Happy freakin’ New Year. Did they really think this was a good time to do this? Really? Here we are in beautiful Cabo San Lucas, where I’m enjoying a much-needed break from the stress that junior year of high school brings. At our supposedly celebratory New Year’s Eve dinner, they drop the bomb. “Separating.” “Splitting up.” We all know those are euphemisms for the dreaded D word. They promise it’s amicable, whatever that means. They say they’ve drifted apart and don’t want to grow old without that spark.
I’m speechless, but maybe not shocked. I guess I thought they were happy in a best-friends kind of way. Not sure I gave it much thought, really. They get along fine, but it’s not like they stare lovingly at each other across the dinner table, or sneak little kisses as they pass each other in the hallway. But, are there actually couples in their forties who have been married for more than twenty years who are crazy in love? Do they really expect rainbows and butterflies this late in the game? Isn’t that for teenagers? Not that I’ve had the whole magical experience myself. I’m seventeen and still haven’t delved into that part of my life.
Yes, I know plenty of seventeen-year-olds are dating, are having sex, are maybe even in love. It really hasn’t occurred to me that I might be missing out on something. I don’t think of myself as a late bloomer; I just haven’t felt ready for all that. Maybe it’s because there’s no one I’ve met who seems worth the trouble: missing time with friends, figuring out how to add a boyfriend to an already very busy schedule. He’d have to be exceptional, and I haven’t met anyone exceptional at La Jolla High. Yet.
I just think sex should mean something. After all, it’s my body, the one body I have, which has to last forever. Why would I let someone have that kind of access without being pretty important in the scheme of things? I don’t want to let someone get that close to me only to have that person ultimately mean nothing in my life. I think too much.
I walk with my mom and dad from the hotel restaurant through the lobby. My parents each hold one of my hands like I’m tiny and they’re going to say “one, two, three, wheeee” and whisk me high into the air.
The lobby of the hotel is decorated with twinkly holiday lights and streamers. Noisemakers overflow from buckets strategically placed on tables and credenzas. Other hotel guests are dressed festively for the occasion. Some guys are in suits and ties, others in Hawaiian shirts. Many women wear short, sexy dresses, probably purchased for the sole purpose of ringing in the New Year. I feel slightly underdressed in my blue jeans and flip-flops. The sound of champagne corks popping resonates through the air at regular intervals.
In the dimly lit piano bar, an old guy with dyed black hair and sunglasses sits at a baby grand piano. Next to him, a woman stands at the microphone in a super-tight red dress that clashes with her orange lipstick. They perform classic songs that are probably too old-fashioned even for my parents. My dad snags a tall table with three stools, and within seconds, a waiter with a cardboard top hat arrives and asks what we’d like to drink. My parents order champagne and I ask for a Sprite. I know my mom will give me a sip of her champagne and it will tickle my nose and taste bitter, but at least I’ll have the all-important New Year’s Eve beverage.
Their words are still ricocheting in my head. Divorce. I’m a statistic. Last year, on the debate team, we argued the topic Should divorce be made even easier to obtain, or are there social and moral reasons to discourage it? I was assigned the opposition side, which means I had to take the position that people should have to work harder at their marriages before getting divorced. I remember standing at the podium, shoulders back, chin up, stating confidently, “It is far less damaging for children to live in an imperfect, yet stable and secure, household than to suffer the disintegration of the only family they know.” That’s me now, insecure and unstable. Incidentally, my team won that round of the debate.
When the orange lips start singing “Fly Me to the Moon,” my dad takes my mom’s hand and pulls her up to dance. They hold each other close, smiling and whispering in each other’s ears. And yet, they’re getting divorced. I’m so confused.