Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: marriage (page 1 of 8)

One Thing a Day #2 – The Laundry

Boiler Room

Wise men say, “Don’t air your dirty laundry,” so I’m not going to do that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about the clean, but still very wet laundry that was spinning in the dryer in the garage when Sophia and I had our last fight in the house.

“I’ll take the Shuttle to the airport,” I said, grabbing the soggy clothes in mid-rotation and throwing them into my suitcase.

I walked to the laundromat by the post office, wheeling my luggage in like I was entering the marble lobby of the Four Seasons. A homeless man was washing himself in the sink. A grumpy African-American woman was reading Jet magazine; Fantasia was on the cover. I remembered when Sophia and I watched Fantasia win American Idol. How long ago was that? 2004?! Nine years ago!

I opened the suitcase on the cleanest linoleum counter, and tossed the damp clothes into the commercial drier. My brightly colored shorts and t-shirts — direct from summertime in New Zealand — created a colorful kaleidoscope as they spun, but they would do little to keep me warm during the cold gray wintery life of New York City.

In the front pocket of the suitcase was a New Zealand Paua shell that Juli gave me to take home. It was wrapped in a red towel. I carefully peeled the flaps of the flannel towel open, like a onion, or like a woman, to make sure that it was still in one piece.

Sophia called. We talked. We calmed down. She drove me to LAX. At the American Airlines terminal, I gave her my house key. In New Zealand, Juli gave me her house key, and I took it — a promise to return. And here I was, giving my other house key back to Sophia.

It was not the way I imagined leaving the house for the last time, wheeling out my wet clothes in a suitcase.

The Perfect Couple

It was Sophia’s birthday on Saturday, and we went to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).   We had a great day together.

“Are you two getting back together?” a friend texted me.

“No,” I answered. “Just a fun day out for her birthday.”

“You just seem so perfect together.”

“Perfect?!  Ha.  We are far from it.”

Sophia and I love each other, but the perfect couple we’re not.   We never were.

We tried our best, but we both want something more from a partner, a love that boils over and makes us want to shout it out to the world.   Something a little bit closer to the perfection of a Perfect Couple.

Does this Perfect Couple exist?   Or is it an illusion, the relationship equivalent of the bikini model drinking a Coke?

But then, on Saturday evening, as we left the museum, Sophia and I encountered them. It was the Perfect Couple, right on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.

If God was a chef, this couple would be his signature dish. They would be spiced with respect, love, and passion, and as they marinated in His blessings, happiness and joy would waft through His kitchen, out the window, and throughout the world.

And they were standing right in front of us.

“Take an instagram photo!” said Sophia, as we both stared, confronted with our own  inadequacies.

After taking a few photos of the Perfect Couple on Wilshire Blvd., we discovered that we had stumbled into someone else’s photo shoot, and this couple were models.

But the Perfect Couple is a standard that is hard to let go, even if it is a fantasy.

Giving Birth to Myself

I want to be politically correct with my large female readership and say right off the bat that as a man I will never fully know what it feels like to give birth to another human being. But, to be devil’s advocate, let’s imagine that I DO KNOW.  And I am giving birth… to myself.  To a  new version of Neil.  The man who is not married to Sophia.

You will notice that I didn’t used the word divorced. Divorce has connotations of loss to me, as if I lost my wallet.  I will not walk around with the self identity of a divorced man.  I will be a man who learned important life lessons during his first marriage, a man now better able to love.

But this person is yet to be born.  He is inside me, growing.  And as most woman know, giving birth is a bizarre combination of pain, blood, joy, and medication. And it takes time.

But soon.

Irreconcilable Differences

On the night before BlogHer, Sophia and I filled out the paperwork.  There were four forms to complete.   It was more complicated than I thought, forgetting for a moment that filing for divorce is a serious legal matter and not an episode of “The Marriage Ref.”  The moment was friendly, but tense, not unlike the times we attempted to complete the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle together.

Filing for divorce.   We peeked into my blog archives and discovered that we have been “separated” for six years, coming back and leaving each other more times than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.  It was time.

We enjoyed a quick nice laugh when we came across the options you could choose as the reason for the divorce —

A) Irreconsolible differences.

