I Blame My Parents’ Fairytale Love Story For My Warped Sense Of How Relationships Should Be

This drama went on and on until my mother met John in the summer of 1967. Unlike my father who was clearly a lunatic, a college drop out and a man who was more of a Good Time Charlie than a responsible person, John was actually a grown-up. Although my father had become a successful engineer thanks to his father’s reputation and his own inherent talent, he was still a man-child who had zero desire to get his shit together. John not only had the desire to become part of the emotionally mature world, but was already running at an adult level while my father and his buddies drank whiskey and tried to perfect their harmonica skills as if they were the next Bob Dylan. Now we can see why I have a thing for hard drinking, irresponsible fellas who fall in the “man-child” category.

When my mother’s engagement to John hit the papers in fall of 1968, my father skipped town but not before telling my mother that he would “pull a Graduate” if she actually married her fiancé. My father was referencing the 1967 film The Graduate. (If you haven’t seen it and this meaning is lost on you, just Google some information about the ending.) My father moved to Tiburon, CA while my mother prepared for her wedding.

When the exact date of the wedding was announced, my father tracked down my mother so he could call her to tell her that when she turned around that day, he’d be there. He didn’t specify that he’d be trying to ward off anyone with a wooden crucifix, as Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben did in The Graduate, but he did stress that he was going to fuck some shit up. My mother, knowing that my father is, as we’ve already stated, a lunatic, was terrified of what might go down on her big day. She was also sick to her stomach the weeks leading up to the marriage because to quote her, “I knew it was wrong. I knew I didn’t love John.” But both her friends and family convinced her it was just totally natural “cold feet,” so she proceeded with the plans.

On the day of her wedding day, as she stood before god and her loved ones, my mother said “I do,” to John. The whole time she was shaking with fear that at any moment my father would be banging on the church windows and screaming “Patricia!” just as Ben, in The Graduate, yelled “Elaine!” But luckily for my mother, my father got back into town a couple of days late. He’d been driving cross country back East with friends and got held up here and there along the way. My mother left for her honeymoon, and my father settled back on Massachusetts’ North Shore.

“I had been back from my honeymoon for just a couple days when my friends and I went to Summit in Peabody,” explains my mom. “I had gone up to the jukebox to play a song and as I stood there, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I knew in that moment that your father had come into the club.”

Since this story has been part of our upbringing, my sister and I have always squealed with delight as we asked: “But how did you know!?” To which my mother always responds: “I just did. I don’t know how, but I just knew.”

Just moments after her knowing that he had walked into the club, someone kissed the back of her neck and it was [spoiler alert!] my father. For the next four years my mother, the good Catholic, tried to make her marriage work with John, although the whole time she was confiding in my father about how miserable she was. My mother, again, the good Catholic, refuses to admit that she cheated physically on John, declaring it an affair of the heart, but considering her history with my father, I have a very hard time believing her. I just nod and smile and go along with the whole “no one has sex before marriage” schtick she’s been claiming forever.

The day her divorce from John was final, she and my dad flew to Santo Domingo and got married on the beach in March 1975. The entire ceremony was in Spanish and the only guests were one witness and a bunch of white chickens. My parents don’t speak a word of Spanish. They flew back to the States and moved into an apartment on Marblehead Neck and started their life together.

However, this story, the one that we’ve been told since we were wee ones, is the reason I have such an irrationally romantic look at love and relationships. I refuse to try online dating, because it’s not organic enough to be found in a work of literature. If I’m seeing someone and it’s smooth sailing, I will jeopardize it because I’ve convinced myself that love, real love, the type you find in storybooks, Hollywood and the kind that evokes the word “soulmates,” needs to be this up and down roller coaster of events. I’ve foolishly been able to walk away from relationships with the naive idea that if it’s meant to be, it will happen because I’m the product of such a situation. I’m overly nostalgic for former loves, because you never know how the cards may fall or how your hand will change later on in life; and I, too, have been in on-again, off-again insanity, and just assumed that that’s the path to forever. I realize it’s childish, but it’s also whimsical, hopeful, and yes, I’ll say it again: romantic. I do not want to be on a boat that sails without being tossed around; I want to be thrown off board, left to drown, then saved just so we can do it all again. Someone should really take away my Netflix membership.

