Q&A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Divorce, Chicago Style

We’re doing a thing today at ChicagoNow where we all interview and write about each other. I drew a fun name out of the electronic hat. My person is Donna, who is Chicago-famous for her long, crazy divorce. It’s been going on for like 11 years now. Donna’s blog is called Divorce, Chicago Style. It’s a blog about divorce in general  – what to do, what workshops are going on. I’d tell you to give it a read, but you already clicked away, (didn’t you! Come baaaaack!) and I’ll probably never see you again. It seems everyone is getting divorced.

I tried to get Donna to dish the worst about her ex. I mean come on, she’s semi-anonymous on her own blog and totally under the cloak of night on mine. I was hoping for something super china-shoppy like, “he got the maid pregnant and their love child looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger!” Too bad for us, Donna is way too classy to tell me anything awful. She did hint that if we had drinks she might spill something juicy. I’ll bet he borrowed her nice eye cream to put on his arms. Men.

What I can give you is the nugget of wisdom Donna offered me. She believes in marriage. (I know! Even after all those imaginary details I just supplied you!) Her advice is to embrace marriage, but ladies: get a prenup that covers what happens if or when there are children and you leave your job to be a stay-at-home-mother. Make sure that you are protected in the event of a divorce.

“I am probably in the last generation of wives to be awarded ‘permanent maintenance’  – one type of support that is only awarded in long term marriages. There is a movement in this country to limit such support.”

She gives me a lot to think about. I’m at that age when divorce is running its course through my friends like the flu. In some cases, you knew from the wedding day it was going under, but most of the time I’m stunned. People don’t let on what’s really going on in their lives. I see marriages falling apart and my jaw drops down like in a Loony Toons cartoon. When another one bites the dust, Niko and I get protective and defensive, like other peoples’ divorces are an uncontrollable threat that strikes at random. We cling to each other like life rafts in the kitchen and promise over and over to never let it happen to us.

It seems you can’t just say marriage vows once. You have to say them all the time. Say the important parts every day. Fight. Fight in the proverbial sense for your marriage by fighting in the real sense, with your words about how you feel.

I asked Donna if she is a feminist and I like her answer. She believes that women should be treated with respect and valued for their contributions to the family. For those women who devote decades to staying at home, they, too, need to be valued for their work. I don’t think Donna realizes how third-wave feminist she really is. Work is work  – even work traditionally done by women and it shouldn’t be invisible.

Donna is empowered in other ways as well. She just returned from volunteering in Peru where she worked at a children’s home. Other women in her situation might take vacations to spas, but Donna went by herself to go repaint a bathroom, work in the kitchen, and teach English to girls in Lima. (There are always hidden surprised to any trip – there was also an earthquake while she was there.)

As for Chicago, Donna recommends Bistro Zinc and roots for the Cubs.

Donna, you’re my kind of lady.

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