B) Reasons of insanity.

Yes, I want a divorce because my SPOUSE IS CRAZY!

The next day, I put my luggage in the car, ready to go to San Diego.  But before I left LA, I drove to the courthouse.  I stood in a long line outside the court, hanging with my peers, the gang members and rapists of the City of Los Angeles.  Apparently, getting a divorce puts you in the same line as an armed robber.    I got patted down by a burly police officer after going through the metal detective, proving that ending a marriage requires a symbolic ceremony as traditional as breaking the glass under the chuppah in the beginning.

The clerk at civil court clerk’s office was an androgynous woman with short blonde hair in the style of Annie Lenox, circa 1985.  Filing for divorce is as glamorous as going to CVS pharmacy to pick up some Q-tips.  I handed the clerk the forms and paid my $390.

The only setback was that I couldn’t hand in Sophia’s papers on the same day as I did mine.  She had to be “served” by a third party, much as they do on “Law and Order.” Oh yeah, and another $390.  You would think with such a high divorce rate in California, the state wouldn’t be bankrupt.

I left the court feeling good.   The process was only half completed, so the full impact of the action hadn’t yet hit.  Why worry? I wasn’t officially filed yet.  Or divorced.  If a meteor slammed into earth that day, I would die a married man.

I enjoyed BlogHer, only mentioning the filing for divorce with a few close friends.  It didn’t seem appropriate to make a public announcement during the Keynote Speech.

When I returned from San Diego, we asked a friend to “serve” Sophia, so the process would all be official.   It was felt rather silly, as if we were playing Charades.  So “legal.”   The legal divorce was less a concern than the emotional fallout.  We had gone through a lot during our marriage — happiness, sex, laughter, anger, stress, illness, and the death of three of our parents. Clearly there was a bond. We gave it a good shot — six years after the initial separation — but we had changed over the years.  We didn’t fit together anymore.   We had become brother and sister, not husband and wife. And that is no way to live your life.

On Monday morning, we had breakfast.   Sophia asked me to go to recycling center on the way back from the court, proving that a husband’s chores never end, even to the final moment.  There was a huge collection of soda and beer bottles sitting in the garage. My first instinct was to ask her why she didn’t do this herself, but I shut myself up.   Why go there?  It was the petty little snips that had done the most harm over the years.

“Sure,” I said to my wife, the person I shared so much with for so many years. “I’ll bring in the recycling stuff after I go to the court.”

I returned to court, waiting in line with a new set of gang-bangers.  The androgynous court clerk was absent, which made me sad.  I was hoping for the comfort of repetition.

The new clerk was a smiling black woman in a bright red dress. She smiled as she took Sophia’s response form and charged me another $390 dollars.

She stamped the form, and it was done.   I hoped for an uplifting good-bye, something like, “That’s it! Have a great rest of your life filled with love and happiness.”

But no.

“Next!” she announced.

I went to the car. I was feeling pretty good, even relieved.  I could now go on with the rest my life.   Even date other women!

It was time.

And then I threw up on the parking lot floor.

After that, I drove over to deliver the cans and bottles to the recycling center.

In the Limo

“Do we tip the driver?” I asked Sophia. We were in the backseat of a limo, part of the fleet from one of the most famous of Los Angeles livery services.

“I’m not sure. I suppose so.” she answered, sipping her champagne. “We certainly don’t want to be called cheap for the next six years, like we have been on that old post about splitting a salad at Olive Garden.”

We both laughed, and ate more of the caviar, included with our VIP package.   I still get angry comments on that post at least once a week from waiters at Olive Garden, calling us cheapskates.  Even at our lowest points in our marriage, Sophia and I could take a breather to read the latest bitter response to the post and chuckle together.  It was our form of marital therapy.

“It’s my favorite post,” I said.

“Me too.”

We were relaxing in the limo, dressed in our finest clothes.  I was wearing a rented tuxedo. Sophia wore a pearl necklace. The idea was to feel like a modern-day Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, on our way to the court to file our paperwork for divorce.  We were sophisticated, urbane, shelling out the witticisms like in a Noel Coward play.

