What I am going to talk about is emotionally close to me. That being said, I may be defensive about it. I say that not to discourage notes but to alert you to the fact that when discussing the unraveling of my marriage it might be a sensitive topic. Strange that I would have to give the warning but it seems necessary.
Things at home lately have been… abundantly status quo. In truth, very little has changed in our house. To my understanding… it isn’t surprising. The idea that we were two people living in the same house having very little involvement with one another is what led us to this point to begin with. The only change between how things have been for most of our marriage and now is the fact that I sleep in a different room and we argue less because I’ve released any desire or expectation of a relationship. But, as I should have anticipated, the fact that we are at Status Quo gives Martha a false sense of normalcy. Because the miserable, distant status quo of our marriage was “a marriage” to her the whole time. So I began to think that I really will need to get personally involved in finding her a new place to live.
Then, my brother texted my parents and I. Text essentially read:
“Hey parents! I know last weekend was busy with your concert and you’re hosting Christmas so big week ahead. We figured we’d invite you down for dinner on Sunday so we could take care of one meal at least! You’re invited too Chris!”
Okay. Coolness. Just because I haven’t quite shaken the feeling of obligation, I told Martha that I would be out of the house Sunday afternoon/evening having dinner with my brother’s family and my parents. She… asked if she could come. That… actually… kind of offended me. Not like “How dare you” offended but like… “What?” kind of offended. I get that we’re separating and not like… hatefully divorcing one another… but despite how “status quo” things might be feeling for her… we’re getting separated. A type of break up. How do you go from “my husband has stated our marriage has failed and wants to separate” to “I’m going to hang out with my husband and his family?” So I figured… okay, I need to totally insert myself into her getting a new place. (Despondently: why not?) When we first started dating, I had to find her a place to live… it just makes cyclical sense that as we’re separating I have to find her a place to live!
Then Sunday happened. No wonder I struggled with the idea of divorce/separation for so long… the men in my family act like the whole thing is an unheard of, alien experience that fundamentally alters their perception of reality and provides a weakness in the family armor.
(The following will seem like it is going “all over the place” but this is genuinely how the conversation took place)
So, I drive to my brother’s place an hour away. Soon as I arrive, I’m told to leave my shoes on as Brother, Dad, and I are going to the grocery store. I pile into Brother’s massive vehicle and Brother asks, “Is Martha coming? She was welcome.” I say that as we’re getting separated and the invitation specifically mentioned me, I felt that the invitation did not extend to her. This frustrated my brother immensely. But before he could launch into what he wanted to say, my Dad caught sight of a “Vote Warren” sign and had to say a string of offensive, targeted things about the homeowners of that house for being “retarded and unAmerican.” To which my brother agreed and questioned if Warren had ever considered that the economy actually matters to people.
Then the topic of discussion flung back to me. Brother was upset that I wasn’t telling him what to do. He kept asking, “If I invite you to something, should I invite Martha?” And I repeatedly responded with, “If you want her to be at whatever you’re inviting for; you will have to invite her separately.” And he kept saying, “That doesn’t answer my question!” To which I would say, “It does. It says that she and I are not ‘one unit.’ Inviting me doesn’t mean inviting her. Inviting her doesn’t mean inviting me. If you want me to be somewhere, invite me. If you want her to be somewhere, invite her. It’s that simple.” And we would go in circles like this. I was… starting to get frustrated and so were both my Dad and Brother. Like we were talking past each other. They kept asking the same question, not clarifying or giving examples or changing their wording. OF COURSE I’m going to give them the same answer. If you keep asking, “If I invite you to something, should I invite Martha?” I’m going to keep saying, “If you want her to be there, you’ll have to invite her separately.” Ultimately, Brother practically stopped the car and said, “Just give me a rule. Give me a straightforward rule.” This… frustrated me. Part of the reason why I’m getting separated is because I’m tired of literally having to TELL ADULT PEOPLE in my family “what to do.” Literally having to tell people how to live their lives? What the fuck… I don’t want that power when it comes to my family! But I sat and thought and tried to find a way to explain it to them. Ultimately I came up with: “Consider Martha a friend, if you want. If it is something where you are inviting a bunch of friends over, cool, invite her, if you want. But if it is an event where you’re exclusively inviting family over, then she isn’t part of that anymore.” It… did not seem to be a sufficient answer but at least they dropped the interrogation.
For a few seconds.
Before Dad started asking all of the same questions he had asked last time we were together. “If I give you money, do you have to give it to her? Are her parents worried that you’re going to come after Martha’s inheritance? Is she coming to Christmas?” ::face palm:: Not only have we talked about all of this before but it reminds me again why my Dad can be frustrating. He dislikes lawyers as he believes that lawyers have created a world of “unnecessary complications” and don’t “deal with practical reality.” But two of those three questions are easily answered by someone with even a passing understanding of the law! Answers: If you give me money, it is a gift. It is an individual gift to me and is not considered a marital asset. However, if I take that money and put it into the joint bank account Martha and I currently share, it becomes a marital asset and may be subject to division. But until I willfully change the nature of the item… a gift from you to me is a gift from you to me… just as the plain language suggests. Her parents shouldn’t be worried about any designs on inheritance. First, the law specifically and exclusively deals with inheritance of any property (financial, black acre, anything) as a direct lineal descendant gift from the decedent to the individual; thereby not making it a marital asset no matter how large or small it may be. However, again, the plain and basic facts should answer that question anyway. Her parents aren’t dead. There IS no inheritance. A will of any kind can be modified up to and including the day of death. There is absolutely zero reason to consider inheritance issues while her parents are both healthy and alive. Besides, when they last updated their wills, I gave them the resources at my disposal to make certain that the language of the divestiture benefited Martha exclusively. As their only child, she shares her inheritance with NO siblings and whatever cousins do not pre-decease her. Whether it is an inheritance of 36 cents or 3,000 acres… only the blood relations of direct descent are considered “in interest.” As to Christmas… where have you been? This is something that was discussed. Repeatedly. For the last month. Don’t you remember me saying that Martha was going to spend Christmas with her parents… and how that is good because her parents would love to see her more often but she typically can’t be arsed to make time for them… and how I found it terribly disconcerting that Martha didn’t get them even so much as a Christmas Candy as a gift or anything. None of this is familiar to you? I didn’t say any of that, of course. I simply reminded him that Martha will be spending Christmas with her parents and Nala and I will be at the Parent House on the 24th.
