Marriage & Divorce

The other day, my wife and I were in the car listening to a radio talk show. The host, while referring to Barack Obama, insisted that in spite of his many faults and deficiencies as a president and commander in chief, one had to acknowledge that he was a very good father. To which Yvonne said, “How does he know what sort of father he is?”

It struck me as an excellent question. I think there is a widespread belief that Obama is a good family man, but we have no grounds for coming to that conclusion. The only time we see the family together is when they’re taking off for a taxpayer-funded vacation or posing for campaign photos. Other than that, we never see Obama with his daughters. Surely Malia, who’s 14, is certainly old enough to play golf with her father, but I never see her out on the course with him. Instead, it’s those same three guys whose full time job seems to be to make up a foursome for the president, whether it’s Eisenhower, Ford, Clinton or Obama.

I’m not suggesting that Obama is as bad a father as he is a president, but it does seem to me that if he took the role as seriously as he should, he’d use his bully pulpit to admonish black men to start shouldering their responsibilities and to be ashamed of their part in dooming the 71% of black babies being born to unwed mothers to a life of ignorance, poverty and crime. You would think that in four years, he could have taken a few minutes off from deriding Republicans and Tea Party members to deliver a few well-chosen words to those sperm donors who have turned every inner city in America into an urban cesspool.

It also wouldn’t be out of line for Mrs. Obama to quit yakking about cookies and calories long enough to expend some of her political capital on young black women who don’t seem to think twice about condemning themselves, their offspring and future generations, to lives of quiet degradation.

Recently, I heard from a woman in Florida who referred to the man she lives with, a man named Charley, as her partner. In replying to a question I posed in my response, she explained that there were a great many older people in Florida who are divorced or widowed, but refrain from getting married again because one of them would have to surrender his or her Social Security checks.

I was shocked. I always thought that the federal government did everything in its power to encourage marriage. When Congress finally stops wasting its time trying to outlaw guns, they should get around to changing the law so that these old folks can afford to stop living in sin.

The more I thought about it, the sillier it seemed to me that people of any age who are cohabiting or canoodling have decided to refer to the other party as a partner. I couldn’t help picturing a guy named Hank at a social gathering making introductions: “This is my partner, Susan, and this is my other partner, Charley,” while people gasped, and whispers of “ménage a trois” swept through the lodge hall, unaware of the fact that Charley is the other half of Hank & Charley’s Plumbing Supplies.

Later that same day, a different radio host was devoting an hour to the topic of divorce. He insisted that it was essential that for the good of the child, no divorced parent should ever speak ill of his or her ex.

It is something we have all heard so often that we generally accept it as folk wisdom, along the lines of never running in a house while holding scissors or regularly consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables. But this time it triggered something in me, and I found myself thinking, “Why not? What’s to be gained by lying?”

When I got home, I sent the following email to the fellow on the radio:

I found today’s discussion about divorce fascinating, but I must take exception to your rule about not speaking ill of one’s ex-mate to the children.

As you know, many, if not most, kids assume they have played a major role in causing the divorce. So on top of the unavoidable trauma, if people took your advice, it would force the children to deal with unnecessary guilt.

It seems to me that when parents split, you would like them to say insipid things such as, “Mommy and Daddy still care for each other and we both love you very much, but we no longer love each other” or “Your Mommy (or Daddy) is a wonderful person, but we both just feel it was better if we lived apart.” I can’t imagine any child whose response to the first bit of malarkey wouldn’t be ‘So what?’ or to the second, ‘Better for who?’ Or ‘Better for whom,’ if one of the parents happened to be an English teacher.

Even to my 73-year-old ears, those are going to sound like very shallow, selfish reasons for breaking up the family unit and leaving the child, in most cases, fatherless.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should wash the other parent’s dirty laundry in front of the kid, but I think that trying to whitewash the other party is going to leave the child with a great deal more anger and confusion than if you at least indicate the truth of the matter.

