“I’m Shannon, and this is Zoe.”
Seems an innocuous enough introduction. No need to divulge any further information, by most cultural standards.
Until the ring check.
Yes, all people do the ring check.
I respond: “I’m a solo mom.”
Then, inevitably, THAT FACE.
THAT FACE again, but worse, as i watch them fall down a rabbit hole of terrible imagined outcomes. Only now, the look is aimed down at my unsuspecting kid.
I brace for THE QUESTIONS:
Is the father involved?
How long ago did you split up?
Are you going to get married again?
Have you tried online dating?
These questions we asked all the while while making THAT FACE at me and Zoe, eyes bouncing back and forth between us.
At this point in this essay, you may have a mental image of THAT PERSON. However, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter who the person is. The person could be aligned with my political, spiritual, social leanings, or not, and most of those well meaning individuals do THAT FACE, THOSE QUESTIONS and then the final move: unsolicited advice and storytelling.
The unsolicited advice does vary depending on their socio economic, political, spiritual leanings. It’s like the person becomes a restaurant where you just sit down and they bring you their favorite things. I’ve heard: you should grow out your hair, try eHarmony, try Match, get out more, wear more dresses, join a gym, take a painting class, let it go, ask the universe to bring you someone, forgive him, therapy.
On and on and on.
When I tell them that I am happy with being uncoupled, they start the storytelling part of the interaction. I call it The Hope of Happiness and My Cousin story. The story goes something like: my friend/my aunt/ cousin said the same thing. They lit a candle/ joined a Crossfit gym/ a church/ dating site/ moved to Alaska and BAM! They met the love of their life, and they now own a chicken farm/ kayak the Rio Grande/ wrote a book/ drink wine on Tuesday at lunch!
So, Shannon, doesn’t this the fairy tale ending give you hope for your sad little life?
This type of interaction happens so often to me that have begun to have an eye twitch when it begins.
One day, I went to my local Ulta to pick up mascara. As I was checking out, the cashier couldn't find me in their system. I asked if he had me by my married name, and sure enough, he did. He cheerfully asked, “So, what’s the occasion for the name change today? Marriage? Divorce?”
I took a deep breath, and said, “Divorce.”
He squealed louder than I might have wanted. Also, while clapping furiously, he responded, “DIVORCE? DIVORCE! I LOOOOOVE DIVORCE! CONGRATULATIONS!”
The room was very quiet, waiting on my response. His colleagues didn’t move a muscle.
I looked at him, my eyes locked with his bright, expectant eyeballs, and teared up.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you. It is a big deal for me.”
At that moment, he saw me, congratulated me, and celebrated my change. I hadn’t realized how much stigma and shame I had had to digest in those daily interactions.
A divorce is an arduous, scary process, and at best, it takes well over a year.
WE SHOULD be congratulated. We should have push presents and parties, and be celebrated for finishing the race!
He was the only person in my life who did, and he was a stranger to me. For that, he gets this essay and my gratitude. We need more of this than the other if we are to de-stigmatize half of the population that doesn’t “til death do us part.”
This brings me to another instance that THAT FACE shows up, a situation that is particularly sneaky. Let’s say you’re sitting with a friend, and they are telling you about their date/love story/crush/fiance, and at some point well into their disclosure, they, without looking at me, remember that it is me who is sitting there, and a shift happens in them. They become overwhelmed with REGRET AND SHAME for sharing it with me. .
THAT FACE stares back at me with the silently mouthed I’M SO SORRY…I SHOULD HAVE…
“Stop. Just stop,” I say.
They do. Often with hand over their mouth.
Stop apologizing for having a boyfriend/husband/wedding/sex life. I love hearing your love stories. I am, in fact, a HUGE fan of love.
So, please, go on…and don’t spare the juicy details.
Tell me all about it as long as I can meet the bus by 3:27.
I’ll end this tale by imploring you to pause YOUR FACE before assuming anyone including myself should feel sad or shameful or guilty for making what is one of the best choices of my life, divorcing.
How about this shift: when we meet, and I say, “I’m Shannon, and this is Zoe,” just respond, “Nice to meet you both.”
And it will be. I assure you.
A NOTE FROM SHANNON
Thank you for reading my essay. Today is my 8 year Divociversary!!
If you like the words, let me know! Also, feel free to share them and/or invite anyone who might benefit from these little nuggets to sign up for my free newsletter/story email.
If we haven’t met yet, hi new friend! I’m Shannon Ivey. I am a coach who writes. I am a coach who works with story. I am a storyteller who teaches. I am a coach who has spent a lot of time with people who are ready to invest in a different way of being in the world, be it personal, professional, business, or relationships (with themselves and others. It’s all connected.
Message me if you want to chat about a goal or a project, and let’s see if we would be a good match to work together.
Until next essay,