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How to Pick the Wrong Guy
by Wanda Pearson

Well, what choice do you have? I mean, you don't really have a choice. If I could not have a job and earn a living, I'd be stuck with the rotten husband. I was blessed though because, remember: I always had a way to make money. I always tell the young ones, make sure you get a decent education so you can support not only yourself, but your kids. ‘Cause sometimes things happen - divorce, death, disabled husband. You gotta be able to support not only yourself, but your kids.

Chapter 5: First Marriage to Mike*/Residency at Northwestern


In medical school, that's where I met the husband that was the father of the two girls. Um, so finally like we got an apartment, and that apartment was memorable because it was walking distance. He had a car, but I didn’t have a car, so I wanted to walk to school, which I did. So it was like two blocks from the medical school and the hospital so I could walk to the hospital.


But it had roaches in the walls. And so we would come home from being out in the evening and if you flipped on the light real quick, all the roaches were all over the counter. If you flipped on the light, they would go away, but they weren’t really gone. So all food had to be in Tupperware or in the refrigerator. Nothing could be left out. No food could be left out. It was quite an experience.


So we lived in that apartment. I lived in that apartment and then he moved in. I had a studio and then he had an apartment in Oak Park somewhere or somewhere like that, but he said he didn't have much heat, so he basically was staying with me a lot of the time. He was a postdoc. That's how I met him - at the UofI in the cafeteria. But he had an apartment he said that wasn't good, so he kind of stayed with me a lot and then finally moved in.


So he moved in and then I said, “Well, if there're going to be two of US living together, we need a bigger place.” I just wanted to move in the same building. Why I wanted to stay in that building, I don’t know, but it was convenient. So I wanted to move to a bigger apartment, a one bedroom apartment in the same building, and he didn't want to do it and he didn't want to do it. And finally I said, “Well, if you are not going to move with me to a bigger apartment and make me live in this tiny little apartment, I'm going to break up with you.”


Then he reluctantly agreed to move into a bigger apartment. Okay, that's warning sign number one: You have to twist their arm to get them to do something.


So then we're living in a bigger apartment. It was a small one bedroom, but we lived there and we lived there and we lived there, and finally I said, “You know, if we're gonna live together like this, we have to get married. We can’t just live together like this forever. We have to get married.” And he hemmed and hawed about that. And finally, I said, "Then I'm gonna break up with you," and he said, “Okay, we’ll get married.”


Okay, that's warning sign number two: you gotta to twist their arm to get married. I think before that I was having some doubts about it anyway, ‘cause it was not going well or something. And I of course talked to my mom, because I didn't have anyone else to really talk to and I said, “You know, it's not really going well, maybe I should break up with them. It just doesn't seem like it's a good fit or whatever.” We weren’t getting along that well, fighting or whatever, and you know what she said?


She said, “You know all, all men – they're all about the same, so you might as well keep this one.” Bad advice. That's what she said. She said, “You know, there are about the same. They're all equally bad. They all have things wrong with them. You might as well just keep this one.”


So I kept that one, but that one I had to twist his arm to marry me. So we got married and then we're married for a while in this one-bedroom apartment. We had some nice times. We went to Europe. My mom paid for us to both go to Europe for a couple of weeks before I started my residency. But we had a fight by the Eiffel Tower, and I said - and I started walking away from him saying, “I don't want to deal with you anymore.” And then I realized I was in a foreign country. I didn't speak the language and I had no idea where it was. So then I came back. But we still had a nice trip.


Then I was going to start my residency and we're still living in the campus apartment. My residency was at Northwestern. I was driving there from the campus apartment by UofI to Northwestern. We had another car by then. We parked the cars on the street and then a medical student got beaten to death with bricks in that neighborhood. It was in the days when that wasn't a very good neighborhood. So a medical student walking got beaten up with bricks to death. And then another medical student got raped in the parking lot of the same apartment building we were living in. And so, so then I thought, “You know, we should move.” Plus the roaches, remember the roaches?


So here is twisting your arm number three: “You know, Mike, we should move to a better place because I'm a resident, I'm now earning money, and this is not a good neighborhood.”


He didn't want to move. He didn't want to move.


So finally twist his arm, “Well I'm leaving you if you're not gonna move.”


So he said, “Okay, I’ll move.”


Three times twisting his arm: move to a bigger apartment, get married, move to that house. You have to twist his arm. Never marry a guy that you have to twist their arm to do everything that they got to do.


So then he wanted to move to Berwyn. Reasonable transportation, can get on highways from there. Relatively cheap to buy a house. And I didn't care; I just wanted to get out of that apartment. So I'm like, “Fine, we’ll move to Berwyn.”


