|I’m a statistic. I’m getting a divorce. Worse, I’m one of those women who went from her “Father’s house” to her “Husband’s house.” I am alternately ticked off by the description and terrified because it is accurate.
When I was 11 years old, and I am ashamed to admit that age because I already think it was too old to be this stupid, but I cut my own hair. I had long hair that extended down to the small of my back and I decided that I wanted a “Wedge” cut. I didn’t want to lose any length; I just wanted the front to frame my face. So I looked at pictures, that girl from “Eight is Enough;” it looked simple enough. Minutes later, the back was still long, but the front was varying lengths – all the way back to my ears. A minute or two later I approached Mom, scissors in hand, “Mom! Fix this!” She looked at me, shook her head, “I can’t fix that.” I lived in a small town; I don’t know if there were a lot of beauty parlors or maybe just none were open. Now with a hat on my head, my Dad drove me down to the barbershop where I went from long hair that I had loved to a Shag haircut that I hated. But I had no one but myself to blame.
I’ve never lived alone before.
As we divvy up property and he prepares to move, I question my qualifications to do . . . just about everything. Understand that I’ve spent time alone before; anything routine that needs to be performed in the household, I’ve performed before. But now I worry that I’ll forget the dog is in the backyard; that I’ll suddenly forget which night is garbage night. Being the person who “gets the house,” I have the enviable position of knowing exactly where I’ll live and not having to move a dish. I also have a half-empty house, whose walls are echoing with memories. I’m surrounded by the repairs needed that we never made; the half-completed decorations and improvements that wait like half-cut long hair to become a Shag haircut.
At this point the end of my marriage is like a scab. You’ve left the wound alone long enough that it has begun to heal, but here’s this odd, new unfamiliar, bumpy skin. And you just can’t help but pick at it to see if the wound underneath is gone. To see if it still hurts.
I have an “unusual divorce.” We are trying very hard to maintain a friendship. This prompts observations from “it almost seems like you shouldn’t be divorcing” to “it’s pollution, you need to get on with your lives and away from each other.” I can see the truth in both observations. Our marriage, as unfulfilling as it was for each of us at times, is probably better than at least 25% of marriages that aren’t breaking up. And if, as a recent “self-help” article that I read suggested, a successful marriage is based on goodwill towards each other; then our failing marriage is very successful. We talk about his potential dating, his new “women” friends; he tells me he feels better about my potentially marrying someone else.
It is unnatural.
But, then again, if you assume you are an adult at 18, we have spent more of our adult lives together than apart. Most of that time we have been trying to work together as a team. We considered and attempted to have children. We raised pets. We’ve seen each other naked and throwing up and crying; we’ve seen the worst. So why is it natural, why is it assumed that at one of the worst moments in our lives; we would be enemies?
It doesn’t come without effort.
I watch my soon to be ex-husband pack his things and buy his “new stuff.” Pots and pans, a microwave, a television; it’s like watching a son move away to college. I watch and try not to feel like I am being left behind, to struggle alone with the same household struggles we tried to deal with together. It’s hard to remember that only months ago I argued the case that divorce, as well as marriage, was undertaken by optimists; that they were both optimistic actions. If marriage is the hope that two people can become one, somehow magically, romantically, spiritually united and connected; then divorce is the belief, in the face of failure, that idea is still possible.
My parents tell me to join clubs to meet men. An old friend from high school muses that maybe I should get together with a boy we went to school with, who is now also divorced. A divorced friend of mine suggests buying new bed linens.
Meanwhile, I try to remain calm about having to repair the kitchen sink which is leaking and pretend not to notice mold and mildew on the window sills and in the bathroom while I’m also pretending not to think about his new apartment with its dishwasher and air-conditioning, huge closet and a pool.
I understand how anger would be an easier option. It’s hard to remember why I even thought this marriage was a good idea at one time; let alone be optimistic for my future. How exquisitely easy would it be to give in? I’m alone and I’m scared and I’m hurt and I’m angry and I’m tired and I feel . . . . . like I’m shoulder deep in quicksand. How can this be happening to me? FIX THIS!