Wait a minute.  Didn’t we file for divorce already? If you remember last season in this long-going series, I left town to go to New York City. Final shot: The signed paperwork sitting on the coffee table as I closed the door in the background.

New season.   Surprise.  It was all a trick, as clever a gimmick as finding out on “Dallas” that it was all a dream.

Somehow the paperwork got lost or misplaced so we need to do it all over again.   What I will do just for blog fodder.

But it is all good.   Better to file the papers in STYLE, like we always wanted to do. We would go to court via limo, and then head out to a swanky nightclub for 300 of our closest friends for the ultimate LA party of the year.

“Would you enjoy some music while you relax in the back?” asked the livery driver.

“Sure,” said Sophia.

The driver played some Barry White, which somehow seemed so wrong that it was right.

But the low sultry voice of Barry White was quickly drowned out as we approached the downtown courthouse. Waiting for us on the steps was the full USC Trojan Marching band playing our wedding song.  It cost me a fortune to rent them.

Sophia laughed.

“Perfect, Neil.  This is going to be the best filing for divorce in the history of Divorce!”

“I made an appointment so we don’t have to wait.” I mentioned to Sophia.  “All we have to do is hand the piece of paper in, pay a fee, and the process has started.”

“I’m sure your blog readers will be relieved,” she added.  “This neurotic plotline has been going on for so long. It’s time for a new story twist.”

We had it all arranged, as precisely as a movie heist.   We would approach the clerk in the courthouse.   I would hold the right side of the filing paper, and Sophia the left side —  and hand it in together.  Like a team!

Because marriage is all about teamwork.

“Do you have the paperwork?”  asked Sophia.

“I think you put it in your purse.”

“No. You said you were going to take it yourself.”

“Not true.   I distinctly remember asking YOU if I should take it, and YOU said that YOU would put it in your purse so I wouldn’t have to fold it in eights in order to put into my shirt pocket.”

“Why would I care if you folded it in eights or not?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe because you are a perfectionist.  That’s what you said!”

The limo was parked directly in front of the downtown Los Angeles court.  The USC Trojan marching band was playing our wedding song, our first dance, for the fifth time in a row.  The livery driver was getting impatient.

“We can always get another piece of paper in the courthouse.” I suggested.

“And wait in line again? No way!  Why don’t you just come back tomorrow and hand it in yourself.”

“Because we are supposed to be doing this together.”

“Stop being so co-dependent.”

“We’re a team!  A team to the end.  Like the USC Trojans   Even though we are separated for years!”

“How can we be a team if you are always forgetting the paperwork back at home. So irresponsible?”

“Me? Irresponsible? This whole thing would be over by now if you had just handed it in a year ago like you were supposed to do!”

“F*ck it.” said Sophia. “Let’s just do this another day. I’m walking over to Chinatown and having some lunch.”

“OK, I’m hungry too.   But I’m doing this by next week.”

Sophia and I left the limo, the marching band repeating the refrain of Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, our wedding song.  I guess I would have to pay them overtime, just like I did the swing band at the wedding reception.   As we walked to Chinatown, we gently stepped to the music, still remembering the swing dance lessons we took before the wedding, so many years before.

The limo driver rolled down his window and spit on the floor.

“Assholes,” he snarled. “They didn’t even tip me.  Cheapskates.”

Truth Quotient — 2%

The Dating Life

(taken down the block from my mother’s apartment building)

“How much?” I asked the woman in the tight shorts standing on the corner. She seemed the perfect partner to help me complete my humiliation.

“Ten dollars for a blowjob, twenty-five for sexual intercourse, and two hundred and fifty dollars to sit around your apartment for a hour and talk about your marriage.”

I pulled out a wad of bills.

“Here’s two hundred and fifty dollars for the conversation.”

She was surprised, and looked at me with pity.

“You know what? I’ll throw the blowjob in for five dollars.”

I had left my keys on my dresser earlier, so I had to ring the doorbell to my mom’s place when I returned with the hooker. My mother answered. She was opening a box of Entenmann’s cake. She was surprised to see me with a women.

“Hi, Mom. This is… uh, Clarissa?”

“Clitrissa,” stated the hooker.

“Clitrissa,” I repeated for my mother. “She’s a hooker from the neighborhood.”

