Psssst Hey pal. Yeah – you! Things getting a little cool with the old lady? Been wondering lately just where is that ol’ loving feeling? Tell me this: has she let you know that she’ll be out this coming Saturday afternoon (9 February), doing some shopping or getting together with her girlfriends, or for somesuch other reason? She has? And do you live anywhere near Utrecht (that famous old city in the Netherlands)? My friend, I’ve got to give it to you straight: your wife/partner/significant other will probably be on her way then straight to the Divorce Fair scheduled for that day in Utrecht’s convention hall, the Jaarbeurs.
Yes, you read that right: a Divorce Fair! Do you love it? (Oops – perhaps a poor choice of words . . . ) But do check out that link I gave you above, even if you can’t read Dutch. The pictures alone are worth the visit, or I guess I should say the acting of the models depicted therein. The only really important thing you know perusing the site is that “divorce” in Dutch is scheiding, “to divorce” is scheiden. It starts out breezily enough (there up top, in the paragraph just under Scheidingsbeurs: “In the Netherlands 60,000 couples split up yearly, whether married or living together. That means that one in three relationships hits the skids. That’s why AllesOverScheiding.nl [that's this website, of course; alles over scheiding means "all about divorce"] together with SDU publishers is organizing on Saturday, 9 February the first Divorce Fair in the Netherlands at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht.”
Yes, this website – and by extension the Fair itself, which charges €10 admission – has everything that you could possibly require on the question of splitting up: lawyers, relationship coaches, financial advisers, and of course dating sites for the “after phase.” To help you get started, you have there at the very top your broad choices for proceeding further: Should I get divorced?, I want to get divorced, He/She wants to get divorced (i.e. it’s not my idea! It’s my partner’s!), and, finally, We want to get divorced – each of these, as I say, illustrated with its own quite evocative photograph. My favorite is the left-most one, “Should I get divorced?” (reproduced just above), and for two reasons: First, because of that almost indescribable (“vixenish”?) expression on the woman’s freckled face that masterfully makes it clear that, no, she’s not really enfolded within that man’s embrace, she’s actually occupying a very far-removed mental space altogether. It’s a reminder that, gentlemen, you might think you have her in the clinch, but she’s still not necessarily yours. Frankly, that’s why, for a man, the picture is terrifying – and guess what! (Reason #2) That is also the illustration that appears all around the country on the billboard-ads touting the upcoming Divorce Fair!
Planting That Seed of Doubt . . .
Yes, who-knows-how-many thousands or even millions of male Dutch commuters in their trains or their automobiles had occasion recently to pass by that Scheidingsbeurs billboard, be confronted with the picture of that doubting-in-his-very-arms woman, and so involuntarily be forced to confront mentally any of his own doubts about his partner. Really, that whole question – and the related one of whether there was any significant statistical blip in the Dutch divorce statistics occurring around the time of this billboard display – is at least the worthy subject of a graduate school-level sociology/statistics dissertation. Although whoever is doing that study should take care to massage the data appropriately to factor out the very-real uptick in divorces that occurs at the beginning of each and every year, i.e. just after the Xmas holidays (and if you can’t figure out why that is, this article, in English, from the on-line Guardian should enlighten you.)
Really though: a Divorce Fair! It’s true that the Dutch seem to organize a fair for everything (at €10 a head admission, or usually more): for rich people’s toys; for household goods (with a line-up of musical artists and DJs!); for Death, too, in fact (that fair, in Arnhem, is actually called the “Bon Voyage” Fair and features an array of funeral homes hawking their wares and services). And there certainly is a yearly, traveling Sex Fair (warning: must be 18 years or older to follow link!), as well, together with a Pregnancy Fair, naturally enough (actually called the “Nine Months Fair”), plus – thank goodness! – all manner of Marriage/Bride’s Fairs. But a Divorce Fair! I agree with Algemeen Dagblad columnist Carrie when she writes that she would 100,000 times more prefer to attend a Sex Fair than a Divorce Fair – and who are you supposed to go to the latter with, anyway? she asks: With another soon-to-divorce friend? With your mother, who after all was also there when you went to buy your wedding dress? With your own soon-to-be ex?
But Vienna Was First!
At least it is true that this whole Divorce Fair thing is still a very new phenomon, while book fairs (for example, the famous annual ones at Leipzig and Frankfurt-am-Main) have a history reaching back to the very dawn of printing in the mid-15th century, and even sex fairs go back at least a couple decades. (I myself remember with some fondness attending quite an interesting one indeed at the Copenhagen Forum, in October 1991; I wonder if I still have stored somewhere that promotional poster that I managed to snatch.) Not that next Saturday’s <>Scheidingsbeurs in Utrecht is the first one of its kind: as another Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, reminds us, the honor goes to Vienna for holding the very first such fair, back last July (2007), which was a traveling affair, going on after Vienna to hit a series of other Austrian cities.
That De Telegraaf article in fact mentions one feature of those Austrian divorce fairs that I have heretofore searched for in vain on the Utrecht Scheidingsbeurs site: in Austria they were wise enough to set different a different day (Saturday) for men to visit the fair than for women (Sunday) – because you don’t want a situation where the man who is unbeknownst visiting the Divorce Fair runs into the woman, his wife/partner, who is also visiting the Fair unbeknownst. Get ready for some explosions at the Jaarbeurs! Plus, consider the Fair’s timing – it happens the weekend just before Valentine’s Day! Just brush off that old, stale relationship on the 9th, like a snake shedding its skin, with the assistance of the experts in that sort of thing that will be standing by in the Jaarbeurs, and then get cracking right away on lining up someone new! You might very well be ready soon afterwards for that Nine Months Beurs – going on up here at the Amsterdam RAI from 13 to 17 February!
UPDATE: As it turns out, Saturday, 9 February was Amsterdam’s first spring-like day of 2008, with sunny skies throughout the day and temperatures (at around 10° C) almost warm enough to walk around without even a jacket. Not a day to spend walking around inside some convention center – maybe the message was to give the relationship another try and take that spouse/significant other outside for a picnic!