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Episode #3: 31 Years Ago Today…(About May 19, 2021)

31 years ago today, May 19, 1990, I thought I was *the shit* and that my young life had finally *arrived*. And that I had officially reached lovability status. I was 24 years old, just six years out of fucking high school and had waiting my entire life – at least since my teenage life – for this day. Just a few weeks before this day, my fiance and I had closed on the purchase of our brand new townhouse in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. It was a 3-bedroom, 2 and ½ bath, 2-level home with a fireplace, probably all of 1400 square feet with the highest grade white wall-to-wall carpeting. It was May 19, 1990 and I was waking up in the townhouse all by myself the morning of my wedding.

My fiance had stayed with her friends the night before, so we didn’t see each other before the ceremony, as if we could prevent our doomed marriage. Our marriage had already been doomed when we had gotten engaged 2 or 3 years earlier. We got engaged to prevent me from breaking up with him. The diamond on my finger prevented the break up for about 12 or 13 years – through the engagement and almost nine years of marriage – when he asked to separate. 

It’s been over 20 years since the split, so why do I seem to still take pause – and even choke back a tear on this May 19, 2021, 31 years after my wedding day? I don’t know…May 19, 1990 was the date I set for my wedding. The day I thought my fiance would truly begin to see me, know me and cherish me. The day I thought he would become a husband and a real man. The day I thought I truly entered adulthood and would never have to answer to anyone ever again – at least not to my family. My wedding gown was perfect – something about lace and a peplum and rhinestone studded white satin shoes with toe cleavage and a wedding reception in a brand new conference center and resort with top-shelf booze at the open bar and a buffet dinner – more expensive than a sit-down dinner! What can I say? It was the beginning of the ostentatious 1990’s and we were flying in the morning to the Canary Islands for our honeymoon. 

It was such a good show everyone put on – my new husband, our families and I. He and I had taken second jobs for over a year – maybe it was even 2 or 3 years – to save money for a down payment on the townhouse and for our honeymoon. My parents – who seemed to have had a few good years financially as entrepreneurs – agreed to splurge for the wedding reception for 150 people. My husband’s father and his third wife paid for the rehearsal dinner – it was all a really good show. I remember finding out after we got back from our honeymoon that at least three couples had formed, if only for the night of our wedding: my husband’s twin sister with one of my uncles, a neighbor and family friend with a co-worker of mine and two friends from high school. 

My husband and I were proud and felt responsible for bringing those people together and all the other fun at the reception, including something to do with shots and handstands and change falling out of the pockets of my husband’s and the groomsmen and at least one of my uncles. 

After the honeymoon, we settled back into work and fixing up the townhouse – decorating inside by painting accent walls, hanging curtains and all that – and putting in a deck out back, and flowers in the yard. I loved saying that I was married, I loved saying *my husband* and I loved hearing him refer to me as his wife. We showed off our new life by hosting many dinner parties – large and small – and we seemed to be the perfect couple…and yet…I kept expecting more of my husband, waiting for him to be ambitious and successful like the husbands of some of my friends and colleagues and like so many of the men I worked with who were husbands and fathers. I had access in my HR work to the salaries of all employees and I compared my salary to theirs. Mostly, I compared my husband’s salary to theirs: his salary had become less than mine, beginning a couple of years into our marriage and his salary became exponentially loewe than mine over the next several years. He was still working on his bachelors degree by the time I finished my masters degree in Human Resources Management at the age of 29. By the time he graduated, I threw him a party and had written an invitation that I looked for today and realized I had thrown it out years ago, to sort of forget that time in my life. 

I remember being embarrassed that my husband was in his early 30’s when he finally finished his undergraduate degree, so in the way only I could to sort of *safe face*, I wrote a poem as the party invite that basically said how patiently I had waited for him to finish school. If I were him, I would have been insulted by the poem. Maybehe was…his best friend had come down for the party from their childhood home town in New Jersey, took him out for the day while I prepared for the party of 60 people. When they returned, just as the party was starting, my husband was so stoned out of his mind that he could barely move his mouth to speak. I was humiliated – what would the guests think? – family, friends, co-workers all the already way more successful people that he was – what would they think to know not only was he a slacker academically and professionals, but he was also a fucking stoner?? I remember practically dragging him upstairs to our bedroom, gritting my teeth and lowering my voice, speaking with venom and from my throat, demanding he put on his sunglasses and to get his shit together. He couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off of his face, so I kicked him in the shin as hard as I could. I’m sure he couldn’t feel it and my mind went back to pulling off another good show…a fabulous dinner and party for my cute – but stupid – husband, who I pretended to be proud of. I remember wishing that he’d just finished his Ph.D. instead of a bachelor’s degree and a joint. 

As I am describing this man and my disappointment in him, you listeners have GOT to be wondering why all these years later I still feel a sense of loss on the anniversary of my wedding day. Clearly, it’s the loss of the IDEA of marriage forever, of building a life with someone, and progressing over the years together – academically and professionally – and then eventually buying a bigger home and having a family. Except I knew not to have children with this slacker of a man. The more successful I became – academically, professionally and financially – the more he would slow down and make comments about how he’d be happy to be a stay-at-home dad. 

This literally repulsed me on so many levels that all I could do was announce to anyone who asked or hinted at us having kids, that we would think about it after 10 years of marriage. I was repulsed because: 

A. He wasn’t inspired by me to do better with his own education and career. Shit, we’d started dating when we were 19 years old and had pretty much the same starting point. We were both on our own financially, with no help from our families. He was working full-time as a non-degreed mechanical engineer for a government contractor. I was working full-time at night in bars to pay my rent and college tuition. Why didn’t he do the same? 

B. How could any man think it would be sexy to be a stay-at-home dad? Look nothing against the stay-at-home dads out there and their wives who are okay with that – THIS man would NOT have been your role model stay-at-home dad! He didn’t really appreciate me – he’d say he was proud of me, but I could tell that I emasculated him. He gave up, really, I KNEW it. And

C. I’m sure that he would have goofed off all day, drinking beer and getting stoned, and that I’d come home to a child, plus a man-child to pick up after. No fucking thank you! 

Eventually, we sold our townhouse and both took jobs with our respective companies in NYC. He started on his MBA and a new career in finance, in a shitty entry-level position. I was so embarrassed for him and myself that after all our years together he was still playing catch-up with me. He was feeling it, too, and wanted to separate after a year in NYC. 

That’s a whole other story to tell, which I have told in a 387-page memoir about the one-year period in my life, starting with the devastating day when my husband told me with a flat and distant look on his face that he had been thinking about it for a year…. 

He really did me a favor and i have been on a self-discovery journey – in fits and starts – and mostly free ever since.

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