Life After Divorce: The Clean Slate


chalkboard (Photo credit: Charlottes Photo Gallery)

There are few times in our lives when we can simply cut people out of our lives without apology or explanation.  One of the greatest things about my divorce was dumping a large part of my ex-husbands social and professional life in one fell swoop.  When you get married you don’t just have your own life anymore, instead two lives become entwined together.  Like the many tentacles of a squid — family, friends and co-workers are part of the animal, and it is difficult to avoid the appendages when dealing with the head.

Although I loved my husband a great deal, I didn’t always care for his friends or creative partners.  My husband was a clown, and when I say clown, I mean clown – a performer who wears big shoes, puts on white makeup and entertains adults and children alike.  My ex has worked with every major circus in the country and extensively throughout Europe and Asia.  He has also been nominated for two Drama Desk Awards for plays he has co-created.  As I would say all the time

“He is kind of a big deal…if you are a clown”

When we first moved to New York we socialized for the most part with other clowns.  I was treated a bit like a “Yoko Ono” figure.  Even though I had been performing since I was a child and had an extensive resume of creating and performing theater, most of the clowns treated me as a star-struck fan that married my husband in order to enter into the world of clowning.  Absurd as that is to imagine, that is what a lot of them thought.  As clowns tend to take themselves and their art form quite seriously, so any outsider who just married a big shot in their field, was automatically viewed with suspicion.  And as with any couple, sometimes when a conflict arose between my husband and one of his collaborators, I would get the blame.  It was much easier to attack me than to actually have a confrontation with the creative genius.

These relationships were further complicated because my husband encouraged me to go into his line of work, mainly because a lot of his gigs were on the road.  So instead of struggling to get work as an actor, I could instead travel the world as a clown with the man I loved.  It might seem an odd career path but it worked out for us for many years.  We worked on cruise ships and traveled the country for various clients and circuses. Our penultimate performance as a clown couple was at Lincoln center for an audience of hundreds.  I knew this life wasn’t going to make us wealthy but I liked the work and it definitely made my husband happy.

When we split, I pretty much lost most of my income.  I wasn’t formally blacklisted but people kept hiring my ex and they stopped hiring me.   And trying to find other employment was next to impossible with the work history  of “clown” during one of the worst recessions in recent decades.  I openly joked that being a clown was the same as working in the sex industry, it was the stain that wouldn’t leave.

On top of this economic blow was the erosion of my support group.  It came in waves, the first to go were my in-laws.  Although they called frequently and we visited them at least once a year as soon as the marriage ended, they immediately cut me off.  The best I got was a voice-mail from my mother-in-law with no follow-up.  Then came the friends of my husband I never liked but tolerated for his sake — the clowns who took themselves very seriously.   I went on facebook blocked all of their profiles, removed their emails, threw out their addresses and deleted them from my phone.  Then the third wave happened it was the strangest and most painful.  Mutual friends rallied around me at first, sympathizing with my situation, but then some of them dropped off and even started to side with my husband.  They chose to support my ex-husband because professionally it made more sense for them to do so.  It was extremely hurtful for me, but at the same time it made me discover who was a true friend, who was an acquaintance and who was dead weight.  After surviving the excruciating ordeal that was my divorce, I really don’t miss the dead weight

When the dust settled, I formed new friendships that will last a lifetime.  My true friends stuck by me, with no sense of obligation and no sense of duty to my spouse.   In the battlefield of my divorce these friendships were only strengthened.  I especially found myself bonding with fellow divorced friends, as they were best suited to understand the many ordeals that come with a divorce.

I still work as a clown, although I am actively looking for ways out of it.   Instead of Lincoln center I now work in living rooms and instead of being flown around the country I take the subway dressed as my alter ego Lulu.  It is truly humbling but at least now I am completely in charge of my destiny, and I am no longer stuck being treated like a sidekick by a bunch of people I never liked in the first place.   And it gives me great comfort that I will never have to sit through a boring dinner party and listen to artistic theories of clowning — some aspects of divorce are downright exhilarating.

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