Thursday, November 12, 2009

Civil Disunion: So Where Are You Registered?

There are still people that don't know I'm divorced. It's not a huge deal, and my fault really. And it got me thinking.

Mine wasn't played out on television or the tabloids because a) I'm not famous and b) I'm not a self-absorbed asshole (at least when it comes to this). It wasn't really information for public consumption - it also wasn't a secret, but you don't exactly announce these things.

When you first separate, you share it with close family and close friends, but that's it. You're not sure where it's going exactly. It's a long, emotional process, and the last thing you need are the distractions of gossip. It simply isn't something you talk about with a lot of people.

After moving to the formal divorce process, you don't offer status reports. And after filing itself, and it's official, you still don't really announce it. People just hear about it. But not everyone.

So how do you tell people?

Oftentimes I would correct someone when they'd ask about my wife, and then there's that awkward pause, and their need for reassurance it's OK they asked, that they didn't know and that they didn't open up some wound. Sometimes I also felt obligated to explain or give a story: "it was no one's fault really", "these things happen", "we grew apart", "no one cheated", etc. - especially when I felt I was being judged, either by the person or maybe even myself.

Which brings me back to: How do you tell people?

You don't send invitations to a divorce party. Some people do, and I can understand why, but it's not usually considered a time to celebrate.

You don't make an announcement in the local paper like you do for an engagement. I guess you could: Disengagement Announcements with photos of the couple torn in half, but that's just tacky.

And, honestly, you get tired of telling people.

When you get married, you're showered with gifts and money, and you want to tell the world (often to be showered with gifts and money, but really because it's a celebration). When you divorce, you divide up a lot of "pre-owned, gently worn" items, and there ain't no party for you. And, depending on your situation, you may actually need those wedding-type gifts even more after a divorce. And you could probably use some cheering up and reassurance that you're not alone and you're going to be OK. A party (more dinner than frat or sorority style) may be exactly what you should have.

I had to replace (duplicate, if you will) nearly everything: dishes, silverware, furniture, a mattress, linens, towels, a place to live. Here's a new idea, and I can't believe Bed Bath & Beyond or Crate & Barrel actually haven't thought of this: a divorce registry.

You could announce to everyone, with some clever Hallmark-type saying and cute cartoonish image, that you've split up, you're broke and you really like Egyptian cotton towels.

Of course you can’t expect a whole lot, especially if the same people you're announcing this to bought you something nice and expensive like a food processor for your wedding, years ago. So instead of requesting fine china and Waterford crystal, generic plates and pint glasses will do just fine. And maybe register at Target instead of Tiffany’s, or Walmart instead of Williams-Sonoma.

You can let everyone who needs to know, know, and you can set yourself up with something better than a hot plate and a futon when you're starting out. Again. That might have worked in college, but you're probably well into your adult years now and are entitled to some comfort. And as much self-respect as you can maintain.

When there are kids involved, you really need a lot of stuff, especially if they're going to live in two homes. Let them register for things too. Hell, they're the ones who will really deserve some showering.

I make light not to be flippant, but because I survived and it's important to maintain a sense of humor in all situations, especially this one.