Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
I know they say the third time’s a charm, but what about the second time?
After managing to survive through all those weddings and all those babies and all that divorce, when you hit your 40s, it’s time for round two: The Second Marriage.
The other night I received a flurry of e-mails between my four best friends from high school. These are friends from Kingswood-Oxford, the fancy-pants private school I was kicked out after my sophomore year because they said I was not “focused enough.” What they really meant was, “Your daughter is a little slut bag who we’re pretty sure was on mushrooms during lunch last Thursday.” But that is another story.
What I got out of it was these remarkable friends who somehow managed to get good grades, play varsity sports and get really high scores on their SATs, all the while experimenting with every drug known to man and traveling around New England to see Grateful Dead shows on the weekends. While they went on to top colleges and then law schools and graduate programs in this or that, I got shipped off to boarding school, where I also performed very poorly and ended up in Professional Skibumdom. (The whole “freelance journalism” thing is a nice front for whenever I am confronted with awkward questions back East).
So in the midst of several e-mails between us the other night, Sue writes, “ps. We need to plan a bachelorette party. Will call. That last e-mail chain was WAY too confusing! Xoxo.”
To which there was a flurry of responses from everyone going, “Wait, who is getting married?”
There are four out of five of us who at 40, are poised for marriage: two divorced, and two who have never been married. Only one is still married after 15 years and three kids.
First there’s Heather, who has been dating the same guy for five years. She’s a real looker, you might say, a statuesque brunette with dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a sharp tongue who wears confidence the way some women might douse themselves in strong perfume. She’s put this poor boyfriend of hers through the ringer in every way possible, despite his ongoing efforts to express his love and devotion via bike trips to France, beach vacations in the Caribbean, and lavish gifts.
You can’t blame her for being too cautious after the debacle that was her divorce. Her marriage was great – she married her best friend, the man she’d been with for 10 years. They did everything together and were annoyingly happy and good-looking, destined to have beautiful children and a big house and fancy cars and yearly family Christmas cards they sent out to the immediate world to rub their perfection in everyone’s faces.
Until one day, her husband got cancer and survived it only to become addicted to pain meds and fall in love with a woman he met at rehab. Needless to say, he is well into his second marriage, and she is more commitment-phobic than ever. I’m personally rooting for her current boyfriend, teasing her that she’ll finally give in somewhere around her 65th birthday and we’ll have this really fun wedding and make fun of the fact that it only took her 25 years to tie the knot.
There’s Lisa, a trial litigator from NYC who eats people for lunch on a daily basis, never mind the man who’s brave enough to get into an argument with her at home. I guess she does have a guy, but he lives in another state and is only referred to as “Big Dude.”
Then there’s Sue, a lawyer whose divorce to her lawyer ex-husband took over a year to settle even if the only thing they really shared was a flat in Brooklyn and a Corgi named Monty.
It turns out Sue is the one getting married. She is, after all, the most likely suspect considering she has a beautiful 9-month-old daughter with her new man. They live together in one of those old white colonial houses in Connecticut, where their weekends are spent with the baby and his three kids from a previous marriage, driving to hockey games and soccer matches and birthday parties. It’s a whole new life.
I wrote back, wait, can I have my first wedding first? Even though technically, I am not engaged yet, but we’ll save that for another day.
See, I’ve always had this arrogant attitude about marriage and divorce. I’ve been critical of second marriages, wondering how someone can make a vow when they’ve already made it once before and broken it. Even though I’d rather see my friends happy than stay in a bad marriage, it felt like my generation dropped the ball. We didn’t try hard enough or take it seriously enough. Maybe it’s because half of us are the product of divorce, so it’s her parent’s fault. (My parents have been happily married for 42 years. So don’t look at me).
The truth is, I’m just lucky. I could have been any one of my friends who married the wrong person or got married at the wrong time, or whose parents got divorced or whatever, but for some reason I wasn’t. Over time, my opinion has changed. We’re all a little older, a little wiser, and a little less idealistic. It should never be too late to learn from your mistakes, to have a chance for a better life.
Somehow I made it through the first 40 years without making any mistakes that stuck, though god knows I made more bad decisions than good ones. I guess in the end, not choosing the wrong man was the only thing I ever did right.
And now that I have the right man (thank you, God), he can do no wrong – even if he was married once before.
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