September 21, 2000
Still Married After All These Years?

My ex-husband is standing in the middle of my kitchen when I get home from work.

Hey!," I say to him in surprise. "What are YOU doing here?"

"I'm fixing the Weber," he replies. And I notice then that he has dismantled his big, dirty barbecue grill and spread the pieces all over my nice tidy kitchen ... across the floor, on the counters, in the sink, on top of the Ugly Pink Stove. There is a sooty layer of charcoal dust and grease all over everything; the whole apartment smells like cigarette smoke and lighter fluid. An open can of Rainier sits on the floor beside him.

"Does David know you're here?" I ask, dismayed. I am more upset by the mess he is making, I think, than I am by his uninvited presence in The Castle.

The EH shakes his head. "Your boyfriend has been called back into active duty," he says. And then he announces that he's going to "burn some burgers" for dinner. His tone is unmistakeable: he is back. He is "home." Everything is going back to the way it was before I left. Perhaps I'd like to join him in a drink?

I turn around and look towards the living room, praying that David is standing right behind me. But he isn't. To my horror, I see that all of David's albums and guitars and books are gone: they have been replaced by 40 lb. bags of steer manure ... the kind my ex-husband spreads around his tomato plants every year. Suddenly, I smell manure everywhere.

I burst into tears.

End of Incredibly Stoopid Dream.

My pal Feef is already shopping for wedding gifts.

She read my recent announcement about impending grandmotherhood (and David taking me out to dinner to "celebrate" afterwards, and the subject of marriage coming up once again), and she figured this was *it.* She wrote:

"... About the upcoming wedding -- whenever it may be: I want an invite. Yeah, I know. There's only the slimmest chance in hell that I could actually fly out...but even if I can't, I want an invite anyway. I promise to love and cherish it forever! (Gawd....wouldn't it be too cool if all the guerrillas could make an appearance?) ...

And guys have gotta do the bridal registry thing. And when you do, I need to know where, or else you'll end up with a box of titty pink towels from Fingerhut and 8 Anchor Hocking glasses with Teletubbies on 'em. (yes, that is a definite threat. I MEAN it!)."

I had to write and tell her to cool her jets.

"For one thing," I said, "this WASN'T the real proposal. It was just a rehearsal." I told her that until we get The Other 50% of the Population down on one creaky, bended knee ... and until I have that small, tasteful (size nine) solitaire on my left hand ... I'm not going to consider anything to be official.

And for another thing: it looks like I might still be married.

To the Ex-Husband.

A few weeks ago -- when the *marriage talks* cranked themselves up a couple of notches on the Seriousity Meter around here -- I decided that it might be a good idea to take a look at my divorce papers finally.

Just for fun.

I've written about this before: how The Ex and I divorced long-distance, basically, with as little fuss or muss as possible. This was primarily due to logistics (I lived in Oregon, he lived in TicTac) and money (neither one of us HAD any). But it was also me trying to show a little better-late-than-never sensitivity. I'd walked out after sixteen years of marriage, on our wedding anniversary, no less. I figured I owed the guy a swift and painless divorce. I allowed him to choose the lawyer, the method, the timeframe. I went along with 99.9% of everything he suggested. (I actually offered to pay more child support than was originally proposed, and I passed on custody of the sixteen-year-old Dustbuster.) A few months later when he told me that the divorce had been finalized, I believed him, even though I never saw a legal document to that effect. Why shouldn't I believe him? He was as anxious to be not-married as I was.

(Wasn't he?)

But then I started to think about it, this summer. Why didn't I ever see any papers? Even if the EH didn't think to send me a copy (which wouldn't be all that unusual: I'm still waiting for our son's 7th grade school pictures), why wasn't anything ever mailed to me from the court?

It started to seem sort of fishy, in retrospect.

I didn't want to ask him about it directly. Not only because of that *sensitivity* issue again (Hiya, Ray! I need to make sure we're divorced so I can marry my BOYFRIEND, OK?) ... and not only because every time I'd almost worked up the nerve to call and ask him about it, one of our children would announce that they were pregnant or joining the Army or building a nuclear weapon in the garage ...

... but mainly because I figured he would automatically assume it was about money.

I knew that right away he would go to the bad place in his head: Why does she want to see the papers?? Because she wants to pay less child support. Or because she thinks she's already paid too much child support, and now she wants some of it back. Or because she wants to wiggle out of her financial responsibilities. Or because she wants MY money. Or my Dustbuster. Ultimately, everything boils down to a money issue with the EH.  And I just didn't want to go there with him. Not if there was an easier way.  

A way, preferably, that didn't involve me having to actually DISCUSS it with him.

I had recently ordered (and obtained) a certified copy of my birth certificate via the Internet, with satisfactory results. How difficult could it be to obtain a copy of my divorce papers the same way?

As it turns out: extremely difficult.

The details will send you directly into a coma, but let me just tell you this much: six weeks, a bunch of long-distance phone calls, innumerable e-mails, several snail-mail letters and $47.50 later ... I STILL don't know whether or not I'm actually divorced. None of the agencies I've contacted seem to have any record of it being finalized.




ANYWHERE, she repeats for emphasis.

Neither David nor my mother appear to be overly-concerned about any of this. I am alone in my blind, blithering panic.

Mom did some investigative work for me a couple of weeks ago, up in TicTac -- including a phone call to the attorney who sat with the EH and me, in the spring of 1997, and helped us go over the paperwork  -- but we haven't turned up much of anything yet.

"I'm sure he filed," Mom says. The EH was in the middle of trying to buy a house at the time the divorce was going on: it would have behooved him to push the paperwork through in a timely (and legal) fashion. She's just not sure it was ever finalized. We both know that he is notoriously weak on follow-through. It wouldn't be completely un-EH-like for him to simply let it go unresolved.

"You might have to ask him about it," she said.

And David, of course, is his usual infuriatingly optimistic self. "If it turns out you're still married, then we'll just do whatever we have to do to fix the problem," he said.


Calm Rational Secra -- who is currently buried beneath eleven-bazillion tons of chaotic hormones and *self-pity molecules,* this week -- understands that this is probably true. She knows that she is probably making a mountain out of a molehill, and that there is every chance that the EH miraculously followed through and finalized the divorce, and that he simply never thought to send her the paperwork. Calm Rational Secra knows that even if it turns out that she IS still married, technically, that it won't be any big deal getting herself unmarried.

(She further understands that killing the Ex-Husband totally dead, in that event, is not an option.)

But Crabby Self-Absorbed Paranoid Premenstrual Secra -- who appears to be running the show (AND the website) this week -- could swear she smells steer manure, everywhere she goes.

Even when she's awake.

two years ago: the line blurs

throw a rock