Magazine | July 5, 2010, Issue

The Long View

Dear Rusty,

Can I come stay with you, just for a couple of weeks, while I figure out where I’m going to live?

Yeah, I know this is awkward. And I know that you don’t have that much room down there in your tent on the Orinoco River. And I promise to bring only the essentials this time — just my Kindle and my MacBook Pro and my iPhone and my Oscar.

Please?

As you probably have read, Tipper and I are separating. I know: unexpected. I mean, we were in many ways the perfect couple.

People keep asking me, what happened? My friends in Hollywood, Bono, all of those guys, are surprised and maybe even a little disappointed in us. And I get that. It’s sort of what people said when we built our dream house in Tennessee — oh, look at that big carbon footprint, oh, look how much oil it takes to heat that house — and you know what? I resented it. You need a house that big if your head is so full of dreams.

Although in many ways, I think, a house that large allowed Tipper and me to drift apart. She could be in one wing doing something and I could be in another and we’d never even pass each other in the hallway. In one of the hallways. In any of the seven wings.

It’s a big house. Not sure what’s going to happen to it now. I might turn it into a Hampton Suites.

What I’m really worried about, more than anything, is what this might mean for the millions of people who learned and grew so much from reading the books we wrote together about marriage, Joined at the Heart and The Spirit of Family.

Both of those books are winners — and I don’t mean in the financial sense, either, Rusty, or at least, not just in the financial sense. What I mean is, Tipper and I, when we were married, were experts in what it takes to keep a marriage solid and happy and lasting. Right up until the separation.

Now that we’re separated, of course, she and I are both working on books about that. Hers is going to be called When the Home Climate Cools. Mine is titled Reuse and Recycle: Marriage 2.0, which I think is a little catchier and a little less angry. Tipper’s going to have to work on those issues if she expects us to go on another joint book tour.

And it’s totally amicable, as I know you’d imagine. We’re not squabbling in the press or telling tales on each other. We’re keeping it dignified. Tipper’s going to live in the Montecito house. I’m going to live in the San Francisco place. The upside of having a big carbon footprint is, when you get divorced, nobody has to move.

The worst part of the whole ordeal, really, was the phone call from Bill. I knew it was coming — I expected him to gloat. I had said some things about him and his sense of morality during the 2000 campaign that I knew got under his skin. And now this. His marriage to Hillary is still intact; mine to Tipper isn’t. And I know that when I get their Christmas card this year I’m going to want to rip it up — both of them in those awful red sweaters, smiling over cups of mulled cider. Honestly, is anyone buying that? What do they know about a happy marriage? Where are their twin bestsellers on the topic?

Of course, I got exercised over nothing. Bill just wanted to make sure that I knew, as a newly single guy, that he had dibs on “everything in California south of Santa Barbara, everything on the island of Manhattan, Toronto but not Vancouver, France, the U.K., and all of Australia.” He then told me I could have first shot at any “talent” in Germany, Mexico, East Asia, Northern California, the Rockies (he’s allergic to most pine trees), the Midwest, and the mid-South. We’ll take Florida and South Asia on a “case-by-case basis.”

He also told me that ladies these days like the bearded look — he’s been thinking about growing a Van Dyke — and that if I end up getting a tattoo, it should be of one of those neutral-sounding Chinese characters, like “wind” or “nature force” or something. Also, according to Bill, as of the official separation date, I must never eat another piece of bread, rice, pasta, or any other carbohydrate at all. Women, apparently, are “brutal” about that stuff. He told me that I needed to lose at least 20 pounds if I ever wanted any . . . well, if I ever wanted to date again, is what he meant.

What do you say, Rusty? Can I crash with you for a while until I get my head together? And lose some lbs?

Your pal,

Al

Sent wirelessly from my iPad

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