On day 31 I shared yesterday how I transitioned from a life with Jeremy over to a life with Devon quickly and unexpectedly, and how I coldly turned my back on Jeremy and never saw him again. That was hard to write about and for the first time ever I really felt the pain I caused someone who meant well to me. It’s hard to see outside yourself when you’re in the thick of it.
That being said, as I begin to share what happened with Devon, I see that I began to turn my back coldly on myself too, but I didn’t see it happening until I was deep in it and the damage was done.
Big things tend to happen to me in 3’s, so during that time I had the ending with Jeremy, the beginning with Devon, and a huge transition at my day spa as I decided to take on a second location and spend a small fortune to build it out. I had the opportunity to try on a new phase of my spa. I’d listened to unsolicited advice that told me day spas were a thing of the past, and if I wanted to succeed I needed to go medical. So with that, I changed my business and decided to experiment with being a medical spa. This meant working with a plastic surgeon on site and doing cosmetic treatments with Botox and lasers. There are so many pieces and components to this story that were happening all at once so I now see why it has taken me until now to really unpack what happened and see what was really happening under the surface. It was a self love crisis.
But let’s back up to the beginning of Devon and I, because that was an important time. He was 4 years younger than me and he was the most handsome and gregarious man I’d ever been with, so I felt flattered that he was into me, and a little insecure about our connection at the same time. So I made myself feel essential in our relationship by buying him things. I paid for the house, I bought the stuff we needed for the house, I bought our food, I bought our dogs’ food and I’d buy him clothes. I was spending a fortune on trying to create our little life together, while he was a passive recipient of it all. Devon was working for a start-up bamboo ski company and was a waiter at a local bar, so he wasn’t making a lot of money, but neither was I, but that didn’t change that I kept incurring debt on my credit card to support us. He never seemed to mind all the attention I was giving us financially.
We’d been together 3 months when Devon invited me back to Rhode Island for a Fourth of July party with his family, so I said yes and bought our tickets. Devon had told his family about me and had told me about his family, and he said the first thing his British mother asked him about me was, “how is her skin?”
Huh? My skin? It was a total punch in the gut because my skin is probably my weakest spot in how I feel about myself, and something I’ve spent a small fortune on trying to fix and balance. So knowing she’d be looking at me through a microscope when we met, I began to look at myself through an even bigger microscope. And if you’re wondering who the unsolicited advice was from regarding my need to become a medical spa in order to stay relevant, it was Devon’s mom.
So the week before we left for our east coast meet the parents Fourth of July trip, I thought it would be a great idea to try Botox AND a chemical peel for the first time, since it was free for me and right there on site. I’d found this plastic surgeon because he was in the same office as the doctor who did my breast implants 4 years earlier, so when I lead with that when I approached him about working in Park City once a week, it was an easy yes for him. I told him about the importance of this meet the parents trip, and he assured me I’d be glowing after these treatments, so much that I wouldn’t need to wear any makeup. Umm yes please, so I went for it; and it was awful. Sure the peel did its job and peeled me, and the Botox smoothed my forehead and eye lines, but the peel also left my skin shiny, pink & raw and gave me a big burn on my neck that looked like a hickey gone horribly wrong. When I sent him pictures he told me that sometimes the skin has an adverse initial reaction, but in 10 days I’d be glowing. Umm, in 10 days I’d be back from our trip, so that didn’t matter. Now I had to solve the problem of my skin now.
Luckily we’d just been solicited by a Mineral Makeup line called Jane Iredale so the wonderful and flamboyantly gay salesman was there the day before we left on our trip, heard my sob story of my chemical peel gone array, and saw the sad state of my skin. But thankfully he stepped in like a fairy god mother and rescued me with a few products that helped me camouflage the damage I’d done trying to look my best. The irony was not lost on me. My dream of being au natural for the week with Devon's parents was far from happening but at least now I had what felt like a magic eraser makeup to hide under.
But to make matters worse, to accompany my skin debacle, there was also the matter of my tattoos. The year before I met Devon I’d just completed a very large piece of colorful artwork on my lower back that had its own story of how it got so large over a few years. And not to worry, I will share the horrendous story just on just my tattoos soon, but for now, just know there was the one on my back, around my ankle and on the back of my neck. So when Devon shared the news that his conservative British parents didn’t like tattoos, I was crushed and wanted to delete all of them, especially the enormous one I’d spent a small fortune on. Obviously you can’t delete a tattoo so easily, so I immediately turned to Victoria’s Secret’s online swim catalog for some cute tankini tops that would hide my tattoo, and I asked Devon not to mention it.
