I'm divorced too, and my house isn't buried in paper. And while we're at it, why am I the one who collects his portion of the tuition, then writes the check for the full amount to the school? Why isn't joint custody synonymous with joint bookkeeping? Then that feeling is followed by plain guilt. For being petty, and for being divorced from a decent human being.
Review of The Second Wives' Club () — Foreword Reviews
By all rights I should now move into how and why my marriage to my ex failed. That would be the logical narrative progression. I would tell you how difficult my ex was, how living with him became impossible. I would reveal all without compunction because he is after all, my ex. I was wounded. He was wounded. All is fair in falling out of love and the subsequent cold war. I might try for an insouciant tone, work the subtext and innuendo, but his faults would all be there.
I would present my case for leaving him — statistically, women tend to be the leavers 75 per cent of all marriages are ended by the wife while men prefer to make a marriage so unbearable that a woman has no choice but to leave; in any case, a man almost never leaves a marriage unless he's got someone to leave it for. I would demonstrate with the skill of a prosecuting attorney why the divorce was inevitable. I won't do this, however. It violates one of the few ironclad rules we Generation-Exers feel obliged to try and uphold it should be noted that we often fail : Never criticize your child's other parent in front of your child.
I could make the self-serving argument that this narrative was written for adults and has nothing in common with, say, standing in the middle of the street and shrieking at your ex that he's a heartless son of a bitch, while your child sits on the front porch waiting to be taken to soccer practice, but I don't buy it. Eight-year-old Katherine already reads the newspaper, and spends an unnerving amount of time snooping around my desk. Saying anything about her beloved Daddio would get back to her, somehow, and hurt her in a way I can't imagine, and the fact it was an act of self-expression won't matter to her.
Katherine's also decided she wants to be a judge when she grows up, and being her mother, I'm sure she would practice her sentences on me. The essayist and undertaker Thomas Lynch found this out the hard way. Like a cheap insurance policy, however, my vow of discretion regarding my own failed marriage does not cover other people's.
I'm not that well-behaved. Most exes love to dish about each other, and don't mind if you repeat what they have to say. A lot of exes are happy to have someone else spread the bad word about the one who done them wrong. I learned the degree to which ex-wives love to talk, and talk to anyone, at a divorced-women-only dinner party co-hosted by my roommate and best friend, Kiki. I also realized then that Kiki and I weren't the only women we knew with peculiar households, but part of a whole slew of exes bumbling around, trying to figure things out. Kiki and I were roommates at film school in Los Angeles in the early s.
She is my oldest friend, and my onetime role model for what I thought a personal life should be: rife with intrigue, a French farce minus the farce, one man coming in the front door while the other is scooting out the back. The Kate and Allie House was Kiki's name for the house we shared, the same house she had lived in when she'd been married to Mort.
James, who were divorced moms with kids. When we were bored Kiki and I liked to revive an old-married-couple-style argument about who was Susan St. James pretty, sexy and who was Jane Curtin funny best friend of pretty, sexy Susan St. The Kate and Allie house looks like a kid's drawing, with two rectangular window eyes on the second floor, a steep roof brow, and a porch that sags in the middle like a smiling mouth. Two huge oaks were planted in the tiny front yard by someone who failed to read the fine print; the trees dwarf the house and in the fall their orange leaves collect in three-foot-high drifts.
The first half of the week Kiki and I had our kids, Phillip, then eight, and Katherine, who'd turned three the month I moved in. They slept in bunk beds in a small room we painted a demented aqua.
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We cracked ourselves up. If we'd stomped around and said stuff like this when we were still married, we would have thought we were turning into our mothers. Now, since we were living in the Kate and Allie House, our parenting styles were showy and boisterous, ironic.
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On the nights when I cooked, I made us all eat at the dining room table, which Kiki thought was ridiculously middle class, but I insisted. During the second half of the week, it was our old roommate lifestyle. We bought red wine by the case and in the evening sat at the same wooden kitchen table we'd had in our apartment in L. The kitchen was small, high-ceilinged, covered with thick, inexpert coats of eggnog-colored paint. Kiki still had the same black-and-white portable TV that had sat on the table years before, a TV on which we had watched thousands of installments of the Today show, and the news about John Lennon's murder.
