The listing in Curbed LA is for a modest 3.35 million house in the hills, and there’s Bob looking right at me from the lower left corner, his finger pointing at the camera, all smug and silly. It’s the charming ass-hole character he began to develop in his one-man show when we were a couple in Chicago, before we got engaged in Los Angeles, long before he won an Emmy and became a famous actor. He now plays this charming ass-hole character as the lead in a prequel series to one of the most revered television series in history. Needless to say, we are no longer a couple. He’s super famous now so selling his house is news – it’s in an article in Curbed LA! I of course look at the listing. It’s a Spanish style house – not my thing, but nice.
Here’s where the heartache comes. I see the listing for the house he just sold, the 2.5 million mid-century modern home with built-in bookcases, clearstory windows, wrap around deck with amazing views. The house I could have lived in had I stayed with Bob. The house worth three thousand two hundred and seventy five years of rent I pay on my rent-control one bedroom apartment in West Hollywood. The mid-century modern house of my dreams. Look it up and cry like I did.
What you need to know about me is I am a mid-century modern design fanatic. Way before it was hip to do so I was buying up mid-century modern finds at yard sales, swap meets, on eBay and Craigslist. I have four mid-century modern couches in my one bedroom apartment. I have a row of mid-century modern glazed lamps behind one of those couches. I have a pair of kidney shape side tables with a marbleized Formica top with a matching coffee table they only made in the year 1967. Rare! I have an awesome orange Naugahyde Milo Baughman chair with a scoop seat. I have a curved bar with hairpin legs, Dorothy Thorpe barware and lots of vintage gold leaf wheat stalk motif glasses. I’m looking to buy the wrought iron pony bar cart by John Risley. I watch re-runs of Mad Men to examine the lamps and side tables and ice buckets. I live for Palm Springs Modernism week. I know the correct pronunciation of Eames and Saarinen. Atomic, Knoll, Pearsall, Danish modern and MOD are my thing. I grew up in an Eichler and trolling listings of mid-century modern homes is my happy place.
I thought I had done a good job of avoiding him. I wasn’t prepared to find him looking right at me from the corner of a listing.
My heart is racing as I look over the article. It says the house was re-vamped by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and his wife. What!? Then, as if all this weren’t bad enough, I see the chair.
There in the photo in the middle of the floor sits the chair from Modernica on Beverly. The chair with the beautiful black upholstery custom made for a Vogue photo shoot. The one of a kind chair we bought together.
When I say we bought it together it was more like I saw it, researched it, brought Bob into Modernica and he paid for it. I wasn’t working a job and he was writing for The Ben Stiller show. I didn’t know then that not paying my own way was giving up my power.
We once were equals in the entertainment business. We met as extras on the movie Raw Deal. When we broke up after nearly a decade together he offered for me to take whatever I wanted including the chair. I didn’t want it. I didn’t pay for it and knew it would just be a big fat beautiful black one of a kind reminder of our failed engagement. I offered to give back the gorgeous traditional cut platinum diamond engagement ring. He didn’t want it back. I sold the ring eventually and bought a used Hyundai. Honestly I didn’t think he would keep the chair! Jeez!
I am still living in my rent control one bedroom apartment in West Hollywood because, let’s face it, it would be stupid to leave. I figure if I ever buy a house I will keep this apartment as an office, but that’s a long ways away. Meanwhile he sold one house for 2.5 million and bought another for 3.35 million and who knows what other property he has. He has two writing Emmys, two teenagers, a cat, a dog named Olive, a successful power-house manager wife named Naomi whom I once met under very awkward circumstances, and he stars in a super successful televisions series.
I have two cats and a bucketful of shame, you know, to go with the used Hyundai.
I was fine when I saw his face looming above me on a billboard ad for his Emmy consideration. I was fine seeing his various hairstyles over the years in guest spots on TV shows. The orangey-bleached look he sported on The Big Bang Theory was a little tough to take, but I was okay. I was even okay when I saw the billboard bringing back Bob and David as a revamp of Mr. Show, the show he was creating while we were breaking up. While his big show biz break was in the developmental stages, our big break up was cosmically balancing things out. I have never seen Mr. Show. Please don’t come up to me re-enacting your favorite Mr. Show sketches like my friend Rick did at my birthday party. Thanks.
Speaking of birthdays my dentist kept sending Bob’s birthday cards to me. It took a few tries but I finally convinced them he didn’t live with me and to take down the photo he signed “Thanks for putting your hands in my mouth.” I avoided watching Breaking Bad at first but I can watch it now and get hooked like the rest of America. Billboards for Better Call Saul’s second season are now up all over Hollywood. All I can think is he’s got a good publicist. I have seen him in the new show and am able to get through it just fine. I am fine.
If you look him up online you won’t find any mention of me on his IMDB, Wikipedia page, or in any articles about him. It’s as if he never knew me, unless you count his published essay “Nine Years is the Exact Right Amount of Time to be in a Bad Relationship.” Thankfully I am not named, but he could have warned me it was coming out. Perhaps, like me, he didn’t think it was his best work. I suspect his shrewd wife-manager has been instrumental keeping me out of the story.
I’m the one with the pedigree, a Bachelor’s degree from top-ten theatre school Northwestern University, but he’s the one with the big career. It’s tough to be in the same competitive ego driven business. It’s never going to be equal. If one of you gets famous you can’t avoid being reminded of your ex. It’s impossible. There isn’t a WAZE route option to avoid twenty-foot billboards of your ex. I could move to Kenya but surely they have re-runs of Breaking Bad and Big Bang Theory. I would move to Nebraska but Bob ruined that for me too. He starred in Nebraska. There’s just no getting away.
I wonder if there is a support group for exes of famous people. I mean besides Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Who am I kidding – this is Hollywood, a virtual Mecca of twelve step groups. There’s got to be one.
When I see him on TV it makes me miss him. It doesn’t help that he is playing a younger version of the Saul character. I remember him being alternately more earnest and also more depressed, and his hair is totally different than I remember it. But he’s not playing a younger version of himself. He didn’t want me to be an actor or comedian. He once said to me, “You should be a lawyer.” To which my response was, “I can’t even win an argument with you, what makes you think I should be a lawyer?” See, I think that is funny. He just didn’t get me.
I wish I could go back to when we were a young couple and tell myself it isn’t worth it if your partner cannot be supportive of your career let alone treat you as an equal. I wish I had not become numb to being ignored. I wish I had more communication tools besides crying as a negotiation tactic. I wish I had never allowed myself to be financially dependent.
I wish I’d never been in a position to have to decide if I wanted to keep the chair.
I look at the photos in the listing and think that could have been mine. The chair. The house. The view. The kids, the cat, the dog named Olive, the money. Him. Along with the mid-century house I could have been the mid-century wife. I could have been Betty Draper; but that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to only be a wife. I wanted to buy my own furniture, and I have.
I look again at the photo of the chair and I’m not even sure if it is the same chair. It’s clearly staged. The whole thing is staged. There is no way of knowing what of that is his, or his and hers, or even theirs at all. All I know of his life now is in a staged photo. And damnit if you ask me the grey wool button tufted couch opposite the fireplace just doesn’t go.