Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Coming Out as Divorced (Well, Divorcing)

The divorce won't be official until November. But since I moved away from Charlotte at the beginning of this month, it has felt very final.

One of the risks of writing memoir based on the recent past is that your life can change in unexpected ways. I made the decision about two years into this project to make Southern Cross a personal narrative, rather than dry objective journalism. I don't want to go back from that format, but I also don't want to invade anybody's privacy or use words as a weapon for settling scores.

It's not easy, figuring out what to include and what to leave out. During my travels, I had interviewees tell me that I would soon discover that my true calling was to be a wife and mother. I had other people criticize me for putting "career ahead of family."

The marriage did not end of my own choosing, and I tried everything I knew to keep it together. It's only since moving back North that I'm beginning to feel okay again, and even have a little bit of distance to reflect.

Please remember that I really, really want people to read this book who disagree with me. That was kind of the whole point of going out and talking to the Justice Sunday crowd, the ultra-Republicans, the strict Biblical literalists. I tried to examine my own preconceptions and approach those conversations with an open mind.

And I think it worked, sort of. Some of my most enthusiastic readers have been evangelical, ex-evangelical, and post-evangelical Christians. Would I alienate that audience by showing something other than a picture-perfect marriage?

I still don't know how much I am going to share in the book, but I wanted to come clean in this blog, at the very least. The conversations and experiences I had on the road stayed with me long after I returned to Charlotte. Ultimately, they gave me the tools to help get methrough a terrible, terrible year.

Finding myself single again at age 31 has been educational, to say the least. I never realized how much status still accrues from having a husband--until I lost mine. Marriage insulated me from a lot of fairly disturbing societal attitudes about women and sex.

And where does so much of that cultural baggage come from? Could it maybe have something to do with organized religion? Gee, you think?

I don't intend to write a "divorce memoir." Ultimately, how much (if at all) I write about the divorce in Southern Cross will be driven by the needs of the story itself. But these questions are on my mind, and I know I will be writing about them in the future, whether they find their way into this project or the next.