I just wrapped up celebrating Easter on Saturday with my kids and my parents at my new apartment. My ex swung by my place to pick them up after going to the mall and going grocery shopping for everything she needs to host her own Easter celebration on Sunday. We all hung out for a few minutes as I gathered up all the kids stuff and struggled to get their shoes on. I bought Keegs a new pair of Bred Jordan 1s and Shea a pair of pink Nike Cortez’s. They’ll grow out of them in like 2 goddam weeks but for that period of time they’re gonna look fresh as fuck. I make sure I pack up Shea’s iPad, which she calls “Johnny”. When she was a baby she used to watch a Youtube video from the movie “Sing” where a gorilla named Johnny is singing Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” which is a very apropos song for everyone in my family these days.
Every time Shea was watching that video she heard the voice on the screen say “Johnny!” and so thats what she calls the iPad. “Johnny.” That’s what we all call it now too. Me, the grandparents. Everybody. Their mom calls it “Johnny” too. She says to me “Make sure I have Johnny”…either parent sending the other person off with the kids without that iPad is like sending a soldier off to war without a gun.
We head down to the car and I’m strapping Shea in while Caitlin straps in Keegs. Both of the seat belt straps probably not perfectly square up against their chest plate, the way you’re supposed to do it. Probably would piss off the internet to no end if I were to post a picture or a video of them revealing their car seats were not in perfect position. Probably get a few dozen comments complaining about the straps – half from people who don’t even have kids in the first place, and half from lame mothers who have nothing else in their life other than engaging in some sort of unspoken, unhealthy, mental competition with other parents trying to convince themselves they are the BEST parent on the block and therefore they are better than the next family.
The best parent on the block. That ain’t me or my Baby Mama. I laugh every time I call her that, either in my head or out loud. I used to jokingly call her “my Roommate.” One of her coworkers used to call his fiance that to get a cheap laugh and/or piss her off a little bit. I was one of the cheap laughs, and so I kinda adopted it for whenever I was writing on the blog. It was just a simple, funnier way to address her whenever I was writing a blog about something that involved her. It was like how Dave said “The First Lady.” I would say “The Roommate.” Little did I know that was a stupid repetitive joke would end up having such a sad, truthful connotation.
So, no longer the Roommate, now the Baby Mama. I used to always associate that term with rappers or the Maury Povich show. The word “Drama” ordinarily follows the term “Baby Mama” and so I used to think anybody saying that phrase and living in that situation was an utterly ridiculous person. Now that I’m in it, I realize that me and a ton of normal ass people have the awkward duty of figuring out the right label.
Saying “My ex” feels nasty to me. Feels like it’s got a negative connotation. Like Oscar from the Office saying Mexicans. Saying “the mother of my kids,” “the kids’ mother” “Shea and Keegan’s mom” etc is a mouthful. I suppose I can just say “their mom” and everyone would get the point, but much like “The Roommate,” I say Baby Mama because it makes me laugh, comparing myself to the people dancing on stage at Maury Povich when they find out they are “NOT the father.”
I don’t like identifying my ex as “my ex” because it feels unfair. I don’t define her, in my mind and in my heart, by what she isn’t anymore: my wife. I define her by what she is: the mother of our children and a woman who, during our time together, helped me grow and taught me a ton about myself. I will confidently tell my children someday, when they ask me about the time I spent married to their mother, that I’m grateful I had that time and that their mom not only made me a father, she helped make me a better man.
I put Shea in the car and she asks me where I’m going. I tell her I’m going to work. Its Saturday at 4pm. I’m obviously not going to work, but I still feel guilty admitting the truth. Thankfully Shea is still young enough that I can get away with it. She’s been watching both her mom and dad go to and from work all week long for years now, its easy enough to just ride that on Saturday and Sunday as well (we alternate days every weekend) even though it’s not the truth.
