Dear Armstrong Family

Dear Jon Armstrong and Heather Armstrong:

Don’t worry, I’m not one of those assholes who feels the need to jump Heather’s shit and turn what you are both terming “Recent Events” into a hate fest. I do not blame either of you for the current state of your union, and I do not, in fact, feel like your marriage is any of my goddamned business at all.

But that’s why I’m writing you. Naturally.

I want to talk about this from a fan’s perspective. I follow blurbomat and dooce.com. I feel (although the feeling is false) that I am included in some of your most intimate moments. So as a fan, I reacted with shock when you announced your trial separation. It was a reminder to me of how little I really know about all the bloggers I admire but haven’t met. Up until then, I thought the worst thing going on in your lives was a missed connection during the NYC Marathon. I don’t celebrity watch. I don’t have much interest in actors’ lives outside of what they put on the screen. But I’ve discovered that I follow bloggers’ lives rather closely. It just feels different. (Even though it’s the exact same thing.)

Which is why I became  pretty shamelessly obsessed when your marriage, which I perceived as impenetrable, proved to be merely human. My husband is now sick to death of me evaluating our own relationship for potential cracks, even though there are only a limited number of parallels between your lives and ours. As a reader, I’m infinitely sad. I miss my idea of you.

But as the child of divorced parents, I’m cheering. Oh yeah. You read that right. If, in the course of this separation, you find your way back to being a stronger couple, more power to you. I have seen friends’ marriages survive trial separations and come out more healthy than when they went in. And I have also seen one set of friends run back to each other from a trial separation when they should have run in opposite directions and not stopped. The relationship they returned to was worse than the one they left, and they are still making each other miserable today, some seventeen years and multiple children later.

Mostly, though, ‘trial separation’ is relationship-ese for ‘early stages of divorce’. And, inasmuch as it is none of my business anyway, I’m cool with that. (Yeah, you can now move forward with whatever you need to do, since I’ve given my permission. You’re welcome.) From before I can remember, my parents didn’t get along. They used to have these colossal arguments in a house so small there was nowhere to squabble out of my hearing. The first time they mentioned the D word, I was horrified.

But then, for reasons I can’t fathom, they did not divorce, and I suddenly realized it wasn’t such a bad idea. From the time I was eight years old until I was nineteen, I told them weekly, “Just get a divorce. Everyone will be happier”. Eventually, they did. It was an excellent decision, and they could have spared everybody some thirteen years of agony and just done it when I was six and my sister a newborn.

They were not happy together, and their unhappiness overshadowed a lot of my childhood. So even though I’m saddened as a fan and a reader, I’m also proud of you as a child who watched her parents continue to wound each other well beyond the point when healing was an option.  You are not doing to Leta and Marlo (who I know only as well as I know you, but who I FEEL as though I know like my own kids) what my folks did to me, and that is, quite frankly, admirable.

I’m unsure why my own marriage is so strong, to be honest, when I know a lot more about relationship collapse than stability. I do know this. Things fall apart, and often nobody is guilty and everyone has done something wrong. If there is love there, then fight for it. Fight for each other, and fight for a thing that is rare and true. But if the love is lost, then pull back now, while the friendship can still be saved, before you mindlessly destroy each other.

What you’re doing is hard, and having to go through a uniquely private hell with an audience of thousands has got to be misery. But you are treating each other with respect, even going forward with a project scheduled long ago. Neither of you is taking potshots at the other, even as you both express your grief. That’s not easy, and it takes a level of poise that not many people have. You’re doing what you can to live your lives and protect your children while your relationship is in turmoil. And for that, you have my respect.

I will continue to blog-stalk you and overanalyze every minute development in your Recent Events, but I promise not to do it with a judgmental eye. You are talented bloggers who have both been doing this a whole lot longer than I have. I am watching because I admire you as professionals and people. I want peace for you both, and I hope you achieve something positive even as you struggle with this loss.

Sincerely,

A Weird Fan

____________________________

a flicker of inspiration at Lightning BugI wrote this letter for the prompt over at The Lightning and The Lightning Bug asking us to write a letter to someone we’ve never met. I should note that I write a lot of letters already. Most of them are composed and sent on the computer. When it’s over 500 words long, I think it qualifies as a letter, even if no stationery was harmed in its composition. I understand the thrust of the prompt, to remind people to write real letters, not just terse correspondences. But I think the spirit of the prompt was about content not material usage.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.

Comments

Dear Armstrong Family — 6 Comments

  1. First, I have to say I feel incredibly out of it. I don't have a clue who these people are! You are way more current than I am, Jesse!
    But seriously, my heart went out to you as a child. I can not imagine the stress of growing up in such stressful circumstances. What a credit to you to have formed a more perfect union! :-)

    • Dooce.com is one of the original Mommy blogs, and it's always been run by Heather and Jon Armstrong. But their marriage is on the rocks, possibly falling apart, and because they live such public lives, they are having to go through this in the spotlight. Most who do so become quickly vituperative. These two are (at least publicly) treating each other with grace and courtesy. We don't know what's going on behind their closed doors, but they seem to be enduring a really rough time with respect for one another, which can't be easy.

      I didn't have a sad childhood at all – just a weird one. My parents' relationship was definitely a huge factor in my life, but I don't think it ruined anything for me. They stopped yelling when I was around eight and both went into permanent snipe mode, constantly taking emotional aim at each other. I considered that more irritating than the yelling, though they thought it was somehow better.

  2. I think in all the talk of "staying together for the kids" the helpfulness of getting it over with for the kids is often overlooked. I don't read Dooce but I'd heard about the separation — I hope that one way or the other it works out for the better for them.

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