Well, we got a realtor and the realtor showed us a huge number of houses, and nothing ever suited him. We looked at a ton of houses every spare minute, which was not a lot of spare minutes, ‘cause I was a resident, remember. But as soon as I get out of work, we would go rush to look at houses. Nothing was ever good enough for him. So finally, tired of looking at houses, many, many weeks of spending, looking at more and more houses, I said - when we saw one that I liked for the most part - I said, “I think we should get this one.”


And he's like, “Nah, I don't want to get this one.” Again, twist your arm.


“If you don't get this house, I'm tired of looking at houses. I don't have time to look at houses. This is a perfectly good house. If you're not going to get this one, I'm leaving you.”


We bought the house. Twist your arm number four. Never get a guy that you gotta twist the arm. But I just couldn’t look at anymore houses, so we moved into that house.


I must tell you that house was a hundred years old. They wouldn't let us get an inspection. They said, “Instead we're going to give you a home warranty that would cover if anything broke.” So we got the home warranty, but that didn't turn out to be such a good deal because if you needed something and things did break and you needed it repaired, you had to go through the home warranty and they took forever and a day and they picked the wrong people.


So that wasn't so good. After a year of the home warranty, we didn't renew that. But so many things were wrong with that house that I learned about fixing houses. It needed a new roof. It had three layers. So it was a tear off and there was like the steepest roof you've ever seen. It looked like a church and so no roofer wanted to touch it because they would need a scaffold and all that. Finally, it was, for being not that big of a house, very expensive roof. But I got somebody to do the roof. The chimney, went through this giant attic on an angle and was about ready to fall through the house and we had to hire someone to prop it up, so it would not fall through the house. The roof had leaked. So we had the repairs of plaster walls and ceiling.


It was a very pretty house, don’t get me wrong. Beautiful wood oak stairs going upstairs. It had steam heat, old fashioned radiators. It was very warm, but they clanked. It was just loud, very loud banging. Then we went on vacation in the December at Christmas, right before Christmas. It was before we had kids. And it was a steam boiler and one of the radiators leaked. So all this steam leaked out - the water leaked out of the system. The boiler ran out of water because it all leaked out, and then the boiler had an automatic shut off so it wouldn't explode. So the boiler shut off in the middle of December.


The whole house froze. Every pipe. We came back from vacation. There was a layer of ice on the toilet and every pipe was frozen. That was like the day before Christmas. So Christmas day, we had water – well I was stupid. We filled up the boiler with water and turned on the heat and then of course everything leaked, which is not the thing to do if your pipes freeze. Do not unfreeze them. But I did not know that. So everything, all the pipes leaked, and we had three plumbers working on our house on Christmas Day. But they fixed it all, and I think the insurance covered and you know, it was okay. We went to some place - I think it was like salvage one or something - and bought a really old, very cool looking radiator and replaced the radiator that leaked.

Chapter 6: Daughters are Born


Jacqueline and Julia were born after I was out of residency. We- we were married for quite a while before we had the kids. But my husband Mike definitely got really sort of changed after I had Jacqueline. I had Jacqueline - a little bit of a stressful time. That was our first child. I was bleeding for the first three months of that pregnancy, so we always thought where are going to have on miscarriage, but we didn't. She's obviously here.


It was our first kid and she was born premature. She was, I forget how early she was, but she was maybe like six weeks early and she was only four pounds, eight ounces. She was really little and she was a c-section, an emergency c section. That wasn't what we had planned either, you know. You go to all those childbirth classes and then - “Nope, forget that, just having a c section." Jacqueline looked like a little concentration camp victim because you know, she missed the part where you put on fat. So she didn't have any fat. If you put her head in my hand, her feet ended up at my elbow. Like that was all of her. I put her in the crib and my brother came to visit and saw her in the crib and he said, “Why would you buy such a big crib for such a small baby?”


So Mike kind of, I don't know, he got kinda mean from the minute he picked me up from the hospital. He was just in a rotten mood and it just got worse from there. I don't know. Later he told me he felt like he had no role with the baby because I was nursing the baby and a little four-pound, eight-ounce baby eats about every hour. And she was a spit up-y baby, so half of what she ate came up, so we were always like “Feed. Change. Feed. Change.” And he said, you know, and if I'm nursing the baby, then he doesn't have a role in that. That's what he finally said. So then I gave him a role. I said, "Okay, well you're going to be in charge of the baths," ‘cause I didn't really like those anyway.


