If I’d Prayed a Little Harder… : Society’s Take on My Divorce

Once again, social networking is focusing on this country’s marriage crisis. Remember these?

marriage 2

marriage good old days

no divorce again

What about these?

Your ONLY marriage? Why didn’t I think of that?

Toasters, Marriage, and the Good Ol’ Days

Divorce is not an option… you know… until it is.

Those were the products of the last time I was set off by social media’s snide little remarks on divorce. This time, however, my issue isn’t even the blog post I read. I understand that it came from a good place and that it included a beautiful message: marriage is about giving to each other, one hundred percent… with lots of Jesus undertones. Neither of these concepts bother me. I am a practicing Catholic. I dream of the day I can sit next to a man during Mass. If said man even wants to nix the birth control, I am legitimately okay with that.

What I have a problem with, is that every single uplifting marriage/put-an-end-to-divorce article I read includes a statement that goes a little something like this:

The more you love your spouse, the more they’ll love you in return.

That’s paraphrased, because I’m not trying to attack one article. I’m attacking the approach that’s being taken to the issue of divorce in this society, where everyone is forgetting that you cannot change another person, no matter how great your hugs or how fervent your prayers might be. He has free will… and sometimes that makes him a sociopath. That is just fact. Why is it that we can’t support each other without implying that anyone who ended a marriage just didn’t love hard enough or pray hard enough? After all, when someone frets over how willy nilly we’ve become about divorce, they are referring to we willy nilly divorcees. Worse, it always seems these declarations come from people who have been married for all of four months or, in some cases, not at all. Do me a favor. If you have not cleaned up your spouse’s vomit, held him through the death of a parent, watched her shit during childbirth, prayed through a miscarriage, buried a child, scraped together the money for the rent during an unemployment streak, rebuilt trust after cheating, or any of the other heartbreaking and trying things that come with marriage… then can you please take that well-intended advice and shove it up your ass?!?! That is, of course, if there’s any room left with your head all the way up there.

Think of 10 people who are divorced. Go ahead. I’m sure you can. It’s a freaking epidemic. Now, think of how many that you know, without a doubt, left for frivolous reasons. I get that the media is full of 72 day marriages and your aunt’s third cousins just woke up and decided they didn’t feel like being married anymore, but do you have any idea how rare that is? What about how hard that is to prove? Despite what my current Facebook feed might have me believe, there are still some people out there who keep their private affairs, oh, you know… private. It might look like she left because he wasn’t making enough money for her expensive tastes, but you have zero irrefutable evidence that she’s not covering up bruises with that cashmere sweater. As Gail mentioned earlier, no one attributes the rising divorce rates to the increase in mental illness or domestic violence. Everyone just assumes it’s boredom, with no verifiable facts. Regardless of the situation, being trapped in a bad marriage is like looking into an empty refrigerator for the tenth time in a night. It doesn’t matter how hungry you are or how desperately you need sustenance; it’s still empty. That was literal in my case. What was for dinner, in the summer of 2010? Tears. Tears were for dinner. 

empty fridge
My wedding portrait.

Just as it’s no one else’s business if parents spank their child, it’s no person’s business, but Man and Wife, if they decide to untie that knot. In fact, I’d dare say it’s less of anyone else’s concern, in a childless marriage. At least the children being spanked are the concern of society at the point in which their safety becomes an issue. My divorce, though? My divorce did not affect anyone but myself and my ex-husband, who was likely too busy chewing the legs off kittens to care, anyway. I don’t owe society an explanation (though it already exists within this blog). Now that I’ve received absolution from the Church, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. That’s right. By my personal faith, God is cool with the dissolution of my marriage.

fistbump with god

So society can suck it. How dare anyone make me feel like less of a Christian, a woman, a member of society for escaping abuse? You know what, though? I’ve been divorced for nearly three years. It’s been months weeks since I last cuddled my gun and cried about how he broke me. I can mostly handle the judgement without breaking. However, how dare anyone make a presently frightened, lonely, and hurt woman feel like less for wanting to escape abuse? The assumption that she’s lazy and disrespects the union of marriage does her a huge disservice in a time of great need.

