This review is bittersweet for me. Some have said that they like hearing the back story about how one came to read a particular book, so here goes. This book is the last gift my ex-husband and ex-wife ever gave me. We were in a poly marriage where I was legally married to him for four out of the close to thirteen years he and I were together. We were with our wife for the latter ten years of those thirteen and had a private, (non legally binding) wedding ceremony (yes. it was a wedding ceremony. I don’t care who the hell disagrees with me) for the three of us. They essentially left me for each other. Our relationship had been having trouble for years and it was and is clear that they were much better suited for each other than the three of us were for each other. There were some very difficult times throughout our relationship, but we had all said that we wanted to stay friends after the separation and divorce last year. And for the most part, we tried. Last Christmas, I bought and sent them Christmas presents and sent them out and they also sent me Christmas presents, this book being one of them. Let’s review the title again, shall we? Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Some would consider it cruel, but I unwrapped it and laughed. It was exactly the dark humor we all shared. When something was painful, laughing at it as soon as possible made everything better. And it was on my wishlist, so it’s not that it just came out of left field. All things considered, it was an incredibly thoughtful gift on many levels…that took me nearly a year to read, though, both because I had a hard time with the origin of the book and if you’ve never read Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), let’s just say she has both a very distinctive voice and opinions that some people love and some hate (another fun fact: my ex-husband is in the latter camp).
So that’s how it came to be mine. And a few weeks ago, I finally was in a place where I could appreciate her unapologetically irreverent and brash awesomeness. Holy hell, I’m so glad I did! From the amusing and slightly horrified recounting of various family members’ body parts stuck up inside both living and dead animals (her dad’s a taxidermist…which only partially explains it) to the endearing (yet kinda crazy…in the best possible way) portrait of her marriage and family, this book was unlike any I’d ever read. (Save for Freak Show by James St. James…and that’s not to say it was like that, but that’s the only other book I’ve ever read that was wholly unlike any other. And actually, the Bloggess and the narrator of Freak Show do have a similar hyperbolic voice on occasion…but that’s where the similarities end between a woman raised in Texas with an offbeat taxidermy-laden childhood and a teenage drag queen trying to navigate the world of a private high school in Florida end.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened starts with Lawson talking about she was a three year old arsonist (kinda) and the next chapter highlights exactly how her childhood is probably way different than most people’s:
1. Most people have never stood inside a dead animal.
2. Most people don’t have poisonous tap water in their house.
3. Most people have running water.
4. Most people don’t have a cistern or even know what a cistern is.
5. Most people don’t have live raccoons in the house.
I can definitely say that I fall into the category of “most people” in all five instances and the story behind all of them are awesome. Of course, I didn’t have to live it…I think the only story in the book that I have actually lived through was the debate over whether Jesus is a zombie or not. Well, it wasn’t much of a debate. To the best of my memory, my exes agreed that Jesus is definitely a zombie.
The most hysterical story in the book is called “And That’s Why You Should Learn To Pick Your Battles” and starts with an argument between Lawson and her husband about not buying new bath towels. This, of course, led to her buying a six foot metal chicken named Beyonce. True story. Also a true story: that story was the first real introduction I had to The Bloggess, from her blog, before the book came out. So once, when driving through Kentucky last year, my ex-girlfriend and I came across a distillery and winery that also sold giant metal chickens. I remember screaming “Beyonce!” and then laughing hysterically until I cried. We stopped and had apple pie moonshine samples and a very good time. If I could’ve afforded a Beyonce of my very own, I totally would’ve. It was not in the cards (or my wallet, however.)
On the flip side, one of the sweetest and my favorite parts of the book, was when she and her husband went back to her childhood home for a visit. She was feeling nostalgic for the past:
I just wanted to go back to my life from my childhood, just to visit it, and to touch it, and to convince myself that yes, it had been real. Victor could tell I was upset, but I couldn’t find a way to describe it without sounding ridiculous. ”It’s nothing,” I said. ”It’s just that…Have you ever been homesick for someplace that doesn’t actually exist anymore? Someplace that exists only in your mind?”
He rocked with me on the front porch in silence, not knowing how to answer, and eventually he put his arm around me and told me everything would be alright, and then he went inside to get some sleep. He found me the next morning, still outside in the same rocking chair, and stared at me worriedly. He asked me gently, “Are you gonna be ready to go home this morning?”
I rocked in silence, and realized for the first time that “home” wasn’t this place anymore. It was where Victor was. It was both a terrifying and an enlightening realization, and I took a deep breath and thought carefully before answering.
“Yes. I’m ready to go home.”
It’s weird. Sometimes I get homesick for the family that I…we’d spent so long creating. But that’s not my home anymore. I have a new home in my new husband and they have a new home in each other. I miss them a lot, but they’ve made it clear that they don’t want to be friends, so I can’t make them. Which means I doubt I’ll be getting any other awesomely macabre gifts from them but I’m incredibly grateful for all the gifts I’ve been given, such as this fantastic book.