Timehop is a treasure trove for a writer like me.
Today the photo was from seven years ago today – SEVEN YEARS. It was at one of my best friends’ bachelorette party. I didn’t take any pictures, but several of the other girls did, and this is how I am able to see what I looked like that night.
There were penis-themed items everywhere. There were drinks and pink gift bags filled with lacey, sheer, sexy little pieces of lingerie. I am smiling in the pictures, but at least for me it is impossible to look at my face without being painfully aware that I was anything but happy.
I remember clinking the heels of my shoes on the metal legs of the tall chairs. Clink, clink, clink. Anything to take my mind off everything around me. Clink, clink, clink. If I count the clinks maybe my eyes won’t well up. Maybe I can clink, clink, clink my way through this party until I can collapse in bed at the end of the night and not have to worry about pretending to be having the time of my life, pretending that everything was peachy, that I was ok.
In an unfortunate turn of events, I was in the process of my divorce when BOTH of my best friends got married within a month of each other. I went to bridal showers, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings, and morning-after present openings.
This was the only event (save for one of the weddings, which I think is allowed) that I ended up crying at– the freaking bachelorette party of all places. I cried and I think I even lied and said something like I was crying because I was so happy for my friend or because I would miss her so much when she moved away after the big day. Which of course was all true, but not the reason for my tears. People tried to avoid noticing me, and I appreciated that. God it was embarrassing. No other way to spin it. Embarrassing and sad.
I didn’t even cry at the bridal shower, when we were instructed to “go around the room and introduce yourself, and then share a memory from your wedding and some advice for the bride!”
I felt my face burning and my eyes prickling with tears. I swallowed back this sensation and pushed and pushed the feeling that I was just about ready to break down further and further back, angry, so so ANGRY at myself. NO CRYING AT BRIDAL SHOWERS. NO CRYING AT BRIDAL SHOWERS. NO. FUCKING. CRYING. It took all my willpower, but I didn’t.
I can’t even remember what I said when it was my turn. I completely avoided the question, obviously, and a swift glance around the room confirmed that those who knew me and my situation were just as uncomfortable as I was.
Should I share the memory of how I walked down the aisle and my soon-to-be husband cried and cried and so did I? How we wrote our own messages to each other and we both slid in some not-so-subtle “fuck you’s” to everyone who told us we were too young and this was too soon and it would never last?
How all those people ended up being painfully right?
I didn’t share any of that, obviously, because this shower was not about me. It was about my beautiful friend and her lovely husband-to-be, that they would not end up like me, sitting in a cold metal folding chair ten months after my own wedding, in the process of a divorce but plastering on a happy face and pretty dress and pretending that it wasn’t painful as hell to be there.
A few days ago my husband saw a picture of me at the first of the best friends’ wedding, one where I was smiling so big that even my eyes were smiling. In it I have my hand on the chest of one of my other friends’ husband and I have a diamond band on my ring finger.
“What is that?” He asked, pointing to the ring. “You were wearing your wedding ring?”
“No. That was just a diamond band.” I sort of sighed as I tried to explain. “Not my wedding band. But I didn’t want people to ask me questions.”
I don’t really know how to logically explain that, but I will bet money most women who have been through a divorce don’t need me to. What I wanted was for people to leave me alone. I couldn’t bear wearing my engagement ring or wedding band but I also couldn’t bear the stares at my naked finger from the acquaintances who hadn’t heard yet, who had to notice that my husband was noticeably very absent from my best friend’s wedding.
So I wore that band on that finger and violently avoided all eye contact with anyone besides for my closest friends and family. And yes, it is possible to “violently” avoid eye contact. PAY ATTENTION TO THE BRIDE was my inner mantra to the rest of the wedding guests. DON’T YOU DARE LOOK AT ME. PLEASE don’t start an awkward conversation with me. Can we please pretend this is not happening right now?
I wore that band like I wore that sad, sad smile at the bachelorette party, I wore it for the same purpose that I clink, clink, clinked my heels on that metal chair.
Sometimes we have to do what we can to show up for our friends. We just have to suck it up and do it. Because our friends would do it for us. Because it’s the right thing to do, and we know this, deep down in our souls. Because healing doesn’t necessarily happen when we avoid. I think there are not a lot of harder places to be when divorcing than bridal showers, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings, and after-wedding present openings.
I went to these events and made jokes and laughed and posed for smiley pics and made small talk and put on my most enthusiastic, supportive, happy face. I even started to think maybe I was actually doing a good job and maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. And then I said goodbye and hugged the thousand people you have to hug at these things and on the car ride home I would feel the tears well up until they blurred my vision and that feeling of air and ick and emotion welled up in my chest and I would finally let it out in a muffled sob. Even though it was just me. Even though I was finally alone. I still muffled it. I don’t know why.
And I was MAD. Mad that I wasn’t all there at these events. Mad that I was faking it through these celebrations for the people I loved most. Mad that I couldn’t be the one who gave sage advice and jewels of knowledge. Mad at that fucking elephant in the room at every damn one of these events. Mad that my heart, soul, and mind was consumed with bitterness and sadness and disappointment instead of joy and love and excitement.
But I went anyway and I tried to be my best for these women. I tried and tried and it hurt and I didn’t do it perfectly but it ultimately healed me too. It healed me because it reminded me life goes on. It reminded me that there is hope. That I still had SO MUCH. Each time I went to one of these celebrations it forced me to move outside myself, to fake it until I made it, to realize the world didn’t revolve around me and my pain and suffering. That there was a big world of joy and love and friendship and happy things STILL HAPPENING AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT even as my heart was tired and bitter and sad. How long did I want to wait to rejoin that world?
And you guys know, I rejoined it. It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would. And when I did the joy was sort of kind of out of this world. Sort of kind of absolutely one hundred percent absolutely worth it.
I barely recognize the girl in that picture from seven years ago. In that span of time I have experienced so much good and so much joy and so many crazy, beautiful surprises. I didn’t know it then, but everything was going to be more than ok. Rejoining the world where beautiful and brutal things happen every damn day. Every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around, to make a conscious decision to try, to notice the good and celebrate it, even when its not my turn.