Should married people be giving divorcees advice?

 I was recently asked to write a piece for The Huffington Post/Divorce section (psyched!) and my topic choice, “How do you know when you’re over your divorce?” inspired me to write this post.
I am not suggesting that us divorcees are part of some special club, but we do have a unique experience that those who have not been through it can’t really understand. Fortunately for them, they just don’t get it. They attempt to guide us, when they have never been in our shoes. I suspect it’s no different in reverse. Should someone who has never been married give marital advice? Should someone who has never had children provide child-rearing tips? I guess they can, but whether you listen to it or not is your choice (or problem).
Three of my close girlfriends are divorced – we all split with our exes around the same time.  Two of them are now in serious relationships, and like me, they have pretty much healed. They have put their divorces behind them.
The only difference is, I’m still single. To some people, single is a condition that needs fixing. People close to me want to “help” me. They want me to be happy (even though I think that most of the time, I am), and they think if I find my next husband, like my divorced girlfriends have, I will be.   
I realize that their intentions come from a good place – love. I understand the ache, or the itch, to make a loved one’s burden lighter, and sometimes we can’t resist the urge to scratch it, even though it might not help.  
With the input of some fellow divorcees, here are some examples:
Divorced: “I got a really nice email from my ex-husband…after all this time…”
Married: “Maybe you two should go on a date.”
Divorced, no kids: “I’m thinking about going to a fertility clinic to discuss my options of having a kid.”
Married with kids: “Oh, is that the place where you can get some eggs?”
Divorced: “I had a dream that I saw my ex husband and we made up. I woke up really sad.”
Married: “Wow, I can’t believe you’re not over it yet.”
Divorced: “This guy I met on Match.com told me his last girlfriend called the cops on him after they had a fight, but that she’s the one that started it.”
Married: “Give him a chance.”
Divorced, no kids: “Wow, I can’t believe I’m going to be 40 this year. When I was married, I thought I’d have at least two kids.
Married with kids: “My friends started having kids at 44. You can have three.”
Divorced: “Sometimes it still hurts that my husband cheated on me.”
Married: “Didn’t you know that was going to happen? You can’t just travel for work all the time and expect your husband to stay faithful.”
Divorced: “I really want a child and my divorce has delayed everything.”
Married with Kids: “Just do it. Pick anyone. It doesn’t matter who.”

Divorced: ” I’m sorry I haven’t seen you for a while. Our friendship is important to me but it’s been tough and I needed space to process my divorce.”
Married: “It’s ok. I’m just going to pretend you went on vacation.”
It’s true that on the surface, none of the above suggestions seem constructive, or applicable. If we wanted stock advice, we could pick up a self help book (or read “Eat Pray Love”).  Maintaining a close friendship with people who have never been in your shoes can be tricky…if you let it. I try not to expect any magical pearls of wisdom. We are the sole surivivors of our own history and experiences – no one else wakes up in our own skin.  And that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be. 
So I guess the choice is ours. We can put up a wall between us and the people we care about who “just don’t understand,” and protect ourselves from frustration. Or- we can choose to share, in order to nurture and sustain that relationship.
And if that means that suggestions are going to be offered, so be it. 
You may even be surprised that sometimes, if you stay open, a pearl of wisdom might sneak it’s way in.

 

It is what it is.

I used to loathe this phrase. It sounds like a cop out. When you don’t feel like giving advice to a friend or are at a loss for words, “It is what it is” is the lazy default. 

Urban Dictionary agrees:
-A phrase that seems to state the obvious but actually implies helplessness.
-Used often in the business world, this incredibly versatile phrase can be literally translated as “fuck it.”
-A trite, overused and infuriatingly meaningless cliche that is utilized by provincials who think they are adding some deep, meaningful insight during a discussion.

It’s almost as irritating as, “You gotta do what you gotta do.” When the shit hits the fan, these phrases crop up everywhere. When my marriage fell apart and I was adrift and turning to people for advice, I’d hear: “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.”

