You should be allowed to tell the people you love to get a divorce. That should be something that is deemed ok if the situation calls for it. But you can’t. Society says your goal in life is ultimately to get married and spawn children, and if you’re a woman, that’s pretty much all you’re supposed to want in life. So people get married and just try their best to tolerate each other until the sweet release of death. Hopefully you get some good anniversary cake in the meantime.
The first time I knew something was wrong with my parent’s marriage, I was a junior in college. In hindsight, I should’ve known the whole time but then again I am a goddamn scholar when it comes to looking at things in hindsight. It was one of the many fights my parents were having in which my mom was really intensely focused on her shop and traveling back and forth to Nigeria to maintain it and make more money on the side and my dad was being a control freak that doesn’t know how to handle not being in the loop of things or being supportive even when things are inconvenient for him. This is what a lot of their fights are like and honestly, most of the time, they’re really just fighting the same fight they’ve been having since I was a kid. But does time my dad was particularly pissed off over everything and was having such a bad attitude that they had stopped speaking while she was in Nigeria and when she came back, I was the one who picked her up from the airport and as we drove back to her shop, she just let it out. Everything she’s been holding onto for years, she unleashed on to me in this vulnerable moment that I’d never seen from her. It was heartbreaking and I couldn’t handle it.
I couldn’t handle it, ME; even in this moment of my mom’s testimony of grief, like a true child, I couldn’t help but make this about me. I didn’t say anything out loud of course but internally I was so distraught: my mom was tired and done and I just recoiled into a 7 year old who just realized that he didn’t want his parents to get a divorce. “Just realized” of course because when I was young I thought it might be cool to have divorced parents. My best friend James’ parents were divorced and my only thought process about the whole thing was “how cool, he’s got two houses and two christmases”. I was the type of kid that prided himself on not being emotionally attached to my parents. It was bullshit and I would learn that both in that moment with my mom and the first time I lived in a new city without my family, but as a kid I thought, because I was a latch key kid and because I was grateful that my parents didn’t try to accompany me on field trips or participate in PTA, that I was especially self-reliant. Yet there I was, a 21 year old turned into an emotional wreck because mommy and daddy might get a divorce, life makes fools out of all of us.
That moment passed, they didn’t get a divorce and everything stayed the same. My parent’s increasing exhaustion of each other could not be trumped by their comfort with the routine they’ve kept going. My sisters knew more about what was going on with my mom before I ever did, mostly by virtue of being women and my mom feeling that it’s more appropriate to have these discussions with them in order to prepare/warn them about the world they are entering as women. I don’t really get let in like that because it is considered not my place a lot of times, my only job is to not have the bad habits of my father. I wish I could be let in, I wish we had a home where things were more transparent, instead we hold everything inside until it boils over in a tirade. Our family crest should be: keep it on the inside until it explodes.
My parent have had intense, one-off fights since I can remember. They’ve gone to war over seemingly mundane issues but were really sparring battles over power and control. My father cannot handle not being in control; it fills him with fear and insecurity and he releases those emotions under the guise of anger. He does this to everyone. He acts aggressive and pretends to intentionally push people away but really he doesn’t know any other way to express himself and he also hates being alone. In my 26 years, me and my father have never had a personal, vulnerable, honest conversation. His culture and upbringing is not founded on that: he is a man and every decision he’s ever made, no matter how much he hates it , he’s done because it’s a man’s job to do these things. My mom also wants to be in control all the time but she’s more open about when she feels fear or insecurity. She is a fiercely Christian woman woman, both my parents are but my dad treats church like comfort food and my mom treats church like it’s water and like it’s her escape.
Church is also another factor in why both my parents are here. Divorce is still stigmatized and the other Christians will convince you of every reason why you should endure being miserable to fulfill God’s will or something. “Don’t get a divorce! It’s against God. Just endure it; curl up in a tiny ball for multiple hours a day if you need to. The bright side is you’ll be dead sooner than you think and you can find peace with God n them.”
The last time I went home it dawned on me that my parents probably shouldn’t be together anymore. They have run this marriage through its course and now they seem to be hanging in because it’s easier. I’m hard on my dad but honestly, I think this would be good for him too. Embracing and confronting loneliness will make anyone a more stable person. More than likely though, this passive-aggressive march to the grave will continue and all I can do is hope they find a ray of sunshine in their life of drab grey.