My husband’s girlfriend’s husband just called me up.
How messed up is that.
Everyone over the age of sixty should have a pair of Millennial children. Even if it requires you to adopt late in life. Just to keep a tiny bit informed.
When my daughter Abby told me to buy the Dixie Chicks latest CD, Gaslighter. I did as told. (Abby knows I don’t do Spotify or Apple music or whatever—I still have actual discs that I insert in a player.) Two days later I received my CD, which has the word ‘Dixie’ emblazoned on the cover, though the progressive country feminists have since dropped that politically dubious adjective, and are now officially The Chicks. I’m not sure that moniker is totally liberating either.
I listened to the album several times through, the way a person must to absorb an album into their fascia. I texted Abby, “It’s terrific.” She responded, “I love breakup albums.” I considered whether that was a distant, personal call for parental help and decided: no. Then I listened to Gaslighter a few more times.
After the pounding title track (Gaslighter / Denier / Doing anything to get your ass farther…), the second track, “Sleep at Night” could be a lullaby. Not. Midway into the first stanza I’m hit by “My husband’s girlfriend’s husband just called me up / How messed up is that.” And though I know I’m supposed to be mad at the jerk, I flash a knowing smile. Because, once upon a time, a bizarre variation on that quadrilateral confusion happened to me.
May 1996. Less than six months since the judge gaveled us divorced, I receive a call from my ex-wife. “Shorty,” (Yes, she still called me ‘Shorty.’ Yes, she still does.) “I was wondering if you would like to go to the gay pride parade with the children and me.”
Now it’s important to know a few things about my marriage and divorce. We were a solid couple, happy, driven—until we weren’t. That I realized I’m gay, thirteen years in, may not have been the sole reason for our demise, but it made for a definitive coffin-nailing, camel-back breaking, cliché ending. By May of 1996 our every-other weekend child care groove was well worn; I was openly gay and—as far as I knew—my ex-wife was straight. Therefore, an invitation to join her and our children (on her designated weekend) elicited from me the only logical reply.
“May I ask why you and the children are going to the gay pride parade?”
“We’re going with Jim.”
I’d heard of Jim, Lisa’s new boyfriend, though never met him. Seemed to me, if she had wanted to date a guy who went to gay pride parades, it would have been a whole lot easier to stick with the man she’d already married, rather than dump me for a different one. But I struggled not to raise old wounds.
“May I ask why Jim is going to the gay pride parade?”
“His former wife Nancy will be there, with her partner Alene.”
“I see. You’re asking me to go to the gay pride parade with your new boyfriend, his former wife, and his former wife’s lesbian lover.”
“Jim’s two children will be there.”
“Ours as well.”
My mind flooded with United Nations images: all stripes of people holding hands and singing in harmony. I realized how nicely my presence would fit into that tableau. Even better if I had a boyfriend (no dice in that department, for sure).
I understood Lisa’s overture was a benevolent one; however peculiar the rapprochement. I could have kicked my response down the calendar, say I’d let her know. But I didn’t need any time. “Sorry, I’m just not that liberated.” Sad, perhaps, yet an honest truth.
I never went to the gay pride parade again, not by myself, or with my children, or even my ex-wife. Or even my ex-wife’s boyfriend’s ex-wife. It’s not that I lack gay pride. It’s just that, although coming out can change many things about a person, it doesn’t guarantee he likes parades.
“Sleep at Night” is definitely my favorite song on the new Dixie Chicks CD. Except maybe for “Gaslighter” itself. Except definitely for “Juliana Calm Down.” Except maybe…I don’t have to choose. A favorite. The point of a break up album is to scream “F-you!” to the world in general and one person in particular. And then move on boldly, proudly. Which I did. Even if I missed the parade.
Thank you, Dixie Chicks, for turning that bizarre time of my life into an almost, sort of, happy memory.