Recently a letter written by a 22-year-old woman to her mother went viral. The woman wrote to her mother about the pain she has caused to her family when she cought her mother cheating when she was just 12 years old! Her mother never thought she knew, but she did, and in the letter she describes the devastating effects her mother’s infidelity had on her young life…and continues to have on her as an adult.
He came into our lives and I heard you joking with our next-door neighbour about how attractive he was. I saw how you wore more makeup than usual when he came to our house. I saw the furtive glances across the garden and I remember so clearly the time you brought him to the house when Dad was away. He sat stiffly at our kitchen table with us, and the others were too young to think anything of it, but I knew this was his audition in your mind. Could he replace your husband of 15 years?
I was a bright 12 year old. Top of my class in fact. And yet you believed me naive enough to think that he was just a friend.
I found a plan you had drawn out. I saw myself as nothing to you but baggage to be organised around your new life
And you will never know. You will never understand how damaging it was for a child to hear her father sobbing at night. To find letters from him begging you to stay. My father is, and always will be, my hero. But to see him so broken, to watch him age 10 years in mere months … I can never see him in quite the same light.
And I have never seen you in the same way either. I found, in one of your old handbags, a kind of plan that you had drawn out, detailing multiple scenarios and possible outcomes from this affair. Ever the pragmatist, there were our lives; your three children set out as initials on a scrap of paper, the various directions of our futures drawn in arrows – would you leave us with Dad and start a new family? Would you take us with you and leave him all alone? Nothing, in the 22 years of my life, has hurt me as much as that piece of paper. I saw myself as nothing to you but baggage to be organised around your new life.
And somehow, all of this amounted to nothing. I don’t know whether it was my father’s letters or whether you realised that your diagrams and tables, your budgets and your custodial time shares, all of this preparation and organisation did not, in fact, amount to the thrilling romance that was fundamentally what tempted you away from the stable monotony of suburban family life. Ten years on, you and Dad are still together and I honestly think you are happy, all things considered.
You still have occasional dinners with him. With the man you almost left us for. It comes up in conversation and I can feel my father wince. He obviously trusts you now, and I think I do too, but the wound is not completely healed.
With adulthood I have come to understand more why you did it.
I know you, and I know, regretfully, that I am exactly the same. I am self-destructive in my relationships and it is because I have the same romanticised image of how my life should be going. I think we have both probably read too much Jane Austen. I, too, cannot stand consistency and stability. I crave tragedy, drama, whirlwind romance and deep heartbreak.
I hope I’ll grow out of it.