Divorce is a life occurrance with many milestones. There are the obvious initial emotional ones, followed by the logistics and pain of filing paperwork at the courthouse, followed by the aftermath of getting your life back to “normal.” Then, if you are woman who was optimistic and foolish enough to change your name in the first place, you must go through process of getting your maiden name back. You know this endeavor is going to be no fun whatsoever when it starts out with a trip to the Social Security office, followed by an in-person trek to the DMV. From there, you then need to notify everyone in the universe that you have changed your name. For those on the periphery of your life who didn’t know you prior to this fiasco or know of any of the details of the ordeal itself, it inevitably prompts the question, “Did you get married?”
In an effort to circumvent this question at work – where I am considered a quasi-professional – I sent an email to all of my colleagues, business associates and clients saying, “FYI, I am reverting back to my maiden name.” I personally think the gist of the situation is conveyed nicely in that statement, without having to have said, “Hey, everyone, I got divorced!” Still, I cannot count the number of emails or phone calls I got asking, “Did you get married?”
Now, being a bit of a people pleaser, I always feel obliged to put people at rest in an awkward situation, even if they caused it themselves by being dumb and not reading my email. My gut reaction to this is to overcompensate by being overly glib and saying something like, “Actually, I used to be married and now I am un-married.” When this makes people feel further uncomfortable for having put their foot in their mouth, I am then even more compelled to put them at ease. So when I get the response, “Oh, I’m sorry. ” I come back with, “Don’t be! If you met my ex, you’d be sorry for me if I was still married!” At this point, in an effort to to put others at ease, I have fully succeeded in making myself sound like a callous asshole. I chalk it up to being part of the process.
Still, at points I cringe at having to have this conversation. Case in point: last Friday, I had a dentist appointment before work. Inconveniently, someone scheduled a conference call with one of my big partners at a point in the morning that didn’t really give me enough time to get to the office to take the call, so I had to start it in my car. Since I live in California, a “hands free” cell phone state, and I am wothout a working earpiece, I put my cell phone on speaker and then hit “mute” to cut out the background noise. I was pulling into the parking lot at the studio when my client asked, “Are you leading this call?” I un-mute myself and say “Of course!” and start trying to get my brain into work mode as I drive up to the fifth floor of the parking garage looking for a place to park. Now, the studio where I work has recently been on a hiring binge, so parking is a huge issue; if you arrive even 45 minues after 9 AM, you’re generally out of luck trying to find a spot and have to valet. I made it in the nick of time and pulled straight into a spot in the last available row. I started to feel relieved that I could take my phone off speaker, get out of my car and really concentrate on this conference call…when the VP of marketing at this company asked, “Hey, did you get married?” At this precise moment, a security guard started banging on my window yelling “You have to pull in at an angle!” So, I re-start my car, put my phone back on speaker and say, “No, I used to be married but I’m not anymore!” as I backed my car up and then pulled back in at an angle, nearly hitting the security guard.
It was just about then that it occurred to me that it is really hard to go through a divorce with your diginity in tact. The people around you often don’t make this any easier.