When I tell both my parents (who are still together in case that wasn’t obviously as clear as day), that their love affair is somewhat of a blueprint for my own future love story, they both laugh. My father laughs because now, at 66, he’s so laid back and relaxed that he refuses to remember or even admit that at one time in his life he was chasing down guys twice his size through the streets of Salem, MA, all because they winked at my mother. My mother laughs because she does recall that craziness fondly, but she’d like me to find my own love story that’s different but still worth sharing. Granted, all love stories are worth sharing, but I have to admit of all the ones I’ve heard from friends and family, it’s my parents’ one I love most. I don’t know if I’m biased because it’s the story of how I came to be or if it’s because I’m just as much of a lunatic as my father that I do need that level of insanity to feel alive and loved. I can’t say for sure. But I can say that every time I’ve had a blow out with someone I’m dating, I just think of my mom and dad.

Sometimes you need to hide in a bush, threaten to break up a wedding and break into someone’s bedroom to make things work. Sometimes you need to bide your time, date other people, then go running back to the one who knows you best if you’re to make it out there in the world. Sometimes you just have to smirk at the fact that yes, things do fall as they’re supposed to and if it took my parents’ 13 years to get that end of things right, it could take me or someone else even longer. But at the end of it all, you can’t escape fate. I blame my parents for making me believe in fate; I also blame them every time I come home covered in mosquito bites because I’ve been hiding outside a former love’s apartment building in some bushes for four hours straight. You know, because that’s the rational and sane thing to do.

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    • A

      Your father sounds like an asshole lunatic. He stalked your mother for a few years? That’s not fairytale, that’s abuse and harassment. Jesus Christ, this is why everyone in our generation is stupid about relationships.

      • mm

        agreed

      • Amanda Chatel

        Um, Ok. Backtrack. The man was in his late teens… I apologize if you didn’t get the tone of just how ridiculous it all was. The two were in love and they had a volatile relationship. So why don’t you think twice before you call a man whom you’ve never met, who’s the kindest person in the world and is actually quite ill at the moment an asshole.

      • Ancie

        If you put him out there to be judged, don’t get mad when people judge him. Grow up, you’re a writer for a rag, what did you expect? Uh, no wonder you’re single.

      • Amanda Chatel

        @Ancie I’m not single, troll.

    • Aliclo

      Amanda– thank you for this story. It’s so funny and gorgeous! My own parents were a blind date in 1972 and were engaged 2 after two weeks to be married only 6 months later. They are celebrating their 40th anniversary this October and are still happy together (freaks.)

    • Eileen

      My parents met at work a little bit post-college, when my mom (who is a year and a half younger) first got hired. According to his friends, he knew within a few weeks that he wanted to marry her, but he just asked her out for dinner. According to her sister, the whole family knew right away that this new boyfriend was more special than the previous ones. They dated for about a year and a half, got engaged, and got married about a year later. Then they got a house, then a dog, and then me.

      I blame their love story for my boring sense of how relationships should be.

    • Nancy

      Love this story! <3 My parents first met at a bar (though they both lived in an extremely small area) when Mom was 17 or 18, dad's 3 years older. Dad liked my mother because all of the other women there were trying to get the guys to buy them more drinks but Mom was just sipping her first beer. Lol so cute. They've been together for like 35 years now :)

    • Andi

      This story is horrifying. Hitting walls, destroying things, stalking and threatening? I’m really sorry you kids had to grow up with a dad you admit is a lunatic. That is definitely not how fairy tale romances happen.

      • endn

        agree, why is it so glorified?