I gave him all the baths and then he had a role and he did well with that, but he still was just kind of mean. I don't know if it was the pressure of - you know, I was going to work less, or I wasn't going to work for at least two months. And then I went back part time. And I don't know if it's the financial pressure of being the only breadwinner, or just this left out thing, but he got like really kind of mean.


So we had Jacqueline and she was kind of a difficult baby because preemies don’t soothe very well. So they're kind of sleep deprived and all that. So then I got kind of weird cause I hadn't slept like in a couple of months. I was up every hour because I didn't really like pump and freeze and let someone else feed the baby. She was born December 17 so there was no going outside with a four-pound eight-ounce baby in the middle of winter. So I was a little - you know. And I had no idea what to do with babies. I hadn't babysat; I didn't have any younger siblings; I’d never changed a diaper. I did not know what to do and this one was a kind of hard to soothe baby, so it was kind of a stressful time. But he was definitely, from the minute he picked me up from the hospital, just in a bad mood and in a bad mood ever since then.


Then I went back to work. We hired a babysitter. I was going to work half days, pump once at work. I was home in the morning. The babysitter would come in the afternoon. I worked maybe five hours a day and came home. So we did okay with that.


Then I wanted to have the next child because I didn't want Jacqueline to be alone. I didn't ever want to have a single child and he didn't want any more. He was like, "I don't want any more kids."


I'm like, "Well, but I do because you can't just have one." At least I thought it's not right to just have one. So finally he did sort of agree to have the second kid. And that was Julia. We sort of had trouble having Julia, but we finally got pregnant with Julia. Jacqueline was a c-section, but this is going to be a vaginal birth. I hadn't really had much of a labor because the other one was a c-section, so I really wasn't quite sure what labor was all about. But I just remember calling the doctor and saying, "You know, I'm having these contractions," and the doctor saying, “Well are you in labor?” And I'm thinking to myself, “Well you're the doctor. Aren’t you supposed to know?” But apparently I was in labor, but I wasn't quite sure because I really hadn't had a labor, so to me, it just feels like gas pains.


So she was a gas pain for quite some time at home until I realized that the gas pains were getting kind of regular, but okay. But she was term, you know, she was on time. So I just remember we go to the hospital, but on the way - it's the days when you had to have real film in the camera, and Mike's like, “We don't have any film. Can we stop at Walgreens to get film?”


I'm like, “Really? I'm in labor and you want to stop and get film? Okay.” So we stop at Walgreen’s on the way, to get film, and it's not exactly close. We live in Berwyn and we're trying to get to Northwestern, yet he wants to stop and get film. But we did, we stopped and got film, and we get to the hospital and get us all admitted and everything. You know what, I'm doing okay, managing contractions and all that labor. I'm doing okay with the pain. And then they say, “Oh yeah, you're too late to get an epidural. It's already too far along.”


Remember we stopped to get film. So that little psychological piece just threw me over the edge and then all of a sudden the pain got worse because they said that. If they probably wouldn't have said that, I probably would've been okay. But then they say you're too late for the epidural and you have to sort of do it with nothing? I'm like, "Okay, now I have pain."


We were only in the labor and delivery room, like maybe two, three hours. I think I should have gotten a reduced rate because we weren’t there very long because we had to stop for film at Walgreens. I remember them telling me, “Well you got to push.” And I'm like, “I'm not going to push because it hurts. Why would I do that? Why would I do something that hurts?”


Finally, they gave me some kind of local anesthesia at the site and then I could push and then she was born and she was okay. So there is Julia, you know? Julia was a little bit bigger, not huge. That wasn't a c-section, so I wasn't in the hospital that long. I knew a little bit more of what you do.


Again, Mike picks me up from the hospital. He got a flat tire or something on the way, was really crabby. Even the nurses looked at me like, “We're really going to send you home with that man?” Like, “Yup, you are.” He was like really angry, angry, angry, which I didn't quite understand. But anyway, we get home and he [got] angrier and angrier. Actually, he had been angry while I was pregnant too, come to think of it. I remember I was maybe seven months pregnant with Julia and I went to a divorce attorney because [Mike] was so mean and angry. I went to the divorce attorney seven months pregnant and the guy looked at me like, “Are you crazy?” I mean people do not visit their divorce attorney while they're pregnant apparently.


So he said “Gee, maybe should wait until the baby's born.” I'm like, "Okay, wait till the baby's born.” But nothing really got better. So I went back to the divorce attorney and I said, "Baby is born. Gotta get a divorce.”


