At some point during the Vegas Blogger Bacchanal, I blurted out what used to be my deepest, darkest, secret. I even referred to in my younger days is as "My Stigma," something I considered a fourth-date admission at best. I don't remember who was in the conversation at that point, but someone asked me a pointed question that I truthfully answered.
That's what folks in the News Biz call a tease. Relax, I'll get to it.
I was trying to send my Dad a WSOP hat from their online store, but I didn't have my address book with me at work. So I did a little detective work. I am, after all, a research professional. I can find anything. So, after a little work, I found what I thought was his address and sent it off.
I was wrong, though it did go to a house he owns and rents to someone else. Transaction successfully completed. However, as a research professional, and an exacting one at that, I went back to my previous inquiry to find out why I had not pulled up what I was looking for in the first place. The best way to do this is to expand the search, truncating names and such, pinpointing precisely why the information didn't turn up in the earlier attempt. I found the right address and instantly knew why I'd missed it before. Easy game. I also found a name I didn't expect, though unrelated to what I was after. What we call a false hit. This false hit caught me right in the junk. Not a steel-toed whallop to the junk, but one of those surprising ones that catches you in just the right spot and lingers longer than the force of the blow dictates it should.
I got married when I was 19. It's a long story. Got time?
The first woman I ever loved, whom we will clevery call My Ex-Wife, just happened to be illegally residing in the Land of The Free. Our initial meeting was magical, so much so that she rejected me. Resisted my offer of an escort home only to acquiesce to the same offer of another. I didn't give her another thought--this was, after all, San Diego State University and I wasn't exactly devoid of other prospects--until I was set up on a date with her. A blind date. A random blind date at a college with 38,000 people. I believed it was seredipity. In retrospect, I can think of several other words for it.
We were inseparable from that night. A six-hour bender in Tijuana can do that to folks. Little did I know that when we came back across the border that night (Do you have anything to declare? Yes, I'm drunk!), she was violating the laws of our country and lying to Government Officers. Because she was born in Mexico. Though she had lived with an aunt and uncle in the US since she was two years old, though she had graduated with honors from one of the top high schools in Southern California, she had no Social Security card, was incapable of working and was not even a student at SDSU, simply the friend/roommate of a student.
Naturally, I found out this little secret well after I was in love with her, so it didn't matter to me. I didn't even see a problem, aside from comforting her when she got angry with her situation.
That summer, I went home, missing her deeply every second, and she found a solution: She went to Colorado to "marry" her roommate's father and work in his bed and breakfast. The upshot of that was that she wouldn't be returning to San Diego in the fall. Wouldn't, in fact, be returning for at least two years, until this sham marriage ran its course.
This did not seem to me an acceptable solution. Because I lose. First loves and all that shit. So like a Noble and Dim-Witted Knight (Welcome to Excahlibuh!) I offered my hand in marriage. I decided it would be much better for me to marry her--at 19--than to have her live in Colorado--apart from me--for the forseeable future.
You're all shaking your heads right now, as did every person I knew at the time. Clearly, we were doomed from the start. I was a stupid-ass kid, far more interested in getting loaded than in perpetuating marital bliss. Hell, I'd never had anything resembling a relationship before, not a grown up one. I couldn't even take care of myself, let alone hold up my end of a (supposedly) life-long partnership.
Predictably, we had competing interests, many fights and a difficult three-and-a-half years together. We were just too goddamn young, neither of us even remotely formed as actual adults. That was actually the major problem. I had no interest in "growing up," while she falsely fancied herself the worldly and mature one. For my part, I felt deprived--self-inflicted as it was--of the golden years of youth. It's safe to say I wasn't fully committed to the union from Day One.
Which doesn't mean that losing her didn't fuck me up for a long time. It boiled down to one thing: That I'd failed. And that failure was all my fault. I know now that's not true, but, for the longest time, I didn't. In fact, I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time trying to become the person she demanded I be during our marriage. I perceived that my failure as a husband was also a failure as a human and the only template for being a stand-up person was the one she constantly laid out for me.
Think about that for a second. Everything about that marriage was wrong, but I still exited it thinking less of myself. My entire personal growth was stunted by the experience and the lesson I took away from it was that I suck. Finally freed from the bonds, I took every negative aspect of it and used it against myself, a trait that manifested itself in a hundred unhealthy--though occassionally fun, hallucinagenic--ways.
