The Saddest Music in the World is in Your Head

The Saddest Music in the World is in Your Head

My divorce became final a year ago yesterday. On December 3rd of 2015 the divorce decree arrived in the mail. Sometime in early November of last year my ex-husband phoned me and he sounded pissed. They lost our filing, he said, that’s why it’s taken so long. They have to reconstruct our July filing from the April initial filing. You mean to tell me, I asked, that we have been married for the past three months due to a clerical error? Tell me you can’t see that humour in this? The Clerk of the Court was most apologetic and a week later she phoned my ex to tell him that our filing had been reconstructed and the papers were on the judge’s desk. The week after that she phoned to say the judge was taking time off before the Thanksgiving holiday and that our filing would be signed before the month was out. It’s still on my refrigerator a year later.

My therapist asked me, since I had been thinking so much about my part in my divorce, what WAS my part in the breakup of my marriage. (In no particular order)

  • I did not love being married. I’m not sure I even liked being married.

    All of a sudden I went from making my own arrangements and looking after myself to making all of the arrangements and looking after two people and I hated it. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden it was my job to do, well, everything. I thought we were going to be a team, and we were at first, but then I became part of a unit.

  • I mourned the loss of my independence and freedom.

    I really liked being single. It’s like Tom Waits said, “Goin’ out when I want to, comin’ home when I please./ I don’t have to ask permission/If I want to go out fishin’./And I never have to ask for the keys.” Granted, I was in one of the greatest places in the US to be single-New York. Don’t get me wrong, New York can be tough. Most of my fellow grad school recruits left after the first  year. I loved it. I became a New Yorker. I found my neighbourhood. I found my family. I went to the opera and the theatre and sat in the cheap seats (Family Circle). I stood outside of Irving Plaza and listened to Sleater-Kinney. I went to the Fringe Festival and Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric theatre. I volunteered at a film festival just so I could hear Andre Gregory. I went to baseball games with my fellow librarians. I had a great life and I gave it up when I got married.

    Being a virgin, I didn’t crave sex like I do now; I didn’t know what I was missing. Even mediocre is better than none.

  • I stopped talking to him.

    This is what I do when I do not see a point. There was no point in telling my parents I was sexually assaulted because, what were they going to do? There was no point in telling them about the daily humiliations and indignities I suffered in school because there was no point. We argued about the same things time and time again. Finally I gave up, which brings me to my next point.

  • I gave up.

    Winston Churchill is credited as saying, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” Well, you know what? I did.  I gave up. I pulled up stakes and followed him around the country. I let his quest for a career overshadow my established career because I thought I could get a job anywhere. For the most part, I was right. But I was tired of the uphill battles. I was tired of asking him for a more equitable distribution of household labour only to be met with I know we fight about this a lot. I was tired of telling him he hurt my feelings only to be met with it wasn’t what I said it was how you took it. I was tired of the incessant negativity. I was tired of being told that what I felt was wrong.

  • I turned him down for sex a lot.

    I am not the type of woman who punishes a man by withholding sex, unless that is part of the consensual dynamic of your BDSM relationship-then oh! Otherwise, it’s mean and childish. Besides, why deprive myself of the pleasure. That being said, foreplay was fast and sloppy and the sex got boring. It also hurt like hell. It is hard to get excited about something that causes tearing, burning pain every time you’re engage. He knew it hurt and he tried to accommodate me, but it didn’t work. Oral sex felt great but I couldn’t move the way I needed; he’d pin down my legs. The more I fought the more he resisted. And he was always in a hurry.

    Sex became another source of mutual frustration. He wanted sex all the time. I found the sex to be wanting and I’m sure he did too. While he had no trouble initiating, it was very difficult to get him to respond. He wasn’t very vocal and he wasn’t verbal. He never told me something felt good unless I asked. If he didn’t like something he didn’t tell me what would make it better even when I asked. If I was having fun that was fine with him, except I would have had more fun if he enjoyed it too. Consequently, after 10 years of this I think I am lousy in bed and why would any man get involved with a woman who’s a lousy lover? I wanted to enjoy sex. I still want to enjoy sex, but it’s been two years and two months. It feels like I am watching a ship sail away.

