. At which point my baby said that it hurt her feelings.

Bite harder. A little slipped through because, hey, it’s the real world. My husband’s ex wears her hair, and has for years, in a spiky bob considered pro forma for the woman over 30. You know the one. So I said, “Well, I guess she would know what a hedgehog looks like.”

I know, I know. Get out the ruler and slap my wrists. I’m sure she was teasing. But her teasing and the tone she uses tends to be rather stinging. I’ve watched for years as she undermined the self esteem of our shared children. I’ll be damned if she’s going to do it to the ones we don’t share.

Sometimes I imagine us ending up in the same nursing home. Roommates even. And I fantasize about biting comments I could make about her aroma, her looks, her clothes, her visitors. Not her weight. She’ll be a stick even in the box. In my better moments I think we’ll sit around and laugh about the fights we’ve had and the little things that made us fume or write ranting blog entries. And then we’ll join hands and sing cumbaya together and the lion and the lamb will be as one and Jesus will return. I’ll be a wrinkly old balding white woman with horrible body odor and no visitors wearing calico house coats and sprouting more chin hairs than a camel and she’ll still have no wrinkles thanks to the oily skin she battled most of her life and be dressed in the latest fashion for the over 80 as she greets her supplicant visitors from her wheelchair throne. That’s how life works. Maybe I’ll have dementia by that time and won’t realize how it’s all played out. Not that I’ve spent hours fantasizing about this. Just some passing thoughts.

Until then, I’m off to show my little one the pic I found of this cute little hedgehog so that, even if she doesn’t visit me in the nursing home, she’ll go into adulthood with her sense of self intact.