Monday, August 20, 2012


So here's some of what I've been doing in the past couple of months, apart from my usual occupations of fretting, riding too little, and walking the wee beastie in the woods, where we encounter all sorts of magic, every time.

The publication of this p
iece, ostensibly a book review but also an essay (I did not write the incendiary head, by the way, because it does not reflect my beliefs, which are, basically, do get married, but don't get divorced) taught me a lot of things. One is something I knew before: people are impatient with others' sadness. They do not like to hear about it, they want it over and done with in five minutes, and they call you nasty names if you do not comply. Of course, one suspects that most of the commenters--of which I read the postings of about five, before deciding my skin was way too thin to withstand their rocks--are guys in their twenties who have never been married, and so have yet to experience the dissolution of the namelessly large and overdetermined experience that is marriage. I'm mean. My wish for them is to be left suddenly by their wives after, oh, some 28 years. But only after they have become fat and bald. Then we'll see what they have to say about not whining and just getting right back up on their feet.

Or maybe they will indeed do it. Maybe it's just an anomaly of me and almost everyone I know who's ever been divorced to experience it as a process, like grief (wait, not like grief; it is grief), that can't be hurried. One that does not represent a moral failing to live through in its fullness. Before getting back up on your feet. For sure.


D. Brent Miller said...

Wow! Some of those comments were downright ... well ... mean. Obviously, they just don't get it.

I fought to save my first marriage, but I learned that when one partner wants out, there is no stopping it. About a year later, I met a woman who was also divorced. I think divorce changes expectations somewhat, and also provides lessons for the next time. We have been happily married now for more than 26 years. It's very clear, we were meant to be together--best friends, companions, lovers and soul mates.

I never thanked my first wife for divorcing me.


Sal Paradise said...

Ouch, and double ouch. Yes,those comments were mean. You are a wonderful writer - I would read your shopping lists.

To the point, I feel that we are not in control of our biology - it controls us. This after 20 or so years of ruminating on why did I get married, and why did my wife do such and such and then not do this and that.

I think nature just used us, for her own purposes and we just went along with this unaware. We were biological puppets.

I actually found a lot of forgiveness in this thought. I wonder what B. F. Skinner would say?

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Sal, I believe you are absolutely right. I am even more of a biological determinist than I ever was, which is saying a lot. At this point I am basically ready to ascribe every "deep" thought about existentialism, as well as every moment of angst over any subject, to hormones.

That's it--we are just vessels used by hormones so they don't spill all over the place and get wasted.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Brent, you have the happy ending that everyone wishes for. I'm glad.

Your point about changed expectations is germane. It's better to be dealing with reality, anyway: fantasies lack something in duration. The biggest and hardest lesson I learned, and which I plan to take forward, is acceptance: accept who someone is, not who you wish him to be; and the favor will be returned.

I suspect that if you haven't shopped the greeting card aisle in a while, you are going to find it a changed place. I have a feeling they now have the card you want. And wouldn't your first wife be surprised to receive your gratitude after all this time!

Sal Paradise said...

I wouldn't say "just vessels" because I think we are spirits aboard them, trying to find our way. We have some ability to come to terms with this. We have to or we are reduced to animals.

But I just find, as I said, some forgiveness for being human and being driven by biology. Nature won out above all in your case and in mine, because we had kids. Nature wins out a lot.

All that said, and as much as I have told myself over and over again that love is just instinct and advertising and biology- my heart tells me otherwise. It says that love is real. And I think yours does too, or you wouldn't be writing like this.

Kent said...

Nelson and Winnie Mandela were married for about thirty years; for twenty-seven of those years, Nelson was imprisoned. A few years after he was released, they were divorced. I think that says something about marriage, though I am not sure what, exactly.

Off topic: I wish the AMA would've invited you to speak at the Women and Motorcycling Conference last month. I was there, shooting a video would've been a great addition to the program.


Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

OK, Sal--you figured me out. Damn. Is there nothing I can keep a secret? (Well, not if I keep nattering in public . . . )

I view the persistence of my sense that love transcends all that would keep it close to the chemistry of earth--it keeps wanting to soar--as perverse, or worse. (Then again, maybe better.) Against all the evidence I've personally amassed, against its virtual disappearance now, I still believe it is possible. I know it's real for many of my readers, who have written eloquently of how they know it. For a short while, I experienced it too. Wow.

The love I have for my child is just insane. Inexplicable, wild, joyful, and forever. Nothing compares.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Kent, I'm not sure either. Let me think about the Mandelas.

(No, actually, severe trials often seem to break apart even the strongest bonds between people--it's like, all the individual can do is cope on their own; there's nothing extra to do the work of understanding and forgiving, which is what marriage is on a constant schedule.)

I too wish I had been at the AMA conference. That would have been fun. Please let me know when your video is done--would love to see it.

Kent said...

My client was KYMCO Scooters, so it is focused on their product, but it still gives you a feel for the event.

I will, with your permission, tell my contacts at the AMA of your interest; you would make a great addition to the speakers bureau at the next event.

Anonymous said...

You will be fine. Look around and observer others who have survived he same thing. More of my friends and family have been through similar things than those that haven't. I was lucky and married Kathy. Today is our 39th wedding anniversary. She loves me and motorcycling and puts up with my goofiness. Couldn't ask for more. But before I met her is was adifferent story.
Dale F. Gruver

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Dale: Happy Anniversary! (Even if that's redundant in your case.) Bravo.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Kent, that's a really well produced spot. And the conference just looks like a heck of a lot of fun.

I'd be honored if you wanted to put my name forward.

Shybiker said...

As I expected, your review was thoughtful and lucid. And, as I've learned, the general public is full of rude, insensitive, uninformed people who have access to computers. We shouldn't listen to them.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

I deeply appreciate that, SB. I hope you don't ever get served that kind of stuff on your blog. It can hurt, even as you tell yourself why it shouldn't. I find myself wondering what benefit the human animal derives from gratuitous attack. Something quite necessary, it seems.

Pierre Sim said...

Hi Melissa,
I just read your last piece. Indeed it is frustrating to realize that we are surrounded by insensitive people who judge others without knowing their lives. You are such a great writer. It is was you have been asked to do: write wonderful texts for the enjoyment of other human beings. Please continue to analyze behavior and other human emotions. We learn from your experiences and talent.
It is almost fall. Take some time off to enjoy nature.

Bill C said...

It's hard to judge critique without considering the context. Daily Beast is a site that tends to attract snark seekers, not sensitivity. I would expect an unpleasant reaction to any poetic submission, no matter how good or accurate.

That aside, like all that hits the fan, the pain of divorce is not felt equally by all concerned. Some find it a glorious relief from a terrible situation, and they will not understand attempts to see it as anything else. It isn't so much their impatience with sadness as it is their inability to see why anyone would grieve ending a relationship gone bad. Those with this view will not gladly read of divorce seen as continuing pain, or appreciate sympathy for it.

I've come to understand grief (as opposed to regret) is inevitably forward-looking: we grieve for the perceived loss of the good times we hoped to have. For those who see the prelude to divorce as portending worse to come, grieving seems maudlin: the divorce prevented a greater darkness. Those whose personal divorce seemed the assassin of a shining future will tend to feel terrible empathy for the grieving left behind. Our starting points often shape the experience of our destinations more than the conditions we find there.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Bill, what a beautifully incisive take on all this. Certainly (and it's hard for us to think this way, even as it's crucial), events can be experienced only within the framework of the self, and the entire personal history that precedes the event. There is no "one" divorce. And every single experience of one spins off a whole collection's worth of short stories. So which one is true? (As the author under review remarked; "I'm sick of stories," she says, and I know just what she means.)

I think you've done the division here quite right: for some, it's a relief. For others, a shock. And that has to do with which way you were facing when it happened.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Pierre: Merci mille fois.

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