How do you announce that your 10-year marriage is over? Do you change your status on Facebook? Write a cryptic post about new beginnings? Group text?
When my then-husband (let’s call him the Homey) and I decided it was time to spread the word, it was the start of the holiday season. (Merry Christmas, we’re divorcing; pass the turkey!)
We decided to do a group text to everyone who needed to know ASAP. It wasn’t the best plan. But I did not have it in me to talk to individual people and hear the gasps of shock and disappointment over and over. I’d already had those talks with my parents and siblings and my closest friends. Just telling my daughters still had me shaken up.
We sat in our living room. Me on the worn sofa we swore we would replace one day, the Homey across the room in a chair I mistakenly got upholstered in a hideous brown tweed fabric. (You never think the same spots you always claim to watch television with the kids will be the same spots you claim to craft a we’re-breaking-up email to your friends.)
We went back and forth discussing what we should say. Finally, we got it together and began typing on our phones.
We have some news that’s hard for us to share but we need to do so. After a lot of consideration, we have decided to divorce. We know this is super tough especially at this time of year. For now, for the girls’ sake, we want to keep things as normal as possible. We love you all very much and we are very much in support of each other, even with this decision we’ve made. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone this holiday season.
Love, the Homey and Aliya
I went through my phone and added and added and added folks to the text. Sometimes the Homey would ask about a certain person and if they should be added. We knew we needed to cover a lot of ground, but not too much ground. We had always been (and continue to be) super private, so we had to toe a fine line on who was on a need-to-know basis.
“You ready?” He said.
Is anybody ever ready for this? I thought to myself.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” I said.
We both sent the text at the same time and held our breath waiting for the replies to come in.
That was two years ago. And there are still people in my life who have no idea.
Here’s how it usually goes down. Example: I ran into my daughter’s former babysitter at Staples.
Her: Hey, Ms. King! How’s the baby?
Me: She’s great! Fifth grade!
Her: WHOA. And how’s the Homey? Is he still making those awesome blueberry pancakes?
So, I could say, “Yep! He’s still making those awesome blueberry pancakes!” Because according to my daughter, her dad is still making awesome blueberry pancakes. And he texted me a picture of his maybe-still-awesome blueberry pancakes a few months ago. And he lives so close to my new place that I can damn near smell the maple syrup. But I mean, what do I know? His blueberry pancakes may not be that awesome anymore. It’s been a long time since I had them. Y’know?
But of course, saying that won’t work. Instead I say ...
Me: Actually, the Homey and I are not together anymore. But all is well with the family.
Her: OMG, NO. I am so sorry to hear that. That’s so sad. Wow. How are the girls? They must have been devastated.
Deciding to divorce and moving forward in that new world is a daily screwdriver jab in the eye. When stuff like this happens, it’s a jab in the other eye, too—and the brain. I swear up and down that everything is OK (it really is!), but no one believes me. It’s all tsk-tsk and sad faces.
I want to get a T-shirt that reads, “Actually we’re not together anymore. But it’s all good. For real.”
Sidebar: Sometimes I tell people and instead of gasping, they say something like, “Is everyone OK?” with direct eye contact but no pity. Some folk say, “Let me know if you need anything. You know I went through it.” One of my friends just gave me a firm hug and said, “Y’all both have my love.” No dramatic “Oh no” declarations or gossipy “What happened” questions. I love these people. If someone tells you about a divorce, be these people. Keep it serious, brief and sincere.
OK, so then there is social media. I have a presence on the internets, and while I’m not a well-known person, there are people who know me and my carefully curated life—which included a husband and two kids and a dog living in a house until two years ago.
So now I write posts on Facebook, and often folks make comments like:
- That outfit is cute. But what did the Homey say about it?!
- Is that where you live? When did you guys move?
- You got a new dog! I’m surprised the Homey went for that!
Maybe it doesn’t matter and I’m just supposed to ignore those comments and assume they will catch up eventually. That’s what I decided to do. Until it got to be a bit tiresome.
Here’s the thing: I write about myself and my writing and my dog and my writing and my kid and my fitness and myself and my randomness. And me.
So I found myself having to rewrite sentences in my posts constantly.
I would write, “So then I fell off this stupid twin bed I can’t get used to in this tiny-ass studio.”
And then I would realize that would be a dead giveaway to my new life, so I would rewrite, “So then I went to bed.”
After a while, I was frustrated. Many of my Facebook “friends” are actually real friends. Even some that I’ve never met! I felt weird about lying by omission.
So I dipped a toe in the water—in a super-wack way. I wrote a post completely unrelated to divorce, and at the end of it, I slipped in something about being newly single. As I suspected, it did not go unnoticed.
The comments section filled up with OMG memes and people asking directly about my sly comment. It felt worse than sending a group text to my family. While I won’t write a direct post on social media, I won’t do that again, either.
So will the news eventually just spread organically? Will the people who hear about it from (gulp) this column be offended that they didn’t hear about it from me?
Here’s what I think.
I think I have to let it go. Going through a divorce is enough for me to deal with. It’s a daily process of adjustment and upheaval. The only person who absolutely needs to know anything is well aware and probably still makes good blueberry pancakes. Our daughters are the only people who have to be handled with care. Not nobody else.
Ultimately, my fifth-grade teacher, my high school friends, my mom’s next-door neighbor, my kids’ friends’ parents and even my great-aunt Mildred are just going to have to deal.
There will continue to be awkwardness. A lot of it.
Especially since now, when I run into folks and update them on the Homey, I’ll also be updating them on other stuff.
We’ll call him New Bae.
My great-aunt Mildred is not ready.