“Dooce Divorce” was the search engine referral that began to appear on my site stats page a couple weeks ago. This was my first glimmer that the power-blogging husband and wife team Heather and Jon Armstrong, aka Dooce and Blurb, might be breaking up.
I didn’t think much of it at first. Because I write a blog about divorce and I reference other bloggers and writers I admire, I often get odd search engine referrals incorporating the two. A lot of people, for instance, think that Anne Lamott is divorced, because terms such as “who is Anne Lamott’s ex-husband?” lead to my site. Sometimes I wish search engine referrals came with an e-mail or twitter address so I could respond with, “if you actually read any of Anne Lamott’s books, you would know she has never been married” or “honestly, I have no idea if Dooce is getting divorced.”
Except that now I do, and so does the rest of the blogosphere. Or at least we know she and her husband are separating, as they announced in their respective blogs on January 17, Dooce here, and Blurbomat here. I suspected that there was more to the rumor than rumor yesterday went my traffic spiked from oodles of “dooce divorce” and “dooce divorcing” search referral terms.
So I googled “dooce divorce,” and saw the headlines from the Armstrongs’ individual blogs announcing that they were, indeed, commencing a “trial separation.” Both blogs were raw and poignant, Dooce’s in an in-the-moment way, and Blurb’s in a my-head-is-spinning-because-I-need-a-place-to-live-and-a-new-job kind of way.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Armstrongs, Heather is the writer and creative force behind Dooce, while her husband is the web designer and in-house techie. They are kind of the Ricky and Lucy of the internet, both ridiculously photogenic and possessed of star quality, while also being kooky, vulnerable, and uniquely engaging.
Dooce blogged her way through severe post-partum depression, a psychiatric hospitalization, the births of two fabulously good-looking children, and more mundane happenings such as broken refrigerators. And while blogging about every crevice of her personal life, she blogged her way into a one-woman blogging empire, a big fat house in Salt Lake City, and a six-figure income that supports her family.
Except now Jon appears to be out of work. But anyway.
I scanned the hundreds of comments in response to each of their blog posts and I had two reactions:
1. Relief, but surprise, that no trolls were casting judgment. All the comments that I have read have been sensitive, heartfelt and supportive. Considering all the divorce backlash skulking around the internet these days, I was really sort of stunned that no one was harpooning the characters of Dooce and Blurb. No one was deriding them for being selfish derelicts en route to ruining their kids for life. Which are the kinds of comments most divorced bloggers get. If you don’t believe me, read here.
And so I got to wondering why everyone was making nice. Don’t get me wrong — I think couples announcing marital dissolution should only be offered gentle condolences. But, given the pervasive nastiness on the internet, it did strike me that people were perhaps colluding — agreeing to things they did not actually agree with but were afraid to say otherwise.
Part of the answer, I think, has to do with the way Dooce draws readers in, makes us feel they we are guests in her living room. Her honest handling of her mental health issues made others feel less alone, and, I think, somewhat inspired: if Dooce cracked up but still hit the blogging motherlode, then there’s hope for me!
I don’t know what the other part of the answer is. But upon reading news of the Dooce-Blurb separation, this was my second observation:
2) Dooce is the blog version of Reality TV. We see this couple and their kids up close. All their foibles and weaknesses. She blogs about her separation because she blogs about everything: miscarriages, kitchen remodels, breastfeeding. Heather and Jon are younger than I am (in their 30s) and they belong to a generation that doesn’t delineate private and public in the same way that do those of us in the geriatric set (okay, in the fumes of our forties).
So the thought that kept bouncing around in my head when I read their posts, and the torrents of sympathy comments, was: why would anyone want to go through a divorce publicly? Unless they’re a Kardashian, which the Armstrongs are decidedly not.
What they are embarking on is wrenching, beyond description. Will they look back and regret exposing themselves? Will their kids (the older one is eight) read about their parents’ separation online and be traumatized more than they already are? Of course their daughters have grown up knowing their parents only as celebrities, so this might not be as weird as it appears to me to be.
And what if their trial separation segues into a divorce, which then turns ugly? How would this development affect their following and Dooce’s status as the ultimate Mommy Blogger? Will readers feel the need to take sides? Will there be a Team Dooce and a Team Blurb?
I blog about divorce, but mine is in the past. I blog about my son’s issues, which are still unfolding, but I hide him — and myself — behind pseudonyms. No one knows his name, where he lives, what he looks like. No one knows what anyone in my family looks like. I like the protection that the pseudonym offers us, and me– that I can go about my day and no one has to know about the tawdry details of my train-wreck of a marriage and custody battle — unless I choose to tell them.
But maybe if I was the Internet’s Sweetheart I wouldn’t care.
What about you? Would you use your real name to blog about something as intimate as wrenching as divorce, while you’re going through it?
Or would you use a pseudonym so you could vent discreetly?