My memoir was accepted for publication but I'm nixing it. YAY or NAY?
February 13, 2020 11:39 AM   Subscribe

My memoir was accepted for publication but I'm nixing it. YAY or NAY? Pathetic details inside

My memoir was accepted for publication but I'm nixing it. YAY or NAY? Uh.

Ummm IDK where to start...

Okay, until three years ago, I was in an abusive marriage, and I wrote about how going to therapy helped me deal with the marriage ending in a memoirish series of essays. I wrote a lot about coming to terms with the fact that my marriage was abusive, even though my ex isn't a character. The writing was supposed to be just for myself, but I'll be honest, in my heart of hearts it wasn't just for me. I labored over it. I was totally working on it like a legit writing project. Ugh. I brought this on myself.

On my birthday late last year, in a heady overconfident carpe diem kind of mood, I sent out the first few pages and a query to The [Redacted], a prestigious although badly-paying online literary magazine, and I just got an acceptance for serialized publication. HOLY SHIT.

On one hand, this is like a dream come true. I've only published a few short stories and poems before, and being published on The Fucking [Redacted] would be like... wow.

But let's be honest. This is the internet. Anonymity is a lie. In the event that someone were to doxx me and word of it reached my barely-online ex-husband, it would likely cause issues because

----------- buried lede alert -------------

my ex husband and I are still amicable coparents.

THIS IS CRAZY and CLEARLY I SHOULD NOT BE PUBLISHING THIS. So I'm just about to shoot off an email to the editor to say sorry, this was a bad idea.

But I wanted to ping you, the hivemind, before turning down this crazy dream of an opportunity. Am I doing the right thing?

I mean, let's say the series becomes popular and then I inevitably get doxxed.... My ex isn't dangerous, and the worst that would happen is that he'd get sulky, huffy, might get his feelings hurt, etc. It's not like he would stop co-parenting with me over it. Nobody we know is highly online, so it's not like his reputation is tarnished. The kids are too young for this to be in their orbit.

And I'm not sure I should stay silent and refuse to publish just because the guy who raped me would be upset about me talking pseudonymously about the fact that I left a marriage due to being raped? Which he already knows and scoffed at me and called me crazy for??

Talk me down from this ledge, MeFi. And while you're talking me down, please can you tell me what IS the equivalent of jumping: is it publishing, or is it pulling the piece?
posted by MiraK to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't ignore your feelings - examine them.

And not that this is for anyone else, but consider that there are other people out there who have had similar experiences and your writing may validate their feelings and empower them to make a positive change in their life. Again - not that you owe it to anyone else.

This is an accomplishment, and something that you DID - both in allowing yourself to get out of your abusive marriage, and in writing about it well enough that a legitimate publication is interested in publishing it.
posted by honeybee413 at 11:45 AM on February 13 [16 favorites]


The kids are too young for this to be in their orbit.

They are now. But presumably they'll be able to use the internet in ten years or so. My kids are the reason I've decided not to write about my marriage. They have enough issues with their father without having to deal with mine. This is an accomplishment and you should feel good about it, but if I were you, I wouldn't publish.
posted by FencingGal at 11:47 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]


Do it. This could open up avenues of opportunity for you that you can’t even imagine right now. You submitted this project knowing it was the right thing. Your gut is usually reliable.

If you’re worried about possible repercussions, have a talk with a lawyer — someone who specializes in intellectual property relating to authorship and liability. They’ll be familiar with all the possible ways things could get dicey. They’ll help you construct a plan to protect yourself.

You need more agency in the world, not less. Once you become a successful author you’ll feel stronger about all kinds of things.

Don’t let a man deter you.

Sending you positive vibes!
posted by cartoonella at 11:47 AM on February 13 [30 favorites]


How possible would it be for you to change enough identifying details that it would give you plausible deniability?

Otherwise, I think the ones to worry about would be your children, not your ex. They might be too young right now, but they won't be forever, and the internet remembers.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:47 AM on February 13 [17 favorites]


And I'm not sure I should stay silent and refuse to publish just because the guy who raped me would be upset about me talking pseudonymously about the fact that I left a marriage due to being raped? Which he already knows and scoffed at me and called me crazy for??

