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Coupling

Saturday night blues

When you’re divorced, one time of the week can make you feel especially alone.

By Marianne Jacobbi
November 22, 2009

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When I was married, Saturday night was the time for dinners and get-togethers with friends, chaperoning school dances, and falling asleep on the couch waiting up for teenagers. I spent something like 1,300 Saturday nights with the man who’s now my ex and never wondered who I’d be with on that supercharged night of the week when others were out dating and mating. I had my standing date, for better or worse.

It was as good as Saturday night back when I was 8, claiming my spot on the rug in front of the heating vent where I’d warm my feet and watch Lawrence Welk over a bowl of popcorn with my family. There was a comfort to knowing that’s where I’d be and excitement that I got to stay up late for the Lennon Sisters. Ask anyone over age 50 to describe a happy Saturday night memory, and it’s likely to evoke something similar: cozy, up late, together.

You lose many things when you get divorced, including your no-brainer Saturday night. When you have a mate, you have romantic Saturday nights and ones where you stay home and clean the basement together. Both have their place and are fun in different ways. But when I found myself suddenly single in my 50s, Saturday night was a black hole that seemed to epitomize everything that was hard about my new life. It highlighted all that was missing on that special night of the weekend when I was now a floater at dinner parties. Activities that felt great during the day -- like going to the gym -- felt sad on a Saturday night. (Why is the sight of an empty locker room so depressing on date night?) I knew full well what my couple friends were up to most of their Saturday nights, and it wasn’t all that electrifying: They were home watching sports on TV, Skype-ing their kids, figuring out their latest iPhone apps. Still, that was little consolation, and I was certain they were having more fun than I was, because they were two, not one.

I’d sink by sundown on Saturday if I found myself with no plans. I’d overcompensate for several Saturday nights to come so that would never happen again -- frantically filling up my calendar with dinners and dates, even overbooking sometimes, so I wouldn’t have to spend a Saturday night alone. I’d go out with men who were all wrong for me, like the one who told me over coffee that he was born again or the one who boasted first thing over appetizers that he’d been married three times. It was Saturday night -- the black hole -- and I had to fill it.

In the book Saturday Night, Susan Orlean writes that this night of the week is larger than life, special, that it has “a distinct personality and effect on most people. People still act differently on Saturday night for no reason other than it’s Saturday night.” They eat with abandon, consume more liquor, and make the most visits to the emergency room, she notes. I can confirm that they also sit home feeling sorry for themselves. You’ve seen the “All by Myself” scene in the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary, haven’t you? You’ve heard “Another Saturday Night” by Sam Cooke, right? The ain’t-got-nobody Saturday night blues are real, no one’s immune from them, and they’re nothing like Saturday night fever. They don’t make you want to get up off the couch and dance.

One of the last hurdles in my post-divorce life is Saturday night. I know I need to redefine it, change the way I think about it, take custody of it. “Once you can be happy alone on a Saturday night,” a divorced friend told me, “you’re near the finish line.” What she meant is that Saturday night is a state of mind. It reflects where you are in your head and how you feel about the rest of your life. When the rest feels OK, Saturday night does, too, no matter what you’re doing or not doing. That’s the goal. You might be out on the town or home making dinner for one. My friend was right, and I’m getting closer to the finish line, week by week.

Marianne Jacobbi is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. She lives in Cambridge. Send comments to coupling@globe.com. Story ideas: Send yours to coupling@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to ideas we will not pursue.