Anybody wanna buy a pair of diamond-studded, white-gold wedding bands?
Throughout Hollywood Elsewhere’s 13-year history I’ve riffed about everything in my life except the personal. I’ve always left that stuff alone. Okay, there was an allusion or two to an earth-shaking seven-month affair that happened in 2013, and a riff about a two-and-a-half-year affair with a married People journalist that happened between January ’98 and October 2000. But otherwise I’ve kept a lid on it.
But as I’ve recently written about a whirlwind romance with the SRO — domestic serenity, trips, hiking journeys, a strong partnership, wedding bands, a marriage ceremony planned for last Friday on La Piedra State Beach — it would be flat-out dishonest and inconsistent to lie about the current reality. I won’t perpetuate a fiction in order to save myself from looking like a fool. And man, do I ever feel like one.
Love affairs aren’t easy. Sometimes they can dwindle or detonate at the drop of a hat. When you’re caught up in strong emotions, which are always tied to deep-seated longings about what you’ve always wanted and what might be if fortune smiles…well, anything can happen.
What happened is that the SRO and I decided to get married two or three weeks ago. I explained it all in a 4.24 piece called “High Dive,” but the idea was a basic trade-off — I, having fallen, would provide and protect and do what I could in terms of easing her transition into U.S. society (marriage, green card, immigration) and I in turn would get a feeling of hope and order and vibrancy that would counterbalance the reality of the calendar, and what felt to me like a profound partnership with someone who’s smart, loyal, disciplined and very practical. I know a top-grade partner when I meet one. The SRO is as good as my ex-wife Maggie in many respects. Solid values, sensible, focused, a good heart.
Four days ago we went downtown to buy our wedding rings. We were two days from tying the knot on the beach. Marriage wasn’t necessary for me, but I was okay with it. And it didn’t scare me in the least. It felt right. Plus I figured I had done so much for her that if we ever divorced she wouldn’t dream of asking for spousal support. I’d been too generous for that. Plus she’s a seasoned, well-referenced sales executive in the prime of her life (only 42) who would most likely find her professional footing after obtaining her green card, certainly within a year or two, and that she might even match my income within two or three years.
Had I thought about some kind of pre-nup? Yes, but I kept putting it off because I sensed trouble. Earlier this week I was telling myself, “C’mon, you have to face up to this.” So I devised a dumb plan. Clueless as this sounds, I was thinking we could tap out a few terms and conditions a few hours before the wedding, and then get it notarized, sign it and be done. If Rock Hudson can marry Doris Day as she’s about to give birth in Lover Come Back (“Man, that’s what I call cutting it close“), why couldn’t we do the same with a pre-nup?
Yes, I live in my own realm. Most of the time it intersects with reality and things are fine, but sometimes it doesn’t.
So there I was, gliding along in dreamland. Then suddenly it was Thursday, 4.27, and two things happened. Make that three.
One, I met with Sasha Stone to go over WordPress procedure for the new HE, and she mentioned that if things went south after two or three years the SRO would be within her rights to demand spousal support, and that California law would probably entitle her to a good chunk of my income for a year or two, depending on how long the marriage has lasted. Russian culture is all about the guy protecting and caring for the girl, and this is what the SRO believes in — total commitment and protection from Big Daddy. So do I as far as it goes, but I don’t believe in suffering a form of financial rape if things don’t work out. I’m not loaded. I earn a reasonably comfortable income, but things wouldn’t work if I had to fork over 40% or 50% of my earnings.
I was figuring the SRO has already collected on our relationship big-time — an all-but-assured green card through marriage, a path to U.S. citizenship plus a $10K investment in integrating her into society. Since we launched last January I’ve bought a spiffy Mini-Cooper that she uses all the time, and I’ve given her a refurbished Macbook Pro, bought her two iPhones (one domestic, one for her Russian SIM card), a closetful of nice apparel, this and that indulgence whenever she asked, hair stylings and tailorings and pedicures, a new bicycle with a personalized TANYA license plate, abundant food and drink and adventure, fees for immigration papers, payment for an immigration consultant, a sparkly $1200 wedding band, a pre-paid RT flight to Paris and a fully-booked Italy vacation.
My basic promise has been that her life would never want for anything except a larger abode in which to live, which could happen down the road. Having done all that and having pledged to do everything I could afford to give her a secure, robust and fulfilling life, I didn’t think I should be obliged to take care of her if we split. If anything I figured she would owe me. My 1992 divorce from Maggie was clean and clutter-free, and if it came to that I wanted the same.
