Opening the door, she stared at him with a perplexed look on her face. He was there to pick up the kids for an overnight visit and stood in the doorway. She was expecting him, but he looked different. This transaction was typically uncomfortable, as the separation was still new, only this encounter was different. Olivia stepped back and looked directly at his ear before she announced his arrival to the kids.
“So, what’s going on with your ear?” She slowly said in an acidic tone.
Jason smiled and replied, “Oh, um, this?” pointing to his diamond studded earring in his left ear.
He had gotten his ear pierced two weeks after he left the house. He knew it screamed mid-life crisis, but why not. Jason had spent the better part of his life living within the lines as a dutiful husband and father. The piercing wasn’t planned, but he was delighted at how it looked – very cool. It also brought a smile to his face knowing that Olivia would hate it.
“Yeah, that”, she said.
“I guess you could call it an earring” he replied with pleasure.
“I think it looks stupid” she continued, “What are you having a mid-life crisis?”
Jason tensed up and quietly replied in almost a whisper, staring into her eyes, “perhaps I am.”
“I get it, this must impress the ladies” she said sarcastically.
“No, it impresses me. I did this for me, something for ME”, he strongly avowed.
Olivia shook her head in disapproval and turned to see what was taking the kids so long. She was somewhat shaken by seeing this change in Jason. This tiny earring was a line in the sand. It meant that he was starting to live his own life. Yes, it was a small thing, revealing that her husband was already turning into a different man, a single man. He would have never been so free-spirited if they were still married, and she liked it that way. He was not the man who left the house last month, and that scared her in some small way.
Jason held his ground in the doorway, feeling an emotional freedom. The piercing was just a start to his new life, his mid-life. He would always be committed to his children, and to the support of his ex-wife, but everything else would be different. No more living a robotic and planned lifestyle. That’s over. From now on, his days would be a spontaneous construction of joy; building experiences and relationships without the assistance of a safety net, or an overbearing wife.
Jason and Olivia spent a year after the earring encounter fighting over what was his, hers and theirs. It was a difficult and emotional journey claiming ownership on things they had built together. He gave in more than not, just to move the process along. In her mind, she gathered points against him with every asset she acquired. The kids were somewhat stable, but uncomfortable and confused at times, as they were both under 8 years old. But, in the end they each had a new life to be happy about – he with a new companion 11 years his junior, and she with a comfortable home in the suburbs.
Jason celebrated the divorce by buying a new convertible sports car to go with the pierced ear. With the wind in his graying hair, and his girlfriend next to him, he felt completely content. He didn’t know where this road was leading him, but he was game for wherever he ended up.