Monday, July 2, 2012

Introducing, For the First Time, Mr. and Mrs....

Look what my mom found in her wallet!!! As I said in my blog about the upside and downside of separation/divorce (see, up until the other day, the only picture I had of myself in my wedding gown was a picture of myself and my mom. Craig got custody of the wedding photo album, but he's giving it back to me at the end of the month, when he moves into his condo. He's been keeping it in his garage, like with his snow shovels and WD-40, so Lord knows what kind of condition it's in.

August 3, 1996.  Here I am, age 24, with my 25-year old husband. (Seems too young to get married, looking at it from age 40.) Pictures like these are bittersweet. I did love my husband (and still do and always will) and our future seemed ripe with promise, as most married couples' lives feel before YOU GET THE LIFE AND PASSION COMPLETELY SUCKED OUT OF YOU. Since this photo, Craig and I have gone through a lot more than his male pattern baldness (his hair is much...thinner nowadays, and the top of his head is, well, really....shiny) and me not fitting into a size 16 gown anymore (thank GOD). In the subsequent 16 years since this picture was taken, we've gone through hell-and-gone and lived to tell about it without killing one another and still can claim one another as friends.

I figured since it's wedding season, and everybody's posting pictures of their sweethearts and celebrating anniversaries online, (which is very tiresome) that I'd spice up my own online presence and show off our young selves for both posterity's and reminiscence's sake, despite the fact that most of the married people I'm actively friends with (not just Facebook friends) are either awaiting a divorce date, are planning a divorce (either with or without their spouse's knowledge yet), are otherwise in flirtationships with other people, are staying married because it's fiscally and pragmatically more sound and/or they feel trapped, largely because of finances, or are only in it for the kids' sake (which, as I said in my previous blog, makes both you and your spouses douchebags, not martyrs).

For all the anti-divorce paraphernalia and marriage counseling literature and Jesus-driven DVD seminars my own brother loaned me when I separated from my husband, and how he emphasized to me that divorce is a punishable sin that goes against everything God teaches us about the preservation and sanctity of marital vows, I have yet to encounter any friend of any denomination who has brought up God's plan....period, which is interesting, given my brother, himself, got a divorce at the end of last year, after 18 years of marriage. (PS--I never did watch the marriage counseling DVD's. Please. I was already in my own place by then.)

If anything, a lot of the married people I know are remarried at our age, their "trial marriages" over, regardless of duration. Moreover, the remarrieds or dating-but-in-a-stable-relationship report satisfaction with having held out for their new mates in life as opposed to having toughed it out with Spouse #1, either miserable or bored. Meanwhile, the either never-married or divorced-but-single shrug and uniformly say that Virginity Part Two, Mid-Life Version, is far less physical and emotional hassle, or conversely, are sleeping around indiscriminately like they did in their early 20's. (Much of that hinges on how long the well's been dry. I know a handful of people, literally, no lie, who are either still married or recently divorced whose wells have been dry for more than a DECADE and are waiting for their flirtationships to, uh, blossom or who are a hair away from placing ads on (a site for the severely desperate that litters my spam box, always claiming that "35 hotties" want to meet me, which icks me out completely).

What category do I identify with, you might ask? Let's call it the "Generally Too Petrified and Deeply Scarred To Even Entertain the Idea With Anyone and Isn't Even Thinking About It Yet" or, some days, "You'll Have To Be Pretty Fucking Special to Even See My Heinous, Multiple Abdominal Scars In the Light of Day, Much Less Paw Around My Whole Body, Superman!" or when I'm feeling really guarded, "Thanks, Chris. You Ruined Me For Life." There are still other days when I resign myself to the fact that as far as I know, there's only one man in my life, other than my 12-year old son, who can not only pick me up several inches off the ground, but is willing to kiss me before he puts me down (my son indeed DOES pick me up, and is still willing to kiss me on the cheek!), thus I am a vile, old hag.

