Big milestone, CN — The blog turns 10 years old today. On a Tuesday, no less.
I wish I could tell you I have some specially prepared remarks and a gold watch to present myself, or some such, but the truth is, we just got in from Texas last night after spending Easter weekend with Mr. CL’s mom. There’s no half-and-half in the house, my coffee is subpar, and I’m cramming in this column before I start my Job job.
The usual chaos.
Oh, except for some Unusual chaos, which I was waiting until today to tell you. We’re moving!
Tracy, who cares? You live on these virtual pages each morning. Where you actually reside is of no concern to us… unless you’re snarking about Oklahoma, in which case we take deep offense.
No, it matters! We’re chucking city life, and because Mr. CL and I are both a couple of flaming codependents, we bought a 240-year-old house in the Virginia countryside. (The potential!) And I’m going back to freelancing. As in, no more Job job — more CL time! (And other writing projects.)
Will there be chickens?
Yes! The house comes with three chickens. (At what point do you tip over into crazy lady chicken territory?) Princess Lay-a, Catherine the Great, and Lava. The previous owners couldn’t take them, so chicken care has been thrust upon us. Leave your poultry care tips in the comments please.
I’ve always wanted chickens. I considered naming them after my great aunts and grandmothers. Mildred, Hilda, Bertha, Gertrude, Hazel, Winnifred. I also want a rooster named Dwayne.
Enough with your rural idyll blather. Don’t you have anything to say about a decade spent as a bitter bunny? Or in the words of a former boss, “Isn’t it time you moved past all that?”
This is the most meaningful job I’ve ever had. And I have no intentions of ever quitting it.
Ten years ago, I was living in Texas having married Mr. CL, and I’d made a hobby out of giving advice on infidelity boards. A sort of snarky salmon swimming upstream in a sea of Reconciliation. When Mr. CL said, “You should write a book.”
I demurred. I said maybe I’d start a blog. Thinking I’d do a brain dump of everything I learned from the clusterfuck and leave it for others. Maybe spare them some pain. I didn’t need this crap rattling around in my head anymore. I drew a couple cartoons.
Then I went to the now defunct Blogathon ATX in Austin, Texas. And those wonderful people said, “This is TERRIFIC. Stick with this.” They had a seminar called the “Room for Improvement” where a developer would critique your site. Chump Lady was two weeks old and had three posts: Ego Kibbles, the Humiliating Dance of Pick Me, and The Unified Theory of Cake.
The late, great Julie Gomoll said, “This blog needs a tag line. What do you want people to DO?”
I nattered on about how all the resources sucked. And I wanted to be the sort of site that I wish existed when I went through it.
And she said, “No, WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO DO? They’ve got 10 seconds decide if they want to read more.”
(Me, blank stare.)
Julie: “How about ‘Leave a cheater, gain a life‘?”
I created the old logo, and later used the LACGAL tagline as a book title. Within 6 months of starting CL, I was asked to write for HuffPo Divorce and that drew traffic to the blog in those early days. It grew from there.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only person hungering out there for a new narrative about infidelity. The other week, the blog flipped 40 million page views. That’s a LOT of chumps.
Why are you still doing this?
You guys. A few reasons, really.
1.) The Reconciliation Industrial Complex still pisses me off. When I was chumped in 2006, all of the infidelity resources assumed reconciliation. They asked “What did you do to make him cheat” and “How are you going to improve yourself to win him back?” There wasn’t a single place saying, “Leave the jerk, you’ll feel a lot better.”
Why didn’t those places exist? Well, mostly because people who live through this meat grinder feel ashamed about it (see “victim-blaming resources”) and who wants to revisit a nightmare?
But the bigger reason the RIC exists, in my opinion, is that false hope sells. “Send me $399 and I’ll affair proof your marriage” is a much more seductive commodity than “Your marriage is dead. Here’s a 100 comments on why you need a divorce.”
The RIC gives vulnerable people a recipe. Then lets them think it’s their fault if the recipe didn’t work. That’s what happens when you don’t upgrade to the $20K Fuckwit Ranch Retreat!
I wanted to be a refuge of sanity from that world. I wanted to challenge a victim-blaming narrative and call this shit out as abuse. I could not do that alone. But I could build a site where millions of chumps could share the commonality of their stories and demonstrate the banality of that abuse. We are one hell of a data sample.
I think we’ve moved the needle a lot in 10 years. I’m really proud of that.
2.) Chump Nation inspires me. The stories of resilience I’ve read here, just knock me out. Every day. Rarity here in the picture, who got abandoned while pregnant, and then carried this sign to her masters degree graduation. The incredible Ozzy chumps I met in New Castle, Australia. A woman told me after my talk that her son had an eating disorder, which went away after she left her cheating husband. Then she realized, thanks to CN, that he was keeping his father’s secrets from her. And by saving herself, she saved him. I met a woman who emailed me FROM THE AIRPORT as she was escaping an abusive marriage internationally. I sent back encouragement. She showed up at that meeting two years later to meet me and tell me how great her life turned out, with pictures of her kids at Disney. (We both bawled.) Another guy came from the other side of Australia with a copy of my self-published book and whispered in my ear that it saved his life.
I believe that everyone here saves their own life. But it is gratifying to build a community that encourages each other and lets us believe we can.
3.) It’s professionally rewarding. My street cred is that I was a chump. My advice comes from lived experience. The trial-tested results of What Not To Do. But I’ll give myself credit for combining the chump experience with my professional skillset to create this place.
The writing comes from a journalism career (and the cartoons come from some demented corner of my brain). But my chosen profession is like being Jude the Obscure. Don’t major in medieval stone cutting, kids. During a time when newspapers are lining hamster cages with old journalists, I’ve built a successful media platform.
When other writers are resorting to Substack and such, I own my own website and digital rights. And thanks to your Patreon support and the incredibly annoying ads — this place supports itself and me. But more importantly — people who need this content get it with ZERO PAYWALL.
For years as a full-time journalist, I’ve been very frustrated that I couldn’t do more with this site, and the pandemic frustrated my ambitions further, but starting in June, I CAN do more. I won’t lack the bandwidth.
I feel like I’ve made a long, rambling toast to myself. So now, I’m raising my glass (or rather my coffee cup that lacks creamer) to Chump Nation. To you. To your MIGHTINESS! Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for each other. Another round of Lebkuchen for the Universal Bullshit Translator! Have a whack at the unicorn piñata.