July 22, 2007

Creator of modern American ethos becomes Respondent in David vs. David

I confess I burst out laughing when I heard Laurie David had filed for divorce from Larry David. It was kind of an autonomic response. While I don't really know what Larry David is like on a day-to-day basis (and probably don't want to know), he has provided so many clues, through his alter ego George Costanza, about his attitudes toward commitment in general and women in particular, that his marriage and family life presented a quandary. Either the self he has presented seriatim in two sitcoms is phony, or this attempt to play-act his way through marriage was hopeless. I couldn't see any other possibilities. Fortunately, life has confirmed the veracity of art. The anti-social curmudgeon and existential hero of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm is the real deal. Laurie David is beautiful, passionate about the great environmental cause of our day (global warming), and has even done something the talented Larry will never do, won an Oscar. And yet Larry reports that the divorce is "completely amicable" (reminiscent of George's acceptance of his fiancee's death after licking cheap envelopes which George picked to save money). He is not so much ready as anxious to move on. I suspect, in fact, that he's been ready to leave that marriage for about 9 years.

One positive effect is that the life of Curb Your Enthusiasm has probably been extended. The sitcom Larry David can now suffer through one season of marital discord with Cheryl, his sitcom wife, and that guarantees one season beyond that of Larry as a single guy and nebbishy swinger. It's all new material, and material is what Larry David's life is really about. Not a home, and children, and a warm glow. Material, which gives him something to think about, which gives him something to write about and create, which relieves him from the real demon of his existence, boredom. Curb was in its last throes, because Larry's life had become stale and predictable. Much as Lyle Lovett married Julia Roberts so he could generate some new emotions for his best album ever (Road to Ensenada), Larry needed out of the marriage to Laurie so he could experience life as a rich, single, divorced Meursault of the West L.A. set.

They were together 14 years, which serves everyone's purposes, including the two girls, ages 11 and 13. Laurie was in what California calls a "long term" marriage, longer than 10 years (that's an eternity in California, in fact) so the court will reserve jurisdiction on the question of alimony, meaning: it could go on for a long time. Laurie is entitled to support sufficient to maintain the life to which she had grown accustomed, which looked pretty sweet. All of this is subject to the
possibility of some overriding prenup, of course, but I'm thinking: Laurie probably didn't leave too much on the table. Think about it. She married Larry in 1993, about halfway through Seinfeld's run. They had the first daughter within a year. Larry was well-off and successful, no doubt, but he was not yet the Croesus he would become when Seinfeld entered syndication. Then, so the common estimate has it, he and Jerry Seinfeld both walked away with $200 million. That was money Larry earned during the marriage, that is, community property. Laurie's timing was perfect. Larry, who drove cabs and bounced around New York earning a half-assed living as a "comedian's comedian" until he was past 40, probably wondered, somewhere around 1998, just exactly what he had gotten himself into. He was like George, again, who was stuck in a situation where his pilot deal with NBC depended on his staying in the relationship with Susan, the NBC exec. So that, for the first time in his life, George Costanza had a cachet and marketable line with women - but he couldn't use it; and Larry David, in 1998, suddenly could graduate from his handicapped position as a bald and inept Romeo, with the help of the greatest aphrodisiac of all, the one that works with practically any woman on Earth -- LOTS and LOTS of MONEY. And he couldn't use it either, because he was (clearing throat) happily married to (swallowing hard) Laurie, with, um (dropping voice), two lovely children.

Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in. To Larry's lasting credit, as proof that certain moral values within his core (which indeed are often on display in Curb) are vibrant and enduring, he hung in there another 9 years. That, I'm sure, was a very good thing to do for the girls. Then, as he turned the corner on 60, and Laurie hit a cognate point for women, 49, it was time to act. Waiting much longer to become the nebbishy, fabulously rich swinger would become, well, unseemly. As it is, he's got a few good years left. Laurie's got it made in the shade. All of it very much in line with the narcissistic ethos of our time, as adumbrated (and lived) by one of the great creative minds of our generation.

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