Well, I really don't think you should, but I'm not the one who has to co-parent with him. I mean, I really, really hate to imagine yet another talented woman writer burying her work to placate a man (potentially), but it's not me going to the pickups and drop-offs, you know?

The one thing I would be careful about is any private details about your kid(s) which they might find upsetting if it came to light that it was them. They're involuntary passengers in the car at this point.
posted by praemunire at 11:50 AM on February 13 [36 favorites]


What if you asked him what he thought about it? Presumably if let's say you did get doxed and he found out, it would only be a problem for you in that you would have to face an uncomfortable conversation. What if you had that uncomfortable conversation now, while you have time to pull the plug? The idea about changing some of the details is a good one too. This could also have the effect of strengthening your amicable co-parenting relationship whichever way it goes.
posted by bleep at 11:52 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


(I should be clear that I think you should worry about the kids' privacy, but not whether they might later find out that their dad was not a good husband. This is not something you want to shove down a ten-year-old's throat, but by the time they're old enough to be hunting up old memoirs, they're old enough to be finding out the truth (or at least their mother's perception of the truth).)
posted by praemunire at 11:53 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I think you should publish it. It's been freeing for me to finally talk about my experiences as I've untangled myself from my previous marriage, and I've read so many people's accounts of the same along the way. It could help people to hear what you have to say. It could help to not feel like you have to abide by any unspoken agreement to keep other people's bad behavior a secret.

That said, yeah, redact specific stuff about the kids however possible, or anything that might affect you legally. Work with your editor and/or lawyer on that to see how you might address these concerns in the editorial process. But don't hold back because you're worried about a possibility of a possibility.
posted by limeonaire at 12:02 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Another option might be to publish with a pseudonym, and then handle future communication about your actual identity in writer/editor backchannels.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:04 PM on February 13 [18 favorites]


Was going to chime in about using a pseudonym. Or, alternatively, is it possible to make enough adjustments that you could re-label it as fiction?
posted by gold bridges at 12:06 PM on February 13


I'm also in the "don't let a man make you bury your work" camp, particularly because non-fiction (and a lot of fiction) always risks upsetting people. Unless, of course, you fear some kind of custody battle or other legal action from your ex-husband, in which case, consult a lawyer. In terms of doxxing, one would hope that most readers in the literary world would take the side of a rape victim rather than trying to out them, but maybe I'm being too naive, here.

If you're still on the fence, ask yourself whether you'd have regrets if you pulled this. If not, then nothing to worry about--but if this is the kind of thing that could make a career for you, seriously consider it.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 12:09 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


It was reading the experiences of others in similar situations that gave me 1) the courage I needed to leave my own marriage and 2) immense comfort and clarity in the days and months following. I too have young children but I still feel a very strong drive to write about my divorce someday and not just for myself.

Count me among those that very much does not want to see you suppress your hard work and success to avoid hurting a man's feelings. I mean, if you're like most women, I bet you spent a goodly chunk of your married years doing just that already.
posted by anderjen at 12:22 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


If it's just your ex you're worried about, I agree with the majority opinion above.

I will share though, that I went quite far down the publishing road with an abuse memoir a number of years ago, and I pulled it because I thought it would have career implications. I absolutely do not regret my decision. I think it might have positioned a writing career better for me, so there's that faint regret (but so would have finishing my novel when Alistair Macleod was eager to blurb it, before he died.)

But in terms of my life, wow, it was the right decision for me as I really value my lack of notoriety about that particular topic. I may try to place a revised version later in my life, but right now I am really glad I didn't.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:24 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Congrats! Good for you on multiple levels. However, I'm a bit surprised at how few people are considering this from the kids' point of view.

I think what you need to ask yourself is, how much do you plan on telling your kids about their dad and the abuse?

I assume, given that they're young now and you coparent amicably, they think their dad is an ok guy. Unless told otherwise, they'll grow up with this general idea. (I mean, as they age they'll definitely develop their own opinions about him, but it's unlikely that on their own they'll ever guess he's a rapist). At any point do you plan to reveal to them the truth? If not, be prepared for them to find out through the internet, which will rock their world, and not in a good way. It will certainly affect their relationship with their dad, but it could also damage their relationship with you.

