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Story: My first divorce was a lot harder than my second

my first divorce was a lot harder than my second. probably because we got married on the spur of the moment, when there was a lot of passion and not much time to think about what getting married meant.

and we split up pretty early into it. like a few days, i think. it just freaked us both out.

i moved in with a girlfriend from india (who was having her own trauma because she was coming out) - and before i knew it, i was five months' pregnant and she wanted to move in with her real girlfriend - and i knew that the guy you wanted to ride on a motorcycle with wasn't necessarily the guy you wanted to have babies with.

and then my family intervened, you know, my mother saying, well, you married him and you're having a child together and you should really work a little harder.

and being a good indian mother, she tried to make me a good indian wife (even though he was english and didn't appreciate it at all) and she told me to move back in with him and become more of a presence in his home

and she said, you know, do little things, like have fresh flowers on the table, have dinner ready in case he's hungry when he gets home, look pretty and comb your hair and put on lipstick or whatever before he gets there.

(in retrospect, she was trying desperately to salvage something that she didn't understand, but it all seemed hopelessly retro to me).

so i cleaned the depressing council flat we were living in. and i rearranged the books and washed all the sheets and curtains and reorganized the chests of drawers and dusted and had dal and rice and subzi masala ready when he walked in the door.

and once my mum called and i wasn't home - for once i'd gone out with friends - and andrew answered the phone and said, in an extremely irritated tone, i don't even know where my wife is.

so after that my mum made me promise to be there.

so i'd sit at home half the evening, waiting for him to get there and he felt oppressed by the whole thing so he'd get home later and later (admittedly, he was a workaholic as well. and a successful photographer).

and he'd say, look, you're not the person i fell in love with.

you were this strong, self-directed, creative, social person and now you've turned into the happy homemaker

and that's not what i want...

my mum came to london when the baby was born and gave andrew a talking to and then moved me into her friend's house.

and, of course, then andrew wanted me back.

so we moved back in together, into this house that he had been renovating. and i moved us all in and cleaned and decorated - and my mum, like a good indian mother-in-law came and scrubbed and bought us all the stuff we needed.

and then she went back to mexico.

and she insisted that i come back too.

and andrew and i decided to take some time apart for him to think.

and i was totally depressed because up til then, i'd been a writer and the more pregnant i got, the less i was able to write until i was totally braindead.

and i figured i was probably going to spend the rest of my life being this indian betty crocker.

and i hadn't been making a living in a while so andrew was totally supporting me, which made me feel even worse.

anyway, i went to mexico with my parents when sasha was eight weeks' old.

and of course, a week after i got there, andrew was calling and telling me he loved me and wanted me to come back.

but my mum said he'd have no respect for me unless he came to mexico and picked me up himself.

he promised to do that.

four months' later, when i had just started to get my brain and body back - i decided to go to london and see what was up.

and i got there and asked andrew what was going on

and he said he didn't love me.

and i asked why he'd asked me to come back.

and he said, that was my dick talking.

so i said, well, i'm leaving, then.

(trying to sound very definitive because i actually had no idea of where i would go or what i would do and i was still madly in love with him).

and he said, why? you've got a father for your child, your bills are paid, you've got a nice house to live in. you should be writing your next novel and getting back out in the world.

and i said, i can't stay with someone who isn't in love with me. (boy, did that sound romantic. and impractical.)

and he said, look, i have some time off work this summer. i'm going to spain. you take some time to think.

and i said, i won't be here when you get back.

and he said, yes, you will.

(wrong answer, because if anyone is stubborn beyond reason, i am). so he left and i packed up my stuff and bought a plane ticket to nyc - which i charged to his credit card because i had all of $45 to my name.

and i'd made friends with a west indian guy who was starting a shipping company and he had a crush on me so he agreed to ship everything i needed to nyc, as long as he could name his shipping company after me.

so i showed up in new york and crashed at the apartments of all my various friends who didn't mind living with a small child as well and took sasha out to restaurants and parties and clubs, until i found a job as the secretary (they call it assistant these days) to the creative director at calvin klein.

and it was a nightmare at first because i stayed with different friends every week so i always forgot which subway to take home and i'd end up all over the place

and i didn't have a babysitter so my more loosely-employed friends took care of sasha and brought her to the office when she needed to be nursed.

and eventually, my hardworking mum came to nyc and helped me find an apartment and a babysitter and took sasha away for a little while so she could get weaned and i could get some sleep.

and i was a horrendous secretary - not to mention being totally stressed-out about my child, sleep-deprived because she was up nursing all night (since she had to use a bottle during the day) and living in terrible, cockroach-ridden apartments - and my boss had a reputation for being really mean (which he was) and used to send me home in tears every night.

and this was about the time i met up with james again. and he was lovely and kind and sweet and dying to be a father to sasha.

i managed to ignore the fact that he didn't actually make a living or want to really make love to me (i was way too tired to think about sex at the time).

though, in the mean time, andrew was coming back and forth to nyc trying to get me to come back to london.

and, when i talked to a lawyer about getting divorced, he told me that it was extremely complicated in nyc, if one had children, because new york was a catholic state.

he suggested one simple way of getting divorced which was that i either file for emotional abuse or abandonment.

and all andrew had to do was get served with papers and agree that he had abandoned me.

and it was done.