Two, right after the Sasha meeting an attorney friend said that pre-nup signers have to be afforded seven days to consider the content, and if this seven-day period isn’t respected the agreements aren’t considered valid. It was now Thursday evening, 4.27, and I would be leaving town seven days hence for New York, Paris and Cannes, and so there was no way to sign a legit pre-nup in time for a marriage before I left. So I knew I had to bring it all up that night.
Adopting a positive, practical tone, I texted the SRO to explain my concerns but added that this needn’t be a huge deal. We could just take care of a proper pre-nup before I leave and then get married in mid June. We’re fine — no need to rush. We could talk it all over when she got back from work.
The topic was not, shall we say, greeted with adult-level maturity. The SRO went into a funk. Aloof mourning. Almost a state of shock. Her eyes glazed over. Her Russian background has given her an idea that pre-nups are strictly for celebrities and rich people, but not regular people who care for each other. She felt that asking for a pre-nup is an indication that I don’t really love her, that I’ve been listening to dark angels. Almost immediately she said she’d begun to think about returning to Russia in mid-July, which is when her B2 visa expires. She said she has no professional future here. “I was up here,” she said, “and then you pulled me down to earth.”
Initially she said she’d sign but not until June. Okay, I said. She said, “I didn’t take Aleksei’s money” — she’d just obtained a Russian divorce, initiated by her now ex-husband in the city of Nizhny Novgorod — “and I don’t want yours.” Fine, I said, so a pre-nup isn’t an issue. She agreed, basically saying “let’s just sign the pre-nup, cruise along, do the Italy vacation and see where we are in June.” Nonetheless she had this stunned, crestfallen look in her eyes. Acting more and more distant, circumspect.
Then she said a few hours later that she’d seen through to the unpleasant truth about our relationship, and that she doesn’t want to do the Italy-and-Paris thing. She doesn’t want to travel in Europe “with a man who doesn’t love me.”
A friend this morning: “Oh, no. Sorry to hear this, Jeff. She’s against the pre-nup? Maybe she needs to understand it better. If she did she would not have a problem with it. It’s just the way things are done in today’s world. Maybe not in Russia, but certainly in the U.S.”
So it ended for her because I brought up the pre-nup thing, and it ended for me when she bailed on the European trip. So four days after buying our wedding rings and planning where we’d be going for a post-wedding reception, the relationship is toast. I’m letting her stay at my place and use my car while I’m in Europe. She loves the cats and will take good care of them. But she needs to be gone by the time I return on 6.12. She’ll have four weeks to engage with social media and find the next chump. She’s very pretty, very fetching. And she has many good qualities. She’ll be fine.
I figured I was giving her something that would have paid off for the rest of her life, and she was giving me a new lease on mine.
But you know what? I now own a nice Mini Cooper, the apartment looks a lot better due to her influence, and I’ve put up new curtains in the living room and bedroom. I have a better life in some respects, a more fragrant and ordered existence. I’ve been happy these last three and a half months. I’m about to leave for Paris, Cannes and Italy in a few days, and I had a heartfelt whirlwind romance with a dishy, sometimes crazy Russian. And the new site is looking great, thanks to Sasha. Things are generally not so bad.
Yes, a bit “crazy.” Every three or four weeks the SRO will go nuts over this or that issue. She gets all gloomy in her silent, teary-eyed, soft-voiced way, and then we hash things out and things are fine after a couple of days. The cray-cray tells me she could take a detour into wild and woolly behavior if we got divorced.
For a while there I was thinking, “Shit, now I have to pretend everything is cool with my life. I announced I was happy and about to get married, and now I feel deeply embarrassed for having tumbled like a 16 year-old.” Then I decided to break with tradition and spill it all in the column. I’m okay, but I bought into the dream and so did the SRO. And then I said the dreaded words…PRE-NUP…and the whole house of cards came crashing down in the space of 48 hours. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that we bought our wedding rings four days ago.
Sasha Stone woke me. She mentioned the possible rape of Nanking if I get divorced, and that sent my head into a tailspin.
I’ve been at this racket for 39 years and it’s taken nearly 20 years to build the column into a thing that brings in decent ad income. I’m not going to jeopardize that over a hank of blonde hair, a feeling of spiritual renewal, a sense of domestic tranquility and occasional euphoria injections. So yeah, she’s a handful, but so smart and practical and breathtaking. A person of good stock with a fruit-loop aspect built in. But now I’ll have my peace back, such as it is. The daily solace of writing and all the other sublime things that I have going in my life. Every new day is a turned page.