      • Amanda Chatel

        THE MAN WAS FUCKING 18 YEARS OLD. My father is the most loving, giving human being in the world. We have never been abused, verbally, physically or otherwise. He punched a fucking wall once. I’ve kicked a fucking wall once and put a whole in it when I was pissed. I have wanted for nothing pretty much my whole life because I have two amazing parents who have been in love since they were 16. Albeit, it was rocky, but it’s the type of love you rarely find these days.

        So before you get on your high horse and start spouting off some more, I’d just like to say that it must be so nice to have your shit so together that you never lash out or have any fire in your life.

      • Amanda Chatel

        @endn I still love you, so I’m not going to say anything.

      • Endn

        Haha ok that story seriously scurred me, sorry

      • Amanda Chatel

        Come on, girl! You’re one of our regulars — you get my tone! I swear, my father is amazing and sweet. He puts spiders outside and has almost been killed trying to save the lives of turtles. He may have gone through a crazy phase (because who doesn’t it?), but the man doesn’t have an evil bone in his entire body.

        I wrote this as an ode to them because… well, he’s just not doing so great lately. You think I’d cheers a man who would have hurt my sister, my mother or me in anyway? He’s just a lunatic…. lunatics keep things spicy. xo.

      • Endn

        Sigh yes and your (and everyone else at thegloss’s) redonkulous tones keep me delighted all day but some things are triggers for me. I suspect that’s what happened to other commenters too which is why everyone either thought it was sweet or scary. Sometimes we read about lunatic stalker behavior and get scared! But in all seriousness best wishes to your dad.

    • Cat

      I completely relate! My parents’ love story has definitely given me an unrealistic and overly-romantic perception of how falling in love/finding your life partner should work.

      My parents met on vacation in the Cayman Islands (Mom went with her family, Dad was there with friends). They were both in their late 20′s, and oddly enough, both living/working in Houston at the time. It was the last night of their respective trips, and Dad went out with his friends to a Disco club/bar (it was the 70′s). He claims he met my mom on the dance floor, while my mom claims they met when he offered to light her cigarette when she was getting a drink at the bar. Regardless of who’s right, they spent the whole night together “talking” (or so they say… gross) and serendipitously were on the same flight back home the next day. (It was fate, right?) They immediately started dating when they got back to Texas.
      One week later, my dad had to go to a friend’s wedding at the Shamrock Hotel (a beautiful historic Houston hotel that is no longer standing) and took my mother as his date. Apparently the hotel’s gigantic swimming pool (once described as the world’s biggest outdoor pool, big enough for water-skiing events) was still open while the reception was going on in one of the ballrooms, and somehow my parents decided that going for a swim was an awesome idea. They had the huge pool pretty much completely to themselves. They were treading water in the middle of the pool, when my dad comes up next to my mom and suddenly asks her to marry him! After knowing the guy for just 1 week, my mom says yes (I still question her 28-year-old self’s sanity). They are going to celebrate their 33rd anniversary this October.

      How the hell am I supposed to live up to that?

      Now in every one of my relationships, which inevitably have not started nearly so romantically, I lament that I won’t have a great love story to tell my kids if I end up with the guy. Haha, which is a totally stupid thing to be worried about, b/c ultimately how we got together has little or no bearing on whether our relationship will last. But I still blame my parents for my ridiculously romantic notions of life-long love/marriage, and for the fact that I believe love-at-first-sight is possible.

    • Tania

      If you’re like your father, the crazy one, you should be the one stalking your calmer, more mature ex-who-got-away.

      Otherwise, my goodness, two volatile crazy people in one relationship is what murder-suicides are made of.

    • Renee

      At some point in your life you have to stop blaming your parents for your own mistakes….

      • Amanda Chatel

        The title was a joke… you know, because we all blame our parents for our mistakes. AND if you read it, I was blaming them for my mistakes…

      • Renee (a different one)

        Oh goody, can we blame you instead?