You could mitigate this by telling them the truth as they grow, ie by NOT allowing them to grow up with the impression that he's a good guy, only to have their world turned upside down as adolescents/young adults. That would be grossly unfair to them.

Best of luck, whatever you do. I've read your other questions and comments here and I think you're awesome!
posted by yawper at 12:27 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


You are living my dream.

(at least as far as the manuscript acceptance part, not the living-through-abuse part!)
This is an opportunity few people ever get. Change the names and identifying details and have at it! Use a pen name!
I'm not just saying that because my own crappy memoir will probably never be published.
posted by all the light we cannot see at 12:29 PM on February 13


Oh, my goodness. I didn't expect these responses.

I'm still very much in favor of pulling it because ... visceral ACK ... but I am going to examine rather than ignore your answers and my feelings. Pausing is powerful. Thank you.

To clear up a few concerns raised:

1. This was already sent in under a complete pseudonym. If I sign a contract the publisher would know my real name but that's it - it's always been a pseudonym-based plan even when I was drunk on my birthday.

2. There's literally nothing about the kids in the memoir. Any reference to them is in the vein of "THE KIDS are in bed" or "I was late picking up THE KIDS" -- not even mentioning how many of THE KIDS there are, no identifying details, no reference to any of their actions or words.

3. I'm pretty sure the kids ought to know that their dad is a rapist at some point when they're grown, preferably over the age of 30. I don't think it serves any of us to keep family secrets and also, fuck the patriarchy for telling us that women should stay silent about rape to protect men's relationship with their grown children. This is happening even if my memoir is never published. They need to know. It's ... parenting. I hope I will have raised them well enough to know that people are complicated and rapists aren't mustache-twirling villains? Almost all rapists are dads and husbands and brothers and sons who are good people most of the time. And they are also rapists. Jesus. Writing this is making me feel like I have something to say for real, because most abusers are mostly good people most of the time --- and we don't seem to know that, culturally.

4. Those of you who have had similar experiences, I'm so sorry, it shouldn't be this common. Solidarity and sisterhood. <3
posted by MiraK at 12:48 PM on February 13 [46 favorites]


Decisions like this are tough. You might try some pros and cons, and thinking through "how likely is the worst con to happen and how would I feel about it" and "how would I feel about not having done this." When there's no one single right answer, I find decisions sit better with me when I did all of that work. I'm less annoyed at myself for getting myself into a troublesome situation if I can remember thinking "this might cause trouble but I'm going to go ahead because XYZ." In fact, I made one decision that really messed up my life for awhile, but I remember a moment when I clearly thought "I'd rather have the problems that this decision could bring than the problems that backing out will bring." So, when that situation veered toward one of the worst-case outcomes and I lived with the big problems that my decision did in fact bring, I wasn't angry at my past self -- I remembered that moment and agreed with the reasoning (I did in fact prefer having the problems to being stuck where I had previously been stuck). So maybe think about it that way -- try to make it so that the future you who has to deal with whatever you do or don't do feels like she was seen and considered by present you as you make this decision.
posted by salvia at 12:50 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I would vote for publishing it. It sounds like the pseudonym and not mentioning the kids are important steps that are already taken care of. Your voice doesn't deserve to be silenced by him. Others deserve to hear and learn from your story.

If you ever want to write a follow-up, I would love to hear about how you decided to co-parent with this person (I'm serious). I've heard other women in your situation say that they do this and I can't fathom how. (Mostly from a teaching morality perspective but also because of a strong visceral feeling that I wouldn't want that as a kid.)
posted by mkuhnell at 1:02 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Change "the kids" to "the kid", and go for it. Why would he even know it's you if you're using a pseudonym? Is he a regular reader of that publication?

My kids' father never raped me but he was abusive in all the other ways. I did my best not to badmouth him over the years after we split up. My kids are all in their forties, and they figured out a while ago- without any prompting from me- that he's a motherfucking asshole and they have very minimal contact with him. He lives in the same town as they do, I live a thousand miles away, I have way more contact with kids and grandkids than he does.
posted by mareli at 1:08 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


mkuhnell, and anyone else who wants to talk, let's MeMail so as to not take this thread off topic. Happy to explain.
posted by MiraK at 1:21 PM on February 13


What is your goal if you publish? What is the upside versus the downside? Seems to me that you can always show the writing to your children when you think the time is right.

If the goal is to start a writing career, what is the plan for the next step? If the goal is to help others in similar situations, what is the upside versus how it may affect you if doxxed?

Although I do not know your goal, it seems to me that there is little risk/downside to not publishing. You can always try to publish it later or show it to your children later. You won't get paid if you don't publish.

I am the type of person to confront head on. I am not sure if I could easily coparent with a rapist. I had a hard enough time Copa renting with a liar.

If your ex knows you already think he is a rapist, what is the downside of this confirming it?

I think there are good arguments on both sides. If it were me, I would take the path of least resistance because of the kids. I would not publish.
posted by AugustWest at 1:26 PM on February 13


He already knows you believe he raped you. He already thinks you're crazy for believing that. Even if you were doxxed in a way that 100% linked this to you personally, not any of the large number of other women who have ever been raped by their husbands, all he's going to do is continue to think you're crazy and whatever other gaslighting lies he likes to tell about what "really" happened. The obvious one for him to go for here is that your account is fictional and you tricked The Redacted into thinking it was real. To me, the biggest risk there would be that those hypothetical things happen (you're traced, someone tells him, he cares) and it inspires him to preemptively tell the kids that you've lied about him, aren't trustworthy in general, or even fabricated a rape story, well ahead of your schedule for telling them your side of things. Presumably he wouldn't do that to little-little kids, but what about when they're in junior high or so? You know him better than I, clearly, but I could certainly see a person dropping big, toxic hints to kids that age. If he's currently merely dismissive of you rather than actively campaigning against your story, and you think "actively campaigning" is a realistic possible outcome, it might be safer to wait until you feel like you could tell the kids. On the other hand, I agree with everyone's excellent points about solidarity and not hiding in fear of someone else's feelings/behavior and so on, and it's not like not-publishing would guarantee his silence about whatever feelings he currently has on this topic. And if you think that sulky/huffy-but-fundamentally-an-okay-parent will be the worst of it anyway, well, there you go.
posted by teremala at 1:26 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I think you should listen to your gut. If it’s screaming at you to wait, then ask for more time to think this through. A lot of bad decisions have been made because of time pressure and fear of missing the boat. Make sure you don’t have a third option of more time to think it over.

I want to just push back a little against the tide and note that it’s perfectly valid for you to forgo a career opportunity if you think on balance you’d prefer to keep your family story private. These narratives do help other women immensely, and it’s always wonderful to see more representation in media, and another woman killing it at professional writing—all of those are great. But it’s perfectly valid for you to look at those larger goods and still want not to publish, if you’re feeling that way for good reason.
posted by sallybrown at 1:33 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


One thing I'd consider in your position is how likely a doxxing would be. I suspect doxxers would work harder to expose one or the both of you if, based on your memoir, one or both of you were prominent in some way. (If you or your ex are a known writer, a prominent academic, a business bigwig, somehow connected to Hollywood, etc.) If you are ordinary citizens--for lack of a better term--then I think that somewhat reduces the chances of doxxing. Also depends on how big the publication's market is.
posted by kapers at 1:35 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


"I hope I will have raised them well enough to know that people are complicated and rapists aren't mustache-twirling villains? Almost all rapists are dads and husbands and brothers and sons who are good people most of the time. And they are also rapists. Jesus. Writing this is making me feel like I have something to say for real, because most abusers are mostly good people most of the time --- and we don't seem to know that, culturally."

OP, you have something so powerful to say. Please give the gift of this writing to the world. And give yourself the gift of sharing your creation.

I would have a very direct conversation with the editor/publisher about how important your privacy/anonymity is for your "safety" - whether or not you believe your ex is actually still dangerous, it was an abusive marriage, and they will understand why this is important. But you should emphasize why this isn't just a typical pseudonym.

