This morning, as I'm brushing Mae's hair during our mad morning dash, I hear the front door click shut, followed by the roar of Yossi's truck backing up the driveway. This is the third morning in the row that he has left the house without saying good-bye.
I tug at another knot -- "Ouch, Mommy!" -- and try to remind myself that he isn't trying to be mean-spirited. He's probably on his way to a construction site, and he has a million details on his mind, like picking up a building permit and measuring the size of the new deck. Also, like many Israelis, he can be abrupt; maybe it's a cultural thing. Or maybe he simply forgot to say, "Bye, honey."
I'm trying really hard to let this go. One-two-three-four ... I'm counting to ten because sometimes that works. Sometimes, but not today, because it's not like I haven't brought this up before, as in: "Sweetie, I'd really appreciate it if you gave me a little loving before you go out the door in the morning."
"I'm sorry, I forgot," he said.
He forgot. But I want to be remembered.
When I glance up in the mirror, my eyes are filled with tears. I quickly brush them away so Mae won't see.
Yossi and I have been living together for just three months, and something is wrong. Last night during my weekly dinner with my single mom friends and our daughters -- otherwise known as "Girls' Night" -- I tried to talk about it, whispering as the girls played in the other room.
"I can't put my finger on it," I said, "but I just feel, I don't know, unfulfilled."
Siobhan sighed. "I'll put my finger on it for you," she said. "You deserve to be adored."
Arden nodded her head. "Yes, adored."
When I first met Yossi in 2006, these friends -- in addition to my family -- were my cheerleaders. Last summer, when I announced I was moving in with him, my Mom and Dad beamed. My friends, on the other hand, were more cautious.
They were having doubts, they told me. He didn't seem to cherish me as I cherished him. When I woke up every morning, my eyes smiled at him, and I reached up to trace the stubble on this chin. He, on the other hand, moaned and dragged himself out of bed. "What I would do not to have to work," he said, tugging on his jeans and patting the dog on her head.
My girlfriends pointed out that I bent over backwards for him -- cooking dinner for him every night after work, scrambling for childcare on weekends so we could get some grown-up time -- as he sat back, a casual observer.
"Where's his passion?" my friends wanted to know.
"I really love him," I said.
"We know," my friends said, but neither of them was smiling.
They were also concerned about the fact that at age 44, Yossi had never lived with a woman before, let alone been married, or had a relationship that had lasted for more than a year.
Instead of feeling wary, however, I was amused and excited. I felt as if I'd "caught" the last-standing Bachelor. Lucky me!
And what did I do with my friends' advice? Hurt by their lack of enthusiasm, I ignored it.
By the time I drop Mae off for school this morning, I'm all worked up. Before we shacked up together -- when Yossi was staying in my apartment for six months as he remodeled his house -- he was gushing with affection for me. He never walked out my front door without embracing me, without planting a kiss on my lips. Now it's as if he doesn't see me.
I dial his cell phone.
"The least you could've done was said good-bye this morning," I attack him. (Note to self: attacking the one you love is not a good idea.)
"Good-bye," he says, trying to be funny. "I said it."
"C'mon, I mean it!"
"I'm holding a beam above my head," he says. "I have to go back to work."
I wish this didn't bother me so much. But I feel like I'm his roommate who splits the bills, not his girlfriend. I try counting to ten again ... One, two, three, four ... I remind myself how good Yossi is with the Kid and the Dog. Every night, he carries Mae into bed and sings to her in Hebrew. Then he watches TV on the sofa, with the dog in his lap, petting her until they both fall asleep.
But what about me?
When Yossi comes home, I'm sulking with my head buried in a book, curled up in Mae's bed.
"I'm sorry," Yossi says.
"I'm not good enough for you," he says.
"That's not true." I lift my head and look him in the eyes.
He smiles with his lips.
I keep telling myself that we're going through a rough patch: moving in together is a big transition. I push my friends' worries to the back of my mind, wondering if I might regret this later. I scold myself for being so whiny. It will get better. It must get better. But I also know that the success rates for cohabitation are dismal: only four out of every 10 cohabiting couples with a child present will get married. Those who do marry experience a 50% higher divorce rate, according to The State of Our Unions 2005, The Social Health of Marriage in America.
Still, here I am, a cheerleader waving her pom-poms, Hey, hey, go, love, win! Hey, hey 'til the end! I might be all alone on the field, but I've taken the leap of love, with my skirt flying up.