Dear Miss Snark,
Two years ago I was hitting my stride in a brave new world called co-parenting and enjoying every-other weekend without kids or dogs. Then my ex-husband died suddenly. I found myself with grieving children, unconventional extended family, an intimate relationship with probate court, but no time for internet dating.
Over the years I have lost much, but have finally once again found peace of mind.
I respectfully submit the first 650 words of The Maybe Wife, my mom-lit-with-smarts-and-heart memoir that I believe will resonate through the suburbs and carpool lines.
Thank you for your time,
The Maybe Wife
My childhood was compact. We lived in a row house -- a narrow existence. And it was safe; like our one-way street with cars parked on both sides that I crossed by myself when I was six. It was like every other street in my city neighborhood, a middle-class pattern of attached dwellings and lives. I knew nothing of foreign lands called suburbia and rural routes were only traveled while watching The Waltons.
Academically I knew that other places existed, but they were merely vacations spots limited to Northeastern cities within driving distance. I never contemplated lives being anywhere else. The world was where I was. I did not think outside my own city limits.
I always wondered, though; how the building we called the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world. It was eleven stories high and it stood next to our local Sears store. It was my childhood curiosity, but I said nothing in fear of appearing limited. I'm glad I didn't know then that I was.
But this petite world of mine was always filled to capacity with family and friends and familiar opportunities. It lacked nothing, and until college I looked no further than the bus stop for anything I ever wanted. Even then I didn't look too far. I was so single-city-minded that I lived at home and went to school thirty minutes from where I was raised.
In my married motherhood, as in my childhood, sameness had its virtues. I strove to remain true to the blueprints that had mapped out my future. It was a definitive plan of how things would be one day. We would live in a big house, and we'd already chosen the Stickley furniture for the living room. We drove around looking for the perfect two-story attached to the right-styled three-car garage. Our wardrobes would be extensive and up-to-date, although not too trendy. We fashioned ourselves the couple -- the family -- that everyone knew and liked; the ones who had come so far, worked so hard, and earned so much. It took a certain amount of confidence to pursue these dreams for so long. Early on I grasped and embraced the fact that I cheered from the sidelines and kept the home fires burning while the dream was being built on the field, according to plan.
We started drawing up these plans not long after we met as college freshmen on a long ago and far away cold January night. Charlie was a serious pre-med student, studying biology. I was the friend of a friend, studying English. I remember the first time I saw him, sitting on that dorm bed, against the wall. I flirted simply; by leaning very intentionally on the door jam. Surrounded by chattering sorority sisters, I didn't hear a word they said. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. He was clean-shaven, a little preppy, and nonchalant. Very collegiate, blonde and suburban, unlike the rough-cut urban boyfriends of my short but colorful social past who built their own cars and wore Wallabies and flannel shirts. I had big hair, frosted make-up and tight jeans. I'm sure for both of us, the dichotomy fanned the flame.
It wasn't until five months later when we'd meet again on our first, somewhat arranged date. Embarrassed at first by being seen with someone in an argyle sweater and boat shoes, I was, however, intrigued by a car with a sunroof. I found out much later that he was equally ill at ease with my choice of wearing dungarees. It certainly goes to reason then, that through this seemingly social incompatibility our fate was sealed over a salad bar dinner in University City and underage drinking at a college pub. We never dated anyone else.
This is the classic example of query disconnect.
You tell me your husband died, and you've gotten familiar with probate court, and a weird extended family. I'm thinking "bummer, but who knows..this could be compelling".
Then you start out with backstory. Yadda Yadda and more yadda.
You all make me crazy when you do this cause there is so much crapola on my desk on any given day, when I see a query letter that gives me hope..and you follow it up with THIS..I just want to reach through the SASE and clobber you.
Sometimes I'll say this in a rejection letter and ask you to get your damn act together but mostly I say "pass".