Dumping Trump: A Crash Course

We originally posted this one last year, but decided it needed to be reposted. You know, now that Trump has the Republican nomination. Take a moment to read and remind yourself: this is a mutually destructive relationship.

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

_________

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but Donald Trump is currently a viable Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race. You may define “viable” in any way you choose, but my personal definition is “in the debate this week.” My definition ends there.

His polling numbers are confusingly strong. There are people out there, people we know, people we’re related to, people in line behind us at the post office, people standing next to us right now in an elevator that want Trump to be president. Of our country. They want him in charge of the nuclear codes. They want him to have veto rights. They want him to command our armed forces. They want him to broker peace deals with ISIS. No seriously, the guy with the hair and the temper talking to ISIS is what they want.

While we remain inside this fever dream, we can look to those that have already dumped Trump to remind us there are good and rational people still left in America, and thankfully their votes count too. Way before Hispanics, veterans, GOP leaders, NBC, Macy’s and people with a good grasp on reality started distancing themselves from Trump, there were two women hightailing it out of Trump’s life — his ex-wives.

Eternally glamorous, bejewelled and be-accented (not a word) Ivana hit the bricks in 1992, with Marla Maples following suit in 1999. Trump and Ivana’s divorce hit the headlines recently due to alleged rape claims, or due to poor word choice, depending on who you believe. While that’s being hashed out by proper journalists, let us focus instead on the other less potentially criminal details. It was an ugly divorce and an excellent breeding ground for amazing one liners such as “Don’t get mad, get everything.”

Tabloids at the time said the split and ensuing money battle was better than anything Dynastychurned out. Most fascinating to me is, did you know a 1987 Mercedes was a big sticking point in their settlement? Odd they’d be fighting over a five year old car when either party could buy a Mercedes made out of sapphires and caviar. What a weird thing to squabble over. Most agree it was a power move by Ivana and in the end she got the car plus an estimated $25 million. I am assuming she had to sign a strict NDA barring her from ever speaking of any trade secrets. By trade secrets, I mean the architecture behind Trump’s haircut.

His first marriage disintegrated thanks in large part to his relationship with Marla Maples, his soon to be second wife. Maples recounted her life in the tabloids in a great New York Magazine piece. When news of the Trump/Ivana split hit the papers, Maples fled to Guatemala for a month to get away from reporters. She came back and they married, but it didn’t last. The Trump/Maples divorce was much less Dynasty than divorce number one. Maples explained the marriage’s demise had a lot to do with press pressure, lack of privacy and Trump’s dedication to his work. That’s quite polite of Maples seeing as we all know it probably mostly due to his insufferable personality.

Trump married for a third time in 2005 and so far that marriage is sticking. So dumping Trump was left to companies, ethnic groups, television conglomerates and people who understand how diplomacy works and what the job responsibilities of a president are.

I’m not sure how long it will take for Trump supporters to come back around to this place we call reality. It might be when Trump inevitably says something racist, illogical or just plain dumb in tonight’s debate. It might be on November 8, 2016. I truly hope it won’t have to be when he’s in power and decides to sell Alaska to Russia to pay for fence to keep us safe from Canadians and their un-American Canadian bacon. Or when he bolts giant gilded T R U M P letters onto the side of the White House. Or when he bankrupts the country just as he’s done to his businesses time and time again. Or when a large gust of wind comes along revealing underneath that yellow cotton candy there’s a “666” tattooed on his head.

Get your popcorn handy because Thursday’s debate is sure to be entertaining.


Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Seven Podcasts to Listen To During Your Divorce

Getting divorced means you will inevitably have more time on your hands than you used to. Time you spent fighting with your spouse will now be spent on more productive activities like going to the gym, watching TV shows you actually like, and standing in the kitchen eating yogurt naked just because you can.

This got me thinking—as did the fact that National Radio Day is coming up this Thursday—that podcasts are an awesome way to coach yourself through this transitional period. Let’s be honest, we rarely know what to do with new freedom when it’s granted to us, it typically takes a while to figure out who we are in this new world of self-discovery. So while you’re wading around in the pool of alluvial muck that will become your new life, why not listen to some interesting and motivating podcasts? These are my recommendations.

Stuff to Blow Your Mind – “Animal Sexual Fluidity”
So, this is an amazing podcast, and I recommend listening to ALL the episodes as soon as you can. However, since you’re going through a seriously confusing time in terms of your personal life, possibly your sexuality and maybe even your family structures, I’d say start with this episode. The bizarreness of nature—and its insistence on change—will help put your current transition in perspective, while distracting you with lots of sexually diverse and crazy sex-changing animals. It will blow your mind.

This American Life – “Break-Up”
This is an old episode of this now world famous podcast (ca. 2007), but it has always stuck with me because of how cliché—and how sad—breakups actually are. And also how necessary they are. The best thing about this episode is that Phil Collins shows up to discuss possibly the best breakup song of all time, and to tell the story behind writing it. You’ll laugh, you’ll relate to Phil Collins, you might cry a little—this is just listening gold.

Stuff You Should Know – “Polyamory
Come on, you know you’re curious—and now you can look into things that titillate your curiosity without guilt! This episode of the Stuff You Should Know podcast looks into the myths and realities of what it means to be in a committed relationship with multiple people—and it’s probably not what you were expecting.

Serial
Officially, this podcast has nothing to do with your divorce, except that you are going to get so into it that you’ll forget all about your divorce for a few precious hours, and focus instead on this masterpiece of storytelling. The podcast is twelve episodes describing one reporter’s experience of re-opening the real-life 1999 murder investigation of a high school student. If you find yourself running over and over your divorce in your head, this is the podcast to break the cycle.

Berkeley’s Happiness Matters Podcast – “Is Divorce Always Bad for Kids?”
There’s a common perception—or maybe it’s just conventional wisdom gone awry—that having two parents together, no matter how unhappy they are, is better for children than having two divorced parents. This podcast episode looks at that question in detail, providing a lot of research context, in order to find out whether divorce is really always bad for kids.

Sex Nerd – “The Sex Slang of Urban Dictionary” (in 2 parts)
This podcast is genius from the folks at The Nerdist, and taps into subjects of interest and humor around human sexuality. This two-part episode is both hilarious and extremely useful (because you’re going to need to know this stuff now that you’re single). Enjoy your lesson!

RadioLab – “Who Are You?”
Let’s face it: you have no idea who you are anymore. Don’t worry—it’s totally natural to feel that way after a divorce. Even if you’re not getting divorced, it’s healthy to wonder about this question at least every few years throughout your life. (If you’re not getting divorced that means you’re just reading this post because you think I’m entertaining, and that means you are already awesome, so stop worrying.) But seriously, “Who am I?” is pretty much the most important question we can ask ourselves after “How do I get food?” and “Where’s the bathroom?” so this one really deserves your time. Plus RadioLab is funny.

 

Love and Radio – “Thank You, Princess.”
Did you know people buy used panties off the internet? Or that some people will literally pay good money to be harassed in a manner that possibly reminds you of your divorce? Have a listen to this crazy episode of Love and Radio, which is essentially an interview with a self-described “Humiliatrix”… and be prepared to be completely weirded out, yet completely fascinated. I want to put out a quick disclaimer that this is at times a strange podcast, and that this episode in particular is pretty out there. As such I’m not condoning the subject matter, some of which is likely to be illegal—but it is REALLY entertaining.

Happy listening, and Happy (early) National Radio Day!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

The Oscars Curse: Fact or Fiction?

It’s tough to be a woman in Hollywood. Perfectly beautiful people are driven straight into the arms of restylane happy doctors, as youth is paramount and 26 is over the hill. Second to youth is being thin enough to faint several times a day. Calories are counted down to the decimal point, and burned off in punishing bootcamps that violate the Geneva Convention. Then there’s the never ending auditioning and networking, all in the hopes of landing a movie role, making it big and taking home a paycheck that’s a fraction of the male lead’s.

If the movie’s a hit, there will be paparazzi stalking every meal and shopping outing, and Daily Mail commenters pointing out that the new Hollywood it girl has a weird big toe, and the big toe gets its own meme that goes viral on Twitter. Then by the grace of god and an all-white academy, an Oscar nomination! The big night arrives and by sheer luck and maybe some pocket lining by a Weinstein, a win! There’s five minutes of glee and pride and then some dumb reporter asks the winner if she’s concerned about the Oscars Curse. “The Curse?” she asks genuinely bewildered. “Oh yeah, you know how if you win Best Actress, odds are you’ll break up with your husband or boyfriend and probably because he’s cheating on you? You know, The Curse.” The actress freezes and the color drains from her face, she mumbles and grunts and stumbles her way out of sight. She gets served with divorce papers the following week.

The Oscars Curse. Did you know there was such a thing? It sounds ridiculous, but there’s actually quite a bit of evidence:

  • Jennifer Lawrence wins, splits from Nicholas Hoult.
  • Sandra Bullock wins, splits from Jesse James.
  • Kate Winslet wins, splits from Sam Mendes.
  • Reese Witherspoon wins, splits from Ryan Phillippe.
  • Hilary Swank wins, splits from Chad Lowe.
  • Charlize Theron wins, splits from Stuart Townsend.
  • Halle Berry wins, splits from Eric Benet.
  • Julia Roberts wins, splits from Benjamin Bratt.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow wins, splits from Ben Affleck.
  • Helen Hunt wins, splits from Hank Azaria.
  • Susan Sarandon wins, splits from Tim Robbins.
  • Jessica Lange wins, splits from Sam Shepard.
  • Holly Hunter wins, splits from Janusz Kaminski.
  • Emma Thompson wins, splits from Kenneth Branagh.

There are about a dozen more examples on top of those. But, is the curse real? Of course not, because curses aren’t real things. Except for that one time Bobby Brady found an ancient tiki idol and it caused everyone great harm. That was the real deal. But the Oscars Curse? Of course it isn’t an actual thing.

Shockingly, celebrities are people too. There’s an entire US Weekly column dedicated to proving they’re just like us — they pump gas, pick out children’s birthday cakes, get parking validated, sprint across the street from colonic appointment to acupuncture session, and have failed relationships — just like us!

