My Big Fat First Wedding
The End of Everything
Recently my friend Liz and I were listening to the car radio when an old Linda Ronstadt tune came on. "What ever happened to her?" I asked as we sang along.
"She got fat," Liz answered, as if that explained the end of everything.
Getting fat did explain the end of my first marriage, which at the time seemed like everything.
The night I met Robert, my ex-husband, I was wearing a faux-leopard miniskirt, tight black T-shirt, and punked-out hair and was deep in my bohemian phase. I lived in San Francisco and had just returned from a six-month backpacking trip through Asia that had left me whippet thin, tan, blond, and in desperate need of scaffolding to support a new life. At 29 I was ready for someone who actually owned furniture instead of someone who slept on the floor surrounded by his guitars.
Robert wore wire-rimmed glasses, a button-down plaid shirt, and khakis, an outfit that revealed him for what he was -- a refugee from suburban Connecticut with a big-money job. We spotted each other across the dance floor of my favorite club and, with the magnetic force of attractive opposites, we moved in together six months later. A month after that I was pregnant, an accident that we took as a sign that fate was deciding our future. We got married.
During those first few years Robert and I lived nearly parallel lives. We moved to Massachusetts to be near my family and he found a different job, one that required him to travel. I traveled, too -- not physically, but into motherhood, navigating the strangest terrain of my life. On weekends Robert escaped on his mountain bike, becoming fitter and faster than ever before. Since we'd have had to pay a sitter if I went with him, I usually stayed home and took care of our son and, within two more years, our daughter. When it was my turn to have free time, lord knows I could have chosen to jog or pump iron. But motherhood had made me hungry for the company of women. I chose friendship over exercise.
When Robert's friends called it was to invite him to bike. Mine invited me to eat. Four years into our marriage he still fit into his San Francisco jeans. I tossed my old clothes after our son was born, trading tiny skirts and tops for oversize cotton pants and shapeless shirts that made me look like a retired professional wrestler with bad knees.
Robert and I seldom fought. We laughed a lot and were still affectionate, even holding hands. We got along better than many rock-solid couples we knew. So why couldn't we make it? What were our "irreconcilable differences," as the lawyers say?
I could point to political land mines. Robert was a Republican and an avid fan of conservative talk radio; I had a knee-jerk liberal's history and would join a protest at the drop of a leaflet. I could also cite differences in our friends, in that his were mostly salesmen who acted like frat boys, while mine were disheveled cotton-clad intellectuals whose favorite pastime, next to feeding frenzies, was watching films with subtitles. I could even say that Robert and I divorced because he held up his end of the bargain as a provider while I failed in my designated role as domestic goddess.