Monday, August 17, 2015

Happy Birthday! And A Word About Divorce

Happy Birthday!  To me, that is.  Sixty-seven and counting.  Counting with great interest, as will happen when one reaches one’s late sixties. 

The early sixties are the hump.  Insurance actuaries tell us that if we make it past the early sixties our life expectancy jumps by about ten years.  For example (not actual figures), if your life expectancy at age 59 is 77, by age 67 it jumps to 86.  Because you made it over the hump. 

My birthday is more famous for deaths than births.  Elvis died on my birthday in 1977.  Robert Johnson, considered by many to be our greatest bluesman, also died on my birthday (1929?).  Bela Lugosi, my birthday.  The great Babe Ruth not only died on my birthday, he died on the very same day, in the same city, just a half-hour before I was born. 

I’m still alive, but I’ll admit that at this point I only feel about 75% alive.  I’m down to twenty-three teeth, but you wouldn’t know it.  All of the gone teeth were in the back, so my smile, such as it is, is intact.  I had a major checkup last week and all of the results were fine.  Some minor complaints, but all typical of people my age.  Blood pressure issues, cholesterol a bit high, “moderately” enlarged prostate.  Typical for guys who smoke, drink and use bad language anyway.  (All in moderation, and usually not in mixed company.)  Oh, and I have a gallstone.  A one centimeter gallstone if the report is to be believed.  Good to know.  If I get the pain, I won’t have to worry what it is.  Just go to the hospital.  If they’re right about the one centimeter thing, it’ll be an operation for sure, that thing ain’t going through no duct.  If I had duct-work like that, my blood pressure would be lower. But I feel good; I get around okay; all of the objective signs are good.

Subjectively though, I feel like an old photograph that is fading in the sunlight.  It’s a lucky thing that I have a new life that I enjoy, because in my old life I am fading from memory as though I were already dead.

“My old life,” he said.  If you live long enough, events will overtake you.  An event that overtakes many of us is divorce.  This is increasingly happening after thirty, forty and fifty year marriages.  (Forty plus in my case.)  Examples are everywhere, even poor Al isn’t married to Tipper anymore.  Has anyone noticed that most of the negativity surrounding divorce is usually attributed to the husbands?  This usually happens on a hunch.  I reserve judgment on other people’s divorces.  As I have said herein:  the one thing that is certainly true of any married couple is that only the two of them have a hope in hell of understanding what is happening to them.  That’s if even they know.  Most of us are strangers to ourselves.  But I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the husbands.  I can guarantee you that many divorces are driven by the distaff side.

Here’s some free advice (worth every penny):

If you see a divorce on your horizon, begin damage control right away.  Formulate a flattering narrative and begin furious lobbying immediately.  Or sooner.  This narrative can be a mix of the totally true, the vigorously spun, and the plausibly deniable.  Elements that are actually untrue will be counterproductive and should be left out.  If you can afford it, hire a professional PR firm to represent you.  Only good PR, done by you or by an agent, can prevent you from being demonized by your soon-to-be ex-spouse and cut off by your family.  It’s bad enough that you will lose your spouse in the divorce.  Don’t lose your entire family in the process if you can possibly avoid it.

You want to be nice about it?  Good for you!  It’s nice to be nice (to the nice).  Be as nice as you want, but watch your ass too.  I’m not suggesting that anyone should be mean or underhanded in any way, not at all.  Be nice, be fair, but make damn good and sure that your family, your relatives, your neighbors and your friends are not being sold a bill of goods by the soon-to-be ex.  It’s probably true in all circumstances:  a competing narrative is imperative. 

Follow this advice and you will thank me.  Fail to follow this advice and you may end up like me.  That would be 1) demonized; 2) slandered; and 3) ostracized.  If the worst happens to you, I hope that you have a Plan B available to you that is as felicitous as mine.   

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