After divorce you get a one-year pass to be a hot mess

Go ahead and get ugly. You’re entitled for one year. 

Over the summer I visited a longtime friend. As we sat at the beach, our kids playing nearby, I noticed her hair was uncharacteristically oily and snarly. Her unkempt bush was bursting out the crotch of her green tank suit, and her toddler son sat nearby, eating sand and crying. She didn’t notice.

“I’m in a good place,” she said, looking away from me. “I’m thinking of dating.”

“Hm,” I said.

She was in a good place: That post-divorce, hot, steaming, crying, screaming, angry, elated, miserable, hopeless, desperate, stinky, hairy, eating-sand place:  The first year after divorce.

My friend’s husband, you see, had moved out — after she discovered he’d secretly gambled away all their savings.  She was exactly where she was supposed to be: deep in the denial phase of grief.

I see it all the time, and you likely do, too. People fall apart when their marriages end. No matter if it is an amicable, Gweneth Paltro uncoupling, your decision or his, wether there was plenty of money or everyone is now destitute, divorce is trauma. Every single vertical of your life unravels: finance, real estate, the kids of course, and how much you will see them and where. Money is a giant, scary question mark, and your relationships with friends and extended family likely change and are challenged. If you are like I was, your ideas about your own sexuality, identity and future are questioned, and your health can take its toll.



You get a year. A free pass for 12 months to be a freaky weirdo. Drink too much after the kids go to bed. Smoke a few cigarettes at break time with your colleagues. Let the house go, let the dishes pile up in the sink. Hell, might as well preemptively cancel the gym memberships, because you’re not going. Be stinky and oily, and let your pubes hang out of your swimsuit on a public beach in the midwest. Sleep with a bunch of completely inappropriate people and wear things that no one at your age with your body should ever even think about wearing in public. Stay up all night stalking your college boyfriend on Facebook.

You’re good. No judgement here!

Listen to my podcast on post-divorce shit shows!

Am I describing your friend or sister? Let her have at it, hang it all out. It’s part of the process from which she will emerge, mind-blowingly successful and stronger than ever.

But at month 13? Time to tidy up business. Your Post-Divorce Hot Mess Pass has expired.

Get a wax. Go on some nice dates with nice people. Get that career going, wrap up the final, ugly details of your divorce, and pay a little more attention to the kids. Early to bed, and go to the gym for crissake.

And if you’re the friend? Bring over a decent bottle of wine for after the kids go to bed. Two glasses each, and a toast to celebrate that that horror is finally behind her.

Did you lose it during your divorce? Thoroughly embarrass yourself? Go on … share in the comments! 

13 thoughts on “After divorce you get a one-year pass to be a hot mess

  1. The first paragraph made me laugh. Oh man I remember my first year. What a mess. I remember serving macaroni and cheese to my son right on the dining room table because there wasn’t a clean bowl or plate or even Tupperware lid in the house. I also spent my last $100 on a clearanced cashmere sweater one month instead of paying my phone bill. No room to judge here.

  2. I was a hot mess that first year. I dated like a little hurricane but was NOT taking care of myself. I was an emotional wreck, consuming more calories in wine than anything else. I lost a ton of weight and was weak in all ways; couldn’t eat, emaciated, couldn’t be alone, couldn’t put down the wine glass. I finally got sick of myself and knew I needed to change. I sat down and picked three areas to change, found one thing to do in each area to make the improvement, and set to work. It’s been 3 years now and I’m doing awesome! It’s a tough road but so worth every painful step.

  3. Yes. This resonated so deeply. I just hit the official year-since-he-moved-out mark in June and a year since I filed on the 26th of September. I was such a mess. My daughter ate a lot of canned soup while I lived on Triscuits and Mozzerella. I was so numb to my own emotional health that I took a stress test to see how I was feeling. I’m liberated now, my life is my own and I am working with my ex to coparent. We’re not perfect, but we’re much happier apart and after dating several of the very wrong guys, I’m finding out that I’m pretty damn happy by myself! Of course the second I decided that I met someone outstanding. I didn’t realize that I could be this emotionally healthy after what a mess I was last year.

    1. Yes I was letting the kids have extra sweets when I normally wouldn’t. And I wasn’t even eating. And when I did I was taste testing food I had made for the kids. I think my love off of food for the most part was bagged popcorn.

  4. I did everything you described Emma! Definitely a very hard year to get through. 3 years in and I’m loving life and feel happy again. It’s so good to let every woman know that it’s 100% normal but that you do need to set a time limit on how long you can let it all go.

  5. I giggled at the article while giving you the “oh yes sister, you’re talking about me” nod. Feels like I’m on my way to recovering now though thank goodness. I do have my drink when the kids are sleep. My “whoa is me” when some of my favorite love songs come on. Also my angry I hate this dude moments. Incomplete projects and the home is a wreck. And oh my poor kids hair…sometimes it’s cute and sometimes it’s just not…smh. I just want my life back. Unfortunately I’ve made the decision not to date and my trust for people is just not there anymore. But Jan will make a year so we shall see. Oh yea…2 days ago I chopped off all of my hair so start fresh, lol! No telling what I’ll do next!

  6. It’s been 3 months and a year since I left my husband.

    Reflecting on the past time, I don’t think I went too crazy.

    I can’t believe how many dinners I’ve gotten to go to or how many times I’ve gone out dancing…even how many times I’ve got picked up in the air! My ex husband has NEVER picked me up in the air!

    But your right about squaring up. It’s time to get more serious about work, show more love to my babies.

    I adore that photo from Bad Moms. I think that was one of the coolest movies of the year.



  7. Why are you so focused on your friend’s (and by extension other women’s ) public hair? What business of yours deals with how she holds up to your physical ideal about her body hair, especially relating it to being unkempt/lazy/etc? If a woman’s hair is a bit too greasy for you, or bed head, or god forbid crotch not waxed into submission, does that make her a hot mess of insanity? Is this how women are supposed to support and motivate each other? I’ll pass.

    1. If you actually CARE about someone, you notice when they aren’t acting like themselves. The only one being judgemental here is you.

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