They split for the same reasons we split. You might be an associate marketing manager at a home security company and Halle Berry might be playing one in a movie, but both of your jobs can get in the way of your relationships. Stress, long hours, transfers to the Chicago office/filming in Vancouver for three months can all put a relationship in jeopardy. Family planning can be a point of contention whether you’re Helen Mirren or Harriet from Montvale. If you don’t want kids, but your husband does, you guys have some pretty serious conversations ahead of you. (I don’t know if Helen Mirren wants or wanted kids, hers is literally the first name that popped into my head, I cannot explain why.) Finances are a sticking point whether you’re making $50,000 a year or $15 million for an action movie. If someone’s not pulling their weight or blowing big bucks on a hot tub without discussing it first, it doesn’t matter how many sequin encrusted gowns you have, there’s going to be a problem. Religion can tear people apart too. If one half of the couple isn’t as on board as the other half, tension can mount. Celebrities are just as susceptible to joining religions with centers built just for them as regular people are.

Then, of course, there’s cheating. Think about your friend group, how many of them are divorced? Probably about half, right? Now imagine if your suburban town also had a bunch of Hemsworths running around. It’d be utter chaos. No one’s marriage would be safe. You’re in an ok but boring relationship, and have half an eye out for Keith in purchasing, can you really blame Brad and Angelina?

Listen, they might be glamorous and know their way around a juice cleanse, but when push comes to shove, they’re people just like us. Sometimes marriages fizzle. Sometimes they’re a mistake from day one. Sometimes women marry seemingly good men who turn out to be weak little babies that can’t possibly let the women in their lives be the star of the show, even for one measly awards season.

If you prick Sandra Bullock, does she not bleed? She is human just like the rest of us, and the rest of us get divorced too. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s life. So let’s ease up on the Oscars Curse talk and focus our energies on more important matters like, what if someone accidentally finds Bobby Brady’s ancient tiki idol again? How can we be sure it’s still somewhere safe? Does anyone have Obama’s number? We’ve got to get down to the bottom of this.

Share and let me know what you think here in the Comments below, on Twitter,Facebook, and Instagram!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Heartache Sweeps the Grammys

We are knee deep in awards season. In addition to it being Presidents’ Day Weekend,(Anti)-Valentine’s Day weekend and the close out of Lunar New Year celebrations, it is also time for the Grammys!

If you have a pulse, you know how important music is to everyday life. It pumps us up, calms us down, makes us fall in love, makes us embarrass ourselves when we think no one can see us dancing in the car, and perhaps most importantly, helps us get through horrible breakups. Here’s a free idea for you marketing people and business executives: sell a breakup bundle containing a pint of ice cream, a box of tissues and an Adele album. As everyone knows, only time and Adele can heal all wounds.

It’s not just us regular people that know heartbreak songs are integral to life; the people handing out awards have taken note as well. Heartache and yearning win big at the Grammys. There have been a ton of stomped, smashed, broken hearts collecting golden gramophones for Record of the Year. Let’s take a look at some of them!

*Quick music industry lesson: Song of the Year honors the songwriting; Record of the Year honors the performance and recording. And with that knowledge you’re basically Clive Davis, so go take over any record label you want.


Sam Smith – Stay With Me
Sam gets it. He knows what it’s like to wonder “what if” as dawn breaks during a one night stand. He knows this isn’t meant to last. He knows this is just a one time thing. The person next to him is a relative stranger, but still, what if? What if he stayed? What if they got breakfast? Just some orange juice and all butter croissants at that cafe down the road. On the walk, a single ray of sun breaks through the clouds on that cold January morning and makes the golden streaks in the stranger’s hair glisten. And in the daylight Sam notices his eyes are really more aqua than green. And he falls in love and everything is fine forever. But it isn’t!!! Because it was all just a thought as the stranger gathered up his stuff and scooted out the door while Sam was lost in a daydream. A very, very lucrative daydream that made Sam Smith a household name.


Gotye – Somebody That I Used to Know
It’s summer 2012. You’re excited for the Olympics and nervous about the election. You haven’t yet noticed the fine lines that have begun to form around your eyes. You are young and dumb and it is great. Somewhere around the opening ceremonies you get dumped and the only person who can understand your pain is a Belgian-Australian who you could have sworn was Sting from the sound of his voice. His name? Gotye. His song? “Somebody That I Used to Know.” You haven’t heard from Gotye since, and possibly never will.

Adele – Rolling in the Deep
Queen of heartbreak. Princess of pain. Duchess of the dumped. When she’s not making us cry or being totally hilarious, Adele is writing Grammy winning songs in one afternoon after a breakup. I was barely able to pick up groceries and my dry cleaning last Sunday, but apparently Adele only needs three to four hours to change the musical landscape with a catchy, giant eff-off anthem.

Lady Antebellum – Need You Now
Lady A, as they’re called in the biz, have seen you at your weakest. They were peering into your window at a quarter after one in the morning, silently watching as you kept picking up and putting down your phone. They know exactly what you were doing. You were feeling lonely, and your will power was nowhere to be found. You needed someone now.

Kings of Leon – Use Somebody
Poor Caleb Followill was feeling empty. Maybe it was life on the road that got him down. Maybe he felt his celebrity status was keeping him from meeting genuine people. Did they like him for him, or because he was Caleb from Kings of Leon? He’ll never know, and we’ll never know. But he channeled that longing into “Use Somebody” and won himself a Grammy, and now he’s married to a model so I guess it all worked out.

Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
This gem needs no introduction for it was burned forever into our brains as the theme song to the greatest love story ever told on water. James Cameron had a dream and that dream was to make seventh grade girls cry in movie theaters around the world. He succeeded. The audience fell in love with Jack/Leo then he went and died and all we were left with was a Canadian chanteuse’s promise that our hearts would go on. The song lives on in dentists’ offices and Chinese restaurants around the globe.

Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a restaurant within one hundred yards of a palm tree that wasn’t playing this song. And while it brings back great memories of many a rum-based drink served in a pineapple, it’s actually quite a morose song. Don’t let Norah’s relaxed, whisper of a voice trick you, she is full of regret and isn’t entertaining the option of forgiving herself. Fun fact – this is a cover, so it wasn’t even Norah’s heartbreak that got her a Grammy.

Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
This song was originally offered to Cliff Richard. This Cliff Richard. Imagine! I think this one’s about giving into lust and throwing love out the window because,“Who needs a heart/ When a heart can be broken?” Take a second. Imagine Cliff Richard singing it. Oh wait hang on, you don’t have to imagine it.

You’re welcome.

Carole King – It’s Too Late
A fun game to play is “Did You Know Carole King Wrote That” because Carole King has written one million perfect songs. “It’s Too Late” is no exception. It tells the story of a crumbling relationship that has fallen apart despite both parties really trying to make it work. Yes, it is about James Taylor in case you were wondering.

Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
This is of course a cover of the Dolly Parton classic. It sounds awfully romantic, but Dolly wrote it for Porter Wagoner, her songwriting and singing partner, when they decided to split ways professionally. Dolly’s version is sweet and country tinged. Whitney’s is a stadium-sized belter filled with emotion and longing, and it blew the other nominees out of the water.

What do you think will win Record of the Year this year? Probably “Uptown Funk” right? Let me know in the comments or on any of our social channels: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

As for your playlist -- Enjoy!

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

 

Love in the Year of the Monkey

Happy Lunar New Year! Welcome to the year of the monkey. If you’re not aware, each year in the Chinese calendar is assigned one of twelve animals and the babies of 2016 are going to be curious, clever and mischievous little monkeys. All around the world, Chinese people will celebrate the new year with parades, fireworks, family visits and breathtaking Lantern Festivals. If you’ve been lucky enough to witness the new year celebrations in New York’s Chinatown, you know it’s a feast for the eyes, and for the stomach.

You too are a monkey if you were born in 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 or 2004, and you’re in good company. Some famous monkeys? Well there’s Julius Caesar and Demi Lovato to name two very, very different monkeys. Much like the astrology you might be familiar with thanks to your daily amNewYork and your obsession with Susan Miller, the Chinese zodiac also subscribes to the notion that people born under the same sign share certain characteristics, and some signs get along better than others.

Are you a monkey? Are you in a relationship with a monkey? Are you considering marrying one of the 2016 monkeys in 2034? Well that’s horrifying, date someone your own age! Unless you’re a two year old reading this. In which case I have so many questions. Like: How? And, are you a government experiment? And, are you now on the lam in order to save yourself from a lifetime of observation and testing? Also, how’s my grammar, genius baby?

Let’s take a look at all the Chinese zodiac animals, and see where love will blossom …

SNAKE – Born 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001

No one’s jonesing to be called a snake, but according to the Chinese zodiac, being a snake is where it’s at. Snakes are decisive, organized, intuitive and ~elegant~. It’s no wonder Taylor Swift is a snake, am I right? Have you seen how organized her hair is? Even after the gym? Should snakes and monkeys get together? Um, I don’t know do you think Taylor Swift (snake) and Jake Gyllenhaal (monkey) were a good pair? They were not. She left her scarf at Jake’s sister’s house and that led to a breakup and then Taylor wrote “All Too Well” about him. Or so I overheard from several tweens in line ahead of me at Starbucks. So no, I would not say snake and monkey is a good pairing unless you want to get your heart broken and then become a very rich popstar off the heartbreak. Dump that monkey and get yourself a rooster. Is Calvin Harris a rooster? He is not, Taylor. He is not. Hint, hint.

HORSE – Born 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002

Horses, much like actual horses, are adventurous, strong and adaptable. They make great partners and can jump over tall fences. Horses and monkeys get along fine, but they’re not a perfect match. If you really want to ride off into the sunset (get it? You get it.) horses should look for tigers. I would not recommend horses, the animal and tigers, the animal get together in real life though. Also, definitely do not google “would a tiger attack a horse?” because it would and you don’t need the image I now have burned into my brain forever, in your brain as well. Why is the circle of life so very cruel?

GOAT/SHEEP– Born 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003

To be fair, from a distance, could you tell the difference between a goat and a sheep? Even from close up, I’m not totally confident I could, so I don’t blame the Chinese zodiac for not nailing an animal down for this one. Also apparently goats and sheep can have babies together so googling things doesn’t always end in a horrible blood bath. They’re called “geep” because no one wanted to spend more than one second brainstorming the name. Goats/sheep are warm, sensitive and calm, much like Ugg boots. Again, getting together with a monkey wouldn’t be a terrible mistake, but is it going to fireworks and rainbows? Probably not. Goats/sheep should be on the lookout for rabbits, pigs or horses. Basically, keep it on the farm and love will find its way.  

MONKEY – Born 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992,  2004

Monkeys are clever, creative, curious and the stars of 2016. They need action and adventure and get bored pretty quickly. They might not be into a ten part documentary on Netflix, but they’d be really up for breaking into the abandoned house in the sketchy part of town where someone definitely got murdered in the 80s, or so says the legend. Their best matches are dragons and rats.

