And so it came to pass that my parents were in the same room…

Erika and parentsFor many of you, this isn’t a headline of any earth-shattering import.

But for me, it was a milestone achievement — as it hadn’t happened for me for seventeen years.

I grew up in Houston, Texas (drawl and all, y’all) and on the first day of fifth grade, my parents told us that they were getting a divorce. And as it goes, some breakups are bad. That’s the category my parents’ divorce fell into. We’ll skip the years between then (1983) and 1995. But in 1995, my father gave me away as I walked down the aisle (towards a marriage that would end up much like theirs in short order). But my parents — in the same room for an event of mine for the first time since I graduated high school in 1991.

And that was it. If you’re a child of divorced parents who no longer speak, you know what it’s like to divide your life. Edit your conversations. Be one thing for one person and another for the other. It was the one part of my life that remained divided — until March 11, 2012.

When I got the news that this book would officially launch at SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) in Austin, I thought — hey, Mom’s in Houston. Dad’s in Georgetown (about an hour outside Austin). What are the odds they’ll both show up?

Well, they did.

And nothing broke. Exploded. Collided. Spontaneously combusted. Except my heart — because I realized that seeing them in the same place is something that meant the world to me, and I’d been missing it in a world divided for the past 17 years.

My parents? They broke up an unlikable marriage with a decision most unpopular back in the early 1980s (divorce). They each went on to build themselves into brands, if you will, that are loved. By their kids, a spouse, friends, and family. They each had a hand in building three kids who turned out to each live lives they respectively love.

And if you never ever read this damn book, maybe you’ll simply get that unlikable situations can lead to unpopular decisions…which in turn lead to inexplicable joy 17 years later. So this whole unpopular thing? Not so bad. And it goes to show that unlikable and unpopular aren’t the same thing at all.

The most important thing about March 11, 2012 at 10AM wasn’t the incredible people I got to meet at the book launch (even though you’re all awesome and incredibly humbled you passed on free breakfast tacos next door in order to see ME).

book launch 2 power of unpopular SXSW

It wasn’t that there were a shitload of people waiting in line to have me — some random redhead — sign their book.

book launch power of unpopular SXSW

It’s the picture you see at the top of this post — the emotional investment in my brand made possible by these two people. My parents.

6 comments
John Heaney
John Heaney

Erika, I love your storytelling. You have an innate talent for revealing just enough of your personal life and the formative events in your life to make us care about you and want to read more. Like this post... grew up in Houston (me, too), divorced parents (me, too), divided family (me, too) and the moment of reconciliation - or at least an uneasy truce - in support of their child (me, too, though mine centered around my kidney transplant). I hope your parents can extend that single day of support into a lifetime of rapprochement and joint embrace of family milestones and events. It made a world of difference in my life and everyone benefitted from the parental involvement and the elimination of stress surrounding holidays and birthdays. After all, how much effort does it take just to be civil? Best of luck with the book. You deserve the best.

Erica Stone
Erica Stone

I've been divorced...twice. That's a hell of a feat for a 32 year old. Unpopular? HELL YES I GET THAT. How fantastic is that photo!!  And how proud do they look of you? So damn awesome. Congratulations. xo

The Redhead
The Redhead

*Raises hand* I'm also twice-divorced (was by age 30) and hear you loud and clear. Perhaps not a hindrance to any of my success, but it's my path (and I'm sure you can relate). Still, it didn't keep them from smiling, did it? Nope. And thank you -- congratulate my audience, though. Folks like you are the reason I get to stick around...and that's my first thought every morning. :)

Jacek Nawrat
Jacek Nawrat

How in the name of science do you girls do that? I haven't even been married once, let alone divorced ;) BTW, congratulations on the book release and the circumstances surrounding it :) 

Kellie J. Walker
Kellie J. Walker

Having come from a family divided by divorce very early in my life (2 or 3), I very much relate to what you didn't say as much as what you did say, Erika. I was in my 20's before I ever saw my parents in the same room together... and they (gasp!) spoke... civilly. Remembering what it meant to me to see that at an event that wasn't even for me, I can imagine what it meant to you to have both of your parents there for you SXSWi. Makes me wish I could reach out and give you a great big bear hug. A virtual one will have to suffice.  Hug!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks, Kellie -- it made me proud to see them both there, knowing that they were proud of me. Reinforces that what I'm doing every day, this unpopular path...it's right. And different for everyone.