Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ex-Wife Syndrome

I have always been afraid of sounding like an Ex-Wife.  You know what I mean.  There are so many of them, and they all say the same thing, roughly: "I loved him, I trusted him, and I married him; he used me, he betrayed me, and he lied to me; men are all scum, and who needs them!"

Since I always feel the Ex-Wife lurking in the back of the room when anyone asks about my Ex-Husband, I have always been unwilling, afraid, self-conscious about describing life with him.  No-one, I think to myself, is going to get it.  Everyone is going to assume I am exaggerating, am twisting the story, am making him sound worse than he was, even if just for the pleasure of a well-rounded story line.  I don't think that any of my friends, with the exception of my sister Ruth, will one-hundred-per-cent-ed-ly believe what I have to say.  They will, privately and kindly, reserve judgment.  Because, well, after all.  I am the Ex-Wife.

So, therefore, and because of which, I do not.  I use vague phrases which everyone will get the gist of, and say things like -- "Well, he used drugs, and he was abusive to me, and he cheated on me, and he spent all my money," and let it go at that.

But I was just reading another blog post, written by a young man -- well, a man about my age, I guess, -- who had worked for Michael at the Art Museum.  While Michael was holding his brief position there.  I remember him too, vaguely -- but I don't know his name, so let's call him Chip.

Chip had been fired, at Michael's behest, and he had also been the "ringleader," albeit reluctantly, for the guards, in their protest against the treatment they were receiving from the management at Michael's hands.  And he is both a humorous man, (though fairly self-absorbed, but hey, it was a blog.  Where else are you allowed?) and a good writer.  And Chip had written a careful, detailed and lengthy description of what working for Michael was like.  And it was remarkable to read.  Both for its power to bring back those memories, which I have not put in the player for years, and for the degree to which he saw Michael.  He spent some time thinking about him -- and why not? -- and he got him.  (He was still making the mistake I made, and that is, attributing these behaviors to an imaginary fundamentally normal man.  And that is the thing.  Michael is fundamentally abnormal, and sees the world from a different vantage point than all the rest of us.  In Michael's view, it is Michael's World that he sees.  We all live in Michael's World.  Not in The World.)

In spite of that, however, he also saw Michael from the point of view of someone who was used to bad behavior in people.  Used to people who drank too much and misbehaved, who used drugs and saw the world through them, who broke the law and might get caught.  (Very different from me and my silly, wide-eyed, love-is-a-many-splendored-thing viewpoint.) And even from this viewpoint, from this place in the cold, hard world, Michael stood out to him as a Bad Guy.  Michael hadn't stolen from him, cheated on him, kept him awake for hours in the night yelling at him, but he still recognized that Michael was a Bad 'Un.  He hadn't had a gun shoved up against his head, while Michael loomed over him, weeping and grinding his teeth with fury and sweating great drops onto him, but he still saw Michael as a Bad Man.  This I also found remarkable, and very comforting.  Very.  And not because I don't believe it myself, or doubt my own point of view, or anything like that, good heavens, no.  But because I know I cannot describe it in any way that people are going to absolutely get.  Because I am the Ex-Wife.

And I believe this is where I came in.

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