By Allison Robicelli
I never expected anyone to congratulate me for getting divorced. I expected questions. (The answer to all of them is, “none of your fucking business.”) I expected concern. (There were a few weeks where I didn’t shower much, and subsisted mostly on Hostess fruit pies, but I’m doing better now.) But congratulations?
Who the fuck even says that?
Raise your glasses, folks, for something that was once the be-all, end-all of everything I could have ever possibly imagined has vaporized into nothingness! (I’m doing great!) Let us toast the vast, wondrous universe I built over seventeen years with a person who once owned my whole heart, only for it to supernova the fuck up into goddamn smithereens! (Seriously, fucking great!)
I did not see the congratulations coming. Then again, I didn’t see a lot of things coming.
As a society, we don’t actually have a playbook for responding to divorce, do we? It’s not like divorce is uncommon, and yet it’s hard to react to this perfectly normal news without the words getting jumbled and twisted in your throat. When people die, we offer condolences without hesitation. Everyone knows they’re going to die one day. Divorce, though — nobody can be sure they won’t get their heart broken. That’s the sort of thing nightmares are made of. That’s the sort of thing you look away from as fast as you can and pray (statistics be damned) that it never happens to you.
Then it happens to you anyway.
They say fifty percent of marriages end in divorce (I don’t know if it’s true, but they say it), which means the odds of agonizing existential annihilation are just as good as the odds of happily ever after. Good sense doesn’t stop people from falling in love, though! It didn’t stop us. Love has a way of making you think you’re lucky.
When I tell men about my divorce, they agree it is sad. They all say they’re so sorry. They know it’s a tragedy. They never say congratulations.
Their wives do, though.
Yeah, that surprised me, too.
I can’t assume the reasons for why they congratulate me. I have theories, of course, but ultimately they mean nothing. Who knows why we blurt out the things we do in pleasant company?
The men’s faces make it clear that they see the failure like I do. I mean, we didn’t get married to fail! Divorce might have been for other people, but certainly not for us. We were going to be part of the good fifty percent — the kind that took things seriously and did the work! We did the work for 17 years, and eventually, the work stopped working.
The wives see the disappointment. Maybe they know what it’s like to always feel like you’re failing. Perhaps they know someone who was too scared to leave, or fantasize about doing it themselves. They’ve run the numbers and seen them not add up. They’ve thought about what the neighbors might say. They worry about the kids, the car, the house, the pets. They know what it’s like to always pretend they’re okay.
They know how hard it is to admit when they’re not okay.
I tried. We tried. We really did. Things wore down. Things broke. We put them back together the best we could. They’d break again. We’d slap together whatever was salvageable. We used to be good at this. How did it get so bad? What were we even fighting to save?
I said the thing out loud that I was too scared to say. To him. Everything collapsed and crushed us.
I loved him with ferocity. I loved him in totality. Things were good, ‘til they weren’t. That’s the long and short of it.
I’m 42 years old and just figuring this out.
Do men still have faith in true love? Or is it faith they will not fail? I do not know. I’ll never know. All I know is that they always say they’re sorry.
The women I talk to think I’m brave for letting go; for falling apart. They don’t envy my heartache.
But they have faith that I’ll be okay.
The women always say congratulations.
It’s exactly what I need to hear.