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“You know that nightmare you’ve always had? The one where you wake up one day to find yourself fat, frumpy, fifty and alone? I’m living it.”
Maddy Nelson has an idyllic existence: a handsome husband, great kids, a comfortable, affluent lifestyle. One morning soon after she turns fifty, however, she wakes up in her San Francisco home to find her husband Steven announcing that he’s leaving her for a woman half her age. And a third of her size.
Feeling totally unmoored and grieving for her married life and husband, Maddy finds herself thrust into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable world of middle-aged singledom. There, she must come to terms with her situation and embark on her new life: divorce proceedings, single parenting, internet dating, and trying to earn a living. It’s enough to drive her over the brink. To help her cope, she shares her struggles in a smart, wry blog named The Blasphemy Box, after her ex-husband’s obnoxious habit of having her drop a quarter into a wooden box every time she said something off color. Her madcap middle-aged adventures find her devoted readers who identify with her challenges.
In time, Maddy recreates herself and finds happiness in the arms of a good man, and a fulfilling new career as a novelist.
Read an excerpt from the book:
day 1 of separation
Marriage is the chief cause of divorce.
You know that nightmare you’ve always had?
The one where you wake up one day to find yourself fat, frumpy, fifty, and alone?
I’m living it.
It’s barely nine on a frigid January morning. The three children have gone off to school, and I’m in the kitchen in my pajamas on my laptop working on my novel when Steven comes lumbering through, toward the front door of our Victorian house in San Francisco, dragging two of my large Louis Vuitton suitcases.
It’s been only a week since he said he was leaving. Not even a week. Six days. We’d only just celebrated the kids’ birthdays. After twenty years of marriage, I just didn’t believe it. I thought maybe he had a cold and was feeling out of sorts. Sure, we’d been bickering a lot lately, mostly about how he was working until all hours of the night with no convincing explanation. And about how he was sick and tired of seeing my nose in a book and that I should take it out and pay more attention to him. And about why he hadn’t touched me for several months. And about that wooden box with a slot on the top, which suddenly appeared on the kitchen table to remind me not to curse. Steven called it the Blasphemy Box, and I was to insert a quarter into it every time I swore. (I’m from England where cursing is the second language.)
He told me he was leaving while we were perusing the baking aisle at Whole Foods. It was the first time he had been grocery shopping with me in a long time. All I could see through my tears was a row of boxes of “No Pudge Fat-Free Fudge Brownie Mix.” I kept asking him if he was joking. He said it was no joke. I blinked the tears away and tried to maintain my British cool—public grief is just not done in England after all, where I come from. I babbled about needing bitter cocoa powder, mascarpone, and ladyfingers for tiramisu. I asked him if he wanted something other than tiramisu. But he just stood silently next to me, not looking at me, far away, already gone.
Had I seen this coming? No! (Well, not exactly.) I thought we were just used to each other, just comfortable with each other, the spark gone, the flame tamed, but still together as one. I guess not. We didn’t talk about it again in that intervening week. I couldn’t. It’s called denial. I thought if I didn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t happen. But it has. It is. Happening. Now.
As he lumbers toward our front door, I look up. “So, that’s it. You’re really leaving.”
“Maddy, don’t start…We’ve been through this. It’s over. ”
No matter how many times he says it, I still can’t believe it.
“Because of some bimbo half your age?”
“And half your size.”
“Her name is Gabriela, Madeleine.”
Gabriela. I want to skin her and wear her like last year’s Dior.
“Yeah, right,” I say, furious, then numb as I pull my stomach in and try to stand straight. I am trying to hold back my tears. I really am. I dig my finger into my thigh, hoping the pain will distract me from the other pain and humiliation. Of course it doesn’t. I just feel the cellulite growing there like kudzu.
About Author Mandy Behbehani
Mandy Behbehani grew up in England and now lives in California. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is a professional journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of publications from the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle to W magazine, Town & Country magazine and Travel & Leisure magazine.
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