Friday, March 13, 2009

Rich Kids

So last weekend I was transported, briefly, into a melancholy altered state of nostalgia while watching the 1979 film Rich Kids. Prior to turning on the TV that night, it's a movie I'd never heard of - thanks Saturday Night at the Movies - though when I did a little research learned that a) Robert Altman produced it b) the reviews were quite favourable and c) the budget was cut rather unceremoniously to defray the financial and critical disaster that was Heaven's Gate.

Heaven's Gate is a movie that's strangely dear to my heart though I'd never seen it either, till last year (also courtesy of SNAM). My father had a little something to do with its production. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Canada. Coincidence?

At any rate, Rich Kids is a movie about urban affluence, two kids coming of age in the late 70s and, moreover, about the soon-to-explode trend of upper-middle-class, middle-aged divorce.

The kids in question are on the cusp of adolescence (12) in 1979. As I watched the film with my husband, we were intrigued by how related we felt to the boy and girl characters even though, in 1979, I would have been 9 and he would have been 15. We related to urban landscape of pre-renewal NYC though he'd been a Montrealer and I lived in Toronto (via NY, interestingly enough).

I mean, Scottie'd had that haircut; I'd worn those overalls - unironically. I'd lived in a house like that, gone to private school. We both remember those pot smoking newly single dads with their hipster, newly-single pads and all the girls. (Note: we both have parents who are still married to one another, but we're just about the only ones.)

The late seventies were a time of gorgeous, modern (nascent, but as we know it) debauchery that resonates because I was conscious and I was there.

The divorce sub-plot was particularly interesting to Scott and me, as a long-married couple, with a daughter, who have managed to bandy around the concept a few times in our day. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but I've almost got divorced just slightly less often than I've had depraved, passionate make-up sex. I'm not proud. Sometimes it's tough being married. It's tough to carve out a meaningful life in the context of family while desperately striving to nurture one's own needs as an individual. It's tough parenting. These things are frequently unsexy. They are insistently real.

A propos of divorce in the movie - as in the day - I should mention that it was driven by the (then-emerging, almost in full swing) ennui brought on by changing mores, by first wave feminism crashing against old-school conventions. While watching the film I wanted to scream at the screen, occasionally, to say "Listen, Cushy Richies with the house in the Hamptons: Do you honestly think the world gets better for leaving what you've struggled to create in the pursuit of free love and some soft drugs?"

You know you can do that within the construct of marriage.

Rich Kids was melancholy, rather than tragic, because it tackles divorce without the 360 degree view. It's about moving on without backlash.

Look, I'm as much for divorce as the next girl, when it's the clear course of action. (And really, other than in my own marriage, who the hell am I to judge what constitutes that?) But I've seen enough people go through it - people from then, people from now - who start off believing that divorce is redemptive when, sometimes, sadly, it's pointless.

One night, as early parents, sleep-deprived by paralysing stress and the needs of a baby, after another fight about another stupid subject about which we were destined to disagree, I advised my husband that the word divorce was theretofore off limits. I clearly remember saying if you want to crash and burn, let's do it. Otherwise shut the fuck up. I cannot carry on a relationship in the black shadow of its demise. I remember cuz I thought it was kind of smart and poetic for 3 a.m.

And he thought about it for a second. And then he said ok.

And, so far, we're still married. (I recommend it.)


  1. I was talking to a divorce lawyer the other day and she said that the majority of her clients realised after they'd divorced that they should have tried harder, and that they were actually worse off, not better off after the divorce.

    Of course there are always great reasons for divorce and some couples must split up, but I think many don't bother trying, or think the grass is greener elsewhere, divorce, then discover it is a mistake.

  2. I remember seeing that movie. Divorce didn't mean much to me at the time - I was more enthralled with their lifestyles/New York, etc.

  3. My boss's daughter just divorced her husband. For the second time. I cannot imagine the pain they must both be in.

    Fascinating to hear, though, that so many people who've gone through it regret it. We really have no idea what marriage is "supposed" to be, do we? How can we, when it's different for everyone? How often is the right amount of sex? How many comfortable silences are too many? If you never fight, is that BAD? No way to know.

  4. marriage and divorce scare me. but i'll take the plunge with marriage eventually and hopefully avoid the divorce part. hopefully.

  5. 1970s movies about divorce are something i can totally live without - having had one of those 70s childhoods with lots of divorce in it.

  6. Now I'm going to have to rent this movie...

  7. It is a tough one K- and further compromised by our circumstances. We have more reasons to fight and want to split our romantic relationship; and more reasons to stay together. The divorce rate in Autism is higher, I think because of the pressures, the need to blame someone for what is often a nebulous condition and then because one or both of the parents have a communication deficit themselves. And a communication imbalance is a real deal breaker. I want to talk about everything, he wants to tell me nothing, I feel like I have been run over by a car most nights, he thinks I should fulfill his "needs". Great, one more job before I can relax and just be me.

    My parents stayed together, but I don't think they should have!


  8. Don't sweat the small stuff. Appreciate everything your wife does to make life wonderful. Live every day like it's your first date. Create space for your interests. Have interests.


  9. Am totally continuing with our joint therapy....after 13 years married, I've realized it's better to try harder... Perhaps I could get a lobotomy as a last resort... ;)

    P.S. HOLYF&CK! The word verification is:





  10. Now I'm curious about the movie...


  11. I've never heard of Rich Kids either ...but now I totally want to see it!!!

  12. I never heard of that movie, but it sounds really interesting. I'm putting it on my list. I don't have Netflix or a list, but I'm writing it in my daily planner.
    You and I are the same age! '67, baby!

  13. interesting. I've been married to my guy for 12 years now. long enough i guess for my age. D word never occurs to neither of us..

  14. Imogen: I've heard this from lawyers also. Makes you wonder...

    Tessa: The visuals were amazing, no? Loved the art direction.

    Sal: There should be a manual :-) To suggest it's tough staying with some one for 50 years just seems like such a ridiculous understatement.

    drollgirl: I like to think of marriage as an adventure. It takes the edge off :-)

    Skye: So sorry to hear that. You aren't alone, of course. I can introduce you to so many friends who's stories might mirror your own.

    Janet: Tell me what you think.

    Hammie: What a well considered comment, thank you! Autism must raise the stakes immeasurably. I mean, caring for any dependent is so hard on the equilibrium of a relationship, but managing a family in which communication is so challenging - well, you and all families dealing with this have my full respect.

  15. D.: Very smart words. I bet you have a nice marriage.

    Tanya: A lobotomy?! I'd do a boob lift first :-) Not that you need one! Anyway, enough of my plastic surgery fantasies, you are doing the hard work now and I know it will pay off.

    Seeker and Maegan and Marinka: Please rent it and let me know what you think!

    Songy: You are very blessed - and even tempered. Both of you!

  16. "D.: Very smart words. I bet you have a nice marriage."

    It's ok. OK, more than ok. We so often fall short of our ideals, but without ideals there would be no place to aim.

    Which brings us to the beautiful pictures and products you point us to.

  17. I think I love that last bit the most.