I’d like to think that these aforementioned articles and memes are just being read by other couples, happily married for 7 weeks, who are too busy patting themselves on the back to recognize this subtext, but that’s just not true. We are in a technological age, and when we need information, be it the location of the nearest yarn store, whether or not Benjamin Franklin was a president (SHUT-UP, GAIL!), how to fill out a W-4, or if Christ will forsake us for leaving a toxic marriage, we turn to the internet. As someone who once Googled “Catholicism and divorce”, I can attest to the fact that there is a man out there who needs to leave, for the goodness of his soul, reading that he’s at fault for the black eye he blamed on his two-year-old, because he doesn’t love hard enough. He’s not right with the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the divorce rate in this country isn’t a problem. There are all sorts of statistics out there on how damaging a divorce is to the children in a marriage. There’s a .357 in my bed declaring how damaging it is to the individual. I do, however, disagree with acting as though a rancid marriage to a soulless bastard can be fixed with an extra Glory Be. I truly do not think that was the intent of the blog I read, today. But, if you looked closely, it’s exactly what the author claimed happened when his wife stuck by his side. He eventually turned things around, because she loved him enough. No. He turned things around, because he was a good person. Rather than focusing on how love can repair someone with free will, how about we focus a little more on choosing someone less toxic in the first place? Rather than posting memes about how you want your first marriage to be your only marriage…

Who freaking doesn’t?!?!?

Ahem…

… or about how the reason your marriage lasted was because you wanted it badly enough

Bite me.

Ahem…

… perhaps it would be more helpful to discuss how you chose a partner who could be your only partner. I’d really like to know the secret to immortality, because you’ll apparently never remarry as a widow. Okay. Seriously. I mean it this time. Instead of making patronizing and vague comments about how you “fixed” your marriage, tell everyone how you found someone who was willing to go through the repair process with you. You see, I actually considered marriage counseling. I really did. I just quickly realized that it wouldn’t work unless he was willing to stop lying, stealing, abusing the dog, and fabricating employment… and he wasn’t going to do that… because I couldn’t control him.

I am not just talking about the way we talk about marriage with adults. I grew up in a very religious town, where they’ve never heard of Separation of Church and State. Sixth through twelfth grade, I sat through at least 15 abstinence seminars. What if, instead of setting goals that are proven to be nearly unattainable for the average American teenager, they’d given us some information on choosing a partner, when we were ready? How about telling us some divorce statistics based on age of first marriage, while some shattered 23-year-old divorcees cried at a podium? I’m not saying it would be a guaranteed success. Teenagers are stubborn. Many will do exactly as they wish, because they are the exception to the rule… but a few may not. Why not educate them?What if society loses the assumption that every marriage can be fixed and replaces it with the idea that we should start dating with marriage in mind, rather than dating with the idea that marriage is a next step, regardless of compatibility? What if it didn’t take 48 hours to get a marriage license? What if we didn’t let children marry at 18? What if we stopped basing our view of lifelong, monogamous love on these ridiculous Nicholas Sparks books; where complete opposites, with different goals, who treat each other poorly, fall in love and spend their lives fighting over meaningless crap, without it chipping away at their relationship? What if we treat the source of the problem, rather than starting in the middle of a sickness and assuming that the cure is the same, regardless of ailment? Perhaps, if someone had given me more guidance in my choice, and I hadn’t wept on my wedding night, I wouldn’t have eventually wept the words “If I’d been a better wife, he’d have been a better husband.” Perhaps, though, I wouldn’t have done so if there weren’t so many people telling me that.

Tears, Giggles, and an Urn

Me: “I don’t know. I never actually watch porn. I only ever watch pornographic GIFs. You never see any faces and just have a repeat of the good part. I don’t need a story or anything. I usually have one in my head already. He’s a werewolf… she’s a woodnymph. It’s just best not to mess with it.”
Gail: “What is wrong with you?”