Someday I wont be able to lean on the work excuse and I’ll have to tell her the truth. And someday she’ll come home and we’ll have to have a discussion about me being in Page Six because some dickhead kid on the playground, with the fucking parents who seat belt shame on the internet, told her about what her dad did. Its a bridge I’ll cross when I get there. That future moment ranks up there with her first pimply faced boyfriend showing up at the doorstep on the “Shit-I’m-Dreading-With-These-Kids” list.
I start to head up back to my apartment and I see my Baby Mama poke her head out the window and over the roof of the car and say “She wants a hug and a kiss.” I run back over as the automatic sliding door opens and I see her and she says, in her patented goofy voice, “You cant leave me without a hug and a kiss.” I had given her a kiss the first time, but not a good enough hug. I gladly accepted her judgment that I didnt do enough, and I give her a big hug, a second kiss, and we wrap things up with a Cali Dap. She gives me a high five and a fist bump and we leave on good terms with her laughing.
I head back up to my apartment and I walk into a motherfucking war zone. Plastic Easter Eggs are EVERYWHERE. Green glitter coats the inside of my toilet bowl and my bathroom sink. Real Easter Eggs are all over my kitchen counter. They are all brown because Shea and her cousin decided to put every egg in every color. Instead of a picturesque pink and purple and blue and green collection, every egg was just shit brown. Its not how you’re supposed to do it, it doesnt look as nice, and its certainly not going to impress anybody from the outside looking in. But the kids had a fucking blast doing it, so everyone who was involved is content. Its a great metaphor for how life is gonna work in this weird family going forward.
Way worse than the physical mess that awaits me in this apartment is the emotional one. The silence is deafening when my kids leave. The night prior Shea had spent legit 4 hours on and off screaming for “Johnny” and fighting bedtime. Her younger brother Keegan had spent the last 24 hours saying “Awecksa…Awecksa…Awecksa” every 2 seconds because he is OBSESSED with making Alexa sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider. And while the screaming drove me (and probably my neighbors) fucking insane, and the repetition of Awecksa legitimately almost drives me to the point of throwing everything – and everyone – out of a goddam window, the silence after they go back to their moms is way, way, way worse. Even writing about that silence hurts in a way I can’t properly put into words. It punches me in the face every weekend and it’s like some bad episode of Black Mirror where I get to relive every painful moment of my divorce over and over again in slow motion.
I’ve been told by every divorced dad that pain goes away. That in the beginning every time your kids go back to their mom you feel nothing but guilt and sorrow and you hate yourself and get down in the dumps, and that eventually that goes away and you actually cherish the ability to give your kids back and go live an actual adult life. That something in your brain re-wires and realizes, after enough weekend rotations, “Oh! Wait! They’re coming back soon. They always come back!”
I’m not there yet, but I hope I’m coming around. I still feel tremendous amounts of guilt, despite the fact that I still see the kids basically as much as I did prior to the split. But I’ve definitely started to understand that when I give my kids back to their mother, I’m giving them back to the only person on this planet that loves them as much as I do. I am giving them back to the only other person on this planet I trust will take care of my kids as I do. (Lets be honest, the person who will take care of them way better than I do. I fed them toast for dinner last night, for God’s sake) I got so much wrong in my marriage. But there’s no doubt I got at least one thing right: I picked the perfect person to have kids with – because these kids are the exact combination of her and me at the exact moment in time they happened – and just like Marty McFly in Back To The Future if I change one thing in the past – I might inadvertently change the whole future. So for every time I’m consumed with the chaos of raising 2 kids under 4 – or everytime I’m consumed by the loneliness that goes hand in hand with divorce – I reaffirm to myself that I still wouldnt change a thing. Because I’m so glad I’ve got the kids I’ve got.
The kids go back to their mom and I know they’re in loving and capable hands. The gift to know that I can do that, and then go work on this blog or this podcast…or try to get in shape for the first time in a decade… or try to meet someone where I can try to do this relationship thing again and learn from all my mistakes…that gift is fucking incredible. I’m trying to focus more on that. Each and every night they are in good hands, whether its with me or not.
But at this moment, at this juncture, I’m still in the guilty phase a little bit. I dont know if it will go away, but can I be honest with you? I dont know if I want it to.
