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The Scarlet D

When I was faced with my own reality of divorce, at age 26, my biggest struggle wasn't deciding who gets to keep the Pier 1 Moroccan votive candles, but rather when do I tell people that I'm, ugh, a "Divorcee."
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When I was faced with my own reality of divorce, at the ripe old age of 26, my biggest struggle wasn't deciding who gets to keep the Pier 1 Moroccan votive candles, or who would be the proud owner of a two-year-old 32 inch flat screen television, but rather when do I tell people that I'm, ugh, a "Divorcee."

The word itself conjures up images of wood paneled studio apartments, single serving microwave Salisbury steak dinners and the notion that you are forever different. I'm not single. I'm not married. I am divorced. Please check the appropriate box. Thanks.

Every time I walked into a room I felt that everyone was looking at me like the homely girl from A League Of Their Own. I had been permanently scarred and would forever be deemed "damaged goods." I could envision my fate.

For the rest of my life I would have to strategically plan when was the appropriate moment to "tell them." I imagine Drag Queens have similar quandaries. When should I tell them that I have a penis? When should I tell them I was married?

I wanted to be different. I didn't want to be ashamed or hide my secret under the rug. Screw society and their uptight family values. I remember thinking to myself, "what would the famous American philosopher, Dr. Phillip McGraw, do in this situation?" He'd be honest, because any guy on TV with a sweet stache giving pseudo psychological advice in a nice suit knows what he's talking about.

So my journey began. I wasn't going to hide it. In fact, I was going to head off the awkwardness at the pass. For about a month, whenever I met anyone I would greet them with, "Hi, my name is Joel, and I'm divorced." My usual response was something along the lines of "Great. But did you want that Grande or Venti?" I wanted to get the issue out in the open right away.

Almost immediately, to my confusion, I noticed that people weren't interested. People just didn't care. People were about as interested in hearing about my divorce as they were hearing about my cat. I had expected it to be a big deal, and it simply wasn't. I was thrown a little off kilter. And then it hit me. Wait for it. Wait for it... It was me who cared. I was the one who looked at myself in a different light. It was a scary realization that took only a handful of strange Starbucks transactions to realize.

We live in a very interesting time. The concept of marriage is evolving, and with it so are the notions of divorce. The complexities of when to "let people know" can be at best nerve-racking, and at worst, fear inducing. Add dating into the mix and you have yourself a socially awkward punch that no one wants to drink.

But through all this I have learned a few things that I think are incredibly important.
First, if you make it a big deal, than it is. Don't give it that much credit. Some people think of it as a scarlet letter. I like to think of it as a tramp stamp. A learning experience that oddly enough, I don't really regret.

Second, and this is for Drag Queens and Divorcees alike, it's nobody's business. You don't need to tell anyone. Though it might seem ripe for public discourse, legally speaking, it actually falls in the "mind your own beeswax" category. You don't need to talk about it if you don't want to and people living in 2010 really aren't that interested. There are trained professionals who make their livelihood listening to you kibbitz about The Big D. And just remember, it isn't socially acceptable (yet) to bill acquaintances by the hour for psychological services rendered.

And lastly, when the time is right to let someone know, you will know it. Trust the force. Luke did, and the worst thing that happened to him was that he made out with his sister and found out that his father was evil personified. Ok. Bad analogy. That one's on me. But go with your gut.

Had I had known that these were my issues and it was totally unnecessary to discuss with people, well, I think I'd be viewed upon more favorably by baristas everywhere.

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