Growing up, I'd come home after school, say hello to my stay-at-home mommy, give her my empty lunch box, tell her about my day, and start my homework (so Dad could check it over before dinner). House nestled snugly in the suburbs? Check. Trips to Disney World? Check. Parents still married (to each other)? Check.
White-picket-fence upbringing or not, on a Friday night, I still find myself looking for a good place to swig liquor (gotta handle the problems that Mommy and Daddy couldn't fix, you know?). Despite coming from an unbroken home and having no personal experience with failed marriages (yet), I can't picture a hornier, drunker crowd than the freshly divorced. So I decided to check out Fort Lauderdale's first-ever divorce party at Christopher's night club, on Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, just west of the draw bridge.
In the parking lot, I spotted more hairpieces and grandma tits in halter tops than I could count. Cougars crawled out of Jaguars and tottered in high heels toward the door. I handed my keys to the valet, paid a $10 cover, and aimed for the bar. It seemed like a good place to relate to those assuaging pain with alcohol. What better spot to find the debauchery of a frat party and the decadence of a midlife crisis?
Ambience: An elevated DJ booth turned out upbeat breakup tunes from the club's far left, and a gray-haired mob bobbed enthusiastically out on the dance floor below. With at least four separate bar areas, Christopher's provided more than enough spots for the clientele to rest their arthritis after some hardcore dancing. The scene was lively; people were laughing and drinking, and the dance floor was crowded. I briefly considered sending a text message to my mom: "Life is short. Divorce Dad and come party."
Upon entering the club, I headed straight for the darkest corner next to the least populated bar. Scanning the scene, I found the club spacious enough to provide plenty of places for rusty swingers to practice pickup lines in the shadows. Mirrors bordered the walls, not only assisting in pickup-line practice, but also giving the place an expansive, classy feel.
Strangely enough, in a place where more people are likely to be hard-of-hearing, the music wasn't too loud — you could even overhear that guy nearby exhaust every cheap line in his repertoire on the hard-drinking little lady at the end of the bar. ("Scotch on the rocks, that's my favorite too!" Or worse: "You come here often?")
Balloons decorated the place as if to remind partygoers that this is a celebration; not a time to methodically down vodka and recount the grisly details of a failed relationship. OK, maybe a little of that.
Drinks: Drinks prices add up fast (when you're drinking $6 bourbon-and-Cokes), but fortunately for me, ladies drank free from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Maresa, a casually dressed woman with striking blue eyes, made good use of the ladies' night: She ordered two merlots, sat beside me, and dredged up her own sob story. An emotionless marriage led to divorce; he remarried, she got a dog, and, five years later, she says, she's finally over it — while shaking her head and sipping the remnants of merlot Number 1.
"My parents got a divorce," she said, smoking a cigarette. "I never thought I would get one. Let alone be the one who filed for it."
Maresa also claimed she wasn't in a hurry to meet her next ex, but not all drunken divorcees shared her sentiment. After leaving Maresa at the bar, I meandered over to the dance floor and witnessed a woman grab the balls of a grey-haired guy as they danced drunkenly together. (A smooth, deliberate move this was, like it was part of the latest dance step.) Hope he spiked his vodka with Viagra.
Hosts: Hosting the party were two sharply dressed women, both authors of divorce-oriented books. They announced games ("Pin the Blame on the Ex," and "Toss the Wedding Ring in the Toilet"), handed out prizes, and scurried back and forth from the DJ booth to the divorce info table.
"You celebrate engagements and weddings," Rosalind Sedacca, author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce, told me. "Why not celebrate divorce?" Rosalind, petite, squeezed nicely into a short black dress, is a little divorce cheerleader, squirming with excitement over the prospect of so many divorced people in one room.
When I extracted myself from Rosalind's upbeat little sermon, I noticed two drunken women grinding each other, various men, anything else they could find on the dance floor, thin air. Regret to say I didn't have time to read Rosalind's book on the spot, but I doubt there's a section dedicated to telling the kids why Mommy didn't come home last night and who the strange man dropping her off this morning was.
Customers: Raucous older men laughed and drank at the bar and danced their sprayed-to-perfection hairpieces right out of place. Older women congregated, flashed their support hose, congregated, and had their cards read by a tarot reader. Younger women scanned the bar for their next sugar daddies. And, with all the gold chains around would-be swingers' necks, I could have lassoed Godzilla.
Speaking of gold chains, a man who accessorized his with multiple rings saw me scribbling in my notebook and beckoned me over.
"I know a bunch of younger women; I give them advice all the time," David Levi, told me.
"So, you've been divorced, then?" I asked.
"Three times," David said. "The first marriage was to this Chinese woman who left me when she found someone richer. The second one . . . well, I don't count it, it actually only lasted 24 hours. And the third woman got pregnant, and one day she cleaned the house and took off. But you know — women go crazy when they get pregnant sometimes."
The rough lesson that three failed marriages taught him?
"Marry for love," he said. "It's what I'm gonna do next time."
Music: The first song I heard booming from the DJ booth was an unmatchable anthem of the broken-hearted: "I Will Survive." Seriously, disco goes with divorce better than Häagen-Dazs.
As the evening wore on, "Love Stinks" came blasting from the speakers and brought everyone back on their feet. I was dawdling near the information table, checking out pamphlets, when two women perusing the table turned and began screeching the lyrics in my direction. While I was speculating on whether they were drunk, bitter, or both, one of them screamed: "What, don't you know this song? Haven't you seen Wedding Singer?"
Yeah, but I guess it's just one of those things I won't get until after my first divorce. Which, after seeing how much fun divorcees have, I can't wait. Forget holy matrimony and the suburban white picket fence! Watching people twice my age party hardcore and then stumble off the dance floor with sexy strangers undid years of good parenting in a single night. The truth was revealed: Marriage is just something you gotta get through to get to the party.