Thoughts on turning 30.
My father walked out on my mother on her 30th birthday. I was three years old. I don’t remember much, but him packing and then slamming the screen door; though that’s not to say that was actually the time he walked out, he slammed the door often. I also remember years later my father buying me a book called “Dinosaurs Divorce” all about a family of dinosaurs; even dinosaurs’ marriages went to shit.
Tonight, I watched a film. Both the screen play and original novel were written by one of my all-time heroes, Nora Ephron. The film is based on the book, “Heartburn” and I recall seeing it in my mother’s kitchen for as long as I can remember. There are several recipes sprinkled throughout the book, as the protagonist is a cookbook writer, which makes sense why it would live in the kitchen next to all the other cookbooks. But there was something different about this book and now I understand why my mother wanted it in view at all times. This book was her lifeblood; it was what got her through her divorce.
With her witty banter, wonderful character development, and authenticity of the pain and hurt she, herself, felt during her painful divorce of Carl Bernstein, Ephron rips your heartstrings out with the always phenomenal Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson as we watch their marriage (her second) descend a downward spiral until there’s just a black hole. Never the victim, we watch Rachel Samstat continue to write her food column in New York, spread rumors about her husband’s affair having herpes, and give birth to two girls, all the while keeping her shit together and attempting to salvage her marriage. The greatest scene is when they are at a friends’ dinner party and Rachel decides she can’t be in the marriage any longer and throws a perfectly good key lime pie in her husband’s face and then demands the car keys. She is not a victim and makes that perfectly clear.
Like the children in the film, I was too young to understand what was happening when my parents went through their divorce. I remember staying at my grandparents’ house (similar to the little girl in the movie)and unable to comprehend what was taking place. I like to think that, like Rachel Samstat, my mother handled the end of her marriage with grace, humor, and dignity. Their divorce was ugly and she tried her best to shield me from that ugliness as much as possible. My mother is incredibly strong, smart, funny, caring, compassionate, and doesn’t nearly give herself as much credit as she deserves - my respect for this brave woman only becomes stronger as I grow older. Times were different when she and my father were married. There was an unwritten rule in the late 70’s early 80’s, that said “graduate college, find a man, have kids, live happily ever after.” My mother was 23 when she married my father in 1980; three years later they had me, six years later (or maybe earlier) it is speculated that he had an affair on a business trip in New York with my mother’s former college friend, seven year later he walked out on us, eight years later they separated, nine years later they were legally divorced.
I used to fault myself for being in my 20’s and never having experienced a long-term relationship. At 23, I had just started a new job at CollegeHumor that would change my life. I was living in a shoebox with one of my closest friends, and I was very single; the only relationship I struggled with was the love/hate one I had with NYC. I saw couples together and could not even fathom what it was like to be someone’s girlfriend. I now understand that I didn’t want to meet the person I’m supposed to be with for the rest of my life until I really knew who I was, found my passion, become a successful business owner, and feel completely secure in my growth, values, beliefs, and what it is that I want in a partner to share my life with.
Thirty is not the new twenty, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I don’t fault my parents for my stagnant emotional growth, instead I am grateful for the gift of time that has been given to me so that I can find someone who is equally as awesome as I am.