As if we needed the recent bumper crop of celebrity divorce announcements to remind us, getting married is (relatively) easy, staying married is another thing entirely—and the aftermath of an unsuccessful union can be downright disastrous. I had no idea when I made a date for lunch at Michael’s this week with WPIX evening news anchor Tamsen Fadal how timely our talk would be.
It’s hard to picture the devastation Tamsen felt when the painful details of her divorce from her husband and then-business partner Matt Titus were splashed cross Page Six in May 2012. In her new book, The New Single: Finding, Fixing and Falling Back in Love with Yourself After a Break-up or Divorce (St. Martin’s Press), she recalls a particularly painful night spent standing in a corner “bawling my eyes out” during breaks while acting as a master of ceremonies at a star-studded event in the city, when more lurid details of the couple’s breakup were about to be made public. She told me only a few of her closest friends knew what she was going through, while others only knew something was wrong because she was rapidly losing weight from the stress. “My colleagues [in the newsroom] thought I was upset because we were trying to have a baby. Boy, were they wrong.” Between bites of her mushroom pizza, she told me that after the split, “There were many nights when I went home, ordered a pizza, curled up on the couch with my dog and cried.”
Besides having to put on a happy face on camera while her divorce played out in the tabloids, Tamsen also had to endure the collective schadenfreude in the press, who took shots at the irony of it all. The Emmy-winning anchor and her husband, who were married for four years, had branded themselves as relationship experts and made a business off selling the promise of wedded bliss with their own matchmaking service. They also appeared on television as ‘The Love Consultants’ on Lifetime’s reality show Matched in Manhattan and even co-authored two books on relationships. The irony is not lost on Tamsen. “I get it,” she told me. “I understand why they did it, but it was embarassing. I was afraid of failure on all different levels. My marriage had failed—I was really lost for a while.”
Fast forward three years and the lovely, down to earth anchor has once again found her footing (“There was a time when I really wasn’t sure who I was”) and has become an articulate, passionate advocate for women (especially those over 40) who are reinventing themselves and their lives post-divorce. Since the book’s publication in June, Tamsen has gone on a multi-city book tour, penned several pieces on reinvention after divorce for The Huffington Post and spoken on numerous panels tackling the subject. “I’ve also gotten so many heartfelt letters from women who have gone through it. Whether someone has had to deal with infidelity, financial infidelity or just being in a marriage that doesn’t work anymore, everyone has a similar story.”
She told me she pulled herself together by devising her own “90 Day Plan,” which involved literally decluttering her life in all areas and ditching unpleasant reminders of her marriage—from exchanging the dark, heavy furniture she’d bought with her husband with “light, white pieces” that made the apartment they once shared her own, to “whittling down” her circle of ‘couples’ friends’ and once again taking full control of her finances after finding herself $100,000 debt after the divorce. She also found peace and order in making lists upon lists of everything from what she’d eat, when she’d exercise, to what she needed to accomplish at the office. “It’s funny but they really do make me feel better. I write lists for everything!”
In her book, equal parts memoir and how-to guide, Tamsen lays out a plan for surviving the critical first 90 days post-split, based on her own experience and encourages women to put themselves first and learn to love themselves again. “After the divorce, I didn’t like myself. I lost a lot of myself. If you don’t like yourself, you can’t be much good to anybody else.” In the book, she enlists the aid of experts in a host of areas including parenting, fitness and finance to help readers get back the confidence they’ve lost. “This isn’t one of those, ‘put on your lip gloss and get out there’ kind of books. I wanted to offer real advice for real life.”
I found Tamsen’s candor in recounting her experience deeply moving, as she explained that she was particularly devastated by the breakup because she’d “married late” due to the emotional scars of losing her mother when she was just a 20-year-old student. Tamsen decided to forego going away to college, opting instead to attend a commuter school so she could help care for her ailing mother. “I wasn’t sure I was even going to get married because I didn’t want to suffer a big loss again.” At 44, she now wonders if she has missed the chance to be a mother herself, but doesn’t regret getting out of a bad marriage. “There are red flags and then there are pink flags,” she explained. “A lot of women have pink flags where you think, ‘This isn’t that bad. I can deal with it.’ I had a lot of pink flags.” While she admits, “Saying ‘table for one’ in New York takes some adjusting,” there comes a time when you have to do what’s right for yourself. “My dad told me it’s better to be alone than be lonely and he was right.”
When we finally got around to talking about the celebrity spilts that have kept the tabloids busy this summer, I asked Tamsen if she thinks going through a divorce under the harsh glare of celebrity is any different than the misery suffered by mere mortals. She offered that her experience “was not on the same scale [of the public scrutiny of Hollywood couples], but I know when the camera goes off, we’ll all just regular people.” Besides, she added, breaking into a big smile, “Even Miss Piggy and Kermit are splitting up, so I don’t feel so bad.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Open Road CEO Jane Friedman with two of her authors, Jesse Kornbluth, whose book Married Sex is the perfect juicy beach book and Richard Kirshenbaum, who I Lunched with two weeks ago. If you haven’t yet read, Isn’t That Rich? Life Among the 1 Percent, his dishy book on the life and times of Manhattan millionaires and billionaires, you should…
2. Fab fashionista Mickey Ateyeh with PR maven Maury Rogoff and Tiffany’s Linda Buckley.
3. Author Pamela Keogh (long time no see!) with Joseph Montebello and another pal we didn’t get to meet
4. Attorney Allen Grubman and Starz’ Chris Albrecht
5. Mark Rosenthal
6. CBS News’ legal analyst Rikki Klieman, who dined and dished with me earlier this summer, and Eva Mohr
7. Producer Beverly Camhe and, so we’re told, her attorney
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia
9. Diane Coffey
11. Joan Jakobson
12. Harrison LeFrak
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew
16. Town & Country’s EIC Jay Fielden with actor Kyle MacLachlan who we spotted enjoying a ‘damn fine cup of coffee.’ And if you don’t get the reference, we’re not explaining it to you.
17. James Rybakoff
18. Barry Frey
20. PR princess Liz Kaplow
21. Bob Towbin
22. Richard Esposito
24. Caitlin Hart
25. PR maestro Tom Goodman
26. Buxton Midyette–what a great name!
27. Tamsen Fadal, her longtime publicist Beth Feldman and yours truly
We’ll be off for the rest of the summer enjoying some low-key lunches in Maine. See you back at 55th and Fifth in September!
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.