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The Preppy Divorce

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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

resignation.

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

    now.

  • 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.)