Molly Jong-Fast is a contributing editor at the Daily Beast, for which she also hosts the podcast The New Abnormal, with Rick Wilson. She is the author of three books, including the novel Normal Girl (2000). (August 2020)
“But did Mom ruin Martha Stewart’s marriage?” Now I needed to know. After all, I’d used the line often enough at cocktail parties down the years, when people still had cocktail parties: “My mother ruined Martha Stewart’s marriage.” There’d be a moment of shock and awe: it seemed so daring to dime my own family out like that, but what people didn’t know was that in a family like mine, there was no diming out. Everything was copy, for a memoir or a novel or a film script.
When my mother took the flustered German filmmaker to see her elderly shrink, I snuck into the bedroom and called my father who had recently moved to Palm Springs, California. “Did you know that you and mom had an open marriage?” I asked him. We had a sort of jovial relationship; we shared the experience of having a crushingly powerful parent and it was a sort of bond. By the time I was three years old, my parents embarked upon the hippie version of irreconcilable differences. As a consequence, I don’t remember them ever being together, which is probably a good thing. There was a brief pause on the line. “Oh, is that what she’s calling it now?”