Gail: “I didn’t think they were legally allowed to sell vibrators in CVS.”
Me: “It’s not a vibrator. It’s a ‘personal massager’, you pervert.”
Gail: laughingly “I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend.”
Me: “Oh, hey! I was right. It does say ‘personal massager’… and it’s ‘perfectly contoured for the female form.’ Thirty dollars?!? Mine was only thirty-four and it’s a lot better ‘contoured for the female form’!”
Gail: “Ahhh, Belle. You will just say anything won’t you?”
Belle: “What? No one heard me.”

Sunday, it was just after these conversations, that I was lying on the couch reading the train wreck that is the This Man triliogy, marveling at how trapping a woman with an underhanded pregnancy isn’t considered abusive, but sexy, when my Dirty Girl Novel was interrupted with the following text from my Aunt Dee:

Do you think you could do a reading at grandpa’s funeral? I was thinking you and Mickey both. Both granddaughters and both good Catholics. Gramps was so proud of you.

I responded without the use of the word “irony”, proof that I can control myself and just choose not to do so, Gail. I told Aunt Dee to just let me know what passage so I could practice. Now… how much did I not want to speak at my grandpa’s funeral as a “good Catholic girl”?

thiiis much
Thiiiiis much.

I hate ceremonies. It’s a whopping generalization, but they’re all awful… and here’s why:

Weddings: usually an expression of financial irresponsibility. A couple goes into a marriage, either in debt, or just down a couple of tens of thousands of dollars over a party that no one really wanted to go to anyway. I was bored at my first wedding and I’m sure I’ll be bored at the next one, between the dry heaves and shouts of “maccarroni!” which Gail will have forgotten is our codeword for “I’m freaking out and why the fuck am I doing this again?!?!”

Graduation ceremonies: too fucking long and made up of overly generic speeches. At my graduation for my Master in Library and Information Studies, the speaker made repeated references to how it was “only a few short years ago that we were moving into our dorms.” Psh. It was only a few short years ago that I was drinking myself to sleep to take my mind off of my wretched marriage. I can guaran-damn-tee the forty-something woman next to me didn’t relate to the statement, either. The ceremony was also held inside a kiln and I sweated for two hours just for someone to call my name. There’s not even any actual requirement that you prove your right to graduate. They will, literally, let anyone walk.

everclear
What?!? It’s practically Ambien.

Funerals: Funerals just fucking suck. Everyone’s sad and the last place they want to be is standing outside in July, wearing tummy tucker panties and heels.

bridget jones granny panties
Ahhh, comfort clothes.

Also… I make everything awkward and a funeral is just not the place for that. In fact, the entire drive to the church, I kept thinking…

Is this dress too sexy? Do I look like I’m going clubbing after the funeral? 

I was pretty certain I was wearing a Magic Dress: a dress that can look equally professional or sex kitten based on accessories. I wore my interview heels, but had I been in the knee-high black heeled leather boots, I’d have looked rave-bound and I knew it. I just wasn’t sure about the heels and dreaded the whispers of “Can you believe she wore that?” Fortunately, Bea made a similar comment about her own simple black dress and told me mine looked great the second she saw me.

This uncertainty, however, is precisely why I didn’t want to do the aforementioned reading. I got to the chapel about fifteen minutes early and a woman in a glowing green suit jacket took me to the front, showed me a binder and instructed me to put it on the table to the left when I was done. She pointed out the steps to the podium, which were danged near invisible. I already knew I was doing the second reading and had gone over it the night before to avoid the mispronunciation of anything.

Okay. Don’t trip. Don’t forget to move the binder. I can do that.

The Mass started and my cousin Mickey immediately went up for the first reading. I did not hear one word she said, however. It was at that point, after the procession and drama and melancholy had set in, that I realized… I had no idea when I was reading. I had no Mass sheet and found I couldn’t remember the typical order and wasn’t sure how funeral Masses differentiated. My Aunt Dee was seated in front of me, so I spent the first reading whispering to her about how I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to do mine. Bea sat to my side and tried not to giggle. Mickey was finally seated and I sat with bated breath, just about to rise… then the music started.

