Evidently I filed for divorce on my husband's birthday. Honest to God, I only found out when I read it on a gossip site under the headline, "Playboy Model Has Special Birthday Gift for Music Mogul Husband--Divorce." I kind of like my description, in spite of it being inaccurate by about thirty years and rather incomplete, it has a lot of potential, and I'm sure he's pleased with his, but I swear on Dr. Freud that the birthday thing was completely unintentional. In fact, the whole divorce thing was completely unintentional, even unimaginable to me for most of our twenty-four years of marriage.
As a child of divorce myself, I took such pains to ensure that none of our four children would ever experience the trauma my brother and I felt, so you can imagine my feelings of failure and shock. I have been divorced before, nearly thirty years ago (I was a child bride, of course) from a man I met in law school and left right before I found out I had passed the bar exam (so had he, and that did piss me off. I am capable of revenge, you see, but I stand by the accidental birthday filing story.) I had a job, he didn't. He got the car, I got my student loans. Most importantly, there were no babies involved. It wasn't until I had a baby that I realized that in my universe, marriage is an entanglement that isn't worth the paperwork unless you plan to have kids. Even weddings, which are the loss-leader for most young marriages, are almost more trouble than a party is worth. Yes, I'm a little bitter today, but my Girlfriends tell me I'm entitled to be bitter, sad, absent-minded and unreliable for a full year after filing. It is like a death, I guess, but maybe also like euthanasia.
Getting back to my best-laid plans for a successful marriage, the smartest thing I did was fall in love with a man with a job. The next smartest thing was finding a guy with parents who were still married after forty years and a sister who was married to her high school sweetheart. Having never witnessed how a marriage worked close up, I knew I'd need someone show me the steps when I got tripped up. Maybe that was part of the problem in the end; I learned his family's dances like a Broadway trooper and never had the confidence to throw in a few steps of my own, klutzy as they might be. Oh, who the hell knows? My husband had a really fun father and he, too, is a real Mr. Fun Pants dad--one more thing that made him such a good marriage choice. Now that I think about it, though, that too slightly irritates me now because I feel like the parent who is associated with root canals, SAT prep classes and napkins in laps while he is associated with Saturday lunches at great restaurants, concert tickets and all humor. Whoa! Bitterness is like gas--sometimes it just comes out of nowhere and stinks the place up! I beg your pardon.
I am grateful, too, I swear. First of all, my kids are pretty well launched and pretty fabulous. Two are in college and the other two right behind them in high school. We enjoy the rare luxury of being able to afford therapy for anyone who seems to need it, particularly me, and getting antidepressants is as commonplace as subscribing to premium cable. My husband (I guess I can still call him that for six months under California law) and I get along so well that we've been living amiably under the same roof for three months since agreeing to legally separate. Hell, we've even been sleeping in the same bed, but NO, we're not THAT amiable, if that's what you're wondering. We have a very wide bed, but both of us are looking forward to my moving out at the end of the month. I just wish he'd replace the flat screen TV in what will soon be his bedroom because the one we had just blew up and I really miss it. As I said, it's a very wide bed.
The way I see it, we had a rich and wonderful marriage for over twenty years and then we didn't. It's sort of like we outlived it. If we'd died quietly after perpetuating the species twice, there would be no question of divorce. But we lived and didn't know how to go on from there. We are products of the modern miracles of good nutrition and antibiotics. I am calling this awkward stage my Next Twenty-Seven; we met when I was twenty-seven, were together for the next twenty-seven and, well, you get the theme. It's exhilarating and engaging and scary enough to give me a pre-ulcerous stomach condition. I'm diving in to these uncharted waters, even if it often feels like a belly flop. I'll swim a few strokes and let you know how it's going.