You Can’t Botox Your Ass is the relatable, raw, and true story of divorce for the modern-day woman; of facing fear, making the choice to be happy, and always remembering “it might be a bad day, but it’s not a bad life.”

From Chapter 4 "Clown" page 41

In early July 2012, when I saw Tim stride into Gray’s funeral wearing make-up in front of six hundred farmers and country folk, it was as if a light suddenly switched on. I saw all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. They jostled and moved their way into an image I could finally make sense of. An image that screamed at me: You’ve been married to a gay or bisexual man!

If it quacks like a duck, if it waddles like a duck, if it looks like a duck, and people tell you to your face they think it’s a duck, then it’s hardly going to be a chicken, is it? Even when the duck is secretly paddling in a pond with other ducks and is having some type of middle-aged duck identity crisis, all the while emphatically telling you it can’t be a duck because it’s a chicken... it really is a duck. Because we all know chickens don’t swim.

From Chapter 7 "DTF? WTF!" page 71/72

I persevered with online dating for two and a half years. My enthusiasm for meeting random strangers began to wane, and my focus shifted as time went on. There were, however, some truly funny and bizarre things that happened with the online interactions and dates I had over that time. Some of my experiences were funnier than fiction.

  1. I was offered money for sex several times. The thing I struggled to make sense of was how my perceived market value was rising with my age. I put that down to all the working out I was doing. My best offer was $600 for an hour of my time. I told one of my male friends about my potential career opportunities. Without hesitation, he offered to be my pimp. I declined all offers.
  2. I met five strangers for dinner one evening. We had been ‘matched’ through a dating agency. As a means of relieving nerves, we exchanged funny dating stories over dinner. I had been sitting chatting to James for a good twenty minutes before he launched into his story. ‘About a year ago, I emailed a very pretty woman. I asked her out on a date but she turned me down, saying she didn’t think we would have that much in common. She said she saw I was into motorsport and that wasn’t her thing. I messaged her a couple more times, telling her I wasn’t that much of a petrolhead. I really tried with her as she was gorgeous but nothing seemed to work – she kept brushing me off.’ James then swung his head around and looked straight at me and said, ‘And that was you, Emma.’ Oh my freaking God. I literally laughed so hard I wet my pants right there as I sat at the restaurant table. Clearly the Auckland dating scene was a goldfish pond, not an ocean. Was I going to have to move to a bigger pond?

From Chapter 13 "Liar, liar, pants on fire" page 108

Tim capitalised on the fact I was in court without the business valuations. He spewed lies and outrageous claims of how successful the companies were prior to his departure. According to Tim, I was living in apparent luxury in his absence.

‘Now Mrs Rivers, I see you have an expensive hobby,’ said Tim’s counsel.

She was a dishevelled train wreck masquerading as a barrister. Her hair was untidy, her clothes were too tight, with buttons straining across her voluminous breasts. Her handbag, shoes, and briefcase were all worn and well past their best. I noticed the look on Tim’s face when she arrived in the waiting room at court that morning. By his look of surprise and distaste when he shook her hand, I was sure it was their first meeting. He must have hired her from an out-of-date photo and a brief career biography from the Internet. All it took was a five-second Google search for me to work out Tim had been “catfished” by his own barrister. Oh, how I chuckled in silence.

Tim never did like a sloppy woman.

‘Excuse me? An expensive hobby? I’m not sure what you’re referring to,’ I replied.

‘Look. Here, on your bank statement. There’s a regular weekly payment of $17.95 from your personal bank account for a gym membership,’ the bitch said as she pointed her fat finger to the page and shoved it in my face.

She was close enough that I could have effortlessly leant forward and slapped her, hard. As I glared at her puffy, reddened, alcohol-infused face, I imagined the sting in my palm and the searing welts my fingers would have left on her cheek. In my mind, I heard her shriek in pain.

I took a deep breath. I centred myself, and said, ‘You seem to have overlooked the fact that, with almost no warning, my husband decided to move to another country without me. He abandoned us. I had next to no financial support from him and no assistance with childcare. I was not getting help with any jobs or tasks around the home. That’s a lot for anyone to contend with.’

I looked the slovenly bitch in the eye and, with an ample helping of sarcasm, said, ‘I would think $17.95 per week is a very small price to pay for my health and my ability to complete these tasks, now wouldn’t you agree, Leanne?’

It was disrespectful of me to have called an officer of the court by her first name. I did it on purpose. As far as I was concerned, she was a rodent and belonged in the sewer along with her client.

From Chapter 15 "The Player" page 113

I understood I needed to keep my focus on the future and not be drawn into the past. I was done with the past. Things didn’t work out with Cam when we were young, so why had I expected anything to be different this time around?

My poetry flowed as a river of my emotions. I was able to express how I felt through words, the euphoric highs and also the emptiness I felt with Cam’s departure.

I wrote of the uncertainty I felt for my future and the gaping hole he left in my heart. There were times when I felt his presence as though he was a lingering ghost.

