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Chapter 1: Rick

This is the story of how I turned my daughter against her mother. She loved her mother and she really wasn’t that bad a mother. Better than mine in some ways. But it was still easy. Like stealing candy from a baby. Actually, like stealing a baby from her mother. All I needed was the desire, the guts, and a Misery Checklist.

I did it because I wanted to. I decided that Mandy would be better off with me rather than “Crazy Hannah.” Besides Hannah pissed me off and I wanted to punish her. Just that simple. You know the t-shirts that say “shares well with others”? You will never find that shirt on me. Ever. Could be 30 degrees below zero. At night. In a blizzard. On a raft. In the middle of the ocean. Icy wind howling. Still would not wear that shirt. Unless I was playing the role of The Generous Guy Who Would Give You the Shirt Off His Back. But then I would be giving you that shirt. Still would not be wearing it myself. Point is, after my divorce from Hannah, which came after my divorce from Kathy and before my divorce from Pru, I just did not feel like sharing my daughter with anyone, especially not Hannah, her mother. I wanted to be The Recently Divorced Dad Who is Heroically Involved In His Child’s Life, and for that I needed a child. Enter Mandy.

This is the story of how I stole my daughter from her mother. And I have no regrets. About any of it. Just not my style. I know people who lie in bed late at night thinking about all of the things they’ve done wrong, all the ways they have hurt the people they love, all of the things they regret. Like a guy I once knew who said his head was filled with so many thoughts about the people he lost along the way, the roads not taken, the friends who slipped away, the chances passed by, that he felt that his head would burst open and all of his unfulfilled hopes and dreams would explode into the night like feathers shot from a cannon, all while his wife slept peacefully by his side. Well, that has never happened to me. I sleep like a baby. Without fail. I lay my head on my Brookstone deluxe memory foam pillow, snuggle into my 800-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets without any troubling thoughts to keep me awake. The role of The Man Who Sleeps Like a Baby is mine. Every night.

Oh sure, things do not always work out the way I want them to. The world is filled with too many idiots for that to happen. But regret? Not for me. The only thing that keeps me up at night is the tasty thought of revenge. If some fool annoyed me during the day, at night I imagine my payback. If someone cut me off while driving I usually race ahead and cut them off as close as I can get, hoping to scare the shit out of them. That comes naturally to me. I have done that too many times to count. I think of it as my way of making the roads safer by teaching careless drivers to be more considerate (no need for thanks, folks, happy to help). Besides, no way some jerk is going to get past me on the road and not pay for it. But at night I imagine not only flying past the driver, but I am also giving him the finger and cutting him off so close that his car spins out of control as he looks at me slack jawed, stupified. He is the I Can’t Believe I Almost Had a Car Accident guy. If someone doesn’t hold the elevator door for me at work, I usually gave him a cold hard look. If we both get into the elevator I stand just a little too close, letting my presence speak for me. It says, “I don’t like what you did and you better watch it, Asshole.” But at night I imagine accidentally bumping into him or stepping on his foot. “So sorry.” These are the pleasant scenes that flit across my mind as I drift off to my dreamless slumber.

Dreams are for chumps, people worried about their little failures and petty fears. I am afraid of nothing. I don’t just not sweat the small stuff. I don’t sweat any stuff. I. don’t. sweat. That is because I am satisfied with every aspect of my life and, therefore, my mind doesn’t bother me at night. I haven’t had a dream since I was a little boy and I don’t intend to have one now. I am the master of my days, and I sleep well at night.

I have always been this confident. I have always known that I am just a little bit smarter than everyone else. Even as a young boy I could see that my older brother was dim. I couldn’t imagine why my parents doted on him. I assumed that they felt sorry for him. He wasn’t particularly good looking. He had no special talents that I could discern. To me he resembled one of my plastic dinosaurs lined up (by size, color, and type) on my window sill. And not the mighty T-Rex, mind you, but some lumbering idiot dinosaur with a giant body and a brain the size of a pea. No wonder they went extinct!

Eyeing my brother I could see that he didn’t have all that much on the ball. He did all right in school but he was a simpleton at heart. For starters, he trusted me. He thought of me as his sweet baby brother. He actually thought it was his job to look out for me! Sometimes I would string him along, just for fun. The role of The Baby Brother Who Looked Up Adoringly To His Older Brother was in my pocket! But really I was studying him, trying to figure out how I could trip him up without getting into trouble.