My mother didn’t blink. That’s the best thing about getting older. At a certain point, you’ve seen it ALL and nothing seems that weird.

“I was about to have a piece of cake,” said my mother, politely. “Would you like to join us?”

My mother, always the perfect hostess.

“Sure,” said Clitrissa.

The three of us — me, my mother, and the hooker in the tight shorts — headed into the kitchen. As we passed the living room, Clitrissa noticed that a sitcom was playing on the twenty year old RCA TV.

“Two and Half Men! I love that show.” cried Clitrissa.

“It’s my favorite,” said my mother.

“Charlie Sheen cracks me up,” Clitrissa laughed.

My mother lead the giggling hooker to the couch.

“Sit down” instructed my mother. “The show just started. Let me catch you up to speed. The two brothers just had a fight and the nebbishy one — not Charlie Sheen — is thinking of moving, and you know…”

Within minutes, we were all plopped on the couch, in front of the TV, individual TV stands propped at our knees, munching on the Entenmann’s cake.

After “Two and a Half Men,” My mother and the hooker turned on the DVD to watch the episode of “Glee,” from earlier in the week. It was another favorite of both my mother and the hooker.

But I was getting impatient. I don’t usually complain about service in restaurants or at the dry cleaners, but in this instance, I wasn’t getting anywhere near what I paid for.

I slid my TV tray to the side, and forced a fake cough, hoping to catch Clitrissa’s attention, but apparently Clitrissa was a huge “Gleek,” and had seen every episode of the show.

I finally spoke up.

“Uh, Clitrissa, don’t you think we should get started before it gets too late.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Uh, but I’m really enjoying this Glee. Rachel’s going to sing in a minute. Do you mind if I give you your blowjob during the commercial?”

I almost spit out my cake.

“I’m not going to have you give me a blowjob with my mother sitting right here.”

My mother agreed that it was a bad idea, especially since she usually fast forwards through the commercials with the DVR, which would mean that she would have to give me a very fast blowjob.

But my mother is as accommodating as she is a good hostess.

“I guess we could pause the show, you can do whatever you have to do, and I’ll go finish making my brisket for dinner tomorrow.”

Clitrissa and I acknowledged this as the best plan of action. My mother headed into the kitchen. Clitrissa took off her ratty boots and made herself comfortable on the couch.

This was exactly what I needed. To reach rock bottom. To be humiliated. To expose myself to the cheapest whore, a person only interested in my money. It’s better this way. Love is all an illusion. Relationships are impossible. Better to live like the wild animals that we really are, only caring about our immediate gratifications and our beastly yearnings.

“What would you like to do first, the blowjob or talk about your wife?” she asked.

“Let’s talk about my wife,” I said.

Clitrissa sighed, a bored expression on her face. She was apparently more of a doer than a talker.

“Ok, go ahead,” she said, lying back against the pillow. “Don’t worry if you see me closing my eyes. That means I’m listening very carefully.”

I have long considered myself a storyteller, but this was one of the hardest stories to retell. It was the story of my marriage to Sophia.

“To tell you the full story of my marriage, I will need to go back in time. To a happier time. It was our wedding day. I wore my first tuxedo. It was black and regal. And she was like a beautiful Queen, in a flowing white dress…”

Two and half hours later, the story had shifted gears. It was now filled with romantic drama. My mother had gone to bed, leaving us to our privacy.

“The next stop on our honeymoon was Sevilla. We didn’t really like Sevilla that much. We went to a touristy flamenco show, thinking it was going to be very authentic, but instead the dancers were an elderly couple, one of whom had a leg brace. Later that night, Sophia got a pebble in her shoe, and a blister, and I spend two hours trying to find a pharmacy that was open at night… and there wasn’t a CVS in sight…”

Clitrissa had her eyes closed tightly, and was breathing rhythmically. I could only assume she was listening to my story very carefully. And she was an excellent listener, not interrupting my speaking flow even once.

