OM204 - No fault divorce

This week, Ken and John talk about:

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Anniversaries (OM204)

Ken’s parents have been married for almost 50 years, but Ken doesn’t need to give them a big present for their anniversary because the couple needs to give themselves the gift.

John never had a significant anniversary except his sobriety anniversary every year in December (December 10th 1994). This year will be his 25th year. Sean Nelson would always give him a really nice Zippo every year on his AA birthday.

Ken growing up in Korea (OM204)

Ken grew up in Korea which insulated him a lot from other children who were the product of divorces because people will only take their family overseas if their marriage is stable. He knew a few kids in Seattle whose parents were divorced and that was still an oddity in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. It was still super-unusual and somewhat shocking or scandalous, a thing a kid would have to admit.

John’s mom being the only divorced woman in the neighborhood (OM204)

John lived in a largely Catholic neighborhood where his mom was the only divorced woman and single mom anyone could think of. She was discriminated against by John’s friends’ parents and they didn’t get invited to any of the pot lucks. It was like the plot of a Douglas Sirk movie or like a John Cheever story where the divorced lady moves in and everyone else just gasps at her affrontery. She absolutely felt that way and John did as well when he was as a kid. He would hear that his friends and their parents had all gotten together for a fondue party, but he and his mom hadn't been invited.

When John’s mom first moved in some neighborly husband came over to help her carry some suitcase and he got a talking to. She lived a Season 2 Mad Men plot-line in many ways and she can’t watch that show because she has problems with the continuity of their shoes because she lived through that whole period.

The No Fault Divorce law played a big role in John’s life. His parents got divorced when he was 4 and it was the only divorce that had happened in John’s family, which was radical and shocking. They had moved to Alaska, but John’s mom didn’t like Alaska and she decided she didn’t like his dad. She was very independent and self-starting, and in the mid-1960s she taught herself computer programming and was working as a computer programmer before John was born.

John’s dad didn’t like the optics of that at all. He was a prominent Seattle lawyer and having a wife who worked reflected poorly on his social standing. She didn’t work because she needed the money, but she needed the intellectual exercise. She was curious, she wanted to have her own autonomy out in the world, and having control of her own money was part of her independence.

For a married woman to open her own bank account required that her husband cosigned. John's mom couldn’t get a credit card without the paternalistic approval of her husband, but she grabbed him by the shirt collar and left him no choice, so she did have her own bank account, her own line of credit, and her own checking account. Even in our contemporary society it is still super-challenging when one spouse, regardless of gender, has more power and more income, although gender certainly amplifies it unless your income and status in the world is congruent with your desire to be a submissive or dominant member of the partnership.

A marriage that is founded of equality is the nominal assumption now, but it was absolutely not the assumption back in the 1960s. It is an astonishingly modern thing and only in 2010 did the state of New York allow two people to divorce one another based on a mutual desire to be divorced. They were the last state that did not require the other party to prove wrongdoing or both parties living in a state of legal separation for a period of lever less than 6 months.

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