I was in a meeting this morning with one of my bosses and another [female] attorney going over a job I’ll be working on for the next couple of weeks. In this case it happened to be a divorce. Completely uncontested and amicable, as though they were two friends who decided to use a law firm to settle a bet: “Ok, ok, so I say that a whale’s penis weighs more than an elephant and HE says it doesn’t. Who’s right?”
Over the next twenty minutes, as we went over forms to be filed, calls to be made and items to be “hashed out” (whatever that means), I managed to make the three following very poor attempts at humor:
1. Boss: “They’re splitting everything down the middle.”
Me: “I hope there are no pets . . .”
2. Boss: “See if we need this notice about child support adjustments. There are no children involved, I don’t see why the court would require it.”
Me: “Well, I guess you never know.”
(Note: This joke is not only inappropriate, but it makes no sense. I can only guess that I was making some ambiguous reference to the wife being impregnated by another man without the husband knowing it. This of course fails to take into account the fact that were that to happen, the woman would then get very fat and, nine months later, an actual human would come out of her, that being the definitive evidence as to whether or not there were children involved in the divorce. When I made this comment, my boss chucked, looked confused and said, “Yeah,” while the female attorney just shifted uncomfortably in her seat, all of which seems about right to me.)
3. Me: “So why are they getting divorced?”
Boss: “They just don’t want to be married anymore.”
Me: “Well that’s not very exciting.”
And that last one is the one I have the most trouble with. Not the one where I suggest cutting animals in half or the one where I allude to the wife (our client) being a tramp, but that last one really bothered me because my response wasn’t me trying to be funny for my boss, but more of a natural reaction to discomfort. The thought that these people are ending their marriage because they, “Just don’t want to be married anymore” made me completely uncomfortable because I don’t get it. “She slept with the DHL guy,” “He gained 150 pounds,” “She converted to Muslim” – these things I get. But just saying, “Eh, I’ve got better things to do . . .” I can’t wrap my head around that.
If you ask me, this is why men are afraid of marriage. I know it’s the reason I am. It’s not a fear of commitment, or growing up or finally having to tell her about your hepatitis. It’s a genuine fear of making a bad decision. I liken it to the fear I will have one day when I finally buy a house. I lost weeks and weeks of sleep all three times I rented apartments in the past, and those were short-tem commitments with the caveat, “Hey, if you hate it you can always say you got fired and break the lease.” I can only imagine what my trepidation will be like when I finally buy a house with the idea in mind that I might “live out my days” in that wood and sheetrock structure. What if it develops a smell? What if gangs move into the neighborhood? Or a Wal-Mart? What then? Can you just bail out on all the hard work and all the memories you put into that house?
So too it is with marriage. You can’t just lie to her and say, “Hey, honey, I lost my job, I need a divorce,” because she’ll say, “You lost your job? How come you’re dressed for work then? Are you cheating on me? I’ll take everything you own! You were awful in bed too!” And then she’ll sleep with a very muscular guy and you’ll develop a drinking habit and catch VD from someone you meet off Match.com. And sitting there in the waiting room of the doctor’s office to get your Gonorrhea shot, you’ll realize that all of this happened to you because you made one very bad decision a long time ago and, in retrospect, you really should have thought about it a little harder.
(Now I’m in the mood for a sentimental ending)
Needless to say, I was bothered by the whole meeting for some time afterwards. I went back to my desk and started doing some research. Then I got an email from a friend that started with the line, “This is cool even though I found it on a porn site . . .” Right then I knew that, regardless of the mistakes I may make in my life, I can always be assured that in one very important area I made the best choices possible: my friends.