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By Amy Phillips Penn

“Marriage was Alan’s way of saying goodbye,” said one of lyricist’s Alan Jay Lerner’s ex-wives, reportedly. How lyrical, dramatic and memorable…long term commitments are not for everyone.

While three times may or may not be a charm, Lerner double-downed, then added two. Do the math: eight marriages in one lifetime.

Liz Taylor made headlines eight times by taking a vow to seven men (twice to Richard Burton); actress Jennifer O’Neill said: I do, I do, I do, nine times, to eight husbands, also “double dipping” into an ex. Zsa Zsa Gabor comes in at seven marriages and one annulment.

Do the math again.

“Marriage fun, fiddle dee dee,” drawled Scarlet O’Hara.

When is enough “enough, already?”

I grew up in a “get married” era. The pressure was pulverizing.

Our school constitution allegedly once had a diamond-clad rule that students were not allowed to announce their engagement while enrolled.

Engagement rings “as big as the Ritz,” or with less flash, could not be whispered about or flaunted while in restricted blazer and kilted uniform.

One of my erstwhile schoolmates said that her mother chose our school for her girls, as she was planning a divorce. Divorced parents were new to private school hems and haws. Our school apparently could deal with a ripple of avante garde turbulence.

When we graduated, a career was not a priority, but a temporary plan until “until death do us part,” tangoed on in.

Enter “sudden death,” and the divorce lawyer.

At least three of my classmates (myself included) were married in our very early 20s. Between us, we can now count four divorces, one widowhood, and one extremely “well married” classmate. A pillow in one of her Southampton, Palm Beach or New York homes defines her mantra: Eat, Drink and Re-marry.

You go, Mrs. R.!

She and I were briefly related through matrimony—six degrees of “ex” separation, gone sentimental.

Two of my cousins have sent out wedding invitations with Samuel Johnson’s quote: “The Triumph of Hope over Experience,” and Johnson was only talking about second marriages. A new quote is long overdue, Dr. Johnson.

What is it about multiple marriages, anyway? They make their own required reading list, everlasting gossip, and separate most of us from the “multi-weds.”

The etiquette of marriage and divorce evolves, revolves and will never be quite resolved.

Scarlet O’Hara “would never embarrass her family with a divorce,” but longed for a man she could never have, until she could have him.

Can we talk? What about embarrassing your family with a marriage?

A loud, crash bang boom of a marriage, where the police are called to intervene, accusations about drugs and infidelity are hurled, headlines appear, and then…wait for it…wait for it…kiss, kiss…all is well.

The melee is smoothed and smothered into Yesterday’s Papers.

I remember the first time my parents mentioned the D-word. Not about each other—someone they knew was getting divorced.

I increased my childhood vocabulary big time when I asked what divorce meant.

I don’t know what the exact response, but it was the first time I had heard that married couples were not velcroed together forever.

“You’re not going to do that, right?” I asked, terrified.

“Enquiring minds do and don’t want to know.”

Three seems to be the acceptable number of marriages, these days.

Widowhood does not count as a black mark, only as a sigh of sympathy. After a few times too many, it may parlay into a Lifetime TV, movie, residuals included. Some glasses rock at “half full and are ready to bubble over.”

If it hits the headlines, or gossip circuit, simply be blasé, seductively wave the cachet of your latest diamond and reply: “Eat, drink, and remarry!”

 

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