This Mansion Ain’t Big Enough for Three of Us

Can Judith Nathan, First Girlfriend, hang around the Mayor’s mansion with his family, or is she de trop when she crosses that threshold? You’d think that Donna Hanover and Rudy Giuliani, being grownups (in age at least), could have resolved the question in the privacy of their lawyers’ offices. But there it is, in court, in the papers. Ah, the feet, fingers and other parts of clay that make up our politicians. One thing seems pretty sure: Our Mayor-still our Mayor for seven more months-has a kiln-baked heart, hard as a rock.

The wise person stays mute around the issues of other people’s divorces. After all, what do we know of who did what to whom first, second or last? Maybe Donna didn’t love him right. Maybe she wouldn’t serve him toast in bed. Maybe she was as cold as ice or thought he hogged the media, or maybe time after time-even when he told her how much it bothered him-she left her panties in the sink. Maybe he has a whole set of very good reasons why he preferred other ladies to her. Then again, maybe he doesn’t. Not knowing the true scoop should silence a columnist. However, silence is not part of the job description. So ….

I think the Mayor and his soon-to-be-former wife are treading water in a nasty soup, i.e., the divorce process. The person who moves out has the most to lose. The deals are being cut as we speak: Who gets Grandma’s silver, which asset was truly earned by one or the other, how much time the children spend with each parent. While the city goes on purring, the scratching and hissing in Gracie Mansion pollutes our communal atmosphere, adds a little to the average New Yorker’s heartburn and ups the amount of aggravation that floats in the air at unacceptable levels.

This is the civic leader who announced to the world that he was going to get a divorce from his wife before he told her. I don’t believe this came as a real surprise to Donna, but it still wasn’t good form. I prefer the morals of the squeegee guys to this kind of dirty water dashed in the wife’s face. Now he wants the woman he loves to sleep in the mansion where his wife and children still live. She must have already been there for Donna to take the issue to court. Think of it: Donna and the children are watching TV when along come Rudy and his lady. They want to sit on the couch, too. Donna knows she mustn’t yell at Rudy in front of the children. She doesn’t look at Judi. Judi feels awkward and complains to Rudy that Donna isn’t looking at her. Just imagine what fun it is to be those children. Daddy’s girlfriend seems nice, but Mommy doesn’t want to pass her the salt at the dinner table. Mommy stares into space as if she hasn’t heard the request.

Of course, it isn’t really like that. Rudy and Judith must eat out most nights or have takeout in their bedroom. They can have the children visit them in the library while Donna waits in the parlor. We all know that this fuss is being made on both sides to gain some likely financial advantage in the final stage of divorce negotiations. Nevertheless, no matter what one has to say about our Mayor, he has nerves of steel. All that talk about how everyone in this city needed discipline in order to shape up has come home to roost. Now we know whose chaos he was hoping to banish with all his self-righteous posturing. True to his Republican creed, he is no bleeding heart-at least as far as the other members of his family go. Why should he stay at Judi’s pad when he has this nice one near the river? Why should he help his children avoid tension or trauma? That stuff is for sissies.

In this kind of situation, the rules are hard to play by, and sore feelings make for sore losers. Rudy may be trying to hurt Donna for practical reasons (advised by his lawyer) by flaunting his new flame in her pajamas, but I for one am shocked. What kind of callous, anti-family behavior is this? Didn’t they tell Rudy in Catholic school that other people’s feelings count? The presence of a man’s new love can only humiliate the former love, the mother of his children. This Mayor is into humiliation, such as revealing to the press a dead man’s juvenile-misdemeanor record after his body lies cold on the ground. This man, who seems to have no end of caddish behavior up his sleeve, scolded the Clintons like he was the parish priest instead of the parish scamp. Want some hypocrisy? Rudy Giuliani is your man. He has enough to spare.

All of this has made me think about ex-wives and ex-husbands, the unspoken protocols that should exist and sometimes do. When I see my husband’s ex-wife of 35 years at a child’s marriage or graduation, I get the shivers. My eyes are wide. I smile politely and try not to stare. But after all, this is a person entangled in my life, even though the divorce occurred before my spouse and I met. She is entangled with me financially. Her children are also his, thereby connecting them-like it or not-to me and mine. It feels weird. When circumstances bring us together, for a moment or two I feel like I am flying without the benefit of an airplane. I am so nice at those times that I practically disappear.

When I pass the school where my ex-husband of 38 years sends his son from his second marriage, I get goose bumps. I have never seen this child, but as he walks the earth, he carries with him a piece of my story. Maybe not, but I can’t help thinking how weird, how discombobulating it all is.

This extra vibration that one picks up from the old neighborhoods of loves that we’ve dumped or are dumping, from vacation spots where one once carried on with so-and-so, adds shine to our lives as well as melancholy, as memories illuminate the black-and-blue marks that never go away. So I certainly understand that Donna must feel like a ghost passed when Judi approaches.

We’re all sophisticated people here, and we know that men and women fall in and out of love, mess around with other people and do real bodily damage. But my sympathies are nevertheless with Donna. Keep the new lady out of her living room. If Mr. Giuliani can turn our city into a place where you can end up in jail for jumping a turnstile, perhaps there should be a special jail for folks who are cruel to those who once trusted them. This Mansion Ain’t Big Enough for Three of Us