ROOSTER – Born 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005

Roosters are energetic, flamboyant and confident. You know, like actual roosters. They’re also very honest, as I know a barnyard rooster would tell you if you looked fat in your overalls, given the ability to speak. Roosters need a good match to balance out their dominant personalities. In addition to snakes like Taylor Swift, oxen and dragons make for a good match.

DOG – Born 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006

Oh man, what luck to be born a dog, arguably the best actual animal and the best zodiac animal. Dogs are, not shockingly, loyal, courageous, diligent and lively. Dogs need a loving match for their overflowing puppy hearts. Tigers and dogs get along great because they’re both laid back and share the same styles of communication. I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering, is that my dog growling at an imaginary squirrel or did an actual roaring tiger break into my house, because for the love of god so what if there’s a squirrel in the yard, who cares, just chill out.

PIG – Born 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007

Pigs are determined, sincere and sociable. They know how to both plan a party, and be the star of it. Should pigs and monkeys get together? Have you ever seen a pig and a monkey together?

Ok, but other than that? No you haven’t. Pigs and monkeys don’t really hang out in nature and they do not make a good love match. This isn’t just a blah relationship, this is heck no don’t date that monkey, you pig. You want a rabbit or a goat/sheep, little pig, that’s where love will flourish.

RAT – Born 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Historically, rats have a bad reputation what with spreading the bubonic plague and infesting homes. But they really turned their PR around last year when one tenacious, progressive reformer dared to drag a piece of pizza down a set of subway stairs. Sure one viral rat can’t completely wash away the sins of all the, um, actually viral rats that came before him, but man did he try. But we’re not talking about real rats, we’re talking about zodiac rats. Some of my favorite people are rats, and by “my favorite people,” I mean me. Yes, I’m a rat and a divorce lawyer. I’ll wait while you workshop some jokes and go giddy with pride. Pleased with yourself? Great. Rats are characterized as charming, adaptable and artistic. Are you imagining a rat in a beret with a paint palette? Me too. Now, should a monkey and a rat get together? Yes! They’re actually the best pair!

OX – Born 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Oxen are strong, reasonable and determined. Their shy nature might make it hard to meet people but once they open up, their loyalty cannot be shaken. And while they might not be the one wearing a lampshade on their head and dancing on a table at a party, they’re also less likely to rack up a ton of credit card debt and disappear into the night. An ox’s best match is a chatty, gregarious rooster because they balance each other out really well.

TIGER – Born 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Tigers are courageous, ambitious and confident much like their real world counterparts. They pair best with horses and dogs while they get along worst with monkeys. Why? Because tigers and monkeys are too much alike. Both want to be the star of the show and there are only so many good karaoke duets.

RABBIT – Born 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Rabbits are empathetic, diplomatic and sincere. Plus they’re so cute. Rabbits are really into family which makes sense seeing as the typical rabbit household has two hundred bunnies. Rabbits should steer clear of roosters. Roosters are a terrible match because they have a tendency to pick at soft bunny fur, metaphorically. Roosters can be too harsh and rabbits need a gentler partner, like a goat/sheep or pig.

DRAGON – Born 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Dragons are imaginative, artistic and charismatic. They’re stereotypically loners, what with living in caves and the hazards associated with fire breathing. Dragons can be a little hard to get along with as it’s often their way or the highway (see: fire breathing) so they need a dynamic partner to match that strength. Who is that perfect partner? Why the monkey of course!

Were you and your ex-spouse a terrible zodiac pair? Did you defy the odds and create a wonderful pig and monkey marriage? Do you think Calvin Harris is the one for Taylor? Let me know in the comments below, on Twitter, or on Facebook!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

What We Can all Learn about Marriage from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting for something as entertaining as Downton Abbey to come out, holding out but little hope.

Alas, your tiny hope is not to be in vain! This Friday marks the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a rather wily take on the Jane Austen classic, adapted from the book of the same name. In this zany flick you get all the wit and wisdom of Austen, and all the apocalyptic gore of zombies, in one awesome package. If you did have plans for this weekend, they’re obviously all now going to be taking a backseat to seeing this movie.

In honor of the original and the unmatched Pride and Prejudice as well as this refreshingly irreverent take on feminism and great literature, here are a few things we ALL can learn from P&P heroine Elizabeth Bennet—the old and the new.

Liz Bennet wouldn’t have gotten married. She’d have been too busy slaying zombies.

Way too many people get married because they have very few other goals at a particular moment in time; it just seemed like the obvious next step. I think a good way to remedy this in modern life is to introduce a zombie apocalypse.

If she DID get married, Liz Bennet would have had a prenup.

Why? Because she’s a realist. Prenups aren’t just for CEOs marrying supermodels, folks—they’re for everybody. Much like that extra dagger she keeps tucked in her corset, Liz Bennet knows only chumps don’t have backup.

If she decided to get divorced, Liz Bennet would have kicked ass in court. And out of court.

As is evident from the pages of the novel itself, Liz Bennet is no slouch when it comes to laying down the law. In short: Don’t mess with her. She’ll end you.

Liz Bennet would be an awesome co-parent.

She’s able to keep her emotions in check under stress, she (usually) makes excellent judgments, and she knows how to work as part of a team—this is what makes her great zombie-killing and co-parenting alike.

Liz Bennet is okay with an imperfect reality.

This film is taking Liz Bennet’s ability to adapt to a whole new level, making the most of her well-known tolerance for irritants—whether they come in the form of zombies or men who don’t know how to communicate their emotions properly.

So life wasn’t exactly what you had in mind. Liz Bennet would tell you, quite rightly, to get your s*** together and slay some zombies.

So, what’s your favorite Liz Bennet moment? Did she perhaps even inspire you during a tough divorce? And most importantly, are you seeing this movie?

Tweet your responses to @nycdivorcelaw or leave me a comment on our firm’sFacebook page.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

What if You Caucused Your Divorce?

The culmination of seven hundred ninety-eight months of campaigning is finally upon us. It’s Iowa caucus time! Have you been pretending to know what a caucus is every time it’s mentioned by your coworkers and stepdad Steve? You’re not alone. Also, what you thought was Iowa is Nebraska. It’s one more to the right. Yep, that’s the one.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “caucus” bandied about, but what is it really? Well, it’s sort of like a primary but more ye olde. It’s the Sturbridge Village of the primary process, if you will. People don’t just stop by their polling place and pull a lever, instead they come together as a community and discuss the candidates. There’s a little stumping and a little mingling. And then people take sides either by ballot or by physically congregating together. Is there cake? I don’t know but there should be.

Caucusing is kind of great. It makes people feel like an active part of the democratic process. Plus it’s old timey so everyone can feel a bit in the founding fathers spirit without shelling out the big bucks for Hamilton tickets. It’s also a great way to decide things as a group. Gather your family and caucus to decide what to get for dinner tonight. Make impassioned speeches then have pizza congregate by the door. Thai by the dining room. What else can you caucus? Well how about who deserves the blame in your divorce? Fun right?!

Divorce is usually a private process and that’s all well and good but how sure are you that your ex-spouse was really totally at fault for your break up? What if you had a definitive answer decided by a group of your peers and neighbors? Well, that’d be a caucus!

Republicans caucus in Iowa by secret ballot, and that’s boring, so we’ll pretend your marriage is a Democrat for the purposes of our exercise. Democrats pitch their candidates with little spiels, then they gather in groups according to which candidate they support. Then they pitch a little more to sway the undecided group until one candidate is declared winner. So here we go, for your consideration:

A Divorce Caucus

FADE IN:

INT. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CAFETERIA – DUSK:
People milling about everywhere, chatting and taking off winter weather layers. Some fill paper cups with coffee from carafes. There is a positive vibe and excitement in the air.

DENISE, mid-forties, holding a clipboard, walks up to a microphone stand and taps the microphone. The crowd turns their attention to her and they all go silent.

DENISE
Thank you all so much for coming out today. As you know Paul and I have decided to get a divorce.

CROWD
(Cheers and whistles)

DENISE
Yes, thank you! We are excited, too. As I was saying, thank you all for coming out, I know it’s freezing out there, we really appreciate it. You’re here today not only to make your own opinions known, but you are doing the community a greater good. The importance of designating one of us as marriage poison cannot be minimized. By the end of the night, we will have a clear-cut person at fault. I know a lot of you came in here with your minds made up as to who really destroyed this marriage, but before you congregate together with your chosen side, really think it through. This is serious. The winner of this caucus will not only get the house, the lake house, the kids, the dog and the jet skis, the winner will also get the most coveted prizes of all: the bragging rights and the dignity.

Just to get the logistics down. If you believe Paul is totally at fault for the crap sandwich that was demise of our marriage, please head over to the right side of the room near that life-sized scarecrow I have dressed in Paul’s clothes, threw six dozen eggs at, and pierced with several arrows.

PAUL, mid-forties, fixing his hair and rolling up his shirt sleeves steps up to the microphone.

PAUL
Yes and if you believe Denise is the one who drove our marriage into a lake of garbage, please congregate over on the left side of the room near the steel trash can full of Denise’s clothes that is — Dave, go ahead (DAVE sets trash can’s contents on fire)– currently on fire.

DENISE
Right, thank you Paul. And if you are undecided, please move to the center of the room near that pile of our wedding pictures which Paul and I have painstakingly poked holes in all the eyes and on which we drew classic schoolboy-style graffiti penises.

PAUL
Ok, so if everyone’s got their fill of coffee cake, thanks again to Denise’s mom (Denise’s mom waves from the crowd), I think we can get going.

DENISE
Yes ok, so I call this divorce caucus to order and with the power vested in me by Ben Franklin and St. Helena of Constantinople, the patron saint of divorces, I officially open this caucus.

CROWD
(Cheers and whistles)

The crowd disperses. Eight people congregate around the scarecrow. Eight people circle around the trash can fire. Six people remain in the center of the room around the wedding picture pile.

PAUL
(Waving his arm and counting quietly) Ok, so looks like we’ve got ourselves a tie right now. As per divorce caucus rules, Denise and I are not allowed to stump for ourselves, so each faction must appoint a delegate to speak for the group.

CROWD
(Mumbling and conferring)

GINA, early forties, steps forward from the group surrounding the trash can.

GINA
I’d like to speak on behalf of all the Denise haters.

DENISE
The caucus recognizes Gina Thompson. Even though one could argue Gina Thompson’s affair with my husband was the quote, unquote, straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to my marriage to Paul. Also please let it be noted, Gina Thompson was my best friend for the better part of the past thirty years.

PAUL
Both points are noted, Denise. Please step forward to the microphone, Gina and might I say that’s a lovely dress. Who will be speaking for the faction who hates me?