“But as life continued, as in any relationship, things changed. Events changed us. We changed ourselves. We were brought together by happiness and generosity. Sophia threw me a giant surprise birthday party online. We were burdened by tragedy. My father died. There were health issues. Breast cancer surgeries. There was dinners and concerts. There was separations and reunions and dancing. There were more deaths in the family. There were laughs and trips and wild weekend trips to Bakersfield. My entire blog has been one long memoir of a crazy marriage, of two people bound together by love and holy matrimony, two lovers never quite sure if their personalities meshed in the way absolutely necessary for two people to live together without killing each other. There was always more chaos than comfort in this marriage, which made for good blog fodder, but a tremendous amount of real life stress…”

Clitrissa snored, and it finally hit me that she was fast asleep. Money down the drain, I thought. I didn’t even get a fast blowjob during the fast-forwarding of Glee on the DVR.

But as most of you know, I’m a pretty decent guy, and Clitrissa looked sleepy, so I covered her with a blanket, and went into my bedroom.

I called Sophia on the phone.

“How ya doing?” I asked her.


“Did you turn in the filing papers for divorce yet?”


“So, what are you waiting for?” I wondered.

“Not waiting for anything. Today’s Sunday. You want the courts to stay open just for you?”

“You’re gonna do it tomorrow?”

“Maybe. But I have a dentist’s appointment.”

Despite our tentativeness on the phone, we had signed the papers on the day that I left town. I wanted to make some sort of ceremony for us, but we ran out of time. We were busy the previous day cleaning out the garage before I left to make parking the cars easier. We had both just taken showers, and we signed the papers, both naked, much like Adam and Eve might have after the infamous “apple incident.”

Sophia and I were both tired of this on-again and off-again life. I hated ping-ponging back and forth from NY and LA. We had discussed getting “filing papers” for at least three years. If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know that we considered ourselves “separated, but living together” for as long as five years ago! Last week, after years of avoidance, she brought the papers home. I was slightly pissed because I wanted to be the one who brought them home; it would make me sound more decisive when I later tell this story. But then again, I can always change the details when I tell the story in the future.

The last year has been such a hard one for Sophia and me. Both her parents died, one after another. This changed things, especially for her, but for me too. I can’t exactly say in what way. Perhaps it reminded us that life is short, too short to play around with a happiness that only hovers around the 61% percentile.

We are now in a six month transition period. I’m in New York again for a few months, plotting my course. I have a lot of writing that I am behind on. The past year took an enormous toll on my creative output. It is hard to write when real life is much more dramatic than anything you are putting onto the page.

During the travails of the year, I was asked often, “Did the turmoil of her parents’ illness and dying bring you together?” In many ways, it did. But it also broke us apart. The last year has not inspired much romance.

It is time to start dating other people.

“So, have you started dating yet?” I asked Sophia, still on the phone.

“No, but I will start soon.”

“Good for you!”

“How about you?”

“There’s a woman with me right now on the living room couch.”

“There is? You’re with a woman right now at your mother’s place? Isn’t your mother THERE?”

“My mother’s an adult. She’s hip. She even read Sidney Sheldon back in the 1970s.”

“Where did you meet this woman?”

“She’s a hooker. Her name is Clitrissa.”

“I see. So, you paid her to sit with you and talk about “relationships?”

“F*ck no. Well, yeah. But also, for a blowjob.”

“Why didn’t you go for the full sex?”

“It would be another twenty dollars.”

“Why are you always so cheap with yourself?”

“Maybe because I’m still paying for half YOUR apartment.”

“That’s just an excuse. You still should have gone for the full sex. It was the same with the airplane. Just because they charge you another twenty five dollars a suitcase on Virgin America, doesn’t mean you can’t take two bags. You need to treat yourself better.”

“What is this lecture about? Do you really want to talk about this now?”

“You’re the one who called me!” she yelled back.

She was getting my goat, as usual.

“Can’t we just talk about something safe for once? Something that won’t tick either of us off?”

“Like what?” she asked.

“Did you see this week’s Glee yet?”


The next morning, my mother served Clitrissa breakfast (challah french toast!), and she went back to the street corner to go to work. I never did get a blowjob, which is probably better since I didn’t really know her that well..

It was the start of my new dating life.

