Rent A (Wedding) Wreck



I think of my friend Dave as the patron saint of divorce. Why, you may ask? Well, Dave came to my rescue when my long-predicted-to-end-marriage, ended.

Let me start at the beginning. I was in my late twenties. All, I mean some, of my friends were swept up in the wedding/baby thing and I thought, me too. And no, if they all jumped off of a bridge, I would not jump. But in hindsight, getting married was a lot like jumping off a bridge. And my body is tiny and breaks easily.

I showed up one day at Jane Fonda’s workout dressed in full early-80’s workout gear. I didn’t even exercise, you should know, I just liked costumes, especially the look of those scrunched-up leggings on my ankles. I was there to corner my best friend Stacey, to whom I would reveal and process the secret news. I had to wait until her hardcore class was over. Then I followed my out-of-breath, sweaty girlfriend to the bathroom.

“I think I just got married.”

Stacey stared back at my reflection in the mirror while splashing cold water on her face. “You think.”

Dave long before he became the Patron Saint of Divorce

“The other night I said to Danny that maybe it’s time we get married and the next thing I knew, well, yesterday, we went to a courthouse. So maybe I’m married?”

Turns out, it was only the marriage license.

I was determined to have kids, not a career. He went along with it. No one got on his knees. There was no romantic gesture. It felt more like a business decision.

Now I needed to plan a wedding. My father had little money, so I had to figure a way to keep it low budget. I could do that. I was great at throwing parties for myself. And that’s exactly how I thought of it. Throwing a party for myself. That should have been my first clue.

That’s when I got a call from my good friend Dave — more of Stacey’s best male friend than mine. He owned a rental car outfit called Rent-a-Wreck — basically a used car lot. He offered to let me use it to get married in and said he’d move as many cars to the side as he could. I jumped at this brilliant, and to me, hilarious offer. I screamed “Thank you!” in excitement.   My dad would now only be responsible for food and drinks.

I pulled off the wedding plan in one month from the day I came up with the marriage idea. We’d been together for three years. It was time. Never mind that we didn’t get along. On our wedding day, Mr. Right showed up late. He later admitted he had to swallow a Valium or two in order to brave the day. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been a no-show.

My future mother-in-law was horrified that we would get married in a car lot and offered her friends’ house in Rustic Canyon for the ceremony. I reluctantly agreed. I’m not always so agreeable. I was trying out compromise. It was never a natural fit. So in a hilly backyard at a fancy home along a creek, she had her friend, a judge, marry us.

I forced my dad into walking me down the aisle. My father got polio, as he often said as a joke, when it first came out. He was physically afflicted and wore a brace on one leg and used a cane for support. He walked tilting from side to side. The man could barely walk. The backyard was not even terrain.

At our unconventional wedding reception, with the Rent-a-Wreck sign as an ominous backdrop, people placed bets on how long the marriage would last. I heard from most after the wedding that they gave it three months. Six, tops. My dad was probably one of the biggest betters that day. He did not give it more than a few months. No one thought the marriage would last a year. It lasted nearly ten. They were long years and we were constantly battling.

We spent our wedding night at the Four Seasons Resort in Santa Barbara. I remember walking past John Travolta, locking eyes with him and thinking how seductive that moment was. For a brief moment, I had a runaway bride fantasy. But, it’s so not my style to be the one to flee.

Our honeymoon was in Martha’s Vineyard — his choice, not mine — because he thought it classier than Hawaii, where I would have chosen. I have never been more miserable than on my own honeymoon.

I cried and phoned my girlfriends and asked them what I’d done.

As it turns out, I was supposed to get my period on my honeymoon and the crazy up-and-down emotions I thought might have been hormonal. They were hormonal, all right. When the period didn’t come, I knew the truth. I was pregnant with my first child.