and he offered to do it all for $700.

which was a huge amount of money for me at the time, but my parents were keen that i marry james (or someone) and james really wanted to get married

and i just wanted a normal life

so we started the process. and i started paying for it, in installments.

and i called andrew and told him about it

and he - despite the fact that he was living with his girlfriend - became completely irate.

and said, if anyone abandoned anyone - you abandoned me!

in any case, he said that there was no chance he would sign anything of the kind.

so then i went back to the lawyer and we started an emotional abuse case.

and andrew seemed fine with it when i explained that it would be simple and not affect his ability to work in the states, etc.

and all i had to do was have him served.

and in the next four years, i tried repeatedly, every time he was in the country, to have him served.

and he'd just ignore the person who was sent to knock on the door of his hotel room.

in the meantime, james and i decided to go ahead with a muslim wedding. and he converted to islam and we had a nikaah.

and then he moved in with me.

and then we had a big indian wedding in mexico (my parents were still posted but it was lucky because mexican waiters can easily be dressed up in pugris to look just like indians).

and i got pregnant.

and i got fired from my job

and then we got evicted (because i was the one paying the rent).

and then we moved from one sublet to another until i got all our stuff together to get a mortgage and buy an apartment - at which point i was seven months' pregnant with my second daughter.

and - though i'd been fired twice (first because i was a terrible secretary but i had a novel coming out so they asked me to write some calvin klein commercials and then rehired me as the in-house copywriter but then they fired the entire creative team) -

all the people i'd worked with were fired as well and they all got new jobs at other places and all of a sudden i had tons of freelance copywriting work.

so - along with my long-suffering mum - i unpacked and set up the new apartment during the day and worked on writing catalogues at night until i went into labor and zarina was born a month early.

and i hemorrhaged after she was born and went home so weak and anemic that i weighed about ten pounds less than before i was pregnant.

and i had a stack of bills to pay

and i decided that i was tired of supporting my husband

and tired of being worried about money all the time

and then james had a really successful show and he made a lot of money so he took us all to st. barth's for three weeks.

and when we got there, he collapsed. he couldn't get out of bed for several days.

and it turned out he had hepatitus c and was having an attack.

and i was all alone with baby zarina and two-year-old sasha and not a lot of money (and st. bart's is really expensive) and a lot of work due in back in nyc - that i'd planned to do my vacation.

so it was yet another hideous holiday where i entertained the kids all day and then eventually got them to bed and worked like crazy until zarina woke up and nursed her and slept for a couple of hours until sasha woke up and then started the day again.

and of course, we got back to foreclosure notices because the mortgage money had been spent in st bart's (an ice cream cone costs like $10 there).

and james told me he had a lot of stuff to work out, bad role models, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, etc. and we started couples' therapy.

and - after four years' of couples' therapy, james admitted that he had never really been sexually attracted to me - though he did love me, which is why we hadn't had sex in months.

(except twice.)

after i bought a whole stack of sex books to try and inspire james to take an interest in the female anatomy. which is how i ended up pregnant with jahanara. who i'd decided to give up for adoption to friends who'd been trying for years to have a baby. but james told me i was really cold. and my mum was deadset against giving away her granddaughter.)

and james also said that he knew that he always expected me to take care of the bills and stuff so that he could make art.

and the couple's therapist said, look james is who james is and you are who you are - and it's not going to change much.

so you either stay together and learn to deal with each other.

or you stop complaining and get out.

and that's what i decided to do.

of course, it was then that andrew smartened up, sorted out the divorce himself and put it through in the uk.

and even though he had a couple of bad moments - he got drunk in the middle of the night and called me to tell me how manipulative i was and how i was just trying to get money out of him (which i never did and still don't) -

he soon became cheerful and handed over divorce papers (seven years later).

and at the point, i saw no reason to marry james legally as we were on all the paperwork as husband and wife anyway.

and what i really wanted was to be on my own.

so i said, i divorce you.

and he eventually moved out. though not without a lot of work.

and the kids are incredibly happy without him as i am, too.

i think the hardest part of getting divorced is the social thing - explaining to everyone why you're not together (like does anyone ask why you got married?)

and for the kids to explain to their friends why their dad doesn't live here

and trying to find a place for yourself amidst your friends in your new single state.

i am lucky in that i still have a lot of the friends i had before i married james.

and we do work hard to get along now so our time together is pretty pleasant and the kids never see us fighting (ok, not never, but less often)

and they do feel like they are cared for, whether they are at home or in brooklyn with papa.

and we had james move out when they were away with their nana and nani so they came back to a done deal.

and they said, well, now that papa's moved out and we have all this room - can we get a dog?

they are taking it pretty well (with occasional breakdowns).

and neither of us is around them with a boyfriend or girlfriend so we haven't had to deal with that yet.

my current thought is that i won't introduce them to anyone i am seeing unless it is really serious because i think the eight year-old is just at the age to understand sex and the five year-old is very concerned with loyalty.

and i am not sure what kind of moral rules i will set down - but it is hard enough thinking of one's mother as a sexual being without imagining her with more than one partner.

and there are a lot of time when i get really depressed and wonder if i made the right decision because inertia is so easy.

but - despite this description, more of bad marriages than divorce - i'm really not a masochist!

- Sawnet

NRI DivorceŽ 2006-2010