My younger French friend is pissed off because he suspects his parents are getting it on. The problem is, he is not a twelve or thirteen-year old prude as you might expect, but a well-educated thirty-five year old man.
When he was a young teenager, he went through his parents’ exemplary, very civilized divorce. They split up but decided to stay in the same town for their two children’s sake. There was no severe dispute about custody, jealousy or money. (Often the three sides of the divorce coin, so to speak.) Instead, both parents contributed to finishing the rearing of their sons and they maintained an amiable relationship while doing so.
In time, my friend’s father founded a new family with a dangerously beautiful, exotic younger woman. He had two more children by her, including a precious little girl. My friend’s mother (who always had the roving eye) settled after a while with a muscular younger man with whom she made one last–minute son.
After the divorce, my young friend first lived primarily with his mother but he left when he was seventeen because his stepfather did not make him feel welcome in the home where he had grown up. (I knew the man. I think he was a good sort who had an alcohol problem that made his moods unstable.)
My friend felt protective of his little brother, almost fifteen years his junior. He was squarely in love with his pretty half-sister from his father’s side. For more than ten years, he accommodated everyone else’s inclinations, with graciousness and even with serenity. He would dance from his mother’s often troubled home to his father’s lusciously female household, and latter, to his own modest student dwelling. He ended up feeling quite happy, having invented the role of the skillful emotional nomad.
Then, things began to fall apart on both sides of his families. His father’s younger wife slipped away to greener, perhaps more vigorous, pastures. She took with her her dreamlike daughter. A couple of years later, his mother expelled Mr. So-So because “He was only good to her part-time.”
My friend also adjusted to these new break-ups pretty well, parenting both his parents through their respective sadness and their temporary rudderless-ness. (Within the limits of modesty imposed by the surprisingly reserved French cultural norms.) Although he was himself going through the normal touch-and-go love life of any handsome, intelligent young man in his twenties while pursuing an arduous academic career, he navigated his parents’ new emotional shoals masterfully.
Two years ago, he noticed from the corner of his eye that his father was spending time at his mother’s house while he had the flu. Later, he bumped into his father at his mother’s again, early in the morning, that time. One night, he knocked at his mother’s door without warning to retrieve some possession or other. Both his parents were there. Although fully clothed, they seemed vaguely embarrassed to see him.
This is just too much, he says; you put me through all this crap for fifteen years to end up where you started. They could have saved me the roller-coaster, he complains to me.
I believe my friend is trying to keep a close eye on his parents to prevent their suspected carnal liaison from devolving into a more serious relationship. Decency is decency after all!
© Jacques Delacroix 2005 -2008