I am that girl.
That may make no sense to you, or it may make all the sense in the world. I am that girl who was successful and accomplished, sporting two degrees, raising two beautiful children, loving one glorious husband and owning two great homes. I am that girl who believed in love and fairy tales, who was happily-ever-after married, who had met her soul mate — who also was her best friend — and dedicated herself to him entirely.
I’m also that girl whose marriage ended with a brick
Yip…that girl. The girl that the universe just can’t help but fuck with.
You see, I heart symbols. Always have. Being a writer, they’re my turn-on of choice.
So when I opened up the picture in my then-husband’s email — the picture of a brick inscribed with gut-wrenching, soul-twisting, ugly, evil words — well, the symbol was too strong to not feel somehow tricked by some higher power.
I mean, come on: It hit me like a ton of bricks; to hit your head against a brick wall; to be thick as a brick; to be talking to a brick wall; to be one brick shy of a full palette.
As my face turned pale and all the saliva disappeared from my mouth, I saw a cartoon of all the famous “brick” clichés, playfully bouncing around the 19-inch monitor in front of me, torturing me with all their mortar malice.
All the sayings — every one of them that quickly made its way into and out of my brain at the moment my life changed forever — every one of them talked about being stupid, doing pointless things or being blindsided.
There it was: the heartless universe, laughing at me hysterically. Bitch.
So at this point, perhaps I need to share some details about the brick. First it was one of those commemorative bricks that businesses use as a fundraiser, placing them outside of special locations adorned with family names and trite messages — you’ve seen them outside of Disneyland, or your local planetarium, or an aquarium, or any other business ending in “-ium,” for example.
The picture of this brick was attached to an email conversation between my then-husband and a sales rep from his old high school in Oregon, which the hubby had attended with his childhood sweetheart (an aside that didn’t even cross my mind as I read the exchange, though it’s important now for context).
Apparently, my adoring husband had bought a brick. I read the email with interest, because he indicated to this gentleman that it was a Christmas present, but he said “we” wouldn’t be able to get up to see it until after the winter snows had melted.
I got all excited. He bought me a brick? Seemed an odd gift … but hell, I figured: If diamonds are made from coal, maybe something equally sexy comes from brick.
Not so much. That was me, being thick as a brick.
When I clicked the attachment, the image of a brick-colored brick (so original) with a brass plate sporting sans-serif letters appeared, inscribed with the following:
John Dumbass* ’92
Marilyn Bitch* ’94
Always and Forever
* Names changed to protect the far-from-innocent.
As you can probably figure out based on the “author” name at the top of this page, I am not Marilyn Bitch. But the part you may not be able to figure out as easily is that Jack Dumbass was my then-husband … of 10+ years. He and I had been together for 13 years — more than 1/3 of my life — and yet his name was positioned on top, in a very traditional missionary position over her name, and inscribed in stone with a “forever” sentiment.
Me? I just had the flimsy piece of cardstock called a marriage license. I was devastated by the irony.
That brick changed my life. In one fell swoop, or one view of a haplessly misfiled e-mail picture, or one brick hitting me over the head, I had seen the end of my marriage in all its stunning, flat-screen glory.
The rest, as they say, is history. But it’s still recent history to me, as the brick blindsided me only a few days after Christmas in 2007. Since then, what has occurred looks nothing like the popular conceptions of divorce prescribe. In fact, it’s been just the opposite.
I’m a mature woman. I thought he was a mature man. Yet we’re definitely not walking our two children to school together, him holding hands with our daughter, her holding hands with her big brother, her big brother holding hands with me, the four of us still connected like a paper cut-out against a sunny horizon.
Nope. It’s been sheer chaos, utter hell, the worst days of my life.
And here I am sharing my story with you, because I, my friends, am an expert on how to handle this. (Not really.) Perhaps I can help you live through a divorce gracefully. (That’s a total lie.) Because I have been the idyllic image of honesty, above-boardedness (I just made that word up — because I can…) and grace. (I wish.)
Sometimes I lie just to make myself feel better. That’s one of my coping mechanisms.
Actually, here I am a few years later, and I feel like I have a story to tell. I was silent too long — mostly out of sheer guilt (self-imposed and other-imposed, but mainly by the two people who I’m sure feel terrified at the thought of a mortifying combination of my words, their actions and the one venue afforded by this post).
I need to say it again: I’ve been silent far too long.
So I started a blog, which was my honest, sometimes irreverent attempt to offer insights into the complexity of divorce with shared custody; dealing with the subsequent forced reinvention that occurs post-divorce; coping when your heart is ripped from your chest every other week as your kids sob, telling you they want nothing more than to stay with you forever and never leave.
I had learned so much, yet I still had much to learn. I was stronger in many ways, but so much weaker in others. Hell, at the time I started the blog, I think the most commitment I thought I would ever again exercise was choosing one and only one shampoo to place in my shower. That was a HUGE step.
But the other shampoos still lived in my closet to this day with all the other old bottles of makeup, lotion, body wash, etc. that I don’t use but maybe someday will desperately, immediately need again — and they will make another appearance once the “chosen” shampoo lets me down … which it inevitably will.
(I’m looking at you, Big Sexy Hair. Typical shampoo.)
The blog was never intended to become an endless rant or a place to bash; instead, I was hoping to focus on reinvention — on what I called “Me 2.0.”
And what I found: Too many others have had similar bat-shit crazy experiences. They came, they laughed, they supported, they shared their stories, they spread the word. TIME Magazine linked to my blog, Diet Coke came a-calling with a viral marketing effort, the “other woman” in my marriage became one of my most prolific readers/commenters.
My ex and his wife even sued me to stop my blog — even though his wife had started her own blog with a first paragraph that mirrored my first paragraph.
As she said on her blog, “I’m that girl.”
Like I said before, you can’t make this shit up.
So I do hope you’ll find a sense of shared experience through the stories of my crazy life and divorce. Too many myths permeate our culture about divorce — so much so that those of us who often find ourselves surprisingly going through it often feel guilty because “forgiveness” is the ultimate goal or because “you can make this work if you just try.”
Bullshit. I’m living proof.
Apparently, there is an old Irish proverb that reads, “A grudge is a beautiful thing.”
Maybe I’ll put that on a brick. Then toss it in the general direction of a certain Dumbass and his Bitch.
(Symbolically speaking, of course…)
Take that, Universe. I’m that girl, now…