The One Thing You Should Learn From Divorce

11/17/2010 02:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Before you read any further I think I need to let you know I am not divorced. In fact, I was never even married until I was 44. And I don't have kids. My parents were divorced if that counts for anything. Regardless, I am going to tell you the single most important thing you can learn from getting divorced. It's something I know you haven't really learned yet, even though -- if you are divorced -- you should have. And, do you know how I know that you haven't learned this lesson yet? Because I can hear you judging me.

It sounds something like this:

"She's not divorced? How the hell can she write about the one thing I should have learned from my divorced when she's not even divorced?", "She never even got married until she was in her forties!" And... "She doesn't have kids? Oh, this oughta be good."

And that's my point. The one thing you should have learned from your divorce is: Don't judge.

If you weren't so judgmental then your divorce would not have been as painful. That's because, until you got divorced, (and maybe still) you privately or publicly indulged in that highly judgmental conversation that usually starts with "what happened?"

"She got fat."
"She got old."
"She didn't give him any sex."
"She cheated."

"He has a drinking/drug/gambling problem."
"He stole money."
"He cheated."
"He's gay."

Pick one that applies to your divorce or feel free to add your own. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that the minute you realized you were getting a divorce, you were gripped with the fear of being judged. It probably crept in even before the fear of losing your money, losing your kids, or dying alone. Maybe you thought: "What will people say?"

And the answer, of course, is that they would probably say the same thing that you said about everyone who had ever gotten divorced. That somehow they were flawed in a way that you were not. And now you are. Or at least people will think you are.

They will judge you. And you will feel it.

You still feel it.

Which is why I feel qualified to weigh in on the subject of divorce.

Because the only thing judged more harshly than being divorced, is being single, which as noted above, I was until 44.

It sounds like this:

"What's wrong with her?"
"She must be gay."
"It's probably because her parents were divorced."

Forgive me for being slightly amused by people who think divorce is the ultimate shame. In fact, the truth is, the fear of being single is enough to make most people marry someone they'll probably divorce.

So now I'm married and you're divorced and so what? And that's my point. The one thing you should have learned from your divorce is: Don't judge.

I think that's what Nora Ephron is really trying to say in her new book, I Remember Nothing, which I just read at Arianna's urging.

(I read it in one night, in bed. I was wondering if the light was bothering my husband but I couldn't put it down. If we get divorced because I am inconsiderate, please don't judge me. Blame Nora.)

Anyway, in a chapter titled "The D Word", Nora writes:

The most important thing about me, for quite a long chunk of my life, was that I was divorced. Even after I was no longer divorced but remarried, this was true.

This is funny to me. Not funny because Nora cracks me up, but funny because when most people think of Nora Ephron, her being divorced probably doesn't even enter their minds. And yet to Nora, it was defining.

The good news is Nora is no longer concerned with her being divorced. She is now concerned with aging. And do you know why? Because of the judgment.

It sounds something like this:

"She always has food in her teeth."
"She's an idiot."
"I hate following her in the bathroom."

"He has bad breath."
"His nose hairs are gross."
"He's boring."

Nora knows that at some point, most people will not be judged by their children, their marital status or what they have accomplished in their lives, they will only be judged as old.

They will be ignored and mocked and discounted by people who are younger.

And that's the real shame.

Don't judge.

Because even if you never get divorced, you will definitely get old. And then you will either die, or worse... you'll be single.