Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 32 – the marriage from the asylum

Monday, June 22, 2015

Looking Back: 32 – the marriage from the asylum

    I'm meandering a bit in the labyrinth of my thoughts and getting ahead of myself. While attending graduate school evenings I continued working at the State Hospital to pay for the tuition and fees as well as the rent for my apartment and food. The day shift, of course, was prime time in the institution, when most of the off-ward activities took place. This was how I got involved in the Art Therapy project for my Masters Thesis. I also got assigned to various wards in a kind of staff rotation policy to keep people on their toes I suppose. It kept me on my toes alright, but the fickle finger of fate also came along and knocked me off my feet. A kind of temporary insanity overcame my better and more sober judgment.

       It amuses me, now, to say I met M., my first wife, in an insane asylum in 1970. She was a professional Registered Nurse on one of the wards that I worked on. But she was nothing like Nurse Ratched in Ken Kessey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She was from a wealthy and prominent family in the city, but she was far from being the “debutante”. She was, although expensively well-dressed, imbued with the new Aquarian ethos of the period—harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding, and all that. And I had also been caught up in the anti-war and social liberation revolution sweeping campuses across America in the late 60s. So, we both seemed to have a lot in common, at least at first blush. She was already a professional nurse and I, although merely an aide, was a BA working on a Masters with seemingly bright future prospects. We began to see each other socially and one thing led to another and suddenly there was talk of marriage. Considering our different socio-economic backgrounds I never felt entirely comfortable with the idea. Much against my better judgement and wallet I had to buy expensive clothes from boutiques to be presentable at a country club wedding reception. I had been a K-Mart shopper until then. But wedding plans take on a life of their own and develop a certain force of inevitability and a momentum that is difficult to stop despite a nagging little voice in the back of one's mind.

wedding reception  -
with my parents, my brother (best man) and his wife
        We were married (in my boutique suit) in November, 1970 and moved into a new condo that was far more expensive than my previous apartment. I also had to have surgery for a deviated septum which took a long time to heal and would develop nose bleeds at inopportune times--like, one time, in the middle of a party. Not a pretty sight. Anyhow, without going into the grim details, the marriage lasted about six months and ended in separation, and divorce about another six months later. It was my fault. I simply wasn't ready to settle down to a married life style. I had had misgivings beyond the usual pre-nuptual jitters, but plans and arrangements had gone too far and I hadn't the courage to call the whole thing off. The wanderlust was on me and I felt hemmed in with the demands of married life, work and study. There was also the pressure to achieve on an economic level that I could neither realistically aspire to reach on a teacher's salary nor one that I was entirely comfortable with on the country club and golf set social level which, in my perception, often seemed affected and acquisitive—even less than genuine. It may have been working class snobbery or maybe I just wasn't sufficiently “Republican” to appreciate the luxuries of the life style of that economic level.

        At any rate, things went from bad to worse at home and one day I simply packed up my things, left a note, jumped in my car and left while my wife was out. I went to see an old college friend in another city and stayed there talking with him for a few days while determining what I would do next. Of course I owed my wife an explanation, and was conflicted between leaving her in the lurch and needing to be free from a relationship that I felt unsuited for.

To be continued...

No comments: