(Photo courtesy of the author.)
Online he had listed himself as single, but he was actually newly divorced. I mean, technically, he wasn’t even divorced (he’d left that part out, though). The official divorce papers arrived in the mail a couple of months after we started dating. Along with his ex’s STD test results. And her trust fund stock performance updates. And her shopping catalogs and promos from the New York City Ballet.
Years later, we were living with my parents for a stint, after we let go of our apartment in the city and before we purchased a house — during the first few months of my firstborn’s life and my descent into postpartum despair, but I digress. We were still getting some of her mail at our new address — my parent’s address. We moved out (thankfully) and, eventually, so did my parents. To this day, in their new home, they occasionally get mail addressed to their son-in-law’s ex-wife.
In the beginning, she was like an infuriating specter I had to deal with.
She’d f*cked up my dude with a fervor, and I was trying to help him mend without erupting into a jealous fit at every story of an amazing trip or hike or three-month adventure around the world they took together. You could say it was a challenge. I knew what I had — the exact partner I had envisioned — but I also had an ego. And playing second fiddle to some blowjob-loving, cheating enigma was not what I had in mind. (Speaking of, who was this woman that offered up daily blowjobs? Just, No. That was one competition I was willing to concede.)
He was into me. He was really into me. I knew that. And, pretty quickly, I knew that we would get married, have children, a minivan, and a cat. But in moments of intense jealousy, none of that mattered. I simply wanted to be first: the first person with which he had imagined the rest of his life. I felt I deserved that, yet, it could never be. And simultaneously, her very existence — this cool, world-traveling, manipulative ex-wife — made me want him even more. Because he had already belonged to someone else, I was that much more determined to make him mine.
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At first, she’d wanted to stay friends with him. I put a kibosh on that. She called him occasionally, to complain about one thing or another. She was a drama aficionado, as far as I could tell. When she did call, she called him crying. They had to meet up in person shortly into our relationship, to file their final taxes together; she brought on the waterworks then too. Meanwhile, the green-eyed monster thrived within me. I poured over pictures of their odd barbecue wedding and all the jet-setting that followed. I noted, with satisfaction, how my upper arms were nicer than hers. Her hair was better, though… Better lips: her, better eyes: me, better boobs: me, though smaller. Better collection of sunglasses: definitely her, and way more passport stamps.
I was petty. “Why does your mom still have pictures of your wedding on Facebook?” I’d ask. We made his poor mom delete said pics: “Click on photos…no, photos…under your profile, see it?”
We demolished, deleted, and threw out anything that remained. It was a merciless process, much like removing statues of a dictator in a newly freed country.
Eventually, he stopped talking about her completely. His strange brain even erased her from many a memory. “Oh, remember that fill-in-the-blank?” he’d ask me. “That wasn’t me. That was your ex-wife,” I’d reply. We fell in love, hot and heavy — and quickly. We traveled. I moved into his apartment, where she used to live with him. I replaced some artwork. I’ll be honest, that was the extent of my redecorating; I skew lazier than I do jealous. We got engaged a mere year-and-a-half after meeting.
But no matter how fast we moved, she moved faster.
Somehow, we found out that she was having a baby. Well, I’ll tell you how, actually: she set up a baby registry, naming my fiancé as the father. Oops, common mistake, I guess. Then she married the actual dad. Then she had another baby. We bought a house. They bought two houses. We moved to the suburbs. They moved to another, cooler part of the country. We settled down. They kept traveling like it ain’t no thing, and moving, and having more children — three to date (that’s one more than us, but who’s counting).
I know what you’re thinking. How do I know all this?? Because I’m slightly off-kilter, is all.
I overanalyze and obsess, categorize and compare — an exhausting, but sometimes therapeutic, tendency. Plus, the internet feeds the stalker in most of us, doesn’t it?
We happen to live in the sleuthiest era in history. It doesn’t take much effort to check up on our exes. It's only natural that, once in a while, we find ourselves down an internet rabbit hole, looking at photos we have no business seeing and analyzing tweets we have no business reading.
Here’s the thing though, I don’t really Google or Facebook-stalk my exes. I just don’t care to. I have two exhausting girls, for God’s sake. Who has the time? Occasionally, though — and by that, I mean at regular intervals — I’ll unwind to my husband’s ex-wife’s Instagram feed.
“Eww, look at the rug she picked out for their new house,” I’ll nudge him. Or, “Oh my God, can you believe she’s taking her newborn on an airplane at the height of flu season?” (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one whose catty inner bitch is fed by social media.)
“You’re nuts,” he’ll answer without even looking up. “Can we please get back to The Crown?”
I may be nuts. This is true.
But I am his favorite wife.
So, I win.