ANNA, early seventies, Denise’s mom, steps forward.

ANNA
That’d be me, Paul.

PAUL
Great, if you both could make your way up here. Gina, would you like to speak first?

DENISE
You’d like that wouldn’t you Paul?

PAUL
I would.

GINA
(Walks up to the microphone.) Hi there, as Denise mentioned, I’m Gina Thompson and Denise and I have been best friends for the better part of thirty years, and as such I can tell you Gina is the worst person I have ever met. She’s petty and cruel. She once threw six meatballs at Becky Stafford in sixth grade. One by one, for no reason, and with no remorse. She does not give up her seat on the bus for the elderly. She has never once wiped down an elliptical machine after use at the Y. She does not recycle and for six months in 2014 she would not shut up about her paleo diet. Paul did his best but there is only so much a person can take. She spits gum out of car windows. She regularly cuts the line at Trader Joe’s. She leaves the gate open at the dog run. She is a cancer upon this town and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was sent here by Lucifer himself. Thank you.

ANNA
(Steps to microphone.) Hello. I’m Anna, I’m Denise’s mom and I’ll cut right to the chase. Paul cheated on my precious baby angel with this woman (points to Gina). I don’t blame Gina. She’s from a broken home. We did all we could to invite her into our family to give her some structure but facts are facts, she was a latchkey kid with unlimited access to cable television. There was nothing we could do to save her. I’m not here to demonize Gina though she makes it pretty easy wearing outfits like that. I’m here to tell you about Paul.

Paul keys cars in the Stop’n’Shop parking lot. Now I’ve never seen it with my own eyes but I have heard rumors and as we all know there is no smoke without fire. He does it to get his jollies off when he’s not cheating on my daughter or doing hard marijuana drugs in the school parking lot across from his office when he’s meant to be at staff meetings.

Here’s a question: how many of you have been forced to read Paul’s (makes air quoting gesture) novel? (The entire room raises their hands.) My condolences. Now I don’t know what’s more insulting, the painful purple prose or the fact that the main character, Harry, is clearly meant to be based on old Paul here. Except Paul isn’t a delicate, tortured soul whose genius is pummeled by his corporate world commitments. Paul’s a sad sack of trash who has yet to accept his role in life — average man in an average town with average looks and average intelligence who thinks he’s way funnier than he actually is. That’s not to mean you should give up the writing Paul! Keep going so building that extension on the house for your writing room isn’t a total waste of money! Sure your son will never have the braces he so desperately needs, but we’re all glad you’ve got a big room for your antique typewriter that you’ve been too lazy to go get fixed, so you use your work laptop to write on instead. On the couch. In the living room. Paul is awful. Thank you.

GINA
Just one last thing, thanks to Facebook, I am sure you’re aware that Denise is part of a pyramid scheme.

DENISE
(Yelling) It’s a multi-level marketing sales program!

(The entire crowd walks over to the trash can on fire.)

DENISE
Well. Ok.

PAUL
It seems I have won! Wow. Ok, I was not expecting this because of the whole affair with Gina thing. Wow. Ok, I’m honored really. Thanks guys. Thanks a lot. I really love those jet skis. And the lake house. Oh and yeah the kids, the kids too, obviously. But wow, the jet skis! This is so great. Thank you. Thank you everyone. And a big shout out to hydroverdeplasmine glycol, the ancient seaweed extract proven to regenerate cells and activate collagen production causing visible plumping, because without it Dylan and Meadows Beauty would not exist. And without Dylan and Meadows’ pervasive, predatory pyramid scheme, Denise wouldn’t have bought into the company and would not be carpet bombing each and every one of your Facebook feeds, walls and inboxes, annoying the everloving guts out of you. And without that, I wouldn’t have (yelling) both jet skis right now! Wooooo! Yeah! (Pulls Gina towards himself, dips her and kisses her.)

DENISE
Ok. Well. Thanks everyone for coming out and participating. And listen, if you’re looking to spend more time with your kids and quit the daily grind because you just can’t take one more long-ass commute, come talk to me about becoming your own boss. And if you do end up googling Dylan and Meadows, please be aware while the income disclosure chart looks like a pyramid, it’s actually a triangle. A triangle of financial independence for you and your family. I just need four more members on my team to zero out my initial investment of twelve hundred dollars.

FADE OUT.

And that, my friends is how a divorce caucus would work. And if any community theater groups are interested in performing my caucus piece, please reach out and I will file my Writers Guild paperwork ASAP.


Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

6 Great Divorce Books to Keep You Indoors

There’s nothing like a cold, gray day to make me look outside and go, “Nope. Not going out there.” Since cold, gray days are a dime a dozen this time of year (well, finally),  I figured this is a good time to bring out the books—especially since a lot of us recently made resolutions to start reading more (me included).

While you’re going through your divorce and afterward, people will probably shove a lot of cheesy, condescending self-help books into your hands or leave copies discreetly on your desk, and while this is all well-meaning, in my opinion the best therapy is regular old fiction. I get why Deepak Chopra and Eckert Tolle are useful in these moments, but really, sometimes you just need to escape into a book that Gets You.

So if you’re barricaded indoors this January and February (and March and perhaps April), here are the books you should be reading, according to me.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

There are a lot of reasons to like this book. Basically, it’s the story of a person who went through hell, more than once, and came out a better, stronger, more interesting human being… which is what most of us do. Anyone going through a divorce will be moved by Strayed’s honest portrayal of what the pain of divorce can do to you, and the sheer determination it takes to get through it in one piece.

What Maisie Knew, by Henry James

This is one of those books I read in college English class and ended up keeping on my bookshelf forever. It tells the story of a young girl witnessing the divorce of her parents and its aftermath, and throughout she is on the whole much wiser than the adults in the book. An entertaining story, it also serves as a cautionary tale of how NOT to co-parent, and makes you glad divorce is considerably easier—legally, anyway—in the 21st century.

Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs

Ready to laugh and cry at the same time? This book is for you. Burroughs is one of those writers who can tell a tragic story in a hilarious way, and frankly, his past probably makes yours look like a picnic. In this book you’ll find the true story of Burrough’s young life: dealing with his parents’ toxic marriage, a mentally ill mother, a crazy psychiatrist, and an addiction problem—and somehow, it’s really, really funny.

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Maybe this isn’t a laughing time for you; maybe you’d rather wallow in the darkness of the world a bit before you welcome the joys of spring. If so, and if you somehow haven’t yet, read this book. A sort of uber-male perspective on the breakdown of the human psyche, it tells the story of Kurtz, a guy who went AWOL on his intended spouse and disappeared into the jungle—and you really don’t (and DO) want to know what he got up to out there.

Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Mock if you will: this is a good book. Gilbert does something really great in this book, which is describe what it feels like to realize you are going to have to end your marriage, and then describe what it feels like to end your marriage—the bad and the good. She takes an unashamedly positive view on things, and even while I may not share her worldview oneverything anything, I do think she has a lot of insightful things to say about human relationships.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Want to feel really, really good about not being married? Read The Great Gatsby. In it, a young man observes the unhappiness of young, rich, married people in the 1920s; this book abounds with champagne, huge parties, and a lot of bad, bad decisions. Revel in the beginning and end of the American dream in this classic work of irony and relationship woes.

 

Marriage and Divorce at Downton Abbey

One thing you should know about real men: they are not afraid to admit they like Downton Abbey.

If you’ve somehow never heard of it, Downton Abbey is basically a social and political study of early 20th-century British culture in the guise of a period drama about rich people, starring the incredibly funny and cool Dame Maggie Smith as well as a lot of other people who are less important than her.

Not surprisingly, I’m most entertained by the storylines that involve marriage and divorce—I love learning about how much things have changed since the 1920s, and sometimes, how much they haven’t.

While people like Henry VIII were divorcing as they pleased, divorce didn’t become legal for regular British folk until the mid-1800s, so in 1920 it was still pretty new. It also wasn’t particularly acceptable. (Think your divorce made social situations awkward? Try being a divorcee in 1924.)

Here are some of my favorite storylines from the show.

Only marriage can save Downton Abbey.

One of the early plot lines centers around how, because women can’t inherit property and the Earl of Downton only has daughters, the property is going to go to some random distant cousin who (gasp) isn’t even aristocracy.

The implication of that legality is that, if the family hope to keep their property, one of the three daughters must be married off to this random redneck cousin. Cue awkward English eye rolls.

No no-fault divorce.

The most interesting couple in the show is no doubt the housemaid Anna and the valet Bates, although they have the hardest time getting together of anyone, ever.

This is partly because Bates’s previous wife—a truly horrendous woman—decides to be a pain by not agreeing to a divorce, citing that she and Bates have a happy marriage, even though they’ve not lived together for years.

To this day there is still no “no-fault divorce” in the UK, meaning someone has to do something egregious for divorce to be legally allowed. You can’t just say, “Well, we don’t like each other anymore.”

No child support laws.

When the slightly “fast” housemaid Ethel is discovered having an affair with a visiting military officer, she’s in a bad situation as she ends up both fired—and pregnant.

The officer refuses to accept the child is his, and since there were no legal grounds in the 1920s in England to force unwed fathers to take financial responsibility, Ethel has to raise the child alone, and ultimately has to become a prostitute to make ends meet.

These days, and particularly since the advent of paternity testing, this is less likely to happen—although not entirely unheard of.  It was probably pretty common back then and definitely made for a harrowing, thought-provoking plot point. (Oh, and then the officer was killed in battle in WW1—that’s karma for you.)

You can’t divorce the insane.

Edith, the less-attractive sister who everyone thinks is bound to end up an old maid, surprises everyone in the third season by starting a relationship with Michael Gregson, the editor of a magazine she writes for. However, in typical style, Edith has bad luck in that Gregson can’t marry her—because he already has a wife, who is clinically insane.

Until the 1950s, many national laws prevented spouses from divorcing the insane because the spouse could not legally consent to divorce. These days, however, someone being insane can in fact be considered grounds for divorce—shows how times have changed.

Divorce makes you a pariah.

One of the great dramatic moments of the fifth season was the marriage of Lady Rose MacClare to Atticus Aldridge being almost derailed by her mother dropping the bomb on the wedding party that she and her husband—ie. Rose’s parents—were in the middle of a divorce. At the time, and perhaps especially for those in British High Society, divorce was not, shall we say, “the done thing.”

Unfortunately for the devious Lady MacClare, the majority of the wedding party are entirely unimpressed by this news, and the wedding goes ahead as if she never said a word. Doh.

