Why? Because I’m a child of divorce? Because a few of my mom’s friends were always, in their words, “happily divorced” and “celebrating every day”? (Whether that’s actually as it seems is its own three-hour conversation.) I don’t remember my mom celebrating once we’d moved down the street. (Dad helped us move). I don’t remember either of my parents responding in any way to finally being divorced from one another. Maybe I was in school or band practice at the exact moment corks were popped. Guess I wanted to witness what I’d missed. In movies and on television, I’ve watched people exclaiming that their divorce “calls for a celebration.” In the next few scenes, they’re going out with friends, getting drunk, hooking up with a stranger, eating regret with breakfast.
I haven’t seen the celebration begin by inviting eighty-five friends to a rented out local one-screen theater for cake and live music.
What does the invite look like to a divorce party?
“I got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one.” Didn’t expect the ex-wife to be there after starting the Facebook event page. “No one gets married hoping to see the demise of their marriage, but bad things happen to good people all the time.” Thank you, newly ex-husband pictured above, for a little humanity there. “My divorce battle lagged on for almost two years but it is FINALLY over!! It has been a life-altering change and should be recognized as such so come help me celebrate the start of a new journey. It going to be a Fun party!!!!”*
Four exclamation marks. My life has four exclamation marks behind it too so I knew that this would be fun with a capital F.
I entered, searching for M who hadn’t made it from the pre-party yet. I didn’t recognize anyone. These were her cycling friends who I’ve only heard about. (Well, there was that one roller skate party where I could’ve gotten to know people better but I was too busy trying to stay upright in the kiddy rink.) I was also wearing this crazy shirt. It has a pattern of tiny playing cards (all royals in hearts and diamonds). There’s also red piping across the chest. Kind of gives this Western/Cowboy shirt impression. It’s a little too much but when I suggested it, M thought that the host would like it.
People were in black tie attire there in the bar adjoining the lobby.
I rushed out, grabbed my leather jacket, and waited in the Starbucks at the end of the strip until M arrived. Would I look dressier if I just wore the V-neck under instead and zipped my jacket up. Thankfully, I wasn’t wearing jeans. Out in the lot, M asked me to stick a beer in my pocket because only one fit in her purse. When I walked at the right angle, it looked like I was happy to see everybody.
The marquee read ___’s Divorce Party on one side and there was a proposal on the other side. The woman proposed to not only shared a name with the ex-wife but also the high school crush of the host. That high school friend walked in with the largest eyes. But, no: a separate person had paid for that space.
Tiled arrows from the door led to the lobby. I wish I’d taken photos now! A little table with guest book and individual containers of bubble solution waited next to cobwebs and a fuzzy orange and black spider. (I brought home five of those bubble mixes. Whenever I’ve felt stress creeping on, I’ve filled the space with bubbles.) On the counter where you’d buy drinks and popcorn, there were instead a plastic cup pyramid (fancy plastic cups instead of those that you’d grab at a freshman party. Come on now. Black tie affair here.) and two bottles of Champagne dressed as a bride and groom from the neck down. On a table in front of the doors to the theater sat the three-tiered cake. The topper was of a bride pushing a groom over. Fondant broken hearts and mens clothes curved over the tiers. A drop box next to the cake asked for you to write down ways “not to get divorced” on slips. The tuxedoed host passed out labels to other divorcees with their names and the starting and ending years of their marriages written across while his tuxedoed “Worst Men” mingled. People posed with an eight foot tall grim reaper under a lit trellis. The reaper demanded you oppose opposite sex marriage.
Many in the room did as the reaper demanded in their conversations. As far as I could tell, I was the only gay person there. I played this up for as many tragic laughs as possible. I made my own name tag that said, “Gay in TX” and in the drop box, I put “Be homosexual in most of the world.” (You’re totally inviting me to your next party aren’t you?) You’d think with all of that, people wouldn’t turn to me and say, “Marriage should be abolished, shouldn’t it? Or at least we should keep it to civil unions instead.”
Okay okay. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read a rant. Though I don’t truly know for sure, I think I’d at least like to try marriage. Certainly, I want to fall in love and raise kids. Maybe I don’t have to call it marriage, I guess, if I don’t want to. Maybe I don’t have to recreate the Hollywood big wedding day with church, cream puff dress (I’m too hirsute for cream puff), In God’s name I do, I do but I want to commit to someone, bitter people, and marriage is pretty much the ultimate label we give ultimate commitment concerning romantic relationships. Even if I or Mr. Future Husband or both of us fail to commit until death do us part. You can’t just whine about changing the game just as a bunch of people in rainbow uniforms approach wanting to play what they’ve never played just because you didn’t like your teammates in the end. That’s like a backwards way of keeping me from marriage equality. Leave the field. Go get a hot dog and some memorabilia. Dust off your grass stains. Get on one of those bike carts and let them peddle you around the stadium lot away from souring my white picket future.
And eat some cake too. It was tasty. Red velvet cake. Something about blood as a symbol.
What else is there to say? The soundtrack was all depressing 90s pop hits though I loved the folksy live band that began to drown out that soundtrack. Baby boomer strangers wandered in from the bar, jigging to the folk, acting as if everyone was allowed a piece of cake. M spilled on me twice, so I drank her beer. There was an after-party. I met wonderful people during both parties who got drunk and became either hilarious or depressed. Some wanted to make another human centipede like they had at their last gathering. I was offered red wine from our after-party host when I declined beer. He’s in his thirties. I thought that as I got older that the free wine at parties would be of higher quality but it’s just refrigerated.
The ex-husband wasn’t 100% campy and depressing, though. Inside a see-through movie poster frame at his party, he’d placed a homemade poster. Entitled It Wasn’t All Bad, it was a photo collage of his kids and ex-wife smiling on vacations mixed with baby, wedding, and honeymoon snaps. When I saw the newly ex-husband/newly single man drunk-eyed by himself at the after-party, I thought most about his poster. He never said anything about the kids in his earlier toast. He’d just made the point that he was “finally free”. But then everyone at the party personally knew him, knew his story. It’s rude to ask for more detail when you’re the only stranger. I couldn’t read the tone of their supporting shoulder rubs. At the after-party though, more than one assured that if they did actually make another human centipede, he’d get to be at the front this time.