Sufficiently satisfied with those answers; Dad and Brother began discussing Brother’s new side gig. Brother owns and operates a successful Biomedical Illustrating Firm and has taken up teaching a college course on the side. Of course… because this is a Conservative Boomer and a Libertarian Gen X-er… the conversation quickly dissolved into generation bashing. And worse. Essentially the six second summary of their ten minute bitch fest is as follows:
Fuck diversity, fuck the younger generation, WHY AM I SUPPOSED TO APOLOGIZE FOR BEING A RICH WHITE GUY?!?!?!?!? Fuck these insane, lazy, over-sensitive assholes! I had 3 kids out of my 18 students fail my class which proves that ALL kids of this age group are entitled and lazy!
Then, Dad saw (what he described) as someone who “looked maybe homeless.” Which set them both off on another little rant about fuck the homeless because all of those people are just lazy people without the desire to work and actually earn their money. Which then led them both to their favorite topic… Dad stated that 100% of the increase in homelessness in every state of the union(!) is because of California. Essentially both of them started their typical refrain of “Fuck California. Fuck everything about California. If we nuked that entire state, this country would be saved!“
I’m in the back seat. Staying silent. Because it isn’t worth it to start an argument. 2 against 1 where both of those 2 don’t believe in things like “The mentally ill make up a large portion of the homeless population and Iowa’s consistent attempts to dismantle mental health care access is likely more to do with homelessness than the mere existence of California.”
Then the conversation turned to something more… pleasant… at least for Dad and Brother. Stock portfolio! So… this is just a personal reaction but it was upsetting to me… my Dad can’t remember facts about my marriage unraveling… but he damn sure remembered that his Portfolio Owning Son preordered a Tesla Cybertruck. I mean… call it “guy priorities” or whatever you want but… needing to re-enact an entire conversation twice in the same month about the very present-sense currently-happening marriage dissolution… or remembering that your other son reserved a strange car that isn’t available to purchase yet. Just a little upsetting. Doesn’t help, either, that life has felt like this for our entire adult lives. Brother is getting married, going to grad school, starting a business, his company earned their first million, they had their first child!!!!!! Meanwhile… I went to become a lawyer, which my Dad is proud of me but still dislikes lawyers… it took me 11 years after college to find “an adult job” that I stayed at “for more than a few months”.... and instead of having a kid, I’m getting separated… first in our family to not “stick it out no matter what” in a marriage. I could win the lottery and still feel like the “disappointment in the family.”
Then we got back to Brother’s house to make Gingerbread Men. We started talking a bit again and catching up on normal things when suddenly Mom cuts in to remind me, “Don’t talk about your job, it is inappropriate.” Teeth gritted for a bit. I mean… I get it… I do. I’m a special victims prosecutor and people generally don’t care to hear about women being beaten up, children being abandoned, and women and children being sexually assaulted. I embrace that my life tends to come in contact with the darkness of the community that people prefer not to acknowledge. But especially these days… what am I supposed to do? I’m not allowed to talk about things that might be upsetting.... so… I can’t talk about my marriage… I can’t talk about my job… I’m with my family and I’m… what? Supposed to talk about Nala being a puppy and… what else? I’m sorry my life isn’t flights to Seattle for a business meeting and treks to Iceland for fun so I’m not a terribly delightful Christmas Spirit. My marriage is ending and my job is about kids getting raped.... do you want me to go back to black finger nail polish and avoiding the family??
We continued making Gingerbread Men with Brother and Dad doing what they do best: talking over people, ignoring the fact that they were talking over people, and then acting like they didn’t know anyone else was talking. Dad and Brother discussing the recent few vacations Brother’s Family went on with Mom and Dad. Talking about the myriad travels Brother has done for his work… from a Digital Expo in the west to a massive multi-millionaires birthday party in the east. Then Brother started talking about a book he was reading. It is this dark, scary, (in his words) twisted book of Nordic stories. He starts discussing and describing the stories of murder and intrigue. And I kind of sit there.... a bit incredulous. He can talk about monsters and murderers all he wants but, Me talking about my job is inappropriate because I deal with the legitimate monsters that actually exist? Okay, fuck me, right?
I mean… I do love my family. I do. My dad has a big heart for people… as long as they are Christian and part of his immediate community. My mom is a wonderful woman… who has learned to survive a marriage with her complete political opposite. My sister in law is amazing… if a little judgey. My brother is a good guy… if a little abrasive and intentionally-an-asshole from time to time. But they’re my family… they love me and I love them. But at Christmastime it just seems like the definition of success in my family is having a child with Christmas joy; having a tree overwhelmed with beautiful Christmas decorations; having lots of presents under the tree; and having a spirit-filled joyful smile plastered on your face until December 26th.