Keeping divorce aflame takes a nasty wit

August 17, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Mike Royko is on vacation. In the meantime, we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This column was first published Oct. 11, 1988.

By writing this story, I am not condoning what Gerald did. His conduct was nasty, cruel and vindictive. But it was also funny, and with most of today's news being about the frantic babble of politicians, anything with a chuckle is welcome.

Gerald lives in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. He's divorced, and it is an understatement to say that he doesn't think much of his ex-wife.

That isn't uncommon, of course. Many divorced people loathe their former spouses. That's one of the reasons I almost never write about divorce disputes.

It's my experience that you ask a divorced person whose fault the breakup was, about 99 percent of the time the man will say "hers," and the woman will say "his." Depending on whom you talk to, in every shattered marriage there was one saint and one fiend.

Or, as an old divorce lawyer once told me: "They all lie. The secret of success is to get your client to tell better lies."

But to get back to Gerald and the nasty thing he did, as reported in the St. Paul Dispatch.

Gerald wasn't violent, as some ex-husbands are. There are countless cases of men beating up boyfriends of their ex-wives. And, although it is more rare, ex-wives have been known to pluck a few tufts of hair from an ex-husband's new flame.

There are tire slashings, obscene late-night phone calls and, occasionally, a guy will get sloshed and drive his car onto his old front porch.

Gerald, to his credit, showed a bit more wit and imagination.

After Gerald was divorced by Sharon, she packed up and moved to another state, while he remained at their old address.

One day a letter came for Sharon. The decent thing would have been for Gerald to send the letter on. But Gerald had bitterness in his heart.

So he opened and read the letter.

It turned out to be a questionnaire from someone in Sharon's old high school class of 1958.

This person was putting together a newsletter that was to be sent to the other members of the class, bringing them all up to date on what their old classmates were doing 30 years later.

Those readers with a malicious nature have already guessed what Gerald did.

Yes, Gerald filled in the answers to the questionnaire.

Then he signed Sharon's name and returned it to the person putting together the newsletter.

And a few months later, more than a hundred members of the class received the newsletter and read about each other. When they got to Sharon's responses, their jaws dropped.

There could be little doubt Sharon sounded as if she had had the most interesting 30 years since graduation day.

To the question of "occupation," the answer was: "Retired on third husband's divorce settlement."

There was a question that asked: "Achievement most proud of":

The answer: "My three divorces and how each time I married into more money to the point where I am now living on the $400,000 settlement and interest from my third divorce."

Another question asked for an "outrageous, unusual or interesting experience."

The response: "Going out to Virginia . . . on my job and having an affair with two different guys while my third husband was back in Minnesota working two jobs."

But Gerald hadn't even hit his stride. For the question about hobbies, he wrote:

"Nightclubbing, partying and looking for new and wealthier husbands."

And for "Secret ambition or fantasy," he wrote:

"Seeing if I can get married as many times as Liz Taylor and gain my riches through divorces, not work."

When Sharon finally saw the newsletter, she said "eek," or something to that effect. Then she called her lawyer.

And now Gerald has been slapped with a $50,000 lawsuit by Sharon. She says that's what it will cost to soothe her embarrassment and mental anguish.

I suppose that if there is a moral to this story, it is that it's a good idea to let sleeping ex-wives lie.

And Gerald had better hope that when this $50,000 case comes to court, he draws a judge who either has a wicked sense of humor or a nasty ex-wife.

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