In the divorce advice blog, my mom and I got to talking about what to do with my wedding gown, permanently preserved and boxed up by a dry cleaner, up in my mom's attic somewhere. Like I said before, I didn't have a daughter, so I wouldn't be passing it down a generation. It's HIGHLY doubtful Luke's future bride would want to wear it. But a friend from St. Paul told me, when I posted the wedding photo to Facebook, much to my friends' delight and Craig's chagrin (I "tagged" Craig in the photo, which means it ends up on HIS page too, which I'm sure his girlfriend is REALLY happy about...she always seems immensely intimidated by me, and I can't figure out why), that a lot of people save wedding gowns to later make their grandchildren's christening gowns. That sounded like a quaint idea. 

But does that count in divorce? Will Luke want a christening gown made from his divorced parents' wedding attire? It kind of seems like bad luck to me. Then the other reality struck me. ME AS A GRANDMOTHER? What the crap? That BETTER not happen for another 20 years.

My mom and I joked that maybe Craig's girlfriend would want to wear it for their wedding (should that happen), though we'd have to cut off about 14" inches, since she's only 4'9."

Looking back, we really did make a cute couple at the time, though in hindsight, we were SUCH a bad match it's ridiculous. Both book-smart, right-brainers who lack the basics of common sense (he's even worse than I am, and I'm pretty bad) and practical life skills, we were both obsessed with music, which, in addition to both being English-Writing majors, were our only commonalities. We'd met at WVKC-FM, the Knox College radio station, my sophomore year. I was 19 and doing my first stint as a disc jockey, Craig being the Music Director of the station. I thought Craig was reasonably cute, and was nice and very, very offbeat, which could''ve been part of my attraction to him, though I don't characteristically like redheads, he wasn't very tall, was really quiet...I don't know...there was something about him. (Maybe it was an evolutionary reaction, "If I procreate with this person, we will breed a super genius!") Below: Dad and Luke, 2003.

*I* asked Craig out on a date, which I'd never done before, because I'd never dated before, apart from the Girls' Choice dance senior year of high school, which was a bomb and a half with a boy who didn't like me at all. Craig and I agreed to go see Oliver Stone's "JFK," though it sounded incredibly boring (and was), but it was a long movie, and I wanted the date to last as long as possible. He asked me if I wanted to go out for Chinese beforehand a few days before THE DATE, so I said yes. He paid for dinner and I paid for the movie. (The same Chinese restaurant was the site of his marriage proposal in May of 1994.) At the movie, he went to the washroom, leaving his wallet in my hands, knowing I'd go through it (please, I'm a chick!), in which he kept pictures of his 2 high school ex-girlfriends (BOTH of whom ended up being lesbians, oddly enough), and pictures of girls HE didn't even know, all of which left me with this impression that my date was a stud, which he wasn't. Disappointed that he didn't kiss me when he walked me back to my room (he lived right down the hall from me in the dorm), we sort of agreed to go on another date, which was a week or two later, during which we went bowling in Galesburg. Apart from being groped at a couple of frat parties freshman year by drunkards, Craig was my first kiss-on-a-date. His kiss was messy and obligatory, not that I had any experience in rating guys' kisses, mind you. After the 2nd date, fizzzzzzz. That was in February, 1992, and we wouldn't see one another socially again until April, while he "sorted out" (read: tried to reconcile with) his feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Heather, whom I hated, and who hated me. (Now we're good friends, unique members of the "Why Did We Ever Date Craig To Begin With?" Club. Though we couldn't have hated one another THAT much in college, because I trusted her enough to let her shave my head.)

