I’m sure you’re all shocked to learn that HuffPo has yet another
steaming heap of clickbait triumphant OW pick-me-dance winner essay. About happiness and personal growth.
(CN files its nails.)
No, no, it’s different! They get married!
(CN excuses itself to pick lint out of dryer vents.)
And she LEARNED A VERY IMPORTANT LESSON ABOUT LOVE.
(CN scrapes mold from the tile grout.)
Listen, people! Sometimes love just hits you, across a table of potato peelings. And you must act on it. Right then and leave your partners and abandon small children because Ruby McConnell is just that amazing. And you all must know this.
Clearly, a few bazillion of you know this, because you sent “My Husband And I Left Our Spouses To Be Together. Here’s What I’ve Learned About Love” to the Universal Bullshit Translator. Which I had to wake from a deep poolside slumber, tanning its sprockets.
“I am in no mood for snark,” it grumped.
It winked its periscope, intrigued.
“I wonder how many eggs each salmon mother lays, if she will ever know how many children she has. I return to the stream. I eat a stale cookie and think about Christmas.”
“You made that up,” it accused.
No! There are photos of sad birds on frozen branches. And delicious non sequiturs like:
“Rivers spill over their banks. Fields become lakes and lambs stand leg-high in the mud. Inside at the piano I keep time to its gentle waltz.”
“Okay, I see the snark possibilities,” it conceded. “Bring me the bullshit.”
I could only convince the UBT to translate portions of this screed. If you want the full assault on your literary senses, read it in its entirety. Abridged version: Girl meets man-child while working a state fair burger tent. For reasons unexplained, they return to this three-day gig for 16 years, (Do they need the money that badly? Is feeding grease to hippies so compelling?) where finally they fall madly, deeply, spouse-abandoning in love. The legal fallout takes three years. They marry and quit their day jobs. If the kids are adjusting, who cares, #happiness.
Fair is a place where people go to search for something new in their lives, to find some kind of higher meaning, or to just find something that will shake them out of the complacency of their daily existence ― even if that’s just a good time.
Did I type “fair”? I meant “affair.”
We both stumbled into the experience as teenagers through the vast and complicated local network of underground businesses and social circles that drives the Fair.
Artful dodgers we were, in that vast necropolis of Salem, Oregon. With its subterranean sewer network and complicated social order.
Other teens flip burgers. We stumble into underground experiences.
Though working in such close quarters meant we were friendly with each other, with all the stimulation and constant rotation of staff, it was at least three years before we were actually able to remember each other’s names.
Eventually, though, we did.
If I’m going to leave my marriage on a whim, I’ll need a name.
When we finally fell in love, it was over that potato table — in one look, held so long and so hard that it stopped a teenage boy who was passing through the kitchen in his tracks. To this day, I can’t remember what triggered that look — but I do remember the way Paul staggered, nearly dropping his cup of coffee, and the way I held my hand to my throat, which had blushed so deeply it practically burned to the touch.
When we finally fell in love, it was over root vegetable detritus. In one look, it turned a passing teenager to stone, curdled the milk, and electrocuted a fry cook. To this day, I can’t remember what triggered that look. Ennui. Lust. Borderline personality disorder. But I do remember the way Paul staggered like a wounded wildebeest, before collapsing at my feet. And the way I held my hand to my throat. As if I were a demure Southern lady who blushes at the sight of fresh kill.
One thought from someplace deep inside my heart forced its way into my head: Maybe it’s Paul. Maybe after a life of trying to make it work with other people, the one I was supposed to be with had been there right in front of me for years. Maybe it was Paul.
Paul is his name, right?
We went on about our day ― potatoes and burgers ― but in reality, it was a devastating discovery. By that point in our lives, both of us were partnered, in our mid-30s with real jobs and heavy commitments. Neither of us were happy. Worse than all of that, he had children.
It was a devastating discovery — children. Sticky little creatures who require attention and money. Wives can be dispatched.
Heavy commitments Children come with court orders.
Obstacles are devastating. Abandonment, not so much.
Later that week, with his wife and kids away on an extended summer vacation to visit family for the rest of summer, he invited me to meet him for lunch in a blueberry field on a rural property near his house.
Paul enjoys a classy date when his wife and kids are out of town — a field.
What we found were two ambitious people on the verge of new beginnings — I was about to publish my first book, and he was starting a new business — who were being held back by unsupportive partners, toxic friends and an overwhelming sense of duty to how life “should” be lived.