I remember once he got a new GI Joe doll for his birthday, which happened to be the day before my birthday. Every god damn year. Anyway, one year he got that toy. He loved that stupid toy. I couldn’t stand how happy he was just to sit on the living room rug imagining Joe in various situations. Now if that toy had been mine, we would have some epic adventures, me and Joe; but my brother lacked the imagination to develop the kind of juicy plots that Joe deserved, so he just pretended Joe saved people. Basically, he was Superman without the cape and the alter ego. How lame was that! A bunch of people trapped in a bus about to go off a cliff? Super GI Joe to the rescue! A runaway train about to crash into a mountain? Super GI Joe will save the day! What’s the point of being an army guy with all that cool army gear if you have super powers! It just didn’t make sense. It burned me up to no end and it got so that I couldn’t stand the sight of him playing. Sometimes he concentrated so hard that a little line of spittle would hang from the corner of his mouth. It fascinated me to watch the droplets catch flecks of sun coming in from the window. I would sit there and imagine flicking that drool right off his face. I could practically see the drops being flung across the room in slow motion as my brother howled in surprise.

But I had to be careful because my parents actually thought I was a Good Boy and I didn’t want to burst their bubble. It felt good when they fawned over me and I didn’t want to give that up, at least not until I was ready. I was their “baby” and I played the part for as long as I could. But I was starting to formulate my Misery Checklist, little things I could do to annoy or hurt my brother. I could already see the pointless search that would ensue for Joe when he went MIA. All part of my payback plan. And no one would suspect me because I was The Baby.

Playing a part was something I learned early on that I was good at. In school I couldn’t really read that fast. Actually I couldn’t really read. Since no one noticed or cared enough to teach me, I just faked it. I made it all the way through high school barely cracking a book. I could pass any teacher’s test if I listened in class and took a lot of notes. I got extra credit for participating. I had no trouble speaking in class, even if I had little or no knowledge on the subject upon which I was expounding. I realized that if I spoke with conviction, as if I knew what I was talking about, most teachers would bend over backwards to make sense of what I was saying, even if it was total nonsense. They would give me the benefit of the doubt and some even thought they couldn’t follow my reasoning because my comprehension of the material exceeded theirs. Maybe I was that smart, who knows. Maybe I was An Advanced Learner. Most teachers were so grateful to have a student who liked to talk in class that they gave me good grades even though I wasn’t learning anything. I dressed neatly, I stayed out of trouble. I was a Good Boy and that was all that anyone needed to know.

When I was 13 years old my father died of a heart attack. I woke up one day to find the universe slapping me in the face and letting me know just how little I mattered, telling me: You, little boy, you mean nothing to me. I learned my lesson. I would have to make myself matter in this world; no one was going to do that for me. I loved my dad and was truly sorry to see him go, especially because my mother was a total mess after that. I didn’t realize just how hard she was hit until she tumbled into her bed the day after the funeral, curling into a tight ball. And that’s where she stayed, The Devastated Widow. I tried to squeeze next to her on the bed but there was no room. Her back was facing me, an insurmountable mountain of flesh and grief. She was turned toward the wall, clutching my father’s jacket, sucking up every last drop of his scent. She stayed there for the rest of my childhood. Oh sure, she eventually got up and found a job and pretended to be alive, but as a world class faker, I could tell that she was dead inside, phoning her performance in. Her heart just wasn’t in it anymore. That well was dry. Too bad for me if I was thirsty.

I missed my father but found ample compensation in assuming the role of The Good Boy Who Tragically Lost His Beloved Father and Bravely Soldiered On. I practiced at night in front of the mirror how to get a wistful faraway look on my face as I pretended to be recalling fond memories of my father, casting my eyes upward and to the left, then slowly shifting them down into a look of resignation, blushing slightly, to convey, “Ah well, that is all in the past now and I will proudly cling to those memories for they are all that I have left of my beloved father.” I could muster that fond remembering soldiering on bravely face pretty much on command. That face helped me get a girlfriend, improve a failing grade on more than one math test, and routinely got me out of my chores when I simply did not feel like washing another fucking dish. Let them pile up in the sink for all I care. Eventually someone else will do them. Or not. Just. Don’t. Care.

Of course, there were plenty of times when I confused myself and thought that I might in fact be The Good Boy Soldiering on Despite his Father’s Tragic and Sudden Demise. Sometimes I wanted to be that boy instead of the boy pretending to be that boy. But I couldn’t sustain my innocence. It was just too much fun outsmarting other people. The Good Boy was really only interesting as a mask. Besides, I had bigger fish to fry. I had things to do, places to go, people to see.

