For some time, bars have served as the proverbial breakup spot: not too private for the sake of soothing an awkward situation, and public enough in case something (or someone) goes wrong.
On this afternoon, there's not much that can go askew; Janet Baker and Jay Horton jumped most of their relationship hurdles years ago. They're at a downtown bar on a recent Thursday afternoon to come full circle on a marriage the two say just wasn't meant to be. They're headed to a pawnshop--the same place where they bought their wedding rings more than three years ago--to sell them back.
Theirs is a relationship that started at Occidental College in Southern California. It might be a total coincidence that the university was the site where the college scenes for the teen soap opera Beverly Hills 90210 were filmed, but Janet and Jay's relationship--and subsequent marriage--has endured just as much drama and is now being canceled.
Janet pretty much knew what she was getting into when she started dating Jay. "Jay Horton doesn't have the usual sense of responsibility," she says. "He has an unusually chaotic lifestyle, and that's what attracted me to him at first."
The two broke up three times before becoming engaged in Portland on Jay's birthday in April 2000. The engagement--Janet calls it "an extended dare"--was the product of a particularly extravagant meal at El Gaucho. "I had a lot of wine and steak," Janet says, "and I was feeling very happy."
The two had very different ideas about how they wanted to tie the knot. Janet, who works at Wells Fargo and is now 28, favored eloping to Vegas. Jay, a WW freelancer who gives his age as "late, late twenties," wanted a big party.
Janet's family wasn't all too thrilled. "It was a kind of Flirting with Disaster vibe," she says, referring to the 1996 Ben Stiller-Patricia Arquette comedy in which everything that can go wrong does.
That kind of scenario nearly ruined their wedding. The arrival of friends and family meant that the two didn't see much of each other before the big day. "It was a week of insane drunkenness," Jay recalls.
By the time they returned from their honeymoon in London, things took a turn toward actual disaster. Sleeplessness caused by jet lag and combined with other, unnamed factors landed Janet in the hospital for 10 days. A harrowing ordeal, to be sure, but the two take equal credit for the dissolution of their marriage just three months into it. "It was my lifestyle and her craziness," Jay says.
It's taken more than three years to complete their divorce process because of the couple's financial trouble. (Janet and Jay completed bankruptcy proceedings last year.) When asked if theirs was a marriage that should never have existed, Janet nods her head yes. But then she changes her mind after Jay disagrees. He says, "There would have been a lot more questions left open if we didn't [get married]."
If all goes as planned, Jay and Janet will be officially divorced on March 30. Janet says she'll never be married again. Jay has started another relationship; he proposed last year. His new fiancée, Sandra Kneip, says she'll be glad when her husband-to-be is no longer married.
Jay is already preparing for a summer 2005 wedding at Timberline Lodge. "You know," he says with a cheeky smile and curiously shifting eyes, "Mickey Rooney was married six times."
Actually, Jay, it was eight times, and look at his career.