State of the Disunion
Based on some responses to yesterday's entry, I should point out that I absolutely believe in keeping things secret because they aren't any of the other person's damned business, or because you just don't feel like sharing. Despite appearances, I do not feel compelled to tell everyone everything about me.
The kind of secrets I was talking about are the ones that you would really like to talk about, or maybe you'd like for them to be known without a lot of attendant discussion. The ones that force you to do a lot of verbal gymnastics to avoid any telling references, or that feel like a punch in the gut when someone says something they probably wouldn't say around you if they knew your secret.
I've had a few of those kinds of secrets over the years, and I hate them. Unfortunately, a lot of the time they involved someone else, who preferred to keep things under wraps, which also made me morally obligated to do the same. You can't really impose your own privacy boundaries on someone else if theirs are narrower. (Well, I guess you can, but that kind of makes you an asshole.)
Last year, when school first started, I lived in dread that one of my new classmates would ask if I was married. (They never did, probably because they kind of figured I'd volunteer that information if I were, so why bother asking?) The question terrified me because I didn't really know how to answer it, even though it's the kind of question that really demands a straightforward answer. I didn't have a straightforward answer, or really any answer at all that didn't seem to require a lot of background explanation and history of my life that I doubted anyone asking a simple question wanted to hear. And the more time went by, the harder it was to casually introduce the topic into general conversation. "Hey, funny thing, I kind of have a husband back in Italy, except we're separated, except we also talk almost every day. Yeah, did you do the reading this week?" The more time went by, the more my "secret" weighed on me. It was making me kind of miserable, since Dario had been such a big part of the previous almost-20 years of my life, and never being able to mention him or even use a plural pronoun felt very wrong.
Mostly, that was about the situation still being very new to me, and my own ambivalence in talking about it. Nowadays I don't much care, and I can give a very brief answer ("You married?" "Separated.") without feeling the need to elaborate further unless the conversation warrants. And if it does, it no longer fills me with great angst to talk about it, so it's all cool. And wow, I'm so much more relaxed these days.
Since we're on the subject, one I know interests at least a few people, let me bring you all up to speed. Dario and I were legally separated before I left Italy. According to Italian law you must be separated for three years before you can file for divorce (any kind of divorce), and it seemed prudent to take care of it while I was still in the country. We obviously had no way of predicting the future, but our lives were taking very different directions. Of course, there is nothing requiring us to divorce, it's just that the option will be there in about another year and a half, should we decide to take advantage of it.
We probably will.
We still love each other a lot, and still talk every week. I still consider
him to be my best friend, and he's been my biggest cheerleader through the
travails of grad school. But this is something I had to do, and he (quite
reasonably) has no desire to uproot himself, leave behind friends and family
and familiar surroundings, for a life of uncertainty in a country where he
would have a hard time finding a job, might not have health insurance, and
would have only a few days of vacation a year.
Those are all pretty big things, you know? I could never ask him to make that kind of sacrifice. I knew that before I even made the decision to come here, because I know him very very well.
So, we are no longer together, but there is no bitter breakup tale. Dario is figuring out what he wants to do with his life, and meanwhile is enjoying a much more active social life than he had when I was around. I'm doing something I love and making plans for my own future. We've both stopped cowering behind the other and using the narrow boundaries of our previous life as an excuse for not doing other things. We are still close, and still supportive of each other, just in a different way. In the very unlikely event that our new futures should intertwine again in some way, I think we'd both welcome the chance to be together (although it would have to be something new, not a return to the past).
As things stand, though, the state of the disunion is pretty damned good.