So there we were in the posh neighborhood of Barrington, Rhode Island and I’m doing my best to hide my tattoo underneath my carefully selected clothing praying it wouldn’t be seen, and hiding my raw freshly peeled and botoxed face under mineral makeup and a large brimmed hat. I was miserable. So what’s the best way to counter miserable? I drank way more than I ever do. And what happened to my careful attempts to hide my tattoo when I drank? They all went out the window. I don’t remember this because I was too drunk, but Devon let me know that his parents first saw my back & neck tattoos when we were out on their boat sailing, and I was sitting on the deck of the boat leaning up against the front windshield, so the view of my tankini riding up my back and showing my tattoo was right in his father’s line of sight as he drove the boat. Whoops.
But I redeemed myself with his parents by telling them all about my spa, all about the new location and all about how I’d taken Devon’s mom’s wise suggestion and had gone medical. She loved that, and she told me all about her favorite treatments and skin care lines. During our trip I smiled, I laughed with them, I related and we all softened. Meanwhile I was doing my best to stay in dim lights and keep a light summer scarf around my wounded neck that I hoped no one, including Devon would ask me about.
The me now would have laughed and pointed out the neck wound and raw skin of my own creation, but I couldn’t do that then; there was too much fear and shame. But according to Devon, his parents loved me, so that helped me relax. Seems me talking about business and asking them all about their life & love made them overlook their thing against tattoos.
When Devon and I returned from that trip that was so bad it was good, it felt like life was happening faster than usual and I had success happening around me everywhere. I was managing two spa locations; the first was my original location inside a hotel at the base of Park City mountain ski resort and the other that I’d just signed onto was somewhat close to Main street in Park City in a budding commercial complex.
The opportunity for this new spa location came unexpected and quickly from my client William, who I regularly did massage for at his home. I’d come once a week and work on his wife and then him, and he’d serve me a snack and glass of wine before and after our massage and we’d talk about life. They were incredibly wealthy by the look and feel of their home. It was enormous and he also owned a lot of the land in town, and other businesses, but when I arrived in my rusty green Pathfinder to give massages, he treated me like a friend, and I loved that. So one evening at a particularly stressful time in the history of my spa, William asked me how Align was doing before we started our massage, and I don’t know what came over me. All of a sudden I have him on the table and throughout the massage I’m telling him all about my business, all about my grand vision, and all about how my landlord wanted to sell the hotel space where I was currently located, so I was going to get kicked out if it sold. I shared that I was sad that I had a budding business but a location that was vulnerable.
After our massage William asked to hear more as we sat and drank wine, and then he asked me to meet him at an address downtown the following day. I knew of the neighborhood but seldom passed through that side of town, but I agreed to meet him there. He said he wanted to show me a possibility he was considering and he was speaking my language as I love possibilities.
The following day we met outside the door of a large building that was an event planning company and florist who needed to downsize. To the right was a laundry mat and to the left a frame shop. There were two entrances to the building, and we stood outside the door on the right that had the florist logo; and for a moment, I saw the entire space with my spa there. It was a quick vision and feeling, but I saw the possibility clearly. What William offered me was half of this 2600 sq foot space; I’d get the right half and the florist/event planner would get the left, and we’d share the back bathroom. William would fund the remodel up to $75,000 and I’d cover the rest, but I’d need to agree to a 10 year lease.
At the time, I was on year 3 of my business, which meant I was working a lot, stressing a lot, had a staff to support and I wasn’t making much money. But signing on for 10 years meant I’d have to find a way for Align Spa to thrive and grow there. So I said yes to William even before consulting my attorney and committed to figuring it out as I went, one day at a time. So that’s what was happening at the exact time that I was breaking up with Jeremy and moving in with Devon. It was a lot.
A few weeks into our life together Devon was offered a side job with an event planning company co-hosting promotion parties. His job was to help companies create some buzz around their brand, have a fun party and have outside unrelated companies provide gift bags to guests promoting their stuff. Their main sponsor was a lingerie company, which meant the parties would have 2-3 ladies pole dancing in the lingerie that would be in the gift bags. And since Devon was a co-host, he’d often be interviewing the underwear models, looking at their pictures and arranging times to meet them, all on his phone. It was like he was getting paid to look at pg-13 porn and hang out with the models. I didn’t realize I was insecure about my body until my brand new younger hot boyfriend had beautiful underwear models calling him for meet and greets. It was bad. So I was primed and ready for the intervention of the plastic surgeon.
But before I turned to going under the knife for achieving my desired body goals, Devon and I’s relationship had to get a little MORE insane and dysfunctional, lucky me.
It was August 2007, right around the time I was hosting a large opening party for my unfinished new location that still had dry wall up and no electrical in the walls yet, that Devon and I scheduled a trip to Fiji and New Zealand together. Friends of ours told us about a flight deal where you could pay $650 and fly from Los Angeles and make two stops, one in Fiji and one in New Zealand. So even though I had a construction crew working on the new space and a disorganized spa staff trying to hold my 1.5 locations together, we left for almost 3 weeks. It was my first time being away from my company since I’d opened almost 4 years earlier.
