A concession and a rare dip into non-fiction

Last week, a friend called to ask me if it was ok if she passed my phone number along to another friend of hers. It seems this woman’s husband and father to her 3 children had recently announced he was in love with someone else and would be vacating their newly purchased home.

My heart sank for her. And not because her husband was in love with someone else. Men who announce this kind of thing are generally the types you are happier living without. But because I knew how sad she must be and because she was only at the beginning of what would inevitably be a long, disorienting and painful process. For her and for especially for her little ones. Which was the worst part.

I’m somewhat of an expert on this kind of thing in my circle, having been through a divorce with young children/other woman myself. But, every situation is different and every story has two sides. So when the friend phoned, I listened carefully and I tried to give her my best nuggets of non-advice advice. Including a head’s up that she would be queried by the CRA when she changes her status from ‘married’ to ‘separated’ on her tax return. Apparently there are hoards of married people out there faking divorce to gain some sort of tax advantage. Who knew?

Towards the end of our conversation, she asked me if there were any good books that I could recommend to help her feel better. I paused. As previously mentioned on this blog, I think that any dipping into ‘self help’ one may do, should not be openly discussed or disclosed.

But I’ll concede just this once. Because the truth is that I bought a few of such books, and was given countless more. Within this ‘genre”, I was drawn to the personal stories, rather than the inner peace mantras. I dare say, the first time I’ve really tucked into non-fiction. Here’s a selective review of my favourites:

Divorce Sucks by Mary Jo Eustace. Such a funny book. A perfect mix of humour, practical advice and celebrity gossip. Mary-Jo is the ex-wife of Dean of Tori and Dean fame, and she delivers her story from the high road, which is great because we can easily extrapolate the rest. I finished it relieved that I never had to see Donna Martin in pink cowboy boots wrapped around my ex-husband on the cover of US Magazine.

Happily After Marriage by Sarah Hampson I’ve long admired Sarah’s column in the Globe and Mail. She’s open, frank, and had never shied away from difficult topics (sexless marriage, middle class guilt, affairs, etc). Same goes for her book. I liked that she reflects on her role as both the other woman and ex-wife. She also coins some great terms in there, such as “domestic porn’ (referring to the ubiquitous pre-divorce kitchen reno), which I’ve employed liberally in casual conversation ever since I read it.

Happens Every Day: An All too True Story by Isabel Gillies
The first of this ‘genre’ I read after spotting an excerpt in Vogue complete with a photo in which Isabel was wearing the best blue heels. A little long on the idyllic details of her former life (organic peaches, wool sweaters and all that), but written with such honesty and heartbreak that I soon became email friends with Isabel. She totally puts her ‘crazy’ out there in her story, which I thought was incredibly brave. I instantly forgave her need to delve into detail about the Oberlin farmers market.

I think it’s easy when something unexpected or terrible happens to feel isolated and even a little persecuted. These stories written by women who emerged from their respective situations strong and happy helped me realize that wasn’t the case. I hope my new friend will feel the same way some day very soon.

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