For centuries women have been publishing writing under pseudonyms (usually male names) when it wasn't safe or possible for them to use their own names. You're part of a long tradition. I recently saw an adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's Dear Sugar advice columns, which made her famous under a pseudonym.

Good luck and congratulations.
posted by amaire at 1:46 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


As someone who has a book I'd love to write someday that is titled in my head "I'll Publish This When You're Dead," about an abuser, please publish it. Talk to a lawyer, yes, but publish it. We need stories like these.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:52 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Depending on what the piece is like, I would be hesitant to publish something my kids would have a good chance of rooting out and reading in their adolescence. (You say you plan to tell them about their dad raping you in their 30s, but that’s different from them reading your piece whenever they manage to find it.) I’d also be very hesitant to disturb a positive parenting relationship if I thought that was legitimately a probable outcome. Not because I’d be protective of the dad; because I’d be protective of the kids.

Obviously it is great that a prestigious outlet wants it, and only you can extrapolate how publication can benefit you (is this your career? Can pseudonymous publication springboard your realname career? How strongly do you value telling this story in public? And what if it gets larger success?)

I’d make a piece of paper with PUBLISH and DON’T PUBLISH on either side and write the best and worst case scenarios on both sides. Then you can judge which scenarios are most meaningful to you.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:19 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I don't know what you should do (beyond talking to a lawyer: definitely), but I know what I really hope you do, and that's publish, and then I hope I figure out what The Fucking [Redacted] is so that I can read it. I strongly believe that right now is this thing's time: I believe this because I can't watch, listen to, or read anything that isn't this thing, a story of a man or men being monstrous and a woman or women surviving and prevailing.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:29 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


a) Congratulations on getting your submission accepted! Whatever you do regarding publication in this particular instance, The [Redacted] recognizes your considerable talents.

b) Please get advice from your family lawyer; you have an amicable co-parenting agreement now, and write that your ex-husband getting "sulky, huffy," should he learn of the publication, is the worst that can happen -- but we're talking about a person who has already abused you and does not share your view of those events (as you describe, he "scoffed at me and called me crazy for" that view). Your ex is uniquely positioned to wreak havoc personally and professionally, and absolutely, this is grossly unfair.

c) Please read this similar question and its answers, Is it wise to talk about my abusive marriage after getting divorced?, from 2018. The circumstances are a bit different, but continuing, civil, shared custody of minor children is a major concern of the OP.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:58 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I suggest you contact the publisher (in addition to a lawyer) and ask what they can do to preserve your anonymity. Perhaps your attorney can be a liaison between you and the publisher, making it possible for them not to know your identity.
posted by wryly at 3:04 PM on February 13


I chose not to because of fear over his reaction and to protect my children who have complicated lives that I already don’t talk about without their express permission for large segments, permission they have refused and I’ve honoured over large parts of their stories.

I wish very very much I could. One cost has been that his version is given more weight socially over and over, and I have lost relationships. Another cost has been that it is really hard for me to write anything because I self edit constantly even in fiction to not talk about these events. This is my third comment draft.

I have slowly told my kids a very plain version of what happened, in answering their questions. They were otherwise so confused why what they saw and experienced didn’t match with what their dad said. Your kids know and will know the shape of what it is. However - they are not your friends and should not know intimate details directly. Lundy’s book When Dad hurts Mom was really helpful along with therapy in figuring out how to talk about the past and current memories and experiences appropriately for them.

Take your time to decide. Don’t do this for other women, do it for you in a way that balances your life and your children’s understanding. You may have to wait several years or fictionalize the story.

What you’ve accomplished already is amazing. Good luck finding the right decision for you.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:18 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


I think that doxxing is unlikely, even highly-respected literary journalism doesn't necessarily have readers, but if you want to keep it a secret from your ex, that means keeping it a secret. You can't tell your best friend, your favourite cousin, or MetaFilter. Even this question should probably have been anonymous. I agree with all of the people encouraging you to publish it, but you might want to think about how it will feel when you won't be able to share this accomplishment with anyone who knows you for a very long time.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:22 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's a bad idea to talk to a lawyer, but I think it's exceedingly unlikely that the ex or the children will ever find out about this as long as it's published under a pseudonym, you remove any truly identifying details, and you don't tell people in your personal sphere about it.

