I was twenty-four when I met him and twenty-seven when we married, and well, that's just crazy shit right there. Someone should have bitch slapped me to snap out of it -- like Cher did to Nick Cage in Moonstruck or some other more current film reference. Marrying before the age of 30, should probably have been illegal, especially for a budding bad girl like myself.
I chose my husband because he seemed, at the time, like a good place to land. He felt like home. The relationship was grounding. Funny word -- grounding. People always use it as a good thing -- as in centered, stabilized. Course, the flip side is when you are grounded, you can't get off the mother fucking ground. You can't soar. You're just down there, unable to take off. And I wanted so much to fly.
What can I say about my first marriage? We used to joke that we were together for two reasons:
1) I liked the white meat and he liked the dark.
2) He was good at getting us to places and I was good at getting us home. FYI -- when it comes to directions, I don't do North, South, East, West, but rather, a right at Bloomies and a left at McDonalds.
So poultry and directions. No basis for spending eternity with a person.
Cuz even with all that Koo Koo Roo, I was starving. Starving in my marriage. Starving in every sense of the word. Starving for aliveness.
Aliveness -- there was it. That's what I was hungry for. Which brings me to Judy Toll. My spectacularly funny and vibrant friend of 15 years. She was the funniest girl I ever met... Her resume was impressive enough -- original member of the Groundlings, screenwriter of a movie called Casual Sex, writer on Sex and the City.
But more than any of that, she was the kind of person that took her deepest darkest secrets, her neurosis and fears and put them right into her act: she made you feel like she was nutty, but so were you, and if we were all a little nuts together, we were actually doing just fine. Judy and I were like high school girls together, giggling on the phone, lying on the floors of our respective apartments, with our feet in the air, twirling phone cords -- remember phone cords? We would giggle until we peed our pants. We looked like we were doing a cheap production of "Bye Bye Birdie," only to have Judy sign off with her signature, "Gotta run, doll. Call me every five minutes".
As stand-up comics, we toured together. At one point, during Madonna's "Blond Ambition" tour, we did what we referred to as our "No Ambition" tour -- 11 hell gigs in 14 nights Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Hell gigs. Lots of salad bars with no vegetables. Just fruit cocktail with marshmallows, jello with stuff. Like I said - hell gigs, but heaven with Judy. She was, quite simply, very alive. More than most. Until she died of melanoma, skin cancer, in May of '02. She was 45 and a newlywed. Had been married for 10 months to an incredible man that she had met online on J Date, a man who had stayed in an unhappy marriage for 20 years for the kids, and finally, when he left, he met Judy, and they fell deeply, deeply in love.
They had 3 years together, 3 amazing ones, which, for my money, are a helluva better than 30 not so hot ones.
But the defining moment, the "a ha", the turning point -- call it what you like -- came, when sitting shiva in honor of Judy, her husband Rick said the reason she had waited so long to marry because was she didn't want to settle. Settle. The word floated out of his mouth and lodged itself in my brain. That's what I had done. I had settled. What was I doing here, in my dead marriage? Who was I being here? And how was I to get out of here? There I was, sitting on a couch in the valley, there in honor of my friend and to support her newlywed and newly widowed husband, and all I could think was that I had settled in my marriage. I felt like a jerk, self centered and inappropriate. But I knew I had to get out or I would die. Not like my precious friend, in the hospital with tubes and oxygen and in a coma, but rather, a different kind of dead. The walking dead. And like my friend, I couldn't breathe. I was suffocating and I was goin' down. I see now that Judy was sending me a message. I know I sound like a Californian saying that, but I learned so much from her when she was alive, and now, in her passing, she was continuing to teach me. Life is a brief snap. Part of myself went to sleep for 17 years. Then my friend died and woke me up.
In that defining moment, I looked across the couch. I really looked. I did not let myself turn away, which would have been easy to do. I saw a man I'd known, in every sense of the word, for seventeen years, and he was a stranger. I knew and saw all of that. I had loved him. But I knew I was done. That we were done. I just knew. Sometimes you know, but you don't want to know what you know. Sometimes you look away. This time, finally, I didn't.