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Metamorphosis
Oct 18th, 2009 by Christina

179700440_acc0405395(2)Yesterday the girls and I visited my good pal K. Her two boys and my two girls are the same ages and have known each other since infancy.

K unearthed a box full of home movies from when our kids were little. It was a rainy day and we thought it might be fun to show our increasingly too-cool, eye-rolling teenagers movies of themselves at age 2 taking a bath together (it’s so satisfying to really mortify a 13-year-old).

So we’re watching these tiny, completely un-self-conscious two-year-olds toddling around in diapers and droopy overalls. So utterly clueless are they of the metamorphosis they will undergo in just one short decade. They have no idea how often they will need to stare at themselves in the mirror, or how much they will care about how their hair looks. They have no idea that allowing their parents to choose their clothes will become the most horrifying thought on earth, or that one of them will insist on wearing something called Uggs on her feet.

I wondered if our 13-year-olds–she with her pout and perpetual eyeliner, he, wearing a knit cap even though he’s inside–are really the same people as those tykes. I mean, they have the same genes as those cute, goofy toddlers, but are they the same people? Know what I mean? (Do I sound like I’ve been smoking pot? I swear I have not.)

But what blew my mind more than the toddler-to-teen transformation were the the baby girl’s parents, who wandered randomly in and out of the frame. Talk about clueless. Who are those people–that curly-blond-haired woman with the impossibly thin and graceful arms that she won’t appreciate until she sees this video 11 years later? And that lantern-jawed man in the green shirt with whom she exchanges a kiss, a touch, a hug, some kind of affectionate gesture every time the camera catches them? Who are they, that young man and woman who seem to genuinely love each other?

Yup, we all know who they are. Still, isn’t it freaky that these two have the identical genetic make-up as a pair who now never touch, avoid looking each other in the eye, and pay an exorbitant hourly fee to a woman who will legally pronounce their togetherness a thing of the past? If you had told that couple back then that they’d be divorcing in 11 years, they’d never have believed you. Nev. Er. No way.

What am I getting at here? I guess it’s that while it’s always astonishing to watch children grow and change, we expect and accept it. That a decade can turn a happy couple into a divorcing couple, though, is mysterious and sad, even though, that, too, happens all the time.

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Divorce Lite
Oct 11th, 2009 by Christina

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R and I have been seeing a mediator. Mediation is divorce lite for conflict-averse couples who don’t want to drag each other to court or traumatize their kids with custody battles. It’s for the amicable divorcing, oxymoronic as that sounds.

R and I are the poster pair for mediation. We get along, have the same basic values, try to put the children first, and donate to WNYC when we can.

So if it’s all supposed to be so downright pleasant, why would I rather stick pins in my eyes than endure another hour in that office?

Oh, wait. Here’s why:

  • Because when the mediator asked for our wedding date and who officiated, I flashed back to early 1992, when R&I discussed our vows with the Dutch Reformed minister (don’t ask) who ultimately pronounced us husband and wife. I’m pretty sure and we promise to use a mediator when we divorce was not among them.
  • Because the financial news is definitely not “all good” when you’re a freelance writer divorcing a magazine editor just as the publishing world is imploding and the country is experiencing the worst economic crisis in recent history. It’s all bad.
  • Because, unlike after other traumatic surgical procedures, no one makes sure you have someone to escort you home after two hours of the emotional and financial evisceration that is mediation.
  • Because it seems so annoyingly PC to mediate a divorce when it would probably be more exciting, satisfying and just plain fun to kick some ass in a court of law. But for PLUs (People Like Us), that would be like hitting our kids. We just don’t do it even though we secretly want to.

On the other hand, I have been thoroughly enjoying one of the major benefits of my marital disintegration. S currently stands for Strong, Sensitive and Swoon. Oh, and let’s throw in some Shoulders and a Sweetheart.

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Back to the Future
Oct 2nd, 2009 by Christina

2534119138_dcb6257503Yesterday I attended school with my 8th grader; it was “open school day,” the one chance to see what your kids actually do all day.

Parents were asked to sit in the back of the room during the classes. At one point, I noticed an attractive, stylish couple sitting side-by-side. Later, as we were milling about prior to the start of math class, I realized I was about to sit down next to the male half of the attractive, stylish couple. I gestured to his wife, who was seating herself on the other side of me, and asked if she wanted to switch seats with me so that they could sit together.

“No. We’re divorced,” she replied.

I found it funny that a) she would offer that information at all, b) she seemed blatantly relieved not to have to sit next to her ex and, c) she assumed it’s a given that divorced couples don’t sit together.

And then she asked me: “Are you married or divorced?” Just like that.

I found her directness curious. Typically, when you’re thrown together with the parents of your child’s classmates, one of the first things you say is “Whose mother are you?” or “Hi, my name is Cassandra. I’m Sam’s mom.”

After a few beats, I answered “I’m in-between. I’m separated.”

For one terrifying moment, I thought this bold woman was going to try to fix me up with her ex, but then math class began and suddenly everything became a blur. Algebra? Calculus? Why was the teacher writing random letters and numbers on the board and then, like a lunatic, adding parentheses and brackets? I wanted to stand up and say “Excuse me, kids, but you do not need to learn this. Sure, try to get a good grade in math so you’ll get into a decent college, but, really, don’t sweat it because there are no real-life situations in which you are required to write {} a, x , y and 5 in the same line. None.”

I wanted to share this insight with my kooky, blunt new divorced friend, but since there were 32 minutes left to class, I decided to look around and think interesting thoughts instead.

Needless to say, what I saw was a room full of 13- year-olds. Oh, the horror.

I flashed back to my own 8th grade year–the all-important Frye boots, Stan Smith sneakers, Huk-A-Poo shirts and Shetland sweaters. My size 27AAA “bra” and the stupid boys who made stupider jokes about ironing their shirts on my chest.

The whole dating/sex/relationship thing was a complete mystery to me at that point. I could not imagine how on earth I would get a boy to like me or ask me on a date. And to think that one might kiss me? Forget it. That stuff happened to other girls, usually the ones with real bra sizes. (Still, I kept my Dr.Pepper-flavored Bonne Bell Lip Smacker handy just in case.)

I looked at my lovely daughter, in the throes of thirteen-ness herself, and got a little lump in my throat, followed by a feeling of certainty that no guy will ever be good enough for her because she’s exceptional in every way (ahem–now’s when you politely say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Christina.”) But maybe I was being a bit harsh, given that the pool of men available to her at this juncture are a bunch of doofy 13-year old boys and nothing like the fine assortment of gentlemen who will pursue her when she grows up and gets to join match.com.

I awoke from my reverie to the sound of math textbooks gleefully slamming shut. I guess a lot has happened in the 33 years since I was in 8th grade (wait, did I just write thirty-three years?? Dear god.) At some point, I got a boy to kiss me. I imagine my daughter will figure that one out too, though I doubt she spends much time picturing her separated self sitting in the back of her daughter’s classroom chatting with a stylish, blunt divorced woman. I mean, she still lives in a world where it’s important to learn algebra (or was it trigonometry?)

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