Since then, the frequency with which couples get divorced has risen to the point that it’s now a normal part of social life, if a sometimes painful one.

****

Think I’ve spoiled the show by giving away all the best parts? You couldn’t be more wrong. I have but scratched the surface, as Lady Mary Crawley would say.

Downton Abbey airs on PBS (like all the best things) where the sixth season premiers tonight (January 3rd) at 9pm EST. See you there!

Cheerio,
James J. Sexton

 

9 Classic Holidays Movies to Express Your Dysfunctional Family

If the feverish pace of the holiday season has you feeling like you’re stuck in a thunderdome with your family as opposed to soaking up quality time with your family, you might just be nearing the end of your rope by now. Maybe I’m wrong and you’re in one of those Leave It To Beaver families, all cuddled up together on the couch, in front of a fire, taking turns reading aloud from Dickens. Maybe Aunt Shirley’s making her famous peppermint hot chocolate and your younger brother Ricky is upstairs changing into a Santa costume to delight all the children. Even Patrick, your regal golden retriever is in on the fun, wearing a set of reindeer antlers on his head and a big red satiny bow around his neck, prancing around majestically like he’s one of those fancy Instagram dogs. If this sounds like your family, this post is not for you.

 

If alternatively, your Aunt Peg has had too much sherry and is confessing her one true love was her college roommate Denise and that your Uncle Henry never “touches her as a woman should be touched anymore;” or if your mom brought her new boyfriend to dinner and you finally place his familiar face as the little boy you used to babysit in the early 90s; or if your family is nowhere in sight and you’re really bonding with the whiskey bottle you’ve nicknamed dad while you anxiously await your Seamless delivery, then you’ve come to the right place.

To all the damaged products of dysfunctional families, this post is for you. You don’t know what caroling around the neighborhood as a family feels like, but you sure as heck know the solace a dark closet can provide when your older brother and dad are going at it again over dropping out of college. The weirdos, the freaks, the goths, the misunderstood, gather ye round, for it’s time to indulge in some holiday films made for us, the broken ones.

Leave Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer to the normals and instead, enjoy these holiday movies starring your brethren, the dysfunctional family, described below as they should be, by jumping on the #ExplainAFilmPlotBadly train.

Home Alone
A young boy’s negligent parents were pressured by society and the Catholic Church to have more children than they can keep track of, and forget one of those children at home when leaving for a family vacation. The child left at home must protect the family’s honor and worldly possessions from burglars in this examination of the seedy underbelly of Chicago’s suburbs in the early 90s.

A Christmas Story
As the specter of nuclear war with the USSR looms, a young boy schemes to arm himself with a gun by any means necessary, including desperately trying to persuade an aging deity of western consumerism.

Elf
After being lied to his whole life, a middle aged man is exiled from his isolated village and the only family he has ever known. We follow the immigrant’s journey to New York as he faces severe hardships and fails to assimilate into American culture.

 

The Family Stone
Cultures collide as Republicans and Democrats clash over a Christmas holiday in this sobering commentary on the political divide in modern America.

 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Promises of change and declarations of love prove to be lies when a family loses track of their child again, this time in pre-Giuliani New York City.

 

 

 

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Though it is never discussed, over the course of two decades, a midwestern family’s children don’t age yet their appearances change drastically. One Christmas the patriarch of the family goes to unusual extremes to collect his holiday bonus, as he remains convinced money can buy happiness.

Christmas With The Kranks
Evil befalls a family that dares to turn its back on Christmas, thus proving Santa is more powerful than god himself. The Kranks are bullied, guilted and manipulated back into celebrating, because autonomy is outlawed, and they live in fear forever.

 

The Ref
A cat burglar is the real victim of a Connecticut couple’s crumbling marriage.

Four Christmases
Two spoiled city dwellers reckon with their pasts in this unflinching commentary on the divorce epidemic in America.

Have another favorite “complicated family” film to add? Let’s here it! Leave a Comment below, on Facebook, or catch us on Twitter!

All the Movies are Lying About Love

In the year of our lord two thousand fifteen, human adults got really excited about a new dating website for Disney enthusiasts. As someone who thinks it’s weird for grown ups to go to Disney theme parks without children, it’s safe to say I was very unsettled by the idea that such a dating market existed and needed to be catered to. I’m all for every pot having a lid, and fully support the old adage “as long as you’re not hurting anyone go for it,” but this feels different and is worthy of further discussion. Catering to the Disney-obsessed niche, I think, is indicative of a shift towards embracing the idea that chasing a fairy tale is now an acceptable and encouraged lifestyle.

The problem is of course, life isn’t a fairy tale. The love stories put together by Disney and the rest of Hollywood are all fun and games until people start holding their own love lives up to fairy tale or romantic comedy standards. The odds that you’re going to have some incredibly unique love story are very slim, and the fact is, you don’t need one to be happy. But the more a person focuses on getting a big Hollywood ending over focusing on the work that needs go into that relationship to make it work and last, the more people are going to end up in my office discussing their divorce options.

Are Sunday afternoon TBS movies ruining us along with climate change, the gun laws in this country and aspartame? Just maybe. Let’s explore some movies that are setting us up for romantic disappointment, and you be the judge.

While You Were Sleeping
Falling for a guy from afar, saving his life, pretending to be his wife while he’s comatose in the hospital and then falling for his brother does not, in real life, end in a happily ever after with the brother. In real life it ends in a psychiatric hospital after people find out you were lying about being married to a person you’ve never met. You can plead and try to explain while the lithium kicks in, but there’s not really a way out of this one.

Pretty Woman
This is not an accurate depiction of the sex industry, in case you didn’t realize. White knight saves prostitute with a heart of gold is not how this goes down in real life. In a dangerously unregulated industry full of exploitation and human trafficking, a bloated, bored father of three hires a woman who uses drugs to cope with the unimaginable abuse from her childhood and they never see each other again — that’s real life. Or this ends in Gilgo Beach. Either way – Not. Good.

10 Things I Hate About You
The dark and stormy bad boy will not orchestrate a large musical number to get your attention. In real life, the dark and stormy bad boy will continue to hide his dad issues behind a veil of ~edginess~ until he succumbs to alcoholism – just like his dad!

Titanic
Hey, YOU CAN BOTH FIT ON THE DOOR. In real life, you both fit on the floating door and Jack dumps you after you get saved because, what the hell you could both fit on there why did you act like it would be impossible? Selfish much?

Every Hallmark Movie Ever

  • You will not fall in love with the dashingly handsome, newly widowed postal worker.
  • Santa is not real, he will not bring you a wife for Christmas.
  • You will not save the family bakery from foreclosure by winning a large cash prize in a pie competition and fall in love with the real estate agent caught in the middle.
  • You will not fall in love with the guy who rear ended your car, who also, as it turns out, plays your daughter’s favorite TV show character.
  • You will not have a triple wedding with your two sisters, thus throwing a wrench into your parents’ second honeymoon plans.
  • Santa is not secretly a total hunk and he will not finally realize he is in love with you and kiss you as it starts to snow, on Christmas Eve.

Last Holiday
The odds of you being mistakenly diagnosed with a terminal illness are pretty slim, even in our crumbling medical system. So odds are you’re not going to go on one last big blowout vacation, snag your longtime crush and then find out you’re not dying. In real life, this ends in your unfortunate demise and your family being left with astronomical debt thanks to your last hurrah.

Bridget Jones’s Diary
The idea of being accepted “just as you are” is such a beautiful, if not delusional, sentiment. Yes you should accept people, warts and all, but there is also a limit. There is a limit to zaniness, excessive jealousy and hijinx and real life Mark Darcy would have gotten to that limit pretty early on.

Every Lifetime Movie Ever

  • You will not rekindle the spark between you and your high school boyfriend when you lock eyes unexpectedly across a Christmas tree lot.
  • You will not fall in love with a young surfing instructor on the 40th birthday weekend getaway your kids planned so you could “let loose for once.”
  • You will not frantically plow through boyfriends because your dying mother told you the one will be your seventh boyfriend.
  • You will not seal your love forever by murdering the one woman who threatens your relationship. I really, really hope you won’t.

Love Actually
The lie here is that this is allegedly a feel good movie that’s supposed to fill you with cheer and romantic hope. The plot lines are actually not too far from real life as they’re all tragic. Dead wife, cheating husband, severely ill relative getting in the way of having a social life — take your pick. Though in real life the videographer ends up in jail because he is a c-r-e-e-p.

Never Been Kissed
It is possible Josie and Mr Coulson end up together but not until after Josie goes to jail for forging a driver’s license and Mr Coulson maybe loses his job for having an inappropriate relationship with a student. While she was actually a grown up, I can’t imagine there’s no repercussions for him.

Any Movie Starring Kate Hudson or Sarah Jessica Parker
Playing weird games does not lead to healthy relationships, it leads to threadbare relationships built like houses of cards. In real life, if the house of cards actually gets a wedding, it gets a nasty divorce too.

To sum up, the meet cute is not king. The wedding is not the end. No means “no,” not “keep trying to impress a person until you wear them down into loving you.” Do not let movies and the first three Taylor Swift albums brainwash you into thinking the one is Prince or Princess Charming. And for goodness sake go out and see the real world for as long as you can because soon enough you’ll be forced to take your kids to the sanitized Disney version.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

What to Do if Your Spouse Goes AWOL (Inspired by Serial Season 2)

One of the big surprises of 2014 was the huge success of the Serial podcast, which is or was a spinoff of the relatively popular This American Life podcast put out by Chicago Public Radio. It was pretty much the first podcast to ever reach such a huge audience, with an average of 8 million people downloading every episode on iTunes alone.

The first season told the story of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school student, in 1999, for which her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed has at the time of my writing been in prison for almost sixteen years. Producer Sarah Koenig interviewed witnesses, uncovered many inconsistencies in the case as presented to the courts, and opened up a proverbial can of worms that is still wide open.

I was one of the people listening avidly to the first season of Serial, so I’m pretty excited that the second season has started. Sarah Koenig promised “some time in 2015,” and she waited until just last week to debut her new story. In fact, Season Two, Episode Two premieres today!

This season’s podcast is going to pick apart the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was allegedly held captive by the Taliban for five years in Afghanistan—but again, this is a story with a lot of complexity, suggestive details, and inconsistencies. Well chosen, Sarah.

To prep you for Serial season 2, this post is going to mix some key background information with a bit of legal perspective on what to do if YOUR spouse goes AWOL—whether from your life, your marriage, or just from financial obligations. Enjoy!

Were there signs?

