I have never met anyone who, as a child, had any ambition to get divorced one day. No one enters into a marriage, or any union for that matter, anticipating the day it will fall apart.
I used to judge people who divorced as being fickle, as not having the willpower to tough it out, as somehow being too naive in the beginning to really understand their partners. How could they marry someone they didn’t want STAY married too? Were they blind?
Until my marriage began a slow descent into dysfunction, I was very, very judgmental. This series of posts is my attempt to apologize to anyone who was subjected to my stupidity, and to show others going through the same thing that they are not alone.
It is also an attempt to sort out the very, very confused feelings I have and have had, feelings of guilt and shame and obligation. I’ve spent 17 years trying to figure out what is right and wrong about being American and a woman with some ambition, and how to make that fit into my boyfriend’s, later husband’s, life. Now, as I approach 40, I am realizing that being an ambitious American woman is actually something I just AM and that I can’t change that enough to make him happy. EVER.
It takes only a moment to change a life, to move a destiny in an unwarranted direction. For me, it came the moment I saw a checkered scarf wrapped around his thick neck. Somehow, that piece of clothing meant worlds to me, –Palestinian revolution, leftist ideals, a rebellious heart . A world of depth, one so much more attractive than than the one I came from–the malls and large American-Italian dinners and loud TV featuring moments that could not (should not?) be attained. The perfect moments in which blond Mother, dark-haired Father, older dark haired son and younger blond haired daughter converge on Disney World. Or Disneyland, it doesn’t really matter which . The laughter, the fun. The thin bodies wrapped in fashionable clothes. Ohh, so inviting. So far yet so attainable. If only I could be smarter?prettier?more moral? I could go there, too.
I felt hollow after watching those countless commercials boasting eternal happiness in the moonlit nights near Cinderella’s castle. Beyond the hollowness lay longing–longing to leave the stark reality of two anxious parents in a world which offered nothing but worry. My working class family rejected consumerism and valued history, but also struggled with feelings of inadequacy. I inherited that inadequacy and took it with me to my elite women’s college. The people around me had a lot more money, a lot more experience, and were better educated than me.
When I met A, I was searching for something in between the malls of popular culture and anxiety in my family and elitism of my school. I somehow thought I would find it abroad, in Germany. He was an Iranian exile, a dodger of the Iran-Iraq war, a self-proclaimed leftist-atheist-pacificist who embraced world culture. Or so he claimed.
And I–I was a college student 15 years his younger, fascinated by social causes, driven by a need to do good, and by a strong ambition to prove myself to the world. I was a very, very good girl–no drinking, no drugs, no sex. No desire to so.
Looking back, I was the perfect fodder for manipulation. In between the cool parties with intellectuals from around the world and the fantastic moments in which we discovered how much we had in common, I was being manipulated. I was told I was naive, that Americans know nothing of the world, that women can be so selfish when they only think of studying. I was told I was uptight for not drinking until I collapsed, and fascist for not voicing the opinion that not everyone should be on welfare. But I didn’t realize it at the time. I simply accepted that I wasn’t as worldly as A and his friends and that my American working class background had somehow brainwashed me. I never even considered that they were wrong.
So when did it first dawn on me that maybe they were?