The recent news of Al and Tipper Gore divorcing after 40 years of marriage has sparked a national conversation on matrimony, a particularly resonant topic for me at the moment.
You see: I’m on the other side of the spectrum. I am getting divorced after a mere eight months of saying “I Do.” Despite the brevity of my union, it still hurts like a dart to the heart and I am extremely embarrassed. With that said – I can only imagine what the Gores are feeling. They have lived a public life on a global stage, survived a presidential campaign, and raised a few children. Not to mention the wealthy assets and property they have amassed through the years that will have to be divided upon their separation.
Dwelling on the elements of their unfortunate reality has made me look inward and take a new perspective on the collapse of my own short-term nuptials. Fortunately, we didn’t have any kids and we only own one house, but the whole endeavor has still spawned a surplus of questions: Did I dodge a bullet and ease the pain by folding in the cards before a year? How would I feel if I spent the better half of my life with my wife and our love crumbled after several decades? What exactly constitutes a successful marriage?
Those who know me were extremely surprised when I first told them I was getting married. I’m talking shocked – like the first time Screech saw Jesse naked pole-dancing in Showgirls. I was not the settling down type. My best friend and I would constantly joke that “marriage is not a word – it’s a sentence.” The truth is, I fell in love like a lot of young people do – fast and furious on a crowded dance floor in a trendy Boston bar. My grandmother had always warned me that lightning would strike one day, and I had gotten electrocuted over the head with a fierce bolt. We moved in together within a few months and took a luxurious vacation to Europe, I proposed on a Lite-Brite in the lobby of her office building three weeks later. I took the bulk of my life savings and bought her an overpriced rock and used a huge chunk for a down-payment on a new construction townhouse. We spent the entire summer planning this majestic and innovative wedding and the legwork actually was worth it. The event was a smash success and exceeded my expectations. I always said if I was going to get married I wanted something out of this world – like fireworks, fire eaters, and midget-tossing. I settled on a breathtaking museum venue, personalized paintings, and a Frank Sinatra lounge singer. No midgets were thrown and fire was absent.
We spent our honeymoon at a top-notch resort in Jamaica – drinking kegs of frozen cocktails, eating jerk chicken, and getting massaged by freakishly strong Rastafarian women. It was an exciting and passionate love affair and I’m sure if we outlined the life details of the Gores it would sound even more captivating. So what went wrong?
My situation perhaps is a bit more transparent. We were what a friend referred to as “the tumbleweed and the street lamp.” At least on paper. I am a social butterfly who has had the same friends since high school. I love adventure, vacations, and constant stimuli. I also don’t work in the corporate world. I am an aspiring novelist and independent publicist who never knows where his next paycheck is coming. I’m laid back, creative, and athletic. She is a meticulous and successful accountant for a major healthcare firm. Her ideal night is lying on the couch, watching Gilmore Girls, and planning the intricate details of her retirement plans while she calculates how much it would cost to add crown molding to the den. I guess the bottom line is that sometimes opposites don’t attract. For the record: I didn’t want the divorce and there was no one else involved.
But the Gores? Life partners for four decades. Like-minded activists. Proud parents of four successful children. How did their long love fade like a crayon tattoo in a downpour? When we wrote our own vows and announced them in front of our family and friends – I believed what I said and I was ready to honor them. But when the idea of being locked down to someone for eternity causes supreme anxiety and depression – in today’s hyper-stimulated world is it wrong to want to run for the hills?
Strangely, although I am financially, spiritually, and romantically wounded beyond repair, I don’t regret the entire experience. I joke with friends that I have pulled a Men In Black and flashed my brain of all past memories. But the truth is, marriage is difficult and complicated. Whether it’s a few months long or several decades. It’s like a plant that has to be constantly watered. Mine died on the vine and failed, but so do half the marriages in America. There is an old saying: “If practice makes perfect – how come nobody is perfect?”
I’m OK with having a Cindy Crawford-like mole on my reputation. If Al Gore can endure and persevere after such an extensive relationship – so can I. Sure I don’t have his money or recycling skills, but I have a cool Boston accent and when I say “Havad Yad” chicks dig it.
I wonder though, since he invented The Internet – does he gets preferential treatment on Match.com?
Josh Mitchell received his degree in journalism from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Pissing On The Pulse Of The Planet, his non-fiction collection, was released by Yellow Moon Press in 2008. He lives and writes in Boston, where he runs his own boutique PR company Wickid Pissa Publicity.