Heather didn't want Craig back, so in April of '92, Craig asked me to go see *something* on campus, a movie or a play, but I said no, because I was still mad at him, feeling as if I was a consolation prize (which I was). Thinking back, I was probably manic (though not using any substances, not even booze, and not diagnosed) when, the night of April 13, 1992, I was listening to Craig's radio show on 'VKC, called him up and invited him over to my room after his show by blatantly asking him if he wanted to sleep with me. (Which, come on, no matter how ghastly my ex-husband found me physically, show me a 20-year old guy who's going to refuse an offer for sex.) The only reason I can suss out as to why I'd impulsively decide on the spur-of-the-moment to, you know, LOSE MY VIRGINITY, was that I had to have been manic. (And a girl can only hold out for George Harrison for so long.) That, my  friends, was the beginning of our romantic relationship, which, at the time (and still to this day), Kate didn't really get, apart from the radio station/English-Writing major connection. Pretty much everyone thought our personalities didn't mesh well, but Kate says nowadays that it seemed like I was happy so she kept her opinion to herself. (Her husband didn't like Craig either.)

It seemed like once I had a boyfriend, and I didn't feel it was right to date around (which is a HORRIBLE mistake for a college girl on her first boyfriend), other guys at Knox were all suddenly interested in me. So caught up in my new relationship with Craig and mentally imbalanced, I failed 2 of my 3 spring classes and was kicked out of Knox on academic suspension for a trimester, and though Craig spent some time in Chicago (where I was working temporarily full-time) with me during my "sabbatical," and I would visit Knox, me holding out for when we could reunite in January of 1993, Craig was dating multiple girls (though, to my knowledge, wasn't getting anywhere with any of them, or so my spies told me...spies like Kate).

Once I got back to school, I had my own room in the Quads, which was about the size of my mom's bathroom, and Craig had his own sprawling room in Williston, the dorm Kate and Tim supervised and lived in. Since all of my friends lived in Williston, and Craig and I were stuck like glue, that's where I spent most of my time. It was around that time when I accidentally stumbled on the Psych paper he wrote about not being physically attracted to me whatsoever (see We continued to work together at the radio station, though fights would ensue whenever I found his "hidden stash" in his dorm room. 

God, I remember one sobbing evening when we were all (Kate, Tim, Craig and I) supposed to go to the Galesburg symphony and I'd either just read the Psych paper or found a stash, and it was all Kate could do to calm me down, and we all went anyway. (And, if you're still clueless, no, the "stash" wasn't one of drugs. Think back to before the internet days.) Dummy me a) believed him when he said he'd refrain from such behavior (which haunted even our marriage up until the end) and b) didn't see this as a HUGE RED FLAG that perhaps dating other guys would be healthy for me. 

We continued to date exclusively and lived together the summer of 1993, sub-letting, then squatting in Tim and Kate's apartment when they moved to New York. We lived on about $35 a week, Craig working overnights at a hotel and me working in the Dean's office until I came down with mono and had to go home for the rest of the summer. While Craig was supposed to have graduated in 1993, he'd taken a trimester off his freshman year due to depression and decided to stay the entire '93-'94 school year to be with me. 

Finally, when we were starting to talk about marriage, I decided to take a break and date around, and by date around, I mean returning the affections of a strapping, handsome pre-med guy from Germany, who was a couple of years younger than I was, whom I deflowered while Craig sat around waiting for me. That would only last a month or two, after which I decided that I did, in fact, want to marry Craig (which is why, now, I'm not the wife of a successful surgeon working in Austria). By then, we were known around campus as one of those couples who were obviously going to get married. Craig and I, the Grunge Era (Annie Punk, Version 1.0), Senior Year, Spring 1994:

Unable to afford a real engagement ring for me at the time, on the night before my 22nd birthday, Craig proposed at the aforementioned Chinese restaurant by giving me a giant, glass fake diamond ring he found in the magic shop in Galesburg. My mom came down for my birthday, and upon hearing the news, said (verbatim), "Don't expect me to congratulate you." Knowing full well that Craig was the only boyfriend I'd ever really had, my mother's statement was, looking back, sage, and I should've listened to her. 

Craig then graduated and I had one term left, which I did as an arts semester in Chicago, technically living downtown in the Gold Coast, while Craig was living and working in the suburbs, having moved up here permanently from Kansas. (It was during that final semester when I worked at Q101, and met Best Male Friend. My first impression of Best Male Friend, according to my journal at the time? "Cute and nice." My impression of Best Male Friend's best friend? "Hot, but acts like a rock star." Incidentally, my impressions of both men are the same, 18 years later.) 

