Family Matters – Old habits die hard

In the month of St Valentine, Jackson Biko urges us to spare a thought for recent divorcees as they stumble back into the dating game

FamilyMattersSo you are divorced. Poor you: almost defeated, almost haunted and only just recovering. You get back into dating like a puppy steps into a river, trying it out with one cautious toe, checking whether  the temperature is right. Mostly, you just stand at the edge of this river, staring at it as it flows downstream, wondering if you are ready to jump in. Naturally, dating induces a certain paranoia in the beginning. In fact, you can’t even spell it. What you want most is to breathe.

You are a single man, again. That phrase seems like having to wear pants that refuse to reach your ankle. Awkward. Ill-fitting. Single man. End of the day you go back to this place that isn’t quite a home and from there you find, depending on the day, comfort and anxiety waiting for you. There is no other place in which your singlehood becomes more prominent than your house, because suddenly apart from the loneliness that frequently slithers in under the doorway, you now have to carry out mundane tasks like finding a missing sock.

And of course, after a while, you will want to fill this loneliness with a female voice, a female cough, a female smell, something soft. You will quickly realise that the dating field isn’t quite what it was when Michael Jackson released Thriller. That the hideous dance you used to win over your ex-wife with will now get you ejected out of the club (yes, nobody calls it a ‘Disco’ anymore). You will catch yourself peeking at your watch when you are out to dinner at night, because you had ‘trained’ yourself (or you were trained) to go back home at a certain time. But the biggest shocker will be when you note a worrisome pattern in the choice of women you are dating; you will realise that you are deliberately  going for women who are the opposite of your ex-wife (if you initiated the divorce) or who look like her (if she did).

Suddenly, when you are filling in forms, you will be looking for the ‘divorced’ section to tick. That word, ‘divorce’. You will muse on the reaction your status elicits in the women you date, from the suspicious to the judgmental. All of them will predictably ask that one question: what happened? So that they can lay judgment and also gauge if you are not too damaged for them to give you a shot.

But you would have learnt quickly that the best answer would be the one that makes your ex-wife look like the victim, not you. “I wasn’t a very nice husband”; “That marriage failed mostly because of my enormous faults, not hers”; “It’s amazing she never killed me in my sleep!” They will sympathize with you. All of them. Because honesty is sexier over candlelight.

This February, the month of love, let’s wish the divorced single man well.