I had been sitting at a table in the bar area of a local restaurant waiting for a girlfriend when the reality of my new life as a divorcee smacked me in the face and made me pay attention.
"Joe," a man I knew casually through work, was comfortably situated on his barstool and, after making eye contact with me, came over to my table and sat down to chat. Just then, a couple I'd known since my teenage boys' elementary school days walked in, saw me tête-à-tête with Joe and flashed me a knowing look -- "Oh, so that's who you're dating."
I immediately panicked -- No, no, you're got this all wrong! Joe's a nice guy but we're not bumping uglies!
It was silly to even think like that; what difference did it make what they thought -- even if I have much better taste in men and want people to notice and appreciate that! But it made oh-so clear the many misconceptions people have about divorcees, including the misguided idea that a divorced woman can't possibly be out with a male friend or male business partner; if a man's sitting with her in a bar, well, she must be schtupping him.
That's a relatively comical and innocent misconception (and could even work in your favor if he happens to be studly), but there are many more that aren't. And if you're getting divorced, you might as well get used to them. There are a handful of times people feel justified to freely comment on your lifestyle choices -- when you're pregnant or announce your decision to remain child-free; when you're a working mom or a stay-at-home mom; and when you get divorced.
Even though about half of marriages end in divorce, people generally don't like divorced people very much. Oh, they may not say it directly, but their oblivious behavior and judgment-tinged language say more than enough.
Just look at the way people consider a marriage a "failure" if it ends in divorce. I don't see mine as a failure -- my marriage gave me two beautiful boys whom I adore and 14 years of relative happiness, give or take. Yes, my marriage ended, but is every ending a failure? Is every intact marriage a success? What about a loveless, antagonistic couple whose marriage exists only to get the kids through high school? How about a marriage that continues only because the wife is too afraid to leave her abusive alcoholic husband? You're just not going to convince me that those marriages are a "success."
Then there's the idea that divorcees are "getting" things -- or maybe it's "getting away" with things. We ex-wives "get" the house, although some of us actually buy the family home from our former husbands, as I did, or buy our own. And if a divorcee lives a cushy life, well, it's obviously because she's living off her former hubby's hard-earned pay, even if she's been the sole breadwinner or an equal economic partner or maybe got a fat inheritance from her newly deceased beloved Aunt Betsy.
Of course we divorcees are marital threats. Now that we are single, we're lonely and desperate, out to male-poach your hubby (remember that study that said women are more attracted to attached men; why not -- the guy's "preapproved" by another woman and obviously able to commit) but not without first "putting ideas" in your wife's head so she might want to get a divorce, too. Look how happy we divorcees are! Look how much wild sex we're having with boy toys! Look at all the freedom we have!
And when we're ready to date again, all it takes is for a man to date one bitter, unhappy, angry divorcee -- yes, they exist -- for all of us to get lumped into that category. It's enough to make a woman, well, bitter, unhappy and angry!
But I'm not blaming everyone else for all these misconceptions about divorcees. Some women are like that, sure, but we divorcees are pretty good at beating up on ourselves.
Once we're stripped of the role of So-and-so's wife and that gold band, we have to figure out -- who am I now?
I know I'm not quite the same person -- you can't make it through a divorce and be the same, and I've been through two -- but I don't think I'm radically different. Just a lot more aware and a little smarter, or so I tell myself.
I'm still figuring it out because life is a work in progress. But I do know one thing -- I'm certainly not going to look to everyone else for answers!
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