There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ time to get divorced, but my timing was especially lame: My ex-husband and I separated a week before Thanksgiving. As in Happy Thanksgiving, my marriage is over! Can you please pass the cranberry sauce? That was followed by a month of Christmas carols playing everywhere I went. Somehow, the songs all seemed to taunt me, and previously innocent lyrics took on a new, ominous meaning — “He’ll say, ‘Are you married?’ We’ll say, ‘No, man!’”

I ignored Christmas Day itself. Then, just a month and change later, still in shock and moving through my days like a highly functioning sleepwalker, there was one more day to round out the trifecta of Painful Holidays: Valentine’s Day. Good times!

There I was, 28 and — even though the papers hadn’t been finalized — a divorcée. The word itself indicated a sophistication and world weariness that I didn’t have; I felt like I was 14 and playing dress-up. The drugstores were filled with candies, cards, and red-and-pink hearts. And instead of a handsome husband, I had a thick separation agreement and a divorce lawyer.

My V-Day plan
I was not feeling the Valentine’s Day spirit. My plan for Cupid’s Day was to go to my newspaper job and not cry or talk to anyone about my failed marriage, then head back to my apartment and drink wine while looking through my wedding album.

“That’s the dumbest plan I’ve ever heard,” said my coworker and friend, a cooler-than-cool fashion writer named Veronica.

“There’s no way I’m letting you do that. We’re going out.”

I stood my ground. “I really, really don’t want to go out,” I insisted.

“Any place we go is going to be full of couples and, you know, candlelight and happiness and stuff. I just think I need to go home and feel sorry for myself.”

“You’ve been doing that for the past three months,” said Veronica with a grin. “No, we’re going out. I’m coming up with a plan.” She said it with the same kind of determination she normally reserved for plotting a fashion shoot of patent leather boots and bubble dresses. I knew I was going out; whether I wanted to or not. And I decided maybe it was a good thing to let a friend force me out of my self-pity mode.
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My friend hatches her plan…
Veronica left her desk and headed over to the newspaper’s sports department, where the sports clerks and writers sat all day, talking football, baseball, basketball, hockey and horse racing. A few minutes later she returned, triumphant. “We’re hanging out with Ben and Tim,” she announced, referring to the two cute 25-year-old sports clerks we’d recently befriended. “They’re taking us to their favorite sports bar. We’re going to watch hockey and drink $1 drafts. It’s going to be so unromantic. It’ll be fabulous.”

“That’s so nice of them,” I said. “But don’t they want to hang out with their girlfriends?”

“Ben and Tim don’t have girlfriends,” she said. “Are you kidding? They’re just as clueless as the two of us. They’ll be perfect company.”

And they were. Did I mention that Ben and Tim were adorable? It had been a long time since I’d wanted to flirt with guys or noticed any men other than my husband. My flirting skills were rusty, like an old car that hadn’t been out of the garage in years. I giggled a lot and asked questions.

A great, low-key night out
The sports bar — which, as it turned out, had a Wings-and-Beer Valentine’s Day special — was packed with people watching sports or playing darts. The atmosphere was raucous, good-natured, and loud. In other words: the perfect place for someone who wanted to forget all about Valentine’s Day.

We commandeered a table covered with the proverbial red-checked tablecloth — and spent the evening dominating the jukebox, choosing such unromantic hits as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Baby Got Back.” I don’t remember what we talked about that night, or any of the other nights that the four of us would subsequently hang out that winter. I just remember laughter.

The surprising lesson I learned
The funny thing is, I didn’t think about my ex-husband that Valentine’s Day. Instead, I thought about friendship, and how sometimes when one kind of love hasn’t worked out for you, the other kind — a friend’s love — is your best bet. It’s what gets you through.

Late that night, after Valentine’s Day had dissolved (thankfully!) into February 15th, I headed home, blasting music on my iPod. “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson came on, and once again — as with the Christmas carols — it seemed like the song was meant for me. I’m so moving on, yeah, yeah, she sang. And I knew that I was. And that as long as I had my friends to get me through days like these, pushing me a bit even when I didn’t feel ready, I’d always be okay.

Mackenzie Dawson is the deputy features editor at the New York Post. She has written articles on trends and relationships for Cosmopolitan, Gotham, Parenting, and Marie Claire.