Mariah Carey and First Husbands: On Forgiving the Laughter.

Last week I publicly defended Mariah Carey’s poor performance on a near-stranger’s Facebook page having never seen the video everyone was railing against.  I can’t explain the mystery of my retroactive affinity for this 90’s icon.  Maybe it was the collection of self pronounced Christians who were poking fun that spurred me on.  Maybe it was my delight in watching the backpedaling– “Well, I felt bad for her is all…”.  Maybe it was the triumphant validation of watching the comments post, “Maybe it wasn’t her fault.”

There it is.

Maybe it wasn’t her fault.

Maybe it wasn’t her fault.

Maybe it wasn’t my fault.


I was squaring my jaw so determinedly that my shoulders hurt when I woke up.  Each time I rolled over in the night, I practiced my comeback lines.  But I never got to use them.  That’s the thing about my Someone.  When he puts his foot in his mouth, he rarely removes it until my anger has passed.  He can read my fury like the back of my head as I am faced away from him for the duration of the night.  I grew angrier as I got up to feed the dogs, my best lines thwarted by his patient silence.

“I think you are confusing me with your first husband,” he had said as we sat in the company of family.  We were recalling something funny, or something unimportant, or something a little red wine wasn’t bringing back.

“Don’t be rude,” I had whispered.  It was too late.  The shame had already returned.


The trouble with living is that for all the assurance that nothing is permanent– no feeling, no trouble, no situation– all these impermanent things are leaving a permanent indention on our permeable insides.  So much so that even on a rainy April day, I can sometimes still feel the ache in my right ankle from when I twisted it at the wedding reception five or so years ago.  The first wedding reception.  To my first husband.

I don’t need internet memes and online videos haunting my browser to relive it.  It’s consolidated all into one dull, rainy day ache, or occasionally resurrected by a bad joke.


“And this woman said to me, ‘Marriages are like pancakes– you always throw the first one out!'” Gessi laughed.  I laughed.  Our Someones laughed.  It’s good to have someone else’s six.  It’s good to make the first joke.  There should be t-shirts! we said.  We could wear them all the time! we laughed.  Start a club!

First one to wear it wins.

First one to give it out, well.  They hurt someone.


“It’s not your life to make fun of!” I yelled. “I’m not your punchline!”

“I know,” my Someone said.  He was sorry.  He had been sorry since he said it.  He was sorry all the way from last night to this afternoon.  I wasn’t relenting.  I hadn’t gotten all my retroactive hurt out.

The truth was, he wasn’t wrong.  I had gotten them confused.  But the point wasn’t the confusion.  It was the statement.  Everyone has exes.  People who messed up have first husbands.  My Someone has heard me make worse jokes than his.  He’s watched me play the part of a Southern Belle who’s been de-belled a couple too many times, audibly working through my memory with a thick characterized voice–

“Now, let’s see, my first husband…” as though I have to work through the many before and after him to hone in on just that certain plot line of a man.

It gets a laugh.  I should make t-shirts.

Maybe I am already wearing it.


I’ve covered all of this before.  I have been healed and moved on from this.  But that’s the thing about living.  You get creaks and cranks that come to surface even after the scar tissue has repaired.  Sometimes it’s just phantom pain.  Or sometimes the rock knocks you square in the same thumb that the hammer did years before.  Sometimes seeing someone else get hit is enough to sink you back with your old wounds– and you wait with your breath held for someone to tell them, “It’s okay.  It’s not your fault.  We are not going to laugh at you for your mistakes.”

Sometimes you are the person on the internet defending Mariah Carey to alleviate your own empathetic embarrassment.


I kissed him before he left and removed him from the hook.  I drank another cup of coffee.  I watched the winter birds.  I had the house to myself for a rare moment.

When I went downstairs, I found a note on our bed.

“I’m sorry.  Please forgive me?”

The thing about living is, for all these things we can’t take back, and all the invisible permanent changes that are made to us with and without our choosing, we are compelled to have something we can hold in our hands that will tell us we can keep going.  That we can keep getting hurt, and that the hurt might be forever but it is not intolerable.  And that the more we forgive each other, the more we forgive ourselves.  And the more we forgive ourselves, the less those strange phantom hurts ping when it rains.

I turned the card over.

Here we go again.

“Always.”  I wrote.

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