Though I was never really attached to the material trappings of being
trapped married. The rock was more of an identity thing like a uniform, a signifier for us simplistic, superficial humans to tell each other apart. In Los Angeles, for example, a plaid woolen blazer and diagonally striped tie denotes that your parents are rich enough to afford private school. A stethoscope and a white coat – you would be the gynecologist (either that or I just let you finger me for free.) A wedding ring – Ah! Someone valued me enough to marry me, or at least that was how I always interpreted it. Even as I was getting married, I felt this guy must be out of his mind to link his fortunes with mine; if I were a weather report I would have been cloudy with a chance of bat-shit.
It amazes me how much I became identified with the “married” label. The minute I was betrothed I hung my metaphorical hat on that chrome hook marked “WIFE” moving it from the shelf labeled with words like “Promiscuous” “Crazy” and “Unlovable” (it was a skinny font.) I was so relieved to be married, that I added “Unavailable” and “Disinterested,” exuding monogamy effortlessly. Men for the most part respected that little band of gold more than the folks at ashleymadison.com would have us believe. I was self-righteous in my “married”ness, determinedly optimistic for all creatures great and small to find their mates. After all, hadn’t the mutant sloth (me) found hers?
Everything was okay because there was another person willing to put up with me until death, and even beyond; I am so obsessive I would follow a guy right into the grave to make a point.
Then suddenly overnight, wedding band notwithstanding and without knowing it, I commenced spraying out some kind of desperate pheromone that overpowered the ring. Men were everywhere; some of them wearing rings themselves. Suddenly we were all part of this underground club I’d never noticed before called the “Unhappily Married”s – it was like Fight Club with no Brad Pitt. I was flattered by being noticed and disgusted at the same time – didn’t these guys have any principles? Alas I was so desperately lonely that I clung to the attention like aging actresses to their plastic surgeons.
“Help me,” I almost grabbed the lapels of a few unsuspecting shoppers by the organic Bok Choy, “Help me feel attractive again…” Thank G-d even the most dysfunctional of them ran screaming towards frozen foods.
Just as I once identified myself so closely with being a comic (not a comedienne – I hated that term almost as much as “female comedian”) I was now a “married,” and similarly long after I stopped doing stand-up comedy in clubs, people still introduced me that way.
“This is Susanna, she’s a comedienne,” they would bleat before I could stop them. Fuck. Now I would have to be entertaining… which meant assuming a wise-ass persona that was as exhausting as it was outdated.
Similarly “my wife” became his crutch, and “my husband” mine, as we limped through life together, two legs between us, the walking wounded. It is only now that I have no diamond ring, no entitlement, no proprietary hand on my waist as I enter a gathering, that I notice their absence. Even though I am in a committed relationship, I am not “married,” with all the trappings society affords a wild woman like me. It is the knowledge that as self-absorbed as she seems, this lady manages to sustain to a long-term partnership; she may be a debutante but she is not afraid to commit. And as lusty as she is, she keeps it in her pants except for one man and one man only. Marriage turned me from an emaciated, self-destructive, raccoon-eyed basket case into a respectable broad. Can I refund that other shit and keep the respectable part?
I have had to ask myself the question, who am I now that I have launched from the safety of matrimony like a skydiver out of a plane? Will I die on the way down, or can I activate some shred of self worth as a silky parachute? Will it soften the inevitable fall, because even when going straight into another relationship, no one gets to avoid grieving for the time when that plane seemed like the only place you ever wanted to be. But in my new state as an un-single ex-married mom who still has pins and needles waiting for her boyfriend to call, I see a different club, and its members run the gamut of marital status, race and creed. With a knowing look we recognize each other, nodding a hello by the frozen veggie patties. They are the “Happy People” and I can’t believe I never noticed their existence before…