It used to be that your plans to marry had to be read out in churches. (This allowed parishioners to raise an objection. "He's stumpy and stupid." "She's far too beautiful for you." That sort of thing.)
Now, divorce settlements are being slapped on websites.
Gary Dean, a British businessman, who seems to have made quite a lot of money out of advertising, is deeply sensitive to public relations.
He was so upset that people were calling him unpleasant names like "greedy" when he divorced his wife of nineteen years that he set up a website (at cost, I'm thinking) and published their divorce settlement.
"I have been painted in some quarters as a greedy, tight, ruthless bastard who abandoned my wife and children, walking off with millions and leaving my family almost destitute," he writes. "It's simply not true at all and I've decided that instead of allowing the rumour-mill to continue churning out nonsense - I'd just set out the actual facts to stop it."
Mr. Dean declares that the rumors had resonated "mainly in the area between Preston and Blackpool," which would at the very least suggest precise market research is one of his strengths.
It would also suggest that these rumors came from a wet, windy wilderness as desolate as the location of "No Country For Old Men," but with far better beer.
Mr. Dean helps us to understand that divorce in England and Wales is dropping (yes, I'd heard beer sales were declining) and he compares his situation to a recent case in which a relatively famous English soccer player, Ray Parlour, once of Arsenal, suffered a mighty financial tackle from behind.
His ex-wife declared in court that without her, Mr. Parlour would have been a mere journeyman hacker. Which many observers had thought he always had been.
Mr. Dean feels very strongly about this: "With no disrespect to her, or indeed to my ex-wife, success in business or on the playing field, at least in my opinion, are based on the abilities of the 'player'. To my mind it wouldn't have mattered how much support Mrs Parlour had provided to Ray - if he'd been crap on the pitch they wouldn't have been getting the cash they both enjoyed."
I find myself wondering just how skin-tighteningly heinous the gossip must have been for Mr. Dean to feel the necessity to express his views with such bowel-assaulting sincerity.
And to publicly declare that his wife received around $7.5million, plus cars, child maintenance and jewelry.
But I find myself struggling with both my mental and physical equilibrium to read that he also gave her "cherished number plates 7HD and 10HD."
Please forgive me, but how does anyone cherish number plates (or, as they're known in certain parts, license plates)?
And why would anyone feel the need to publicize the sheer power of this number-plate cherishing in a divorce settlement?
They used to say "only in America", right?
No, no. Now it's "only in the area between Preston and Blackpool."