Sunday Stories: The Divorce Party

The Divorce Party
by Deenah Vollmer

Susan and Michael had a good marriage, for some time. But one day, after things had become stiff and passive aggressive, Michael got down on one knee and asked Susan if she would like to divorce him. She never thought he’d ask, she told him, though she had hoped, and they decided to get divorced on the first day of autumn.

Of course a divorce takes a lot of planning. They felt lucky they had good lawyers and no children. In May they sent out “Save the Date” notices to their friends and family. In June they booked a banquet hall and a band. In July Susan purchased a sexy black cocktail dress and in August they found a suitable caterer and flower arrangements. In September they had a pre-party–a last salute to lackluster couplehood–with their closest married friends: a dinner party followed by Scrabble. After a dispute of whether Susan could play the two-letter word “Aa” even though she didn’t know what it was—it’s a Hawaiian type of lava, Michael knew but refused to tell her—they went to bed together, stiffly and passive aggressively, for one of the last times. It wasn’t great and they both felt relieved that they would no longer have to pretend they weren’t sleeping with other people.

Still, Susan and Michael enjoyed their last weeks of marriage and felt sad about the things they would miss, like half of their belongings. They set up a registry, two registries actually. Hers included a food processor, a flat-screen TV, and a Nintendo Wii because he would be keeping those things. His included high quality Tupperware, an ab roller, and an espresso maker because she would be keeping those.

Friends and family came to the divorce and sat on appropriate sides of the rented chapel, his or hers. Many couples sat separately to show their alignment. Most people knew immediately where to sit, but a few deliberated for a moment and then chose. Michael’s best friend Arnold, for example, eventually decided to sit on Susan’s side because he wanted to go home with her that night. “Bros before hos” was not a slogan at the divorce party. Guests brought gifts accordingly, many from the registry, but sex toys, memberships to online dating sites, and strip club gift certificates were also in tow. The cards said, “So you’re single…” and when opened, “Let’s mingle!” or they said, “If at first you don’t succeed…”

At the ceremony Susan and Michael said their vows. Susan, her hair in tight curls and her eyelids aflutter, began, “It’s been great, but, you know.” Michael, sucking in his I’m-not-even-trying beer gut, began with a Groucho Marx joke. “I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it.” People laughed because they knew it was true. Their quirky friend “Bobo,” whom they had asked to officiate the ceremony, told Susan to take the ring off Michael’s finger and then told Michael to take the ring off Susan’s finger. They threw the rings into a silver urn, which would be sent off to be melted and sold and the profits would be split evenly. Then Bobo told them to shake hands and they did so with gusto, each admiring the empty spot on his/her own ring finger.

The party was a great racket. Close friends gave toasts saying they knew this wouldn’t last and were surprised it lasted as long as it did. People laughed. People cried too. And, as often happens at divorce parties, people drank too much. This led some couples to contemplate their own break ups, in not so subtle ways. The band played “Different Drum” and “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” Susan danced with Michael’s best friend Arnold; she had spotted him on her side of the chapel and felt flattered. Michael danced with Susan’s sister Shelly because he had been sleeping with her for four years. The lawyers, who had also been invited, danced the hardest.

A car waited to take Susan and Arnold to a special hotel suite and another car waited to take Michael and Shelly to a different one across town. Everyone waved as the cars drove off. The air was charged with possibility and the promise of something new.