I do a good job of celebrating the holidays because I want my daughter to have a happy childhood. In the process of keeping up the festivities for her sake, I’ve become less bah-humbug. And I’ll admit it, I have even learned to have fun.
Still, this time of year always makes me think of how hard it is to be single and divorced. Sometimes, people can be so mean. Especially married women.
So I am devoting this post to a few of my rotten memories. Even though most of these events didn’t occur during the holidays, their impact usually hits me especially hard during this time of year. The memories loom a bit more intensely right now. And the sting of the past is still with me — even though this December, I have a lovely new boyfriend. Having him around is comforting but it doesn’t change the past.
It is so, so hard to go solo. Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned:
Lesson #1: Couples tend to socialize with other couples.
I’ll never forget what one married woman said to me. “I think it’s terrible that you’re not invited to the house parties here in town,” she clucked. “But these get-togethers are all couples and a lot of the wives don’t want you there; they don’t want you around their husbands.”
Up until that moment, it never occurred to me that I was left out of any social gatherings. I had no idea anything was going on! After that conversation, though, I got a little bit defensive.
During those early years, I was seeing a therapist who gave me great advice on this situation. She told me that what couples do is irrelevant. “Hanging out with couples does nothing for you,” she said. “Go out and meet some single men!” She was right. That’s when I started dating and making new friends.
Lesson #2: Even close friends can say mean things.
Right after I went solo, an old friend pulled me aside. She was a woman who had been married a very long time. She told me about a new report that she’d just read, about how divorce ruins children forever. The report, she said, advised parents to stay married.
I listened in shock. In fact, I was so stunned that I couldn’t believe we were having the conversation. Many, many years later when I mentioned this moment, my friend had no recollection of it ever happening. But she admitted that initially hearing about my divorce freaked her out. “It hit little too close to home,” she said, adding that she had often thought about leaving her husband but couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Lesson #3: Some married women viewed me as a second-class citizen.
I found it so strange that a few married girlfriends suddenly started budgeting the time we spent together. A few of them only wanted to lunch or hang out when their husbands were away on business trips or busy doing something else. I really felt hurt — and annoyed — when they’d say things like, “How about next Thursday? He’ll be out-of-town and I won’t have much to do.” I am no longer friends with any of these women.
Lesson #4: Some women talk too much about their husbands.
I have really gotten tired of being around women who have to bring their husband’s names into every conversation. How annoying to have them always mention what their husbands thought about this and that. Their constant use of “we did blah-blah” only reinforced the fact that I had no man.
Lesson #5: It’s no fun being around couples who are into PDA (i.e., public displays of affection).
Do I really need to see married women draped all over their husbands? One of my friends made a habit of sitting in her husband’s lap. Did she ever think about how I felt being around them? And that her PDA made me feel like I’d never ever meet anyone special enough to do that with?
If I think of more things that annoy me, I’ll add them in the comments section. I can’t end this post, though, without saying that some of my married girlfriends have been incredibly kind. They have been my sisters, my defenders, my go-to girls in times of need.
With their help, I’ve come a long way in a decade. It’s possible that I might always feel ambivalent about the holidays. For me, this season serves only one purpose: to remind me of how my own life falls short of the jolly standards presented in the media.
The pressure of it all is just too much.