Thursday, August 31, 2006

There's only one way to have a happy marriage...

and as soon as I learn what that is, I'll get married again.
--Clint Eastwood (b. 1930)

So many things to write about, but I only want to pick one. So I'll go with divorce.

This week, a married couple I know announced that they were getting divorced. Both husband and wife are part of an extended group of acquaintances, so in the months leading up to this announcement, there had been much speculation and rumor. They're not particular friends of mine, but I know them well enough to be disappointed. But by "disappointed," I should clarify that I'm disappointed their lives aren't as free of trouble as I would wish all my married friends to be. I'm disappointed FOR them, but not disappointed BY them.

In this particular case, I don't know of any particular reason to get divorced (and they didn't elaborate), but I also don't know of any compelling reason for them to stay married. It was nice when the couple was married, and it's nice that they acknowledge that they're not right for each other. I can't and won't speculate on the causes.

Divorce usually has some pain associated with it, even if it's only the fleeting acknowledgement that now you have to check "divorced" on all your applications, or that you have to go and change your bank accounts again. And as far as stigma goes, as a society we're gradually moving away from the "untouchable" class. After all, Henry VIII of England had to start his own religion for a divorce and ordered the death of principled men (see A Man for All Seasons). Now it just involves divorce lawyers. Either way, someone ends up losing their head because of furious anger.

I'll confess, though, that being told about a divorce and noticing a suddenly-ringless left hand is sad. But it's not the sort of sad that would even accompany a divorce of a friend. I feel a particular kind of sadness, and the only way I can identify it is to describe a similar situation. I feel the same sadness whenever I drive through a small town and find the main street deserted. Shops that were open even twenty years ago are closed and empty. No people on the sidewalk, only signs for Zenith and Frigidare appliances, and the only reason I'm there at all is because the road happens to go through there from my origin to my destination. That sort of tidy desolation is the sadness I feel. There were no fires, no looting, no natural disaster. Everyone calmly and over time came to the conclusion that it was better to not keep these stores open.

It's the same sadness I feel when I walk through a shopping mall where I grew up, and find it now half empty, with many "for lease" storefronts. Those that remain cater to a trickle of people. The saddest part is looking at the people working behind the counters, who rely on this as their livelihood (maybe) and will have to close eventually. Not even Fergie can save them.

That's the sort of ... I don't even know if I can call it sadness.... but a sort of disappointment and dissatisfaction that I feel when two good people get divorced. It's nothing personal; just me disappointed with the way the world works sometimes.

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