Divorced from Reality

‘Tis the time in life when marriages of thirty-plus years bust apart.  At this point, divorce is pretty shocking because both parties hung in there for a long, long time.  What happened?  Why now?  Even if you always thought they’d get divorced, you still wonder what precipitating event pushed a couple into finally going through with it….apart from the fact that their kids are now grown-up and (perhaps) out of the house.

Sometimes the aftermath of a divorce can be just as shocking.  The vitriol that came out of my girlfriend’s mouth about her ex-husband astounded me.  One day I had heard enough, but since she was still in her raw period, I had to be gentle.

“I know you’ve been through a lot with him,” I began, “but maybe—just to make yourself feel a little better—you could remember one nice thing about him, because, you know, you did spend over thirty years of your life with him.  Can’t you think back and come up with just one nice thing?”

She pondered this for a long moment and finally said in a tone of admission, “Well, I do have to say he was a pretty good drunk driver.”

She didn’t even laugh when she said this.  And that was all she said.

“Well, that’s a start,” I said.

There have been a couple of divorces that have caused unintended problems for me, but I can’t really talk about the problems with my newly divorced girlfriends who have caused them.

For example, I have two girlfriends who don’t know each other but both of them bought Harley-Davidson motorcycles after their divorces and  head-to-toe black leather motorcycle outfits.  Obviously these are my gym-going girlfriends.

They are making my life miserable and not because they go on and on and on and on about their wonderful weekend rides along the coast with their new hip boyfriends. That only makes me want to barf.  No, they are making my life miserable because my oldest son wants a motorcycle, and I think this is the worst idea in the world.

“Motorcycles are so unsafe in Los Angeles!” I argue vehemently.

“How unsafe can they be?” he retorts.  “Mrs. Angelini rides a Harley and she’s your age!”

To which I reply, “No, honey, she was Mrs. Angelini until she got the motorcycle.  Now she’s the ex-Mrs. Angelini!”

“So what are you saying?  If I get a motorcycle, you’ll get divorced?” he asks incredulously.

Huh?

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying!” I reply.

Why am I paying the price for the ex-Mrs. Angelini’s marital unhappiness while she’s off riding into the sunset in a skintight black leather outfit?  I can’t call and complain that my young son offers her up as proof that motorcycles are safe, and that the crux of his pretty-good argument is that she’s beyond halfway to dead and is now driving one.

Then there are the newly divorced men.   Some of them keep me on my toes, which is probably a good mental exercise at this point in time.  Certain men act like they’ve been let out of jail after they divorce.  Maybe it’s just certain men on the west side of Los Angeles, but I suspect….not.

I am talking about divorced men who subsequently become serial daters of the same type of woman—except that the women have different names, which is no picnic for those of us with memory problems.  These women are young, long-haired, high-heeled, and very proprietary Thin Mints, who all go to the same eyebrow stylist.

I offer up my friend Bob as an example of this type of man.  After reading this, he will probably be my former friend Bob.

It’s a forensic marvel that Bob manages to consistently find women who look alike, react alike, and will follow the same flight path through his life:  First, it’s all goo-goo, gaga little private laughs, frisky eye exchanges and constant cuddling.  I can’t help but think that old Bob must really be getting some action.

But I’d be wrong.  It’s Robert who’s getting all the action.  Even though I’ve known him all my life as Bob, Bob is now attracted to young women who insist on calling him Robert.

None of them know that they were preceded by—and will undoubtedly be succeeded by—another young woman who thinks she came up with this idea.  Despite the more sophisticated name change, old Bob still doesn’t put the toilet seat down when he comes over to our house.  Perhaps these gals think that by calling him Robert, they’re helping him to a fresh start in his life, which is sweet considering he’s halfway to dead.  Frankly, though, they might as well call him History, because that’s what he is eventually going to be in their lives after he sheds them.  It’s inevitable.

In the beginning of his serial romances, I always have Robert and his young love over for dinner.  And the first thing I’ll always notice is that Robert is wearing a shirt that Bob would have returned for store credit if his wife had picked it out for him.  It’s not a Bob shirt at all.

“Wow, Bob!  New shirt!” I say, because it’s just too obvious not to comment on.  On cue, the new girlfriend jumps in with, “I picked it out for him!  Robert needs to start wearing color.  All that black and white—it’s boring!”

And now the trajectory of this relationship is confirmed in my mind.  His unassuming new young lover has begun to assume.

Effortless love begins to give way to loveless effort.  In successive dinners, I start to see Robert slowly devolve back into old Bob as he begins trying to make his young girlfriend happy.  He starts pushing the wine, refilling her glass without asking if she wants more.  This leads me to suspect that he’s not scoring like he was when they first started dating.   Girlfriend still looks fabulous, mind you, although she gets tired about an hour or two earlier than she used to, and as a matter of fact, now I’m staying up later than she does.  And then one day when I’m talking on the phone to Bob and I ask him how goes the love life, he’ll reply uncomfortably, “Oh, we kind of broke up…. it just wasn’t working out.”

Then at the next get-together, he rolls out her clone with a new name.

Oh, did I mention that Bob is well-off?  No offense to dear Bob, but let’s face facts:  Would these hot young women still be dating him if he was one of those “smell-good” plumbers that are advertised on local radio here in Los Angeles?  Methinks not.  But does old Bob care about that?  No!   Why?  Easy:  because he doesn’t think about that.

But I have to think a lot about this.  Bob’s serial happiness keeps me sharp.  I’m perpetually nervous that I’m going to mix up the girlfriends’ names and I’ll call the current girlfriend not by the former one’s name, but by the name of a gal two or three versions ago.  My memory is not as wide and open-spaced as it used to be.  Actually, my memory kind of stalled out at Pam.

How does Bob keep track of their names?  Maybe it’s easier to remember a person’s name if you’re sleeping with them.  Bub Bob’s post-divorce dating life is becoming a little predictable.  Maybe that was the problem with his marriage.

In any event, getting divorced at this point in life is—in a slightly weird way—an optimistic move because it implies there’s still plenty of kick ahead in life.  Meanwhile, it gives the rest of us something to talk about—and it makes us feel as if, hey, you know what?  There’s still plenty of kick left in our lives too.