For a while we pondered whether to take a vacation or get a divorce. We decided a trip to Bermuda is over in two weeks, but a divorce is something you always have.
Divorce parties are catching on. A 2005 New York Times article heralded breakups as the new relationships, noting divorce cake and gift registry as hallmarks of the well-rounded divorce party. Today, ceremonies in Japan include photographers, ring-smashing and separate rickshaws for the unhappy couple.
When I got divorced twelve years ago at the age of 52, I wavered between thinking every man who captured my interest would ask me out and believing I would never have another date. Worried, I decided to throw myself a divorce party. (DO)
The last time I'd had a singles party, Jimmy Carter was president, date rape was unheard of and I had just moved back to D.C. from Vermont after being fired from my job as a hatcheck girl at the Sirloin Saloon because a coat was stolen when I left early (with permission) to visit my boyfriend in New York.
After excavating a few former beaus and soliciting names of AARP card-carrying singles from friends (DO), I began extending phone invitations to the unattached for my potluck dinner (DO). On each call, I asked, "Who else I should invite (DO)?" One guy wanted to bring his Jewish singles dinner club (DON'T). Some married friends begged to come and serve (DON'T).
To keep track of who was coming (DO), next to each name I made notes, like "goes to psychic," "grew up on reservation," "cute construction guy across street."
Yikes, now I had to plan a party!
Enter the To-Do List (DO):
*Info sheet (w/ ideas for name tag ice breakers e.g. tour guide, passion for Patsy Cline, Jeopardy contestant)
*Buy name tags (for mine -- train buff, dating game chaperon, can talk backwards?)
*Plan whom to introduce to whom
*BE READY ON TIME
After 20 men and 20 women accepted, I'd stopped inviting (DO). And started worrying (DON'T). Maybe no one would show. Or everyone would show at the exact same moment. Someone could trip over a lamp cord. What if singles got into car crashes on the way? It would've been my fault for having invited them. What's more, I'd heard about robberies at parties where everyone had to strip and hand over their watches.
Actually the strip and rob scenario didn't sound so bad; at least it wouldn't be boring. On party day I became consumed with fear that no one would talk, convinced I would have the first totally silent social gathering in history. To distract myself, I latched onto another obsession (DO): Would people get potluck food poisoning?
Party night arrived and doubts continued (DON'T). Was my outfit too sexy? Was it sexy enough? Remarkably, guests arrived evenly-spaced, everyone mingled and no one tripped. My only low moment occurred when I was chatting with my pal Alice and a lawyer named Will, who had the square jaw of a football player and whom thirty years earlier I had dated once or twice. He asked Alice, "Did you know Susan in her twenties? She was so exotic." His remark would have been okay, even flattering, if I had been able to accept just how exotic I was not at this newly-divorced re-encounter.
Will's remark notwithstanding, a few nights later a charming fellow from the party named Peter phoned and asked me out. My first post-divorce date! He wanted to know what time he should pick me up. I replied, "With my daughters living at home, I think I should meet you somewhere (DO)." Now get ready for the rest of what I said to this virtual stranger: "When we're engaged, you can pick me up. (DON'T!)"
If you've never gone through a divorce, let me propose you prepare (DO) for this kind of gut-flipflopping, bile-choking, brain-exploding remark to just fall out of your mouth without warning. Peter was decent enough not to break the date. Instead, we had dinner at his place where he had assembled a protective layer of friends.
I continued to give singles parties (DO), though I wonder what masochistic bent drives me to indulge in this entertaining phobia of mine. Some people hang-glide; I host. It must satisfy my craving to live on the edge.
But having singles parties felt awkward, so I covered up my embarrassment with themes (DO). There was the jitterbug party where we rolled back the rug and jammed like it was the fifties. At my bike trip party, someone from Backroads talked about adventure travel. And at the Habitat for Humanity event, singles signed up to build houses.