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March 06, 2005

Divorce, American style

What would we do without the New York Times? And by "New York Times," of course, I mean the "Sunday Styles" section, where all the latest decadent societal trends that originate in New York and the rest of blue America are heralded.

Yesterday, while getting rid of old newspapers, Mrs. A discovered a classic in the Feb. 13 edition. The article is called "O.K., It's Over. So Now Let's Party." Just in time for Valentine's Day, which of course is not about love but about sex . . . and divorce.

Here's the setup:

WHEN Rachel Bendtsen walked through the doors of the Mulberry Street Bar in Little Italy on a recent Thursday night, she was greeted with a cake and a standing ovation. Cameras flashed as she said hello to friends she hadn't seen in three years, since she got engaged and stopped traveling frequently from Minneapolis to New York to visit. Leaning over the cake, decorated with a bird flying out of a cage, she closed her eyes and blew out the candles.

"I am so happy to be a free agent," Ms. Bendtsen, 27, said as more cameras flashed. "And I am accepting applications to make out." Several single men were on hand, eager to apply.

As divorce parties go, this one was pretty tame - no caterer and no band, and the cake was homemade. It was certainly nothing compared to the $20,000 wedding she and her parents had paid for just two years earlier, the one at which 200 guests watched as she pledged to love and cherish her husband forever.

"Once you say you are going to get married, it is hard to get out of it," Ms. Bendtsen said. "So the divorce puts us both back on course. In my case it is definitely cause for celebration."
The great thing about this is that you don't even have to be a "het" and you don't technically have to be married.
Philip Tabor, a 30-year-old actor, gave himself a breakup party in September. "My godmother said, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,' " he said. "I added tequila." Mr. Tabor, who broke up with his male partner of eight years last summer, sent out invitations with a script-written header, "El Divorcio," for his margarita-drenched party at the Mexican restaurant Café Juanita on the Lower East Side.

"Without sounding too Lifetime television, it was very therapeutic," he said. His friends gave him plenty of liquor, erotic videos and a self-help book entitled "Finding the Boyfriend Within."
And there's always a profit angle.
Businesses, too, are hopping on the breakup party circuit, advertising their services as the perfect pick-me-up for the newly single. At, the recently broken-up can sign up at the gift registry for anything from a new toaster to a flat panel television. Nearly 4,000 copies of the spiral-bound guide "How to Throw a Divorce or Breakup Party," by Christine Gallagher, a Los Angeles writer, have been sold since she began offering it on her Web site,, in mid-2003.

Plum Party, a New York-based party supply company (, sells items like a Getting Over Him Kit and an Ex-Husband Voodoo Doll to give as gifts or party favors. At, people can submit their sordid tales of woe and have them written up in the style of wedding announcements.
Speaking of money, when you both have a lot of it, and can split it amicably, you can even have your divorce party together.
Dominic Barbara, a Long Island celebrity divorce lawyer whose clients include Lindsay Lohan's father, Michael, and Victoria Gotti, said one of his clients is giving a Valentine's Day party this year with her former husband to celebrate their divorce at a four-star New York restaurant. Mr. Barbara, who wouldn't reveal the name of his client, said that the client and her former husband are investment bankers who decided to split $20 million between them instead of enduring a drawn-out legal battle. "They threw the prenup in the garbage," Mr. Barbara said.
That's right, Scott, the rich are really different from us.

The current version of Emily Post's magnum opus advises against being mean when celebrating divorce, but that advice is too much for Dan Savage, the "syndicated sex columnist and editor of The Stranger, an alternative newspaper in Seattle."
Mr. Savage might be considered a trailblazer on the angry breakup party frontier: For the past eight years, he has held a Valentine's Day bash on the evening of Feb. 14, at which single people can destroy artifacts from their previous relationships.

"You are in a room full of people who are single and bitter and looking for rebound sex," said Mr. Savage, who will hold the party this year at Chop Suey in Seattle. "It's great."
After having attempted to digest all of this, I think we will have our own celebration here at the Attila marital abode by burning the Sunday Styles in the fireplace.