“But what if I don’t know what I gotta do? That’s the whole reason we are having this conversation!”

Friend (shrug): “It is what it is.”

Right. Got it.

“It is what it is” is a phrase that Israelis employ often. Growing up, I heard it a lot – from my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and from my parents too. Maybe it’s because Israelis live in conflict and anticipation of the next “bad” thing that could happen tomorrow, so they are forced to accept “it,” that is, life, and its harsh realities.  For them, “It is what it is” is not just a phrase, it is a philosophy. It supports accepting the state of affairs rather than hiding from them and living under pretense.

So it made me wonder if my ongoing issue with this phrase has been rooted in a deeper frustration. Perhaps what angered me was not the laziness or seeming meaninglessness of this phrase, but rather the realities of my own life; of a picture that had been forming before my eyes, when for so long I’d held onto a different one. Perhaps it is the makeup of my life today – the furnishings that occupy its space – be it abandoned dreams or the reassessment of my goals that I am stubbornly rallying against.

So I’ve started to look at things differently.  When people say (or think): “Cougel, don’t you miss the life you had in LA, and your nice house?”  “Do you want to be doing what you’re doing right now?”

Guess what my response to that is?

“It is what it is” is not cynical, nor is it defeatist. I no longer see it as a dismissal, as a shrug of the shoulders that says, “Ah fuck it. I can’t do anything about my situation so I’m not even going to try.”  It’s exactly the opposite. It means that taking an honest look at what you have and accepting the cards that have been dealt to you frees you from illusion. And from there, you can start building again.

So I’ve started to take stock of the “its” in my life, and then I’m going to make some decisions from there.

Because you know, I gotta do what I gotta do.

A Jewish mother's advice on dating.

What a day. It started out (as all Monday’s do), sluggish, yicky, and overwhelmed by the plans I had lined up every night but this one.  And I had all sorts of heady and heavy blogs to write such as: what break ups are like (as if you don’t know), and the kinds of things we do to distract ourselves from heartache and loneliness. And from sending dumb ass texts to our exes like “I miss you,” or “Hi,” or “Twitter says you’re bored, can I help?”
But why bother when mom is back full force?
I had a date last night with a very nice man. A bear. He is about (gasp!) 19 years older than my ex-cub was. With a good job and a large…physique and lots of interesting things to say. He even had a few book suggestions for me to write down. It was positive. I came home and out of habit, I emailed my sisters and my mother a quick low down. This is to spare me from two things: 1) Having to rehash the same story three separate times, and 2) So that the next day I don’t have to talk about it again. Because as experience dictates, I really have no idea if I will ever hear from said dude again (for no particular reason except this is New York and guys are weird), and I don’t want to talk or think about it (because friends and mom get more worked up than I do) til there is a second or third date on the books.
So sisters write back the cute and expected: “Great! Sounds fun.” Two minutes pass. And then almost identical emails from both sisters come in: “Wait. He’s 46. Why isn’t he married?” My response: “I know! When I asked him that very question, he asked for the check (he paid) and said, ‘I’m bored-let’s-walk empire is starting in a few minutes.’”
This was mom’s response (Note: the following program might contain explicit language. The kind you need a Jewish mother glossary for. Brackets not included):
My Cougel. I like the date! But…5 things a lady should know (that’s assuming I am a lady…)
1. Be mysterious [hard to get…don’t divulge all your info].
2. Be flirtatious. Look straight in his eyes in a sexy way.
3. Show you are a ballbusty * [keep neat, like to cook basic things, home maker] (*Note: Mom wrote “ballbusty,” and at first I thought she meant “ball-buster” but now I realize she means “Ballabustah,” a yiddish term for “Jewish girl who’s a go-getter.”)
4. A lady in your manners [from not using words like bull, what the f… eat with your mouth closed! Use YOUR KNIFE IN THE RIGHT HAND, don’t make your little sandwiches using your fingers…]
5. Be your beautiful funny self. WATCH YOUR DRINKS. Real man hate women drinking. 
6. Don’t blog this.
Woops.