You know the kind - those long weekends when you pack up the kids and travel across the country with your ex-husband and sleep in your ex-brother-in-law's room at your ex-in-laws' house to go to a bat mitzvah that is attended by other ex-relatives who hate you. We've all been there, right??
Okay then, you're probably thinking..."Wait a second. You WENT AWAY with your ex-husband and STAYED with your ex-in-laws?! In their house?! Voluntarily?!"
Yeah. I'm stupid like that.
But I had a really good reason. We all traveled across country this weekend to go to our mutual "Niece's" Bat Mitzvah.
I am close with my Ex-husband's older brother and wife and they invited me because we agree it's important for the kids (who are always going to be cousins) to know that I am still and always will be their cousin's mother - their "aunt" in essence - if not by law.
It just made sense (or so I thought...) to go together . The kids could see their grandparents and relatives. And why wouldn't we stay in the same place when we're going to the same party anyway? Good idea, right?
No. Bad idea. Very, very bad idea. After ALL of the parties I've been to with my "Ex" since the separation - it JUST came to my attention this weekend that a good portion of my "Ex's" family hates me. Like, really hates me.
I know this because I caught them talking about me. I stood there - 5 feet away - as they ripped me apart, unaware of my existence.
I don't know exactly what was said - every third word or so was drowned out by Beyonce suggesting all the 13 year old "Single Ladies" come out to the dance floor - but it all started with my shoes.
I wore really high platforms to the bat mitzvah. Major party shoes. Admittedly, incredibly insensible shoes.
They wouldn't have been such a bad choice except I'd had worn them them to another party the day before (a bar mitzvah for one of my best friends' sons was the same weekend) and my allotted "comfort" time in them had been used up. You see, my shoes and I have an arrangement. I can wear them. For like a day. For 5 hours to be precise. And they will love me back, making me look leggy and elegant and fashionable. But after those 5 hours are up, they turn on me. They will no longer tolerate being molested by my sweaty feet. They cramp my calves, they crush my toes and they make my back arch like I'm Quasi Moto. As clear as a tired Jewish wife who doesn't want to have sex, they make sure I know they want to go back to my closet and be left alone.
And they did hold up their part of the bargain for the first party and I should have left well-enough alone.
But I wore them again the next day.
And as I sat at a table unable to move because my feet were revolting, a family friend told me how much he liked my shoes and pointed them out to some other people. I told him about how my grandmother had taught me "Beauty is Pain" and called her heels her "sitting shoes." While I worshipped the woman, I was seriously questioning her theory.
A couple of my "ex- relatives" overheard the conversation, gasped at my ridiculously high shoes and called an emergency meeting of the "I hate Sarah" club to discuss my flippancy over foot health. I sat there watching them as their hand gestures grew increasingly wild, they said mean things about me and made comments about how now that I'm divorcing my "Ex," I don't belong there and that they want nothing to do with me.
Then they saw me sitting there. Staring at them. Five feet away. And they froze. My whole body language shouted, "Seriously? I'm right here!"
I couldn't look them in the face for the rest of the bat mitzvah. They had burnt a hole in me. I was sick to my stomach.
Just then my "Ex" sister-in-law came up to me, hugged me and said "Are you having fun? I'm so glad you're here!" I just gave her a big hug back and toasted her with my seltzer. Why drag her into it. It was such a nice party. No, it was a GORGEOUS party! Why did some people have to be so mean.
When she left to say hi to other guests I said to the husband of one of the relatives I caught being mean "Nice to be talked about while I'm standing right here." Then I turned away and avoided eye contact with them all for the rest of the party.
I suddenly felt so alone. And I was in pain. Emotionally and physically. It was suddenly clear I didn't belong. I was an outsider. It didn't matter other parties before had gone well. That they seemed to like me. They didn't anymore. What hurt the most was the surprise at finding all this out. I had seriously thought we were all fine with each other. I thought since my "Ex" and I were "okay" that everyone else was okay. It was obvious now, I was wrong.
But I had a whole night ahead of me, so I took off my shoes so I could enjoy the party. I sought out the passed hors d'oevres, I danced like a party girl with my 7 year old son - who it turns out is a fabulous dance partner - and ate my meals with my kids who gladly made room for me in the kiddie area.
I gabbed with whomever would talk to me (thank GOD for the few "Ex" relatives I'm still close with! I would have been crouching in a bathroom stall if it weren't for them...), I celebrated my incredible niece, and I painted a big smile on the outside of my face.
Then I went back home (to my in-law's house), barefoot and pretty shoes in hand, and cried.
Here's what I learned. Spending time with ex-relatives after a divorce is a bad idea (Not as bad as staying at the ex-in-laws with your soon-to-be-ex-husband and your boyfriend at the same time....don't ask) but a bad idea nonetheless. Even if you loved them. Even if you thought everything would be okay after the divorce. That they still cared about you. But the truth is no matter HOW much they liked you BEFORE the divorce, they'll hate you that much after it. And the hate is relative to the amount of love they used to have. Apparently, it's exponential.
And, like wearing insensible shoes you love - spending time with your "Ex's" family can feel good for a while. But by the end of the day you're crippled by the pain.
And if you're stupid (like me), you might try to wear the shoes again - some day.
But I can't help but wonder if I might be better off just leaving them in the closet.