Because right now, feeling shitty guarantees me that on the next night I have them, I will be positively GIDDY to get them back. Every night I have them I hit the grocery store to buy more Entenmann’s mini muffins, rich frosted donuts, and Lucky Charms. I make sure I get a fresh gallon of milk even though the half gallon remaining from like, 2 days ago, is still good. I restock on everything, and I treat every night they’re with me like its half party, and half a test in responsible parenting I need to pass.
I am profoundly fucking grateful every time I get my kids back in my arms. Grateful that they’re mine, grateful that their mom is being cool about custody, grateful that I’m gonna be in a position to hopefully give them everything they want in life. Do you know how grateful I am? I actually enjoyed Easter this year because I was with them. Thats how grateful. Easter sucks. Its bottom of the barrel for the holidays. The food sucks, the tradition sucks, there’s no gifts. Its just trash. I mean shout out to Jesus for (Spoiler Alert!) resurrecting and all. I know thats a big deal for us Catholics. The holiday itself though is just poorly executed. But getting to watch those kids color those eggs and make a goddam mess with the slivers of fake green grass was so incredible because I’m just grateful to be doing it with them.
I dont want to make it seem like this is a “Dont know what you got til its gone” situation. I always knew that what I had with my kids was precious and awesome. Its not like I didnt recognize how hilariously precocious Shea was or how unbelievably dopey and sweet Keegan was from the minute I met them. But now there are nights or events where I dont get to see that or hear that because of a choice I made, and that simply heightens the nights that I do get with them. I don’t know who discovered water – but I bet it wasn’t a fish. Ya feel me? When you’re IN something you just don’t see it clearly. When you’re not completely surrounded and embedded in a certain life each and every day anymore, you can appreciate that life and environment so much more when you are immersed in it.
I never felt like I was risking my kids when I strayed in my marriage. I felt like I was risking…well, my marriage. I’m a firm believer that being a husband and being a father are separate. Same with mother and wife. I still believe that, but I believe it less. I still believe it because I know, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt, I’m a phenomenal dad. Except for that one time Shea drank hand sanitizer. That was a bad look. I love them, I teach them, I communicate with them, I pay attention to them, and I participate in everything. Its undeniable.
In every single way and by any objective standard I sucked as a husband.
I’m great as a dad.
The truth is at the bottom of a bottomless pit. At the end of the day – marriages end. This one ended and it was, ultimately, my fault. I don’t have anyone to blame for the ways I wasnt great as a husband. I flat out sucked.
A friend and cohost once told me: never give advice. Its a waste of time. Never explain – because your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it. I’ve tried to hold tight to that wisdom over the last year and bite my tongue whenever someone broke my balls about the demise of my marriage. I’m sure, if I could rewind the DVR reel of my marriage and watch the play-by-play I could show you the precise moments where I got things wrong or she got things wrong and somehow we lost the plot of the story we were trying to write together – but what would be the point? It explains everything and excuses nothing.
Without getting too in depth about it because I dont think thats anybody else’s business and I dont want to be disrespectful to her – I was unhappy in my marriage to a point that I think, in my heart and in my most honest corners of my brain, I didnt think there was anyway to make it in the long run. For myriad reasons. My job – honestly Caitlin should have gotten hazard pay for dating and marrying a blogger. I was disconnected from my marriage. The amount of time I spent buried in my phone or tethered to a computer or mentally worrying about the internet instead of our relationship was gross. Our personalities – take her aforementioned hazard pay and double it for me being stubborn and dramatic and having fucked up priorities. All that plus some of the things that had gone down and things that had been said, I just didnt think that was a recipe for success any longer. I was that way for a while but I just kept my head down and trudged along, until I met someone who did make me feel some embers of happiness and rather than handling that maturely and just speaking up and being honest, I tried to juggle, and hide, and continue to provide what good I did bring to the household, while finding my own happiness on the side. This was never just about me running around trying to fuck anybody and everybody. It wasnt about sex. I can see that now. It was about being trapped in a prison of my own making and feeling like there was no way out without hurting the one person who I wasnt supposed to hurt – the person I would someday have grandkids with. The person I made promises to. But I couldnt just ignore my feelings anymore after I had learned what it felt like to achieve that connection and happiness that I felt, until that moment, was so elusive. The minute I felt that connection to her I was like “Oh fuck. There’s no turning back now.” I had crossed a line – a line from which I knew there was no return. No denial strong enough to pretend I didn’t know what I had done.
