The Big D
“You’re out of your fucking mind,” I said when my brother declared he’d met his “soulmate” a few months after separating from his wife of 17 years. It had been a mutual parting, and my initial advice was for him to spend some time alone and then date a 25-year-old stripper.
Instead, he fell in love. “This is it,” he told me. “You idiot. You’re out of your mind,” I repeated. We were both right. Seven years later, I attended his 2nd Chance wedding party, and it’s perfectly criminal how happy he and his new wife are.
Which brings us to this week’s essay, compliments of the fantastic Cassandra Harris. For those dreading it, going through it, and those on the other side of…. THE BIG D.
Spotted in the window of your local CVS:
“Big D shots here. No appointment necessary. Big D Season is here! Get immunized today, don’t get… THE DIVORCE.”
Early warning signs that you may already be infected:
Are you deeply uninterested in your spouse, apart from when they leave the house? Do you feel as though decades have passed without meaningful conversation? Do you experience nightly soul cramps, or restless heart syndrome? Have you developed a persistent immunity to joy?
Do you wake each morning, glance at the other side of your bed and muse silently, WTF? Symptoms can also be more severe and immediate, say in the form of an ill-timed text that you are grateful / devastated to have found when you did.
If you are suffering from THE DIVORCE, which affects half the American population BTW, you will likely feel exhausted, hopeless, furious, depressed, hysterical, inadequate, valiantly thin and potentially relieved – not in that order. You may vacillate between a DIVORCE and a NON-DIVORCE state for some time. You will experience alienation from others. Just like when you have a cold, but permanently in some cases, depending on what kind of friends you have/had. And no one will offer you lozenges. You will stop being invited to parties. You will stop caring.
Even when you’ve plowed through all the stages of THE DIVORCE (wait, there are more!) you are never fully cured. Like varicose veins or Schadenfreude, it never really clears up. You may relapse in the following situations: every time you have to check a box referring to your marital status, when other couples ask where your better half is, or when average dolts assume your boyfriend / colleague / gay friend is your spouse. Also at every parent teacher conference and wedding (if you still get invited at all). Symptoms indicating imminent relapse include pained / awkward looks from said dolts, ill-considered condolences uttered in the inevitable “careful voice,” and of course, whispered comments you were never meant to hear.
You should take comfort in the fact that the marriages of all these people are far from ideal, but you probably won’t.
When THE DIVORCE is at its peak, difficult and painful symptoms emerge. These include: everyone (and their spouse) speculating / gossiping about what went wrong in your marriage. They will never actually ask you. When they greet you (in the careful voice) at school pickup with “How ARE you?” you must refrain from punching them. This will be difficult. At some point you will need to be reminded not to fire / punch your lawyer. Stalking your spouse’s new interest is also a no no and could result not only in criminal prosecution but your ex having the upper hand.
Recovery and rehabilitation
After being briefly ostracized, you may, like many survivors of THE DIVORCE, find comfort with other divorced people. You will hang out with those afflicted, drink alcohol together, bitch about your exes, divorce lawyers and alimonies. They get you. You make new friends who get you. Those who don’t get you can simply fuck off. You are fine with this. You are making progress.
One day without warning, you feel human again, and you can make it through an entire day without crying / swearing / firing your lawyer.
You could have avoided all of this by getting immunized. Get THE BIG D shot today.
However… if you have not been vaccinated, and you do catch THE DIVORCE, there are rare conditions that affect some survivors: You may find yourself again (the person you once were before beginning a long series of compromises and denials). You will develop and hone a true sense of what you really need and want in a partner – and you will be better prepared for the opportunity to meet this partner. You will be forced to become a better parent. You may even, God help you, begin a better relationship with your former spouse. You will be… friends.
You may call your sister one day long after recovering from THE DIVORCE and say, “I’m in love. This is it.”
And she will be happy for you.