Tammy Swift, Published September 07 2013
Swift: Divorce brings ups, downs and Tater Tots
You may nod sympathetically when someone else is going through it, and you may secretly judge, thinking, “These darned kids today don’t know how to hunker down and stay married anymore.”
I’m guilty of doing and thinking this.
But the fact of the matter is divorce is a lot like marriage, childbirth or a death in the family. In short, you cannot imagine what it is like until you experience it firsthand. Another person, who has been a presence in your life for years, is suddenly gone. And even if that person was sometimes a glorious pain, you can’t help but notice the void.
In the past few months, I have traveled that Rocky Road of Dissolution. Ours was a relatively smooth and uncomplicated de-wedding. We didn’t have kids to get caught in the crossfire, we both were ready for it, and we did not have South Fork-worthy holdings. (In a way, though, this made us more petty. If you couldn’t argue over the summer home in France, you wound up bickering over who got the cool spatulas.)
But the Summer of My Dissolution hasn’t been easy. One day, I feel free and relieved and can’t get over the fact that I now have Complete and Unbridled Domination Over the Remote Control. Other days, I feel scared, unloved and, yes, pathetically sorry for myself.
But I’m discovering divorce is like a box of scorpions and cupcakes. Yes, there’s scary, icky stuff, but there are unexpected sweet moments, too.
Divorced life is filled with ups, downs and very few in-betweens.
Among the bitter parts of post-marriage life:
• The constant reminders that you are operating as Swift, Table of One. You can no longer finish a carton of milk before it spoils. You find yourself staring at your empty ring finger with the same attention you once gave to your shiny, new engagement ring. One day, I stumbled across our wedding registry and burst into tears. That seemingly innocuous sheet of paper seemed to represent all that youthful optimism of two people who are about to begin a new life together. Now, it was just evidence of something that didn’t work out.
• The feeling of failure. I still have those stubborn moments where I think, “If only we’d tried harder/seen another counselor/undergone extensive neural-reconditioning and had nano chips implanted in our brains so we could have been more compatible.” A friend once told me, “The last thing to die in a relationship is the dream of what that relationship could have been.” Man, truer words could not have been spoken.
• The sensation you have somehow traveled back in time because you are repeating the rituals you once practiced as a singloid. That includes transitioning from home ownership back to renting, buying cheap furniture because it’s all you can afford and calling your dad to get advice on how to reset the hot-water heater.
• The experience of bumping into friends/family from your married life and awkwardly making small talk as you all avoid the Great, Big, Looming Fact.
Yet, all has not been dark and grim. I’ve already noticed a few silver linings amid the clouds:
• Getting to eat whatever you want. My ex hated tater-tots, and so one of the first things I made as a single woman was a gigantic tater-tot casserole. Of course, I had to eat it all week, but I showed him, dammit!
• Decorating your house exactly as you please. Likewise, you no longer need to find diplomatic ways to explain to your spouse that his wildlife prints are really better suited for another room. Like the garage. In your neighbor’s house.
• Retiring from activities you never really liked. My idea of lake life was a sleepy cabin on a sleepy lake where you could read a good book and take a nap in the middle of the day. My former husband’s idea of lake life was a loud, noisy, testoster-fest of knee boarding, jet skiing and – in a pinch – kamikaze parasailing through walls of flames. Now, I no longer have to pretend like I think I’m still a beach bunny in a 1980s Miller Lite commercial. Just point me toward the hammock, please.
• Fixing stuff. OK, so it took me longer to put together that IKEA desk than it takes the average carpenter to build a two-car garage. But there’s a great accomplishment in knowing that I figured it out on my own. Didn’t Helen Reddy sing a song about this? Something like: “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar (as I Triumph Over Imprecisely Drilled MDF and Incomprehensible Swedish Illustrations).”
• Simply being myself. All in the interest of so-called harmony, I suppressed many facets of myself. My ex wasn’t some monster who made me do this; I simply sold out in the interest of somehow being more acceptable. I didn’t make waffles because my husband thought nobody should eat sweet things for breakfast. Last weekend, I caught myself singing along to the radio – something I hadn’t done for years because my ex found it irritating. In that moment, I wanted to sing so loudly that I crashed into an International House of Waffles.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Just that it’s all OK. Divorce is a real loss, and it’s OK to sometimes veer between relief and sadness. It’s all part of the process.
So, for now, I’ll just focus on making dinner.
On tonight’s menu: Waffles, smothered in tater tots.
Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org