So, two girlfriends and I were sitting at lunch yesterday at one of those places that my friend loves because she says the organic salads are so good and I pretend to love too because I don't want her to know that I am that unhealthy fatty that is thinking "Please God, let them at least have a decent burger on the menu." Of course, dating after divorce topped our conversation. Two of us have been through divorce and one is in the midst. We sat there eating our organic, gluten-free, lactose-free, bowls of lettuce, while I wistfully stared at the Irish Pub across the street and salivated for a Scotch Egg.
Anyway, we talked about dating, how to date, who to date, when to date, and shared some experiences that we have already beaten to death but decided to revisit. These gals are somewhat new to the game and I of course am an old, though very well-maintained, pro. I regaled them with tales of my various dates, the one who took me to Cheesecake Factory and changed tables every time I went to the bathroom, the one who was an insurance fraud investigator, but was on leave because he had fired a gunshot at his wife -- (In his defense, she fired first, so, I mean seriously, what was he supposed to do?) and even the one who stood me up and left me standing at a tiki bar, like an idiot, totally overdressed in my new Anthropologie shawl. (Remember when they had that brief resurgence before we all realized we looked like that weird librarian in junior high?)
I can tell those stories now, without cringing and even enjoy them because those dates, and those stories led me to the relationship I am in now, with a man whom I plan to share the rest of my life with. And as always when I tell these stories and get to the good part about how I finally found this man I am asked the same question, "Do you think you will ever get married again?"
Now, years ago, right after my divorce if someone would have asked me that I immediately would have answered, "YES! Do you know anyone?" because I could not imagine NOT being married. Being divorced after 27 years of marriage made me feel, alone, lost, adrift and in need. I thought perhaps I could slide another man right into that vacant husband position and my life could continue on much as before, Saturday night dinners with other couples, my occasional infamous themed dinner parties with colorful napkins, and the Sunday night dinners at my parent's house. Yes, I was definitely taking applications.
And then, I began to enjoy the freedom that being divorced can bring. I saw that sure, I did enjoy the company of a man, and yes I did want a partner to go through life with, but marriage? Now, not so sure.
Of course, I believe in marriage for all and I do think it is the foundation of our society. Still, at this stage of the game, both of us in middle age, I don't know. We have seven grown children between us, we have past lives, alimony, life insurance policies, ex-spouses that are still going to be part of our lives. Why now? Why not now? What is the answer?
I am not going to be so glib as to say "I don't see how a piece of paper can make us love each other any more than we do." A marriage license is not just a piece of paper, it says "I love this person above all others." In fact, I came across mine not too long ago, in an envelope with my divorce decree. I held them up side by side, one a beginning and one an ending, more than just pieces of paper for sure. But, is it one we need now at this point in our lives?
So. What? I don't know. We are getting older, and down the road, there will be challenges, possible sickness, surgeries, etc. Would marriage make those events any easier? In fact my man had some routine tests a while back and while asleep in his hospital bed, a nurse came in with a clip board of questions that needed answering. "Are you his wife?"she asked.
"No,um, I'm just his girlfriend." I answered.
I am JUST a girlfriend and he is JUST a boyfriend, and we love and cherish each other every day. Perhaps that is enough.
*Originally published in Huffington Post Divorce, October 2014