Three ladies were lunching solo at a bar. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? My quick stop for a bite turned into a leisure lunch as the three of us chatted at Applebee’s counter. I feel very lucky to have the time and means to be a lady who lunches. It’s my favorite retirement perk.
One of the gals and I had crossed paths before – in a previous life when we were both married and lived in a nearby town. We recognized each other, but Donna and I had never been introduced.
The other lady was divorced, too, and having a hard time with it. But it turns out she was having a hard time with everything, even the fact that her parents named her Ruth instead of her sister’s name Candice, a.k.a. Candi.
It didn’t take long to learn we were all 66. But divorced and the same age are where the similarities ended. I assumed, because of her attitude, Ruth was most recently divorced. But it had been eight years. She told us she stopped seeing her shrink for telling her to wake up and get over it. Her old life didn’t exist anymore. After all, her ex had remarried. It was time for Ruth to become a different person.
Donna had recently closed on a condo, a forever home for her. She enjoyed her work at one of the busiest seafood restaurants in town. Ruth lived with a boyfriend she didn’t really like, but she didn’t feel she could afford her own place.
When she told us all about her divorce settlement, our jaws dropped. It was a lot, with regular monthly payments and a big annual bonus. Currently, she and her attorney were taking the ex back to court for more money.
As we paid our tabs, Ruth asked if we could exchange numbers, maybe do lunch again. I gave them both a business card. Retired realtors never run out. Donna wrote her number on a napkin and handed it to me.
“May I have your number?” Ruth asked Donna.
“No,” Donna said and walked out. I said goodbye to Ruth and walked out, too.
I have always been a cheerful, optimistic person – to a fault, according to my ex. I haven’t changed the core of me just because I’m divorced. Poor Ruth was probably a difficult person to be around when she was married.
I can’t imagine many friends calling to invite her out, just to hear the whole well-rehearsed woe-is-me spiel again. If Ruth doesn’t make cheerfulness more her style, she runs the risk of being a very lonely old woman.
Donna waited for me just outside the restaurant door.
“I’m sorry if I was rude,” she said, “but I’ve never met a more negative person in my life. No way was I giving her my number.”
“Maybe she just needed a good ear,” I shrugged. Donna laughed, making it clear she had no intention of ever lunching with Ruth again but would be in touch with me. And she has been. Hurray – another lady who lunches!
I was feeling bad about Ruth, though. Maybe she was just having a terrible day and needed a friendly face. But I heard her argue with the waiter about her bill, and it rubbed me just enough the wrong way that I doubt I’ll ever lunch with Ruth again either.
A couple of my Facebook groups are for women over 60. It amazes me what people will share about their lives, then wonder why the comments turn negative. Ruth would get torn to shreds if she shared her story, and it would hurt her to the core. But even professional help isn’t helping her get past her grief. She fired her shrink for being mean – for telling the truth.
We suffer from disenfranchised grief as we wade through marital division. Besides divorce, losing an unborn baby or a partner to suicide are examples of disenfranchised grief, as are infertility and sexual abuse.
I’m guessing most of us gals who got divorced past 60 honestly planned on grieving our husbands at death and not through divorce. I remember how disenfranchised I felt – how rejected. But we get through the grief process, not stay there as it seems Ruth has. We make the choice to get better, not stay bitter.
A couple months ago, on my way to church, I called my ex to wish him happy birthday and had an immediate meltdown. I sobbed through our brief conversation. I wiped tears away all through church. I felt silly going home to my sweetheart and explaining my wrecked face, so I took a long drive. I was still weepy hours later.
I confided in my big sis girlfriend Myrna, and she texted back the truth: Get over the past. You have a terrific guy and a great life. Duh. I know that. Thanks for being my mirror, Myrna. I think I just needed to wallow in a little disenfranchised grief to remind myself of just how far I’ve come in four years.
How do you handle negative people? Do you think you are one? Have you been able to move past divorce or another traumatizing life experience?