my backstory, part one

I want to preface this by saying it feels wildly self-involved to write a post like this. Grossly so. But I've gotten some feedback from people newly discovering my blog that while they've enjoyed my writing so far, they feel a little lost as to my "backstory". And seriously, I will be the first person to self-deprecate at the implication that I'm anyone so interesting as to merit a backstory explainer. But in order to understand why I'm willing to grit my teeth and write one, you have to understand why I blog at all.

1. I blog so people feel less alone in whatever it is they're going through. 

I am an open book about the things that hurt me, about the difficult experiences I have emotionally, romantically, socially etc etc in the hopes that what I say resonates with others. Even if just one person reads an account of something I went through and it gives them a tiny bit of comfort - that's enough for me. That's all I can ask for. I don't need a shelf full of my own published novels (would be nice, miiiight still happen) to feel gratified by writing. I just need to know my words and honesty mean something to someone. 

2. I blog to record and celebrate my life.

There are things about being me that are hard. I've been through some shit. I have issues. But by and large, I have been the recipient of far, far, far more joy than any single person has a right to ask for in this life. I mean, I truly believe that. My life is simple. I'm not a multi-millionaire jetsetting around the world. I don't have a husband, children, or a high-powered career. But the experiences and relationships I do have mean the fucking world to me, and I want to enjoy them to the absolute fullest. Writing about them lets me do that. 

So, all this to say that when a new reader joins me on this journey it's like collecting a bit of starlight in a big, beautiful comet tail. I'm going around and around and the longer I'm alive, the more stardust and light trails out behind me, witness to who I've been and what I've seen. 

I'm writing a backstory so that if you want, if you're interested enough, you can understand all the things that have brought me to this moment. So my present-day choices and feelings make more sense. 

I am not important. I'm really no one. But this is the backstory of Elliequent.

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Born in southwestern Michigan, grew up in a small, lakeside town with a beautiful harbor and sand dunes. Unrepentant tomboy. Idolized my older brother. Had no interest in girl things. Learned early on that I'm much more successful socially with boys than girls. Into sports only so much as it was a way to show off; main interests were always reading and writing.

Grew up firmly middle class with parents who tried their best but who were a mess. Alcoholic, depressed mom (homemaker). Alcoholic, narcissistic dad (engineer). Divorced when I was ten. Dad passed on to me a love of learning and vanity. Mom passed on to me co-dependent tendencies and depression. 

Moved to Arizona when I was ten. Hated it. Elementary though high school in Scottsdale. Very, very dysfunctional family life. Parents' alcoholism running rampant; brother got into hard drugs and petty crime. Cops at the house once a month. Brother's mental issues go untreated, starts getting violent, abusing me and my mom. Passed a full night held hostage in a walk-in closet with him holding guard, wielding a baseball bat, out of his mind on meth. I was twelve. 

All attention and focus on my brother and his problems, all of my adolescence. He starts doing longer and longer stints in juvy. Parents blame one another and the vitriol between them infects everything. I escape into books. Around this time I learn Fuck family, friends are everything. Part of why when I lose friends now it's so traumatic to me - I'm losing a family member. Dad absent and unavailable all the while I'm in high school, with sporadic rewards of attention and praise - for my physical attributes, not my intellectual ones. This sets me up for a lifetime of chasing unavailable men and valuing my looks more than my mind. 

One year of college in Hanover, Indiana ("cheap" but gorgeous liberal arts school on the Ohio River). Too conservative, too small, too lonely away from high school friends who all went to state schools back in AZ...so I transfer back to a state school in AZ. Major in English Lit and Comp. Absolutely crush, 4.0 in my major, my papers are literally passed out as examples of what professor was looking for. Academic writing was my gateway drug. My Pulitzer novel posts are throwbacks to this time; I definitely missed my calling not pursuing an academic career. 

Dad by now moving around the country chasing his own mid-life crisis. Begins then quits law school. Buys a cherry red convertible and a house in Florida. Starts wearing his hair in a ponytail. I am mortified but he is my dad and I need his love. He's withholding emotionally and financially. Meanwhile, Mom is absolutely unraveling, being on her own. Has a job working reservations for an airline but my brother, a drifter and a grifter, is intermittently living with her and they are a codependent, chainsmoking, chaindrinking disaster. I avoid them both like the plague, occasionally meeting Mom at Cheesecake Factory for lunch because her apartment is filthy and overrun with vodka bottles, beer cans, and cigarette butts. We grow apart.

I'm waiting tables to pay for college, barely scraping by, when someone suggests I cocktail at a strip club. I do that for six months before saying Fuck this, I'm at least as cute as some of these dancers, how hard can it be?