One of the people I had to see was my girlfriend Kathy. I was in 12th grade and she was my ticket out of that town that wasn’t big enough to hold me and my mother’s grief. Just not big enough. Kathy was my means to an end. An end to my mother’s dark house, an end to my brother’s mediocrity, an end to all that I couldn’t stand about my life.

And for a while Kathy served her purpose. She had a good run. And then at 22 I was the Surprised to Find Himself Divorced So Young Guy. I didn’t plan on playing that role but there was just no way around it. Kathy was a liar and a thief and I couldn’t stand the sight of her. I decided to play the role of the Former Husband Who Will Always Have Your Best Interests at Heart because my family expected that of me. I didn’t really give a shit about our furniture and let her have whatever she wanted, but there was no way she was going to get our apartment. I had worked too damned hard to finally be living in the borough of my choice. If I wanted, I could actually walk to Times Square and stand in front of the theaters that I planned to one day star in. With just the right combination of subtle manipulation and implied threat (the Rick combo special) Kathy moved out and I was a free man. I could walk around in my underwear and fart whenever I wanted and never have to listen to her whine about me not loving her. Over that shit. I had no furniture and a lousy day job but I was living in Manhattan. I felt like a million bucks.


My one successful experience in high school was, not surprisingly, drama class. I ate that shit up and Ginny, the teacher, adored me. I got the juiciest parts in the school plays being the only guy one who could act, sing, and move (I wouldn’t call what I did dancing per se but I knew how to fake it). Even at that age, I was a triple threat! Drama class saved my life. Got me out of the house, got me up on a stage.

Of course I was delighted to be invited back to my alma mater to speak to Ginny’s class. I would be a guest teacher for the day, telling them about my acting craft and my plans for breaking into show business. I can inspire them. I will be That Guy They Once Met Who Made It Big. It would give me a chance to visit my mother, clean out her gutters, and let her fawn on me, her favorite son (her nickname for me was her little light bulb since I lit up her day). Should be a good weekend all the way around.

I was crafting my notes to “Ginny’s Kids” when the train pulled out of Penn Station. Polishing my words, I wasn’t really paying attention when some drippy girl flopped down next to me. I could sense her watching me, though. I could feel her reading what I was writing, her eyes tracking my hand as it moved along the paper. I liked being watched, it gave me the feeling that what I was doing was important. This chick was into me!

Chapter 2: Hannah

My divorce from hell began with a marriage from hell which began on a train to Providence. I was living in New York City for the winter term of college when students were expected to live and work off campus in order to gain “Important Life Experiences.” During the day I interned at a Park Avenue preschool and at night I was a live-in babysitter. I was taking care of rich people’s children when I was little more than a child myself. I lacked confidence, money, and life experience. I was a scrawny girl with crazy hair decades before that was considered chic. I was an insecure oddball, an ugly duckling, uncomfortable in my own skin. Most of the time I felt invisible, a carry over from my childhood.

There was just too much going on in my family when I was growing up for anyone to really notice me. My mother was schizophrenic, depressed, and anorexic, She was an artist, a poet, a danger to herself as well as everyone around her. Every time she went on vacation (my father’s euphemism for checking into a mental hospital) she came back a little more vague, a little less present. The noise and light of everyday life were too bright and too sharp for her. She demanded darkness and quiet, pulling the shades down, dimming the lights, and banishing my sister and me from the house until after dark.

As young as 7 and 8 my sister Carla and I were sent outside. My mother would stand at the window of her bedroom, a shadowy figure impatiently waving us off the property. If she could see us, we were too close. We usually showed up on the doorstep of one or another neighborhood friend whose parents were kind and welcomed us into their home and fed us several times a week. The first time my friend’s mother opened the pantry door to reveal a bountiful array of packaged food items, I stopped in my tracks, stunned. I had no idea that some parents actually kept food in the home, on hand, for their hungry offspring. Our pantry was bare. The refrigerator was used primarily as a condiment storage facility, warehousing several types of imported mustard but not much else.

When my sister and I were unavoidably in the house, my mother took to her bed. She burrowed under her covers, in the dark, with her arm flung across her face.

Occasionally I was summoned to the inner sanctum. On those days I would quietly enter the darkness, holding a steaming bowl of her favorite food cupped in my hands. I had the magic stuff in that bowl, the last remaining item on my mother’s dwindling menu: Gerber’s baby food, the cereal in the pale blue box sporting a contented baby boy on the front. I was less than eight years away from eating baby food myself and here I was serving it to my mother. I tip-toed to the bed, solemnly presenting the bowl to the reclining figure of my mother. She was rail thin and bone dry. Reaching over, I carefully spooned the warm mush into my mother’s parched mouth. She was a baby bird and I was her mommy. Eat up, I thought, so you can get strong and be my mother again.

