Two days ago, The Sunday Times Style magazine (not my usual reading fare) conducted a survey of over 1000 divorced men and women, and concluded in huge capitals: MEET THE NEW BREED OF HAPPY DIVORCEE: WOMEN WHO ARE EMPOWERED, POSITIVE AND THRILLED TO BE SINGLE. While I have minor quibbles about the methodology and the slightly sensationalist way they presented the findings, I completely agree with the sentiment. Forget about Lehar’s Merry Widow, this is the age of the Merry Divorcee! Why? Mainly because it’s a bloody relief to be carefree and single again.
It is surprising how little I miss being married – which probably shows that I had been getting very little out of that marriage for many, many years before it ended. I was responsible for all of the children’s medical appointments, school admin, payments, extracurricular activities, holidays, homework, shoe and clothes shopping, haircuts anyway, so in fact it is an improvement that occasionally they spend time with him and he has to organise days out with them or take them to the orthodontist twice a year.
How relaxing to have the whole bed to myself, to be able to switch on the bedside lamp to read when I suffer from insomnia, to not have all of his mobile phones and tablets flashing and beeping all night, to not see his blissfully unaware sleeping form on cold mornings when I need to get up early and get myself and the children ready for school, because he can’t be bothered to do the school run because he is not a morning person. I no longer have to remember the entire family diary (including his parents’ birthdays, his sister’s nameday, his nephew’s shoe size, his cousin’s promotion) or organise our entire social calendar only to have him moaning about the time, place or people involved, while I do all the cleaning, shopping, cooking, pouring out of drinks and conversation when we have guests, because his idea of small talk was usually something involving particle physics or berating of others for their political views. Oh, and how free will is entirely illusory. You’ve heard it seven times, you’ve heard it all. Do you know how much more interesting my conversations have become since I am by myself – even with my sons?
I can watch the TV I want instead of the droning of Formula 1 every second weekend. Or not watch it at all and read for hours before bedtime without someone sulking that I am not paying them enough attention. I can write a book review, or blog post, or scribble a poem or goof about on Twitter without constant questioning. Above all, I no longer get frustrated that my partner is not pulling their weight, because I know exactly how much I can do and when, rather than having any false expectations or relying on somebody else. I can get up and make a tea for myself without glowering that no one is offering to make me one. I can drill holes in the wall and hang pictures without a running commentary about how badly I do all those things. I can decide not to cook when I am tired and ask the children to either have toast with peanut butter or prepare their own pasta. I can make mistakes, be untidy, burst into giggles or be ignorant without a patronising sneer or far too earnest attempt to ‘teach me’.
As for loneliness, what loneliness? I’ve been going out much more frequently than at any point over the past 15 years (helped, of course, by the fact that the boys are older now and learning to fend for themselves). I keep in touch much more regularly with friends, whom I tended to avoid during the dying years of marriage because I didn’t want to deal with their uncomfortable questions or even sympathy.
Once a year, about this time of year, I do miss the masculine touch: I struggle to ‘bleed’ the radiators before switching them back on for the winter. But that’s an infinitesimal reason for marrying – I’m sure a handyman is less expensive in the long run and better for your health.