So Ordered

Steve writes about The End with brutal, hilarious honesty. The judge made it official, and the anticlimactic end to two years of divorcing is a Fluffernutter.

The divorce courtroom as you picture it: Last minute accusations. Long-lost lovers come forth with shocking revelations. Doors fly open with grown men claiming to be the divorcee’s long-lost son. Lawyers fly at each others’ throats as soon-to-be ex-spouses are restrained by beefy bailiffs.

The divorce courtroom as it is: The DMV meets your principal’s office. With Georgian columns.

The actual, final act of getting a divorce was as painless as the process was painful. It’s an exchange of paperwork: a very bored-looking judge, thinking “I went to Columbia Law for this?” looking over the 30th complaint for divorce that day. (“Complaint,” indeed.) Finally, the judge broke his silence. It was so quick it startled me, as I was spacing out considering what to have for lunch. A peanut butter and Fluff, perhaps.

My heart raced, as I feared I’d get something–like my name– wrong. A few perfunctory questions later and the judge pronounced the divorce “so ordered into the record.”

Briefly I looked at my ex. What is the etiquette for this? What does one do? A hug? Surely not. When you marry, the officiant spells it out: now, you kiss. But in this moment, a small tip would have been appreciated. Even a “You may now ignore the bastard” would have helped. I don’t remember what I did. Possibly some looking and nodding? Something stupid like that. A knowing look, like giving her a poker cheat. What can I say? I panicked. Nothing you have learned as a civilized, well behaved, Miss Manners Man prepares you for the protocol involving what you do as you “walk down the aisle” in reverse.

But I did not flash back on years of marriage and heartache (although my friend Jenn Lane describes this brilliantly.) No. I didn’t well up, as I thought I might. No. I thought about my kids, but only in terms of hopes for their future. Nope. In this awkwardly brutal moment, the only thing going through my mind was…

Don’t sneeze.

I had to sneeze so badly. Spring allergies. And the courtroom was dusty. And I hadn’t taken an Allegra. But I didn’t want to sneeze in court in front of the judge. I have no idea why. I must have thought “If I sneeze, he will see I am clearly the unfit person in this and will award everything to her.” It was a big, big empty room and the sneeze would have echoed… possibly through today.

Two days earlier I found myself in the state-mandated divorced-parent class. This is a real thing. You have to attend divorcing parent class before you can get a divorce. The class was exactly as useful as you would imagine a state-mandated class on being a divorcing parent would be. The materials were from the ’80s. They used an overhead projector with transparencies. They showed “movies” on VHS with health-class quality acting (inexplicably hosted by Timothy Busfield in his leaner, 30-something years). The only excitement came when a mom brought up how much she hated that her ex-bastard let her kids eat peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches, and there was nothing she could do about it.


She was defaming Fluff? Into the fray I jumped, defending this New England confection, this ambrosia, this perfect peanut butter pal. Perhaps Fluff ended her marriage, I fancied. Perhaps he made One Sandwich Too Many. Perhaps he used Raspberry Fluff, for which there is no excuse.

I had thought of Fluff in the courtroom, as I didn’t sneeze, or hug, or listen to a judge who wasn’t paying attention to me. That was my divorce court experience: empty calories. How’d that happen? Two years of drama led up to this moment. There should have been something. A musical number. A trumpet. A small firecracker, perhaps? No?

Just Fluff.

Don't knock it.

Don’t knock it.

10 responses

  1. Somehow, my experience was different. Much more freighted – and no fluff. Maybe because I hate Fluff. I’m sorry. Do you hate me for that? Please – there’s too much hate in the world already. I take it back. I “dislike” fluff. Hmm. Maybe that’s why my divorce wasn’t fluffy?

    As always – your observations made me laugh. And sigh.

    • I don’t mean to suggest the divorce was unsubstantial fluff – that it was full of nothing. The room felt empty and the final decision was undramatic and wrote. It felt as thought the judge found it disposable. I don’t use “fluff” in the sense of “light, meaningless filler” so much as undramatic, pale and predictable.

  2. I have never eaten Fluff but now I will have to-I like the raspberry fluff idea,though with peanut butter.

  3. You described my divorce courtroom in Cambridge in 1978.I’m happy now and my two kids are happy with kids of their own.No divorces and many compromises and therapy for all of us.

  4. You have to be in court to get a divorce in America? In the UK it was all done through the solicitor and paperwork. And no parenting classes of any description. I was so relieved when my divorce finally came through that I got married four months later. Second time lucky 😉

  5. Honestly, I think a sneeze might have been appropriate….maybe 3 sneezes in quick succession.
    To Steve.
    Forgive each other…All you have learned will be useful as you go forward.


  6. Like Jason, this made me sigh (and laugh). Beautifully and heartbreakingly stated. And maybe Timothy Busfield thought he was doing a public service? Can’t imagine he was paid all that much for it…

  7. Pingback: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO STEVIE… by Britt | Blooms and Bubbles

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