Very few people read literary magazines, even top tier ones, unless they are in or adjacent to the publishing industry. The ex being barely online just makes it even less likely he'll stumble upon these essays. And the chance that kids will somehow find this years later is so vanishingly unlikely that I'd personally worry more about being hit by a falling piano. Even if they did (which they won't), would they know it's you just based on the writing style?? (NO).

The question then becomes, though, how you can capitalize on this publication. You could either continue publishing under this pseudonym, and never tell anyone, which would be a bummer, or somehow use this publication in your cover letters in the future...but how could publishers confirm it was you?

FWIW, I wrote an essay which featured a few paragraphs about my abusive ex. I asked him for permission to include those paragraphs, offering to remove them or use a different first name for his character. He not only gave me permission to leave the essay as is, but also gave me express written permission to write about him in the future, saying anything I wanted as long as it's true. My ex feels guilty though, and has apparently turned a hard-won new leaf with his current girlfriend. YMMV but if you continue to be paranoid, you could always ask him if he is OK with it.
posted by nirblegee at 3:33 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


My ex isn't dangerous, and the worst that would happen is that he'd get sulky, huffy, might get his feelings hurt, etc.

How much more of your life do you want to spend putting his feelings before your own success?
posted by bile and syntax at 3:56 PM on February 13 [24 favorites]


I would like to give bile and syntax's comment a fist bump because that's exactly what I came here to say.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:16 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Other, wiser people than me have weighed in on the more crucial issues, but I would also just echo what nirblegee mentions - before you do this, think about how it will feel to not be able to tell anyone it's you. If it's a roaring success, to not be able to discuss it with people and get the emotional outlet of being finally being able to speak out; to not be able to pitch future writing in connection with this because it has to stay anonymous. It's a minor consideration, but just one to prepare yourself for if you're thinking about this as a process of personal catharsis and/or a boost to your writing career - it may not be either of those things due to the anonymity. Which is not to say don't do it - but prepare yourself as well as you can for the possible outcomes. Best of luck whatever you decide - I just (re)read your first ever question about this guy and your growth and courage are humbling.
posted by penguin pie at 4:17 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


There’s a popular podcast and now new novel; a memoir by a woman who uses her real name and details her real life breakdown and renaissance after her unnamed husband cheated on her. This is in Canada so laws may be different but if you research her experience (I’m sure she’s given interviews), you may find some insight.

One thing she said was “people always ask how I can talk about this knowing my daughter (7-ish at publication time) will one day read it. But when she reads that her dad cheated on us, and she gets upset, the blame is on him for cheating, not on me for telling my experience of him cheating.” That resonated with me.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:36 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]


Also- holy shit what an accomplishment. I don’t know you but I’m so proud for you!!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:42 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't do this if I were feeling this many big emotions about it. There is nothing wrong with having big emotions about this, but those kinds of big emotions can make it hard to make considered decisions. It is also the case that making decisions like this while you have a lot of big emotions about your ex will inherently tie this positive event to those emotions, which might keep you from moving forwards, while publishing it later might allow you to have a more effective and manageable association with it. And while I'm sure you're considering it effectively, I personally would want to have more emotional distance before making a decision that could negatively affect my kid(s), and this doesn't sound like an emergency to me.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:57 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Whatever you do, manage your expectations about what one pubication in a low-paying lit mag can do for you. It won't be life-changing, though it does feel good. As you do the risk/reward calculus, recognize that from the way you describe this tiny but respected journal, from professional writing perspective there is not a huge ton of reward here.
posted by Miko at 5:58 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Also, as an adult who has dealt with these kinds of disclosures from both parents, it has basically never been positive for me, or taught me a lesson about people that I could not have learned in a less miserable way. That does not mean that my parents belong to me or that I always should get to decide what they say and where. But I think that the idea that kids will learn from these kinds of disclosures, in a positive way, to be essentially a fantasy.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:01 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Update: I told the editor I'd like to hold off on publishing the whole memoir, but will go ahead with publishing one pivotal essay immediately. This helps me to balance the strong call I feel to tell my story with my strong gut-level fear of saying "too much" "too publicly." (You have no idea how much I hate to admit that! But admitting it means I'll work to get over the fear.)