The psychology behind cheating says that sometimes rather than being honest and upfront about your feelings, you wanted to get caught. Some say you needed to commit an act that took you to the point of no return – to end the relationship you felt unhappy in.
I don’t know about all that. I definitely did NOT wanna get caught. I mean did you see this shit storm? But I do maybe buy into the idea that I was taking it to a place you couldnt come back from. Because there was absolutely no way the stubborn, maladjusted, confused internet personality, whipped Irishman that I was, was going to ever just do what a grown up would do: ….speak my feelings, use my words, express my needs and handle that the right way. If you’re a stubborn maladjusted whipped Irishman (or are married to one), you know what I’m talking about.
But it occurs to me now, in my quieter moments, in the silence sometimes when the kids have gone home and I’ve somehow managed to clean up 84% of the glitter, that, like most people, I know I’m not always the hero in the story. If my daughter were, somehow, magically transformed into a grown woman and (for the purposes of this hypothetical) was also married, and her husband pulled the shit I pulled, I would straight up kill the guy. I would pillory him for doing precisely what I did. I would say to him, with total confidence, all the things I somehow managed never to tell myself: stop it, you’re driving 100mph toward a brick wall, how do you think this is going to end, you’re going to hurt yourself and, more importantly, everyone around you. Just man up and be honest about what you’re feeling and what you’re not feeling any more.
But, I didn’t tell myself any of that. And, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that the way in which I did handle it was quite literally the worst way to do so. I nearly destroyed my relationship and all goodwill with the mother of my kids. I also hurt the girl I started a relationship with in a devastating manner and unintentionally dragged her into such a shitty, shitty world of internet hate and vitriol.
Some of the pain could have been avoided had I been straight up with myself and everybody involved. But I’m just being real with you – there was no way I was ever going to just speak up and blow things up like that.
In literally every other conflict or crisis or dilemma in my life, I somehow, often by sheer luck, found a way out without hurting anybody. There was always a way out. There was always an answer that kept everybody relatively happy. Every other relationship failure or job failure or family failure, I figured out a way to work through it where nobody was too hurt.
But when you’re married with kids, and there’s something in your heart, some unnamed restlessness, or emptiness that leaves you pretty certain things aren’t gonna work, there’s no way out.
There was no corner to cut, there was no way to weasel out of it. I knew I was going to have to eventually face the reality of the situation. And I knew there was no answer and it terrified me to be proactive about it. It’s like I was driving in a car that was about to fall over a cliff. I should have swerved off the road and yea, we would have crashed and it would have been a very messy accident, but that’s still better than keeping the pedal mashed down as you drive it all over the edge.
I went over the edge. I crossed the line:. the point of no return. So now I find myself in the unique position of surveying the wreckage and, like one of those people on those CSI cop shows, picking through the rubble to recreate the damage I helped cause. I’ve gained a tremendous sense of understanding, having gone through this experience. I dug my own grave and buried myself and the best thing I can say for that is, in some ways, it left me feeling bulletproof. There’s something incredibly liberating about having fucked up so completely, undeniably and publicly. I can tell you, now, without any need to speculate, what it feels like to go right over the cliff.
I always loved Hunter S. Thompon’s quote about the edge…”There is no honest way to explain the edge because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
And honestly, that’s why we are here right now, folks. Why the stubborn Irishman who couldn’t bring himself to say five painful sentences about his feelings now finds himself is 3,300 words in.
