Clarifying My Relationship

By: Neil Pasricha

Last year I married a very nice lady, developed a relationship with her 22-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, divorced the very nice lady because of philosophical differences, had a child with her 22-year-old daughter, and then was at a loss for words, for I was caught in a mysterious web of undefined relationship titles.

My new child, a daughter, was certainly my daughter, I don’t deny that, but wasn’t she also my grand-step-daughter, since she was the daughter of my step-daughter? Or did the step-daughter rule not apply since I had already divorced the very nice lady who was the mother of the step-daughter, thereby nullifying all relationship titles associated with that key central relationship? And what was I supposed to call the mother of my new daughter, the 22-year-old, whom I had not married nor even dated? She wasn’t my wife or girlfriend, but calling her my step-daughter from a previous marriage seemed a bit, I don’t know, square.

To get myself out of this embarrassing headache I married the 22-year-old daughter, who was the mother of my new zero-year-old daughter, formerly called my grand-step-daughter. I say formerly because when a man and a woman get married and produce a baby girl, the baby girl is called the daughter, case closed, right? All previous relationships involved in producing the baby girl go out the door, right? For clarity, that’s what I’m assuming. Also, the 22-year-old daughter of my ex-wife, my step-daughter, was now also my wife, which I decided must supercede all other relationship titles.

I rested easy for a few minutes after the wedding, kicking off my dress shoes in the back of a Lincoln as we rode to the airport, thinking I had finally sorted out these relationship titles. My “wife” and I had a new baby “daughter,” I thought, smiling slowly at the image of this perfectly nuclear family I had helped create. We would grow up together in a quiet cul-de-sac, with other families such as ours living next door, shooting free throws on our driveway in the afternoon, watching office-based sitcoms in the evening, and erasing our Internet cache at night. It would be so perfect.

Then it struck me: Since the title of wife supercedes all other titles, what about my ex-wife, the very nice lady? Sure, we divorced because of philosophical differences, but the fact remains that she was my wife, and it was through her that I met my new wife, her 22-year-old daughter. If the divorce nullifies all relationship titles associated with the key central relationship, in this case my marriage to the very nice lady, then my relationship with the very nice lady’s 22-year-old daughter, my step-daughter, would have also been nullified. She was just a 22-year-old woman then, and not anything else. I began thinking that I had got married for nothing.

Then I remembered having this same thought well before getting married to the 22-year-old daughter. Look back a few paragraphs if you don’t believe me, for this thought is well documented. It seems I may have acted too hastily, though, because here I am now, with a gold band around my finger, telling the whole world I got married because I had to when I didn’t necessarily have to. I mean, why didn’t I just slow down a bit, think it through, and realize that the key central relationship here, the marriage, affects everything only when the marriage is intact. This makes sense, right? What I’m saying is clear and logical, right, and I’m just a few paces ahead of the crowd on this whole matter, aren’t I? This doesn’t all loop around backwards and end up in nonsensical circle of rhetoric, does it?

Because if so, if I married my 22-year-old non-wife and non-girlfriend just so she would become my wife so that I could mentally supercede the only other title she had in my mind, as a step-daughter from a previous marriage, then that would seem a bit, I don’t know, square.

Then again, wouldn’t you be caught in a nonsensical circle of rhetoric too if your ex-wife was now your mother-in-law?


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