This is the age-old question that gets asked every time someone does something absolutely incomprehensible. The serial killer was “just a normal guy,” the rope bridge “looked pretty safe,” and your spouse never seemed like the kind of person to just pick up and take off.

According to other soldiers who knew Bowe Bergdahl, he was basically a normal guy before he disappeared—a disappearance that is now being looked at by many as a desertion of a very strange kind. “He was focused and well-behaved,” soldier Jason Fry has said.

But also, Bergdahl did say to Fry at one point, “If this deployment is lame, I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Afghanistan.” So there’s that.

There was also the weird fact that, according to soldiers in his unit, on the morning he went missing, he stacked all his stuff up neatly, except for his compass, which went missing with him. Not enough for you? He also apparently mailed his computer and other possessions—inexplicably—to his parents prior to his disappearance. So … yeah. There were signs.

I think you can safely assume, if your spouse gets distant and starts mailing all of his or her possessions away, that there might be something fishy going on. What’s tougher to get a handle on are the psychological signs, and the emotional ones. Is your spouse going distant because they’re stressed about work, or because they want out?

When a spouse walks out on a marriage, it sometimes means walking out on the children of the marriage as well. Some states call this desertion and others call it abandonment. In either case it’s generally grounds for divorce.

The exact definition of abandonment varies, but usually it means the spouse has been gone for one to two years, has not made any financial contributions, and refuses to reconcile if they are in touch at all.

What should be done?

When Bergdahl went missing, a huge amount of military resource was put into trying to track him down, and there was a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not the US government should negotiate for his release (ie. “negotiate with terrorists”). For much of the time he was gone, he was the only US soldier being held as a prisoner by the Taliban, so it was fairly high-profile.

If you think your spouse is about to go AWOL (or worse, they already have), you probably lack the resources of the US military in trying to hold them accountable in your marriage. There are some things you can do, however.

If you have children, you can file for temporary custody, which is likely to turn into permanent custody once you finalize the divorce. You can also ask the court for a temporary order of child support. In extreme cases, you can ask the court to terminate parental rights of the deserting spouse, if they are seen to be an unfit parent.

Once the spouse has been gone from your marriage for two years, and one year in some states, you’re in a good position to file for divorce.

What really happened?

But getting a divorce doesn’t answer the biggest question that some spouses have after being deserted. The biggest question, of course, is “Why?” Why did the person just leave, instead of resolving the situation in some other way? How could they leave a life you created together, without a second thought? And so on.

In my experience, satisfying answers to this question are few and far between. Usually, the simple answer is “avoidance”—some people just can’t deal with having grownup conversations. In a few unfortunate scenarios, people had already started a new life with someone else. You might find out why your spouse went AWOL in time, or you might never get the answers you feel you deserve. And this can be infuriating.

In the case of Bowe Bergdahl, finding out what really happened is the whole point, or so it seems. Some people claim he left a note saying he was going to “start a new life,” but the note hasn’t been since produced. There are stories of his being kidnapped and tortured by Taliban captors, and as many stories that he walked away with them on his own free will. And there are apparently a LOT of strange little ins and outs of his story that just don’t add up.

For the Deserted

Sadly, abandonment is not that uncommon as a grounds for divorce, but luckily it’s fairly easy to resolve from a legal standpoint. Once your spouse has left you for a certain period, it’s hard for the courts to deny you a divorce—but you’ll want to have legal counsel to ensure that you get what you deserve out of the situation.

If your spouse has gone AWOL, feel free to contact me for advice on your specific situation. If you’re an abandoned military spouse, you might find this site helpful in understanding your options.

If you’re interested in listening to Serial, either the last amazing season or this coming one, you can download it here. If you’re interested and you’ve never downloaded a podcast before, here’s what to do.

Questions? Comments? Leave a comment, share on Facebook, or tweet it!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Holiday Roasting with Our Favorite Divorced Chefs

The healing properties of cooking cannot be denied. Following a set of instructions and busying your hands is like hitting the reset button on your brain. With Thanksgiving coming up, odds are, you’re going to be in the kitchen in one way or another. Whether it’s slicing radishes for a side salad, or being head chef calling all the turkey shots, let this holiday be the one where you pop on The Big Chill soundtrack, mash the crap out of some potatoes and bliss the hell out. Combining my two favorite things (being encouraged to overeat in America’s honor and divorce), I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up some great Thanksgiving recipes from my favorite divorced chefs.

Alton Brown is divorced. Did you know that? Me neither! Maybe his ex-wife couldn’t stand hearing about yeast budding for one more minute, and hit the bricks. We’ll never know. But what we do know is appetizers are a key component of Thanksgiving. They keep the hanger away and the pre-dinner whining to a minimum. Alton’s mushroom caps look like a great starter, as do these spicy pecans.

ou probably know Bobby Flay is divorced. A couple of times actually. His most recent split from Stephanie March was all over the papers. Perhaps youheard about the airplane that flew over his Walk of Fame ceremony with a banner in tow that read “CHEATER”? It is good not to be Bobby Flay right now. Almost as good as this potato gratin recipe looks. And what’s Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? This one looks extra decadent.  

Giada De Laurentiis, she of the tiny spoons and over-pronunciation, is also divorced and boy was it a pricey split. Hey, readers, for the millionth time, get a prenup! And make this roasted root salad, it looks delicious.

I’d argue the closest the Food Network ever got to pornography was Down Home With the Neelys. While Gina and Pat Neely could make baked potatoes sensual, they could not make their love last. Gina filed for divorce in 2014. Depressing, I know. Drown your sorrows in this chorizo and collard green stuffing recipe, a perfect addition to your holiday table.

As this is the big show, and we’re not messing around, the turkey recipe will of course be courtesy of Martha. Martha Stewart, la grande dame de entertaining, was divorced in 1990, and while it was not pretty, it was in fact agood thing. Martha’s dedication to building her empire only grew stronger and she launched Martha Stewart Living the following year, and is — hang on let me get my calculator — currently worth a kajillion dollars. There is no one else I would trust with a turkey or gravy for that matter.

Nigella Lawson’s divorce hit the headlines with a fury. Lots of seedy and sad details were spilled but nothing can come between Nigella and her loyal following. Nobody cared about the mud slung at her and her ex-husband came out the big, giant loser. To be the big winner at your holiday, make one of Nigella’s desserts. This pecan pie looks picture perfect and this pumpkin cheesecake looks seriously delicious.

 

HOLIDAY ROASTING WITH OUR FAVORITE DIVORCED CHEFS

James J. Sexton, Esq. | November 18, 2015 | Divorce & SeparationThanksgivingNo Comments

 

The healing properties of cooking cannot be denied. Following a set of instructions and busying your hands is like hitting the reset button on your brain. With Thanksgiving coming up, odds are, you’re going to be in the kitchen in one way or another. Whether it’s slicing radishes for a side salad, or being head chef calling all the turkey shots, let this holiday be the one where you pop on The Big Chill soundtrack, mash the crap out of some potatoes and bliss the hell out. Combining my two favorite things (being encouraged to overeat in America’s honor and divorce), I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up some great Thanksgiving recipes from my favorite divorced chefs.

 

via GIPHY

Alton Brown is divorced. Did you know that? Me neither! Maybe his ex-wife couldn’t stand hearing about yeast budding for one more minute, and hit the bricks. We’ll never know. But what we do know is appetizers are a key component of Thanksgiving. They keep the hanger away and the pre-dinner whining to a minimum. Alton’s mushroom caps look like a great starter, as do these spicy pecans.  

 

via GIPHY

You probably know Bobby Flay is divorced. A couple of times actually. His most recent split from Stephanie March was all over the papers. Perhaps youheard about the airplane that flew over his Walk of Fame ceremony with a banner in tow that read “CHEATER”? It is good not to be Bobby Flay right now. Almost as good as this potato gratin recipe looks. And what’s Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? This one looks extra decadent.  

 

via GIPHY

Giada De Laurentiis, she of the tiny spoons and over-pronunciation, is also divorced and boy was it a pricey split. Hey, readers, for the millionth time, get a prenup! And make this roasted root salad, it looks delicious.

 

I’d argue the closest the Food Network ever got to pornography was Down Home With the Neelys. While Gina and Pat Neely could make baked potatoes sensual, they could not make their love last. Gina filed for divorce in 2014. Depressing, I know. Drown your sorrows in this chorizo and collard green stuffing recipe, a perfect addition to your holiday table.

 

As this is the big show, and we’re not messing around, the turkey recipe will of course be courtesy of Martha. Martha Stewart, la grande dame de entertaining, was divorced in 1990, and while it was not pretty, it was in fact agood thing. Martha’s dedication to building her empire only grew stronger and she launched Martha Stewart Living the following year, and is — hang on let me get my calculator — currently worth a kajillion dollars. There is no one else I would trust with a turkey or gravy for that matter.

 

via GIPHY

Nigella Lawson’s divorce hit the headlines with a fury. Lots of seedy and sad details were spilled but nothing can come between Nigella and her loyal following. Nobody cared about the mud slung at her and her ex-husband came out the big, giant loser. To be the big winner at your holiday, make one of Nigella’s desserts. This pecan pie looks picture perfect and this pumpkin cheesecake looks seriously delicious.

Just one more even though I know you’re really pooped from all the cooking and family and entertaining and everything. But you know what would be great fuel for Black Friday shopping? Why, Kris Jenner’s pumpkin breadobviously. While Kris isn’t a “chef” per se, she is divorced. And if you make this bread, when you hand it out you can tell everyone it is KRIS JENNER’S PUMPKIN BREAD and I don’t know what would be better than that. There are three cups of sugar in the recipe and it looks terrible,  so bake at your own risk.

So there you have it. An entire holiday catered by divorcées. Quite an interesting theme if you ask me. When you gather your family around the table, feel free to explain the bounty before them is all thanks to cheating, bitterness, strife, nagging, sadness and broken dreams. Then go around the table and make everyone say what they’re thankful for. If they’re having trouble getting started, kick it off with, “Well I’m pretty thankful Denise isn’t here,” and let the gratitude flow from there.

Heartwarming Thanksgiving Flicks & TV

 really love Thanksgiving. Sadly, it often gets lost between Halloween and Christmas. Everyone’s all leaves and pumpkins and costumes one minute, then shopping and peppermint bark the next. Poor Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle and becomes a speed bump to Black Friday. But it shouldn’t be. It’s a holiday about family and eating (and genocide, which is important to remember) and while it doesn’t quite get the Christmas treatment when it comes to movies and TV, there are tons of really great Thanksgiving-themed films and episodes too good to miss. Get in the spirit by diving into some of these.