The essay we agreed to move ahead on is the heart of the memoir - not timid - but by dint of being just one essay, it necessarily has far fewer identifiable details about *anyone*, including myself, so I'm less afraid of sending this out into the world. As for not being able to tell anyone I know about this byline at a pretty awesome mag, pshaw, nbd, and hey, there's always the possibility of psydonymous twitter accounts on which to toot my horn, right? Though I will tell the therapist who I was writing about (already got permission from them to write, a long time ago).

Re: telling my kids, I fully realize that knowing the truth will hurt them, but that is no reason to keep the truth under wraps forever. This isn't what my original post was about, but since the concern was repeatedly brought up, I feel like it needs to be said. This is both a moral principle and a parenting issue to my mind.

Thank you for all your thoughts. You made a huge difference in my thinking.
posted by MiraK at 8:13 AM on February 14 [7 favorites]


(And in case it wasn't clear already, it's not like I'm going to be telling my 30+ yr old kids "Your dad is a monster, surprise!" - I expect the conversation to be way more nuanced than that, and the disclosure would certainly not be intended to turn them against their dad. Hell, I'm not even turned against their dad!

I have personal context and precedent for feeling so strongly about eventual disclosure. When I was maybe 15 or 16, my mom told me that the first time she had sex - her wedding night - she had no idea what was happening. She'd had no sex ed, nobody had bothered to give her a talk, and she was essentially horrified and taken by surprise. This was an inappropriate disclosure on many levels, but that's not the point. The thing is, I parsed that for what it was, even back then. No possibility of consent = rape. My dad's a rapist. And he's not a monster. And my mother was harmed regardless. And my dad probably didn't know better. And that doesn't make an ounce of difference to whether he really raped my mother. All of these things are true at once.

He and my mom still live in a country where marital rape is both 100% legal and fully culturally sanctioned. I'm guessing almost everyone I know back home is technically either a rape victim or a rapist or both, whether or not they parse their experience that way.

This is the world I come from. This is the world YOU live in, too. What are we going to do about it?

The least I can do with horror of this knowledge is to talk about rape, always, truthfully and openly, even to my children. Perhaps especially to my children, because even though I am allowed to hesitate to publish my writing, I'm not allowed to half-ass my job as a parent. I won't do what my mom did and blurt it out randomly when they're 15, sure, but they have to know. And after I tell them, I'll tell everyone, because everyone has to know.)
posted by MiraK at 8:33 AM on February 14 [15 favorites]


I know you've made your decision, and I support it fully - this is more for the benefit of anyone else with a similar query that will find this thread down the road.

Yes, there's immense power in finding stories that represent you and your experiences, especially if you're marginalised in some way. However, none of us are obligated to share our trauma just because it might benefit someone else. As someone whose work is often in this space, with peers who do similar, I can see how exhausting and draining it can be for very little payback. There's a point where it just feels exploitative - especially when most of the people who cry "do it!! because I need this!! I promise to read it!!" never actually follow through on their promises.

So if you decide not to share your story, regardless of all the people that request it, that's totally fair and totally fine. You're the one that has to deal with the repercussions so you get to draw the boundaries on how this story gets told. You don't owe anyone anything.
posted by divabat at 9:29 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


Thank you for writing anything, I'm glad this thread arrived at you sharing some of this. Hopefully you keep writing and gain from creating.

>It was reading the experiences of others in similar situations that gave me 1) the courage I needed to leave my own marriage and 2) immense comfort and clarity in the days and months following.

I'm somewhat cis-white-het-monogamous-default, but there was a time when I had male friends who showed me that Divorce Club wasn't a terrible thing and that I had prejudices about the (excessive) manliness of divorcés. A few good stories, from people I knew were good humans, helped frame the journey ahead and accept my need to break out from my marriage.

Again, thank you for taking this risk in sharing your story.
posted by k3ninho at 2:21 PM on February 18


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