A number of months after splitting from my second husband, an acquaintance walked up to me in the park and declared: "I hear you're getting divorced!"
Ugh, I wanted to crawl under the bench as I enviously watched my son playing freely from the indignities of adulthood on the swings. But in an attempt to spare myself having to hear real details out loud yet again, I took a breath and awkwardly managed a stock we're-splitting-but-will-remain-good-friends.
Not in the least bit satisfied, on she pried (though there wasn't anything scandalous to get) before finally blurting out, "I saw him the other day walking down the street with a woman who looked just like you."
Even though we were both beginning to date, I was still licking my wounds, and didn't exactly welcome such conversation or information. Though that particular fishing expedition, ahem, conversation happened several years ago, I can still remember it very clearly.
It's one thing to live through the trauma of a break-up, it's quite another to have to relive it again and again every time you run into someone. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just send out some kind of divorce announcement and just get it done with all at once? Where was the guidance and who was the model of how to do this properly?
The thought kept nagging me over the years, and I found myself searching for the ultimate role models of divorce, ones who could guide us all through its thorny, public aftermath. And lo and behold, I actually found them in the celebrity couple.
Now hear me out (cause even I had to convince myself of this one), and think strictly of how they announce and handle divorce, not how they handle their actual marriage. Since most celebrity couples can't afford bad publicity, they need to keep up appearances of having a completely civilized divorced.
Armed with a PR machine churning out press releases, they don't (personally) have to keep repeating and reliving the whole depressing story, like the one I had to stammer through at the park.
Because let's face it, the way one says, "I'm getting divorced" usually sets the tone of the split. Consider these three reasons we may want to rip out a page from the Hollywood playbook of divorce:
1. They get ahead of the story: They make one swift announcement like Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez did a couple years back: "We have decided to end our marriage. This was a very difficult decision. We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters. It is a painful time for all involved and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time."
2. They agree to remain on lockdown: There's the announcement, they keep a low-profile for a bit and don't do interviews so they can avoid the divorce conversation..
3. They stay on the same team: No matter the reality they appear to be on the same team. If they ever asked they usually say something along the lines of: Our focus is on our children at this time.
I kid you not some of the above can actually be weaved into a mere mortal's divorce. A friend was telling me how he recently received an email from a guy he knew who was married for 20 years. It was a mass email to 100 friends that read: I'm emailing you because you've been in our lives and we want to tell you that we've decided to divorce. We have mutually agreed that it is what's best. Please don't hit reply. We appreciate your concern but we are asking you to respect our privacy at this time.
Sound sort of familiar, doesn't it? Talk about setting the tone and setting boundaries at the same time!
Of course, unlike Hollywood stars that can stay secluded on an island, home or movie set, there is the reality of day-to-day life and the dreaded chance encounter. Eventually one has to leave the house and run into that nosey neighbor or co-worker who just can't help themselves, even though they were copied on your boilerplate email. Despite the best technology and planning, there's always room for human error. After all, isn't that human error what lead us all to divorce in the first place?