When I was about eight my father took a look at me one day and noticed that my sagging shoulders, crooked smile, and wilted demeanor suggested a deficiency of self-worth, a condition he did not suffer from and had difficulty relating to. Nonetheless, he was worried about me, and deemed me in need of a boost. Hence the lecture about “the importance of liking oneself” followed by the assignment to read Sammy Davis Jr’s autobiography. Learning about how Sammy overcame racial prejudice and a freak eye injury was enjoyable enough, but I just couldn’t parlay the Candy Man’s confidence into a transformational experience for myself.

My father’s next idea was to have me stand in front of the mirror every morning enthusiastically affirming, “Yes I Can!” He also reminded me that if I didn’t feel better about myself I might end up like his younger brother, “Herbert, The Pathetic,” a nervous self-effacing man cursed with dandruff, a stutter, and a tic (nonetheless, I loved Herbert and felt badly that he was being held up as a negative role model).

The next attempt involved enrolling me in an acting class. Terrified, I begged my father not to make me go and promised to like myself more. But he was determined to fix this problem (by which he meant me) once and for all. On the way to the first class, my favorite song came on the radio, “Do you believe in magic” by the Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Always a fan of omens, my father pronounced that the acting class would cure my lack of confidence as long as I chose to believe that it would. “I will do better,” I urged myself, “I will like myself more” I promised.

Wishes aside, I just couldn’t pull that rabbit out of a hat. Lacking any of the requisite skills, enthusiasm, or talent, I was eventually allowed to drop out of the acting class. The collective sigh of relief from the teacher and the band of show offs and extroverts that made up my fellow students was audible as the auditorium door whooshed closed behind me on my last day. The sigh of parental disappointment was equally audible in the car ride home. There was no Lovin’ Spoonful song to inspire us on that trip. I guess I just hadn’t believed hard enough.

At a loss, my father set aside his Improving Hannah’s Self-Esteem project. Once or twice he asked me if I had said my morning “Yes I can!” recitation, but he barely registered my answer (I quietly said “yes” but my demeanor signaled “no”), and eventually he stopped asking all together. Me and my self-esteem were on our own.

My sister, Carla, fared better, being the recipient of the family’s anxiety upon her birth without a left hand. Whatever attention my parents had in stock was allocated to Carla, motivated by the fear that their disappointment and disgust would doom her to a tragic life as “the crippled lady with one hand.” They predictably overcompensated by showering her with false praise. Once when I was four and she was five, my parents applauded when Carla picked her nose and put the dislodged item in a tissue. This girl can do no wrong, I thought, even her snot is applause-worthy. I could have painted the Mona Lisa in boogers on my bedroom wall and my parents wouldn’t have batted an eye. Perhaps Carla needed the applause more than I did. At least I had another hand, on the other hand.

The steady dose of shameful pandering eventually went to her head. As a teenager, my sister was fierce. She woke up every morning ready to kick ass. She tore out of the house on school days striding the six short blocks to the junior high we both attended. She wore some crazy outfits in those days (vintage fur coat, miniskirts, hiking boots) but no one messed with her. They wouldn’t dare. I, on the other hand – the famous other hand – was perennially picked on by roaming gangs of girls who took my lunch money and pushed me around for the heck of it. One day they ventured onto the school premises and pointed a finger right at me. “Hey you. Yes, you, the skinny girl with the weird hair. We are going to kick your ass after school tomorrow.” I begged my sister to escort me to and from school, offering her the role of Hannah’s Protector. Surprisingly, she passed on that honor, choosing instead to leave for school without me, the front door defiantly banging behind her while I was still fretfully gathering my books, with a repeat performance at the end of the day.

Thenceforth, I took the bus the six humiliating blocks to and from school to avoid being beaten up. Each morning and afternoon I felt the stinging shame imagining what the driver and passengers thought as I got off only a few short blocks after paying my fare. At the end of the day I slunk into the house around the same time Carla charged through the front door, although we might as well have been on different time zones on distant planets. She took the steps upstairs two at a time and slammed her bedroom door. In my face. For a nanosecond, I considered knocking and asking her if she wanted to play with me but quickly tucked that delusion aside and went into my own room.


