Each year has 365 days and a certain number of milestones. Birthdays, maybe a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a confirmation, high school and college graduations. Paper, silver, or gold anniversaries, if we make it so far. Our kids’ birthdays. In “Through the Looking Glass” and Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland, the 364 days that didn’t align with Humpty Dumpty’s DOB were considered the “Unbirthday.”
What happens to the wedding anniversary once the divorce papers have been signed?
I’m approaching what would have been my 21st anniversary this week, five years post-divorce. Some years, I’ve watched the wedding video or shared the album with my kids. In the beginning, I considered bringing my wedding dress to the dry cleaners to dye a more usable color… like black.
Whether or not we’re still wearing the matching Cartier rolling rings, an anniversary celebrates a life event attended by a bunch of people who are no longer with us. Weddings are like this threshold to what’s coming. We don’t have any money-back guarantees on the celebration, the groom, or that multi-tiered buttercream-frosted cake. (Though in our wedding video, two of the guests made comments that perhaps should have been a tipoff!)
Most of us who have seen our name on a divorce summons have stared down that stream of anniversary posts and declarations of everlasting love on our Facebook feeds. I’ve come to this spanking realization that when I have those pangs of not-bright-green-but-more-pistachio gelato-hued envy, I’m really missing the idea of happily ever couple on the front porch or even wiping away tears as we carry the luggage and bedding to our daughter’s college dormitory.
Maybe it’s not so strange to toast the beginning of something that didn’t work out as planned.
Marriage can be a challenging proposition, especially in a society where lots of couples are probably more in love with the idea of marriage than with each other. A divorced friend recently shared she has taught her daughters to put the person in front of the event. Find the man (or woman) with whom you’d like to share the covers and with whom you’d like to create a family. Don’t focus on the outcome.
I’ve envisioned my marriage as that toy where toddlers hammer the square or round block into its corresponding hole. Like most girls of my generation, I had a Barbie Marries Ken wedding set and even wore an acetate bridal gown one Halloween. There’s an expectation, especially for girls, that we’ll one day be Princess for the Day, with a beautiful white gown, dashing groom in a dinner jacket, and a swanky party with delicious hors d’oeuvres. Like the nursery rhyme says, “First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes Mary with the baby carriage.”
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Although girls growing up today might not feel as pushed against the wall to marry as we did in the past, there’s never a lack of television shows about the competition to pair up with the tall, handsome, and slightly scruffy Bachelor, the quest to say “yes” to the dress, or the smashing destination wedding in Bali. Let’s face it. Wedding and wife-hood are still admired life goals!
Sometime during my own late twenties, dating became this rush to avoid being left standing during premarital musical chairs. May the last man left standing win.
I have no regrets. My ex-husband and I brought two spectacular daughters into the world and shared some pleasant memories. I’ve learned quite a bit about myself.
So, come August 6, I’ll be celebrating my Unanniversary with a glass of Dom Perignon and a toast to what could have been.