What we found was adulting is hard. We were held back by the kind of toxicity that expects paychecks and childrearing. How life “should” be lived when you bring actual human beings into existence and discover they don’t live on air.
That same week, the first night we spent together, we fell asleep with our foreheads resting side by side and woke up eight hours later without having moved at all. Hours passed by as we sat in silence, watching a blue moon cross the sky. This was not a thing we could ignore.
I mean, a MOON, people! As if anyone else has ever experienced a moon. This was not a thing we could ignore. His wife on vacation, yes. His children, of course.
(The UBT would like to pause for a moment — are you fucking him in his wife’s bed? Or erm, chastely sleeping 8 hours? Did this guy get a hotel room? Seems unlikely that the same person who takes his date to a nearby field and flips burgers is the sort to spring for hotel expenses. All to say — Ruby and Paul: you suck.)
Over the next four weeks, as we tried to figure how to do what we were going to do, my psyche and conscience screamed at me. Married men never leave their wives,
Actually, if you had a conscience, it would scream: DON’T FUCK MARRIED PEOPLE.
But then, a few days later, walking out was exactly what I did. I packed my stuff with the help of friends while my prone-to-anger partner was out of town with “the bros.”
I fuck my fellow burger flipper. My husband left town with friends. I’m prone to betraying people I purport to love and he is prone to inexplicable anger. #mysteries
We passed like ships in the night.
Oregon would like its money back for that writing fellowship.
He never spoke to me directly again, and his near-total refusal to engage serving was all the proof I needed to know that leaving was the right thing to do.
I cheated on him and he never spoke to me again! And then he expected ME to initiate the divorce!
His failure to pick-me dance for my awesomeness was all the proof I needed to know that I had to line up a new sucker quick.
He had broken the news about us the moment his wife had arrived home from vacation.
A cheater told me this and I believed it.
After he talked with them and she still wouldn’t accept that it was over, he took a hard line, telling her directly that this was no affair or fling ― he intended to be with me for the rest of his life. Fifteen hours later, he packed everything from his life into his work truck, kissed his kids and promised to come back for them, and drove away from the life he had known up until that moment.
She threw his ass out.
We were dealing with Paul’s hellish legal battle with his ex, the logistics of starting a new life together, and the total lack of time and focus we desperately wanted to give to his kids.
I can’t imagine why she’s not taking this abandonment and voluntary impoverishment in the proper spirit. We just want what’s Best For The Kids! My happiness.
We worked one more year of Fair after that before giving it up for good…
Thou shalt have no other potato peelers before me.
This is the first year together that we are free from legal battles and back on our feet financially — issues that caused some early tension and arguments between us.
I can’t imagine why I’d feel the need to publicly broadcast my exhilarating blueberry field romp, family abandoning Love For The Ages given the utter security I feel about Paul. I’M THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE, RIGHT, PAUL?
Our marriage is a happy one. We both changed careers shortly after marrying, and the shift to self-employment made it easier to craft our new life together.
Pro tip: Can’t garnish those under-the-table wages!
in the evenings we read a book aloud (we’re working on Laura Ingalls Wilder now).
Little Homewrecker on the Prairie
The Long Winter… of Christmas in Two Homes
On the Banks of Suicidal Ideation
It’s a quiet kind of contentment that arises from a relationship in which both partners are at peace with one another. And because of that, it’s sustainable and expansive, big enough to wrap around the kids who, to their credit, were able to see their parents’ unhappiness together and their father’s happiness with me and take things largely in stride.
It’s a quiet kind of contentment that requires a flabbergastingly narcissistic essay in the Huffington Post. To the kid’s credit, they take me publicly vilifying their mother largely in stride. And the whole part about secretly fucking their dad while he was married to their mom, and they were all on vacation, and came home, and he abandoned them? #peace #expansivewrapofdysfunction #psychoburrito
Years later, Paul and I hold steady to each other and our faith in knowing who we are as individuals and as a couple. We did the right thing, and I know I can always be brave and he will always be there.
We did the right thing, cheating on our partners, fucking in their marital bed, concealing our affair before suddenly abandoning everyone, and then quitting our jobs.
I speak for Paul when I say I know he’ll always be there. The way he was there for his kids. And his first wife. And the hungry hippies. For three days, each year, maybe, unless he’s busy with an appointment in a blueberry field. While I’m on vacation.
Ruby McConnell is a writer, geologist and environmental advocate whose work centers on the intersection of the landscape with human experience.
The UBT wishes Ruby McConnell nothing but a long intersection with a landscape. Preferably face down. After a hard rain. And a defecating moose.