Divorces. Separations. Breakups. Ignominious endings. They happen to the best of us, and they’re often messy, confusing and searingly painful.
There’s no shortage of self-help books for people mired in the throes of a breakup — and yeah, sure, they’re helpful. But Kevin Cotter, the guy who gave the world the website MyExWifesWeddingDress.com, refined the formula, combining his raw emotion with comedy and joining the ranks of bloggers-turned-authors with his new book, “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress,” out next week.
“I think it turned out really good — even better than I had imagined it,” said Cotter, 38, of Tucson, Ariz. “I honestly still can’t believe any of this happened.”
Cotter was an unassuming box salesman and outdoors enthusiast when his wife of 12 years left him over Fourth of July weekend in 2009. They had been together since high school — more than half his lifetime — and they had two children together. He found himself single for the first time in his adult life, and he was devastated. (He has since recovered, even remarrying last June.)
When she walked away, Cotter’s ex-wife left her wedding dress behind in its preservation box and told him to do whatever he wanted with it. The keepsake box seemed to jeer at him from a shelf in his bedroom closet — until the day Cotter and his family members started to brainstorm. What could he actually do with that wedding dress?
Many things, it turns out. Many, many things.
For instance, it didn’t take too long for Cotter and his supportive brother Colin to figure out that a wedding dress could make a great tug-of-war toy for a dog, and a great grill cover, and a great yoga mat. Wedding dress fabric also serves as an excellent coffee filter, and wedding dress tulle works well as a pasta strainer.
TODAY.com caught up with Cotter a few months after his divorce, when he started posting photos of his wedding-dress exploits at MyExWifesWeddingDress.com. His blog transformed him into an Internet celebrity in the span of three weeks, and his ex-wife wasn’t exactly pleased.
Once launched, though, Cotter’s blog kept resonating with people because it was so mischievously fun. Letters of support flooded in from around the world, and Cotter kept on dreaming up crazy dress uses with his brother because the process was so hysterical — and so therapeutic.
“My brother said that it wasn’t until we started working together photographing the dress that he heard my real laugh return,” Cotter writes in his new book. “People have asked me if what I have done with the wedding dress has been cathartic. The answer to that is yes.”
Practical uses for a dress
The whole time Cotter worked away on his zany wedding-dress project, he kept hoping that it might have potential as a book. He envisioned a coffee table photo book, but that’s not exactly how “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress” turned out. Instead, it’s a paperback that’s chock full of hundreds of color photos alongside Cotter’s reflections on life, marriage, kids, weddings, work, camping, fishing, soccer, humor, and, above all, moving on.
Deeply poignant at times, the book discusses with brutal honesty the dark aspects of adjusting to life alone. A few confessions from its pages: “I never had trouble sleeping before my ex-wife walked out, but suddenly I began to suffer from terrible insomnia, especially on those evenings when I was home alone. ... I found myself longing for those days when my house sounded like a home. ... The silence left me replaying the events of the last few years and wondering how everything I knew had simply fallen apart.”
But as quickly as the book sucker-punches readers with an emotional revelation about the realities of divorce, it swoops in with a wildly comedic revelation about the practical side of wedding-dress ownership.
For instance, did you realize that a wedding dress could be more useful to you than a Swiss Army knife if you were stranded in the woods or hiding out in a nuclear fallout shelter? (The book spells out why.) And did you know that a wedding dress can be employed as a handy juice strainer when making a delicious prickly pear margarita? (The book uses photos to demonstrate how.) And don’t even get Cotter started on his aversion to houseflies. (Unfortunately, a silky white wedding dress doesn’t make the best flyswatter.)
Clawing his way out of a bad place
To date, Cotter and his brother have published a total of 120 crazy uses for the wedding dress, including 40 never-before-seen uses they concocted just for the book. New and nutty wedding-dress innovations such as drag-race parachute, snow camouflage, art canvas, sumo mawashi, punching bag and MC Hammer pants are highlights.
“I think my brother and I did some of our best work late” in the project, Cotter said.
Today Cotter has moved on from his divorce in more ways than one. He and his ex-wife still see each other often because they share custody of their kids, who are now ages 9 and 11.
“We get along fine,” Cotter said. “The wedding dress hasn’t been a topic of conversation for a long time.
“I’m sure she’s very aware that the book is on its way, but it I don’t know that she’s preordered her copy, or that she’s going to ask me to sign it.”
And Cotter has married again, to a woman he met on Match.com. His new wife, Ashley Nowe, 28, had a young son when they met, and Cotter is loving his new life in his bustling, blended family.
After dating for a year and a half, they planned their wedding in just nine days and threw it in their backyard. “She said earlier in our relationship that if it worked out and one day we were to be married, it would have to be a beach wedding and she would wear a thong bikini,” Cotter said. “She said she would not risk leaving me with any amount of material for a sequel.
“But in the end, she was brave. She wore a dress.”
Kevin Cotter’s new book, “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress” ($14, New American Library), is set to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 25. To preorder a copy, visit MyExWifesWeddingDress.com.