As part of the Awl’s excellent “Fakes” series, Kelly Stout chronicles her life as an ACOD (adult child of divorce), in the wake of her parents’ acrimonious split when she was in her early 20s, and tries to make sense of the lie her parents and family are no longer living. As an ACOD myself, even though my parents split when I was much younger, I relate so much to Stout’s experience, especially the pressure she feels to fake being okay.
The main project has become convincing others that the pain I’m feeling deserves sympathy. To hedge against that plan’s failure, I pretend that I’m fine. These feelings are paradoxical and I achieve nothing. I live my life as if I’ve waded halfway into a river and neither side looks appealing. I haven’t drowned yet, and from the banks, I appear to be waving.
I encounter people—many people—who are joyful about divorce. I am instructed again and again to be glad my dad has found happiness. I am chastised for my selfishness by people whose parents sleep in the same bed.
My mom moves into a new apartment and we toast to the fact that her new life is an honest one, where nothing is fake. Neither of us believes we are better off, but what choice do we have? The healthy dog looks on approvingly.