Some parents, after all, are simply wicked and evil, and there’s no compelling reason to add hypocrisy to the mix, thus making a bad situation even worse.

It goes without saying that the explanation for the split be age-appropriate. But in most cases, between the raised voices, the sulks, the sighs, the occasional slaps and the slammed doors, kids of any age are going to be aware of friction in the home, even if the deluded parents are convinced they possess the acting chops of Meryl Streep and Michael Caine.

Regards, Burt Prelutsky

Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • Morning Glory

    I adore Burt………..even if his ears are 73 years old. That just means he has a lot of wisdom to share. Now….. we just need people to actually LISTEN…..a rare trait in this day and age (especially if it’s something they don’t WANT to hear….) Love the Burt!!

    • Burt Prelutsky

      Morning: I couldn’t have said it better.


  • Gizmo

    Good points! Just as the rest of Obama’s life is a wisp of smoke, shielded from the real world, so is this part! While Chelsey Clinton & the Bush Girls were daily game, this gang slips through the throngs of Paparazzi & drooling adoring fans just like the greased pigs at the local fair!

    • Burt Prelutsky

      Gizmo: But those greased pigs never had their butts smooched by an adoring media.


  • GlenFS

    Burt, as always you mix wisdom with your clever amusement! I think many people needed to hear your remarks about divorce. Otherwise, what’s a smart kid to conclude? Dad’s great & Mom’s wonderful too… so I must be the bad one who made this happen.

    • Burt Prelutsky

      GlenFS: Exactly.


  • Souvoter

    I must admit I played that game of keeping quiet on the real reason for my divorce until my daughter was of age appropriate and on the phone with her father. She asked him why we divorced and he said ‘ask your mother’; of which I answered ‘he couldn’t keep his pants zipped up’. My daughter said ‘did you hear that, Dad?’ of which he had no reply! You’re right, Burt, no one knows what kind of father Obama really is. Obama’s shoe-shine media saying he is a good father, doesn’t make it so.

    • Burt Prelutsky

      Sou: God knows Obama is a lousy father of the country.


  • Vince Ricardo

    I remember that, when he was campaigning the first time (not that he has ever stopped), in 2008, Obama did give a speech addressing the extremely huge and distressing problem of fatherless children in the black community. I remember it well because it was the first and, it turns out, only time I’ve agreed with him on anything. However, that was simply campaigning. Politics. In reality, the LAST thing Obama or any Democrat needs or wants is to encourage minorities to throw off their ignorance, become self responsible and do something for themselves. Once they’ve opened their eyes and realized that they don’t need the government to do everything for them, well they wouldn’t need the government to do everything for them and they certainly wouldn’t need Obama and his ilk.

    As a Hispanic it quite frankly ticks me off every day to see how Democrats/liberals treat minorities and how those same minorities just keep goin’ along in their blissful ignorance, playin’ the victims, not realizing how insulting liberals are being towards them. Sometimes, when I’m feeling less charitable, I start thinking that they deserve it. Sometimes.

    • Morning Glory

      HOORAY for this post!! Why people allow themselves to “stay on the plantation” is beyond my comprehension–especially in America!! I agree that the dems “use” minorities of all race and color for their own personal gain. Again, it amazes me how many cannot/will not see what is happening to them. Don’t these people realize they are merely pawns being stepped on by dems who are climbing their way to the top of the food chain? The dems don’t care one flip about people, and their actions speak much louder than their words.

      • Burt Prelutsky

        Morning: Some people stay on the plantation for the same reason that some people like jail. Three squares-a-day, a roof over their head amd they don’t have to work or be responsible for anyone, including themselves.


    • Burt Prelutskyb

      Vince: I share your conflict.


  • DOOM161

    My father never spent $20 million a year on my taxpayer-funded vacations. And he never once considered flying me to Hawaii on Air Force One.

    • Burt Prelutsky

      Doom: Are you sure he never thought of it?