“It is only normal human nature to want to marry and procreate.” – My college advisor, 1978
Today is a very strange day for me. If I had stayed married to my ex-husband, today would be our 30th anniversary. In retrospect, I got married young, at the age of 24. In retrospect, it feels like our wedding was yesterday, 50 years ago, and never happened.
Growing up, I really didn’t think about marriage very much. I never had the vision of the knight in shining armor, the two kids and the house with the white picket fence, or being a soccer mom. I assumed I would get married and have children (that’s what people do, after all), but it was never the first thing on my mind. I thought more about pitching for the Mets, being a professional boxer, or writing a sports column for the New York Times. (Talk about missed clues!)
I entered college in the fall of 1976, and it surprised me how so many of my female classmates were focused on their “Mrs.” Degree. Some dropped out after only a few weeks because they missed their boyfriends back home. I enjoyed college life – from marching band to softball (another clue!) to pledging a sorority – and while I dated a bit, I was not looking for a husband. First of all, there were just too many to choose from; I couldn’t imagine how you could narrow down the field. And, more importantly, I still had that uncomfortable feeling I had since I was young that there was something different about me that did not include the desire to find a husband and settle down into domestic bliss.
My high school was very small; there were 99 in my graduating class, and while there were several thousand in my class at college, after a few semesters, it too felt stifling. I decided I wanted to drop out of school. I didn’t know what I would do; I just knew I didn’t want to be in school anymore. I went to see my advisor and told him I felt out of place because I wasn’t looking for a husband. He looked over his glasses and said in his Kentucky accent, “Why Doreen, it is only normal human nature to want to marry and procreate.”
Wow, that was helpful.
My Mom, as wise at 50 as she is at 80, told me she though it was not college I disliked, just the particular college I was attending. She suggested I transfer to a school walking distance from my Godfather. She said I could live with him until I got my own place. I remembered seeing video of it when its basketball team was in the NCAA tournament in the 1970s – Cal State Long Beach. Any place with the word Beach in it sounded good to me.
A few days before our flight to California, my Godfather died suddenly. He was 54, the same age I am now. What??? My Mom called someone she had been in PTA with when I was in kindergarten and 1st grade (no, I am not making this up). Joyce said sure I could stay with her and her husband until I found a place. I stayed there for 2 years. I don’t know how some people say there are no angels on earth.
While attending CSULB, I met this really nice guy I’ll call Fred. Fred was the most respectful, genuine, nice guy I had ever met. We had so much fun together. I ended up moving back east after graduation, but we missed each other terribly, so I moved back to California to be with Fred. We ended up getting married, and Fred got a job back east, so we moved back together. In a scene from a very strange movie, I showed up at a smoky, dark club in response to an ad for a softball coach, expecting to see a bunch of little girls and their parents. Instead I see a bunch of tattooed lesbians, chain smoking, and looking at me like I’m the newest gal in town. What???
First practice and the shortstop yells, “I can’t believe she brought her [insert expletive] husband with her.” I swallow hard and tell myself, “I am in so much trouble.”
Fast forward to season two; Fred and I have just built our dream house. I am working for a front for the CIA, which in a few years the government will not admit to and a bunch of people go to jail for 20+ years for no reason, but that’s a story for another day. Fred is working just about 24x7x365 for not much money but we’re doing okay, perhaps because he is working 24x7x365.
I yet again get drunk & wasted after a softball game and tell one of the players that I think I just might be a lesbian. I snap into temporarily clear thinking when she says words that rip me to my core. “You have the right to do anything you want in life except hurt another person. If you stay with Fred knowing you are a lesbian, you are hurting him, and that is not right.”
Wow, that WAS helpful.
A few days later, the morning of my 28th birthday, I woke up and told Fred we needed to get divorced. It is the singularly most painful thing I have ever had to do. It was not brave. Brave would have been going with my two friends who volunteered to go with me the night before our wedding when I had cold feet but didn’t know why to tell my parents I was calling off the wedding. I got married to someone of the opposite gender because that’s what people do, right?
I used to call Fred every year on his birthday just to see if he was okay. He suffered from OCD while we were married and although he got remarried and had children after we divorced, he suffered from severe depression. One day in December 2005 I got home from work and decided to call him at work; we had not spoken for several years. He was going out on medical leave; then would be retiring. His 24x7x365 job had become too much and he wanted to enjoy seeing his children grow up. He said that although we both had some rough times after the divorce, he thought we both had come through as better people. That was my cue that I no longer had to check up on him. Happy Anniversary, Fred.