“Suburbs” Fans Have Their Say

Sara Susannah Katz, long-term “Single in the Suburbs” columnist, pored through hundreds of emails sent in from fans and critics alike. Here, she reflects on the comments that touched her the most.

By Sara Susannah Katz

s we wound down our long-running “Single in the Suburbs” series, we asked readers to share with us what impact, if any, Sara’s experiences might have had on their own dating lives. The response was stunning — we received over 500 heartfelt emails from loyal readers. Sara read them all and shares some of her favorites here in our final piece related to her beloved column.

I was recently divorced and ready to experiment with online dating when I started writing “Single in the Suburbs” a few years ago. I knew that writing about my experiences would be therapeutic — it’s always
I was able to draw so much strength and comfort from a soul sister who was blazing the path.
been my preferred method of processing and venting. But I never imagined the impact my story would have on you, my loyal readers; specifically, how I gave you strength when you were scared, buoyed you when you were convinced you would never get past those awful early months of separation and divorce, and how I managed to make you laugh when you felt like weeping instead.

Merlie, who describes herself as a “displaced housewife,” wrote: “I am Sara’s age and the stories helped me survive through so many nights I cried. Her attempts to enter the dating world mirrored mine. Instead of being sad or frustrated, I knew I could come home and read her articles. All of a sudden, I was laughing at myself and feeling like I wasn’t alone.”

Much like you, Merlie, I also failed to realize that, even in my darkest moments, I was never alone. You were right there with me — crying with me, cheering me on, and recognizing your own stories in my stories. “I felt happy when you sold your house and when you finally made Steve pay for his power trip,” wrote Vicki, who also says, “I feel as if I’ve grown with you and it’s made me feel connected to something in a way I hadn’t felt for many, many months.”

Many of you felt bolstered by my weekly chronicles. Gigi wrote that she discovered “Single in the Suburbs” while contemplating her own “divorce/renewal/liberation project,” adding, “When I found myself ready to make the bold/scary/crazy dive back into the dating world (especially the online part, which was not around when I got married), I was able to draw so much strength and comfort from a soul sister who was blazing the path.”

“I’m glad the column lasted long enough to get me through my own transition to being single in the suburbs,” says Stephanie, who found my column during one of the first weekends that her kids spent at their dad’s soon after the couple separated. “In the last few years, I’ve bought a house on my own, gone through drama with the kids, family and work, managed to date and maintain a safe distance from my ex.”

And Lauren began reading my column in the early stages of divorce, “back when I’d sit at the receptionist’s desk and quietly weep when there was downtime at work. Reading your articles helped me more than you’ll ever know. Pretty soon I was able to wipe away the tears and accept the dinner and drink offers I was previously too depressed to acknowledge.”

Some of you said I was the buddy who understood things other friends couldn’t fathom. Like Terri, who wrote: “Reading your column was like chatting with a friend — another divorced mother who understood the things that really scared and delighted me about online dating.”

I’m thrilled to know that my column gave many of you the courage to try online dating and instilled hope that it could be a positive experience instead of a scary one. One such tale of courage and hope
Most memorable had to be the guy who listed himself as a widower.
comes from Lin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after a bad breakup 12 years ago. “I allowed the disease and its emotional, mental and physical scars to convince me that no man would be attracted to me ever again,” she wrote, and a brief foray into online dating left her disappointed. Today Lin feels stronger, braver, sexier and more optimistic — and says she’s ready to try online dating again with a different mindset and a new, positive attitude: “I have a lot of time to make up for!” I salute your fortitude, Lin, and wish you the best of luck in your search for love.

I love that, even when you were at your lowest, I made you laugh, and the ever-so-attractive SAM (Sleep Apnea Man) was a particular source of hilarity. “I had to laugh when I read about him, because I was dating a man who had [that] machine too and I couldn’t take it. It was so loud!” wrote Donna, who said that after her husband left her for his secretary after 20 years of marriage, she found it hard to start over again. Like me, Donna managed to find humor even in her most horrendous dates. She recalled the guy who insisted on letting his three German shepherds sleep in his bed, leaving no room for Donna. Then there was the date who wouldn’t share popcorn at the movies (“a deal-breaker”). Most memorable had to be the guy who listed himself as a widower. “Turns out that his wife wasn’t dead, but she was terminal,” emailed Donna. “He said he wanted to get a jump on dating. YUCK!” By the way, Donna eventually met a great guy online and married him. Her hubby is stationed in Afghanistan now and she says that “he is definitely my hero.”

It’s worth noting that, while my story inspired some readers to get divorced, it also convinced others to stay put in their marriages. “Reading this column reminded me how horrible the dating world can be,” wrote Karen. Instead of leaving her husband, she decided to work on her marriage. “We’re still together and happier than ever.”

I was surprised to discover that not all of my fans were adults. After reading about my frustration with my perpetually texting teenaged daughter, Brittany wrote, “I made sure to start giving my mom my full attention when she and I are together because I don’t want her think I prefer electronic communication with friends to real time with a human being, especially the one who raised me my whole life.” (Yes!)

I was also amazed by the number of people who were able to relate to my idiosyncrasies, including my habit of retreating to Target for an hour of therapeutic shopping. “Target is a good place to ‘reflect,’” said Buffy. “Been there, done that, still do it!”

Above all, I am profoundly moved by your gratitude. Adele wrote, “In December 2008 my husband left me unexpectedly. Not more than a month later I stumbled upon this column. It gave me the strength and encouragement to seek a life after marriage. Sara’s insight and determination helped me stand my ground when challenged, fall apart when I needed to, and call on friends for help even when my pride was getting in the way.”

Anne emailed me, saying, “I am 60 and felt there was no hope for me. Then Sara shared her mistakes and failures, talked about the losers, and showed that you can laugh about it and still have hope. Sara’s story made me aware that change — be it work, home or dating — is an experiment and you have good results and failures alike.”

Finally, Ruth wrote in to say: “Thanks, Sara, for holding my hand.”

No, Ruth, thank you. I wish you and all my readers the very best in life. It’s been a great ride and I’m so glad all of you were there to enjoy it with me!

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest and author of the popular Single in the Suburbs series. Her novel, Wife Living Dangerously, is now available. In addition, Katz currently writes The Devil Wears Dockers, an online serial about working for a boss from hell.

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