He knew Ms. Magazine was called Mizz and he corrected me when I called it Emme Esse.
He was a women’s study major at University of California Santa Barbara. He had read Toni Morrison, Mary Pipher, Virginia Wolfe. He knew them all. He was a feminist while I was wearing a cheerleading uniform at a Catholic All girls school in Nashville, Tennessee. The nineties were not a surprise to Him. He didn’t blush when Sally faked an orgasm on screen with Harry. He knew the real meaning to the lyrics of Violent Femmes songs. His friends were women. He loved women. I thought it was because he was his mom’s youngest son and he was young enough in the divorce to miss the anger but be ever present for the grief and guilt. His brothers and his dad teased that his major reflected his desire to meet the women- not study them. His classes in college were full of women. Conquest or research? I assumed both. I was charmed, swept away and impressed.
I tiptoe on the tight rope of giving background knowledge and never assuming his thoughts. I mean if I had known his thoughts, it would not have taken me seven years to figure out that he wasn’t faithful- so why bother trying to explain who he is. I want to talk freely like I’m writing Reviving Ophelia. I don’t need his name. The story is about my life. He is the bus. But we can see in the photo from the magazine article. When the bus hits you, it is fucked up and such a killer.
I was thinking about taking his name out of this blog and also, the “book” altogether. The memoir is about me. Not Him. I heard that Nora Ephron was told when she wrote Heartburn that readers would want to know more about her cheating husband. Her response was something like- when a person gets hits by a bus, no one cares about the bus. No one wants to know how the bus feels. His name isn’t necessary.
“ It took more than five years for Ephron and Bernstein to negotiate the terms of their divorce, and for about half that time the central issue was Bernstein’s demand for script approval on “Heartburn,” in which he was played by Jack Nicholson. Harper’s ran an excerpt of a document entitled “Attachment A to the Marital Separation Agreement between Nora Ephron and Carl Bernstein.” A pseudonymous column in Vanity Fair accused Ephron of “indecent exploitation” for making a record that her children could one day read and watch of their parents’ bitter end. (“Here is Carl Bernstein and adultery; there is Nora Ephron and child abuse. It is no contest.”) It is difficult to imagine anyone caring much about a pair of divorced journalists now, but theirs was a different era: Carl and Nora were the Brad and Jen of the early eighties.” From an article in The New Yorker Nora Knows What to Do by Ariel Levy.
Let’s call him Walt. I don’t think he will sue me or that I shouldn’t write the story. I am looking for distance. Put Him in his place.
Nora- can I call her Nora? She wrote of Carl’s affair when she was seven months pregnant with their second child. The betrayal is bigger than her rounded belly. The heartache is deeper with the hormones and obvious commitment her body has made to this relationship while he squanders her faith.
And let’s get to the heart of this grief.
Did Nora feel less pain when Meryl played her in the movie Heartburn? Is there a way out? How do I escape this pain? Michelle Markowitz looks at this photo of Nora being disrespected by her husband Carl and she feels less lonely- less a fool. If the amazing Nora Ephron can be in this situation than maybe we will survive brilliantly, too and with clean bouncy hair.
I couldn’t write this if I had not driven home in a downpour. I couldn’t have written this if the confused early blooming daffodils weren’t aiming their baby faces downward. They are a hearty flower and yet they just can’t handle anymore. Climate change. Wildly fluctuating temperatures. Car exhaust. And a solid week of rain. These little yellow gods dismay and turn their faces to the dirt. They gave up on the sun. Forsaken flowers.
I just read an article in Salon about Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham and Nora Ephron’s books. They have this humor running through that is baring and honest and self deprecating- but skip the trauma. They can talk about sagging aging necks, being the “fat girl”, but not the real stuff. They can get so close to the hurts and skim right past them, leaving us to wonder is their life easier or why is my life so hard.
The gospel of Ephron: What Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham’s books have in common? How did the female celebrity memoir turn into feminist self-help? by Lydia Kiesling “In Poehler’s book, as in Fey’s and Kaling’s, there is a dual say-everything quality and reticence, like, I’m going to give you my embarrassing childhood photos and tell you about my gross feet, but don’t ask me about my divorce, or my early childhood traumas.”
There is no wrongdoing in their having written these books. They are what they are. I am the vulnerable writer and without that what sets me apart from the books going for a steal at the warehouse in the outlet mall. Hearing that Mindy hates getting fat clothes when she is being dressed for an award show or hearing that Tina Fey gained more weight than you during her first pregnancy is cool. We want to be entertained and seated at their cozy booth snacking on the bread that you dip into the tiny bowl of olive oil and spices. But after reading the last page, there is an opportunity lost. I write because I can’t not write. It sits in my gut and right on the inside my forehead waiting to be henpecked onto this computer screen. I am in service to my truth. My big mouth has to be of use.
As hard as it is to find the words, I keep looking. My writing teacher encouraged me to start organizing pages to get the book together. Ohhh and I was chuffed. Until I couldn’t stop the tears. There is no ending. I don’t know the ending. I didn’t win the lottery. I haven’t even renovated the bathroom. I haven’t met a man. Or a woman like Glennon Doyle Melton. I have to grieve some more. There is no bow to tie. There won’t be one. This is life and it is not clean or pretty. I’m still living like I have been hit by the bus. I wish I wasn’t. But the bus did a lot of damage and I didn’t even see it coming.
What is the word for marital sex when you are not aware that your husband is having an affair? Sex by deceipt. I feel Catholic asking. Parceling out the wrongdoing like a priest in a confessional divvying up the penance. Is this a venial or moral sin? Is this lie of omission serious enough to be considered rape? It isn’t a violent rape. It isn’t aggressive. I’m not claiming to be a rape victim. But what is this word? What is this unspeakable thing?
Does the word betrayal cover this pain? Broken vows. Unfaithful. Fool around. Affairs. Mistresses. Lovers. Adultery. Is there a word? Making me a fool. Dipping his pen into the company ink.
Can I sum up a nineteen year marriage ending not when I found the sock in the dryer? Not when I read his phone and his mistress texted him a break up? Not when I begged for honesty. Not when we spoke of neighbors’ divorcing. I told him I would always leave if he was unfaithful. I told him. Not when I could have sworn he called me Courtney in bed late one night.
What word would you use?
How will the story end?
Every once in a blue moon, I do get the feeling like I am a helium filled balloon. I rise aimlessly. The balloon is red and happy and light as air- maybe even lighter. I look around in to the sky and the puffy white clouds and I wonder what I should be worrying about. What pain did I forget to medicate? Whose lunch did I forget to pack? And it occurs to me that everything is ok. I float for a second without popping.