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We all grow up being taught myths about life: our country is always right, God is watching over you, hard work will yield wealth, justice will prevail, the police are your friends, the people inside the TV cannot actually see you, marriage is forever. The list goes on and on.
The myth I was taught that did me the most physical harm was the one about marriage. It was a combination of my parents and Hollywood that did the trick; my folks were 1950s high school sweethearts, likely virgins when they married at age 21 (I’m not going to ask them for details about that and if you do, please don’t tell me), and are still married in their late 70s. Because of this small-town, old-world impression of adult life, I got married at 21 also. It lasted 16 years, we had two daughters, then it fell apart with alarming speed and misery.
I was single for six years, then, like a blathering halfwit, I got married again. She was a wonderful woman and we were destined to be with each other (then) but there was no logical reason to drag the courts into it. We could’ve had the same relationship without marriage and it would have been logistically and financially easier when it was over. Still, the idea that two people can be best friends and lovers for decades on end is a farce, whether you complicate it with legal entanglements or not. A lucky few couples have that kind of relationship, but the overwhelming majority do not. They either split up after x years or they stay together in mutual misery. That’s fine, but I just wish someone had told me when I was a kid that that’s the way life is.
In fact, I wish someone had said this: relationships are terrific but they end in pain; there is no higher power that’s willing to drop everything to help you succeed, so do it yourself; this country is a terrific place to live but it isn’t any more “right” than most others and “GOD” isn’t on our side; some police are your friends, others are assholes who wanted a legal reason to carry a weapon and push people around; hard work is good but don’t expect it to make you rich unless you’re already a member of that club; most priests are probably good people but some are dangerous so stay out of the rectory after school.* Stuff like that.
*In the interest of fairness to victims of molestation, I should make it clear that I was never molested by a priest or anyone else. But I was an altar boy, was alone with priests many times and was taught to respect their authority without question, which is how that stuff happens. I was lucky it didn’t.