Dear Open Letter Writer,
It seems like every time I turn around, I'm reading another open letter to the new love interest of your ex husband. These letters usually open with how much you hated his new girlfriend at first. She was a lot younger than you, and her name was Skyler or Sasha or something hot like that. She even drove a cool car, like a Saab or a Volkswagon Golf. The worst part about it, though, was how she was snake-charming your kids with all of her whimsical style and mad arts and crafts skills. Who knew yoga instructors had so much downtime? It was enough to get your chakras way out of alignment.
But, then your letter goes on to explain how the new girlfriend was impossible to dislike. Just like some 1990s rom-com staring Julia Roberts, her unassuming nature, hapless style and unlimited supply of pixie dust cast a spell on you! You could see why your kids loved her! She was just so adorable and friendly -- even to you!
She was also gorgeous, which originally made you want to punch her in her beautiful face and mess up her perky little nose and perfectly straight teeth. Luckily, the fact that she's a little on the clumsy side made her good looks somehow easier to take. (See? Even her negatives are positives!)
But, what sealed the deal for you was the way she always knew exactly when to be there for your kids, and when to step aside and let you assume your rightful place as mama bear. Like the time the mean girl snubbed your daughter, Callie, in the school cafeteria while she was on her dad's watch. Callie told her dad's new girlfriend about it after school. Then, after comforting her with a cup of herbal tea and a quick foot rub, the girlfriend called you to fill you in. She even suggested that you come pick up Callie and take her to dinner! She knew that sometimes a girl just needs her mom, and not a flaky flower child -- oops! I mean, sometimes a girl just needs her mom and no one else will do (no matter how well she can crochet with hemp yarn)!
Many folks take these "It Takes a Village" letters at face value. To them, the letters seem to say, "Gosh darn it! You've won me over, new girlfriend! I didn't want to like you, but I just can't help myself! You pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me evolve, and I'm a better person because of it. Now I see that we're all on this magical journey together!"
People eat this sh*t up. They forward these letters around faster than videos of adorable kittens getting into sticky situations.
Call me cynical, but I see something else going on here. Where others see acceptance and humility, I see ego and insecurity. In short, I see these open letters as an attempt to mark territory and pull rank. If you want to tell your ex's new girlfriend how much you've come to like and appreciate her, by all means, do that. You can say it in a face-to-face conversation. You can say it in a phone call. You can say it in an email. You can say it in a text message. You can say it in an old-fashioned letter. You can say it with flowers. You can even say it by simply treating her well.
But when you say it with an open letter, it stops being about how awesome the girlfriend is, and instead becomes about how superior you are. It's an opportunity for you to trumpet to everyone how you've done this super hard thing -- you've put your ego to the side, and you've fully accepted your ex's new girlfriend and her role in your kids' lives.
Except that you haven't. Because when you say this in an open letter, what you're really doing is announcing to the world that you are in a position of authority over the new girlfriend, and you're giving her permission -- permission to be awesome, permission to be loved by your kids and permission to be in their lives -- and yours.
And that is the real point of your open letter. It's an announcement that no matter how great the new girlfriend is, you're the queen bee, and that means you're even greater. And with that declaration, you take dominion over all of the awesomeness involved -- both yours and hers.
Here's the deal. You are not the boss here. Your ex's new girlfriend doesn't need your seal of approval. And your proclamations reveal both your insecurity and your continued fixation on your ex and his love life.
My advice? Think less about your ex and his new girlfriend. Get a hobby -- and I mean something other than writing open letters to your ex's new girlfriend. If you really and truly end up liking your ex's new girlfriend, that's fantastic. And if you feel compelled to tell her, that's fine, too. Just remember to examine your motives and your method to ensure that both what you say and how you say it come across as genuinely being about her and not about you.