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Third time a charm?

April 1st, 2007

BY ED GOLDBERG

Today’s the day we’ll say “I do,” and we’ll never be lonely anymore….
—The Dixie Cups, “Chapel of Love”
(Words and music by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector)

No one jerks off more than married men.
—Lenny Bruce

One woman told me that if we got married we’d always have a date for New Year’s Eve. So we did, and it was true. I have always had a date that night, just not with her. We had a big (200-plus people) wedding, rabbis, flower girls, my best man smoking weed in the crapper before the ceremony.

I’ve been married three times really, but only twice legally. You see, back in the dark ages of the 1960s, divorce was illegal in New York, owing to the gigantic influence of the cardinal who perched in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Yes, in wicked, sinful New York divorce was not an option.

So, the usual sham substitute was an annulment based on breach of contract: Yes, your honor, she/he told me we would have children, but now she/he doesn’t want any.

The married couple knew it was a lie, the attorneys, judge, bailiff, and the wino sleeping in the back of the courtroom, ditto. Hypocrisy and perjury were considered the better part of divorce in the Papal Republic of New York. My wife was too terrified to get before the court and perform, so it was up to me. I felt so dirty.
No, I really felt relieved, because I was getting married again real soon, to another woman who eventually left me, and not even for another man. Just to, you know, get shut of me. First marriage: eleven months together, two-and-a-half years total before the annulment. Second marriage: five years together, six before divorce (in Virginia).

(News flash: a week before I sat down to write this, my first wife called me. I had not heard her voice since 1969. We had a pleasant conversation, and two more since then. She is still married to the guy I introduced her to, although they divorced once and remarried. What a brave new world this is.)

The second time, we got married on Washington’s Birthday so we would always have a holiday on our anniversary. That year, Congress changed Washington’s Birthday. Can you say “omen?”

So, one may ask, you did it again, schmuck? Well, yeah. I decided to keep doing it until I got it right.

Marriage is known in all cultures. It is the group sanction for a relationship, legitimizing offspring, establishing inheritance rules, or, as feminist historical analysis has found, rendering women as property. Along with the cattle and household goods. Failing to produce a male heir for the husband is seen as a deal-killer in many groups. Malfeasant wives can be either divorced or demoted below a newer wife. If you are Henry VIII of England, you have other options, but these are officially frowned upon in modern times. Unless you are in India, where throwing kerosene on a deficient wife and igniting her is not unknown. Of course, it’s the mother-in-law who handles this, giving the husband what Nixon called “plausible deniability.”

Social conservatives call marriage the bedrock of our society, or some shit like that. They define it as “between one man and one woman.” Clearly, they are all orphans who have never had in-laws, but that is another matter. What they are really getting at is not letting lesbians or gay men marry one another. (There is no public position on letting a gay man marry a lesbian, although this fits their criterion as a good match.)
Never mind the Vegas-style gag about letting them marry so they can be as miserable as the rest of us. All of us are entitled to equal protection under the law according to the Constitution. I don’t recall a footnote saying, “Except queers.”

It demeans marriage, they say. Well, Pookie, only you can demean your marriage. Plus, if the matrimonial record of imbeciles like Britney Spears and serial grooms like Artie Shaw and Mickey Rooney doesn’t demean marriage, letting Rosie O’Donnell marry her girlfriend won’t.

Bad example, since to O’Donnell demeaner de better.

You know what I mean. There are coin-operated wedding chapels in Las Vegas, but these don’t demean the institution, or Focus on the Family would condemn them.

People didn’t used to get divorced much when I was a kid, although men and women regularly left their spouses without benefit of law. One spoke of divorce in the same hushed tones used for cancer. “Did you hear? Marv divorced Janie.” “Oh, my gawd! Divorced?”

Couples stayed together, through thin and thinner, because of loyalty to the idea of marriage, or because she didn’t have a job and couldn’t support herself, or because he was a schlump with no clue as to how to take care of himself, or because it was a scandal.

I prayed that my stepfather, who walked out more than once, would stay gone or that my mother would change the locks. When my friends wept over “broken homes,” I secretly seethed that the break in my home was my stepfather’s presence.

I had no idea what a good marriage was, except by observing at a distance. So, when I got married the first time, I was naïve and full of storybook notions of Happily Ever After. Ha!

The second one seemed better. But the differences between us that I first found so stimulating merely became differences. Plus, she was chronically miserable, and angry with me that I didn’t share that. She was disgusted by my lack of depression.

It took me a while to get back into dating, and I ran into divorced women my age who resented men in general. Very sad, and off-putting. After that experience, I was calloused, cynical, and selfish. I sought out younger women who were yet unspoiled by a bad marriage, and maybe not so wise in the ways of men. I became a user, always holding back my emotional commitment so I could discard women when I got bored with them. One woman, who deserved better, likened me to the guy the Eagles sang about in “Desperado”: cold, distant, incapable of love. That hurt. So I dumped her.

Not really, but my attitude poisoned what might have been a good relationship. It didn’t work out between us, and I feel a bit guilty about it even now.

When I met the woman I am married to now, she told me that if I didn’t let my guard down and trust her, she couldn’t continue to see me. Although I was terrified, I did it.

Next month we will begin our thirtieth year together, so maybe she was right. Still, we were together for twelve years before we got hitched.

Maybe this time it will work out. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Goldberg | Link to this Entry

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