You want to know something weird? As I was uploading my book and going through the various forms about how to catalog and market it, I discovered that there isn’t a single category for infidelity.
Oh, there are categories and subcategories for all sorts of afflictions like eating disorders, OCD, suicide. And there are umbrella groups like “abuse” — which I didn’t file the book under because most people, at least initially, resist the idea that infidelity is abuse and wouldn’t look there.
Yet actually they don’t have ANY place to look because infidelity is not a category. I’m not a sociologist, but my guess more people are cheated on than off themselves, or have bulimia. Goddamn infidelity is common — so WHERE IS IT?
In the end I went with “Divorce/Separation” and “Relationships/Family” (rather broad).
But it underscored something that prompted me writing the book in the first place — the chump experience is invisible.
Unless it’s tied to the cheater’s narrative — are you winning them back? did you make them cheat? will you be a lucky soul who gets remorse? — we’re just bit players in the narcissist soap opera.
And look, who wants to out themselves publicly as a chump? Weirdly, cheaters don’t have as much hesitation, judging by the articles on HuffPo and in glossy magazines about how fabulous it is to be a mistress or a player. How naughty and edgy and paradigm shattering!
Early on, I once appeared on a HuffPo video panel with Dr. Tammy (of the New Monogamy infamy) and she said off the air as we were all chatting with each other “Oh, I don’t know anyone that admits to being cheated on.” And I said “Really? I’m pretty out there with it. I call myself ‘Chump Lady.'” She smirked.
Then today, I got smirked at again. I spent the day at the Texas Writers’ League “Agents and Editors” conference, where tomorrow I pitch an agent. We’re encouraged in the literature to just sidle up to these people and pitch our books. An absolutely dreadful suggestion (and one that is apparently very profitable judging by the number of paying guests in the room). Who wants to mix at a cocktail party of 300 people who want to tell you about their fiction ideas? Clearly not the agents.
“See, they’re deep in the Amazon jungle, lost on an adventure tour, when they’re visited by an Aztec God!”
(This was a real pitch by a real person, who was very nice and spent three months in Peru. And for all I know it’s a future best seller.)
You’re supposed to razzle dazzle these people with your Awesome Ideas and coolness factor and marketability. Because these are the gate keepers of traditional publishing — the people who publish Cameron Diaz’s latest cookbook! (I wish I was making this up, I’m not.)
They give you this little field guide with photos of agents, so you can Meet Them and pet them like zoo animals. I wound up standing behind a cluster of them waiting in line at the bar. One turned to the other and turned her name tag inside so no one could see she was an editor. They laughed. And one of them, who looked older, and worked for a very respectable publishing house, I wanted to meet. (I had ID-ed her in my field guide.) So I asked her politely if I could pitch her my book and she looked seriously annoyed.
Okay, she probably just wanted a beer and to schmooze with her fellow incognito agents, but apparently we were at cross purposes. I read the literature (and paid the fee) to attend an event to meet agents, and she clearly didn’t want to be met. But (heavy sigh) went along.
I explained CL in under 30 seconds, and led with the blog has 2.5 million views.
She — honest to God — wrinkled her nose and sneered “That sounds quirky.”
And then “I don’t do self help.” Said in the tone of voice of “I don’t scrub latrines” or “I don’t eat dog feces.”
Lady — be warned. You’re a future cartoon. I’m taking notes tomorrow.
And look — I had no expectations other than a polite, brief introduction and a thanks but no thanks. But I can’t help but think that part of the brush off was I just identified myself as a chump. I write about being chumped. I find the humor in it. I draw cartoons. I try to help people who were chumped liked me.
Maybe she’s just an asshole and sneers at everyone. But the “self help” comment — really? Is self help such a bad thing? OMG you’re a SELF who needs HELP!
Honestly, I don’t expect tomorrow to go any better. On a note of exquisite irony — the agent they paired me with worked on Bill Clinton’s memoirs. Yes, I got paired with the woman who helped the world’s most famous philanderer write a book. I loved Clinton as a president, and I miss the days where the nation’s biggest problem was whether or not the leader of the free world got a blow job, but come on, the guy was a hound dog! You think this person wants to hear the chump point of view?
Are we invisible? I think we are. I think most people shut the fuck up about being chumped. You don’t want to emotionally vomit on people, but why the shame? Why the invisibility? Why are WE mortified? We didn’t rate escorts or fuck our personal trainers.
Thanks for buying my book. I know we’re out there. And they’re going to hear from us.
Or at least they’re going to hear from my “quirky” ass.