Aisle Of Wit

Read More Articles

What I Did For Love

I sometimes look with deep envy at so many of my peers and relatives who are celebrating decades of wedded bliss with partners who have chosen to share ach others’ life journies and DNA with to create a true sense of family, community and support.  Through my daily ritual of social media hope, and given it’s peak wedding season, the sweet throwback photos that contrast their wedding days with their look today, typically with their adult children flanking them, almost always provokes a like, a positive comment, and sometimes even a sincere “miss you guys” which, of course, is almost never reacted to.

Had things gone differently for me, today would have been one of those days when I was posting something similar.  While I’ve shared with many who do actually read this the frustration and toxicity of my most recent marriage, I’ve never shared until now that there was a first.  28 years ago today was my first wedding day.

It was a lovely ceremony.  It was at a prestiguous West Hollywood hotel.  We had a celebrity rabbi perform the service.  We LOOKED happy.  (Oh, BTW, that’s my dad and sister in the picture.  Out of respect to my ex, I won’t reveal her name or image here; besides, I looked relatively thin in this three-shot).

But, as if often the case in Hollywood, looks can be deceiving.

I had been determined to find a spouse after my mom’s passing.  I lamented greatly the reality that she did not live to see the days she truly wanted to live for–the chance to walk (well, waddle) down the aisle with the spotlight on her for a brief second.   I had recently been let go from a short-lived position with a questionably moral distribution company, the second time I had lost a position within the year, and had recently purchased my first home, so I was unfortunately in a somewhat similar position then as I am now.  Genius that I was at the time, I figured the best solution would be to find someone to help support me through what I believed would be a brief setback, and down the line would hopefully be able to be the kind of partner to share any burden.

You’d be right to call me an opportunistic, misoygnist cynic.  But heck, it was the 90s, I felt my own biological clock was, to quote Mona Lisa Vito, “tickin’ like dis”, and many people I knew had done far worse in order to assure their legacy.

So I threw myself into a feverish search through personal ads (this was WAY before the “swipe left, swipe right” generation).  And to my surprise I got a reply from a woman who on paper checked off all the boxes,  Jewish, petite, from a successful family, claimed she loved children, to me somewhat attractive.  She was thrilled that I wanted a date, didn’t mind my physical flaws and would listen empathically when I would sometimes cry about my mom’s recent passing.

The fact that she had a severe learning disability was a fact I chose to ignore.   She was barely able to function on her own.   Her attempts at cooking were, in hindsight, comical.  She actually believed slices of bologna could serve as appetizers.  She burned a green bean casserole one Thanksgiving.  Her handwriting was incomprehensible–even more than mine, and not because her brain was thinking faster than her hand could respond.  She was a virgin when I met her, and not because of religious conviction.

But my self-confidence was so minimal I felt anyone who would think I was worthy of liking was not to be rejected.  Turns out she had even less self-confidence in herself, and as I got to know her family it became quite evident why.  She was the only surviving child of parents who both came from monied families; her Dad a particularly successful and elitist trust deed broker who bought into an exclusive Los Angeles area when it was being developed and counted numerous celebrities as his neighbors and golf partners.  When I landed an executive position soon after I started dating his daughter I met his minimal standards, which was strictly to get his daughter on someone else’s payroll.    Her mom simply just wanted her daughter to find a man to support her just like she did.

So two lonely,self-doubting, tortured souls from polar opposities of the intellectual spectrum found each other.   In plenty of cultures, that’s still called love.

As our courtship progressed we spent a lot of time together as a family.   As I was still in mourning, I savored the opportunity. But I began to see that extended family shunned them.  Her dad claimed to prefer alone time; we’d gather at holidays just the four of us, he’d challenge me with questions about my industry and laugh me off any time I’d describe my accomplishments and aspirations,   Her mom would sit silently, and more frequently was wearing dark glasses even at the dinner table.  They were both drinkers, and I would occasionally join them, enough so that sometimes we’d stay the night so I could sleep off the buzz. And one night I woke up to the sounds of dishes banging in the kitchen and what was the unmistakable sound of a human head hitting a counter.

I distinctly heard her dad muttering about how worthless he thought I was, incapable of inheriting his business or his vaulted legacy.  He didn’t have his own son–apparently there had been two stillborn births on either side of their daughter, both were men.  As I heard him slam pots, pans and his wife’s forehead against the kitchen counter he exclaimed “Dammit, I asked you for one thing–a worthy heir–and you gave me two dead babies and THIS??”.

Her mom never mentioned the incident.  But she was wearing a larger, darker pair of glasses for a while.

It was probably an omen that while we waited for our aufruf, a pre-wedding ceremony where the couple is “called up” to the Torah on the Shabbat prior to the ceremony, while I had my headset on listening to the NBA finals game going on, I heard a news bulletin that startled me.  I had to yell “O.J.’s coming right here!”

Sure enough, the infamous white Bronco, along with a caravan of slow-moving police cars and a covey of news and police choppers, passed right in front of us.  Our synagogue was right on the route A.C. Cowlings took back to the Rockingham estate.  We distinctly saw Simpson in the back of the Bronco, with a shadow of the gun he held at his head clearly visible.

I probably should have fleed myself. Right then and there.

But I didn’t.  We married, we honeymooned and then I settled into a more secure job pattern.  My wife did little but go to therapy sessions with her mom, and at one point they insisted I join them.  Their therapist was the son of a prominent Los Angeles rabbi, and would frequently talk down to us.  Again, mom and daughter said nothing.  But as I expressed my own frustration, he grew agitated and defensive.  And then, under duress, he finally confessed the severity of my wife’s disabilties, the abusive environment she existed in, and his informed opinion that she would never be able to successfully raise a family, or even handle a pregnancy, on her own.  His exact words: “You wanted a child so badly, you married one.”

I left her soon afterwards.  And sure as hell I never saw that lying prick of a therapist ever again.

Yet upon reflection I blame no one but myself.  That mistake I survived intact.  I kept my house, had time on my side, and knew I was doing the right thing at last.  Her dad did all he could to make our divorce painful.  He had me investigated, falsely believing I had an offshore bank account that I was funneling money into, because he simply wasn’t paying attention when I described a side consulting arranegment I had at the time.  Deposition after deposition was taken, at his cost, thinking he would at least get me to pay for his daughter’s life.  The day I saw him in court dejected that his claims were without merit was the first time I ever saw emotion on his ruddy, soulless face that wasn’t a mocking sneer.

No, it wasn’t a fairy tale wedding or marriage.  But I did see my ex’s best friend not too long ago, and she updated me with two encouraging items.  One was that my ex had found a man with similar challenges that she had, and that they, with help, were able to be self-sufficient.  She had recently developed enough self-confidence to hold down a job and they had relocated to another state, to finally get away from her parents.  And the friend added that her dad was in hospice, somehow surviving into his 90s but not likely to go much further.

Her now adult son was listening to our conversation, unaware that his “aunt” had such a troubled past.  He’s a great kid; with a budding podcast career beckoning him.  I vowed then that if and when he marries I’ll shake the hand of my ex’s partner if he’ll allow me and say “I believe we have two things in common, sir.  We both love people despite their flaws, and we’re both happy her dad is finally dead”.

I really hope to have that conversation.  And I’m genuinely happy that my first wife has found someone to love her in a way no one else, including myself, ever could.

I’ll save my feelings about my second wife, just in case she’s trolling.

Happy anniversary?

Until next time…