Truth Quotient: 8%

Rock Bottom: The Trainwreck Post


Splat.  I hit the cold hard bottom.  Since returning from my visit with my mother and Sophia down in Florida, I have fallen apart.  My anxiety level is at an all time high.  All the strands of my life are converging — my marriage, my mother returning to Queens in two weeks, work concerns that pit living in NYC with moving back to LA.

I can’t live like this anymore.  I need to have a home AND a somewhat normal existence.

I need to have a wife that I either live with, or NOT be married to her.  I need to love someone and be loved.  I need to focus on my writing, on my career, on money, and on life.

I need to be able to feel up a woman before I go to sleep, or why else continue living?

All I’ve done for the last few days is go on Twitter and argue with people about Twitter.

I just took a Prozac.  I’m a little concerned on the Prozac’s effect on my Penis, but so far, it hasn’t fallen off.

First time, no comments.

Very Vague Dispatch from L.A. – #5

Welcome to the Hotel California.

Very Vague Dispatch from L.A. – #1


“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Let’s get married.”

“I have a better idea. Let’s walk into the middle of a highway, hand in hand, waiting for a eighteen-wheeler to run us over!”

Married with Dyson

This post I am writing right now might seem like I am poking fun of mommyblogger promotions and giveaways, but that is not the case.  The following is more about me and my marriage, and what to expect from a wife: has started an interesting promotion titled Dyson Domestic Divas.

Every 2 weeks from now till April, we are going to be picking a new mom to spend a full two weeks with our Dyson and then come on as a Dyson Domestic Diva and give everyone the lowdown on it. Comparing it to your current household cleaning, your vacuum that you use on a daily basis, the all around ins and outs of how you feel about the Dyson after spending 2 weeks with it in your home. You will be able to blog during your experience from set up to the day it leaves, posting pictures, videos and sharing your experience with the world.


The Dyson is an excellent vacuum.  I have one myself.  If I were a Mom, I would love to try-out this new model, the DC 25 Rollerball Animal.

Each Mom who gets picked after sign-up gets to keep the vacuum for two weeks before they have to return it to the company.

Just imagine how clean your house will be and how convinced your husband will be to let you get one after you have proven to him how great it is!

This last sentence made me think about my own marriage, and the roles we played in the home. Were Sophia and I out of step with current reality?  Do wives still need to convince their husbands before buying a vacuum cleaner?  Did I get a raw deal with Sophia?  She is the type of woman who would never ask me before buying a new vacuum cleaner!

She might say, “Neil, I want to buy a new vacuum cleaner.”

I might answer, “Why do we need a new vacuum cleaner.”

And she might reply, “Because the old one stinks.”

What am I talking about?  Sophia never used the vacuum or asked for a vacuum cleaner.  I did all the vacuuming in the house.  I was the one who bought the Dyson for our home!  Am I the only husband in the country to do the vacuuming in the house?  Not only did I do the vacuuming in the house, I had to SHOW Sophia how to used our year-old Dyson before I came to New York because she never used it before!  Was I tricked by Sophia into thinking that a husband should do anything useful in the house, like vacuuming or doing the dishes?  How did I get suckered into that?

If I ever get remarried, I’m going to be looking for a different type of wife — one who ASKS me before she buys a new vacuum cleaner?  A woman who enjoys vacuuming so much, that she will give me oral sex after she finishes cleaning the house in appreciation for my staying out of her territory.  That would be cool, and make me feel manly.

And if she did ask for a new vacuum cleaner, I would tell her that I need that money for my Maxim magazines.

“No! You cannot buy a new vacuum cleaner.  Back into the kitchen, woman.  And put on that French maid’s uniform!”

“Maybe we can get a cleaning woman?” she might ask, a little in awe of my Maleness.

“A cleaning woman?  What for!  That’s what you are here for.  And I like watching your ass move when you dust!”

“Oh honey, you are such a rascal.”

I learned three important lessons this post about Domestic Divas that I need to remember if I ever get re-married:

1)  A wife must ask her husband for permission before buying any household product.

2)  Wives love to clean the house, especially with innovative appliances.

3)  Men have no interest in household cleaning, or are they even expected to contribute and help.

Sophia apparently never read the rules.   If I ever remarry, my next wife will be a Dyson Domestic Diva.

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