If you ask most divorcees if one could compare their ex to a shark, they would most likely say ‘definitely’. After all, sharks have a bad rap (created by Hollywood) as creatures who are our blood thirsty enemies. Exes generally have this same ominous rap, but sadly (unlike sharks) they often live up to this reputation. Many divorcing guys and gals would agree that when tensions are running high, fueled by sadness, loss, grief, betrayal and anger, not only do their exes and the lawyers involved take on the perceived shark like persona, but that they too can reveal some shark-like tendencies.
Divorced Gal (DG) had a super hot date this past week, with a real life shark that made me see that what I believe is the ideal way for divorced parents to behave, can actually be a reality. My date would have made me the envy of tens of thousands of South African men because it was with none other than gorgeous Dawn Nathan Jones who has not only come into the limelight, but in my opinion has stolen the show, on M-NET’s brilliantly cast new reality series, ‘Shark Tank South Africa’.The ‘sharks’ use their wealth of experience to spot talent and use their own bank accounts to invest in entrepreneurs that they see extreme potential in.
We met at a trendy coffee shop and I was very aware of the admiring glances that Dawn was getting from the other patrons sitting near us. Dawn however (who was early and waiting for me when I arrived) was genuinely oblivious to the attention and I found her to be extremely humble. And oh boy (despite being pretty intimidating as a shark on M-NET), in the flesh, Dawn put me at ease immediately and we spent three fun hours together (it felt like thirty minutes to DG #Kindredspirits)
DG has long been impressed and inspired by Dawns success in the South African business arena. Up until very recently she was the CEO of Europcar (she decided to step down to pursue other things) and has also been involved in various initiatives to uplift her community as well as advocate the empowerment of women in business. Her career accolades which I have completely nutshelled here, are just a facet of why this shark is special.
Dawn too, is a divorced gal, but like none other that I have ever met. She adores her ex husband and counts his new wife as one of her best friends! The love between them is so genuine that DG was actually deeply moved by their (unfortunately rare) level of maturity and respect. They even have a family Whatsapp chat group called ‘Moms and Dad’(Dawn and her ex husband have a son and he and his new wife also have a child). In response to DG spraying a shocked mouthful of cappuccino across the table at this revelation(only kidding), Dawn took out her phone and shared some of the chat with me. I was even more in awe of this incredible blended family, when I saw “Love you both – have a good night xxx” from Dawns ex’s wife to Dawn and her son!! I was further filled with admiration when Dawn told me that her son’s stepmom has taught him to bake and how she values that her son has a wonderful extra person like this in his life. It did not take long for me to see why she has cultivated such incredible success in business, as one of her core beliefs is “if you can’t change something, change your attitude towards it”.
Dawn has no regrets about her marriage at all. She credits her ex husband with being the catalyst in not only gaining her faith but with bringing out a wonderful side in her, that she feels she may not otherwise have discovered. She feels blessed that her ex was part of her life because their marriage brought them their precious son. DG forgot that she was in the company of the ‘shark’ who has brought fear and anxiety to so many hopeful contestants. All I could see is a fellow loving mother and an amazing woman.
I asked Dawn how it is that she managed to avoid the all too common toxic and bitter place that many divorced couples dwell in and instead created the ideal post-divorce co-parenting situation. I also wanted to know how she managed to carry on as such an effective and solid business figure despite the pain that she went through when her marriage ended. Her response was simple and powerful.
She believes that carrying around negative emotions like bitterness is like ‘drinking your own poison’ and can lead to physical illness. When she went through her divorce, a large part of what kept her going was that she had a staff that relied on her as a leader and depended on her for their livelihood. She also chose to focus on her responsibility towards her son and towards herself.
Dawns advice to anyone who goes through divorce is to reinvent themselves in the most positive way that they can. She believes that this is part of the process of moving on and can be approached using the same principles one would use to re-energize a business. This would be to work on oneself and see the ending as a new beginning and as an opportunity for growth. Look at what you love about yourself, enhance or create ‘me-time’ and focus on that while making an effort to improve on areas that you know have not served you.
I had to ask Dawn what it’s been like to date in the years that have followed her divorce. She got the biggest grin on her face and consented for DG to share two humorous stories with you. The one guy ordered a Mojito and proceeded to shove his hand into the glass to not only fish out the ice to loudly crunch on but also to dig for the bit of mint at the bottom of the glass to have a good ole chew. Luckily, Dawn being a planner has a strategy for escaping these kinds of ‘you gotta be kidding me’ situations. She has a deal with her niece who calls her after an hour. Her niece (who is not available to the rest of us for this service – I asked!) knows that if Dawn responds that she is glad that her son is ok, then the date is going well. If she however wants to make a quick get away then she will say ‘oh no, a tummy bug? I’m on my way’. DG took careful note ; )
My favourite moment of my time with Dawn which had me rolling on the floor in hysterics, was about the guy in the ‘skadonk’ (Dawns word). Now if you are South African, you know what a skadonk is. A skadonk is a car that is kind of battered and cringe-worthy. At the time of this unforgettable date, Dawn was the head of a car rental company with some twenty thousand vehicles!!!! The suitor in question, arrived to collect her in a ‘man made skadonk’ . He seemed to think it may impress her but the experience convinced her to meet all future dates at the designated venue. The funniest part to me, was that Dawn’s son loves fancy and expensive cars and came running out to see what car his moms date had…..can you imagine his shocked face – must have been like spotting a shark in your swimming pool.
DG has always been scared of sharks. My fear (like many) comes from preconceived and negative ideas that have been created by movies and by my imagination. I too was always terrified of divorce because I pictured it to be just like a shark that had the power to devour hopes and dreams in a vicious and bloody bite. Turns out, that I was horribly wrong about sharks as research has shown that not only do they have the winning qualities of patience and persistence but that they have companions in the ocean, not enemies. After a painful journey through my own ocean where I thought that I would never again surface to see the light above, I have come to realize that my marriage ending was actually a new beginning, with new hopes and dreams. Dawn reinforced this in an extremely powerful way. DG’s one on one with this shark has shown her that divorced parents can choose to co-parent as positive and nurturing allies and about the power of investment – in oneself, ones family and even in ones relationship as co-parents.