What is ex etiquette? The moment a marriage is officially over – for whatever reason – the formerly married are given a readymade platform to air their marital woes. In bars and public transport the newly singles sing the blues. It is one thing to take supposedly funny jibes at a current partner, quite another to take off vocally and visibly in the terrible aftermath of even a mutual consent divorce.
People gather around the divorced, pulling long faces and going tch-tch, to see what they can get out of you, and you could fall for all that fake sympathy and vacuous curiosity. Or you go all new age and broadcast feelings as you feel them.
Hollywood diva Demi Moore dishes it out in her recently released memoir ‘Inside Out’; she was married to Ashton Kutcher once upon a time and, like any wife, has her own list of complaints. There were a couple of threesomes and as many infidelities by him, says she, not taking into account his current marriage to actor Mila Kunis and toddlers two.
Of course, this is her truth, and no one can contest what she says she went through, but it does raise questions on what we own in our narratives. There’s a thin line between bravery and blame games. While it is alright to name and shame villains -- honesty is transformative and therapeutic -- it is yourself you have to protect at all times.
When the love of your life becomes the bane of your life, the tongue is eager to proclaim all the poor-me stories stored in your heart. As you slowly make sense of the de-coupling and chart your own suddenly solo course, it is natural to bring out the bile and bitterness. To self-heal is of utmost priority. But after a while if you find yourself on a vile loop, repeating accusations to all and sundry about how perfect you were and how absolutely horrific the other party, perhaps it is time to change your tune.
It is easy to overlook the stray happier times, to want the viciousness to infect the kids, to rewrite history with bloodshed. But then next generation will remember nothing of the good, brooding as they will only on the bad. The tougher job is to collate those sunlit moments in the dark and string fairy lights out of them – for you and your kids.
That someone ends their marriage is a tell-all in itself; no one walks out if deliriously or even moderately happy. That is the bottom-line, that you are now out; self-explanatory, simple. Why demonise anyone? Post-scripts and quest for ‘truth’ are redundant. As for listeners, their interest in he-said-she-said could be vastly limited to just gossip value.
Tales go where words take them. Sob stories and the moral of the story depend on the teller. Mind you, separations are no song on the lips, but to hang on to the negativity comes easy.
Once the technicalities are over, step daintily over the corpse of your marriage on the floor, kiss its cold lifeless lips one last time, and exit that door both literally and mentally in your spiky high heels. Not because your ex deserves your kindness, but you do. Don’t look back and follow your own footsteps.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival. Read Shinie Antony's columns