So the divorce attorney tells me, “Well you know, you should really move out. Take the kids and move out. ‘Cause you know, divorce is messy and it takes a long time.” And I'm like, “I’m not moving out of my house with two little kids." I'd just had a baby, I was in no position to pack up and move, so I'm like, “No, I'm not doing that.” He's like, “Okay, suit yourself.”


You know, he warned me. I have to admit, the guy warned me and I didn't do it. I filed for divorce because [Mike] was just so mean and angry and I didn't exactly understand why. And then - I did not know this, but when you have kids, you have to live in the same house with the person you're divorcing once you file. That's why the divorce attorney was telling me to move out. But I didn't want to uproot my kids and uproot myself when I had just had a baby, so I didn't listen.  


[It took] three years to get a divorce, which I had no idea. I'd never been through that. So I didn't know it took three years. Then you have to live in the same house because apparently, at least in those days, the court did not know who was going to end up with custody of the kids, therefore nobody could leave. So three years living in the same house with a man who was angry to begin with. That's why I was divorcing him. And then he was much more angry. That was a really miserable thing, I gotta tell you.


Chapter 8: Second Marriage, Sons are Born


Things did get better. Then I met my current husband. I joined the single parent group, but that's not where I met him. I met him at work. I met him - we actually met at a psych hospital. Yeah, we met at the psychiatric hospital. It's very romantic. People sort of are afraid to ask, were we patients there or were we...  but we were working at the psychiatric hospital. We started dating and then I was living with the kids in Berwyn, but I had planned to move anyway because the school system wasn't very good. And my current husband was planning to buy a house ‘cause he was in an apartment. We ended up getting married and we bought the house together. I moved from Berwyn to Downers Grove with the kids and better schools and better house.


And then we moved to the Downers Grove house, were there maybe a couple of years, and we had my son, my oldest son, Patrick. We had trouble because by then I was older - we had trouble getting pregnant with Patrick. We were trying and trying and nothing was happening, but I was older. So, we saw a fertility specialist and we tried the artificial insemination thing and that didn't work. And we tried the fertility drugs, and that didn't work. And finally we just decided to do in vitro fertilization. At that time it was $10,000. Now it's probably 20 but we paid our $10,000 to the fertility doctor ‘cause of course insurance doesn't cover it.


Then the fertility doctor went on vacation and so did we. We went to Disney World and when I came back I was pregnant. So he gave us our money back. We thought that the kid would come out with Mickey Mouse ears. He did not look like Mickey Mouse, thank goodness. And the guy gave us our $10,000 back. He claimed it was his fertility drugs that did it. I don't know, maybe it was Disney World. All the ones that are trying to get pregnant, I always tell them to go to Disney World.


I couldn't enjoy the pregnancies with my first husband cause he was always so mean and angry, but I really enjoyed that pregnancy. We went to the lamaze class thing together and you know, it was a very nice time. I finally could enjoy being pregnant and having a baby and we got to the hospital on time with that one.


We did not stop for film. No, we did not stop for film. We got there in time for the epidural. So that was the first time I had a baby with an epidural, so that was much, much nicer. I thought, wow, I'd have like 10 kids if you could do it like this, because compared to having a kid with no, you know, nothing, having a kid with an epidural was a piece of cake.


So, so we had Patrick, nice pregnancy. And then, but then after - we had the babysitter already, the same babysitter now for many years. When we moved, she just took the train from Berwyn. She lived in Berwyn, but she took the train and we'd pick her up at the train and drop her off at the train. And so she watched Patrick. I had been working full time before I had him and I went back to work full time. But at least by then, we were good with the babysitter, so she watched, all three of them full time. And I went back to work.


I still pumped at work. I worked full time after, but I still pumped at work and the whole thing. And then we were going to try to have the second - well the second one for this husband, ‘cause he didn't have any kids. So we worked on getting pregnant. That of course didn't work again because now - I had Patrick at 40, now I'm 42 so - so that of course didn't work, but this time the artificial insemination worked and we didn't have to pay $10,000. Thank goodness. And we didn't go to Disney World, but we still got pregnant.


So then we got pregnant with Gary. We had Gary, and I was 42 years old, went back to work full time after, but still we had the same babysitter. She put up with us for a very long time. I still nursed all four kids; I nursed, you know, for over a year. Contrary to the first two babies, I enjoyed the last two much more because I had a much nicer husband, and he was much more helpful. And we had the babysitter in place. It's still hard to work full time and have four kids but, but I was just really glad that I got to enjoy the kids. I had a hard time enjoying the first two because Mike was so mean. But the second two, I really did enjoy, even though I was a little older, but you know, when it was with somebody that we love -  it works out better. And I was finally able to enjoy having babies and raising kids and all that.