The House of Yes
No matter how messed up you think your family is, it is not as messed up as Pascals. This very, very dark comedy takes place during a Thanksgiving hurricane. There’s Kennedy cosplay, family drama and a love triangle that becomes a love square when twins turn out to be closer than a normal person would hope.

ieces of April
Post-Dawson’s, pre-Cruise Katie Holmes plays April, a Lower East Side dwelling twenty-something hosting her first Thanksgiving. Her suburban family makes the trek into the city as April realizes her oven doesn’t work. While things could take a turn for slapstick hijinks, they don’t. Instead this is an intelligent look at a dysfunctional family facing mortality.

Mad About You
The best episode of Mad About You is in fact a Thanksgiving episode. Jamie and Paul are hosting and Murray the dog helps himself to the turkey. They then have to sneak in a new one and it takes multiple tries, and multiple turkeys. I love this imaginary version New York where there are fully cooked turkeys available at the deli. Last year there was not a single walnut available for purchase on all of Manhattan by noon on Tuesday, but in imaginary New York there are no lines at Trader Joe’s and your cornershop has twenty pound cooked and garnished turkeys just waiting for you at 4pm on Thanksgiving day.

The Ice Storm
Things get weird in 1970s Connecticut! Paul comes home from boarding school for Thanksgiving. His parents’ marriage is falling apart and they end up at a key party on the night of a huge ice storm. His sister Wendy plays strange games with the neighbor boys. It’s bleak and beautiful and depressing.

Addams Family Values
This one isn’t Thanksgiving centric, but it does feature a fantastic camp musical about Thanksgiving. Wednesday takes it upon herself to tell the truth about Pilgrim and Native American relations, and then exacts her revenge on the most annoying girl at camp.

Hannah and Her Sisters
If you haven’t boycotted Woody Allen’s movies, this is a great one to revisit. Hannah, Lee and Holly have intertwining lives and intertwining stories. Over the course of two years (beginning and ending on Thanksgiving), their worlds get flipped around because life isn’t always neat and tidy. While a reminder that years can go by quickly and that things in life can change drastically might sound ominous, the opposite is true of this movie. It leaves you feeling hopeful about change.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Neal is on his way home for Thanksgiving but his flight gets rerouted. Desperate to get back in time, he teams up with Del and a slapstick odyssey commences. Steve Martin and John Candy star in this John Hughes film, and that sentence alone is an excellent sales pitch.

Seinfeld
So much greatness happens in Seinfeld’s Thanksgiving episode. George buys Jon Voight’s car. Elaine wins a spot under a float for Mr. Pitt, then goes deaf. Jon Voight bites Kramer. Jerry schemes his way into Tim Whatley’s party then ruins a parade float. How much more could you pack into a half hour?

See there is so much good stuff to dig into! And there’s nothing more American that plopping yourself in front of the TV after eating too much. Happy Thanksgiving!

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

Laugh Your A** Off During the New York Comedy Fest with These Tragic Clowns

If there’s anything I learned during my brief middle school jaunt as an ac-TOR, it’s that one must balance drama with comedy to delight an audience. That’s what those happy/sad masks meant right? Let’s say yes. Divorces can certainly be drama filled, so it’s a great idea to balance out all that turmoil with some chuckles. And seeing as it’s the New York Comedy Festival this week, this is a great time to highlight some of my favorite comics and their takes on divorce and breakups. Some language in the clips below is NSFW! You’ve been warned!

Up first is of course Louis CK. He has frequently declared his very positive take on divorce, even going so far as to claim that divorce was the greatest part of his life. In the clip below, hear him explain,“Marriage is just a larva stage for true happiness — which is divorce.”

Kathy Griffin went through a really rotten divorce not too long ago, full of awful accusations and sad details. But Kathy chose to see the brighter, or at least funnier side to it all. Watch the clip below to hear about how she had to break the news to her parents, after People did.

You might not be familiar with British comic Simon Amstell, but you should be. His sardonic take on all of life’s bleak events is as hilarious as it is depressing. In the clip below he discusses his new life alone, which is not going great.

If you’re not watching Please Like Me what are you doing with your life? Getting yard work done and spending time with your kids? Fair enough. Below is PLM’s creator and star Josh Thomas talking about his parents’ recent divorce. He’s taking it pretty well, though he is annoyed there’s no custody battle over him.

my Schumer, current queen of everything, has got a ton of funny bits about relationships. My favorite though is the “My Dream Breakup” sketch, a take on all those WE and TLC party planning shows.

ylan Moran, best known as the curmudgeon from Black Books has a lot of complaints about the world and he explores a lot of them in his stand up. In the clip below he reinvents the old “it’s not you, it’s me” trope.

Josie Long’s new show Cara Josephine is all about heartbreak. This isn’t the best clip from that stand up, but we are bound by what the elders of the internet upload, and this is all they’ve given us. Watch Josie contemplate love at the wrong airport.

Remember, no matter how rough your divorce or break up is, it is but a season of your life, and it will pass. In fact, let’s end this piece with Mr. Chuck Esterly from Cincinnati who proves no matter what life throws your way, it’s never too late to try new things and keep laughing.

Got a great divorce joke? Leave it for me in the comments below or share it with me or Facebook or Twitter!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce and Stay Classy, New York

In the category of “things that should have happened a long time ago,” a new Anchorman-themed bar has opened in the Lower East Side. Lucky for me, it’s only forty-five minutes out of the way when I’m coming home from work, therefore I will be stopping in nightly.

To be fair, the bar is actually Will Ferrell-themed, not Anchorman-themed, and it offers, for example, cocktails named after lots of his movies, not justAnchorman. But let’s be really clear here: Anchorman was the best Will Ferrell movie. (I will accept no objections to this.) Ok, maybe Step Brothers was but that can, in large part, be attributed to the genius that IS John C. Riley.Anyway, the bar owners must have mulled this over for days before coming to the name the place Stay Classy New York.

And classy ’tis. 

The cocktail menu is basically the best thing I’ve ever seen, heard or read. As you muddle through your divorce proceedings, methinks you’ll find considerable solace at the end of the day by burying your troubles in a Smelly Pirate Hooker (it’s a cocktail, people—get your minds out of the gutter) and/or a Whale’s Vagina.

Now, while I can confidently assure you that I am not in any way being compensated by Stay Classy New York to promote them or their awesome cocktails, I will tell you this: the first Anchorman movie more or less made me the man I am today. I now routinely use lines like “Don’t act like you’re not impressed” while showing off the many leather-bound books in my office. You only think I’m kidding.

So how should you make the most of this new NYC resource as you begin a new chapter in your life? Some suggestions:

  1. Invite people to Stay Classy as a part of your whole making new friends exercise. 
  2. Come to Stay Classy when you just need a break from people asking uncomfortable questions
  3. Meet a blind date here. Even if it goes horribly, you’ll have lots of Will Ferrell memorabilia to fill the awkward gaps in conversations.
  4. Establish this as your new “local bar,” even if it’s not actually local. Make everyone meet you here. 
  5. Come here to read all of the Open Letters (they will be increasingly good as you work your way through the cocktail menu).

Let me know if you happen to stop into Stay Classy New York, and feel free to offer up a review in comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

An Open Letter to Lindsey Bluth Funke

Dear Lindsay,

I’m not really sure where to start with your marriage to Tobias so I guess I’ll go with: what? I mean seriously, Lindsay, what? And why? Also how? And finally, him?

I know you didn’t exactly have a great family life what with having a mother that was as critical as she was drunk and a father that was always absent. But there are a lot of people out there that had a rough start in life, yet they didn’t end up marrying a failed doctor turned aspiring Blue Man Group cast member, who was also a Never Nude. And probably gay.

I know George and Lucille weren’t the best parents, but marrying Tobias as an act of rebellion was punishing you more than it was punishing them. I suppose at one point Tobias had qualities that were attractive to you. He was successful once; let us not forget he was the world’s first analrapist (that’s analyst AND therapist) before he lost his license after giving CPR to a man not actually having a heart attack.

You thought motherhood would bring you happiness but the road there was not an easy one. Sure you were pregnant dozens of times before, but having your daughter Maeby ended up costing over a hundred thousand dollars and put a real strain on your marriage.  Then it turned out, like your own mother, parenthood wasn’t for you and you felt adrift in life. Sure the Teamocil helped numb all feelings and shut down your sex drive for a while, but it didn’t fix things. You hated motherhood, you were in a sexless, and seemingly loveless marriage, and then you all moved in with your insane family. Yet for some reason, you still didn’t hightail it the heck out of there.

Why? I suppose there was the whole job thing, in that you didn’t have one and it’s difficult to pay rent and buy diamond cream with no paycheck. But it’s not like Tobias was supporting you either, as a failed actor doesn’t bring in the big bucks.

We keep dancing around the big issue here, and it’s not helping anyone. So here’s the thing. Tobias? Tobias is maybe gay. He’s a man’s man. He wants a banger in the mouth. He said so himself dozens of times and in varyingly crude euphemisms. You tried an open relationship with disastrous and often humiliating results. Yet still you stayed. And when Tobias left you and escaped to Reno, you followed him, inexplicably. 

Later you briefly Eat Pray, Love-d your way out of the relationship, but it didn’t stick. And after a lot more dating blunders and briefly (unknowingly) becoming a call girl, here you are, still married to Tobias.

You made a huge mistake, Lindsay.  It’s time to accept that and get out of dodge. Tobias can’t financially support you as he has still not gotten his hands on any meaty man parts, so it’s not like you need his money. Maeby is an adult now and it’s not like you ever cared about her wellbeing in the first place.

There is nothing forcing you to stay, and you are master of your own destiny. I think if you remind Tobias he too controls his future, you won’t even have to litigate the divorce. Because I think when you get down to it, both of you agree this marriage fell apart a long time ago, and there’s not a lot to fight over.

Find a good mediator and get the ball rolling. You have no real assets to speak of and I think alimony is off the table as long as you get this settled quickly, in case you end up winning that Congressional bid. Custody isn’t an issue as Maeby’s a grown up. You live separate lives anyway, so make it official. Cut ties, move away (maybe DC!) and start fresh.

So what do you say Lindsay? Should I have the “Lindsay Love Independence” banner made for your divorce party? I can get the celebratory hot ham water going on the stove if you want.

Don’t be nervous, Lindsay. Your whole life lies ahead of you. Remember, somewhere over the rainbow, there’s another rainbow. It’s time Lindsay, it’s time.

