When I was a kid, I didn't know anyone who came from a divorced household until I was 12. By that time, I knew two people whose parents were divorced. When I hit high school, I didn't meet many more families who were divorced. Perhaps two or three. Nowadays, it's increasingly common to come from a divorced family or be involved with a divorce. But as a child during the '80s and early '90s, it was a hush-hush word.
Knowing when to announce to family, friends, or perhaps even co-workers about a divorce is a personal choice. Each couple and individual has to decide when the time is right for their own unique situation. I went months with my ex-husband and myself separated, without telling people other than immediate family and close friends the news. Even now, there are certain social situations in which I forget to mention, "Hey, I'm getting a divorce." Not that you need to announce to everyone like, "Hey Starbucks barista, make it a chai, and did you know my husband and I failed marriage counseling?" or "Hi manicurist, I'm getting a divorce. Don't snip that cuticle too rough please." Or to get really TMI, tell the Victoria's Secret lady as I shove my boobs into some bra hoping it will fit, "Am I spilling out over these cups, and by the way, did you know that my husband and I are splitsville?"
Maybe for the average woman it's no big deal to say, "Hey, I'm getting a divorce," and I am certain that six months, a year, and five years from now, saying I got a divorce will roll off my tongue like announcing my blood type and social security number, but for now? I feel like a big fat idiot. It feels like I am saying, "HI, I'm Laura, and I am getting a divorce" while all eyes burn into my soul and psyche deciding my worth.
What did she do wrong? What did he do wrong? How did her marriage fail? Is she a jerk? Is he a jerk? Are they both jerks?
I remember the time my friend said that divorce begets divorce, as if it's some disease spreading through the world, and that really made me angry. I fully believe in marriage, and I know a bunch of happy couples. Just because we decided to call it quits does not mean I'm sitting here with my baseball cap and pennant cheering on my friends' hopeful divorces. I want to believe in a happy ending for myself, for my ex, and for our daughter. I'm a romantic who believes in love and fairy-tale endings, even if my Prince Charming has to find another lady with a different size shoe.
Sometimes, when I tell people about the divorce, I kind of mumble it fast so people get the subtext: don't ask me any questions. Other times I say it cheerfully because I'm feeling positive that day, and I add the spin: it's for the best, and we both are very amicable. I usually add that, lest someone thinks that entering a conversation with me will start a crap show rendition of The Jerry Springer Show.
"It's amicable. We're OK."
And now with this new school year, my daughter has made some good new friends that she talks to me about every day. Finally, I decided to call one of the mothers to ask for a playdate. It's funny actually how nervous I get when asking a mom or meeting a new mom for a playdate. It feels a little like actual dating.
Will she like me? Will we get along? Will the kids get along?
I make sure to look extra presentable and always offer to bring a treat or something over when meeting a new mom and kid for a playdate. It's almost like courting. I pick imaginary petals in my head thinking: the mom liked me; she liked me not; she liked me. And I myself measure up the mom: will she be an acquaintance or perhaps a real friend?
Now with the divorce going on, it adds to the anxiety (for me).
Will she ask why I got a divorce? Will she judge me?
It's silly, really. Chances are this mom doesn't even care about my silly old divorce and me. She is probably more concerned with what is for dinner tonight than my boring life. She's most likely just excited that her kid has a new friend to play with. After making the playdate with this new pal for my daughter, I wondered why I worry so much about telling people the big news about the "D" word. Is it my childhood upbringing of how divorce was taboo? Or is it my own personal feelings of failure seeping through?
I went to Columbia University for writing and literature. Each "A" earned brought me a sense of great joy. "A minuses" were OK, and the B range was just well . . . meh. Maybe a part of me feels as if I am walking around with a big "F" on my head: I failed marriage. I failed at a relationship.
Will I ever succeed?
But what good does it do me to feel that way when the fact is, many people are divorcing each day. So this marriage didn't work out. To the average Joe Schmo, it failed.
But to me, it was a success for many reasons: I loved someone for the first time and became a mother, the best thing to ever happen to me. And even if we have to shake hands at the end of the day and part, we will always have this little person who we brought into the world — a healthy, happy little person — and to me that spells success. That we have a healthy and happy child despite the fact that we cannot make it work is joy — that's an "A."
Screw my old-school upbringing. I may get an "F" for marriage, but we get an "A+" for effort — for the numerous attempts to make it work and trying our best. At the end of the day, that's all that matters, not my silly little worries. At the end of the day, I give myself an "A" for a new attitude and a new happy life.