      • Amanda Chatel

        @Renee (a different one) I take full responsibility for my mistakes in life. Although I’m not sure why you’d want to blame me for MY mistakes… I’m confused.

        I’m really going to hope you meant this comment jokingly considering your other comment was nice, Emilia.

      • Sam

        @amanda, I think Emilia (the other Renee before you blew her cover) was referring to the first Renee.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Ooops! Well, commenters forget that we see the email addresses attached to these comments! And I was already sensitive about people talkin’ shit about my dad.

        My apologies to my darling different Renee/Emilia/whomever… I suck. I didn’t mean to blow anyone’s cover.
        xox.

      • Sam

        Understood. I just wanted you to see she was on your side. And some of these comments are absolutely ridiculous.

      • Amanda Chatel

        @Sam –

        I’m quite certain this is the very last time I EVER write about my family. It’s one thing to insult me, but my parents is a different story. When I awoke to that comment (see above) from “Amy” about both my parents being “horrible,” I pretty much lost my shit.

        That’s it! I’m writin’ about bunnies going forward like I said I would weeks ago!

        Also thank you, Sam, for being a regular reader and commenter and for pointing out something that my hot-headedness couldn’t see at that moment. You’re great!

      • Constance

        Oh god, I’m never using a fake name again!

      • Amanda Chatel

        @Constance — Note to self: if you’re going to use a fake name, also use a different email address! I’m too lazy to check ip addresses unless the person wishes me dead…

    • Susan

      I can’t believe some of the mean comments on here. What if someone made those remarks about your parents? It doesn’t take a genius to pick up the tone of this article. It was sweet, funny, nutty story, and there are really crappy comments being made about two people who are obviously very dear to the author. What is wrong with people?

      • Amanda Chatel

        Susan, I’m taking you out for cupcakes and champagne.

      • Susan

        Amanda — Sounds lovely. :) I started to cry when I read those comments, and I’m in an open office! My parents mean the world to me and I just lost my mom in December. The thought of someone calling them names, and ruining a lovely story about them sent me over the edge. I hope your dad will be on the mend soon.

      • Amanda Chatel

        I’m so sorry for your loss, Susan. Like you, my parents mean the world to me, so if someone is going to talk shit about them, I will be forced to freak out (and cry, as you did), then drop a bunch of F-bombs in the comment section.

        Thank you for the well wishes for my dad. You and I are clearly on the same page. Lots of love to you.

      • Susan

        Thanks so much, Amanda. And lots of love to you too.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Thank you to those of you who got that it was supposed to be funny and ridiculous! xo.

    • Ricepaperdress

      This is probably my favorite piece of yours, Amanda! Thank you for sharing your parents’ story and making me cry :)

    • Amal

      I read all your posts, think your writing is pretty great, even when I disagree with you. I love this story, intitally thought “eek, volatile is a pretty good word” then as I continued reading, it totally came shining through from what place you wrote this. As someone who just reconnected with my first love (from high school, which is so ridiculously twee it’s not true), reading this kind of story sums up the thought that you love who you love. Best wishes to your father and family and keep writing.

    • Larissa

      I love it. Please, I did some ridiculous, batshit crazy stuff for love when I was 18 that makes me laugh/cringe now (in my old age of 24…) because of the overwhelming hormones and immaturity that make it just so damn hard to rationally handle such strong emotions!, But it’s beautiful that your parents’ love made it THROUGH that batshit crazy love of youth and grew into a mature, lifelong one. Lucky, lucky them! My parents have a similar, albeit slightly less dramatic story, and it’s made me such a romantic :) i blame them, as well.

      • Amanda Chatel

        “Batshit crazy” — if I had a penny for every time a man called me that, I’d be the richest gal in town.

      • Larissa

        i’ve found that men really dig a liiittle touch of crazy in a woman!

