But what impressed me the most about seeing this famous duo at the parade wasn’t their celebrity status. It was the fact that they were walking with their golden haired children and their golden haired dog as a family even though the court papers indicate otherwise. I had no doubt they didn’t do this for the fans or the photo ops, but instead, for their children. It was about as unselfish an act as one can perform, especially considering their history.
Divorce makes people self-centered, and in a town where narcissism is as rampant as lies are in politics, it can be challenging to put aside the anger, the resentment, the desperate need for revenge and try to live in harmony with an ex. In my case, I wasn’t so forgiving at first. I entered into the realm of “that’s mine, that’s mine too and I’m going to put us into serious debt to prove it.” I hired a dragon attorney, one who wanted to go after my ex, not only for everything he worked his whole life for, but for blood. The papers were signed, we were about to go to court, when my six year old daughter looked up at me with her sage green eyes and said, “Mommy, please don’t break up our family.” This made me step outside of myself, and especially my ego and all that anger and resentment and the need to get revenge turned into a great big ball of empathy. I realized it wasn't about me and my needs anymore, it was about her and her brother. I fired my lawyer and decided to learn to get along with my ex instead of taking him down. We did go through with the divorce, but now, he's no longer my enemy, instead, he's my best friend. And eight years later, we still haven’t reached a financial settlement because in my book, it’s just not worth it. I have a roof over my head, a great life and two beautiful, healthy children. What more could I possibly want? A Louise Vuitton? No thanks, I hate the muddy brown leather embossed with gold Ls and Vs.
Ever since our children were young my ex taught them to ask us how our day went. At first I fought this, thinking it was controlling, and come on, how can you force someone to care, but now, every day at mid afternoon without fail, my son says, “Mom, how was your day?” And he’s not just asking because it was what was taught, he’s asking because he genuinely wants to know. It’s a little like smiling – if you practice it enough, you eventually feel it and this one sentence opens up an whole plethora of dialogue, and that’s one thing I miss, I crave even, because for the most part, nobody asks me how I'm doing. I don't think it's because they don't care. They maybe just care about themselves a little bit more and that's okay. But they're missing out because sometimes I have some really interesting answers.
There are good people in LA, especially in the Palisades, and that’s why I stay. I'm one of the lucky ones who surround myself with some really grounded friends, friends who ask me without fail every time I speak to them – “How are things going,” even if they’ve heard the answer only days before. It makes me feel connected, it makes me feel cared about and I now understand why my ex was so insistent that our kids did this. He wanted them to experience that human connection instead of delving into the world of self-absorption that so many souls here are trapped in.
The day before the parade, my ex and I returned from a road trip up the coast with the kids. Before we left, my daughter bet me five dollars we wouldn’t be able to get through the weekend without fighting. I’m happy to say, she lost. I didn’t agree to go because I wanted to go on a trip and stay in fancy hotels and eat at lavish restaurants. I agreed probably for the same reason Jen agreed to march in the parade with Ben by her side, carrying their youngest on the shoulders that had once been adorned with a superhero cape. Because in a town where people are more impressed with fame and cars and houses than they are with the simplicities of life, such as the calming view of the Pacific, or the beauty of the perfumed flora growing in the mountains after a spring rain, or asking someone how their day is going, people tend to lose sight of those around them. This, to me, is very sad.
It gives me hope the power couple known as Ben and Jen are raising the bar, setting a new standard for the public to emulate. I refuse to allow my children to watch the Kardashians or any other reality show that glorifies the ugliness of egocentricity, where people don’t know how to ask, “How was your day?” since it’s not in their vocabulary. And it’s not easy, I know this first hand, but in a place like the Palisades, what Ben and Jen are doing is revolutionary, and in my eyes, this makes them the most powerful couple of all, not because of their wealth or their credentials, but because of the love they have for their family and their willingness to put their grievances aside for at least one day and march with their children in the parade. Getting along with my ex, forgiving him, learning to love him as a friend, as my family was the most difficult challenge of my life, but in the end, the rewards were worth the struggle and so is the confident air I see in my children as they navigate their way through the teens.
After the parade, my ex, my son and I walked our dog down to the bluffs to look out upon the vast Pacific, the water mottled with sails and seagulls, the beaches peppered with vibrant umbrellas making the scene below look like a masterpiece by Christo.
“How was your holiday so far?” my son asked me.
“I had a great holiday, thanks,” I said, and then I asked him how was his.
“It was the best,” he said. “Because we spent it as a happy family.”
Yes we did. Perhaps we’re not the typical Palisadian family, because I chose amnesty over the almighty dollar, and it’s awkward for my ex and I to date because people still think we’re together, or sometimes it confuses people as to whether they should invite us to parties as a single or a couple. But we’re a family nonetheless, like Ben and Jen, even if the court papers indicate otherwise.