In a few days a chancery court judge in Tennessee will review a case before him in which I have a strong personal interest. It would appear that certain folks really do fancy themselves Teflon coated and somehow manage to escape all kinds of scrutiny and accountability; if this formula has worked for the better part of a half century, though, why shouldn’t it always? The court will decide in this case whether a particular individual will be made to honor his financial obligations—to which he agreed, on paper, legally. I hope like heck that the judge takes a hard look at the burgeoning collection of Beemers in that person’s driveway when he enters a judgement.
One of many epiphanies to emerge in the last chapter of my life: for most of two decades I was a handy tool kit to support the development of my ex-husband’s own life and career and interests, disposable once he arrived at a particular place where he felt comfortable reaching for the Next Big Thing without me there. What that is precisely remains a bit foggy peering in as I do now from the outside, but by all appearances seems pretty dang superficial and includes new teeth, tanning booths, fast cars, and very young girlfriends—the last two of them proud owners of mugshots, yes, seriously—among other things. Call it a midlife crisis if you wish, but it has been going on for some time now (even during our marriage) and to me belongs more credibly in the land of mental illness. What do I know, though?
For the last few years I had begun to think of myself as the doormat, and had mentioned this out loud a few times to anybody who might listen—a convenient place for my family to wipe the mud from their shoes at the end of the day. My mom was more succinct: You were their bitch, she said. It’s not an endearing moniker. But somehow, Starter Wife feels worse. Embodied in that term is the notion that you are expendable. Disposable. Replaceable. It is a horrible thought. And people do not speak of starter husbands.
I own some of it. I allowed myself to slip into a supporting role. It did not happen overnight, but gradually, indiscernably. I gave up ballet for what emerged as an entire decade. And then I gave up grad school to be at home with a tiny infant child who arrived unexpectedly and joyously in our lives. I let go of things to do with managing family business and assets, because at the time I thought the work I was doing with a very difficult child was so much more important. But I never imagined that when I let go of these things the person I trusted the most would later use that as a way to take advantage of me.
Before anybody concludes that I am a bitter divorcée who just can’t let go of the past, rest assured that I am anxious as hell to let go of it. I have in fact moved on in so very many ways, which should be clear to any reader of this blog who is not bloody daft. What the judge decides will make it easier for me to move on, perhaps. Or not. Or will at least make it clear that my life is about to get much more difficult than I imagined.
This former starter wife has many complicated working parts that are now fully engaged.