Well, I guess it’s not now.

A Catholic Mass is a formal affair. A Catholic funeral is a very formal affair. I discreetly glanced around in hopes of spotting a neon green suit jacket, but had no luck. The music stopped, I was poised to rise… and Father started speaking.

Well, I guess it’s not now.

Father: “Geff was not a complainer or a whiner.”
That’s not true. Grandpa Geff whined about everything and everyone knew it. Why can’t we just remember the man for who he was, flaws and all? How is it respectful to make shit up? ‘Belle will always be remembered as a seven foot tall space cowboy.’ Horseshit. I shouldn’t think ‘horseshit’ in a church. 

Wow. I want to get married in this chapel. This place is gorgeous. 

st. patrick's catholic church

I started thinking about how it would be funny to put little decorative stones in the wall where the angels’ toes would be, so it looked like they were wearing nail polish. I felt bad, because you’re not supposed to think about that at a funeral. Then someone tapped my shoulder and I realized Father was no longer speaking and there was a woman wearing green Christmas lights sitting directly behind me, which explained why I couldn’t find her earlier.

“Are you going to read?”
“Oh! Yeah. I just didn’t know when.”

Bea assures me that the lull did not stretch out for days and everyone thought I was gathering myself, so there was minimal awkwardness in retrospective. She claims.

Then the sad part set in, because funerals suck.

Father: “Geff was a proud veteran.”
Grandpa Geff was a veteran? Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that? 

Father: “As we all know, Geff knew dogs.”
Grandpa Geff was into dogs? Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?
Father: “Having worked for the post office for many years…”
Oh. It was a joke. Grandpa Geff didn’t know dogs. Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?

I should have visited him more. I lost five years with dad’s family, because of my mother. I hate her. I shouldn’t think that in a church, during a Catholic Mass. I’m doing this all wrong. I’m failing at a funeral and I hate my mother!

I want to suck my thumb and cry and I don’t want to be in tummy tucker panties. I can’t suck my thumb in public and emotions are gross. Why are we even doing this?!?!

Me: crying and whispering “I hated his Christmas party, every year. No one liked it and a lot of times we never even went. I feel so bad. We didn’t have Christmas with him last year. How awful that we didn’t want to spend any time with him at Christmas?”
Bea: “We had his birthday party, though. That was nice.”
Me: “Yeah.”
Bea: “Oh, my gosh. I thought for an awful moment that maybe you weren’t there.”
Me: snorting and laughing “Nana nana nana.”

Oh, gosh. We shouldn’t laugh during a funeral. We look like we’re having the best time.

Gramma was the same age as Grandpa Geff.
That brought on more tears.
Oh, I’m crying because of the thought that Gramma might die one day, rather than the fact that Grandpa Geff is dead.That is so much worse than reading Lady Porn when I was asked to read a bible verse! I am the worst person! 

Not only is a Catholic Mass a formal affair, it is one fraught with beautiful ritual, as is every Catholic Mass, and attended by many who do not know these rituals. Mass ended with Father raising his hands in prayer.

priest holding out hands

I looked over to see Bea and her brother Cade doing the same… alone. They only lowered their hands when they saw my cousin and me snickering.

Finally, the Mass ended and we made our way to the cemetery. My dad carried Grandpa Geff’s urn, a brass perfect square, in one hand like it was an empty casserole dish.

Cade: “Only Kent would carry an urn with one hand.”
Aunt Kendra: “Kent, I hope that’s sealed.”
Me: “My dad thinks it’s dumb that we have to bury it anyway, so if he drops it, it’s probably not an accident.”
Step-mom Lena: “Don’t joke about that. It’s taken very seriously in the Catholic faith and you might offend someone.”
Dad, Cade, Bea, Aunt Kendra, Me: simultaneous laughter

My step-family is not Catholic, if you haven’t guessed. My step-mom certainly meant well, but no one present would’ve been offended. In fact…

When we arrived at the burial plot, we found the unmarked hole, perfectly carved out for Grandpa Geff’s urn. We piled on his roses and the wreath that read “Grandpa” and gathered round as the sadness set in and everyone got quiet.

