Saturday, August 7, 2010

Because I Couldn't Color Code Them, I Had to Type Them...

Following up on everyone having an opinion about my life, I've found that everyone has a strong reaction to my divorce as well. The reactions aren't unique, though - in fact, they fall into several different types (this is my way of saying, "You people are pretty freakin' predictable"). I'll just cover a few of the more amusing ones here.

Type 1: Shock
Shock comes in many forms, but my favorite is the melodramatic kind. Take this conversation with my hair stylist not too long ago:

Stylist: "So I haven't heard any funny stories about your husband lately."
Me: "Well, he's not going to be my husband anymore."
Stylist: (freezes with her hands mid-shampoo, mouth open wide, staring down at me) "Whaaaaat?"

I love this one because it's how everyone wants to respond initially, but most people are too polite to actually do it. With most people, you can see their faces begin to contort into your classic "aghast" look, but then they regain their composure and get their game faces on pretty quick. But not with my hair stylist and a few others like her. They go straight to their melodramatic place, and from there they stare at you, mouth hanging open, eyes bulging, their faces pleading with you to tell them they've misheard. If only.

Type 2: Denial
This is another favorite of mine because it requires me to repeatedly insist to the other person that yes, it's true, I'm getting a divorce.  A few weeks ago I ran into my next door neighbor at the mailbox and enjoyed the following conversation:

(I should preface this by saying he's from India, and while he speaks English very well it is not his native language, which may - or may not - explain some of the awkward-yet-humorous turns of phrase below.)
Neighbor: "Where's your honey? I haven't seen him in a while. Months."
Me: "Well, he's not my honey anymore. We got a divorce."
Neighbor: "Oh, don't tell me that!"
Me: "Yeah... just part of life sometimes."
Neighbor: "Oh, no! No!"
Me: "Yup..."

Because that's what every newly-divorced person wants: to be reminded that yes, her marriage did indeed fail, by having to inform you repeatedly of this fact because you're stuck in the Land of Disbelief. Best hop the next train to Acceptanceland, Neighbor, because I'm not going back and forth like this all day, okay?

Type 3: Prescience (or, I Saw It Coming)
This is my most frequently encountered response. I don't know whether that's because everyone really did see it coming, or because everyone wants to believe they saw it coming. I prefer to believe it's the latter, but either way, it comes in a few different subtypes.

First, there's the out-and-out "I knew it!" I can't count the number of times I got responses along the lines of, "I thought it was doomed from the start," or "I never thought he was right for you." This only prompts me to wonder, "Hey, so-called friend, why the hell didn't you say something?"

A variation on this is the slightly more subtle, "I sensed something wasn't quite right in your relationship." These people get kudos for at least attempting not to flaunt their advance knowledge of my divorce. Here's an example from just the other day:

Neighbor: "So where's [insert name of ex-husband here] working these days?"
Me: "Same company. Oh, by the way, we got a divorce."
Neighbor: "Oh, sorry. If I remember correctly, you always kind of had to do everything for him."

The unspoken last half of that final sentence is something along the lines of, "... and I thought that was (going to be) a problem for you guys." My unspoken thought: "Maybe everyone really did see it coming...."

I recognize that the way I relay the news probably begets some of these responses. I'm fairly blunt when I inform people of my divorce. There's no softening the blow, no easing into the delivery, no niceties or turns of phrase like, "We're not together anymore." No, I dive right into the deep end.

But such directness is uncomfortable for many people, and by not softening the blow or hinting at the forthcoming news before I deliver it, I don't give them time to prepare themselves. Maybe if they saw it coming, they could come up with a more polished response (heck, just tactful would be nice). Unfortunately for them, I don't do indirect in my personal life (work is another matter entirely - office politics require me to ease into things a bit more). It's just not my style.

Truth be told, there's another reason I deliver the news the way I do: it has the added benefit of making both of us feel awkward. Having informed dozens of people of my divorce now, I know that it's an uncomfortable conversation for me. And if I'm going to be uncomfortable, I'll be damned if they're not going to be uncomfortable too (I apply this general philosophy to much of my life). So I drop the bomb quickly, giving them little time to absorb it, and even less time to come up with a suitable reaction. There, now we're both uncomfortable. Serves them right for bringing the subject up in the first place.

Of course, I didn't plan it that way - this is my own self-inflicted psychoanalytic hindsight, and it measures an almost painfully acute 20/20. But even so, I doubt I'll change the delivery. It works for me. In some sense, it is me.

And besides, I really did mean it when I said that that if I have to be uncomfortable, so do they. I'm democratic like that.


Caroline said...

Wow. Agape. No, not really. Nice way to find some humor, some truth, pain, and awkwardness in this mess. I like to think we'd be friends in the 3D world, even more so after reading this.

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