  • There were times during my marriage where I was frustrated and resentful.

    One fine Saturday afternoon I found myself standing in the kitchen. Laundry was going in the washing machine. I had just finished putting groceries away. I had emptied and filled the dishwasher and set the timer to go off in four hours when the laundry would be done in the washer. The house was a mess, particularly the kitchen. My ex was nowhere insight. I am living the feminist dream, I thought. I’m doing it all. This was a typical late Saturday morning for me.

    Fed up with being in the car with him and him asking me, do you know what your problem is, I decided to minimise my alone time with him by grocery shopping alone. I would get up at 6:30, take a quick shower, and leave by 7:00 grocery list in hand. I was usually home by 9:30 or 10. Sometimes he was just getting up, at the very least he was still in his bathrobe getting himself a cup of coffee. This was typical for us. I would have been up for hours when he was just starting his day. Then he would ask why I was so tired all the time. One day he asked me to write down my schedule for the week. He was floored when he learned that between work, other commitments, and housework I was booked solid from 7am-10pm Monday-Friday, 7am-9pm on Saturdays, and from 8am-7pm on Sundays. Seeing it on paper in front of him he saw what I had been trying to tell him for years-that I never catch a break. He helped around the house for a week. Then it was back to the same routine; me doing the work alone and him asking why I was so tired all the time.

  • While we did discuss many things before we were married, we didn’t discuss everything.

    I didn’t realise that before one gets married one needs to discuss absolutely everything with one’s future life partner. We discussed children, my career, his career, my keeping my name, the things I thought were important. He wanted two children. I didn’t want children until I met him. I thought he was someone with whom I could have a child, one child. We compromised on a child and a cat. At first I proposed that I keep my job and he travel wherever his postdocs took him. I made more money and thought I would act as the anchor. His disagreed and said he thought it would be bad for us to be apart so early in our marriage. His mother followed his father around Europe with his studies and I think my ex felt I should do, or want to do, the same. I didn’t but I acquiesced. My logic was simple; with my degree and skill set I should be able to get a job anywhere and for the most part I was right. I hated it and was miserable. We both were. All in all my career didn’t take much of a hit and I have yet to encounter an interviewer who didn’t understand that I picked up stakes for my husband’s fledgling career. They don’t call it the two-body problem for nothing. We didn’t discuss housework because I didn’t think it needed to be discussed. I assumed he would help. After all, my father packed his lunches and did his own laundry. When my mother worked afternoons, he tried to make dinner. I remember one night he even tried to make cookies for us. My father is not a feminist. He was just a normal guy looking after his two little girls as best he could, afraid he would lose us like he did his son.

    Before the wedding, we had three counseling session with the Rabbi who married us. In these sessions we discussed the usual things: our attitudes about children, money, the future, building a life together. The most glaring difference was in our attitudes about money, which came as no surprise. he came from it and I did not; it was that simple. He could, and often did, go to his parents for financial assistance, especially when we were trying to have a child. His parents were willing, even though his father was reluctant. I couldn’t ask my parents as they simply didn’t have it. I look back at the cost of our wedding with guilt. Our wedding wasn’t extravagant, but now that the marriage is over that money could have gone to better things. Like many things.

    As time passed it was as though those conversations we’d had about marriage, family, the advice we received from the Rabbi about money and working together, and career never happened. He couldn’t understand why working was so important to me. In his mind, I seemed suddenly indifferent to children with each failed injection or implantation. Instead of the seven-year itch it was like seven-year amnesia, except it happened around year five. The man I met and fell in love with became the man with a boot on my neck. I don’t know how it happened but I know I let it happen.

     

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Your Next Assignment

Your Next Assignment

My therapist gave me another assignment-write another 25 shitty things your ex did during your marriage. She gives me interesting assignments like get a massage, write, stand naked in front of a mirror and rub lotion all over yourself, find a man who’s a young 60 just for the experience. As always, these are in no particular order.

