The tip of my pen fell upon the paper and I paused. Not because I wasn't ready to sign the name I've hated writing or admitting is legally mine for the last six years, but because it reminded me of another moment.
Back in 2006, I was an idealistic, starry-eyed 22-year-old who fell hard in love; so much so that I put the tip of a pen to a sheet of paper and agreed to love another person until, like, forever and ever and ever.
Two years after signing that paper, I dropped him off at the airport and never saw him again. Two pens, two sheets of paper, two very different meanings.
Sitting at my desk eight years later, I read over the documents that said my marriage would be officially over and I would no longer bear his last name. My head and heart and stomach were concocting an ambrosia salad of feelings that are still hard to put into words. It's exciting to officially close a chapter of my life that, for years, has felt like it belonged to a person wholly separate from me. It's like that entire period was a sad, shitty Lifetime movie starring Yasmine Bleeth as an aspiring writer who must overcome heartbreak and find the way back to—herself. It's so cheesy it makes me want to DVR it, drink a bottle of wine and make fun of the entire story via live tweet.
I spent a good part of my marriage being very good at pretending everything was wonderful, making up stories of fun times or cute, solvable problems ( aww, babe, we burned the chicken! ) to those who asked how married life was going. It was too embarrassing to admit that everything was terrible. Smiling and pretending was so easy, it was scary. Those fake memories were so real; I can still replay them in my head to this day.
The ability to put on a façade of happiness isn't hard. I became scary good at the whole self-deprecating joke to mask my sadness. Tears of a clown and whatnot. Still, last Saturday, I was mesmerized and totally uncomfortable bearing witness to Beyonce and Jay Z perform not only their biggest hits but also their personal lives at their joint concert.
The mondo power couple has been a regular fixture in the tabloids, gossip blogs and even network news lately, especially after the security footage of Beyonce's sister, Solange Knowles, going apeshit on her brother-in-law in an elevator was leaked to TMZ. Despite the couple's ongoing Instagram efforts to portray a life of bliss on yachts and tropical beaches, the pristine image of the Carter / Knowles union began to crack, and their "On the Run" tour seemed to be the spackle used to patch up those imperfections and make it all look better for the world.
My love and admiration for Beyonce is well-documented in print and social media. That must be said to avoid a visit from the Beygency. I love her music. She's an amazing, powerful, talented woman whom I admire. But even this staunch member of the Bey Hive became weirded out by the flawlessly orchestrated way they presented their story.
At the Los Angeles stop of their tour, everything seemed oddly staged. Over the course of the concert, the trajectory of their love story—or, at least how these two extremely business-minded people have decided we should perceive it—played out. It started with the songs associated with their initial courtship, "Bonnie and Clyde '03" and "Crazy in Love." We threw our hands in the air, yelling in excitement along with the rest of the packed stadium. Then, shit got real.
The songs took a turn, alluding to relationship strife, infidelity and pain in Bey's heart. She tossed her perfect, lace-front hair during an emotional cover of Lauren Hill's "Ex-Factor," a gut-wrenching song with lyrics that bleed: Loving you is like a battle / And we both end up with scars / Tell me who I have to be / To get some reciprocity. It was like being guests at an awkward dinner party where the host couple keeps making snide comments to one another in front of everyone and clearly hates their life together. Even the moments of intimacy felt forced.
I've been on both sides of the equation, and neither is fun. But I'm a nobody, and no one expects perfection from me and probably couldn't get it even if they did.
The couple's performance was building to a climax that depicted them finding happiness again. Images of them in love with their baby, squeezing her chubby hands into theirs, flashed on the screen. It's OK, everyone. We're going to make it. It all felt like a movie they created to play to the audience's expectations of the Carter marriage. My friend Michelle looked over at me with a furrowed brow, "Should we clap?" I shrugged.
Their "realness" came off as calculated and, as a result, off-putting. A writer for the New Yorker who was reviewing Beyonce's documentary, Life is But a Dream , perfectly described the manner in which the couple shares their personal lives: they pull back a glittery curtain only to reveal another slightly less glittery curtain. You never quite know if what you're seeing is truth or the truth they want you believe.
The façade they created felt familiar. It took years to admit to my family what was really happening in my marriage—and that its less-than-ideal reality had a profound effect on me, even though I acted like it didn't. So when those divorce papers arrived and I took out my pen and pressed it to the paper, it was not only signing the end of that bummer period away, but also signing a promise to myself to never pretend again. I want the love and the heartaches I go through in life to be real real, not Beyonce and Jay Z "real."