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…
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?