  1. When I cut off my hair he greeted me at the door and said, you look like a guy i’m going to have to start fucking you from behind. I said, keep talking like that and you’re never fucking me again.
  2. He hit on our friends in front of me and then he’d deny it.
  3. He hit on strangers and told me about it afterwards.
  4. In ten years of marriage, I can’t remember him telling me I looked nice more than few times.
  5. He told me we were sexually incompatible yet wasn’t open to discussing how to make things better. He didn’t like me being on top because he “didn’t feel anything” but never made suggestions. So now I just think I’m lousy in bed and will warn any potential lovers of that fact. Oh wait, there won’t be any.
  6. At a party, he walked up to a friend of ours and said, let’s pretend we’re having an affair. She said no. I don’t know if he was ever actually unfaithful, I’m not sure I care.
  7. He told me I was silly.
  8. I don’t remember him helping around the house after I had brain surgery apart from setting me up on the sofa bed.
  9. He always chose his mother over me, something which continues to resonate as he says his new girlfriend is a lot like his mother. My mother told me a story where here my babcia (father’s mother) came to visit and found my mother ironing his boxers. My babcia told my mother that if her son wanted his boxers ironed he could do it himself. That’s what I expected from my marriage, that he would do for himself but he never did.
  10. He has continued to text me now that we are divorced and he always asks if I’m seeing someone. It feels more like a temperature check than actual concern.
  11. When my father told him he could help around the house more his response was, that’s not part of my culture.
  12. Not long after taking his second postdoc my ex told the head of the department that his study was flawed because the sample size was too small. My ex was out by the end of the year. The reason he was given was not enough money. That’s the reason he gave me. He told my mother about the discussion with the department head but he never told me. I just found out about this conversation a month ago.
  13. He stopped telling me I was sexy.
  14. No was seldom no with him and he would badger until I acquiesced. For example, he hounded me about having dinner with his new girlfriend for two months before I finally realised he was not going to stop until I joined them for dinner.
  15. When I was packing I found our ketubah in a stack of my photographs. He put it with my stuff to get it out of the house. He didn’t want single Jewish women coming over and seeing our marriage contract on the wall. He actually told me this, so I’m not making an assumption. He also said that I wouldn’t be having guys over that soon. I burned the ketubah at a party marking the first anniversary of our initial filing.
  16. He left all of the household chores to me, but didn’t give me time to complete them. He would schedule time with friends or family on the weekends which was the only time I was home. Then he’d complain that the house was a mess. The biggest ongoing arguments that we had were over the division of labour. I expected equal participation and he expected me to do it all.
  17. He picked on my father for not having a college education.
  18. He texted a mutual friend after I left for work, worried about their relationship. She reminded him that they didn’t have a relationship. When it finally sank in that she was not interested in him he sent her a long, condescending email.
  19. He stopped taking care of himself. When we agreed to divorce he was nearly 300lbs. I would come home from work and he would still be in his bathrobe, un-showered, either watching television or playing video games. Now I like big men, but there’s a limit. When we decided to split up he bought a cross-trainer and lost 100lbs.
  20. He says I hurt him as much as he hurt me, which is interesting in light of how quickly he has moved on. They met in October 2015, started seeing each other exclusively in November 2015, and she’s living with him as of September 2016. That doesn’t strike me as the behaviour of someone who has an emotional investment in a relationship. That strikes me as the behaviour of someone who moved on long ago.
  21. He wanted us to go to counseling but insisted that I find the therapist. When the therapist started calling him on his nonsense he stopped going.
  22. One night, he was driving me to a therapy appointment and he harangued me about how I wasn’t there for him, how he needed me to be there for him. When I asked what he needed me to do he said things like. I need you to be strong. I don’t need you to be depressed. He dropped me off. I loped into the therapist’s office and relayed the evening’s events to him. Do you think this marriage can be saved, he asked? I’m beginning to think not, I replied.
  23. He started dating while we were still legally married.
  24.  He asked to use my AAA membership so he could get a tow to a tire store-after the divorce became final
  25. He told me if I did not find a place to live by october 2015 he was going to charge me rent. Then asked what I thought was fair.
  26. I began to fear him.

It’s very easy to look at this list, and the previous list, and say that’s it? That’s all he did? Well, he didn’t cheat on you (that you know of). He didn’t hit you? These seem like petty grievances. Couldn’t you patch things up? Did you try to reconcile, give each other a second chance? The short answer is no. There was no fix to our marriage. If anything we limped along for too long.

