The surreal aspect of getting divorced after 20 years of marriage, during which time you were working frantically and raising three kids maniacally, is that your daily routines stay the same, but just about every second of every day feels strangely new and bizarrely unpredictable.
Most days, I feel like a blind woman who has had experimental surgery that successfully restored my sight. I live the exact same life in the exact same world. But I see things I never saw before.
Take vacation. For most of the past 20 years, in August I’ve taken my three kids to the same beach in East Hampton, New York. A very nice place, it must be said.
Sometimes my husband came with us, sometimes he came on weekends, sometimes he arrived and then left suddenly the next day for business reasons. Often even when he was at the beach he wasn’t really here. Too often, he was on his Blackberry, computer, or cell phone.
But the kids and I could almost always be found at Main Beach on August afternoons. Usually I was there with the kids alone. Exactly as I was today.
However, this year my husband really is not here. Having decided to divorce several months ago, he is home in DC (we split the month, and he is coming out in two weeks when I skedaddle). I am here at the beach with my kids, alone in my life in a whole new way.
Let’s just say, the view is different.
Today was our first foray to the beach after arriving late Saturday night (a traffic clogged nightmare all the way from DC; I thought my right hamstring was going to fall off due to hitting the brakes so often on the highways). My kids are older teeangers now, so I thought I’d just drop them and their friends at Main Beach with enough money to buy lunch. I planned to go back home to get some work done.
Even though today was a Monday, Main Beach was packed. Mostly kids of all ages. Parents. Grandparents. Babysitters. Teenaged employees policing the parking lot for cars without local parking stickers.
When dropping off the kids, I decided to get out of the car to sniff the salty ocean air.
And I noticed…lifeguards.
Now, for the past 20 years, every single time I’ve come to Main Beach in the summer there have been lifeguards there. There are three big white lifeguard chairs. The Town of East Hampton usually staffs 3-4 lifeguards at each station. Over the years, I have probably seen over 1,000 East Hampton lifeguards wearing their signature red swim trunks. The waves here are rough, there are frequent riptides, and the lifeguards are a necessity. Part of the wallpaper, so to speak.
Did you know that lifeguards are A) young, buff, tanned men and B) work without their shirts on?
Apparently, in my married state, I had never noticed either of these facts.
Today, let’s just say I did. And I decided to stay at the beach with my kids. For several hours.
Going to the beach as a soon-to-be-divorced-woman is kind of like watching a softcore porn movie (something else I have not done in 20 years). I am not yet at the stage where I am looking FOR men; I am firmly in the looking AT men transition period. It ain’t all bad.
While watching the lifeguards, I noticed they were not the only men on the beach with their shirts off. There were dozens of them! And I have to say, it was kind of amazing. There were many moments when I had trouble breathing. I did not stop smiling for four hours. And there is no way to prove this, but I think a few of those shirtless men were looking back at me in my pink and black bikini.
Another welcome observation: the weirdos and the heartless are really easy to spot among the men at the beach. Which I want to do, because I cannot take another relationship with a narcissist. Thank you very much, but from now onward I’d like to focus my efforts purely on the NICE tanned shirtless men, and eliminate the troublemakers before we even get to “hello.” Easy to do, because if you see a man at Main Beach who is talking on his cell phone on a gorgeous sunny August afternoon, it’s a pretty safe bet that he is peculiar, excessively self-important, or both.
Oh, life. So much about living, like divorcing, is unexpected, in ways both wonderful and awful. But this afternoon, rediscovering the joys of a lazy day at the beach was one of those wonderful times.