“My First Valentine’s Day As A Divorcee”

It can be hard to face this holiday when you’re newly single—here, how one woman coped, and what she learned about herself along the way.

By Mandy Stadtmiller

uick, name three things that suck. I’ll help you out. How about: 1) Valentine’s Day, 2) being a new divorcee and 3) spending your first Valentine’s Day as a new divorcee? I know. I’m pretty good at this.

Unfortunately, there is no greeting card for, “You’re 30 and divorced...good luck with that!” And God knows what the right shade of roses is for communicating, “You’re not going to die alone, really.” (Although I’m pretty sure it’s yellow.) But here’s what there is: There is me getting through this situation. And I did it, and so can you.

What V-Day used to be like
For the nine years that I spent with my husband (five married, four dating), our Valentine’s Day ritual consisted of eating out at a fancy restaurant, holding hands on the
Every new divorcee should spend her first V-Day alone.
car ride there and at the end of the night exchanging handmade cards that often featured honey bears and sock monkeys. I know. We were adorable. We’re still adorable, now we just sleep with other people.

It was early February of last year when we both decided that the marriage wasn’t working out. But because of my vast compassion and understanding and shared guilt in staying in a toxic relationship far longer than I should have, I tried desperately to remain friends with my soon-to-be ex. And as Valentine’s Day came fast approaching — even though it was clear I’d be moving out to start our separation in a matter of months — we decided to continue the grand let’s-go-out-to-a-fancy-dinner tradition. No handholding this time, but plenty of pork tacos with mole sauce.

Looking back, I have to say, it was pretty weird. I wore a sexy pink dress; we toasted something nice and thoughtful about both of us being nice and thoughtful. The venison was delicious. Truthfully, though, my mind was elsewhere, namely on the many online personals ads I had browsed that afternoon. I realize now I was making small talk as if we’d just met. Still, it had to have been better than spending this holiday alone, right?

Going it alone
So an entire year passes. During this time I lived with a dear friend who nursed me through the darkness, I dated 800 people who are either 42 or 23 years old, I had some great sex, I had some terrible sex, I briefly became vegan, I got offered a fantastic job in a new city, I gave away half my possessions, I moved to New York… and I once again found V-Day fast approaching. Except this time, I was really, truly divorced. So, naturally, the big question was, what was I going to do?

At this point, I wasn’t dating anyone, mostly just hooking up with people and then realizing how weird it was that I was 30 years old and still using the phrase “hooking up.” With a date-y date ruled out as a possibility, here’s what I resolved: My great friend
I walked to the bathroom at work in a bit of a haze.
Katherine and I were going to have dinner. Together! She’s single, I’m single, we’re both in our 30s, and the two of us were going to prove to the world how all you really need is one another, sister.

That is, until she totally bailed. The day of.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love Katherine, she’s a very close friend, and I definitely understand her reasoning. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to a once-in-a-lifetime art auction at Christie’s, and hell, I would have bailed too.

Facing up to that fateful night
But her bailing did leave me alone. Too late to make plans with anyone else alone. Too late to even lie and say “I had planned it this way” alone. It was just kind of me, at work, and I’d probably end up staying there late.

So here’s where it gets good (I know it took a while, but all good things come to those who get divorced). All of the sudden I realized in my solitude how I felt. No, it wasn’t tragic, not tragic at all. I felt totally OK. I felt better than OK. I felt kind of awesome, actually. I felt 800 times better than the year before when I stared across at my husband.

I walked to the bathroom at work in a bit of a haze. I felt almost out of body, and I looked in the mirror and realized how completely elated I was: I was free from anything or anyone.

I realize now that Katherine’s bailing was the best thing that could have happened to me that night. I think every new divorcee should spend her first Valentine’s Day alone. For me, it forced me to realize that, divorced or not, dateless on Valentine’s Day or not, I’d be fine no matter what.

On my way home, I grabbed a kebob from a street vendor, and I headed back to the brownstone that I live in with two women who don’t really know me all that well. I walked into my small, sparsely furnished room. I felt pure joy in how empty it was. From my top shelf, I grabbed a journal which I’ve kept for two years now, and I started composing a letter. “Remember,” I wrote. “Being yourself will get you everywhere.”

It’s the best Valentine’s Day card I’ve ever received.

Mandy Stadtmiller is a writer and comedian in New York City. Read more about her at
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