In the 2002 movie The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Ashley Judd’s character flees home, family, and perhaps sanity as she escapes to a seaside hotel. Awaking a day or so later, she learns from the hotel operator how much time has passed. In that moment, the power of revitalization has taken over. The viewer can almost see the sweet relief in her shoulders, even as she frantically calls her children. Yet, the power and pressure of the young—and even more mature—mother is not the only narrative here. Women, across the board, are all in need of that frantic night away. The solitary night, in a bed you didn’t have to make, sheets you didn’t have to wash, a shower that you don’t have to scrub . . . the power and the moment are here.
In my twenties society largely told my single self that I should prime and primp, apply lotions of various smells erupting from Candy Land, invest in no less than a shoebox full of makeup, and meet the girls for drinks. Drinks, of course, would lead to dates. Dates would lead to dinners. Dinners would lead to marriage proposals and diamond rings. Diamond rings meant happily ever after. To be honest, I look back wondering if I ever really, truly, earnestly believed in the fairytale. Then again, I didn’t get married until I was 36 and that ended badly and quickly. Yes, it was—in more ways than one—a case study from one of the Women’s Studies courses I’ve taught over the years. Embarrassing, but true.
At 36 I wore a yellowish, ivory based dress with a ring of chocolate diamonds on my hand, as no one who has known me a hot minute ever expected me in true white or a standard ring. Though, with my cowboy boots underneath the courtship and wedding happened in a whirlwind. In the early days of the marriage I adhered to social custom and pulled my husband away for a quick, and cheap, weekend away to Cape Cod. It was a quick jaunt, in October, from NYC, and rather than look at the strains of my marriage I thought a couples weekend would fix us. It did not. Instead, the events of that weekend were my marital basket falling. A year and a half later I would finally let that basket fall, the eggs crash out, and smatter on the floor. Just as the child’s rhyme, Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again.
Two weeks after I left, I ventured to Eastern Europe for a spell. Since I had a work project there, I extended my stay and ventured about via trains, taxis, and my own two feet. A near two heavily intoxicated weeks later I returned home to continue on with the day-to-day of life. My night out was a prolonged one, perhaps something a man is accoladed to do, and honestly I would recommend to near anyone on the dark side of divorce to embrace something similar. Like a line from a country singer, go get drunk for two weeks and then rejoin the world. You will feel a whole lot better. I can earnestly tell you that jetlag woke me up at 4am, and a text message from work, and as I stood in a dark hotel room in Vienna I thought “so this is what this feels like.” Crawling back into bed, eating an Advil, and keeping the light out I drifted back to sleep. My days were filled with coffee, and my evenings were littered with the sweet, sweet beer of Austria and Germany. I met up with a friend in Poland, and there I looked at her and said “if only I had taken a night away before I said I do.” Back then I did not think a night away was for me. Why? I already slept alone. Why spend money to do it elsewhere?
Ashley Judd’s character was not healed from her night away, just as my sojourn in Europe didn’t come close to curing me. Yet, I can’t keep but wonder why are single women rarely encouraged to embrace the alone? We are shuttled and molded into taking weekend getaways with partners and friends. When we get married, it is then about the great couples weekend escape, find a day away from your kids, or revitalize your friendships with a Girls Weekend. Time and time again, the single night away is largely shuttered under doors and hidden behind curtain layers.
Officially having been single for a year or so now, and legally so for seven months, the power and pressure of my work, my life, and my economic station has been crushing me. Of course, every now and then I find lyrics of Adele songs haunting me as I wonder will I love again and what if this is all there is . . . Oh rest assured, I haven’t missed the ex husband since long before I left; the dog now is another story and I don’t think about her. Yet, the confirmed single gal in me is sometimes overwhelmed by the reality, security, and proximity that with all my education and creative moxi I was not able to carve a marriage worthy of time and that like so many others I am looking at forty with questionable finances and perpetual instability. Thus, before I dropped my basket, I boarded an Amtrak and headed north.
Exiting the train, three hours after leaving NYC, the moderate New England city of Providence welcomed me with its night lights. My boutique hotel welcomed me with a card, as I had stayed there a couple of months before for other reasons, and the adjacent bar still had crisp and delicious perogies (comparable to those I scarfed between gluttonous rounds of vodka and Advacaat last spring in Poland) and beers and ciders on tap. I won’t tell you how many ciders I had with a shot of German peach liquor I had, or of the jolly and borderline insane conversation I had with a fellow NYer, or the bartender from my original hometown of Seattle. Perhaps if I still believed in signs those all mean something. Instead, I awoke the next morning, before the holy hours and bells could ring, to see the sun rise. As I sipped an Americano, looking out the window to portals of artsy Providence, my wanderlust spirit and broken soul breathed easy for a moment. That night away, once again awaking alone and on my own, reminded me that I am okay. Most importantly, taking that night—escaping from the pressing financial pressures I can’t seem to catch—allowed me to keep my basket intact. That is something we should all do . . . remember, nights and weekends away aren’t just for the couples, groups of friends, vacation bound, or exhausted parent. Instead, a moment of solitude serves the soul from the single to the coupled.