By now, we were in New York, which I love and where I wanted to be for a few days. I was thinking that if I had the nerve, I would just set Mr. Right free and do this alone. But I’m not that nervy. I was going to make this work. However, when I visited a girlfriend at her New York apartment and met her elegant, older, brilliant father, I sobbed to him, “I should have married you!” And at the time, I whole-heartedly meant it. It was almost a proposal.

The baby part of the equation happened fast. Three years after the first child, a second. And five years after that, another. By that point, when I was hugely pregnant, my husband had met the love of his life. So he was unkind for months and months until I finally found out.

The whole time I was married my father warned me that my husband would leave me for another woman he will meet in his PhD program. My father – the sage.

I’ll never forget the day. It changed my life forever. For the better – but I’ll get there in a minute. It was a Sunday morning. I sleep late. The one thing the ex was good for was taking care of the kids in the morning. So, instead of coming downstairs right away, I phoned my friend Kimme to make a plan to meet somewhere with our kids. I punch in the number. Her phone doesn’t ring. I hear my husband pounding frantically up the stairs. I don’t know what’s going on. He tells me to hang up. So, I listen and it’s a woman’s voice softly reading poetry.

I had noticed him on the phone more than usual. He seemed preoccupied all the time. I mentioned to a few friends that I thought he was having an affair. A woman’s intuition is often right. So we broke up. Got back for one unhappy minute, and then split up for good.

That’s when Dave came back into the picture. Like a knight in shining armor. I was so wounded. So alone. And, so scared. Which is insane because we were not a match, my husband and I. We hardly enjoyed each other.

Stacey, her best friend (and now mine) Tracy — whose father I proposed to on my honeymoon — and Dave and I went out to dinner at least twice a week. Sometimes it was at Broadway Deli. A lot of times, it was an Italian restaurant on Third Street Promenade called Remi. Dave always paid. He could not have been a better friend. He always told me how pretty I was, how smart, how valuable. Words from a man I needed to hear. He had a trainer and he gave her to me as a gift for a few months. Often out of nowhere he would call me and Stacey and say he had two spots he wasn’t using at Burke Williams – would we like to use them and get massages. Free massage? I’m in. I’m always in. I could get used to this, I thought. My ex never paid for a massage for me. He barely got me a birthday gift.

Me, Stacey, Tracy & daughter Augie during Dave rescue

A few months into my new single life, I was in Nate n’ Al’s – the deli my dad went to daily. Well not Sunday’s. He often said they bussed in gentiles on Sundays. It was a weekday. Early for me. I noticed a man I met at a kid’s birthday party. We both found ourselves at the cash register. I might have had a different color hair. I reintroduced myself — as Oliver’s mom. I knew him as Max’s dad. I suggested that the boys have a playdate. I also added this, “My husband left me for another woman. Do you have anyone to set me up with?” I said it to anyone and everyone. It was not meant as a come on. He told me he was in middle of a divorce. I told him he could ask me out in that case. He did. We went out. To Broadway Deli. He had no idea that this was a regular haunt for me and my best friends and Dave, my patron saint of divorce.

At our next prop-me-up meal at Remi, I revealed that I had gone on my first date. I told Dave, Stacey and Tracy that the guy is a writer for Johnny Carson. Dave told me he knew Michael (my future – way future husband – he waited seven years!) and that he is the greatest guy. Dave really approved. He gave his seal of approval. We didn’t use the Rent-a-Wreck lot for our wedding.   And over the next twenty-five, now six years, I still hear of Dave coming to the rescue of other maidens-in-divorce-distress.

Every once in awhile someone comes along just when you think you’re about to go under. They throw you an emotional lifeline. I grabbed it and held on. And let Dave carry me back to shore.

Fade to black and white. My ominous wedding photo


Food: Speaking of the shore — do yourself a favor — go to Malibu Farm on the Malibu Pier to get their fried egg and bacon sandwich.  For lunch.  The restaurants in my story have been closed for years.

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One Response to “Rent A (Wedding) Wreck”

  1. Linda says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day … and thanks for another great story!

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