I just turned 38, which is crazy. In so many ways, I don’t feel like an “older” woman. When I was in high school, I would consider a 38-year-old someone who is way past her prime. But when I was in high school, it was also my goal to be married with kids by age 26. I was naive. Little did I know that I would get married and be divorced by age 29, with no kids. Or, that I would be re-married in my 30s and have two amazing kids, two dogs and a house that actually has one white fence!
It’s a decade after divorce in my twenties and by now, I’m a veteran divorcee. I cried, I conquered and I’ve told it like it is in my book, Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in your 20s. I’m grateful for the private Facebook support group I formed that allows newly separated and divorced women a safe place to discuss how they are feeling and for those old vets like me to provide tips for moving on with a new chapter in life. I’ve taken a step back from it in the past few years because I feel so far removed. It seems like it was another lifetime ago for me, because it pretty much was.
Ten years ago, I lost my job, my husband, some of my best friends and had to move back home with my mom. I have come so far—to a greater place than I ever imagined.
For the first time, I am posting an excerpt from my book—the introduction—to reflect on where I was ten years ago.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do, But Worth it
My Divorcée Demographics:
Met future ex-husband: Age 25
Bling, bling, got the ring: Age 26
Got hitched: Age 27
Ditched: Age 28
I cut up my wedding dress. The $1,600 exquisite ivory, intricately floral beaded, drop-waist, sweetheart neckline, designer gown that I wore on what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life; the day I planned as the gateway to my happily ever after. I sliced into it with scissors and ripped it apart with my bare hands, performing my own open-heart surgery.
My wedding dress had become a haunting reminder that I was a 28-year-old divorcée. What was once considered a symbol of my future became a sparkling announcement of my failure.
How did I, a girl who chased her dreams and fantasized about falling in love and making babies with Mr. Right, end up on the verge of going bankrupt as a result of supporting a husband who quit multiple jobs, grew a beard on purpose because he knew she hated it and wouldn’t kiss him as long as it existed, and had firmly decided he didn’t want to be married—perhaps not to anyone, but definitely not to her—or ever have children?
Granted, our marital knot began to unravel shortly after we crossed the threshold as husband and wife. But, as someone who never gives up, I tried my hardest to honor my “for better or for worse” vows. When my then-husband told me he wanted to end our marriage, I was relieved. I did, too. We were both miserable.
Then, panic struck.
No twenty-something woman actually pictures herself divorced when all her friends are becoming brides and birthing babies. At that point, my own biological clock had sped up to the point that the hands were about to go flying off! The idea of starting over conjured worries about being too old to get pregnant by the time I picked up the pieces. I suffered insomnia-induced anxiety attacks and even hid in my bedroom during my first post-divorce holiday season to avoid the embarrassment of facing my extended family.
Eventually, I decided to stop agonizing over my potential future and focus on the present. During this time, I could have removed the matching “XO” tattoo my ex-husband and I got on our first (and only) wedding anniversary, decided it was the perfect time to break my life-long straight-edge lifestyle and start drinking, and driven my friends insane with weepy phone calls every five minutes.
Instead, I celebrated my divorce by setting and reaching goals and partaking in rituals—including trashing my dress, writing a good riddance list and compiling a dating checklist. Along the way, I even met the real Mr. Right.
When my marriage first ended, I couldn’t find any divorce books to which I could relate. There were books from therapists filled with marriage-saving strategies and books with stories from suddenly single mothers who spent decades as wives. I didn’t want to save my marriage so that nixed the majority of books on the shelves. Although I did read one collection of divorce stories, I found it difficult to relate to women who had children my age.
I discovered there was no literary representation for younger women who have courageously decided to end their marriages and just need some reassurance that everything would be OK. I didn’t just survive my divorce; I rocked it. And writing a book has always been one of my goals (I grew up writing stories on typewriters, remember those? I even cut models out of magazines and glued them onto the pages as characters). When I divorced, I naturally channeled my journalistic background and made it my mission to connect with others to let them know that not only is there life after divorce in your 20s, but life is indeed beautiful.
During the process, I discovered I’m not the lone wolf—I have a pack! By conducting interviews for this book and moderating discussions among divorced women currently in their 20s and early 30s who are members of my Trash the Dress private online support group, I’ve learned why twenty-something women are getting married and divorced and more importantly, how they are moving on from marriage.
From traveling with girlfriends and hosting divorce parties to raising money for local domestic violence shelters through 5k races, twenty-something divorcées are inspiring forces. United by this project, our celebration stories will pave the way for those whose lives are just turning down this winding road.
Before I trashed my dress, I thought I wasted the most important years of my life with my ex-husband. But while tearing the fabric of my wedding dress with clenched fists, I cleansed all of my self-loathing for marrying a man I wasn’t 100 percent sure was “the one,” but rather hoped would evolve into my perfect partner after we became husband and wife. Now, I’m thankful for the venom.
The mid-mid-life crisis that followed my so-called marriage may have shattered my life as I knew it then, but not the life I was meant to live.
The women featured on the following pages have also raised their naked left ring fingers high and waved their past goodbye. We’re proof that breaking up is hard to do, but worth it. And that there is indeed a happily ever after post-divorce!