Ghost of My Broken Heart

I sat today
Into the eyes of a stranger
As WE dined on delicacies
And fine wine

The earnest stranger
Implored with gusto
To my whims
HE was too eager
To appeal to MY vanity

The handsome stranger spoke
And yet
I saw YOUR piercing eyes
Your energy bore down on ME
Oh how my body ached for the fire of OUR chemistry;
Our all-consuming passion

As YOU slouched in the stranger’s chair
You mocked and tortured me in part
For allowing your company at HIS table

I am trying so hard
To dismiss YOUR absent charms
You have relinquished any right to be here

I must stay strong and vanquish YOU
Be gone
Ghost of MY broken heart

From Chapter 16 "The piss cup" page 123/124

I was nervous and excited as we waited for the competition to begin. I found it hard to believe I actually looked okay standing next to all the other beautiful young women. It was a little like being backstage at a Miss World contest. Not that I have ever been backstage at a Miss World contest, but hey...

At one point a prominent Kiwi sportsman and his friend wandered over towards me as I filled in time. The two men wanted to chat to me. Yes, to me. Of all the Miss World contestants they could have chatted to that morning, they chose me. They introduced themselves and one of them said, ‘Gee, Emma, your husband must be so proud of you.’ He assumed I was married.

My eyes immediately fell. I responded with a simple thank you as I struggled to fight back tears. I wanted to fall through a crack in the floor. If only I’d had a husband who cared. I felt very alone.

Much of the day was spent waiting around. I amused myself talking to the Bikini competitors. A delightful Irish woman told me all about the “piss cup” she had made. Twenty-six-year-old Aishling looked ravishing with her cascading auburn curls and her copper-coloured, crystal-encrusted bikini. Aishling was a full-time personal trainer.

I smiled from ear to ear as I saw the humour in the situation. Sitting next to me was a drop-dead gorgeous bombshell of a woman going over the finer details of how she had perfected the construction of the piss cup – a polystyrene cup with the bottom cut out. She described how she pressed the top to her girlie bits and pissed into it. That helped direct your piss straight down towards the bowl of the toilet. If you got a dribble on your fake tan, it was immediately ruined. The cup helped avoid such a tragedy. I thought the whole concept was a total hoot. Aishling made one for me while we waited backstage.

As midday approached, I heard the adjudicator call out Masters Bikini. Midday was our scheduled time to walk onstage. I happened to be on the toilet right at that very moment, having my tenth nervous wee with my piss cup. I panicked. I thought, Holy crap, don’t tell me I have just spent four months training my guts out, not eating cheese, muffins, pizza, wine, and anything with a hint of carb and fat decadence, to then miss my call to go out onstage?

I ran out of the toilet with my cup in hand. I couldn’t see a rubbish bin anywhere so, with no time to spare, I literally threw it into the middle of the women’s changing area. I didn’t stop to look. I had just sprayed my piss from one side of the room to the other, quite possibly over a few of the Miss World contestants. I ran to the stage and surprised myself with how quickly I could move in my four-inch stage heels.

From Chapter 22 "My father is dead" page 162

My sister telephoned me at 8 am on 10 November 2015. She told me our father had cooked himself some fried eggs for breakfast and placed them on the coffee table in front of the sofa where he liked to sit and watch sport on TV. He was mad about all sports, particularly golf and rugby.

As he sat down, my father had a massive heart attack. He fell. The impact of his head hitting the ground projected his false teeth a distance of three metres to the other side of the room. He was dead before his head hit the floor.

His fried eggs still sat on the table. I don’t know why the image of the eggs sitting there waiting for my father to return bothers me so much. But it does.

Get up, Dad. Eat your eggs, I silently shouted to him.

Four days after I discovered Tim had divorced me behind my back, my father suddenly died. I was numb with grief. Paralysed with shock.

From Chapter 24 "The Lawyer" page 174

A few months later Adam broke it to me that he had started seeing another woman. He almost looked defeated as he admitted he had chosen her over me for convenience. She was not “the one” and no comparison to me, he explained.

I was desperate to hide the hurt that threatened to well within my eyes. I took a deep breath, elegantly pushed my coffee cup aside and crossed my arms. I leant forward and gently placed both my elbows and arms on the table. With a wry smile I said, ‘Well, Adam, I know Christchurch. I’m a Cantabrian by birth, remember.’

Adam stared at me and nodded. I could tell he was wondering what was coming next.

‘Look, unless this chick’s an import, she’ll have an ass twice the size of mine and half my personality. Humpf. She doesn’t bother me at all,’ I said. I put my nose in the air and let out a barely audible snort.

He threw back his head and laughed as he said, ‘And with those words, gorgeous, that’s why you are so special.’

I was surprised he bought my lie. I was completely cut to pieces.

From Chapter 25 "What about love?" page 177/178

Loneliness had become my friend. Somehow I’d taken a ride on a carousel to an abyss called nowhere. I felt lost.

I had no idea how I was to move forward with a romantic relationship. How was I supposed to trust again? I lacked the confidence required to take a risk with my heart. I knew I would be unable to cope with another major emotional upset should I open my heart to a man and have it not work out. I realised I was resilient, but I was also well aware I was not entirely indestructible.

The worry of having a mental or physical breakdown clawed at my back and followed me as a shadow. I was powerless to escape my fear.

