Yes, we Chicks may have checked in a time or two at the Heartbreak Hotel–and like that other famous hotel in Cali-FOR-nee-a, it can be hard to leave. From aloof boys in mirrored sunglasses to writerly rejection to magic shoes and lost engagement rings to killer dolls in the night, read on as we reveal our achy breaky hearts…
When I was a kid, I had a small collection of Madame Alexander dolls that I adored. I was convinced that as soon as I went to sleep, they came alive and played together. Eventually, my parents sold the family house,so I carefully packed up all my dolls and put them in a box that went into storage.One day I discovered the box had gone missing. I called my mother sobbing hysterically, completely and utterly heartbroken. Did I mention I was thirty years old when this happened? “I was saving them for the daughter I hope to have someday,” I cried. My mother felt so sorry for me that she went out and bought three gorgeous Madame Alexander dolls – including Scarlett O’Hara – and sent them my way.
Eight years later, after I married, I finally had my NY belongings shipped out to Los Angeles. And guess what reappeared? The box of dolls. I did eventually have that daughter I dreamed of, and I set out all my dolls on a shelf so she could gaze upon them. And she begged me to put them away because they completely creeped her out. So they’re back in a box under a chair in my bedroom. And I still think they come out to play after I’ve fallen asleep.
For Christmas when I was sixteen, my grandmother gave me a gorgeous vintage ring in a little box that opened when you pressed a carved button. There were two stones in the ornate setting: a moonstone shaped like a pearl on the right, and a sparkling emerald on the left, cut like a crescent moon. A faded note tucked in the box read “For Eileen” (my grandmother, who inherited it at Christmas when she was sixteen). Then I learned the ring’s sad story. Her uncle had the ring made for his fiancee, who died before he could present it to her. Then he also died, probably of a broken heart, and the ring went to young Eileen. Yikes. Well, at the time my taste in rings ran toward mood, turquoise, and puzzle (remember those?) but I did love that vintage ring. It fit my left ringfinger perfectly. I only wore it on special occasions and I had the crazy idea that I might wear it as my engagement ring someday. You’ve probably guessed where I’m headed with this. Yep, I lost the ring, in most spectacular fashion. After a hot July night of bar and club-hopping in my twenties, I went swimming (skinny-dipping, in fact) with friends at 3 am in the tiny Thompson Street Pool in New York City. I didn’t notice the ring was missing until I was getting dressed. We all dove back into the dark water to look for it, scraping our hands and knees on the concrete bottom in vain. I finally went to a friend’s apartment to sleep for an hour or two, and returned to the pool at daybreak, but the ring was gone for good. My grandmother had recently passed away, so I didn’t have to tell her, but I sure hope she wasn’t watching from somewhere. Anyway, I tried to tell myself that the ring was bad luck, and I was better off without it, but I was heartbroken. I’ve always wondered where it ended up. If someone stole it–okay, found it–they probably didn’t live to enjoy it very long. Maybe I dodged a bullet, but it sure was pretty. The tiny, vintage box reproaches me from my sock drawer to this day.
When I was in eighth grade, I thought this quote was one of the most profound things I’d ever heard: “The magic of a first love is the ignorance that it will ever end.” That’s because I’d just gotten dumped by my first boyfriend. We were in the same church youth group, and we held hands during lock-ins, and at the time, I’d thought, “This is it!” But one weekend, when we were headed out to church camp on our big Methodist bus, he started acting distant. He avoided me, and took to wearing mirrored sunglasses—even indoors. I don’t know that he ever even actually broke up with me. He just kept his distance both on the bus and for the rest of the weekend, and when I tried asking him what was wrong, he quoted the lyrics of an obscure rock ballad to me. I was devastated. What had I done wrong? Needless to say, the heartache was short lived. After all, I was fourteen. And besides, he couldn’t even write his own breakup.
I normally wouldn’t presume to speak for all the Chicks, but I feel pretty safe on this one. I know we all queried agents/editors on our journey to publication, therefore we’ve all experienced some degree of heartbreak. Rejection sucks. I went through the query process – sending letters to agents hoping they would read and like my book – twice, with two previous manuscripts, before I pitched the Liv and Di series. I received stacks of rejection letters and cried buckets of tears during those unsuccessful forays. But the third time was the charm for me. I got the agent and the book deal – finally. And finding an agent is a little like falling in love. Here is someone who not only likes your manuscript, but believes in your work enough to think he or she can sell it to a publisher. How could you not love this brilliant person? I wonder if I should’ve sent my agent a Valentine. On second thought, I probably annoy her enough already.
In grad school, I had the opportunity to go to Canada for a month to do research for my dissertation. When the rare book library was closed, I’d wander around Toronto, for miles and miles (I didn’t have a car or money for transit). But one day, my sandal strap broke in a particularly unfixable way. So there I was, all by myself in another country with only one shoe. (Ironically, it was right after I’d gone to the Bata Shoe Museum. Perhaps my shoe saw what could have been possible—like belonging to Marilyn Monroe or Elton John, whose shoes were on display there—and just gave up in despair.) As I limped down the street, with the shoe of betrayal dangling uselessly from my hand, I came upon a ROOTS store with a pair of gorgeous black sandals in my size, 80% off regular price, in the window. (Insert heavenly choir sound here.) Quickly found out that the shoes fit perfectly, didn’t require breaking in, and didn’t blister! The platforms were high but incredibly comfortable and somehow improved my posture! The style was simple but elegant, casual but dressy, all at once! They went with everything! I wore my beloved sandals for years until one of them was inadvertently sliced in half (long story and no, I couldn’t find a replacement pair.) I have never bonded with an item of clothing the way I bonded with those fabulous, magical shoes. And I’m still not over it…
Readers, surely you have a heartbreaking tale to add–or will commiserate on ours. Let us know in the comments section below!
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