There were several factors in my decision to leave. The first was that I did not want to go through the emotional wringer of trying to have a child with him again. With each implantation and subsequent failure his mood swings became more extreme. His job situation was precarious at best. Unable to get a faculty position, he has been working from grant-to-grant for the past few years. I like being the breadwinner, don’t get me wrong, but it does take two incomes. I couldn’t take the uncertainty. His behaviour has become stranger and more erratic. He would be driving and all of a sudden he would shudder in his seat. We would be walking and suddenly he would speed up and his arm would flail over his head. He would have these strange spasms when he sat in a chair or on the couch. He got more rigid, more feral. It was all very, very strange.

I felt less safe around him. When asked if I was ever worried if he would hit me, I said no. I was worried he would rape me. His sex drive was formidable and he’d stopped seeing me as a person long ago. He saw me as a person once, then as a potential breeder. When I couldn’t have children, I was of no use. I was no longer valid. I was no longer a she, more of an it. Much the same way he saw porn actresses he saw on the internet. He told me they are not people to him, just things. I watched myself become a thing. He’d behaved inappropriately towards me before-pinching my nipples in the kitchen slapping me on the ass at my friends’ house. Then I remembered a night not long after we were married. I was asleep. He came into the bedroom, got into bed, lay on top of me and started kissing me and hiking up my nightgown. I awoke with a 260lb man on top of me. I told him no and he stopped, fortunately, but I’m not sure he was all that interested in my consent that night. Maybe he thought he was being passionate. When I asked him about it later he said he’d been watching porn and wanted to have sex with me. I said, next time wake me up first. It’s moments like these that make me think I will never have sex again. That my need for control is such that I will never allow a man to be in charge. That I will never allow for moments of passion like these. Then I think, no, I just like to be awake during sex.

She’s Leaving Home

She’s Leaving Home

“Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free.” – “She’s Leaving Home” John Lennon & Paul McCartney

The other day my mother asked if my ex ever hit me. No, I replied. We wondered, she continued. His temper had gotten so bad, we thought he might… It hearkened back to another conversation we had where she asked why I hadn’t left sooner. Other people asked me why I hadn’t left sooner but it wasn’t until Sunday night that I really had a chance to think about it. The simple part of the answer was run where?

When we were out West I could have, in theory, gone to my parents, but there were several problems. First, how was I supposed to get there? I’d been out of work for a long period of time and had no money. How was I supposed to get myself, and later a cat, across state lines? Then I would have had to go back and do all of those administrative things: remove him from my bank account, get my cell phone number back, find health insurance. Second, if I had been unable to get work where my parents lived, which was a real possibility, I would have gone into bankruptcy trying to get work. Finally, I hadn’t been asked. When things got bad between my sister and her first husband, my father took her aside and told her to come home. In my case, no such conversation occurred. When his third postdoc brought us back east my situation was less precarious. I got a job within three months of arriving and I knew my sister and brother-in-law would take us in if I needed to run. Having been in that situation herself, she told me that they always had a bedroom for me. I would have been out in the country, safe but isolated. I bided my time and then I left.

The other reason why I stayed is more complex. What I didn’t tell my mother was that I stayed because it was what I knew. I had become inured to his psychological and emotional abuse because it was similar to the psychological and emotional abuse I’d suffered at the hands of my parents. And much like when I was a child, I kept thinking that if I did everything right things would change. The fault in my childlike logic was that of all his problems, I could only try and fix one-the baby. I did my best with as many of our shared problems as I could and things did change. His temper got worse, the physical tics were more dramatic. His regard for me nearly vanished in private. In public it was all about saving face, something all too familiar to me. His disapproval was palpable, the criticism constant. Nothing I did was right. He set me up for failure. I was the convenient target for his random outbursts. Then he would say that I shouldn’t let his depression affect me. The kindnesses he extended became more the carrot for the stick than genuine affection.