Marital discord and parental illness being a breeding ground for dreams of leaving home, instead of going to the local high school, my sister and I each went away, she to a real commune in Virginia and me to what I referred to as a commune but my sister pointedly called a “boarding school” in order to ensure that no one confused her enlightened choice with my decidedly less authentic copycat version. We had our respective experiences with sex, drugs, communal life, charismatic leaders, and high school education. We each set off for college after ugly and unnecessary battles with our father over money, our “Shitty Attitude,” and our overall lack of appreciation of him and respect for his latest pretty young thing.

My father drove me to Vermont on my first day of college. Eager to hit the road, he didn’t stick around for the ritual setting up the room (Where should the bulletin board go? Which bed should I choose?) He passed on parents’ orientation. Nor did he invite me for a farewell lunch where he would look at me fondly, wiping away a few tears of joy mixed with pride and nostalgia. Instead, he introduced himself to the first girl who happened to walk by my dorm room, turned on a moderate level of charm (which for him was still high wattage), appointed her my new best friend, and then jumped in his car and sped away. I stood in the driveway looking at the retreating car and blinked.

During my first year of college I took up with Mark, a depressed narcissistic self-sabotaging slacker who slept all day and asked me to type his term papers for him at night. If I had a steaming bowl of baby food I would have mistaken him for my mother.

Shamefully, I spent over a year with Mark. During the winter and summer I lived in New York as an au-pair but frequently stayed with him in his parent’s Upper East Side apartment. As soon as Mark had left for college his parents boxed up his childhood possessions and reappointed his bedroom as a “Library,” but they allowed us to stay on the pull-out sofa as long as we meticulously erased all traces of ourselves each morning. They were clearly more into themselves and their painted on designer jeans than they were into him. However, they treated me well. They fed me (something my parents had regularly failed to do), provided me with a safe place to stay (ditto), and were generally thankful that someone wanted to be with their depressed and neurotic son. I stuck around longer than I should have, partly because I enjoyed their attention. Besides, it didn’t really occur to me to want more. But even I had my limits and eventually the blush was off the rose. That flower was desiccated.

By the time I was 19 my parents had divorced, an event heralded in by my father with detailed and obviously self-serving missives about the state of the marital relationship. Dispatching with the marriage, he reacquainted himself with his earlier role as the eligible bachelor and began dating a woman my sister’s age. My mother, meanwhile, was psychologically unraveling and reassembling herself into a frightening and pitiful misfit with no identifiable place in society. Neither of my parents had the emotional space to think about where I was getting my next meal let alone what to do about my absent self-esteem.

So at 19 I took a train to visit Carla at her college, feeling my aloneness in the world. I brought a small weekend suitcase with me along with considerable emotional baggage: a life time of low self-esteem, a fragile and suffering mother, and a preoccupied and intermittently rejecting father. I had been planning on taking the 6:15 train but got to the station early enough to make the 5:30 if I hustled. With no particular need to make the early train, I ran through the station, frantic. Barely making the train, I entered out of breath, frazzled. I was almost too late to be early. Everyone else was already seated. I looked around, saw an open seat next to a reasonably attractive guy, and plopped myself down. I took out my book and started to read. Something he was doing captured my attention. I surreptitiously glanced his way. He had the air of someone engaged in Important Work. I could see that he was writing a letter to “Ginny’s kids” and assumed that he was their step-father and was writing a heartwarming and meaningful letter to them. I could practically hear him telling them how much he loved them and how important they were to him. What lucky step-kids I thought as I mentally crossed him off my list.

You see, the thing is that I wasn’t a very good reader of character. I assumed that he couldn’t possibly notice me, but he had. I assumed that if he looked like a nice guy he probably was one, even though he wasn’t. I assumed that if he was older he must be wiser, which was not the case. I assumed that if he was interested in me, I should count my lucky stars. But really, what do the stars know?

Chapter 3: Rick

Here I am once again with a girl who is crazy about me. Love that feeling! I am older, wiser, and have so much to teach her. Hannah. She is my diamond in the rough. My project. The problem with Kathy was that she thought she knew better than me. I don’t think she really cared what I thought. Maybe, I was her ticket out of small town USA and not the other way around. Isn’t that a gas? I thought I was using her but she was really using me. Too funny, when you think about it. Although, I hope she is miserable wherever she is and I plan to never cross paths with that bitch again. So there you go. Done with that. No way am I going to let thoughts of Kathy spoil this moment. It is just too delicious. For this girl, I am The Guy Who Will Give Her Life Meaning. She has never been with someone like me before, dating that spoiled rich-boy pseudo-intellectual weasel from college. What a punk.