That's not even the worst part.
We had an amicable, if sporadic, friendship after that. She continued using my last name (always hated her given surname), though she said she'd dump it when (if?) I got married again. I continued to struggle with my self-esteem, falling even further into depression because of circumstances and what I perceived as a hopeless existence. Something turned me around, though. The detail isn't important (or interesting), but the bottom line is a single small triumph turned into dozens of others, each a step on the stairway out of my Pit. When I look back, it seems like it was easy. All it took was hard work and the positive influence of some important others, people who believed in me, in who I was, not who they'd have liked me to be. I know it wasn't easy, though.
I drifted through several relationships, all of them helpful, if ultimately unfulfilling. I owe a few of those women a lot. They liked me and it helped me like myself. Still, I subconsciously, filtered all these relationships through the prism of my Ex-Wife. She defined relationships for me. Many of my behaviors were direct results of the failure of that marriage. I strove to behave in ways that would have met her approval. I tried to avoid actions she wouldn't like, you know...like...smoking pot three times a day.
There was an inevitability to this that I never saw coming.
The night my Ex-Wife and I slept together (four years after the last time), I was actually in a relationship, a relationship that was undoubtedly in its death throes, but I was in it nonetheless. That sucked. She was a nice girl, immature and a little unsure of herself, but she certainly didn't deserve me fucking my ex-wife and telling her 48 hours later that I was breaking up with her to re-up with the former Mrs.
So there we were, taking it slow, enjoying the startled--and generally positive--reactions of our friends and families (that was one thing that never really changed, in that both families continued to think highly of everyone). This went on for a few months until she began a new job, one that required almost constant travel. Again, for the second time in my life, I fell for this woman only to see her decide to voluntarily spend time away from me.
It went bad pretty fast. She began treating me like I was 19 again. The old wrangles, the one-upsmanship returned. I was a different person now, but so easily reverted back into the same destructive, argumentative behavior. It didn't help that she lied to me over and over again. When she didn't call me from the road on my birthday, I blew my stack. And that was that.
Except for the pain of rejection, that is. Where I was the one who left before, now it was I who'd been dissed. Where before, I didn't believe myself worthy anyway, now, after many years of self-improvement-of becoming the person SHE WANTED ME TO BE--it wasn't good enough. That I soon had to move and found myself in a terrible living environment did not help in the slightest.
So yes, I mentioned the lying. Turns out she was seeing someone on the road pretty much the whole time. Some French Canadian fuck with a chick's name. Seriously. I wish it were a joke. I never knew this until she called me later saying she was getting married and moving to Canada. Insert your on NAFTA joke here. Maybe she was trying to let me down easy, by deflecting my questions, but all she did was prolong my hurt. That's the only part I've never really understood.
I wished her well. Not true, I told her to go fuck herself, though I was probably less eloquent than that.
Time provides perspective and, honestly, it was the absolute best thing that could have ever happened to me. Because it broke the spell. A spell I'd unknowingly been under since the day I met her. I could have never committed to anyone else until I was completely through with her. Four years apart hadn't done it. This finally did.
What does all this have to do with my Dad's WSOP hat? The false hit I got last week was my Ex-Wife, a hit that I would not have gotten had she not begun using my last name again. She's back in LA. Has been, in fact, for four years, if one assumes she moved when her divorce--which I didn't know about, of course--came final.
I get no pleasure out of this news. I'd long ago moved on. Prospered, in fact, in ways I could not have unless all of the above happened. Today, this moment, is the best time of my life. Everyone I have ever known contributed in some way to where I stand today, almost nobody more than my Ex-Wife. It's a history I would never trade, not for fame or fortune, because each step brought me to the dear and patient wife, to AJ, who are all I've ever wanted or needed.
But she's walking around with my last name. And it pisses me off. Because it is no longer hers to hold, though I admit it's a wholly symbolic issue and has little to do with practicality.
Thanks to my disdain of confrontation, I'm not sure what to do, if anything, about it. Maybe I'll just send her an anonymous letter with the URL for this post.
I'm kidding. Maybe.