The other night I had dinner with friends. One of them, in particular, asked me the tough questions I know he’s been meaning to ask for a long time. Did my upbringing, particularly the strict gender roles in the culture in which I was raised, influence my decision to stay for as long as I did? Was he ever physically violent? Were you ever afraid of him? How long was he on his best behaviour with you? Do you think the cause of the change is organic? Do you really think you can be friends? Does he know what friendship is? So I asked him some in return.Is someone who admits to being ’emotionally unavailable’ capable of love? When he posted the article on ’emotional infidelity’ on Facebook what he admitting something about himself or was he accusing me of something? I didn’t tell him that while we were still married my ex was texting a friend about their relationship-a relationship they didn’t have.

I know I’m not blameless. I withdrew emotionally and physically from him long before we actually separated. What I know now, however, is that I wasn’t emotionally unfaithful. He was.

Your Assignment for Today

Your Assignment for Today

I was given an assignment. List 25 shitty things your ex did. Is it keeping score if I’m at 41?

  1. When we were in the car he’d start conversations with, You know what your problem is? Finally, I got so fed up I replied, I’m sure I’m going to find out.
  2. When we first signed on with our chosen fertility clinic, I was reading the contract. As I did so he said if I didn’t sign we would have to reevaluate our relationship because we clearly didn’t share the same values.
  3. He flipped me off-to my face. Now I know many people flip their spouses off behind their backs, but in what regard do you hold your spouse when you flip her off to her face. I’ll tell you. None.
  4. He told me that if we had a child that he fully expected to leave me and raise him or her alone.
  5. He always took the last of something-milk, bread, cereal, toilet paper-and left replacing it to me.
  6. If something he said hurt me it wasn’t what he said, it was how I took it.
  7. My feelings were wrong.
  8. He made a point of telling me we were sexually incompatible.
  9. His temper got so bad I had to physically remove him from two social events that I can recall.
  10. His job required frequent trips out of town. I would pick him up if his flight didn’t get in too late, but if he had a late flight he took a cab home. The particular instance, his flight was getting in around 10 and he was flying into snow. Snow is a big deal here because they don’t have the means to clean the streets adequately. We made an agreement I would pick him up unless I was too tired, in which case he would take a cab. Sure enough, I fell asleep and woke with a start about 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave. I left a voice mail message for him telling him I was really tired and to take a cab home. I also told him that if there weren’t any cabs to give me a call and we would figure something out.He phoned shortly after he landed and said, what the hell kind of message is that. I said it was what we agreed to; I was tired and asked him to get a cab home. If there weren’t any cabs to let me know. He demanded to know how I knew there weren’t going to be any cabs. Huh? I thought. I told him I didn’t but these things do happen. In the end we agreed that I would pick him up at the train station. The car is not great on snow and by the time I got in the car the snow was still falling at a decent clip, there was about 3 inches on the ground and none of the streets had been cleared or sanded.When I arrived, he was waiting; he didn’t tell me for how long. He insisted on driving home. For the next hour he berated me on the following (in no particular order):
    * Knowing there wouldn’t be cabs at the airport.
    * The tone and content of my voicemail message.
    * Driving in inclement weather with my bad night vision in a car that is not good on snow.
    * Not letting him get a hotel room.
    * Having become totally unreliable. I was now someone who could not be trusted with routine tasks.The following morning the scolding continued followed by the silent treatment. I was in trouble for picking him up just as I would have been in trouble for not picking him up. I found myself in this double-bind many times over the course of our marriage.
  11. When my insomnia began affecting his quality of life he suggested that I sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom, so I did. No small part of my insomnia was sleeping with a man who snored. We argued about it several months later when he told me he made the suggestion so that I would “fight for our marriage”. Fight for our marriage? You kicked me out of our bed. His response was, Yeah. Guess I misplayed that one.
  12. He stopped holding my hand.
  13. I can count the number of time he apologized, over 14 years, on one hand.
  14. After we separated I was still living in the house. It was still my house, after all, he had yet to buy it off me. One day, I was in the kitchen he pinched my nipples. I slapped his hands away and told him he had no right to do that. I was no longer his wife and not his girlfriend and he was to never do that again.
  15. At a party at a friend’s house I was dishing lamb into a serving dish when he walked by and swatted me on the ass. As I had meat in one hand and a stoneware serving dish in the other, I couldn’t slap him or knee him in the balls. I yelled at him. Asked him if he’d lost his mind. Told him he had no right. Admonished him that this was the second time.
  16. One evening we were having dinner with a friend when the novel Death in Venice came up. My ex had not read Death in Venice, but our friend had. Specifically, the idea that someone can be so beautiful and yet you can desire him or her in a nonsexual way. In the book that desire to posses beauty ultimately leads to the protagonist’s undoing. Our friend asked my ex if he had ever looked at a beautiful woman and not wanted to fuck her? My ex said no. Our friend’s response was, the you’re a pig.
  17. He’d leave porn open on his laptop. His laptop was also open.
  18. If we went out he would drink and I would invariably drive home. Most of the drive home he would question my ability to see and criticise my driving. Finally I said to him, if I get pulled over I get a warning. If you get pulled over you go to jail for DWI/DUI/DWAI. Take your pick.
  19. One evening I came home from work and he was in a particularly bad mood. I asked him what was wrong and he said he was hungry. I asked him why he didn’t get have dinner? He said he wanted to have dinner with me, which I thought was very nice. I suggested he have a snack then we can have dinner together when I get home. He responded with we need to talk and then proceeded to tell me how my job was affecting our marriage. I told him that my job allowed us to live in this apartment, allowed him to see his specialists in New York, and allowed us to take a vacation. I was not quitting my job. He got up and left.
  20. He pitted me against my family.
  21. He called my memory into question constantly.
  22. We used to split holiday time between our families. As time went on we spent more holidays with his family and fewer with mine.
  23. He treated me like an invalid whose judgment could not be trusted.
  24. When I went to his house to get the last of my stuff, I found a used pregnancy test in the garbage.
  25. He left ahead of me to spend Thanksgiving with his parents, forgetting by birthday. Now forgetting once I can understand, but he did this three years in a row.

