I typically begin a session of a memoir writing workshop with a check-in round, where we tell each other how our writing’s been going since last we met. When it’s the first session of a new series, there can be a lot of catching up to do.
This week a new series began, and one of the participants informed us that there had been a tragic death in her extended family. She was suffering not just the pain of that loss, but additional pain because it had come to light that the young man had been living a double life.
I hear more double life stories in workshops than you might expect. This time, I asked the class of nine, “how many other people here have experienced a double life story in your family?” Four hands went up.
If this informal survey is representative, something like 44% of us are touched by this particularly complex form of human behavior. (Even Charles Lindbergh did it.) It poses problems for the memoirist. What is appropriate to tell? And whose story is it, anyway?
Case in point. Some years back, my husband’s favorite uncle died. He was a Catholic priest. As the man’s funeral was about to begin, three strangers were led to the pew in the front–three blondes, all in black; a mother and her daughters–seated in front of the rest of us. After the funeral service concluded, the senior priest led us to a back room for introductions and the revelation of one hell of a double life story.
I can’t tell you more, because it’s not my story to tell. It’s just something that happened to my husband, causing him considerable grief as he figured out he was not the top-ranked favorite child he thought he was.
Have you been touched by a double life? Have you written about it?