speak divorce

Listening to: Distance, Amy Winehouse, Hot Chip

I just finished Elaine Showalter’s excellent and highly compelling A Jury of her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx.

Reading it, I was struck by just how many gifted, ambitious female writers who began their careers with a flourish and deep promise, ended up silenced in one way or another — shamed, censured, marginalized, trivialized, or trapped and exhausted by domestic responsibilities. I was amazed at and grateful for the fact that things are so different for writers like me — even as I was struck by certain things that haven’t changed at all. I can relate — uncomfortably so — to what it’s like to be accused of ‘selfishness’ because I had the audacity of prioritizing my creative work over housework (or, more accurately, supervising the housekeeper’s housework). I can also attest to the necessity of finding a supportive partnership — one that allows for genuine and mutual thriving — if the roles of wife, mother (of multiples) and artist are to find harmonious balance.

So I was thinking these kinds of thoughts when I came across this profile of my ex-husband’s actress girlfriend, the younger woman (23 to my 36) that he supposedly dumped me for, if you are to believe the cliched storyline a narrative like mine automatically gets reduced to in the eyes of whoever’s watching. A couple of things leaped out at me:

they met in London when she was making an unplanned stop-off at a nightclub wearing a black ballgown (Versace or Armani or something, she couldn’t say for sure) after a formal event. Musk was sitting in a corner, head bowed over his BlackBerry, when they were introduced by a mutual friend.

[says Talulah] ‘It was all quite serendipitous, as Elon was about to leave and I was only there because someone I was with needed to drop in and collect his mobile phone from somebody. Neither of us are clubbers, so it was a happy accident that our paths crossed.’

E bowed over his Blackberry is his customary position, but the “neither of us are clubbers” line made me laugh out loud. (In fact, a friend brought this article to my attention just to comment on the ‘clubbers’ thing.)

There was also this:

He also has five children under the age of five – a set of triplets aged two and four-year-old twins, by his wife, the novelist Justine Musk. The couple are getting divorced, according to Justine’s blog, which states: ‘We had a good run. We married young, took it as far as we could and now it is over. That’s about all I can say for now, other than that it was a very sad and very necessary decision.’

This has happened several times now: quotes have been taken from my blog — from me — in order to support someone else’s narrative about my marriage. This profile — a puff piece on a beautiful young woman who, judging by the body language in that picture, seems genuinely in love* — wants to make clear that Talulah is not a homewrecker, or Other Woman, or what have you. To that same end, in this Gawker article Elon stresses that the divorce was a “mutual decision” — that although he was the one who filed for divorce, I “wasn’t far behind” — and this GQ piece also quotes me in order to support Elon’s version of things.

(Meanwhile, this piece merely quotes me in regards to Talulah’s hair color. That quote, you might have noticed, is no longer true.)

It’s not like I was misquoted, or that I didn’t mean what I said. I have nothing against Talulah. I wish her the best, and my kids seem to like her. But there’s something going on here — a certain tweaking — that might be subtle, yet annoying.

This raises some interesting questions for me. When you are living part of your life in the public eye anyway — when you blog, when your divorce has been kicked out there for public consumption — when does this whole idea of “taking the high road” segue into this idea of being silent, silenced, even as someone appropriates your words to spin out a certain version of events?

So I want to say this:

Elon made the decision to divorce. We might have been mutually unhappy, and I might “not have been far behind”, but the decision to divorce was not “mutual”; it was made unilaterally.

Yes, I was increasingly concerned about certain aspects* of the marriage and I made it clear to Elon that the situation was unacceptable to me. What I wanted, though, and what I was pushing for, was change. Divorce, for me, was like the bomb you set off when all other options have been exhausted. I had not yet given up on the diplomacy option, which was why I hadn’t already filed. We were still in the early stages of marital counseling (three sessions total). Elon, however, took matters into his own hands — he tends to like to do that — when he gave me an ultimatum: “Either we fix [the marriage] today, or I will divorce you tomorrow.”

That night, and again the next morning, he asked me what I wanted to do. I stated emphatically that I was not ready to unleash the dogs of divorce; I suggested that “we” hold off for at least another week. Elon nodded, touched the top of my head, and left. Later that same morning I tried to make a purchase* and discovered that he had cut off my credit card, which is when I also knew that he had gone ahead and filed (as it was, E did not tell me directly; he had another person do it). Five or six weeks later, he texted me to say that he and Talulah Riley were engaged. When he had taken her to the San Francisco Tesla store opening two or three weeks before, I did not even know she was in the country.

* which actually had nothing to do with the question of Elon’s fidelity

** When a couple is truly in love and in sync, at least at that moment, their shoulders form a V. The closer the V, the closer the relationship. You can see from the way she has her hand on his neck and her body turned in towards him that she’s totally into him; his torso, however, faces the camera and his thoughts seem somewhere else. With Elon, though, they generally are.

*** Cowboy boots at a store in Brentwood. Total retail therapy.

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