Even though divorce is a rite of passage that large numbers of women go through every year, the aftermath of divorce is impossible to understand unless you’ve been through it-especially the impact of divorce on older women. In some ways widowhood is easier. There is a support system for widows; there are rituals in place to help them grieve. You can’t sit shiva or hold a wake when you get divorced, no one brings casseroles, and there are no sympathy cards. In fact friends may shun you as though divorce was catching. You may even be blamed for driving him away. Real sympathy and understanding is in short supply. Instead of leaving you his assets, your ex, who is far from dearly departed, may be busy stashing them in the Bahamas. While you are asking friends to fix you up, your ex, who has become that rarity, an eligible single man over fifty, is probably fending off dinner invitations. It just ain’t fair, in fact it’s incredibly galling, a discrepancy that takes some time and an understanding girlfriend to get used to.
Alone at fifty-eight, broke, traumatized, depressed, feeling like that I’d never find a decent job, another man or another life, made me think about how many other women were in the same boat as me, or an even worse boat. It also made me think about who women turn to when they get divorced no matter how old they are: their girlfriends, of course. I was lucky enough to have Kathy to sit me down and warn me about how I better get over being part of a couple and start taking care of myself. She told me what to read, insisted I see a lawyer when I was sure I didn’t need one, told me what to expect from my soon to be ex and his new girlfriend, answered my desperate calls at 3 a.m., reassured me that I wasn’t going to end up a bag lady, tutored me in the bizarre etiquette of Internet dating, and eventually let me know when it was time to can the self-pity and get on with life. Divorced women, especially if they’re women of a “certain age” not only need advice from experts, but from a wise girlfriend who’s been there, done that. If you don’t have a Kathy, or even if you do, I intend to be that girlfriend. I’ve done a lot of research and can tell you what you need to know.