Jennifer Tress is a brilliant storyteller and now, an accomplished author. She’s the writer and life-liver of You’re Not Pretty Enough, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Tisdale: So the book is really good.
Tress: Thank you!
It is and you did a great job.
She wrote something nice on the book, and what I like about these kinds of books about sadness and happiness and one’s real life is…I always read these books and it’s really fun to treat everyone’s mothers as characters. I never think these people really exist. I didn’t really do a lot of chitty chatting with my mom growing up so I’m like: This happens? Look at all this fucking talk. And this woman is very funny.
Ha ha ha ha yes, she thinks she is so periphery in this book and I don’t think she is.
She is a person who could go on tour with you.
I know! That’s how I feel too. She could come on the book tour and people would just mistake us as lesbians.
Okay, not to get too far off the rails here but that just reminded me of a story. I was in Pittsfield, MA once with my best friend Anna Lotto and we were at a club called Club 34, also known as Club Dirty Whore. There were homeless people in this club. We were approached by a guy who asked us if we were lesbians and when we said no he turned to his friend and said: You owe me 5 bucks dude. Did he bet them that we were?
Ha ha ha ha ha
One thing I really love about this book is the photos. I love the fact that you or your mom held onto so much.
Especially the sex papers, my mom is just like: You owe me so much for keeping those sex papers (papers Jennifer drew at the tender age of 4 after her first sex talk).
Now before we delve deeper into this, do you want to explain to our intrepid BYT readers what You’re Not Pretty Enough is?
It’s a collection of humorous essays that I told chronologically so you can see a real character arc there. I think of them as universal stories with a twist. Everyone had that crush on a celebrity (in Jenn’s case it was Jon Bon Jovi)…
People have had shitty relationships but before I actually divorced from my ex-husband, because he cheated on me; the “other woman” and I met up and confronted him together and then sort of formed a bond where she sort of got me through the breakup of my marriage.
I’m always of the mind that it is mostly the cheater’s fault versus the “other person,” because they are the one who is doing the cheating…even if that other person knows they are married or in a relationship. It’s almost like alcoholism in that they (the cheater) are the alcoholic and this other woman is the alcohol and it certainly isn’t the alcohol’s fault that they can’t stop falling off the fucking wagon.
Ha ha ha ha…absolutely.
As someone who doesn’t have a lot of self-esteem, still to this day; I’m always struck by people’s reactions and how they carry themselves during the demise of a relationship. I am that person who won’t stop calling…I try to beat you down until something happens, either good or bad. You tried to fix your marriage, but not in a sad way…you tried in a dutiful way.
I think that’s a really well-put statement: In a dutiful way.
You owed something to marriage to at least try and it didn’t work but in the interim you were still like: I’m not going to talk to this person. How do people do that? How do they not speak? I know he wronged you and that’s different but you still wanted answers. How did you not do that?
I think it’s self-preservation. If I talk about it I’m going to to have to think about it and if I think about it I’m going to have to deal with it and I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I think that’s where it comes from. If you read the book that’s ultimately…I could have potentially forgiven cheating if we at least talked about it.
He never actually fessed up until you…
Until I was literally in his face in his kitchen.
While he was eating chicken. The man was eating chicken and he’ll never eat it again. He hasn’t eaten it again since that day. Fuck chicken. He’s off chicken.
Chicken is a big thing to lose.
It is everywhere. It is omnipresent. And just so everyone knows, the book is called You’re Not Pretty Enough because…
I was up late one night waiting for him and I asked him why he was doing this to me, why he was treating me this way and he just sort of without a thought said: Sometimes I think you’re just not pretty enough for me, Jennifer. It was such a truthful moment for him and I was like: Oh shit, that’s how you feel.
In the beginning of your relationship you wrote letters to each other in which he would refer to you as beautiful. Was that just erased the moment he said this one very shitty thing?
No, I think I had changed in the sense I was less independent. I was maybe less assertive. When someone is treating me poorly I rebel. I was constantly in his face. I was smoking in the house and going out to bars, carousing. He didn’t really like me.
The majority of the beginning of your relationship was spent long distance so it’s almost like when you take a vacation. You think to yourself: Man, Orlando’s the best place I could live here and you’re like…No I can’t because if I did live here I’d have to work and also it’s Florida. Then you’re in each other’s space and you realize the other person does things like farts. They are a human being.
Ha ha ha ha….exactly. Speaking of which, I am now married to a man, and we’ve been married for 10 years…I’ve never heard him fart.
That is so weird to me. I overly fart. It’s like I’m trying to make everyone be okay with it. This is a good segue into my favorite, favorite part of this book….I’ll set it up: You and your ex-husband are on the couch….I’m leading you into this like I’m Barbara Walters.
Ha ha ha ha, so the context of this is this other woman and I, we confronted him and he of course absolutely freaked out and had to admit everything. It was a horrible moment. He had to pack a bag and leave and I spent the night at a girlfriend’s. I came back in the morning and I thought he had left but he hadn’t so he surprised me. I tried to run away from him but he threw me on the couch and was sobbing into my chest. It was such an emotional moment we started making out and in the midst of all this weirdness I literally shit my pants. It was literally my body telling me to get the fuck out of that moment.
Ha ha ha ha ha, it’s just so good. Here’s what I am dying to know, do you and your ex-husband still talk? Or, even better…what does he think about the book?
We have not spoken in the last 7 or 8 years or so, but he would email me every once in a while. He emailed me when he had his kids for example. Every once in a while he would run into my dad and would tell him to tell me to stop by the house and I was always like: Why would I ever do that? We don’t have any weird tension between us. I am sure he is a bit freaked out right now. I have not heard from him. He knows all about what’s going on because his family members are friends with me on Facebook and they know all about this big movement. They are actually huge fans.
You mentioned the movement so we should mention that You’re Not Pretty Enough also is, it’s not just a book or a terrible insult born from your ex-husband’s mouth.
When I started telling stories around DC and later in New York I told the You’re Not Pretty Enough Story (Jennifer Tress is a fabulous Storyteller) I felt this was the most interesting part of the story. In 2010 when I decided to put a web presence out there I decided to use that, almost as a private joke between friends. I realized it was making an impact because thousands of people were searching for variations of that phrase. It really bothered me. And so because all these people were finding my site by using that I was sort of compelled. What’s out there? What does the Internet deliver to you when you ask that question? It wasn’t really that great. And so I thought maybe I could do something different and make it sort of great. I had the It Gets Better project as my model. I wanted people to tell their stories. I wanted it to be video-based. I wanted it to be a space that was really about acknowledging that. I came up with what I feel is an amazing, honest, open content that is there now for that future Googler to explore this in a way that lets people know they are not alone in this feeling and there is a way out of it.
So let’s jump ahead to today, do you want to tell the BYT world what your current relationship status is?
I am happily married to a great guy. He’s a doll.
So there’s hope for all of us?
Yes, that’s what I keep telling people. I got an email recently from a junior at a university saying they felt like I was a beacon of hope for them because they felt like they’ve made so many shitty decisions in life and me laying a lot of my shitty decisions out on the table makes them feel like their past doesn’t define them.
I want to thank you for chatting with me and I want to thank you for this book.
You are welcome!
Then I took the conversation off the record and told Tress a lot of real personal shit. Her book is available on Amazon right now. Get it if you like to feel empowered and good about yourself. Get it if you, like me, love a good shittin’ your pants story. All personal photos can be found in the book plus many more gems (hint: big hair!).