“Wait. We’re over there.”

That is right. We almost threw Grandpa Geff in the wrong hole. The hearty laugh we got out of it as a family is precisely why Lena needn’t worry that anyone would be offended by jokes about the redundancy of the Catholic decree that we bury ashes.

Other Shit You Probably Shouldn’t Say at a Funeral

Dad: “..and then father will bless us with the ashes.”
Me: “Okay. Wait! Bless you with the ashes!?!?!

blessing urn
What he meant.
ash wednesday
What he realized I was picturing.

– Debating cremation versus burial –
Bea: “I don’t want to be burned!”
Me: “You can’t feel it. You’re dead.”
Bea: “Hopefully!
Me: “Well, if that’s the case, then I’d rather be burned than wake up.”
Dad: “We’ll just have to make sure to leave a string tied to some bells outside of your grave, Bea. That way you can ring for help when you come to, like in the 1800’s.”

– Driving to the cemetery, my step-mom holding the urn on her lap, everyone waiting for us to bring Grandpa to his final resting place –
Cade: “Ugh. I’m starving. Can we stop for tacos or something? 7-Eleven is giving away free Icees today.”
Me: ::tearing up:: “Wait. He was alone when he died?!?! That’s horrible.”
Step-mom: “Belle, he was alone, but he wasn’t there. He hadn’t been there for days.”
Bea: “Wait, wait, wait! 7-Eleven is giving away free Icees?!?!

My dad gets out of the truck and leaves the urn while he checks to see if we’re in the right place.
Cade: “Kent… I think you forgot something! You didn’t even crack a window.”

– sitting in the back of my dad’s truck with Cade and Bea , while my dad and Lena bury Grandpa Geff –
Bea: “Is my dress see-through? I feel like it’s see-through. Could you see anything in the sunlight?”
Me: “Yeah. You’re practically naked. You’ve got a little toilet paper in your ass crack, by the way”
Bea: “I hate you. It only seems see-through right here.” ::points to space between her legs::
Cade: “I don’t know what’s worse, the heat or this conversation.”
Me: “Yeah. Geez, Bea. ‘Hey, big brother. Can you see my vag?'”
Bea: “I cannot believe you just said that!”
Me: “You’re the one who said it.”
Bea: “I am not!”
Cade: ::groaning:: “Thank you for that, Belle.”

Me: “Ugh. It is a thousand degrees in here. They’re gonna have to bury three more piles of ash if they don’t hurry the hell up.”
Cade: “It would be awesome if the window was open and they could hear you.”

My Grandma Kay has been divorced from Grandpa Geff for near fifty years, but was at the funeral.
Me: “Hey, kid. Did you wish Grandma Kay a happy birthday?”
My cousin Mitch: “What? It’s Grandma’s birthday? Seriously?”
Me: “Yes, seriously. It’s on Facebook, if you don’t believe me. Go tell her happy birthday.”
Dad’s cousin Tina: “Aw. That’s a tough day. We should take her some flowers.”
Me: “Hey, there’s some over there in the chapel.”
Mitch: laughing “We’ll just take her all of the funeral arrangements. She’ll never know.”
Me: “Yeah. Let’s take her the wreath with ‘grandpa’ on it…”
Mitch: “… we’ll just write ‘ma’ over it.”
Tina: trying not to laugh “You guys are horrible!”

I came home and I slept. It was a tough day. I’d have been content to skip it and pretend Grandpa Geff was still alive and that I just never see him. The only consolation is that Grandpa Geff was a devout daily Mass goer. He’d have been thrilled by a traditional Catholic funeral filled with people he loved sharing the occasional laugh. There’s not a whole lot more for which anyone could ask, and if one sucky day fulfills that life goal after a painful battle with cancer… well, at least it’s all over.