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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Outlook is Everything

I don’t often write here about my failed marriage because it’s not fair to “Mark,” who doesn’t get a chance to air his side of the story.  So when I do write about it, I’ll try to mitigate the potential for bias by sticking strictly to the facts.

And remember, if you want Mark’s perspective, all you have to do is call him at ... Just kidding! (Though this reminds me that I should tell the story about an evening in  January when my best friend’s rear-end chose the worst possible time(s) to call my ex-husband.  Those familiar with the incident might recall a wisecrack I made then about AT&T unveiling a new “Butt-to-Butt” calling program.  I promise not to say anything nearly so non-factual when I get around to writing about it here.)  

As most people know, marriage requires the parties to negotiate regularly on macro and micro levels.  Achieving compromise can be tricky, regardless of whether the issue is broad (should we move to another city?) or narrow (what’s for dinner?).  A recurring micro issue in my and Mark’s household involved figuring out the best way to keep track of our joint and respective schedules.  

We agreed that we couldn’t successfully maintain a kitchen wall calendar.  I suggested the “If It Ain’t Broke” method, according to which the person who was going out for Girls’ Night would apprise the other person of her plans and leave it up to him to make note of them using his existing date-keeping system.  Mark didn’t like this idea.  He used Microsoft Outlook’s calendar feature at work to schedule everything, whether personal or professional.  He worried that if I told him my plans by email or phone, he might not remember to transfer them to his electronic calendar and then might forget about them altogether.   His solution?  We should email each other meeting notices. Through Outlook.  

I had some reservations about this.  For openers, I allow anyone within my company to access my work calendar.  Setting up meetings is much easier that way, and I don’t care who knows that I have a conference call on Monday morning to discuss the Smith account.   But I might feel differently about registering for company-wide consumption the date and time of, say, a waxing appointment.   

But after a couple months I yielded and agreed to take on a whole new Outlook.  I started sending Mark meeting notices for things like my book club and receiving from him “invitations” to shoot sporting clays.  Each of us would click “accept” to place the event on our individual electronic calendars.  Outlook knew when we were having date nights, too.

Mark and I separated in July 2011.  In the weeks leading up to that, I went alone to certain functions we had planned to attend together that were recorded in Outlook, such as my law school pal’s cookout and my aunt and uncle’s surprise 50th birthday bash.  Just before each of these events, Mark emailed me an updated response changing his reply from “accepted” to “declined.”  In case I hadn’t already gotten the message, I guess.

Those notes proved to be some of the most benign communications of our divorce.  Few people would describe dissolving a marriage as an easy process, yet some couples manage to split amicably.  In the early days of our separation I hoped we would be that kind of couple.  In terms of realism, this ranked right up there with hoping brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts would land on the superfood list above blueberries.

When I got the court order in May that officially ended our marriage and eliminated any need for further contact between me and Mark, I felt a huge surge of relief.  I assumed Mark had a similar reaction.  When his name appeared in my email in-box at work last Monday, I was caught off guard. 

The prospect of reading his message excited me as much as the idea of stapling my eyelids to my forehead.  But my stapler was empty, so I had no choice.  I opened the note and found a brand new rejection notice for the law school friend’s cookout that occurred in July 2011.  Moments later Mark sent me another “updated response” informing me afresh that he would not be attending last year’s 50th birthday party for my aunt and uncle.

I suppose nothing says “we’re done” like  a Double-Dog decline.  

I hope I don’t get Triple Dog Declined, but just in case, I’m going to make good and sure I have plenty of staples on hand.   

1 comment:

  1. Shoot, this reminds me that I need to send you an Outlook decline for that time you invited me to dinner in 1998.