Party of One

By Susan Harvey

Recently, I gave myself the perfect party in honor of the twentieth anniversary of my divorce. Being a southerner and coming from a family of stand-by-your-man-’til-he-finds-someone-new women, I wasn’t sure my divorce anniversary party would be in good taste, but I decided to indulge myself anyway. I sat down to make a guest list.

Hummm…I couldn’t invite my married friends to celebrate a divorce anniversary. They still believed in the happy-ever-after, most of them anyway. I couldn’t invite my young unmarried friends. I didn’t want to frighten them away from marriage altogether. I couldn’t invite my daughters and their families. After all, I ran away from their dad and granddad – that could put a strain on southern family relations. I didn’t want to invite my divorced friends for fear their divorce stories would be more unpleasant than mine.

I almost gave up my party plans but decided to have a party for one – me. No invitations or RSVP required; shirt and shoes optional. Already I liked the idea. But what to do at my party for one? Reserve an expensive hotel room for the night, order room service and a bottle of champagne? Not exciting. Book a three-day, two-night cruise? Too complicated. Yet I couldn’t let the twentieth anniversary pass without some type of celebration.

Thoughts of divorce brought memories of marriage. Had I made the right decision? I’d never doubted my decision before. Never looked back. Did I really doubt it now? This question led me to reflect on the reasons for the divorce in the first place – all the rules I’d followed to make the marriage work for twenty-five years. Don’t spend money. Don’t touch the thermostat. Don’t put extra miles on the car. Don’t visit the grocery store more than once a week. Don’t open more than one box of cereal at a time. Don’t wash a small load of clothes. Run the dishwasher only once every three days. Turn off the water while brushing teeth. Count the sheets of toilet paper for each use. Don’t touch the TV remote.

After all the reminiscing, I felt serene sitting in my own place, happy to be a party of one. I celebrated by doing all the things I wanted to do twenty years ago when I ran away from my marriage. I turned the air-conditioner down to sixty degrees and put on socks and a sweatshirt, turned on the dishwasher with only three cups and two plates in it and washed and dried a small load of laundry – with an extra rinse cycle. I opened three boxes of cereal and two bags of chips. Then I curled up in my leather chair with a bag of extra-butter microwave popcorn, a Dos Equis Amber, and my TV remote. Who needs champagne anyway? I flipped through channels for two hours and bushed my teeth while water splattered against the sink. Before going to bed, I flushed half a roll of toilet paper down the toilet a handful at a time – didn’t count the number of sheets – with ten consecutive flushes; all unnecessary, of course. Water and paper swirled down the drain and disappeared with a gurgle.

Being the conservationist that I am, I felt a little guilty about such wanton waste of natural resources. Normally, I reduce, reuse and recycle. However, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of my divorce was necessary to my mental health. While munching popcorn and surfing channels, I considered my triumphs – an education, a rewarding career as an educator, retirement and time to read and write and enjoy a simple life in a beautiful area. Recounting my blessings confirmed that I made the right decision to leave the marriage. Each year, I let go of a few more pieces of that past life. The best confirmation of all is that I didn’t remember the anniversary until six o’clock that evening. Maybe by the twenty-fifth year, I won’t remember the anniversary at all. Perhaps at the thirty-year mark, I won’t even remember the marriage. Confirmation complete; party of one successful!

About this writer

  • Susan Harvey Susan Harvey is a humor writer who teaches college English. She lives in Murrells Inlet, and in her spare time enjoys cooking and reading mysteries.

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