HuffPo and She Writes Ask: When Was the Moment You Knew (It Was Over)?

A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded me an email she'd received from Sara Wilson, the divorce editor at the Huffington Post. 

"I'm organizing an event for the Divorce page based on the popular slideshow on our site, 'The Moment I Knew', and I'm wondering if you have any suggestions of who I might reach out to for it...we'll be featuring 4 to 5 people sharing short (3 to 4 minute), first-person essays based on the moment they knew their marriages were over--funny, poignant, honest, revealing--kind of like the slideshow itself. Is there anyone you can suggest I reach out to?"


I'm not sure how to feel about the fact that my friend immediately thought of me.  "You'd be perfect!" she said.  




I am divorced.  I can finally say that now, after three years of trying to be divorced and not succeeding.  (Until very recently, New York had the most prehistoric laws about divorce in all fifty states, including Louisiana.)  But one of the reasons our negotiations took so long was because my ex tried very hard to get me to sign a legal document swearing I'd never write about the divorce OR the marriage, effectively eliminating ten years of a memoirist's material.  Of course I refused to sign such a thing, never ever ever!, but the implicit threat of his anger and outrage at any public disclosure of what happened still hovers over me.  Yes, I knew I had to write about it one day.  But I figured I'd write a novel and have done with memoir for good and all -- especially in light of the irreversible irony of the title and subject of my first book, "I Do But I Don't: Why The Way We Marry Matters." (Please don't tell me the sequel should be "I Didn't."  Because you'd be the eight millionth person to have that original idea.) And then I got this email.  Just a short essay.  Three to four minutes.  About the moment you knew your marriage was over.


I immediately said yes to Sara, without really thinking it through.  I was thinking more about She Writes, and what a great subject this would be for all of us to tackle together, at least those of us for whom it's relevant.  The fact that I'd agreed to talk about my divorce in public, and not just in public but in the Huffington Post, did not fully dawn on me until Sara and I spoke by phone and she peppered me with probing and thoughtful questions about my marriage and its end -- an old story with a fresh twist given my status as a "wedding" expert after publishing my first book.


"Are you interviewing me?" I asked her, gripped by a frisson of panic.  She wasn't.  But that doesn't change the fact that come Tuesday, April 5th, I will stand up in a bar in New York City and tell it: the moment I knew.


Will you stand with me?  Do you have a story to tell?  Share it here, and your entry may be one those selected for a special "She Writes" slideshow to be featured on the Huffington Post after the event.  Enter the Huffington Post #themomentiknew contest by emailing your 600-words-or-less essay to by Friday, April 1st, and maybe you will read with me in New York, or at an event the same night in LA.  

Don't live in New York or LA?  No problem -- you can organize or attend a Huff Po meetup in your hometown and invite fellow She Writers to read their short essays over coffee or drinks.  Even if you never had a marriage end, you probably have experienced a moment when you suddenly saw, in vivid technicolor, the end of something you thought was never-ending.  Write about that.


I hope you do one of these things.  Because that moment on the phone with Sara was the moment I knew I needed the courage of your convictions -- and your willingness to tell it, and tell it true -- to see me through.

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Comment by Barbara Field on April 4, 2011 at 11:33am

Chris didn't get me flowers on Valentines Day. He said I'd be in the hospital in a couple days anyway. We had waited nine years, years that took us from Manhattan to Cincinnati to Brooklyn and now to San Diego. I exhibited all the textbook signs of labor and when Adam was born on Feb 16th covered in white vernex like an angel--maybe a squishy, squiggly angel--he stopped breathing.


The doctor said, "Give him some oxygen." Then she told the other doctor, "Dr. Claus--I can't get a hearbeat." Everything seems so silent and calm. No panic. I thought Oh, my God! It wasn't until Adam showed starpower crying that I breathed again. And in that one breath, in that one moment, I knew. My journal says "Adam is 8 lbs, 7 oz, 19 inches long and has fine dark hair and blue round eyes. Chris and I are still estranged. Despite the birth of our first child, we are more distant than ever."