I felt trapped, in some type of warped relationship no man’s land. As a self-protection mechanism, I shut down my emotions. I refused to commit – to anyone, or anything. Having a man in my life seemed like another burden, another pressure putting demands on my time. I was torn; I came to fear the very thing I longed for – love.

From Chapter 30 "Chasing moonbeams" page 204

I met with two of the mothers outside of the arranged weekly meetings. We created a Facebook chat group and vented to each other in confidence about issues we could relate to.

Our network of three soon grew to five as yet two more of our friends found themselves deceived and discarded. While other separated women spoke of the “day their husbands left”, we referred to it as our “Liberation Day”.

With time, the focus of our bimonthly get-togethers shifted to chats about changing careers, buying and selling homes, sharing the joys of our growing children, dating escapades, and appreciation of our freedom and growing confidence. We laughed hysterically and celebrated our friendship.

Unofficially, we called ourselves the Parakai Ex Wives Club, or PEWC for short.

I suggested we should all be “co-leaders” of PEWC; however, the response I got was this: ‘Don’t be a dick, Emma. We’re not the bloody Green Party.’ It was unanimously decided that I was to be referred to as the “Esteemed Leader”. I put together a brief club constitution as follows:

  1. New PEWC members must be nominated by existing members. New PEWC members are to be approved by all members. No skanks or homewreckers will be allowed to infiltrate our ranks.
  2. Each new PEWC member to be issued with a PEWC initialled wine glass. The “Esteemed Leader” makes these with love and nail polish so please don’t put them in the dishwasher. PEWC wine glasses to be brought to all meetings.
  3. Support to all members, day and night, no questions asked. Offers of assistance with childcare, gifts, food parcels, paying bills, or whatever, to be accepted, with no expectation of reciprocity.
  4. Naming and shaming at meetings to be encouraged. Get it off your chest, as that’s what we’re here for. Crying is fine. We’ve all been there.
  5. Interjections, re-enactments, photos, videos, and activities are all acceptable at meetings. As are male strippers, as they’re always a nice distraction.
  6. No taking the moral high ground on anything, and no judgy bullshit, ’cos deep down we’re all capable of anything when they take our kids, our money, our careers, and they fuck around on us.
  7. Membership to PEWC is for life, even if you pair up. Good luck with that. LOL.
  8. There will never be any membership fees. Only love and friendship given freely.
  9. PEWC meetings to be attended strictly by members only. Unless you invite a friend to boost numbers – for sex toy parties, for instance.
  10. Always remember they did us a favour by setting us free. And no matter how bad it feels, it’s only a bad day, not a bad life. We have our children and wonderful friends to guide us through.

From Chapter 34 "The lingering white room" page 224

Providing me with the best representation and pursuing the most favourable outcome for me was not the firm’s primary focus. My emails and phone calls were often ignored. My affidavits were filed late. Despite judges’ orders requesting discovery of Tim and his partner’s personal financial information, these important documents were not provided. My repeated reminders to my lawyers to follow up and demand the missing information were ignored.

Why didn’t my legal team go hard up against Tim’s initial claim that the businesses were worth $745,000? Why didn’t they force him to prove his claim at the beginning? If he had been forced to prove it, I believe considerable economies in time and cost would have been seen. It was obvious securing a resolution with efficiency was not the primary goal of the law firm.

The conversation in the 2015 British television crime drama Broadchurch (Season 2, Episode 8) between two barristers at the completion of a courtroom tussle, sums it up: “I don’t see the nobility in this job. I see a loaded, lopsided game, full of people justifying their cynicism as a higher calling. It’s street fighting in wigs, that’s all.”

From Chapter 36 "Psithurism" page 231

Psithurism (n.) the sound of the wind in the trees and rustling leaves.

Sometime in 2015, I made a promise to myself: If I was able to survive Tim’s legal attack and emerge with a thread of my financial shirt on my back and my sanity intact, I would allow myself to travel somewhere exotic, to take time out to reflect, to recharge, and to breathe. I had nowhere specific in mind at first. Just somewhere far away from my everyday life. A place where I was unreachable. Somewhere to find peace and tranquillity with the sights, sounds, feels, and smells of nature.

In late May 2017, I stood on the porch of a little log cabin in the woods of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and I held on to the wooden rail in front of my body with both hands. All I could hear was the low, humming rustle of a light breeze through the tall pines that enveloped me. I inhaled the crisp, mountain air and felt tears gently roll down my cheeks. I heard myself quietly say, ‘Thank You, Lord, for bringing me to this place. Thank You for giving me the strength and courage to fight. Words will never truly convey how grateful I am to be here in this place.’

From Chapter 36 "Psithurism" page 232

I could have been consumed by bitterness and anger. I could have been swallowed by the enormity of day-to-day struggles. It would have been easy to have given in to the pressures that swirled all around me. But life happens, shit happens – to us all. Why should I have been spared?

Despite my past, or perhaps because of it, I have chosen acceptance and love over anger.

I discovered the true test of my humanity was not held within the cards I was dealt. My story became less about how others had treated me and more about how I responded in return. That was my lesson.