How to Get Divorced by 30
My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage
Read Sascha Rothchild's posts on the Penguin Blog.
A hilarious memoir about the ending of a marriage that should have lasted forever-or at least for five years.
It's an age-old story. Girl meets boy. Girl marries boy. Girl decides she is way too young to be stuck in nuptial mediocrity.
When Sascha realized that the one person she didn't want at her thirtieth birthday party was her husband, she knew that it was time for the relationship to end. So, like the hordes of others of her generation for whom starter marriages are as common as Louis Vuitton knock-offs and $5 Starbucks lattes, they got divorced. With wit, moxie, and honesty, Sascha spills about the horrible ex-boyfriends, awkward dates, drugs, a near-death experience, and memories of growing up in an unconventional household that led to her short- lived marriage.
A story of love, loss, a flat-screen TV named Ruby, and plenty of misguided decisions, How to Get Divorced by 30 is a hysterical look at what exactly "Til death do us part" means today.
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“It’s very sad when a five-year marriage only lasts two and a half years.” “Do you have a quarter for the toll?” Susan and John had unconventionally droll reactions when I told them I was getting a divorce. I guess my parents weren’t surprised.
There had been major signs for months that I was unhappily married, and I’m not even talking about typical offenders like chronically passionless sex, crushes on coworkers, and the occasional fantasy my husband might die in a freak accident. Painlessly and quickly, of course. There were other, bigger signs. But it wasn’t until talking to my sister, Berns, one day on the phone that I realized I wanted to end my marriage.
Berns is seven years older than me, half an inch shorter, and by far my favorite person in the whole wide world. She has big lizard-green eyes, Shirley Temple ringlets, and heaps of compassion mixed in with the perfect amount of bitchiness. She will help a blind man cross the street while commenting on a passerby’s tacky French pedicure. “Why would anyone want her toenails to look longer? Disgusting!” Berns can’t walk a New York block without someone stopping her and asking, “Where did you get that?” And usually “that” is an item she herself made: a ruffled hat, a polka-dotted purse, a gold-plated chicken foot necklace. No matter how old I get, how many spats we have, or how much I might hate her clown chic taste, I can’t seem to shake my big sister idolatry.
I was on the way to the gym when Berns called me from New York to discuss my upcoming thirtieth birthday. It was six months away, but with such a big milestone she wanted to start planning in advance. Did I want a huge party? Or a small dinner? Casual dress or cocktail attire? Costumes? A theme? Maybe I could finally get all my friends to dress goth. Who would I invite? Did I want to go somewhere? Vegas, like she did for her thirtieth? Back to Miami Beach, where we grew up? Or stay in Los Angeles, where I lived?
As we talked about the pros and cons of all these options, one definitive thought struck me: regardless of what city I was in or what I was wearing, I didn’t want Jeff on the guest list. I didn’t want Jeff to be anywhere near me on my thirtieth birthday. I wanted my thirtieth to be free of Jeff and all his status quo mediocrity.
This thought was both overwhelming and freeing and struck me with such force I burst into tears. I should have been able to sob to Berns over the phone and explain what I was going through, but having been raised by a mother who wanted us to call her Susan—because “Mom” is so cliché—and who scorns any kind of raw emotion, crying was not something we did often, especially in front of each other.
“What? Berns, I can’t hear you. Must be bad reception.”
I quickly got off the phone and drove on, past actressfi lled coffee shops, cell-phone-immersed dog walkers, and homeless men on roller skates, all blurred by my thick tears. Finally I arrived at the gym, pulled into the parking lot, and sobbed some more. I knew people were staring at me as they walked by my car but I didn’t care. It was one of those rare and decadent moments when I really let it out. Snot and all.
When I was little and would cry, Susan would make me look at myself in the mirror. “See how puffy and silly you look? You don’t want to look puffy, do you?”
After watching myself for a minute I would start to laugh. Because Susan was right: I did look puffy and silly. And pathetic. No mother, no matter how nonmaternal, wants to see her child crying. Susan couldn’t handle my tears and thought she was being helpful by showing me how unattractive and unnecessary they were. It was better to hold them in and beat back all feelings with laughter, sarcasm, and cleverness. But the dam has to break sometimes and when it does it’s like a polluted river. All sorts of things you didn’t realize you were holding back come spilling out, and they are as toxic as mercury-filled fish carcasses, dirty needles, and used condoms.
The problem was, Jeff was my husband. And not wanting him to be with me on my thirtieth birthday was a feeling I couldn’t ignore. In the scheme of relationship red flags, that one was crimson. After a few more minutes of parked car bawling, I looked at my face in the rearview mirror. I was already puffy and definitely pathetic. I pulled myself together and as I walked into the gym I knew I would be divorced by thirty.
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