I start dancing at the age of 21. A bad night is ~$500. A good night is ~$1200. I buy a car with a down payment I make in a weekend. I realize I never have to ask my dad for money again. I am showered with the attention I hadn't gotten growing up. I'm a late bloomer and being suddenly hot at 21 undoes all the pain of being a plain (to my father) teenager. I'm addicted to dancing in no time flat. I do it for the next ten years, dragging my feet through college (though I do eventually graduate). I drive a BMW 3 series coupe - then a Porsche Boxster. I live in the most expensive loft in the city, in the foothills. I travel to Australia, Bora Bora, Thailand, Greece, Hawaii. I have a platinum American Express at the age of 25. 

Most of this time I am with my college boyfriend, Marcus. He is a lovely, caring, incredibly smart and funny person. To this day I hold him in the highest regard; truly one of the best men I've ever been with. He teaches me to appreciate beautiful things and places. He teaches me to be silly. We're on and off for a decade, living together at times. He pays his way in our relationship, makes good money doing finance at a car dealership, but I absolutely spoil him with the $$$$ I make. Brioni suits, Charvet ties, nonstop dining out and trips around the world. He not only tolerates my dancing but finds the humor and good in it. Actually comes and hangs out at my work, where I sit with him in between dancing for other men that we make fun of. 

It's Marcus that I'm with when 9/11 happens.

Marcus and I break up. We'd been very, very good together for a very long time - but fundamentally our respective issues get the best of us. We clash at our core, both having way too much shit to work out before going further. He moves to Scottsdale. I stay in Tucson. I date a bit - always substantially younger guys. This isn't a conscious choice. It's just who asks me out, and who I like. It starts a trend that hasn't stopped yet. 

One night at work, I meet Michael. He's a customer in the VIP room who requests me after seeing me onstage. A young, seemingly normal guy. He's at the strip club on a whim of boredom, visiting from out of town. He's from Los Angeles, about to move to Tucson to be closer to his parents. After half an hour with him I tell my girlfriends in the dressing room that I've just met the guy I'm going to marry. It is hard to explain this, now. It's hard to look back and understand what about him I loved. I know that's harsh but it's true; to me, now, he is the pathological liar who I didn't even know, who I played house with for a brief time. He was funny. He was charming. He was very, very good at saying what you wanted to hear. Master level manipulator. I don't know. I'm sad for myself, for this time. But it got me to LA and that has made all the difference in my life.

Michael and I start dating, get engaged, and get married within two years. This is a very, very strange time in my life. Things start getting weird even before the engagement. Major, unmissable red flags. Lies. So many lies. But Michael has a trust fund. He courts me with trips to Vegas and NYC, with jewelry and all the shopping I want. And Michael wants to take me out of dancing and move me to Los Angeles, to literally any place I want to live. All of it paid for by his parents. All I have to do is make them some grandchildren. (This is said to me, in clear and direct terms, by my in-laws.)

Socially this is very bad and toxic time for me. My only friends are other dancers, one or two of which are sane and sweet, college girls like me or newly single moms - the others an absolute wreck of drama and drugs. One incredible girlfriend I have during this time is Sarah. So many great times with her. Game nights at her house, a hundred gorgeous hikes in the canyon together, even a wild weekend when she came to visit me in LA. Sarah makes a valiant effort to stay close to me after I leave Tucson, but I just can't. Arizona and everything about my time there grows increasingly radioactive to me. I have to cut it all off. I have to completely start over. (This will make more sense when I get to what happened around 2011-2012.)

Anyway, around this time is when I make my internet debut, on Weddingbee. I apply to be an unpaid "bee" (a bride who blogs about her wedding planning) but my application is so good that the site's owner offers me a paid position as contributing editor instead. So I do that, for about a year. Weddingbee is a community, and as with any community there are some lovely aspects of connection - but also some weirdness. It's clique-y AF with lots of exhausting behind-the-scenes drama (in which, I admit, I participate). After the wedding I start a personal blog, Elliequent, with the built-in following of all the readers I'd established at Weddingbee. Any blogger's dream come true, and something for which I remain grateful. Some of my readers have been with me from this time -- from 2007, when I got engaged. That's thirteen years. If you are one of those readers, I just have no words. What do you say, to think you've held someone's interest that long? Through all your trials and tribulations, through the exasperating mistakes you've made again and again. It's just incredible. 

I choose the apartment of my dreams, a two-story loft in downtown LA, and we move there with our mastiff puppy, Chaucer. And so begins my life in Los Angeles. 

It's 2009.

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continue to part two