|June 10, 2009. Beautiful summer days in New York. Yesterday it was sunny and warm with temperatures in the 70s and a cool breeze accompanying. Last night close to midnight it was 63 degrees in Central Park. It’s a cooler summer so far.
I went down to Swifty’s to dine with my friend Marge Rubin who is about to publish her first book on her business – which is divorce sourcing, how to find the right lawyer and why.
I first met Marge about twelve years ago when I was editor of Avenue magazine. Someone had sent her to me as a story idea. She had a business (still has) called DivorceSource. My interest in divorce has been mainly from the vantage point of gossip/drama. I’d been married, long ago, and divorced. We were lucky; we had an amicable divorce that has kept the friendship and the love intact ever since. However, we didn’t have any money at the time and so there wasn’t that issue.
From the blurb on the back of the book: If breaking up is hard to do, divorce is ten times worse. It can be terrifying to even think about getting a divorce, let alone figuring out how to pursue one ... Marge to the rescue.
When I first met her, I was thinking: what’s the difference between her and a lawyer? A law degree, no? That’s what I thought. After hearing her story, I learned otherwise.
Marge started down her career path quite accidentally. A successful marketing and retailing executive, married, mother of three boys, her husband at the time was, and remains, one of the most prominent matrimonial lawyers in the business. His clients are stars and the divorces are the kind you read about in headlines. So when he broke the news and told her he was leaving (which was no surprise since she’d accidentally seen him in public with his “conquests), she knew that her future was in his hands, and not hers.
She interviewed lawyers. The first one, a man, who talked to her like she was a helpless young girl, met, without her knowledge, with her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Other candidates for lawyer didn’t want to go up against her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
However, all those years (25 or so) of being married to the guy and hearing him talk to and about his clients on the phone, she knew what she was in for. She knew better than any lawyers. Finally she found a lawyer, a woman, who took on her case and believed her when she said they’d being going to court before anything was settled. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband is a killer in the courtroom. But she was right, they went. And she was prepared; she’d done all her homework. And she won. She beat the big guy.
She came out of it with a sense of victory, of course. She didn’t take the guy to the cleaners but she got what she felt was fair and equitable. Fair and equitable is what it’s always about. That and strategy. “You’ve got to have a strategy,” Marge says, adding, “and it’s not about revenge. It is about the money, and fair and equitable.”
The bad news turned out to the good news for Marge. She loves her work. She found that so many people going into a divorce are unresolved about many matters when they finally go to the lawyer. Including the matter of whether or not they actually should go for a divorce.
Lawyers, she said, like everyone else, are out for themselves. Their advice will be based on what will work best for them. The client, she said, must be prepared to accept full responsibility for the case. The client must think of the big picture for him or herself and forget the revenge and the getting even.
Women, she said, are vulnerable. If they don’t know what they need to know to be in command, going in, they are setting themselves up for a losing situation.
When Marge was talking about women being vulnerable, I was thinking about Coco Chanel and her memoir which I read last weekend. Mlle. Coco might have agreed under certain terms that women are “vulnerable,” but she also had some strong and less than charitable things to say about these “vulnerable” women. (She also had less than charitable things to say about all a lot of people and both sexes.) To whit:
“I conclude by observing that one has to have experienced the company of women in order to know what a woman is like. The angel is a creature without any scruples, a real man-eater.”
And then she goes on with her list. Actually it made me laugh because of its truths, and its exaggerations.
“Do you think it’s easier to be left or to be the one leaving?”
“I suspect my husband is having an affair – should I confront him?
“My husband just told me he wants a divorce; my life is a total nightmare and I am an emotional wreck. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, and I can’t get any work done. One of my friends is urging me to see a lawyer immediately, but another said I need to take things at my own speed and chill out. What is your advice?”
I know two people who’ve consulted with Marge. One was a man who was divorcing his third wife. The other was a woman whose husband had started exhibiting “strange” behavior and then left. In both cases there were potentially headline grabbing problems, as well as a lot of money involved. In both cases, the divorces were completed fairly and equitably and with a minimum of harshness. Both clients told me that Marge had been very helpful in arriving at those conclusions.
Getting over it is another thing although Marge even has some helpful hints about, having gotten over it herself.
Advice aside, one my favorite aspects of this book are the Chapter Quotes. Like: “Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution yet.” (Mae West); “Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract, and then goes into it, deserves all the consequences.” (Isadora Duncan); “Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about change.” (Malcolm X); “If life was fair, Elvis would still be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” (Johnny Carson); “People change, and forget to tell each other.” (Lillian Hellman); “The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character.” (Peter deVries).
I could go on but you can read it all yourself. It’s actually a book not so much about divorce and breakups as it is about Common Sense and Self-Respect, which, it turns out, go hand in hand. Buy the book; its only fourteen bucks, or something like that. It may even save you from getting a divorce. Or even getting married (that is, if it’s really not a good idea); who knows?
In the meantime, enjoy the weekend and the weather, whatever it may be. For life is short and often not a banquet.
Friday, July 10, 2009