I don’t mind telling you I’m fed up. I’m fed up with the Court system of my former home State, New Jersey. No, I don’t live there anymore. But I got divorced there in 1998, and that divorce and its aftermath have been hung around my neck ever since. Okay, yes–dead metaphor. It’s my albatross. And my former wife is behaving now like what she’s despised in others in years past: a kept woman and a Jewish-American Princess. I’m trying to get my alimony cancelled, eradicated, declare null. Whatever you want to call it.
It’s a battle I’ve been fighting since 2002. It goes into remission now and then, but then it comes back, as it has now. The cancer image is deliberate: when I talk about my case being in remission, I mean that no one–specifically me–makes an issue of it. For several years, I lived very nicely and didn’t particularly miss the checks I had to write to her…or really to the Probation department. Was I a criminal? No, but I had one kid on child support, and in Jersey that is always a Probation matter. My last P.O. was an ex-cop, and when I called my ex some really ugly names, she hung up on me. She earned the names, and I earned the response, but that isn’t the point.
Anyway, I have a Superior Court hearing on the 16th of March to see if I can finally wake up from this nightmare. Yes, I surrendered for awhile, but then figured out (I’m sometimes a slow study) that as long as I have to shell out over 30% of my monthly income to my ex, I’m going to stay dirt-poor and always in debt. And I’m damn well going to keep fighting. I’m so frustrated by now that I’m doing lines from Marat/Sade: We’ve got nothing, always had nothing…. Yes, Peter Weiss and the composer Richard Peaslee nailed it long ago. I just had to grow into the iron cloak and learn to love the torture chamber of the judicial system. Sing, Judy Collins. Chantez, mon amour.
Now consider–we’ve (or I’ve) been talking in this blog about chronic illness. So maybe this is systemic–a spur to sickness, a sickness by itself, a sickness that perpetuates “on the ground” illness, and a sickness that is part of the entirety of our current “social contract.” In other words, it’s not fair. Big fucking deal, right? A New Jersey Judge once said to a litigant, as he denied him relief from his alimony burden, “I know it’s not fair. But it’s the law.”
So, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t really blame the Judge. It was the law, albeit it’s now been partially revised and therefore subject to new and more liberal interpretations; but while it may be terribly unfair, the Judge can’t just create his own ruling based on a personal sense of right and wrong. The other party could just kick the decision up to the New Jersey Court of Appeals, and not only would the litigant lose, but the Judge would probably be censured or worse. Ever hear of disbarment?
This judicial monstrosity has crippled my ability to write, to feel, probably even to love. It’s messed up my physical health and probably contributed to my neuropathy, high blood pressure, the walk that makes me look stone-drunk, and to random pains that are more than signs of old age (I’m turning 71 on the Monday the 23rd). In other words, it’s probably killing me. Loving a cat is easy for me–he’s my friend and comforter. But more about him another time. Loving a woman? Doubtful. I don’t mean loving with an eye to marrying again. Basically, I’d just like to be a slut. Besides, if I remarried, my ex could perhaps come after my second wife for a piece of her action as well as mine. Unfair? “I know it’s not fair. But it’s the law.” Sound familiar?
So the accepted social network is itself a form of chronic illness. It’s a form of built-in oppression. It’s not racist, sexist, or classist. It’s just unfair and wrong, and oppressive in its own terms. It takes people who used to love each other and turns them into the worst vision of predatory animals.
In fact, animals are better than litigants in divorce and alimony. I said systemic illness and I meant it. It plays on the prejudices of lawyers and the litigants themselves. I have heard that an animal, defeated, will expose its throat the winner of the fight, and will walk away, find a new pack or herd, or learn to self-subsist. In divorce among supposedly civilized humans, there is no surrender. We are encouraged to fight to the death. I don’t like it, but it’s where I am. Watch the fight between two tigers carefully. For all their reputation as profoundly vicious, tigers appear to fight according to rules. They fight ferociously but also take mutual rest-breaks. When a third tiger comes near the “arena,” it explores the combatants but stays out of a one-on-one fight. Thus, there are no pile-ons. I don’t know if this is a fight “for real,” or simply a test of strength between two potential rivals. But on points, some days I think I’d rather be a tiger.
I don’t like what I have just written. It makes me uneasy and plays right into the great chronic illness of “civil war” that has pervaded this society for too many years. War like this is never “civil.” It’s not like tigers fighting. It’s to the death.