    • Elwar

      So many feelings. First of all, I think it’s one thing to critique idolizing the kind of crazy over-the-top romance that results in wall hitting and stalking, and another to call someone’s parent a “lunatic.”

      Second, I think we tend to get caught in these false binaries of relationships either being tumultuous and romantic or stable and boring. One thing that this piece suggests is that while crazy romance makes the better story, it takes growing up and mellowing out to make a good marriage.

      Finally, I think Amanda might be missing a tiny kernel of common sense in her parents’ story. It sounds like it wasn’t your father’s over-the-top antics that eventually brought your mom around, but his constancy which proved that he wasn’t just in love with the drama but in love with her.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Admittedly, common sense isn’t my strong suit, but I do know that it was more about love than anything else.

    • Haley

      Bitches ain’t shit. Don’t worry about what these idiot commenters are posting, this story rules and should probably be an epic poem.

      You gave us a tumultuous tale that not only has a happy ending but happens to be true! On a Friday! I consider this a great start to my weekend, so thank you. And your mom and dad sound like great, fun, funny people. You are lucky to have them!

    • kt

      It’s funny because I have an irrational outlook on love due to the fact that my parents hated each other and never let anyone in our family forget how horrible the other was. I supposed I would prefer this method.

    • rachael

      dude, when you”re in love, it’s romantic, even if you met on OKcupid. it is so awesome your parents have this crazy story, but we all just get along and get what we get, what happens to us. love doesn’t need the drama and embellishments. when you really have it, you couldn’t imagine anything more.

    • Sonsy

      Amen, with a caveat. It’s taken me about 300 years to realize that though I may crave the crazy, nothing about my parents relationship spells longevity or happiness. And unlike your parentals, they are no longer together, or with their second or third marriages either. Crazy is good, but like chocolate and heroin, only in moderation.

    • Emilia

      Oof. How terrifying a thought that our parents relationships shape our own!

      That is quite the story to be told as a child, I’m sure it was better than any other fairytales you were told.

      I’m kind of glad I don’t believe in fate though. Not sure I can handle that much drama personally!

      And sorry for all the mean spirited commenters

    • Amy

      Is this article a joke? I really hope so. Your parents both sound like horrible people. They had a mutually abusive relationship. Your father stalked your mother, hurt men who did nothing more than date her and threatened to ruin her wedding because she didn’t do what he wanted. Your mother married a man she didn’t think she loved, cheated on him for years and then rewarded her stalker’s behaviour by leaving the good man for him.

      You’re excusing their behaviour because they were young- here’s a newflash for you: young people aren’t all insane. I’m 20. I wouldn’t put up with your father’s behaviour, and nor would anyone I know. Likewise, I don’t know any guys who would behave like your father did.

      I get that they’re your parents and you love them, but if you can’t see that their relationship was fucked up at least at the beginning then you need help. I get that know their behaviour was unconventional, but if you actually don’t acknowledge it was crazy (in a bad way) then I don’t even know what to think.

      • Amy

        * I get that YOU know…

      • Paula

        You’re a bitch. YOUR parents are horrible people for raising you to think it’s okay to talk about someone you don’t know and their parents in this way. You should be ashamed of yourself or at least your parents should be ashamed that they went so wrong with you.

        If you read it you’d see her father never hurt anyone, and that it was a tumultuous love affair. Get over yourself. You should really be a non-commenter if you’re just going to be a condescending a**hole about something that you obviously didn’t “get.”

      • Amanda Chatel

        @Amy – “by leaving the good man for him” — I think it’s cute you just “assumed” he was a good man. If you note, I didn’t mention anything about that relationship, so I don’t think anyone should be assuming that he was good or bad or otherwise.

        Also as Paula pointed out, my father didn’t hurt anyone physically. The term “stalking” is used very loosely and was meant to convey a tumultuous young love.

        Lastly, it *is* pretty shitty that you would call someone’s parents “horrible.” I don’t care because I’m used to trolls, but I really hope you don’t run around calling other people’s parents “horrible” — it’s just really below the belt and does make one question how you were raised.

