My therapist once told me that the two most traumatizing events in a person’s life are death and divorce. Death I could understand. Divorce I could not - that was until I lived through mine. I remember telling my therapist how right he was on the matter just before firing him for not doing a better job in helping me avoid it. Maybe that wasn’t such a great idea since it left me with no one to talk to about the resulting emotional maelstrom I was enduring. As if I wasn’t already struggling enough in the parenting arena, the divorce just upped the level of difficulty without my ever mastering the beginner setting. And there was no player two helping me out anymore. I was on my own.
It never occurred to me that a divorced-dad equivalent of the hair club for men existed, not until years later anyway. For whatever reason I viewed my feelings as unique and difficult for others to understand, so I tucked them away like an old quilt on the top shelf of the hallway closet. After reading The 40 Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad by award-winning writer and columnist Joel Schwartzberg, I pulled that quilt out again.
Through his collection of short essays, Joel recreates the exhilaration, confusion, awkwardness, satisfaction, insight, and quirk in being a divorced father. Stories like “Lazy Dadurday” offer a glimpse into those special moments and new routines with dad after a split, while others (“Beige Food” and “Sponge Bob Wins”) are humorous commentary on the world in which his children live.
Though the main theme of the book centers around fatherhood, there are several chapters that would make anyone smile, not just parents. I mean who hasn’t taken their mother to the Oscars, blown off law school or been on the Wheel of Fortune? And Joel’s tongue-in-cheek rants against things like the greeting card industry and parking lot etiquette are the stuff of an endearing curmudgeon in the making.
But for all the fun, Humoirs is not just a bowl for sugary cereal for readers to smile over after every bite-sized chapter. Joel balances sweetness with seriousness opening up about male post-partum depression and his son’s Chiari malformation diagnosis. His honesty on such weighty topics gives the book a depth that readers can sympathize with without having to give into pity.
Flipping through the pages brought on an eerie familiarity, like Joel had actually been chronicling my own experiences as a newly divorced father. “It took a divorce to make me a better father,” Joel states in describing how he found his “inner parent.” This is the exact thought I have when spending time with my children, and it gives me a sense of comfort knowing I am well beyond the beginner level of parenting. Humoirs is not just a great read; it also gives a voice to divorced dads working without fanfare to stay involved in their children’s lives.
Joel Schwartzberg is an award-winning essayist and screenwriter, national champion public speaker and speech coach, and currently works as the Director of New Media for a PBS broadcast news magazine.
Joel's essays on parenting and other spontaneous phenomena have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Star Ledger, New Jersey Monthly, Babble.com, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Huffington Post, and regional parenting magazines scattered on small tables in pediatricians' offices. (From the author’s website)
You can purchase a copy of Joel’s book at Amazon.com or through his website. Become a fan of Humoirs on Facebook.