I carried kiddie cupcakes into the preschool and my mother handed me the papers. Adam celebrated his second birthday with newly divorced  parents. Irony of ironies, the dissolution date is Valentines Day.


Every Valentines Day, I think of my divorce, flowers or no flowers. But two days after, I celebrate Adam's life. He just turned 21 and studies engineering at Stanford. He weighs 161 lbs and is 6'2" tall. His hair is brown, his eyes chestnut, almost hazel.


Comment by Diane D.M. Solis on March 25, 2011 at 5:37pm

I actually have a poem about "the moment." It was published an issue of "Ocho" responding to the Prop 8 Initiative in California a few years ago. It started like this: I think a flea ~ just bit my knee ~ from my dog in the carpet. ~ I never see ~ any on her ~ but this one roams free ~ to graze on me ~ whenever it feels like it... Obviously, the dog and the flea are metaphors. It's a sad poem about loss and longing after the shock of the breakup. To bolster faith in "happy endings," the "event" was but a finding the love of my life. Peace,





Comment by Hope J Lafferty on March 23, 2011 at 10:31am


What a great thing to be perfect for. I actually created a zine (yes, pre-web) called "divorcee," which charted the weirdness of getting divorced at 29 when all my friends were getting married. While I'm no longer in New York, and in too small a town (Marfa, TX) to want to coordinate a public airing of such sentiments, my dreams were churning last night with submission ideas. I'm inspired to enter the contest and can't wait to read what you come up with.

Comment by Christina Baker Kline on March 22, 2011 at 2:49pm
Wow, Kamy, what a powerful note.  I definitely want to hear you read!
Comment by Lorena Bathey on March 22, 2011 at 12:30pm

Hey Kamy,

I wrote a whole book about my divorce, finding myself again and who I became after.  It is truthful, honest and I posted part of it here.  It was the most cathartic thing I ever did and opened the door to me becoming not only a speaker but an Indie author.

The book is Happy Beginnings: How I Became My Own Fairy Godmother and you can find it on Amazon still.  But to get a feel for it check here as I posted the first few pages.

Go tell you're story, my Grandma always used to say: More room out than in!



Comment by Jessica Powers on March 22, 2011 at 12:01pm
Kamy, I'll write something. This will be hard, I agree with you, but I'll put myself out there too. :-) Good luck and don't be afraid! I'm pulling for you.
Comment by Tami Jackson on March 22, 2011 at 11:55am

I think readers need to be in the right mindset to fully appreciate how deep and therapeutic it is to read and write about marriage/divorce. When you're suffering in a relationship, you can find great therapeutic comfort by reading about another woman's struggles and you can bond with that author emotionally, even heal yourself, through that shared experience in suffering, trial and grief. While I'm on my third marriage (some of us grew up in homes where we learned to think that the chaos and explosive behaviors modeled for us were NORMAL and as adults we're counseled by siblings who also endured such abuse so our support group merely suggests we should just endure demeaning, invalidating and explosive personalities) I'm always learning how to react to abuse in a more healthy manner and am constantly evaluating how to set better boundaries with friends and relatives. I'm constantly having to decide whether certain behavior in my relationships can be endured or not (e.g., do I need to move away from this relationship in order to be healthy myself?) so reading about another woman's experience is something I value, strongly. Thank you for telling it like it is.

I appreciate your candid sharing. I'm so glad you did NOT sign such a restrictive contract that would limit you from sharing your truth. Tell your ex he can simply change his name, legally, if he's worried about being exposed -- just like so many women have felt pressured to change their names by getting married in the first place. Many of us have changed our names only to have that man we wanted to please suddenly become abusive, have an affair, violate one or more of our sisters, or just leave us for a younger woman years after we took on his identity. 


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