A friend of mine just sent out her “Yippee! my divorce is finalized” email. Unfortunately a frequent occurrence these days, these ‘divorce emails’ are an encouraging sign that old friends will now have time for dinners, weekend adventures and irresponsible mid week drinking.
I always did like to be first, and as an early ‘divorcee’ (why do I suddenly feel like I should be smoking with lipstick on my teeth), I find myself in a rare ‘mother hen’ role as I watch the ‘post divorce insanity (PDI)’ start to unfold. For those in the fortunate position of an impending ‘decree nisi’, here’s my guide to getting through your next few months of post divorce insanity.
You know you’re entering the world of PDI when you first find yourself ¾ of your way into a bottle of wine and its 5.45pm. It may start with a bottle on a Friday night, a martini on a ‘hump day’ Wednesday, maybe the occasional beer on the porch while you watch functional neighborhood couples walk their perfect Golden Retrievers. Then The guy from the liquor store starts to nod at you and you invest in some new glasses (since you seem to not be able to fill the dishwasher that often these days, you’re getting bored of rinsing your wine glasses under the tap). Full blown PDI sets in with the purchase of your first case. You rationalize it – “I’ll always have a bottle if friends come over” or “I’m saving 20% with the case discount” – but deep down you know it’s merely because you’re lazy and no one likes to drive to the liquor store on a daily basis (unless you’re 75 and don’t get out much). Thankfully friends and the need to work limits this phase before full blow alcoholism sets it. You know you’re moving out of Phase 1 of PDI when you run out of friends to meet you after work for a drink, your kidneys start to fail and you’re forced to look for something else. Time to move to Phase 2.
2. Hooking up.
This phase varies in length, entirely depending on the size of your ‘little black book’, the length of your marriage, your network of single friends and your ability to masque your insanity with heavy makeup and a pushup bra. In this phase, you replace alcohol with a warm body, a nice smile and the feeling that someone, somewhere thinks you’re hot. Hooking up centers on calling, meeting and hooking up with any available male within a 100 mile radius (more if you’re willing to spring for airfare), for no reason other than to make yourself feel better and get in a little cardio (which does wonders for the drinking weight). Unfortunately, like Phase 1, Phase 2 is dependent on the willingness of other participants and at some point your black book is empty, your Facebook page deserted and you can’t afford to fly Bob out from Michigan. Time to move to Phase 3.
This phase is a mandatory step in every PDI experience, though its name may vary. eHarmony, Chemistry.com,Nerve.com, jDate… all basically the same premise. A new way to find people to hook up with. You might be thinking that you’re ready for a ‘relationship’ and so lured by your ‘free matches’ you sign up. Beware, you have entered the 7 circles of hell – all for $39.95 a month. After spending a couple of hours writing something witty and cropped your ex out of your photos, you start looking for someone to catch your eye. At this point you may be tempted to return to Phase 1, and many do – especially as the apparent sparseness of future mates becomes apparent, but don’t be tempted. In time you’ll find a few cute guys. Especially as your 1 month subscription nears its end. You send some ‘winks’, you might receive a few emails, even engage in some light flirting over your single phone call, and then you agree to a date. Having not dated in a while you psyche yourself up, spend some serious dough on a new ‘trying, but not too hard’ outfit, and dance around the house in your underwear like you used to. Full of expectation you head out the door. 30 minutes later you’re back, wide eyed and bushy haired in shock. You forgot how awful it is to meet a stranger. How people can misrepresent themselves so cruelly. How hard it can be to climb out a bathroom window.
Never mind, in a few days you’re back at the site, seeing who else might be interested and writing the first one off to bad luck. Writing lighthearted responses becomes a full time job. Squinting at blurry photos and trying to guess the year based on his sneakers becomes a new skill you never knew you needed. Flirt after Flirt, Email after Email, Date after Date… most find a few, and dump even more as you realize you’re entering Phase 4.
This phase tends to be short, painful and really hard on your friends.
Warn them in advance they’re about to get bombarded by calls from you asking for potential suitors. This phase sets in when you find yourself on the 6th date with a guy you wouldn’t employ to clean your car. A guy who has the conversational prowess of a 2 x 4. Yep, that cold nausea setting in is the start of Fear. Fear that you’ll never find someone. Fear that you’ll never approximate a family and that the first marriage was a fluke and you’re never going to find anyone mad enough to take you on again. Fear that you’re too old, too fat, too thin, too picky, too accommodating, too … YOU. Symptoms of this phase include calling everyone you know, including husbands of people you barely know, and asking ‘do you have any single friends?’, dating really unattractive guys with warped personalities, watching chick flicks with tears in your eyes on a Saturday night and inviting yourself to any social event where the opposite sex might be (Temple anyone?). Luckily ‘Fear’ runs in course when, in the midst of your 100th chick flick you notice a really cute ‘something’ the main character is wearing and think ‘if I had THAT I’d be much more attractive’. Enter Phase 5.
This phase is the most fun phase of your PDI. Hard on your wallet, your savings, potentially your 401K and (if you have no shame), your parents and friends.. but fun!! Shoppaholicism is characterized by desire and the need to acquire stuff. Anything which you can justify as ‘this really represents who I am ‘. Clothes, shoes, furniture, cars, jewelry, houses, vacations, heck even new hair or a new face can all go some way towards conquering ‘fear’. Once you’ve acquired this purse/ shoe/ pant/watch/ lipstick you know you’re going to feel and look better, cute guys will notice you more and the fear of being ‘on the shelf’ subsides. Of course Shoppaholicsm is horribly limited by funds – so be prepared for the final death throes of this phase – the purchasing of expensive matching underwear sets. Of course, someone, sometime is going to be seeing you naked and the grey cotton underpants just aren’t suitable. So you buy the matching underwear set, and then another, and then another, plus the stockings and mules to match until your dresser looks like Victoria Secret. Once you find yourself armed with enough bras to see you through the next millennium and you’re holding your breath every time you hand over your plastic, its time to move to Phase 6.
This phase, our most tragic, is characterized by exhaustion. You’ve drank, hooked up, dated and shopped yourself into a coma. And you can’t afford to go out or spend another cent. So its you, your plant and your tv remote for the foreseeable future. Welcome to ‘loneliness’. When Friday and Saturday nights loom large in your mind, and pass slower than a bad sermon. Loneliness comes in two parts – feeling alone, and then not caring about being alone. The time between part 1 and part 2 can be weeks, months.. even years (gulp). This phase is unique in that most don’t recognize they’re in it until they’re through it. But for those who find themselves wallowing in Julie Roberts/ Meg Ryan movies on a Saturday afternoon… know that it too will pass. The key to exiting loneliness – start to date yourself. Take a trip by yourself. Invite yourself out to dinner and order the most expensive thing on the menu. Make it through to dessert and coffee. Dress up. Take yourself out to a movie. Fill your schedule. When you find you don’t have time or inclination to even think about a date with a guy you know you’re in the final phase.
This final phase of PDI is our Oprah moment. When you actually start planning future activities without the caveat “…if I’m still single”. When you finally take that trip to Alaska, get that tattoo, take yourself out for that $100 lobster dinner or just find yourself at a party NOT looking for a hook up. When you start to live by your own rules and get yourself a dog. PDI has to have some limits – make sure to warn your friends that any expressed desire to move to Istanbul should be rebuffed, and any tattoos larger than a softball should not be attempted. But this is your time of rediscovery, the sign that PDI is waning, that you’ve made it through to the other side. And weirdly, you’re actually feeling like you understand yourself like you never did before. That you actually like yourself.
Congratulations, your insanity is over.
The only thing you need to worry about is your friend who’s getting that divorce.