Writing this list I saw patterns emerge. He tried to separate me from my family. My relationship with my family is complicated. My mother is mentally ill and my father has his own unique set of issues. But his family is little better. His father is a verbally abusive tyrant and his mother is an enabler. Then there was the relentless negativity. He would point out a problem, I offer solution(s)/suggestion(s), he dismisses suggestion(s) out of hand. This happened countless times. It happened when I wasn’t home in time to make dinner. It happened with every job he had. It happened with the housework and the unequal distribution of labour. Nothing I did was right. His happiness was a moving target. Not that it was my job to make him happy. He even said that I shouldn’t let his moods effect me but when you love someone you want them to be happy. It makes that other person easier to live with. He stopped being happy with me around year two-the dinner incident mentioned above. I stopped being happy when we moved for his first post doc. By year three we were two unhappy people slogging it out together in a place we hated working and waiting for his big break. That break didn’t come while we were married. He thinks he’s closer now, but his job is still grant funded and his current girlfriend is not divorced.

I read this list and I have to resist the temptation to ask myself when did I turn into such a doormat? Each incident I have in my notebook, keep in mind there are 16 things not on this list, was like a slap in the face. I never knew when the next slap was coming nor the impetus. When it comes it’s still a shock and it stings and you just want it to stop. I found myself doing just about anything to make it stop. Mostly, I retreated into what I know-silence.

Why Are Most Quotes About Wives by Men?

Why Are Most Quotes About Wives by Men?

For whatever reason, call it the social contract, the idea of a natural progression of a relationship endures. You meet the right person. You fall in love. You marry. You have children. You raise children. Your children lead lives of their own. We see our parents, our friends’ parents. We hear it in the schoolyard,

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes x in the baby carriage.”

It’s ingrained in us to such an extent that, of course, it’s natural. Why wouldn’t it be. Even those that claim to flout convention eventually pair up and have a child. Time passes. People mature. Relationships progress. I wonder if we wouldn’t be happier people if we didn’t allow ourselves to play Exquisite Corpse with our definitions of a successful relationship. Time passes. People progress. Relationships mature. We don’t allow for mature relationships until after children are grown. We equate maturity with getting to know each other all over again. It will be like a second honeymoon! What fun! Unless you don’t know each other any more. I didn’t see a difference between my idea of relationship unfolding and maturing and his belief that a relationship needed to progress along a more traditional path. I want a relationship that will mature, develop complexity and richness, outside of a traditional path. It’s a shame that it took me 14 years to figure that out.