Traveling with Devon was fun and exciting, but strangely empty. We’d be out on exciting day treks and journeys together meeting tons of people and seeing exciting things, but we didn’t have much to say to each other when it was just us. But it wasn’t a comfortable silence, it was an awkward silence. We’d watch other young European couples on the tours cuddling and kissing each other, so I’d scoot a little closer to Devon and kiss him on the cheek. He saw I was trying to engage, so he’d half smile and kiss me back. It was like we were an old married couple who were tired of each other but we’d only been together for 3 months. Sure it was incredible to be out on the water sailing through the Fijian islands, but I never felt like Devon wanted to be there with me. It felt like he wanted to be there with all the women travelers we saw with clear skin, beautiful tan legs, flawless skin and gorgeous white teeth.
As we were leaving Fiji for part 2 of our trip in Queenstown, New Zealand, I got very sick and almost didn’t make it onto the plane. I’d gotten off the plane to throw up in the airport terminal, but Devon stayed on the plane while I delayed the departure. I had to beg to be let back on, telling them my back back and boyfriend were on the flight, so they finally let me back on. I’m not sure if Devon would have stayed in Fiji with me had I missed the flight but I tried not to focus on that and instead collapsed into my plane seat and slept. When we made it to our hotel, Devon got me some snacks, made sure I had the tv remote and some water, and then left me for 8 hours to go explore Queenstown by himself. He did this 2 days in a row until I dragged myself out of bed the third day to go watch him bungee jump off a bridge into a canyon. Now I knew Devon wouldn’t be in this area again soon so I was happy he got to sight see, but I kinda wished he didn’t look like he was having so much fun without me and I didn’t really want to hear about all the fellow travelers he’d been meeting and how he was going back out to meet them after he was done checking on me. How nice of him to pause his fun to check on me. I was ready to go home.
It was always the plan that Devon would be meeting a guy friend in Bangkok after our trip and he’d be traveling for 3 more weeks and I’d be coming home to be with our dogs. We’d Skype every few days and he’d tell me all the amazing stories of who he’d met and what he’d seen. Then his 3 weeks of extra travel became 6 weeks, then 2 months, and then was extended to almost 3 months, without much feedback from me. And being new to an up and coming social media site called Facebook, I’d see pictures of him galavanting through SE Asia with strangers, many of whom were gorgeous smiling women with their arms around him. But Devon did do me the “honor” of giving me the password to his email, asking me to look for an insurance document that needed to be printed, filled out and resent. It was time sensitive, and because he was out of service on the Laos river for nearly a week, he asked me to take care of it. So every few days I’d sign onto Devon’s yahoo account and check his email, until 1 day I saw something that caught my attention. I saw a new msg in his recently deleted emails and the subject was “Re: meeting you.” I felt my heart sink as I stared at the email trying not to click on it and see what was inside, because that would be invading Devon’s privacy. I think I held out for 5 minutes, screw his privacy. When I opened it, I saw it was from a girl named Donelle talking about how magical it was waking up next to Devon on the rooftop of their hostel in Koh Tao, Thailand and how she loved watching the sunrise together. Ummm, what?! Somehow in our Skype talks, Devon had failed to mention he was traveling with a girl named Donelle. But what made the situation worse was that he’d gotten this email from her and didn’t want me to see it, so he’d deleted it (forgetting to empty the email trash). At least that’s what I told myself. The only way I could interpret Donelle’s message and his action was that he’d cheated on me with this girl and now he was floating down a river in Laos and out of contact. Life totally sucked for me for the next few days.
But what made this all even worse was I got the news that a mutual friend of ours had just tragically died in a sky diving accident. So by the time Devon was able to reach me on Skype and he’d read through all the hysterical messages from me asking about Donelle and how he’d ended up waking up with her on a roof top, AND the news that our friend had died, we didn’t know where to begin when we were eye to eye on our screens. Our Skype connection was unstable and I could see lots of people and commotion around him, and couldn’t hear him very well, so I knew it wasn’t the time or place for us to talk about him cheating on me or about our friend who had died. It was just too much for either of us to handle. So Devon ended our Skype session and sent me a msg on Skype that read, “babe, I can see there’s a lot going on with you right now, and it’s all going to be fine. I gotta go because the boat is leaving; we stopped briefly to refuel and I saw an Internet cafe, so I wanted to say hi. I’ll try you again in a few days if I find another cafe. Love you and I’m sorry you’re going through this, love, Devon.”
He was sorry I was going through this?! What about the part where he was supposed to say he didn’t cheat on me or he apologized or he explained maybe a little bit? But instead he gave me absolutely nothing and was off on the river. I was left to digest the emotional experience from the stories I’d created from what little facts I had, so rather than trust him and know it would all be fine, I turned my anger towards myself and got mad at myself for not being prettier, thinner, tanner, cooler, or whatever negative thought I could come up with about myself. I had started my own inner war and the battle was about to get ugly.
