Whatever happened to sticking it out? That's what most people did in the 20th
century, if they found themselves less than happily married. Preppy couples were
discreet, especially if there were children involved. One party might stray; the
other might be stoically stuck in place, or -- after an appropriate time -- move to
Florida where golfing with friends becomes the order of the day. Or Baxter, after
an extended thoughtful period marked by a companionable wife and three children,
realizes that he would prefer to spend the second half of his life as , say, a decorator,
in Savannah, perhaps -- a shock that his wife Betsy withstands with tight-lipped
In the social maelstrom of the 21st century, this behavior no longer exists.
I write about divorce between preppies in my new book True Prep, because divorce
is a fact of modern life. Perhaps it is an outgrowth of the short attention spans
that seem to addle all of us. In 1980, when I wrote the Preppy Handbook, the
word "divorce" was still stigmatized, sometimes even said in a whisper along with
such secrets as "bankruptcy," or "safety school." There used to be boundaries of
good taste and habit. Oh, how we miss them.
In the 20th century, you wouldn't find preppies having children out of wedlock
(Grandmother wouldn't write the little bastards into her will), having open
marriages (that's NOKD), or entering into civil unions. Today it's all different, with
one exception: our private lives are private, or ought to be. Tough in a world that's
lived in the public domain of the Interwhatsit.
SO, if you, Houghton, have been naughty, or you, Esme, have been preoccupied,
there may be consequences to your actions or inactions. You may have noticed that
other couples vacation together. You may have noticed that other husbands do not
password protect their thingies. You may have noticed that other wives wear only
jewelry given them by their husbands, for example, their wedding rings. Matters
may have unraveled between you without anyone's noticing.
Rules to Live By (Preppies adore rules)
- Don't complain about Houghton in public. That's unattractive. It makes you look
like the bad prep in the equation.
- Don't complain about Houghton at the club. Especially if it's his membership. (You
may complain to a friend in the club parking lot. That's considered off-premises.)
- Don't complain about Houghton to your children. (Rule can be waived if Houghton
is not their father.)
- Please remember that although you are simmering with righteous anger now, you
very well might remarry him somewhere down the road. (He still has his hair and
can still make you laugh.)
- Don't ever degrade Esme to your friends. That's not gentlemanly. You are a
gentleman, above all. And, sorry to speak so forcefully, it is Not Nice.
- Don't badmouth Esme to your friend Mal. (He always had the hots for her, and
might well take her off your hands.)
- Don't bring Angela (your sexy new ... um... friend) to any social events within 15
miles of Esme's suburban idyll. You may have paid for it, but it's Esme's domain
- If there is -- say, overlap -- make sure Angela's hair isn't too large. Also, do not allow
her to wear the Herve Leger "bandage dress" you bought her in front of the children.
- Do not introduce any woman on your arm as "my future ex-wife." Eeew. (It is
neither original nor amusing.)
- No Divorce Parties. (We love to drink, to celebrate, and to drink, but even we draw
the line here.)