On the wall was the same plug-in wall clock that for unknown reasons, sometimes ran backwards, perfectly.
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She stood with her freckled arm reaching out through the back door, a Marlboro between her fingers. The Kate and Allie House had a serious no-smoking policy. Kiki is lanky, with pale skin, chin-length reddish-blond hair. In a past life she could have been a flapper. Mort now has to be responsible for Philly when he's there.
When we were married, Mort would agree to watch Philly. Translated, that meant he would watch a basketball game on TV and allow Philly to be in the same room with him. If Philly got hungry, or started emptying the bookcases and eating pages of a book, which is something he did, Mort would yell for me to come get him. Some child care, huh? I get no alimony and no child support, and Mort and I get along just fine.
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Except when he does something so stupid I want to kill him, like putting an ad in the paper for Valentine's Day. Did you see this ad?
It says, "Kiki! Drop everything and have dinner with your men! Normally you'd think, "Ah, that's sweet. It's manipulative. And then I have to disappoint Philly, because of course he's in on the joke.
These celebs should have thought twice before walking down the aisle.
Divorce isn't the end of the bullshit, it's just the end of the marriage. All it means is that you stop fighting in the kitchen and start fighting over the phone. Most of the time, you haven't been sleeping together anyway. Kiki dubbed the divorced-women-only dinner the Mae West Dinner Party. She's worked for a long time in marketing and public relations, and finds comfort in high concepts, and in naming things that don't normally have names.
Married women have secrets. A better use of the veil at the wedding ceremony would be to have it lowered after the exchange of vows, so when the bride walks back down the aisle, she's covered up and no one can see the expression on her face. Now that she is on the arm of the groom, she will become more inscrutable to the outside world. Next to the lengths to which she has gone to make herself look great in a swimsuit, the biggest secret a woman has is the nature of her marriage.
These aren't necessarily dastardly secrets. Sometimes they're silly. Sometimes it's what she puts up with, the flaws of her mate that the rest of the world doesn't know, her husband's dumb tics, his eccentricities. Sometimes they're big secrets that, if revealed, might color the way the world views the wife; sometimes they're secrets of no real consequence that would merely embarrass her husband.
But while one is married to the husband, while one is still in love with him, one doesn't want the world to know that he obsesses about his nose hair, or is deathly afraid of the water bugs that show up once in a while in the kitchen. An ex-wife, on the other hand, has no obligation to keep the secrets of the marriage. Just the fact of the divorce is letting out a big secret: The marriage didn't work. She is free to tell all. And she will. Forget all those self-help books, seminars, and industrial-strength wedding vows people are taking these days in Louisiana.
If you don't want your husband to leave, tell him you'll tell everyone you know everything you know about him. And tell him you know more about him than he thinks you do. That'll make him think twice. The party was held at a tiny lavender shake-shingled bungalow in a part of town with used-mattress stores, food co-ops with the original psychedelic signs, and a Starbucks tucked in to show that while funky, the neighborhood was still desirable.
Esther, the hostess, is fifty and has been married and divorced twice. She's a dancer modern, not exotic and has such flair that she can hang a T-shirt on the wall and call it art. Esther smokes and doesn't care. She still wears Levi's s, size I don't think I know anyone older than twenty-two whose waist number is smaller than their length number. If there is such a creature, she is sure to be an ex. Which, for the record, did not make me happier, but made me feel as if I was perched on a ledge somewhere, waiting for the fire rescue squad to show up.
I was thin because I was tense. As was everyone else at the party. We drank Spanish red wine and gobbled young Brie cheese, not the collapsed, odoriferous type that signals French cheese, but the Costco version that looks like something Katherine played with in her toy kitchen. The only woman I knew there was my roommate Kiki; the others were graphic artists, managers of nonprofit organizations, florists, a framer pictures, not houses , an attorney, the tiny blue-jeaned dancer, Esther.
We were between thirty and fifty, had attractive red rinses in our hair, enjoyed pedicures and facials now and then, had seen the capitals of Europe during the low season, flossed. We knew our astrological signs and more about our signs' personalities than we'd ever admit.