I believed I wasn’t good enough for Devon’s love or any love, and I felt embarrassed and sorry that I’d abandoned Jeremy, who seemed to love me unconditionally even though he didn’t have any money. But my stubbornness wouldn’t let me break up with Devon; instead I told myself there had to be a good explanation, and I also told myself that if I had a better body without tattoos, he’d love me more.
Of course the me now wants to hug the me from then, and save her a ton of money and pain, but sadly I know I needed the lessons from my next crazy actions I took for love.
First, I tried to get my ankle and back tattoos lasered off, but soon discovered after two attempts they were too colorful to respond well to laser tattoo removal, which was incredibly expensive. So I got a crazy and destructive idea; I asked the plastic surgeon we worked with if he could go in and cut out the chunks of skin that held my tattoos. A scar would be better than a tattoo so I thought. The surgeon tried to talk me out of my insane idea but was also curious if this was possible, so he agreed to do it at a very low cost, since it was somewhat experimental. It would be a major surgery requiring full anesthesia, and the best part of it was that they’d need to cut into my love handles, suck out some fat to to sew up the space, and my butt would also get a little lift when sewed me up, so it was like I got a 2 for 1 tattoo removal and body sculpt. I was trying to see the bright side of the insanity.
When I woke up from the anesthesia, I was told good news and bad news. They told me they couldn’t get the whole back tattoo, but they did get my ankle one fully, so I was left with a long scar across my lower back and an awkward unrecognizable piece of the top and bottom of my old tattoo sewn together. It was a colorful shit show on my back and there was nothing I could do but accept it.
All of this happened while Devon rode elephants with beautiful strangers through Thailand and Cambodia, because I wanted it to be a surprise that I’d just sliced myself open to get rid of the tattoo his parents didn’t like, in hopes that we’d now fall deeply in love and he’d want to wake up with me on a rooftop somewhere in Asia and watch a gorgeous sunrise.
Obviously that’s not what happened but it was equally dramatic.
I had Devon’s return flight info because I had his email password, so I thought it would be incredibly romantic for me to fly out to Los Angeles and surprise him in the airport terminal and we’d laugh and cuddle during our 5 hour layover and fly back home together. I’d be moving slowly because I still had a bandage on my lower back and ankle, but I was excited at this effort I was making to welcome him home.
When I flew to California to surprise Devon I just had a backpack with me, so I stood off to the side outside the international airport terminal and watched Devon walk out. He was wearing a fedora hat and a white linen shirt and pants that I’d never seen before; he had a confident walk and I chose to hang back and wait until he was in the check-in line for his last flight home. I slowly approached him and certainly surprised him when I tapped him on the shoulder. When he picked me up and hugged me I screamed in pain, because he’d unknowingly grabbed onto my bandaged scar that he had no idea existed. Where do you start to catch up when you’ve been apart for 3 months and there’s been a cheating accusation we’d never discussed, the death of our friend we’d never discussed and a surgery we’d never discussed. One might think we had a hard time communicating in our relationship.
Things didn’t improve with Devon after my big displays of love; instead they stayed the same or slowly got worse and we were on the path for a slow death that lasted several months.
Devon traveled almost every weekend for ski shows and when he wasn’t traveling he was throwing parties with underwear models. He arranged for a couple I’d only met once to share our home and rent our second bedroom so Devon wouldn’t have have to pay any rent. So I took care of his dog while he traveled, I hosted his friends in our house when he wasn’t there, and I paid all the bills for the house and his dog, and this went on for a year. I should have called it quits several times, but I didn’t because I was scared to be alone and embarrassed that I’d made the wrong decision to be with him.
But things got particularly bad when we decided to celebrate our year anniversary together by eating mushrooms together (since we met on mushrooms) and going to a techno concert at the largest bar in Park City. But something in the mushrooms made me very sick, so I told Devon I was going to the bathroom and I ended up staying there for hours because I was throwing up and having diarrhea. Women in the bathroom were helping me and I kept sending women out to look for Devon to let him know where I was and that I was sick, but he never came looking for me in the bathroom, and at the end of the night when the bouncers did their check of all places before they locked up, I was still collapsed over the toilet too high and nauseated to move. They escorted me out of the bar and one of the bouncers drove me the 5 minutes home, where Devon showed up about an hour later, cheerfully asking where I’d been all night and telling me what a “stellar” night he’d had. I was furious but I couldn’t express myself clearly because he didn’t believe anything was wrong. I knew we were not on the same page and I wondered if we ever could be?
I’d soon get my answer when we went to New York together June of 2008 for my best friend’s wedding. But more on that tomorrow.