So that was the most important thing. 'Cause you know, the most important part of my life is the kids. I mean I love my work, but I love the kids more.



I don't give advice about one’s love life. I always tell [my children], I don't give advice about your love life because I did a very, very bad job with my love life. I am not the one to ask. I didn’t obviously know what I was doing. Nope, they're on their own for that.


And then, you know, Julia really adores my mother. So sometimes my mother tries to give her advice about love life, and I tell Julia, “Don’t listen about love life because grandma was married three times. I mean, in the end she was married three times, two divorces, one died. She's not a good person to give love life advice.”


For about the last 10 years I have had a great relationship with my mother.  I have grown up and had come to appreciate all that she has done for me.  My mom encouraged me to continue my education, even when I wanted to quit.  She was a good role model for being a working mom and an independent woman. 


Well, what choice do you have? I mean, you don't really have a choice. If I could not have a job and earn a living, I'd be stuck with the rotten husband. I was blessed though because, remember: I always had a way to make money. I always tell the young ones, make sure you get a decent education so you can support not only yourself, but your kids. ‘Cause sometimes things happen - divorce, death, disabled husband. You gotta be able to support not only yourself, but your kids.


How to Pick the Wrong Guy: Table of Contents


Chapter 1:  Growing Up in Chicago

 In which Wanda describes growing up in Chicago in the 1960s before cell phones and computers.


Chapter 2: Junior High and High School in Oak Park

In which Wanda’s family moves out from the south side of Chicago to a near west suburb, and Wanda finds herself going to schools where the other students have known each other from kindergarten. She discovers there is no room in the established cliques for her and she feels left out.


Chapter 3: College in Champaign/Parents' Divorce

In which Wanda's parents get a divorce when Wanda is in high school and both move away from the suburb where Wanda is going to school. Wanda moves in with her boyfriend's family in order to finish high school where she started and works after school at a real estate and insurance office doing typing and filing. Wanda finishes high school, then her boyfriend moves with her when she goes to college at the University of Illinois.


Chapter 4: Medical School in Chicago/ Breakup with High School and College Boyfriend

In which Wanda's long-term boyfriend takes a large sum of money sent to Wanda for a gift, leading them to break up. Wanda moves in with a co-worker for her final year or so of college, and then successfully gets into medical school in Chicago. She lives in a dorm in the first year of medical school before securing a small apartment and meeting the man who would be her first husband.


Chapter 5: First Marriage to Mike/Residency at Northwestern

In which Wanda marries Mike and begins her residency at Northwestern. It is a time of sleep deprivation, but Wanda learned a lot. After a rash of crimes and increasing frustration with the commute, Wanda and Mike decide to buy a home in the suburbs. Their new home is 100 years old and gives them a crash course in what can go wrong in an aging home.


Chapter 6: Daughters are Born

In which Wanda persuades Mike to have children, and he becomes increasingly angry as a premature newborn and Wanda's reduced work hours change their lives. He gets angrier when Wanda gets pregnant with their second child, and he expresses his anger by becoming mean.


Chapter 7: The Divorce from Hell/Private Practice

In which Wanda files for divorce after her second daughter is born and ends up spending three years living in the same house as Mike and their daughters while the divorce proceedings take place. Her work in a private practice enables her to adjust her hours to be able to afford child care, but a custody challenge requires a separate lawyer for the children and the lengthy divorce ends up cleaning out her savings. Mike finally moves out, but Wanda has to call the police to prevent him from taking everything from the house. Wanda gets sole custody of her daughters.


Chapter 8: Second Marriage, Sons are Born

In which Wanda gets her feet back under her and meets and marries her second husband. Wanda and her new husband buy a house together in a better school district for the girls, then have two sons together. Wanda describes it as a time in which she "finally can enjoy babies and work."


Chapter 9: Owning a Business

In which Wanda buys out the owner of the private practice where she has been working since she finished her residency and expands the business. During the business expansion, Wanda experiences betrayal at the hands of employees she had worked with for over a decade and struggles with balancing being nice and honoring their previous friendship or cutting ties for the sake of the business.

About Wanda Pearson


Wanda Pearson is a psychiatrist and the mother of four. After many trials and tribulations, her life is finally back on track and she is able to see silver linings after all the hard knocks. She and her husband have been married for 20 years after she figured out how not to pick the wrong guy.


* All names have been changed to pseudonyms


Based on this story, I think Wanda Pearson is

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