What was the best prank you ever pulled off for April Fool’s Day? I got married. In Vegas. In a free standing chapel on the strip. You know, because I’m real classy like that. To be fair, it wasn’t a prank, and to be fair, I’m not really all that classy even though I can clean up fairly well.
Elvis wasn’t there–it wasn’t a prank, even though I think it may have been the same chapel Britney Spears got married in. We meant to get married. We had been dating for years, and engaged for a year as we planned a real wedding with favors and guests. This spontaneous decision just seemed like the thing to do at the time, and we did it. Let me tell you, my parents were not pleased. We hadn’t planned on eloping. In Vegas. On April Fool’s Day. But we did.
We used to say if we ever divorced, we’d just shout “Just kidding!” to the other about the marriage. Well, coupling and uncoupling isn’t as simple or lighthearted or fun as an April Fool’s prank. We took our vows seriously, we worked hard at raising our family. More than anything, I believed in the commitment I made not at the ceremony, but when we got engaged. I had said yes, I would build a life with you and your family. I took that very seriously, and I really believed everything would work out in the end even through the difficult times. I had doubts, I saw red flags, but I wrapped them up tightly with hope and the belief that love always prevails. That’s what fairy tales and movies and society taught us–that in the end, everything would be ok.
That message is the prank, I’ve come to learn. Believing in that message made me the April fool. Things don’t always work out in the end. There isn’t always a happily ever after. There was nothing funny about the slow descent into uncoupling. There was nothing lighthearted about realizing the world as you knew it no longer existed, that everything you believed about life isn’t actually so.
On April Fool’s Day, many of the pranks are of the harmless bait and switch variety–tricking someone into believing in something that it’s not, like cupcakes made to look like spaghetti and meatballs, or swapping out sugar for salt. We thought and hoped and wanted and meant for this to last forever, and it did not. I’ve been divorced now longer than I was married. Somehow that sounds strange to me. Not quite a bait and switch, but I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to happen that way traditionally.
“Just kidding,” we were to say to each other if things went south. Instead, I think the words were actually, “I just can’t do this anymore.” I can’t say I was just kidding about our marriage, or that I didn’t take our commitment seriously. A lot of things happened, a lot of things didn’t happen. The demise, like our relationship, had everything to do with both of us. But it was no joke.