As the guests arrived at the party, they took sides. Is that human nature? Ask John Boehner. The relatives divided neatly across party lines, hers on her side of the room, yours on yours.
In the large party space at her new condo, the friends were not, however, as susceptible to easy division. All of them greeted you and Andrea in turn, some with sympathetic murmurs directed at one but not both of you. Why not both of you? Because the friends mostly took a side too, based on whose friend they were first, from each of your high schools, colleges, work, etc.
The ones that didn't have a natural side were joint friendship acquisitions, nearly all parents of Ben's school and camp friends. You didn't know then six months into sudden bachelorhood, but only one couple out of this group would be at Ben's next birthday and none at the following. For now, they clung together uneasily in their own cluster near the doors like settlers surrounded by native Americans
Ben and his friends, however, showed nothing of the dynamics going on among the adults. Overtly that is. They ran through the space laughing and yelling, playing pool as a contact sport, which resulted in the first casualty of the party, a girl who made unfortunate contact with the cue ball as it vaulted from the table smack into her forehead. You found yourself in close proximity to Andrea as you both felt the little girls lump, gave her two party bags as a lame consolation and apologized profusely to her parents.
"Can you please calm them down? Steve is a PI lawyer, it'll be lucky if we don't get a freaking letter on Monday."
"OK but first you calm down--he's not suing--"
That moment, you heard a loud "Whoa" coming from the direction of the ping pong tables. You wheeled around and Ben was up on the table straddling the net, yelling "I am monstro, the mag--"
And then the table folded inward. Why? You never could figure it out. It like all other ping pong tables you had ever seen folded outward, that's how you put them away. But Ben was a big kid, he had gained about 20 pounds since the separation and that must've buckled the hinges. That was your handicapping of the situation as you bandaged his leg with the ace bandage Andrea miraculously produced from her purse, she did always have that knack of girl scout preparedness. He refused to go to the ER despite the bleeding, and you and Andrea again had to act jointly.
You said, "okay, so we take him right after?"
"Let's see how it looks then."
"See how it looks? You can see how it looks! It looks like 10 stitches!"
"Stop already. Ben? Ben- you have to stop the running around, now, or you are going to the hospital and your friends are going home."
"Fine, whatever, send them home, you guys ruin everything."
Let's recap, shall we? At this innocent celebratory gathering you had inklings of the following facts of sudden bachelorhood: (1) friends and relatives take sides and friends often fade away after divorce, (2) your children will act out based on the inner turmoil divorce causes, watch for weight gain or loss, and for upset masquerading as boisterous bravado. That turmoil will never go away b.t.w., you have to learn to reckon with it, and (3) you and your ex will need to learn to come together and deal with kid issues even if you're in a pitched courtroom battle and even if her new boyfriend rides a Harley and has more ink than skin. If you don't, bad for them and for you in all kinds of ways.
Next installment? The Ex--It's Complicated.