I had dinner with three of my friends in Austin the other night; all four of us mothers of toddlers at the same teacher-led playgroup. Over dessert and wine, we discovered that three out of four of us at the table had been divorced and remarried.
The first, a beautiful, willowy blonde who is a fantastic party planner, said she was ashamed for years about being divorced and had a hard time getting past that.
The second, a petite spitfire whose favorite movie is "Sweet Home Alabama" (which is fitting with the plot of the movie, considering that her first marriage was at 19 and she divorced at 21) didn't tell her new in-laws to be that she was divorced until the day before her wedding.
The third admitted she had been a serial engagement collector and told the story about how her husband's mother had discovered some kind of "people finder" on the Internet that listed one's living arrangement history (roommates and addresses) and stumbled across the names of the other men she had lived with her in past. She denied it vehemently and the new MIL-to-be accepted her explanation and dropped it.
As for me, well, if you read my blog, you know the story. Moved in at 23, married him at 29, and divorced at 33.
All of us have struggled with the feelings of failure, disappointment, and shame. Breaking an engagement is difficult enough, with future in-laws vanishing in a flash, and the hope for that life together fading away. Divorce, however, is another level. It's difficult to hide it away and pretend it didn't happen.
Possessions must be divided.
Debt must be transferred.
Houses must be sold.
Names must be changed.
Rings must be removed. And hocked. Or repurposed. Or put away.
A friend of mine in Canada returned to her maiden name recently and received multiple "congratulations on your marriage" messages from well-meaning colleagues. She then had to go through the painful process of explaining to each that she was, in fact, recently divorced and not recently married.
Then there is the stigma of being the divorcee. The admission that you have failed. And the promise of vows disintegrating into dust. No matter what the reason is for the divorce, the feelings may be similar, even if you are the one who decided to leave. Making that decision is a leap across the abyss into new singlehood again.
Sometimes, someone comes into your life at just the right time to help you. It's impossible to believe it's a coincidence when it coincides to perfectly with that juncture of time. In my case, this person was Jeanie.
When my husband left, I spent a month grieving the loss of my marriage, losing 12 pounds in two weeks, spending mad hours at the gym, and beating myself up. When I was ready, I stood up, lifted my chin, and started the process of purging my past. First, I opted against bankruptcy and placed an ad on Roommates.com to find someone to share the burden of my mortgage for my beautiful new custom home.
Oddly, I was less nervous about having a stranger in my house than I was about having to move out of this house I loved.
After a few interviews, I found Jeanie. She was nine years older than me, and soft-spoken, with an ash blonde bob and crinkly blue eyes. Near the end of our meeting at my house, she said, "There's only one thing - I'm gay."
"OK," I said, without blinking an eye. "Are you going to pay the rent?"
"Yes," she nodded.
"Then that doesn't matter to me one bit."
Jeannie was a Godsend, helping me mow the lawn when she didn't have to; organizing a garage sale with me to get rid of anything at all related to my previous life; holding open the garbage bag when I trashed my wedding album and the negatives in one big pile. We joked about having a bonfire. She kept things clean and was easy to live with. When she fell in love, I met her new girlfriend and cautioned them to take it slow; but when she finalized her decision to move out, the timing was perfect. I had found Will and got a new, better paying job that would cover the whole mortgage without a problem.
I'd like to say that anyone who tells me that being gay is a sin and will go to hell can bite me. Or kiss my ass. Or doesn't know what the hell they're talking about. But that is not really the way I like to say things. Instead, I'll say this: if you have never had a gay friend in your life, you're the one missing out. Jeanie not only helped me save me from bankruptcy and kept me from having to sell my house and endure another huge change in my life that would have turned my topsy-turvy world even more crazy; she was a friend when I needed an impartial ear to listen.
Thank God for you, Jeanie. I wish for you a lifetime of happiness, and marriage, if that suits you.
I wish you well, wherever you are.
Kristin is a mother of a sweet 2-year-old boy and wife to a 6th-generation Texan, living in Austin, Texas. Loves: family, airplanes, airports, classic cars, sports, Italy, and dessert; not necessarily in that order. You can reach her via Twitter @AustinKVS or via her blog