Close to the Edit

  • Posted on: 27 February 2015
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

Last Saturday morning, I popped into a little doctor’s office and got a vasectomy. People say that one should refrain from big decisions (large purchases, tattoos, surgery) during the early days of a divorce. I started the ball rolling (no pun intended) in December on this and the bombs dropped in January.

To backtrack and provide some color on this is tricky. This is one of those tales that would only be well conveyed via some psychic brain dump. Past and future, cause and effect: they get messy in this story. When I have tried to share, people splint the narrative with their morals and predispositions.

My wife was theoretically okay with me having an open relationship. Before the outset of my relationship with my wife, I was seeing someone else. Some of that predated my first date with my future wife; much of it happened after that first date. About eight months of starts and stops; but I kept that quiet because that partner wanted secrecy. I kept that secret until last November and didn’t tell a soul. Then I told my girlfriend who urged me to tell my wife. Four people in on an old secret instead of two? Why not. Truth be told: that secret gnawed at me for 18 years. I would not have kept the secret for an hour had I not been sworn. But I was sworn, so I did that. Maybe had I not had to bear that secret for someone else’s benefit, I could have been more fluid about the open relationship concept. What’s done is done: all I had to do was lose 18 years of opportunities. Such is life.

I really despise secrets. I despise carrying them. I despise asking others to carry them for me. Since the break-up started, I have railed against secrets. I felt relief when I told Erin then Cheryl. I asked them to keep the specifics that I omitted here confidential out of some fragmentary respect for the secrecy I was asked to maintain. Think of how many secrets loom: Who's mentally ill but is on meds? Who's gay but discreet? Who's an alcoholic but managing? What if we could live in the light? What if actions were broken into two categories: those we want to do and we should celebrate; and those we don't want to do, that we squelch and seek to not do? Instead, we do things for some time and squelch that anything is going on. We practice love and keep it a secret. We are sick and keep it a secret. We live in the shadows and hope no one has a flashlight.

All the way along throughout the marriage, I kept saying, “I cannot cheat.” It’s like Batman saying that he doesn’t kill people-- he just throws them down an elevator shaft and lets gravity do the work. So: I held to that narrative for the balance of the relationship with my first wife: “I cannot cheat (now).” She and I have always had epic problems with communication, so there was never a way to broach any non-mundane topic without a fight brewing. Compound that with a systematic hostility to having friends come over and voila: an open relationship was as viable as a UFO sighting. I could have a relationship with anyone who did not come to the house; who I could form some connection and intimacy with without having the time to get to know them; and they would have to abide by the boundaries that my wife and I established through non-communication. “I cannot cheat” wasn’t so much an ethical standpoint, as just the reality of my life-- how the dynamics made another partner impossible. Throughout my marriage, “no” was the default answer for so many things. I got to the point where I assumed that an open relationship, though proffered was going to get a “no” when I asked to do it or talk about it. I didn’t see the point in getting out binoculars to look for a UFO.

Despite all that, the UFO landed. Last Fall, I was safe. I was safest I had felt throughout my life. I had a job. I had a wife. I had a home. I had a daughter. I even had two color coordinated cats and a car I liked. I was in a state where another variable would be okay. When things are bad, I hunker down. I don’t see friends. I don’t do anything that distracts from the pursuit of safety. It’s a really desolate place. Last Fall, I didn’t need to live in that desolation. I was safe. Because I was safe, I got together with Erin. It was with my wife’s fore knowledge, consent and buy in. It was meant to be casual.

In December, the topic of birth control came up. In 2013, my wife got her tubes tied. I was still fertile. In 2007, my wife and I had discussions about me getting a vasectomy. The procedure for a man is very minor compared to what is entailed for a woman. I was open to it and prepping to do it. I was content to spoil my one child with my wife. Then LiveJournal happened. “LiveJournal” is something I will not delve into, but simply put, it was a dead canary in the coal mine and I should have buried the bird. I felt really betrayed at the time by some stuff my first wife did. I actually wanted to split then instead of continue on. In 2007, the math looked like this:
Shawn:39 years old
Divorce:1 year
Ms. New Right:1 year (Cheryl and I were married within 18 months of meeting)
Baby Making:1 year (9 months plus some practice rounds)
Child Rearing:18 years
University:4 years
Financial Breathing for Shawn:64 years old.

Being 64 years old and having my “life back” felt okay-- not ideal, but okay--, should that happen with the next Mrs. DeWolfe. So, I shelved plans to get a vasectomy because it looked like our marriage was going to sunset. If the next wife wanted a child with me, I had to keep that card in the deck. A broken ankle, some relationship chilling and a big cocktail of routine, financial desperation and deceit kept the marriage on life support until January of this year.

When you pump this math into December 2014, it looks like Shawn beckons his son off when he’s 69 years old. In other words, if there were an oopsie I would be 69 years old before I could get my life back. That feels like a long time before I can chill out again. So much so that I made my own decision to take the fertility card out of my deck.

By November 2014, it felt like the open relationship thing could happen; and that could include other partners, too. Were that to happen, I didn’t want to get the news of fatherhood that would take me through to my Golden Years. Condoms have a less than 100% success rate. Other birth control is less than 100%. After one gets past the goalie, abortions can be devastating for the woman undergoing them: it’s a fate I could not visit on any woman. In December, I announced that it was my intention to get snipped. One of us would have to do something major to lower the risk of pregnancy to nil, so I said that it was my turn. The process is low risk, almost free, easy recovery and permanent. This isn’t about devotion or giving my girlfriend a pledge that I didn’t give to my wife. It’s about me. I don’t want to father any more kids. I want to spoil my daughter, send her to a good university and then know that by the time I am 55 years old I will have discretion in my future. I will be able to travel without thinking, “this should go to her college fund.”

So: last Saturday, I went into a little room. The doctor did his thing. There was clearance for my girlfriend to sit by my side and hold my hand. It was not to check if I got edited. (You'd be surprised how many people say they are edited when they actually are not) It’s because she wanted to be there for me. I wanted to do this for the plain and simple reason that I have one daughter I love and I intend to keep it that way. As the doctor did his thing, I would sometimes look at the ceiling and sometimes look at Erin. I was oddly bonding to have her there-- I expected it to be an uncomfortable experience. As I am doing this because of a conversation she I had in December, one cannot help but think she is the reason I am doing it. She's the impetus, but I wanted to this.

I have felt very bottled and restrained for many years. I have had to beat to the drum of so many other people, I long ago lost a sense of me: of what I wanted. That manifested in the physical traits that I wanted to address. As balding man, I wanted to succumb to vanity and try Rogaine-- that was quickly poo-pooed. As a hairy man (hairy and balding? C'mon God), I would like to have a line item for body waxing so that I am not sporting a pelt-- that was countered with "but I like that you're hairy." Over the relationship, weight packed onto me. I never wanted that, but still the pounds came on and opportunities to exercise diminished. Last October, I embarked on a journey to change that, but snugging in exercise had a lot of practical push-back. In 2007, I could have been snipped. In 2013, I was waved off from being snipped. I take the possibility of getting someone pregnant as a big deal. It loomed so large that I only got one woman pregnant once and that was almost surgically planned to happen. If I cannot risk accidentally pregnancy, it means that I have little room to exercise my sexual destiny. That's not as grandiose as it sounds: it's simply "may I be careful, have sex and not have to start a college fund?" In the past week, doing this has put me across The Rubicon. While I cannot turn my fertility on or off, I was content to turn it off so that I could take part in the social and intimate exercise of sex without the biggest consequence in the mix.

Last updated date

Saturday, November 14, 2015 - 16:50