        Have a swell day!

    • Natalie

      This was a great story to read. I think this is the type of intense love that everyone (or just a special few) hope that will happen in one’s life at some point. I’m really glad your parents ended up together and are still happily together.
      As someone whose parents got married not out of love but to basically follow the social norm and parental expectations, this story is proof that marriage has to be based on love among other things. My parents did “everything right” and they’re still unhappy in their marriage and there might be divorce on the horizon…le sigh.

      Also, some people are just incredible assfaces.
      These comments with the weirdo comments on Jennifer’s Edie Sedgwick article for “her use” of the word retarded lead me to believe that some people don’t read things, they just look at words on a page (and go batshit crazy)

      • Amanda Chatel

        Thank you, Natalie! And you’re so right! People really don’t read these pieces thoroughly. It’s like they get to one point then decide it’s time to comment… then they look like assholes for having missed the point YET AGAIN. The comments on Jennifer’s post were really entertaining, because so many were just based on the title… all you could do was laugh at their stupidity.

        But thank you. And I’m so sorry to hear that a divorce might be in the future for your parents. Chin up, love.

    • Nessy

      I think your parents sound lovely, and I really hope your daddy feels better.

      It seems like a lot of people missed out on reading comprehension in elementary school. Did it get cut along with fine arts and sports?

      • Amanda Chatel

        Honestly, based on some of these comments, I think it was!

    • Nichole

      I enjoyed this story very much, thank you.

      Love is always beautiful.

    • Lisa

      Wow, Amanda. People are crazy. This story is like a toned down version of Crazy Love. I’m glad it worked out, and I guess possibly in some way your dad knew it would, and so acted desperate (?)

      I’m not sure if it’s normal to have cold feet. I think it might be pretty normal to feel pressured into marrying the wrong person, and to go through with it and then get divorced later. I’ve been proposed to a few times, and none of them was in the least compelling, and my boyfriend and I plan to marry next year (but no ring yet bc he can’t buy one, yet) and… it feels very different.

      I think a takeaway here is not to pressure others about their relationships, and maybe not to allow yourself to be pressured into a breakup or a marriage you don’t want on your own.

      And seriously, do not wait around for someone insane. One insane person in a relationship is enough!

    • MR

      The only thing that’s scary about this article is that your mom and dad are only 6 years younger than my mom. :) Yeah, she had us really young. But she graduated high school when she was 15; college when she was 19. Yeah, her IQ is close to genius, in the 140s.

    • Kristina

      I know I’m late to the party (I’m behind on my google reader), but I just wanted to send some interwebs love out to Amanda. Because having a sick parent is awful, and I imagine having shit-for-brains trolls say bad things about your parents is even worse! I’ll admit, I thought it was crazy and a little on the scary side, but that is because of my own triggery baggage. Having read most of your articles, I’m pretty confident to say your parents sound awesome.

      People suck and are stupid and big, poopy assfaces. I can’t think of any really biting insults, so I’m going with grade school on this one. Also, I really hope your dad gets better, Amanda. You’re a great writer and (seem like!) a great person, and I will sorely miss the stories about your family, but I don’t blame you if you want to avoid this shitfest.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Kristina, I might just be in love with you. I’m also using “poopy assfaces” everyday forever!

        Thank you.

    • Cori

      Don’t worry about it too much. People say dumb stuff on the internet about every single thing. I thought your story was sweet and reminded me of stories my own parents have told us. My dad was also kinda nutso in his devotion to my mom, although he’s still a fairly intense guy. Which could change in the next 15 or so years, I love him to bits, but he could use a little mellowing. Ramble ramble ramble ramble…

      Continue writing and f* the people who can’t or take life way to seriously. Clearly your dad wasn’t an actual stalker and they really do love each other, that’s all that matters.

      Love your writings..