Recently I found myself party to a conversation where the subject was being someone’s wife. One of my friends said she did not and does not ever see herself as a wife. When I was younger I didn’t either. Then again, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I seldom dated. Guys never saw me that way. I was the cool girl who was the friend and confidante-period. “You’re so cool. You’re awesome. Why can’t more girls be like you. Do you know Heather? Do you think she likes me?” I died a little inside every time. As I got older, I saw myself possibly being a wife, but not in a traditional marriage. I was raised in a faith that forbade cohabitation, which, in retrospect, is better suited to my temperament. If I wanted to be in a long-term, committed relationship it was marriage or nothing. I saw myself in an equal partnership with a man; sharing but at the same time having our own lives.

Then I became an actual wife and all of a sudden I felt like I was doing everything. I did the laundry, the dishes, the grocery shopping. I paid the bills and schedule doctors’ appointments. I cleaned, badly; mostly because I didn’t have the time to clean the way I like which is to remove everything, scrub down the space, and put everything back. I took care of the dry cleaning. I packed his bags for trips and unpacked them when he got home. I made our travel arrangements. I took the car in for routine maintenance. I took the cats in for routine maintenance. I did the dishes and made dinner on the weekends. The only things I didn’t do were cooking on weekdays and  calling the contractor when repairs needed to be made. All this while working full time. We discussed the unequal distribution of domestic labour at great length, but nothing changed. He asked why I was so tired. One day he had me write down my daily schedule for a week. He saw that I was booked from 6:30am-9pm most weeknights, booked from 7:00am-9:00pm most Saturdays, and booked from 7:00am-5:00pm most Sundays. After that he helped around the house for two weeks. My woman’s work was never done. I was run down and resentful.

Did I mention he worked from home?

I ask myself, what did we do?  We barely went to the movies. We had a 46″ television screen and to him it was better than going to the movies. We hardly went to the theatre. We never went to the philharmonic. We went to the opera once. I did these things more often in the first six months after our divorce then we did when we were married. We watched television, far too much television he complained. He played video games. We read books. He talked endlessly about his interests. But most of the time we did nothing.

His mother did everything. When we visited she would have out laundry folded and ready by the time we left. I usually washed and dried. She claimed to have trained her husband but when she started working it was regular visits from a cleaning woman who kept their home spotless. She did not train my ex; leaving that, she said, to me. I told her it was not my job to train her son. More fool me as it became my job all the same. She didn’t like my response. Perhaps she felt it inferred a failing, or the idea that the wife training the husband was a little old fashioned, like I didn’t have anything else to do. My son is a sexist cretin and it’s your job to remake him, I couldn’t. He hid his sexism well. My father told me of a conversation he had with my ex during our grad school years. My father told him he could do a better job of helping around the house. My ex’s response was that it was not part of his culture. There was no glamour in housework. He couldn’t show off like with cooking. We hadn’t failed at much over the course of our lives, my ex’s mother and me. She went back to work, climbed the corporate ladder, and supported the family. I had worked my way from not much and supported myself admirably. This, however, was a spectacular failure and we both knew it. Did you see this coming? she asked at the end. No, I replied. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Now that we are apart, I see that this was inevitable. Had it not been for his overwhelming case of babyfever, it would have been something else. I know that now.

She and others have asked how/why I lived with it for so long. Simple, I thought it would change. He’d get the tenure-track position he always wanted. We’d start over. Our therapist asked me if something else in his life had worked out the way he planned, would our lives have been different. Looking at this parallel universe, the hard truth is that it our lives wouldn’t have been any different at all. I would still be doing all of the menial, domestic chores. What’s more, if we had a child I would be taking the child to and from daycare and seeing to all of her or his needs. He would bring the child to parties, not get up for feedings. I would have been ground to nothing and he would bask in all the glory that comes when you do everything the world says you’re supposed to do.  If, in this parallel universe, we were unable to have children, then things would have been identical. His babyfever would still hit. He would still be the one who wants to leave but doesn’t want to be  bad guy. I would be the one to leave.

Funny how a parallel universe can look just like this one.

