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December 10, 2009

My goodness, what a couple of days THESE have been. In the last 48 hours, thanks to the lovely and talented Alexa, Robert Creeley and I are suddenly feeling abundantly…clicked upon. It’s quite a thrill. I realize that, in recent years, collections of online personal essays posted by various individuals have become extremely popular, but I honestly had no idea. I do my share of clicking and reading, but it is bizarre to have crossed over to the other side. I never thought I’d write an online thing at all. (I suppose I shall have to learn to type “blog”. Blog. There.) Anyway, I never thought I would.

Because why would I write about complicated feelings about in public? Why would I take the chance that someone might read this website and recognize himself or herself and be hurt or angry? I have a journal. I write in it a lot. I can say whatever I want, because it’s private. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Well, there are narcissistic reasons for writing on line (I’m just going to check my stats again, for a second. Ooh! Another dozen hits! Thanks, Alexa!) just as there are, I guess, narcissistic reasons for writing at all: I’ve published stories about my life and kids and even my divorce before, so it would be disingenuous to pretend I’m not something of an exhibitionist. But I have never before written quite what I wanted, because–well, because I was writing in public, for one thing, and my children, ex-husband, mother and so forth all know how to read. And because editors have specific ideas about what they want, and magazines have certain notions about the kinds of stories they’ll publish, and advertisers often don’t let you write “fuck”. You get only so many words per assignment, and in the end, they cut your favorite parts and leave you with with a pile of pabulum (and a paycheck. Which does sweeten the deal.)

About two years ago I started furtively googling my way around looking for some kind of internet community for the about-to-be-divorced. There had to be something out there for people like me, facing the end of their marriages, feeling like shit, desperate for solace and gallows humor, craving virtual companionship, commiseration, wise counsel from those who’d made it out alive, and so on. I searched for “divorce” and “blog” and “legal separation” and “end of marriage” and god knows what else. Is there, in fact, an internet society for the maritally indisposed that I somehow missed? Because I kept finding only the following: websites with legal information, linked to various divorce attorneys. Websites crowing the failsafe ways to spot a cheating spouse…and then helpfully outlining therapies and exercises necessary to transcend his (and it was almost always indeed his) infidelity. Websites for women–again, almost always women–who had been left by their no-good husbands and were trying to get back in the swing of things, personally and professionally, after years out of the loop. Websites with generic advice about money and custody, helpful hints for organizing one’s finances. These last were particularly upsetting. I’d read them late at night, huddled in the guest room, trying to ignore my husband’s furious pacing in our bedroom overhead, averting my eyes from the pile of dog-eared bank statements and overdue bills and half-assed scribblings meant to represent my “budget” on my bedside table. I had no fucking clue about any of it–the practical or the emotional. Why wasn’t anyone writing about divorce?

I skulked around the margins of these websites for months, clicking links, trying to ferret out secret sharers. I got nowhere. I knew more people in real life who were getting divorced than I could find on line, which seemed incomprehensible. I didn’t want a self help book or a lawyer or a career counselor. I wanted an imaginary friend or two, who wrote about his or her separation the way the infertile bloggers wrote about their efforts to get and stay pregnant. The infertile bloggers were my heroines. They were so damned funny, so unsentimental, such good WRITERS. What they were going through was awful, no doubt about it–but they had each other to read, and each other to write for.

Divorce is a touchy subject, obviously, and it’s very difficult to write honestly about your own guilt, and anger, and bad behavior, and secret horrible grudges against people you really don’t want to offend or hurt. Eventually I did turn up some fellow travelers–I’ve linked to a few of them here–but most seem to have started their websites long before they separated, which does cramp one’s style a bit. A few times I found blogs whose writers were, apparently, ordered by a lawyer (theirs? their estranged other’s?) to stop writing about their divorces. This gave me pause. Negotiating a settlement is bad enough without the horror of more hurt feelings to contend with–writing about separation while I was going through it suddenly seemed a very bad idea.

But now I’m out, sort of. Divorced, really and truly. So I’ll write about it. There is bound to be a lot I have forgotten or repressed. On the other hand, I hope I’m more lucid than I was a year or so ago. To paraphrase Laurie Colwin: I thought, once I’d gotten through the legal divorce, that I’d gradually become my old self again. But I seem to have become some other old self instead.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. liza permalink
    December 10, 2009 7:33 pm

    are you reading gymnotes?

    she is not anonymous, in a small town where she is still a newcomer 2 decades in,
    and her ex is a native. I like her strength.
    Or do you not want recommendations?
    still new to this whole commenting thing,
    and I don’t have a blog for you to have some context for me

  2. December 11, 2009 4:43 pm

    Wow, what a great post.

    You divorce on several levels. First the marriage, then the man, then the woman you used to be.

    Hang in there. LOVE the title of your blog.

  3. December 14, 2009 5:20 pm

    I clicked over from Alexa, and plan to visit often. Good stuff.

  4. January 19, 2010 5:21 pm

    Just found you via Julia and am reading back entries. This one hit home. Although I am a lesbian, when I broke up with my ex (we were legally domestic partners and had a child together, so as far as I am concerned we were getting “divorced”) I also went online to look for other failed marriages. And like you, I couldn’t find any. Especially anything about gay marriages breaking up. It was as if the world existed and no one was there to write about it. It is why I started my own blog. To document my own journey through my break up.

    So bravo to you for writing and letting us go through this experience with you. I for one appreciate your words. Thank you.

  5. November 21, 2010 7:05 pm

    Here’s yourself another imaginary friend… I never would have pulled myself out of the black pit of my depression w/out my cyber-friends & allies!
    Also, “becoming a new person entirely” – yes it’s true, I never seem to be able to get back to what I consider “normal”… And I have to admit I’m not terribly fond of this which I’ve become… She’s cynical & self-absorbed, writing obsessively about it as if that will help – perhaps it has, somewhat.

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