5 Things I Did After My Husband Asked for a Divorce
1) Got a tattoo
Don’t worry, it wasn’t a rash decision. I’d wanted a cherry blossom for years and researched LA artists known for their delicate line work.
When I made the appointment six weeks earlier, my husband and I had been separated for a couple of months, but we were still talking about “living independently” and having “adventures.” In an email I sent to about 20 friends and family, I made it sound like the decision was mutual and said, “No one’s talking about divorce.” On some level I must have known we were headed there. But I just thought I had a little more time to imagine us growing old together after we took time apart to live in different places and sleep with other people.
Then two days before my tattoo appointment, my husband asked me to lunch and told me he wanted to make it legal. So I was still raw when I sat down with the artist, and it was a vulnerable position to be in, this man I didn’t know keeping an iron grip on my wrist and drawing into my skin. Still, he was so engaging — talking about moving all around Southern California as a kid; telling me stories about his dad, who was one of the founding members of Los Lobos — that the hour with him was one of the more pleasant in recent memory. I wish I wanted more ink just so I could hang out with him again.
2) Joined an improv class
Five days after my husband told me he wanted a divorce, I walked into a room full of strangers, got up on stage, said, “Yes, and” to everything, and committed to whatever was happening in the moment. I actually got some laughs in one scene — as a close talker invading the space of a fellow passenger on a bus — even though I’d never done improv before.
None of these people knew anything about me except my first name and what I was like when I was acting in a scene. They didn’t know I’d spent the last two and a half months helping my husband dismantle our life of 14 years together.
They didn’t know that except for that one night with them, I spent most of the week crying.
3) Signed up for Tinder
Eleven days after lunch with my husband, nine days after the tattoo, and six days after joining improv, I created a profile on Tinder.
The first day I had lots of matches, and I began to learn how to flirt using my thumbs on the screen. When I started chatting with boys as young as 22 and 23, I freaked out: I’m 47. There’s no way I can do this. They weren’t even born when I was teaching middle school. But they told me I was hot, that it wasn’t weird at all, so I thought, Who am I to get in the way of what they want?
The last time I was single, smart phones didn’t exist and almost no one texted. But within a couple of days of swiping on Tinder, I found myself doing the following with a 22-year-old and a 25-year-old: receiving my first dick pic (sadly not my last), sending owner of said dick a photo of my tits, describing what I like in bed, and reading what they wanted to do to me.
I learned that sexting is incredibly efficient — it doesn’t just keep up the interest on both sides; it saves time when you actually meet. The last time I was sleeping around, it would have taken a dark bar and a few drinks to start talking this way. But now I could do it while I was waiting on hold or filling out a tax form.
5) Slept with a college student for the first time in 28 years
Four days after joining Tinder and 15 days after my husband told me he wanted to end our marriage, I answered the door and met the 22-year-old I’d been sexting with. When I saw him standing there in athletic shorts, white sneakers, and white socks pulled over his calves, with longer wilder hair and a beard (finals week — some things hadn’t changed), I panicked for a split second: What am I supposed to do with this frat boy?
After some wine and stilted conversation in the living room — I actually asked him what his major was — he mercifully said, “I just really want to kiss you.” And that was it.
When we were in bed, he asked how long I’d been with my husband and I told him 14 years. He said, “This must feel really strange.” But it didn’t. It felt fun and funny and hard to believe, but not strange.
The 22-year-old was the first of many, including other 22-year-olds. I knew I was a cliché, engaging with near-children to escape aging and sadness, but I didn’t care. The boys I would meet on Tinder over the next several months hadn’t built a life with someone over more than a decade only to take it apart piece by piece. Their peers weren’t struggling through the middle years of career disappointments and the frustration of raising children. Their friends and siblings weren’t getting diagnosed with cancer at an alarming rate. And their parents hadn’t yet transformed into their grandparents, seemingly overnight.
They had their whole lives ahead of them. That was an escape of its own.
Excerpted from the memoir Anyone Who Comes Close: A Year of Tinder, Divorce, and Love in the Age of the Internet.
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[For those of you who’ve expressed interest in my memoir, an excerpt will be included in an anthology called Split: true stories about the end of marriage and what happens next. The excerpt won’t be published anywhere else. Pre-orders are available here.]