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June 20, 2006

Shoes don't stretch and men don't change

I guess I had a delayed reaction. At first I was so surprised, it just took a while to sink in, really penetrate the barrier of disbelief. I told a few people about Mr. X and his new wife, how they had married one month after the divorce, and folks all said more or less the same things, which are more or less all true:

"Oh my God. No way!"

"You're so much better off without him."

"What an ass!"

"Well, good luck to her." (This one was followed very quickly by me saying: "Good luck? You sleep with another woman's husband and he moves out, divorces wife number one, and ya'll plan your wedding and register for gifts and you want good luck? You got everything you deserved.") (Met by: silence.)

And, finally, the one that is hardest for me: "Well, you just need to move on and leave it in the past."

And I try, I try not to talk about him anymore, or the divorce, or even this final piece of shocking news (because that's the end, really. Everything from here on out is just gossip or information, this was the final nail, the one piece of information he'd kept from me, the one missing link in the dissolution of our life together. Reader, this was why he left me. And I deserved to know... just not this way.) and so I try not to talk about it because I know what people think of me. I know they think I've taken this whole divorce rather hard, and that I should buck up and chin up and whatever else up. That it's time to move on! Move forward! Get on with your life!

And I'm very confused by this.

Why is it that an emotional response means you aren't moved on? Can't you be mostly, relatively, almost-very-much moved on and still feel shock, sadness, disappointment, anger?

The day you marry your beloved, no one tells you, "Well, congratulations on your marriage... but don't take the vows too seriously. After all, one day you'll probably need to move on." or ... "On your wedding day, be sure to say, 'Til death do us part or until I just don't like you anymore,' because really, you might be better off without him!"

No. We expect that marriage vows will be taken to heart, will be serious and honest and introspective. We want folks to take their commitment seriously, and only enter into marriage once they've thought it through, since marriage is a covenant, a treasured thing. Yet when he decided to leave, and divorced me, and has now married another woman, I am supposed to ... not care? Just move on? Ignore the news? Act disinterested?

Is that moving on?

As if moving on from anything were so easy, anyway. When was the last time you moved on from: your favorite sweatshirt, your old toaster, the pillowcases you know you should replace but they remind you of...? It's not easy to let go of photos, books, a chipped teacup, and yet we expect so much from ourselves, that we can emotionally divorce one who leaves us as easily as we want or hope. It's not that easy. It never is. (Or, maybe it is that easy. For some. He's remarried, after all. In fact, that man has been married to his new wife for SIX MONTHS.)

Last weekend I had a tiny dinner party at my house, with just my girlfriends and too many bottles of wine and it was lovely, and I managed to keep my mouth shut about it until around midnight when somehow the conversation got turned there, and I started talking about it, about him, the new marriage, all of it. The anger. The shock. The complete disbelief.

Mostly, the fact that the had the unmitigated gall to register for gifts.

Why this one thing bothers me so much is a mystery. THEY REGISTERED FOR GIFTS. A man leaves his wife for a new woman, and they throw a party to celebrate their new marriage, one month after the divorce to the old used-up wife is final, and to put the icing on the proverbial cake you register for new sheets and towels and cookware. There is something about this that is beyond tacky to me, beyond showy, beyond all of it. As if anything born of lies and deceit and pain can be made fresh and new with some 450-thread-count sheets and a fiesta red chip and dip platter.

One month after our divorce was final, I was just emerging from my little post-holiday shell, surveying my new life, wondering what sort of path to start down, wondering what shoes I might purchase, trying to decide between the charcoal grey Up Country or the camel (I purchased both, in case you wondered.) Meanwhile, he was registering for a blender and some stainless steel cookware and preparing to walk down the aisle yet again with another, declare his true love for her, call her his one and only.

I'll never really know who it was that left me that day, who he had become, never know the true extent of all his secrets (she was among them). When I found out about his new marriage I didn't go entirely to the sadness at the core of me, partially because I was simply shocked to my toes that he would re-enlist so soon, and partly because there's not a lot of sadness left for him, for us, for my marriage that failed. Lately I feel as if I were set free, free of the dream I had for myself, free to imagine something better. Isn't that moving on? Isn't that what everyone expects?

But I won't lie to you, you who tells me to move on and forget all about it. I prefer to know myself, even the messy parts. So I won't lie to you. I had a moment. I wondered why it was so easy for one person to move on, why I'm alone in a tiny house with four cats and no one to hold on to at night. Where had I managed to go wrong that I could love someone who could so easily replace me? Am I so inconsequential? Was it wrong for me to take those vows seriously, and feel sad when he left, and feel absolutely horrified that he and the new Mrs. X registered for wedding gifts while we were still legally married?

There aren't a lot of easy answers in love and leaving. Truth is, people do unexpected and inappropriate and hurtful things all the time, and it almost always is about them. Almost always comes from their own dissatisfaction, or desire, or need. You can't be everything to someone (or anything to some people) all you can do is be the best version of you possible. You keep believing that life holds some love for you somewhere, even if you don't feel it at the time, even if you feel like love is a million miles away and the price may be more than you're willing to pay again.

But damn. Don't register for gifts while you're still married. That is just tacky.

Posted by laurie at June 20, 2006 12:42 PM