My marriage and my life blew up about eighteen months ago. We’re pushing 2 years, and it’s time to move on from it. When it first happened – I commented on it too much. Then, out of respect, I stopped talking about it. Neither approach feels right anymore.
I make my living, feed my family and I live my life, by being a completely honest open book. And what I realized tonight, during the deafening silence of my apartment right after my kids left, was that I have to get back to doing precisely that.
At every turn in my career since everything went public, I’ve kinda been on eggshells. In a few instances, because I actually felt uncomfortable about some of the things I was writing or saying: things that before my personal experiences I wouldn’t have hesitated to say. There are moments where continuing on with Barstool humor after going through some shit in your life doesn’t really jive.
But for the most part those eggshells come from me worrying about how things are going to be received, or perceived, by the public based on the very little they know about the situation. Everything I’ve said or done over the last year+ has been judged through the lens of what happened in my marriage. Which is pretty fucking crazy if you ask me, but crazy is always on the menu when you’re dealing with the internet. It’s reached a point where I can’t make fun of Yankees fans or bust balls with Patriots fans or write anything humorous at all regarding sex, women, relationships, or life without some sort of very personal response. It reached a point where if I mix it up with someone on twitter or write a blog or record a podcast going after someone for something I disagree with, that I’m immediately met with some sort of convoluted connection to the ending of my marriage. I kept worrying about how people were going to react to all my content with respect to my infidelity, despite those people having one single instagram post’s worth of understanding of the situation. (In total candor, I have to laugh at some of the details the public has made up in their head. The fact that anybody out there could think I was in a hotel while my kids were being born is hilarious to me. You must think you’re watching a dramatic Hollywood movie if you came up with that fairy tale.)
And I’m simply over it. I’m coming down off the cross. I have always used humor to get through my life. When shit goes down and issues rise up, I use my humor as a crutch to get through it. That’s how I see this life and how I manage to survive it, and I’m going to keep doing it. I need to do that for myself but I also need to do it for everything that I built in my small piece of the Barstool world.
My blogs and podcasts have always been fully transparent and pretty honest and I did that for two clear reasons:
(A) because that’s where I find humor: in truth; and
(B) along with hopefully entertaining, part of me hopes that my honesty and transparency was interesting and maybe even might help someone by being relatable.
Now, some people said that I’m no longer “relatable” because of the things I went through over the last two years: my marriage fell apart, I cheated on my wife, and I demonstrated, in all of this, the reality that I was a human being with at least one major flaw.
But I think those people are wrong. I think I’ve never been more relatable. It may not be something people broadcast from the mountaintops, but I promise you, unfortunately, I’m more relatable now than I was when my life was, by all appearances, going perfect. In this increasingly curated world of social media – so many of us are telling the world a story not about how our life really is but how we want it to be or how we wish it was. We’re giving everyone a “Greatest Hits” of our everyday life – showing them every moment of sheer joy and leaving out every moment of stark terror. We’ve turned our social media accounts into advertisements for our happiness – and we’re buying what everyone else is selling – and it’s leaving us all emptier than ever
If you’re one of the people in the world who went over the edge, then you understand everything I’m saying. Whether you went over the edge with your marriage or work or family or kids or friends or drugs or gambling or drinking or whatever – and there’s a lot of us – then you get it. And if you haven’t gone over the edge, but you feel yourself approaching one, then you’re probably interested in finding out about the edge. So let’s stop bullshitting each other. Let’s talk about the edge. Let’s talk about how you do NOT want to fucking go over it, but that the urge to do so is completely understandable.
And if you’re that rare person who hasn’t ever gone over the edge: any edge, and you don’t even feel yourself approaching one or don’t think you could ever envision yourself going over one…well then I suspect you’re not only a very lucky person but also a very boring one. You’re probably not going to find anything I have to say very entertaining or interesting. You might keep turning the dial. I think there’s a channel where they talk about the Bible. I suspect that’s more your speed.
