As two people with a child getting divorced in the state of Florida, we were required to take a “Children of Divorce” class. We were permitted to attend the class together, which I really wanted to do so that we could be the example of the consummate divorcing couple to satisfy my ongoing need for perfectionism, but that would have required getting a babysitter. Seeing as how it cost each of us $40 to take this stupid, required class, we didn’t want to add insult to injury by tossing in an extra $60 for someone to put our Child of Divorce to bed.
I pulled up to the building around 5:00pm. Somewhere inside I would be trapped for 5 hours listening to someone drone on about how I shouldn’t tell my child to throw a tantrum everytime he’s around his father so that his father will give up all custody (because people actually do that). I began approaching different entrances trying to figure out where the hell I was meant to go. A sign or something would have been nice.
Once I finally found the correct entrance, a man held the door open for me.
“Thanks so much,” I said, nervously, wondering if he was also here for divorce class and whether or not he was as nervous as I was.
Apparently he couldn’t hear my thoughts because he just said, “No problem.”
The lobby was full of people, all of whom (I assumed) were there for the class. Half looked miserable, half looked relieved. ALL looked annoyed. We sat quietly, unsure of whether or not we should be talking about the fact that we were all getting divorced or making small talk, or just feeling badly about ourselves for being a part of this particular group of people.
“Hello ladies and gentlemen!!” A short, black security offer stepped to the center of the room, commanding attention with her booming voice and huge smile. “I’m assuming y’all are here for the class, and I’d like to direct your attention this hallway. Y’all are going to line up in here with your IDs out. Once you get signed in, you’ll enter the classroom on your right. There’s coffee and snacks for y’all to help yourself. Once you’re inside, you don’t leave unless you want to take this class again, and I promise you, you don’t. Now then,” she waved her arm up over her head, “come on, y’all! We’re here to have a good time! This’ll be fun!”
She was just so chipper for this situation, I had to giggle.
I stood in the line quietly between two women, also quiet. All of us felt fairly embarrassed, I think. Then I saw a man up ahead of me. He was cute. Should I think a guy in my Divorce Class is cute? Probably not.
The classroom was laid out in a U-shape, with an aisle down the center and a project screen pulled down in the front. After signing in I found a seat near the front of the class, because that’s how I roll, and I pulled a notebook out of my purse. I’m not sure what I thought I’d be taking notes on, but it was a class. I should be taking notes on something, right?!
Another woman, probably in her mid-forties with colorful jewelry and an orange Vera Bradley bag, approached the chair next to me. “Is this seat taken?” she asked, as if I was waiting to meet a friend.
“No. You’re welcome to it,” I smiled.
“Oh, good. I just want to get this over with. I have so much to do. I have 4 kids and a husband who does nothing. I’m getting rid of that problem.”
“Yeah. Ha,” I said, wanting to relate but not being able to.
The cute man sat a few seats down from me. He was still cute.
Across from me sat a woman, probably my age. I could tell she was just angry. She sat with her long stringy hair curling around her shoulders, which were tense, with her arms folded across her chest. She just stared forward. Mad.
A man and a woman sat down behind me, chatting and snipping at each other every now and again. I listened to them.
“You know they have to go to school tomorrow…” she said.
“I told them they didn’t have to. It’s one of those teacher conference days where they do nothing but sit in the gym,” he replied, casually.
“Gordon, I told them they had to go!” she snipped quietly.
“Well, what do I do about it now? They don’t do anything but sit on their phones. They can do that at home.”
She let out a big sigh.
A guy with lots of tattoos sat down, and another guy in a black, polyester shirt with a gold earring next to him across the U from me. A few large black men sat uncomfortably in the back. Another couple, both in Navy sweats, sat down together in the corner.
“I can’t believe this class is 5 hours long,” the woman next to me heaved.
“I know. It’s long,” I agreed.
“Maybe if I had some help at home it wouldn’t be such a big deal,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said, not really sure if I should try and agree with her even though it wouldn’t be true or if I should just leave it at that.
A short, jewish-looking man walked in and stood near the front of the classroom near a tall, older blonde woman. They chatted quietly. I assumed they were the teachers. A security guard walked past the door to the classroom, peering in as though to remind us all that he was watching.
“Good evening, everyone! I am Robert Nussbam. I am a counselor and a social worker and Sheila and I will be leading this class tonight. I know a lot of you are here against your will, and a lot of you are here to just get it over with. We are going to make this as painless as possible…”
“Is the class really going to be 5 hours long?” someone interrupted.
“Yes,” he spun to make eye contact, “it is. The state of Florida requires 5 hours.” The security guard walked past the door again. It was starting to feel like prison. So, it was a really comfortable experience so far…