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

Don't Miss This Netflix Divorce Documentary

There’s no shortage of stuff to watch right now. We might as well have all our mail forwarded to Shondaland, right? With dozens of new shows plus the old ones starting again, keeping up is beginning to feel like a part-time job. I don’t want to add to your already full list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring your attention to an interesting documentary streaming on Netflix right now.

It’s called Divorce Corp and it explores the state of the American divorce process and family court system, questioning who’s really profiting and why. It’s by no means a perfect documentary, but it asks some thought-provoking questions. It ponders whether hiring a higher priced (thereby theoretically “better”) lawyer ups a client’s chances of getting what they want out of a divorce. It delves into why divorces can end up costing so much and take so long (hint: it might be so lawyers can make it rain and send their kids to fancy summer camp). It explores the financial incentive to fight over custody, as custody isn’t only about kids, it’s also about money. It looks at the prevalence of cases in which the legal fees end up being higher than the amount of money the couple is fighting over. In a nutshell, it’s out to prove all those divorce lawyer stereotypes might be true.

For contrast, the filmmakers go to Scandinavia where of course everything is better. In the land of ABBA divorces cost nothing — literally nothing, except for maybe the cost of one stamp. Assets are split evenly, but the future is separate, meaning there is no alimony/maintenance. Child support is a fixed monthly amount. There are no lengthy battles, no long drawn out fights over the future and no divorce lawyers, thus proving everything is better in Scandinavia. Except maybe the food. Have you heard of fudge cheese? It’s horrifying.

Whether you’re muddling through a divorce right now or interested in all the wacky ways the American court system is failing us, I say give it a stream. Here’s the trailer:

Let me know what you think! I think it asks some interesting questions, highlights how some lawyers and judges abuse the system and may help people hire more ethical lawyers. Do you agree?

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

An Open Letter to Betty Draper, Everybody's Ex

exwife-3.jpg

Dear Betty Draper,

I don’t know why exactly I’m compelled to do an Open Letter to you, Betty Draper, except that you are one of those women who is both tragic, and—well, mostly tragic. (What can I say, tragic works well for this series.) When you appeared in our lives on the first episode of Mad Men in 2007, aka 1960, you struck a chord with the public as someone who a) we disliked, but not for being a villain, b) was interesting anyway, and c) was possibly being the first woman who has ever occupied that role on a major TV series. We usually get rid of the women we don’t like on television series, but not you!

In a way, this Open Letter is an homage to your ability to be a harsh, superficial, dependent, interesting, strong, very compelling character. Because so much of the show is focused on Don Draper, we do get the estranged-spouse view of you from a pretty early point in your history. And it has to be said that you made a fantastic fictional (ex-)spouse, because—much like pretty much everyone sees their ex during and just after divorce—you are both hate-able and lovable, and really good at being both.

It should be said that over seven seasons (a decade on the show) your growth actually challenged expectations and made you a representation of something that is also convincing and also slightly scary: our ex-spouse having become a much better person

The 1953 to 1963: The Don Era

Betty, the saddest thing about your marriage to Don Draper—and there are many sad things to choose from—is that we can guess based on his mostly monotone demeanor and your mostly monotone personality, that you married him for financial and emotional stability. However, what you got instead was an extremely unstable ride.

As a husband, Don Draper was pretty much the worst: he lied, he cheated, he had a secret identity. He spied on you via your therapist. He pretty much pulled out all the stops, and you were left clinging on for dear life while trying to keep your hair in a perfect shining helmet. You knew he was cheating, but what were you going to do? He made the money. You had no earning capacity to speak of. You had two children together. Such is the problem of the Don Era.

But even as we sympathized with you, Betty, we also felt some ambivalence about your complicity in the whole situation. You made it your business to be beautiful in exchange for security, saying “as long as men look at me like that, I’m earning my keep.” That’s probably not the wisest choice in a marriage. You taught your daughter to let men call the shots with gems like “You don’t kiss boys. Boys kiss you.” On one hand, it was the sixties. On the other: you weren’t helping.

So when you finally kicked Don out of the house, and went to Reno for a quickie divorce, we were psyched! Except for one tiny detail: you were leaving your sexist and controlling protector for another sexist and controlling protector. Less sexist, less controlling, but still.

As a divorce attorney, and as a human, I saw all the problems piling up for you as soon as you made the decision to escape into the arms of someone new (and by new, I mean kind of old).

1963-1970: The Henry Era

Frankly, Betty, things got a little weird for me when you married the old guy. You didn’t change your ways much at first, and this was disappointing. No learning more about the finances of the house, no starting a career for yourself or anything of that nature. In fact, the main thing you did was get jaded.

You also managed to stay in the house, which was owned by Don, for a much longer time than anyone expected. I think we all expected Don to hire a divorce lawyer that would make sure you got nothing, but instead you won the divorce—although the show wasn’t too specific about numbers—and then you pushed the boundaries by staying in the house past the time you should have left, which unsurprisingly caused some trouble.

But when you and Henry finally moved out, you underwent a sort of transformation in which you started caring about stuff. You got an opinion about the Vietnam War. You went into the hovels of New York City in search of a missing girl. You started saying things like, “You’re sorry you forgot to inform me what I’m supposed to think. Guess what? I think all by myself.” You entered a normal weight category. We liked you more.

And then, Betty, just in time to screw over Husband #2, you became the symbolic ex-spouse again. You and Don reunited for one awkward sexual encounter, which I admit, I was kind of rooting for in a weird way—I wanted you guys to work it out. So from the standpoint of pure entertainment I was okay with that. But you also started flirting with the teenage neighbour-boy, and just, I don’t know, you lost us.

And then you got cancer.  That was, without question, unfortunate. But, from a sentimentality standpoint, it was a solid move.  We liked you again.

Why You’re Everybody’s Ex

The thing about exes—be they ex-spouses, ex-partners, ex-lovers or what have you—is that unless you stay real, actual friends, eventually the person comes to be more of a caricature than a real person. Certain parts are drawn larger than life, so they can entertain you and help explain the relationship’s failure; our exes are two-dimensional most of the time (much like you, Betty Draper), until we have to really engage with them, and then it gets complicated. Because the caricature of the ex, and the actual person, are two different things.

With your blank-faced stare, Betty, you are the perfect canvas of an ex: throughout the seven seasons of Mad Men, we could interpret you as hateworthy or loveworthy depending on perspective. And really, the hate and love on the show are never that clearly defined anyway—a point that probably resonates with most divorcees.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Have something to add or disagree with? Want me to counsel you through a divorce? Leave a comment below, call me or tweet to me.

For more irreverent commentary and real advice on dealing with your ex, check out my recent posts “5 Tips for Co-Parenting” and “Your Partner: The Narcissist.”

To read more of the Open Letters series and my other stuff on the Huffington Post, start here

Divorce Through the Ages

When it comes to divorce history, the average person can muster up about three talking points: that whole Protestant church reformation thing, Elizabeth Taylor, and that time Uncle Rob left Aunt Debra, started dating your French teacher and Thanksgiving got très weird.

While those are some biggies, there’s a whole rich tapestry of divorce history out there. Turns out as long as people have been getting hitched, they’ve been getting unhitched. Let’s take a gander.

500 BCE – When not busy inventing democracy and partying, ancient Greeks were getting divorced left and right. Their motto was “matrimonia debent esse libera” which loosely translates to, if you want to date Todd go ahead I’m not stopping you. The ancient Greeks saw marriage as a practice to enter into freely and exit just as freely.

331 CE – Constantine got all religious right wing on the good people of the Roman Empire. Under his Christian rule, disgruntled couples needed a serious reason to divorce. Such grounds included proving your husband was a murderer, poisoner or tomb disturber. I dated a tomb disturber once. It was not awesome.

1000 CE – Christianity spread like wildfire through Europe, and with it came a very conservative stance on divorce. It wasn’t allowed at all but there were some workarounds. If for instance you had really had it with your husband and his inability to throw his codpieces in the hamper, notbeside it, you could ask the church for an annulment. They were hard to get and could only be granted if the couple entered into the marriage “improperly” but I guess you had to try what you could to get away from that nightmare and his terrible lute playing.

1517 CE – Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses, which much like Kat’s poem in 10 Things I Hate About You, was a long list of complaints, to the All Saints’ Church door (historians dispute this, but it’s a nice image). Luther’s list was about his grievances with the Catholic Church, not Heath Ledger, and with it he kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.

1537 CE – Henry the VIII wasn’t too hot on Catherine of Aragon anymore so he changed the course of history by renouncing the papacy and made the Church of England Protestant. Along with the rest of Protestant Europe, divorce became a civil issue rather than a religious one. In an interesting twist, to be granted a divorce one member of the marriage had to wrong the other. If both people broke vows, they were stuck together. And if it was discovered that the couple was in cahoots and both wanted a divorce, no divorce would be granted.

1603 CE – Divorce was allowed in Japan as long as the husband wrote a letter to the wife informing her of the divorce. Wives were not granted the same letter writing rights, but some could seek sanctuary from their husbands in so-called Shinto “divorce temples.”

1752 CE – Prussia decided divorce was a private matter and established a law allowing for divorce in any instance where the couple mutually agreed. Austria liked the sound of that and followed suit allowing non-Catholics to divorce as they saw fit.

1800 CE – Sometime after the French Revolution settled down, divorce was legalized in France.

1931 CE – Citizens of Spain were granted the right to divorce, but not for long.

1938 CE – Franco decided he wasn’t too cool with the whole divorce thing and abolished divorce in Spain.

1953 CE – Oklahoma became the first state in the US to institute no-fault divorce.

1954 CE – The Special Marriage Act was passed in India that allowed citizens to marry and divorce irrespective of their religion.

1970 CE – An Italian law was passed allowing for Italians to divorce as long as the couple had been separated for at least five years.

1981 CE – Spaniards were finally granted the right to divorce once again and the “express divorce” (exactly what it sounds like) was introduced.

1987 CE – The Italian law was amended to make the separation period at least three years.

1995 CE – Divorce was approved in Ireland.

1996 CE – Princess Diana and Prince Charles divorced a few months after Princess Diana declared in a TV interview “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Burnnn.

2005 CE – Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston divorced. The world wept and no one ever fully recovered.

2010 CE – New York instituted no fault divorce, becoming one of the last states to do so. A bill was filed in the Philippines to introduce pro-divorce legislation but it didn’t get very far.

2011 CE – Divorce was approved in Malta.

2015 CE – Italian divorce laws are amended again, shortening the separation requirement to six months. Divorce remains illegal for all Filipinos except Muslim Filipinos; civil annulment is an option but the process is lengthy and costly. Even Vatican City is beginning to warm to the idea of divorce… Sort’ve. 

 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton