My friend told me this week that this newsletter should not only be read by divorcing women, but that it should also be required reading for husbands everywhere, like some sort of cautionary tale for their dumb, lazy asses. I’m cool with that. I was born for schooling the mens.
So sign up your menfolk, ladies. Let’s get those assholes in line.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what life looks like after divorce, and part of that is wondering a lot about how dating is going to work with little kids. I honestly never really gave a ton of thought to getting involved with my ex, so many years ago. He was around. He was available. Moving in together would save us a lot of money on rent in New York City. Eventually I really wanted a baby. It was just a thing that happened, and I stupidly went along for the ride. Now I’m older (and wiser?) and I have seen what going along for the ride gets you. And with two little boys now, it’s hard not to do the opposite of what I did with my ex, and actually overthink the shit out of it.
My own parents divorced when I was seven years old. I was the youngest of three kids, and my mom was a psychiatric nurse at the county hospital. She had full custody of us, and we didn’t see much of my dad. My mom worked weird hours at the hospital, and if I had to choose one word to describe my childhood after divorce it would be “feral.” I had almost no supervision as a kid. My mother left for work at dawn, and I got myself to school on my own every morning. After school, I walked home by myself and let myself into the house. My older brother played sports after school and was never there. My older sister was always with her boyfriend. My mom worked every other weekend, so I was mainly on my own half the weekends. My siblings were ostensibly in charge at those times, but they didn’t give a shit what I was doing. It was chaos. In retrospect, it’s kind of a miracle that I can take care of myself at all. There were no regular mealtimes. Nobody telling me to take a bath or comb my hair. Nobody checking that I did my homework. Either I sank or I swam, and I did quite a bit of both to be honest.
Anyway, my mom never dated anyone from the time she divorced when I was seven, until I was in high school. She staunchly believed that this was in our best interest. By the time she started dating, both my sister and brother had moved out of the house and I was a barely-contained teenager. My mother was very, very done with parenting by that point, and in high school I was essentially left to my own devices. Most of the time, I basically lived by myself. My mother would go away with her boyfriend or spend nights and weekends at his house. I did all the things that a terrible, feral teenager would do who had zero supervision. I threw ridiculous high school parties many weekends at my house. I started going every Tuesday night to the Wetlands, which was a club on Hudson Street in New York City. I got to know the bouncers who would look at my library card (to make it look like they had checked an ID in case the cops were watching), nod, and let me in. Eventually, because I basically lived alone, I started smoking cigarettes inside my house. Friends always loved to come over because we could smoke inside, which felt terribly grown up. Doesn’t your mom care, they would ask? She’s in fucking Mexico on a cruise, I would say. Fuck it.
I also went to a lot of Grateful Dead concerts. When I tell people this they inevitably say, no, you’re too young to have gone to see the Dead, and honestly they’re not wrong. I never traveled far, but starting at age fourteen I began going to all the area shows. New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington D.C. I was often traveling with people I barely knew, sometimes people I literally met in a parking lot. Some of my friends have fourteen year olds now, and let me tell you, fourteen year olds are fucking BABIES. What on earth was I doing sleeping on the floor of a hotel room in Philadelphia tripping on acid with a bunch of adults at that age? Smoking joints with the hell’s angels? Making out in a tent with some shirtless old dude who gave me hashish?
I asked my mother recently why on earth she let me do these things. She said she had no idea I was. But mom, I asked, isn’t that, in and of itself, a problem? That your teenaged daughter was in Worcester for three days with a bunch of random deadheads, and you didn’t even realize she was gone? That never happened, my mom told me. Um, ok, mom.
The point here is not to drag my mom, who was actually probably pretty fucking tired of life at that point and just wanted to go on some goddamned cruises with her gross boyfriend. (They got married when I was twenty! I got hammered, and karaoked “I Will Survive” with my sister and brother at the wedding after getting felt up by the bagpiper outside the church. True story).
The point is, my mom was so adamantly convinced that never dating until we were grown was the right thing to do for us. Who knows. I asked my therapist what she thinks, and she said you know what? Happy parents are good parents. Get yours.
Happy Valentine’s Day, lovey dovies. May your exes rot in hell, and may your current nights be set on fire.
p.s. I don’t really listen to the Grateful Dead anymore, but this was always my favorite song to shake it to at shows. I like this cover now more than the original. Things change!
If you like the music in this here newsletter, check out The D-Train, The Playlist. It’s got a little maudlin muzak, and a healthy dose of booty shaking.
Also, you know what would make a great Valentine’s Day gift for the dumb man in your life? A subscription to The D-Train. Do it.