I came of age in the 80s. Say what you will, make fun of all the big hair, the shoulder pads, the music. I adore its leather pants, the shiny running shorts, and big blazers. But it was quite another thing to encounter it in the court-required class on kids and divorce. While I’ll concede the idea of the class is OK, the time it was offered was yet one more obstacle the state puts in your way to try to keep you together. It’s offered once a month, on a Friday night and a Sunday morning, times that equally punish everyone and derail all divorce coping strategies—the pity party folks who go home on Friday to watch movies with their dogs, the partiers who try to drink and sex their pain away, and the churchgoers who are turning to their god. Oh, and you pay $80 for the privilege. I will admit to none of those coping strategies, but I had a very intense work week, so I showed up at 7 pm with absolutely nothing in the tank. The two very nice, earnest people started the class and before I know it they played a video clip. As in a VHS video. While I was distracted by wondering how the tape hadn’t disintegrated yet, the video itself proved even more distracting. It featured kids talking about how divorce affected them, and they look like they came out of my high school year book. The padded shoulders, the Flashdance ripped sweatshirts, the big permed hair—there was even a scene where a girl is using a curling iron to create two-inch vertical bangs while talking about her deadbeat dad. I had this weird moment of feeling bad about these kids, sad about being old and divorced, and having a flash back to a Wham video. As I leaned over to my fellow divorcee to comment, I realized she was much younger than me. I slowly panned the room. Twice. They were all younger. Some by a little and some by a lot, but there was no doubt that my 47 years were the front-runner in the age race. The vision of George Michael prancing around in shiny shorts give way to an irritation fed by it being 8 pm on a Friday night after a 50-hour work week. I started to feel indignant. I put 20 years of sweat, tears, and a child’s projectile vomiting into my marriage. What the heck were you people doing here? Did you have your first fight and throw in the towel? Was your spouse not stepping up to help with the kids like you thought? Were you having money problems? Boo hoo! When I was your age, my marriage was like walking 10 miles in the snow and eating bark off the trees for sustenance. But I did it! I didn’t run off to divorce court at the first sign of trouble. I futilely banged my head against that tree in the snow for years, and I’m (twitch) perfectly (twitch) fine! The facilitators began talking again, and I started thinking about a sliding scale for this class—the longer you’ve been married, the less you pay. Heck, I should have gotten the class for free. I was working up a really good righteous anger, but I couldn’t sustain it—I was just too damn tired. That’s when it occurred to me the real purpose of the late time of the class—despite our anger and bitterness we were rendered harmless by our own fatigue. I understood the kids in the 80s video spoke truths that we all needed to hear, whether we’d been married one year or 20. We transitioned to video movie clips and I was blissfully distracted again—a young Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs Kramer. I wonder how he would have looked in shiny shorts?
Photo credit: Chai a Cup of Life