Hannah cannot believe her lucky stars that she landed me and that’s the way I like it. I tell her that I want her to trust my love, to truly know that I am there for her, always and forever but I must admit I like to keep her just a little bit off balance so that she doesn’t really trust my love. That way she will be anxious to please me, just the way I like them. Once I whispered another girl’s name in her ear when we were in bed. That rattled her for a few days! I also make a point of flirting with other girls, ever so slightly and always in the context of some joke, so that Hannah cannot really fault me for my behavior. “I was just making a joke” I say, all innocent. If she persists, I put on my I Cannot Believe You Would Accuse Me of Such a Thing face, slightly wounded with a subtle undertone of threat. Instead of her being mad at me, I turn that baby around so that I am now mad at her. Faster than you can say fear of abandonment, she drops her anger and becomes all worried about whether I am disappointed in her. Again, that’s the way I like it. Eager to please is the name of that game.

Hannah and I have been seeing each other almost every weekend even though I am living in New York and she is in Vermont. I was taking the crappy bus to see her but really I couldn’t stomach her college friends, a bunch of spoiled rich kids sitting around talking about their stupid little philosophies of life and politics and how they wanted to make the world better and the problems with capitalism and blah blah blah. I could have just puked. Capitalism is only the best God damn economic system in the world! They don’t have any idea what it’s like to live in the real world. Not one of them. Wake the fuck up you spoiled babies!

Once I had to put them in their place. I just couldn’t stand to listen to them another moment. That was some awkward silence when I was done. We were sitting around in a dorm room listening to some pretentious jazz. I looked around and saw that these kids had everything handed to them, with their all-inclusive meal plans, high quality sound systems, and fluffy down comforters and all I saw was a bunch of kids pretending to be adults.

“Have you ever had a real job? Have you ever had to balance a checkbook? Have you ever had to make a hard decision in your pathetic little lives? Unless you have had your father drop dead when you were 13 and had to work after school just to have lunch money, I don’t want to hear about your stupid ideas about Marxist theory or any philosophical clap trap. That shit don’t fly in the real world, honey!”

Yes I got a little carried away. Yes, I let a little bit more of me slip out from behind the mask than I intended, but no way was I going to apologize. I don’t do apologies. After that, Hannah came to visit me instead of me taking the bus all the way up to see her. That was more to my liking anyway. I had a job. She only had her classes. Let her make the trip.

I am living in the world, something she knows nothing about. Nobody handed me a thing. My whole god damn life I had to work for whatever I had. And here I am living in New York City, working my way into “The Biz,” going to auditions, waiting for my big break. In the meantime, I am helping a buddy build sets for TV shows. Lucky I know my way around a tool belt. Real world skills, folks, that’s where it is at. Something those college kids know nothing about. They’ll see. One day they’ll find out for themselves what it means to be a grown up, although I don’t have high hopes for that bunch of whiney know-nothings.

Confession time. I hate to admit it but I have also been doing some roles in children’s theater. I know, I know, bottom of the rung. Nothing any self-respecting actor would want to do. It’s hard to say you are doing children’s theater and not feel just a bit embarrassed. Underpaid, no glory. But I have to pay the bills. It’s not like Hannah has been contributing to my household expenses while she is still in school. Her father has some money, but I don’t see the checks rolling in. He still looks like a great guy to me. I wonder if he is looking for a son. Marry Hannah, gain a father. I like it! Anyway, I auditioned for a part in a children’s show and got it, no surprise there.

The best thing about children’s theater, and really there is a lot to like about the set-up if you can get over the low status and hard work, is that I am away from home for several months at a time. Once Hannah moved in with me, I realized that my being on the road would allow me to maintain my allure of unavailability.


About me

I am a nationally recognized expert in parental alienation and the author of seven non-fiction books on the topic, including “Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome” (WW. Norton), “Coparenting with a Toxic Ex” (New Harbinger) and “Surviving Parental Alienation” (Rowman & Littlefield). I have appeared on radio and TV including Good Morning America, The Joy Behar Show, and CNN. I have published numerous academic articles. I blog for Psychology Today. I have a Ph.D. and a coaching practice.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Children can be manipulated to reject a beloved parent and when that happens they not only lose the parent but they lose themselves as well.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
I have been inspired by all of the parental alienation stories I have been told over the years through my research, expert witness work, and coaching.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
My website is My resume is on the website along with all of the books I have written and clips from my media interviews.

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