As for me: I’ll continue to work on the guilt I feel on a personal level towards my baby mama, and her family. The regret I feel towards the girl I fell for and her family. But, fellas…ladies, as much as I love and appreciate you, here’s what I won’t do: I won’t hang on the cross one day longer. I am over feeling any sort of guilt to the general public or Barstool fans, I’ve apologized to the people I hurt and forgiveness is theirs to give or withhold from me – nobody else’s. And, remarkably, and perhaps even undeservedly, some of them have given me their forgiveness – or at least chalked it up to my stupidity and somehow clung to the possibility of what’s best in me. I appreciate anyone and everyone who feels connected to my life by virtue of the candid way I’ve tried to share it on Barstool – but I can’t keep feeling like I’ve let the entire world down. It’s just not reasonable anymore. I’m done with the eggshells or any sort of censoring that I’ve been doing.
That’s not to say I expect the hate and judgment to magically disappear. I get that it will follow me around forever, and like I said I understand a certain sect of people who have done no wrong (or think they have done no wrong…or pretend they have done no wrong) will always criticize me for my failures as a husband. I can live with that. I don’t expect a pass. You can tell me, a few more times, what I already know: that I fucked up and I drove my marriage off a cliff. But if the goal was to hit me in a soft spot – you best keep swinging. That material is stale. Any good stand up comic knows – you can only tell the same joke a few times before it stops landing.
I understand that Barstool life is an aggressive, competitive, combative and adversarial lifestyle and so when there’s any angle to exploit or any chink in the armor, whoever you’re butting heads with is going to attack that. Could be an enemy, could be a fan, could be a coworker, whatever. I’m me for a living. I’m not playing a character. Kevin and KFC are the same person. It’s not like I could have just gone back to making funny movies or something benign like that after I nuked my own life and drove my marriage off a cliff.
Most of the people in the public eye who have moved on so effortlessly from the same transgressions didn’t have to go back to a life of a transparent 24/7 reality TV show. The internet crusade lifestyle. I had to resume my content which is abrasive and critical and mean and personal, and so you reap what you sow.
So you can continue to beat a dead horse if you’re inclined, my point is that I’m just done letting my past fuck up affect me now. I’ve learned from it, I’ve grown from it, and I have a unique perspective and appreciation for the things that I do still have.
I wrote this blog straight through after putting my kids in the car after celebrating Easter with them. Its been 3.5 hours. For the moment, I dropped the guilt I was feeling and remembered that my kids were in great hands. I stopped dwelling on what I lost and focused, again, on what I have. I remembered that I had an amazing time with them and that my next night with them would be equally as fulfilling and fun. I stopped moping, I stopped worrying and fearing what the public would think anymore, and I went to work. Wrote something I’ve been trying to formulate for a long time now. Something I think will help me resume my work and my life that I’ve kind of put on hold for 18 months now out of fear. For the first time, my time alone, in a new apartment, living a new life, didn’t crush me with guilt.
And so that’s how I’m going to operate going forward. I’m not letting the guilt crush me or define me anymore. Because the only thing I have left now is to try to be a happy, complete, honest & flawed, person in order to be the best father, son, brother, friend and co-host I can be. I was a crap husband – but I’m going to be a great ex-husband. I’m going to be reliable and dependable and I’m going to keep being an amazing father and co-parent to my baby mama.
To do that – I’ve got to move forward. I’ve got to go back to doing what I do best – the only thing I know how to do well: being myself. I’m gonna keep making strides to repair the damage I did to my ex-wife. I’d love to try to make amends to the person I hurt so very much on the other side of the equation in my affair. But other than that, I’m done feeling the need to explain or modify what I do for anybody else. Only a handful of people are owed anything from me on that front, and as far as I’m concerned only 2 people really matter in this world. And both of them still shit in their pants so we’ve got a long way to go until they can understand any of this stuff.
In the meantime I’m gonna get back to what I do and try to achieve the same goals I set for myself as an individual and as a father several years back. If you made it this far, you are a real one, and I appreciate you. Or you’re a hater , and I appreciate that as well. Either way – I look forward to this next chapter with you.
Sending Easter greetings from just past the edge