Last week I reviewed Alisa Valdes’ memoir The Feminist and the Cowboy in which she instructed us that the path to true love, good sex, and happiness lies in submission—specifically submission to a rugged, macho, drop-dead gorgeous cowboy. Many of us skeptical, desiccated feminist types suspected that submission would mostly just lead to being submissive and that the long-term result would be something less than happiness. In my review, I even suggested that some of Valdes’ behavior while dating the cowboy reminded me of how people behaved in cults. She convinced herself that it was OK that he cheated on her and lied about it, for example, and she believed him when he told her that the way she was raising her son was a "bunch of bullshit."
Turns out it was worse than we thought. In September Valdes wrote on her blog that she and the cowboy—“the hot powerful cattleman” whose name is Steve, she finally reveals, and includes a photo—had broken up. Actually, he broke up with her with some elegant cowboy poetry: “Stop. It’s over. This isn’t your home. It will never be your home. I don’t want you. Goodbye, Alisa.” She writes:
For 95 percent of the time, our relationship was amazing, the best I’ve ever had. Steve was easily my best friend, and the biggest personal influence on me other than my parents in shaping how I came to think of myself in the world. But that other 5 percent was…painful, controlling, emotionally abusive, crazymaking, chaos. I have learned just how fine the line is between being an alpha male and being something else altogether. I’m piecing it all together now, and hope to come up with a sequel to the memoir, sort of a “part two” to the fairy tale that is the first book.
Uh, wait, what? Part 2? If you are asking the reading public to dip in again, you have to earn our trust the first time. And yet here you are, publicizing a book that is encouraging women to submit themselves to a romantic formula whose end sum is “painful, controlling, emotionally abusive, crazymaking.” How emotionally abusive? This week Valdes did what she does best, which is reveal the gory details. Her post has since been taken down, but Noah Berlatsky captured some of it at the Atlantic:
As in many relationships, the cowboy's escalation from controlling assholery to actual physical violence was triggered when Valdes accidentally became pregnant. When she said she wanted to have the child, the cowboy walked out on her. She lost the baby through a miscarriage, and foolishly went back to him...and then the violence escalated. Mostly he stuck to verbal abuse, with occasional physical threats, but there is at least one incident which she doesn't call rape, but which sure sounds like something close to it. Finally, Valdes realized that "this man did not love me. He could not love anyone," and she left him for good—though, obviously, something of the terror remains. She notes that writing the post puts her "in danger—real physical danger."
I imagine Valdes took the post down because her publisher made her. Not really good for sales if it turns out that the message of your love story is setting people up for something close to rape. Believe me, I understand what it’s like to put your heart and soul into a book, particularly if it’s a memoir where you bare the worst of yourself. But as the cowboy would say, Alisa: Stop. It’s over.