 

And so it begins

And so it begins

When I was young, in my early teens, girls my age were encouraged to keep journals. We were to document our lives meticulously-for posterity, we were told. Our children’s children’s children would take in our tales like we absorbed the tales of the pioneers; Dad? (it was always dad) tell me again about our great aunt/grandmother. It didn’t really take with me. For one thing, I was weary of tales of pioneers crossing the plains in the dead of winter, facing death and persecution at every turn. My life was excruciatingly dull. My sister and I were model children. We were A students who went to school, went to work, went to church, and did what we were told. I read, listened to music, and was a dutiful daughter who did her chores, helped her mother around the house, and never, ever dated. More importantly, however, I never pictured myself with any progeny. There wouldn’t be anyone to take one of my diaries down from the shelf and pore over the pages, no one to read the exploits I never had. Which is why I found it so strange about five years ago when I found myself reviewing forms from a local fertility clinic; and stranger still when my husband tried to rush me into signing with an ultimatum, if you don’t want this, then we need to reevaluate our relationship. I was not rushed and kept reading. I wanted this, or at least I thought I wanted this. In the end, I didn’t want it. Shortly after Pesach 2015, we agreed to go our separate ways.

It started as a thought exercise: we would spend the week apart and we would visualize the same thing, picture our lives if we stayed together and if we separated. When I tried to picture our lives together I could only get so far-my inability to have children. Then I saw our lives plunging down the rabbit hole of more donor eggs, more rounds with a gestational carrier until eventually we found ourselves in the same place, a thought exercise. When I pictured our lives apart, I saw myself alone, but happy. I saw myself moving into the city and doing the things I wanted to do. And I saw him living his life and having children with someone else. In the end each of us would have the life she or he wanted. I tried this exercise over and over again, but the result was always the same. Our marriage was over. Ten minutes after he got home from his week away, I said we need to talk. The conversation itself lasted less than 15 minutes. In the end he said, we know what we need to do and we hugged.

I kept it to myself. He went off the leash.

Our divorce was remarkable for its lack of animosity. We had what some would consider a good divorce. We submitted the initial filing in April 2015, filed for divorce in July 2015, and our divorce became final in November 2015; one week after my 46th birthday. We were still on speaking terms. He asked if I minded if he continued to attend our mutual synagogue.  I said I didn’t. We settled our financial affairs and our property with minimal fuss. He bought me out of the house and I stayed there until I found a new place to live. I had enough to put a small down payment on a condo and buy paint. He helped me paint and I moved into my new place on 1 September 2015 (any later and he was going to start charging me rent). I spent the next six month settling in, unpacking boxes when I felt like it and exploring my new neighbourhood when I didn’t.  For those six or seven months, I was free in a way I had not been since I was a young single woman thriving in New York with the world by the ass. Then around the time he announced his new relationship, I saw Amy Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” sketch and went oh god, and the grief hit. “I’ve been waiting for this,” my mother said, “You’ve always been a delayed griever.”

We think that because there is no drama that there is no grief. Yours was an amicable divorce, you had no children, YOU wanted this, why are you sad? What is there to grieve?  Your life is your own. You can be selfish. (The ones who say that think you’re being selfish.) It turns out that when you’re in a relationship with the same person for 14 years, there is a lot to grieve. I mourn the time when it was us against the world. Our marriage crumbled under the weight of unmet expectations and in the end, the world won. I mourn for the person I was before I caved under the pressure of relentless negativity. I miss her. I’m fighting to get her back. I’m angry that I ignored some warning signs and missed others.  I’m mad as hell that I actually think my last fuckable day passed while I was still married. That even though I think I’m more attractive and interesting and sexier than I’ve ever been in my life that the rest of the world disagrees and I am invisible. Why? Because I’ve always been invisible. I’m the one who’s had it together all along but has always been the friend, the confidante. Which brings me to the greatest loss I feel at the moment. The longing is intense. It’s insane. I am starved for affection. To me, men have their own mass, their own gravity; they’re like planets. Being in a relationship, when it works, is like being in a binary star system. When one goes, the other goes off-kilter. I am off-kilter, even though, and this is the most surprising thing of all, I don’t miss my ex-husband.