From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

The Other Woman

In the oddest way, though hardly in the traditional way, she was “the other woman,” the dangerous mistress/ seductress/threat/rival. She was accomplished, bright, sensible, sensitive and altogether charming.

So why did I so automatically and reflexively resent her the moment I heard about her? Why did I mind terribly that she was all those things . . . and unspeakably thin, to boot?

I minded because Ruthi was to be our youngest daughter Nancy’s “other mother,” the mother she was inheriting through her marriage to Ruthi’s son Michael.

And as wonderful as that was—as thrilled as we were that Nancy had found a man who truly made her feel whole and special and loved—there were still early anxieties.

The most terrifying change: Nancy would no longer be connected to just one mother. Ruthi—the other woman—would share our beloved Nancy with her father and me for the rest of our lives. And that notion definitely took my breath away, along with some of my confidence.

“So . . . what is Michael’s mother like?” I had asked Nancy with studied nonchalance when they first met.

“Oh, she’s great!” Nancy had responded without missing a beat. “You’ll love her!”


Later: “So . . . what does Ruthi do?”

The mere mention of her high-powered glamour job that carried with it the title of president made me weak with insecurity.

Still later: “So . . . what does Ruthi look like?”

Okay, so I regard myself as an enlightened woman who knows that appearance is superficial, that the book must not be judged by its cover. But you can bet I still winced when Nancy went into a glowing description of Ruthi’s perfect coif, her megawatt smile, her luminous skin. And it did bother me a bit that Nancy’s future mother-in-law has trouble fitting into anything larger than a size four. . . .

Over the months, now years, that followed, Ruthi and I have had our own “courtship.” Initially reserved, even timid, with one another, we have moved through the awkward phase of blind date/first meeting, that exploratory stage of getting a read on one another. And in our case, we have reached the gloriously triumphant stage of discovering that, yes, we do share values and many of the same ideas about what makes life meaningful and rich.

I gained a new and very dear friend in the very woman I saw as such a terrible threat. I have a pal, a confidante, a buddy in the generational alignment, one who understands why I am so madly in love with our mutual grandchildren— three adorable, fierce little boys who have, of course, drawn our families even closer.

I’ve long since gotten past the tricky moments that came in a pummeling stream early in this “marriage” between two women.

No longer do I pout when Nancy decides that Ruthi’s recipe for lemon-baked chicken has mine beat by a mile. Years ago, that would have made me feel vaguely threatened. Would Nancy decide that Ruthi’s brownies and sour-cream coffee cake were also superior? My whole maternal culinary record had been suddenly called into question, and I never even prided myself on my cooking.

“I’m pouting over a chicken recipe,” I had told my husband, with astonishment. And we both knew in that instant that chicken recipes—or recipes for brownies or coffee cake—were really not the issue at all. The issue felt more like . . . betrayal.

Not anymore.

There are weeks when I talk to Ruthi more than I talk to my daughter. There is a new tradition of spending New Year’s Eve with one another and our respective adult children. It’s wonderful!

There is one powerful common denominator that unites Ruthi and me: We are mothers who love our children, and our new grandchildren, beyond all reason. Before we ever met one another, we shared that incredible link. We both have known the pleasure of memorizing a child’s face, of gulping in his or her first word, or standing in the silent dark and watching a son or daughter sleeping, and realizing that there is no more beautiful sight on God’s earth.

Ruthi and I remember when this son and daughter were huggable creatures who planted carrot roots in paper cups and chocolatey kisses on their mothers’ cheeks at bedtime.

So of course we had strong motivation to become friends. But too often, that motivation flags in the face of rivalries, personality clashes and who knows what else.

Ruthi and I know that even though the rabbi who united Nancy and Michael in holy matrimony did not mention uniting their mothers, a different kind of union has formed: our own.

I feel blessed that “the other woman” has become a caring friend.

I feel enormously grateful that out of this whole wide world, our children found one another.

And so did we.

Sally Friedman

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