Saturday, June 14, 2008

Divorce: the cycle continues

My first year of grad school, I met this college senior Bob. He got engaged to Alice at the end of the year, and went abroad the next year. His fiancee Alice finished her MA while planning their wedding. Alice got tired of planning the wedding alone and felt Bob wasn't taking on his part of the planning, so decided to wait with the rest of it until they were together. At mid-year Alice finished her MA and came to the foreign country and stayed with Bob. Alice said she had no hints that anything was different until a few weeks into her stay when Bob's classmates pitied her and told her that he had been openly dating his female roommate Carol before her arrival. Alice returned to the US the next day.

At the end of that year, I got a wedding invitation, and was surprised to find the wrong bride's name on it: I'd never heard of Carol and I didn't even really know Alice, but felt weird about the suddenness. Less than a year earlier, Bob was publicly declaring his undying love for Alice at his farewell dinner, and now was marrying Carol.

At Bob and Carol's wedding, my boyfriend and I happened to sit next to his ex-fiancee Alice and comforted her. Alice told the above story, and also said that Bob's father had cheated on both his mother and I think also step-mother. In retrospect, Alice said, she should have suspected that he might cheat. She pointed out Bob's father, who was indeed with an evidently younger woman. Clearly it was a mistake for her to accept his invitation to the wedding, and she said she regretted going, though on the bright side, Alice and I became friends. After hearing this, I assiduously avoided Bob, though he was living in another city so I suppose it wasn't super obvious. I wasn't surprised when he would come on visits without his wife Carol, took a summer internship in another city without her, and most recently spend a year abroad without her. For the last, Bob and Carol both changed their facebook statuses from "married" to "complicated" and, at the end of the academic year, to "single."

The ex-fiancee Alice, in the meantime, having never before been interested in women in her 30+ year life (she was several years older than he was), became interested in women and brought the proverbial U-haul on her second date with the first woman she ever went on a date with. They're now happily partnered with two endearing cats, and I think they plan to get pregnant.

I saw Bob was coming to our former town, where I happened to be for graduation. I'd felt slightly guilty about having avoided him for so many years, I made a point to call him as soon as I landed to find times when we could meet up. He sounded super happy to hear from me; it turned out that this happened precisely during a break in the divorce proceedings. (Apparently the etiquette is to change facebook status when one gets the appointment for divorce proceedings.)

When we ran into each other the first time, Bob stood about 6" away from me, and I kept having to back up to maintain personal space. And again the second time. Granted it'd been a year since his separation, but it was less than a few days after his divorce. Geez. (I managed to turn off his interest in me through some combination of asking him whether a classmate of his was still single and talking about other men.)

Meanwhile two separate friends of mine get interested in him, even after knowing the story. Both apologize for him, "I would need to know what his side is." and "I'm sure that it was a misunderstanding."

Bob's side, it turns out, is contradictory: they broke up, but may have miscommunicated on that point; Alice had come to visit him just as a friend, and they made clear to each other that she should only visit as a friend. Was there a miscommunication, and Alice wasn't aware that they were broken up, or was there good communication, and Alice was visiting only as a friend? In theory, it's verifiable which side is right. In any case, he may have been not doing anything strictly wrong, but still been a jerk. For instance, they may have had issues and she visited in spite of the issues, and when she visited he took advantage of the opportunity to sleep with her and otherwise make it seem as though they were in a relationship, while never intending to continue a relationship with her. Meanwhile, Carol must have felt awful that her boyfriend/roommate was sleeping with his visiting ex-fiancee while she was in town.

One of my friends acknowledged, "I realize that there's no way that he would have been such a catch in college. Now, though, I'm looking for different things." Yeah, he's an almost 6 foot tall smooth-talking intellectual bad-boy elite college alum who is good at initiating relationships. This guy with an indisputably checkered history is attracting these women against all reason --- two in a day! --- and he can repeat the cycle as much as he wants.

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