Long story longer? Craig and I got married.

Anyway, back to the wedding picture. That was during my corporate-world conforming stage, before I went all punky-on-your-asses (I think I had only one piercing in each ear) again and Craig and I both had a lot more hair, mine dyed strawberry blond (hindsight? Eeew). The wedding was decent. Craig's dad and my former Pastor, SuperJuls' father, co-officiated. It just happened to fall on a Saturday in 1996, so we got married on my dad's birthday. (Turned out? Bad omen.) We had a small wedding of only about 80 friends and family. My brother walked me down the aisle to give me away. My now-almost-age-20 nephew was 3 1/2 when we got married, and was the ring bearer. (I didn't have a flower girl.)

The reception was awesome at a tacky banquet hall-now-a-bank, De Leo's, in Chicago. Dinner was chicken kiev and God knows what else. I honestly don't remember. This was an old-school banquet hall with velvet-accented wallpaper and the whole shebang. (Our budget was limited, er, Craig's parents' budget was, and they were already paying for our honeymoon in Europe.

My maid of honor was my (at the time) friend, Stacey, who turned out to be...there's no nice way to describe her--a cunt with whom I haven't spoken in at least 5 years. Kate and Tim were supposed to stand up in our wedding, but Kate unfortunately fell ill with the Crohn's Disease and couldn't fly in from New York, which saddened me deeply, though she says she knew even when Craig and I were dating, that it was headed for eminent disaster and she IS NEVER WRONG.

We did all the traditional wedding shenanigans like renting a limo and having personalized Craig & Andrea cocktail napkins (which we didn't RUN OUT OF until AFTER WE SEPARATED!).  Shunning the standard DJ we hired, we gave him a giant pile of our own CD's to choose from, and implicitly demanded that the hokey-pokey, the chicken dance, the electric slide and the macarena all be blacklisted, even if our guests requested them. At least music-wise, we had a punk wedding. The wedding party paraded into the banquet hall to the "Theme from The Monkees'", when I heard the proclamation of the shot heard round the "This Will Never Last" world:

"Ladies and gentlemen,  Let's give a round of applause, for the first time, to Mr. and Mrs. Craig B!!!"  Oy vey.

I didn't get drunk at my wedding, that I remember, though my maid of honor and best man did, only to erupt into a shitstorm fight in our hotel during the night after the wedding, interrupting our wedding night, hence we didn't really get to *have* a wedding night . I wasn't really a drinker back then and neither was Craig (nor is he now) but I remember nursing several wine spritzers throughout the course of the evening, and one of my best childhood friends conceived her first child that very night (that damn open bar!).

Being the rampant feminist I was (and am), I didn't think it was appropriate to lift my dress up in the middle of my crowd of family & friends to have Craig remove the garter off of my thigh and fling it at all the single men. I removed it properly and in private, and THEN had him throw it at the guys. I still don't remember who caught it, but best of luck! My mom caught the bouquet, though she has never re-married. Silly superstitious, typical wedding tradition bullshit. Never again!!!!

Had I listened to my family and friends, however, I would've missed this:

We got the incredible Luke out of it, so of course it was worth it and I wouldn't change that. Part of us was meant to be, LUKE was part of God's plan. Regrets? I have none other than the fact Craig ignored my drug addictions, alcoholism and mental health crises. Like I've said, I just don't think he knew WHAT to do, so he did nothing. Conversely, I hurt him terribly, blew all of our money and was a pretty awful wife for about half of our 11-year marriage. But we heal from all of that a little more each day, and I think we'd agree that once we got to the point where we no longer thrilled one another's souls at all, it's for the best, in the end, that we ended our marriage. I asked Craig if I genuinely thrilled his soul EVER, or if he just married me because it was time to get married, and he insists I did. I find that hard to believe, given how unattractive he found me in the first place and why, consequently, I assume EVERY guy I know thinks I'm a dog. For me, anyway, I *know* I settled for the first guy who showed interest in me, and despite all the advice against it, I figured Craig was about as well as I could marry, though come on, I've known the guy for 20 years and we do have love in our hearts for one another.

My mom didn't want me to directly tell Pastor Dave, who has an awesome sense of humor and understands me, that in these tough times, scrambling for money, I could, technically, capitalize on one of my credentials, speaking of marriage.

Factoid about the Offbeat Drummer?

I can legally marry you and bury you in the state of Illinois, as an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, one of those "online ministerial" ordination sites, where I got my legal credentials in 1999. I was substitute teaching at Maine South High school at the time, pregnant with Luke, and one day, while the kids were occupied, I was at the computer with nothing to do (as is the case in most substitute teaching gigs) and decided to become a minister. I think it cost me about $20.

My pal, Michael Nesmith, is also a Universal Life Church-credentialed-ordained minister, and he actually DID use it to marry two good friends of his a few months ago, and it was legal. (He's in California.) But it dawned on me--I could dig out my ordination certificate and clergy license and like put up an ad on craigslist (ironic name) advertising my (reasonably rated) ministerial duties for weddings and/or funerals.

It could legitimately be a source of income for me!

Who found my ordination the most hilariously ridiculous? My late father-in-law, the great Rev. Dr. J. Gordon Bechtel, a Presbyterian minister. I remember Craig's parents coming to town some time before the baby was born, and I told Gordon, "You're not the only Reverend Bechtel in the family!"

Gordon got it. I think Dave would get it, and I honest-to-God had forgotten about it until yesterday. Shouldn't I be capitalizing on this opportunity?

It's not that I miss Craig, or being with Craig, because I don't. I know we're polar opposites except when it comes to Luke's well being, on which we're on the right page, and we're still both obsessed with music. But I admittedly do miss the family togetherness part sometimes, though Craig and I can become embroiled into petty crap that only causes our son more stress on occasion, though we've got one another's backs for keeps. (But that bullshit of Craig taking me to the Tattoo Factory but not going in because he protested my additional piercings? Given he hated Eyebrow Ring #1 when we were married, I'm not surprised, but grow the hell up. THAT'S the kind of petty bullshit he and I get into.)

I look back at the wedding picture fondly, not bitterly.  I do hope Craig and Kelly make it official at some point, and I hope I get invited to the wedding. I promise to sit in the back row and to keep my mouth shut. Like I said in the divorce blog, it wouldn't bother me one bit to be called "Craig's first wife." That DOES give me some bragging rights, I suppose, and leaves Kelly with some mighty big shoes to fill. She sure calls him "babe" a lot, which was HIS nickname for ME, which is odd when we're all together. And, if my son's going to be co-habitating with Kelly's co-habitating with Craig, I think I'm entitled to at least an opinion. I would expect the same from Craig if I decided to live with a man (Luke'd be like "You DO live with a man. ME! Be satisfied with THAT, MOM!") That being said, if Kelly ever breaks Craig's heart, I'll snap her neck like a twig. Good luck living with Craig. I hope she enjoys the whiny noises Craig emits when he's got a cough or cold as much as I did and does a better job of keeping cobwebs out of the corners of the bathroom than Craig has in his present living situation.

Note how happy my ex-mother-in-law looks in this picture of me choke-holding Kelly (Craig's mom hates me). See below:

The Ballad of Craig and The Reverend Offbeat Drummer....seriously, someone hire me to marry you! (Though I should probably get a new certificate and ID that don't have my married name on them...)

Love has nothing to do with
the five senses and the six directions:
its goal is only to experience
the attraction exerted by the Beloved.
Afterwards, perhaps, permission
will come from God:
the secrets that ought to be told with be told
with an eloquence nearer to the understanding
that these subtle confusing allusions.
The secret is partner with none
but the knower of the secret:
in the skeptic's ear
the secret is no secret at all.

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