Alone: A Love Story

Chapter 12: Half-life

Hookup culture, the paradox of choice, Sex in the City and love off the coast of Newfoundland ...
The Cake. As in You can't have your cake and eat it too. In The Ex-husband's case, he has it, he's eating it, he's king of the cake. (Ben Shannon/CBC)
Listen to the full episode27:28

Living a half-life

Chapter 12 really explores the duality I felt (and sometimes still feel) in my life, the way everything felt totally bifurcated  … like I was split down the middle. I used to call myself a part-time parent, part-time partier. It isn't like that now, but in the first few years after The Bomb, it was definitely that.

There's also the half-life that children of divorce have to live, constantly trucking back and forth between two homes. I mean, how heartbreaking is this photo? Birdie at 5-years-old making her own calendar to keep the co-parenting straight. GAH.

She adjusted so naturally to it, it was crazy, but it took me forever to adjust to it. The opening little vignette about my "dancing purse" versus my "non-dancing purse" is just the perfect window into how strange it was to have to make that shift every few days from one life to the other.

Sex in the City

Part of my half-life included "The Babies", and I don't mean actual babies, but what I refer to as "the only available men in this city." Some of you make take issue with this vignette, but I wrote this then, in 2012, and this is how me and a lot of women I know felt at the time for real.

Actually, it's still a thing. A thing about how so many women I know in their mid to late 30s find dating incredibly fraught, because for the ones that want to have babies, it's hard not to be in a rush when you do meet someone great. Time's ticking.

So I go from talking about dating young men we call babies, to the absence of actual babies. See how I did that? These two things are tied, think about it.

Look, I get it, a lot of single men aren't in a rush, because they don't have to be. It makes me sad for my girlfriends, but I also understand the complication. No one wants to just settle because time's ticking, I get that. There are plenty of times we've met men that weren't "right" either.

But there's no denying hookup culture and the effect it's having on courtship and commitment. More people are single now than ever. More people live alone. Is that good? Is that bad? Is there a paradox of choice? (I'd argue yes. So would Sylvia Plath.)

These are important conversations to keep having. We can all just sample away and never have to choose but man is that exhausting for many people. And it doesn't help anyone who imagined that by their late 30s, they'd have a family, or at least something more that a life spent swiping right.

I don't know how my life became an episode of Sex and the City. It's the weirdest thing.

It was weird! I was with The Husband for 12 years and The Musician for five years before that. Now suddenly I was like Carrie Bradshaw, smoking and writing about my terrible love life. Cackling with the girls over drinks. Like, what happened? I used to be married and had a house and a baby and a whole other thing. It was disorienting at first!

I actually only have ever seen a handful of episodes of Sex and the City. I just couldn't relate so it never was a thing I got into. After we got divorced, I tried to watch it but it was so cringe-y to me at the time, just way too close to home in some ways. Maybe I should try it again now that I'm in a totally different frame of mind.

I'm the cake

I talk quite openly throughout Alone: A Love Story about how the Ex-husband and I continued to have a sexual relationship long after we split up. 

This is a very common thing that I talked a lot about in the first season. And now a lot more in this season!

"Don't be the cake!" my friends keep telling me when I tell them I'm still sleeping with him.

"I know, I know" I say, but deep down I don't mind being the cake. I want to sleep with him because I want to feel him close to me. His familiar scent, movement.

I did call myself The Cake. And so did some of my friends. A buddy from work made me a mix CD called "Cake, etc." Another friend bought me a pin with a picture of a girl with a cake on her head.

It didn't continue on forever, but yeah, I was his cake and he was mine.

The bear

Of all the stories I've written about my ex-husband and I, this is my favourite. Like a lot of the happy stories about us, it was very hard on me to write it, and ten times harder to record it. I cried and cried that day in the studio and made Alone producer Veronica Simmonds cry too.

It's just so beautiful, but also crushing to remember being young and in love and happily married. To remember that at one time, he would do anything to protect me and keep me safe. That there was anyone who would. It's hard to remember what it's like to be loved and cared for in such a deep and meaningful way. SIGH.

People always ask me if it's cathartic to have made this podcast, and sometimes yes, it was. But writing and talking about the hard times is easier in many ways. It's the happy times that are killer. Strange right? Still, this is my favourite story about us. And that was my favourite trip that we ever took together.

Here is me in 2004, somewhere in the middle of the four-hour hike to the edge of the cliff.

And here is the actual cliff our tent was on in the story, and the only photo I took there before I had my panic attack.

The story of the bear takes place in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland on the Green Gardens Trail, and we really were out on the edge of a 900-foot cliff.

Below us was the Atlantic Ocean, dotted with wild and beautiful things I'd never seen before — sea stacks, pillow lava.

You guys, it really was insane. Sea stacks! Pillow lava! Like, WHAT ARE THESE THINGS? Being from relatively flat Ontario, this place blew my MIND.

If you've never been to Newfoundland — ohmygod go right now. It is the most beautiful place in Canada, especially the western part of the province.

From Gros Morne to L'anse aux Meadows there's nothing but endless breathtaking views and whales and icebergs and shipwrecks and whatever the heck sea stacks and pillow lava are. It just goes on and on, you can't even believe it.

Gros Morne National Park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That's mainly because of the incredible freshwater fjord they call Western Brook Pond (so Newfoundland to call this natural wonder a "pond"!!) I don't have any good photos of the fjord, but just check out these amazing photos and prepare to have your mind blown!

And the most incredible place of all is The Tablelands. Check out these photos of the geological wonder! I know I'm being a one-woman tourism board for Newfoundland right now, but honestly, I do it only out of the goodness of my heart. I have so many beautiful memories there.

At the playground

This vignette is me at my bitterest! I'm pretty unlikeable in this one, but it's important to me to stay true to the way I felt at the time and not try and soften myself because I don't feel the same way now.

I wrote this vignette into my little notebook while sitting in Trinity-Bellwoods Park here in Toronto. I was actually feeling all those bitter things and feeling so sorry for myself.

And then, in real time as I wrote it, I really did swing from the bitterness to feeling good about my life before swinging right back to feeling sorry for myself all over again when I saw a couple holding hands on the swing set. I felt like my insides were being scraped out with every glint in their eye, every giggle, every tiny kiss. There's nothing like a couple in super-love to throw your own singleness into stark relief. Agh.

Story Caveat #1. Bitter-in-2012-Me really seemed to relish making fun of the hipster parents of Trinity-Bellwoods. I apologize, even though no hipster ever believes they are a hipster, so you don't even know I'm apologizing to you.

Anyway, I don't think anyone's kid is called Banjo, I made that up, although it is possible. So if that's your kid's name I apologize for making fun of you. But let's be real, if that's your kid's name then I bet I'm not the first.

Story Caveat #2. I have never heard anyone complain about the quality of Mandarin at the daycare. Bitter-in-2012-Me just embellished in her notebook. I don't want the rest of the country to think that's a thing in Toronto. I mean, not that I know of.

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