Today is my last day as a married woman. After 30 years of marriage and 34 years together, tomorrow my husband and I will stand in front of a judge who will undo what a hippie rabbi did in 1986. Unlike that rite of passage, this one doesn't involve invitations, seating charts, choosing a menu, or hiring a band. It will be a much more intimate affair -- no friends and family, just the two of us and our lawyers.
For 30 years we lived together, slept together, made plans together, laughed and worried together. We shared a bed, countless meals and bottles of wine, went to ball games, hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, visited national parks, explored the marvels of Angkor Wat, Pompeii, Hana, and Tangiers, chatted about our work days, discussed politics and world events, went to the theatre, attended weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, confirmations, and dinner parties, celebrated family holidays together. We planned parties, had barbecues, sent out holiday cards, and bought gifts. We gossiped about people mentioned in the local paper.
We raised a son. We worried about his grades, his SAT scores, his friends, his health, his future. We rented an apartment, bought a coop, moved to the suburbs. We redid the house and collaborated on every choice: yes to the mission dining room set, to the tiles for the kitchen backsplash and master bath shower. Yes to the iron towel racks and stone switch plate covers. Yes to the patio furniture bought on Craigslist. We gave to charity. We volunteered in the community. We tried our best to be good, decent people and good parents. We were a team. We built a life together.
Now the furniture and the house have been sold. All those items that we carefully curated together are either at the town dump, Goodwill, or in someone else's home.
The grounds for our divorce, which will become final tomorrow, are "irreconcilable differences." According to the free online legal dictionary, this means "The existence of significant differences between a married couple that are so great and beyond resolution as to make them unworkable." That sounds really dire -- as if we fought tooth and nail for years. But my husband and I generally agree. We share similar world and political views, have similar taste, like the same restaurants and mostly, the same people, including each other. So when the judge asks me about those irreconcilable differences (as my lawyer tells me he will), I really don't know what I'll say. The only thing that comes to mind is that my husband really hated it when I rinsed the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher -- and I continually refused to change that behavior. (Hopefully my husband will be able to come up something a bit more irreconcilable to impress the judge).
Will I look or feel any different tomorrow, when I will no longer be a wife? I imagine the effect will be much like that of a milestone birthday. The day, much anticipated and possibly dreaded, comes and then goes. The next day you look in the mirror and are somewhat stunned that your image appears unchanged from the day before. But as we know, there are things that, although invisible to the naked eye -- like atoms or virulent strains of bacteria -- exert powerful forces on the universe. So although I will look the same once tomorrow passes, beneath the surface I know I will be deeply and irrevocably changed.
Going forward, I'll be reminded of that change every time I meet someone new and they ask me to tell them about myself. I'll be reminded every time I fill out a form at a doctor's office or government agency and I have to check the "Divorced" box after having automatically checked "Married" for over 30 years.
Tomorrow I will no longer be a wife. I'll still be a lot of other excellent things: a woman, a daughter, a mother, a friend, an American, a writer. But I will no longer be a wife. I will no longer be able to casually toss the words "my husband" into a conversation. They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. But I suspect this one's going to take quite a bit longer than that.