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Molly Wizenberg Is an Open Book

The James Beard award–winning author has always been fearless confiding secrets with her audience. Her latest revelation is no different.

By Jessica Voelker April 18, 2017 Published in the May 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Molly Wizenberg photographed at her Crown Hill home on March 23, 2017.

Image: Sarah Flotard

She was the twentysomething with the tangerine bangs, sipping Lillet in a brick-walled bar. She was the heady romantic, springboarding into a personal and professional partnership with musician-turned-pizzaiolo Brandon Pettit. Then, in 2010, Molly Wizenberg was the one to put it all in a book, the journey from grieving daughter to an essayist whose words can wring out your aorta, make you LOL on the light rail, or leave you hankering for something rustic and fruit filled. A second book explored building a small restaurant empire with Pettit—the two share Delancey and Essex; Pettit also owns Dino’s. Finally, late last year, on her James Beard award–winning blog, Orangette, a new revelation tumbled out: “I found that my sexual orientation had changed. I wasn’t straight anymore.” Now in her late 30s, with a young daughter and a pizzeria to run, the scribe grapples with the internal shift, and subsequent divorce, that has upended her much-envied life. —Jessica Voelker

Everybody has to learn how to become a team with another person, even when you’re madly in love. Brandon and I have gone to therapy since very early in our marriage, because we started opening restaurants together right away. 

We were both so frazzled that, for the first six months after we opened Delancey, we just let the invoices pile up in the basement of the apartment where we lived.

We had to be many things to each other, not just spouses.

I didn’t date in high school. I wasn’t good at sports. I wasn’t popular. It was very important to me that I was known as a “writer.”

There is an impulse to put blogs down. And there’s a part of me that felt sheepish, like: Oh, my James Beard award was for a blog. But I’ve always felt like if I was doing work that I would want to consume—cooking or writing—there should be people out there who feel the same way.

My first book was about my father’s death and I remember feeling this relief to have a place to put those memories so I could get them out of my head, but also it was a safe place where I knew I wouldn’t lose them.

So many people came into my life because of my writing. I mean, Brandon—he was a reader of my blog.

I was very afraid of doctors as a kid. I never wanted to be a mom. Even looking at a medical textbook, like the colored pencil drawing of a baby coming out? I was always like: “No way.” The surprising discovery is that I could do it. That I could have this harmonious relationship with this little person who I made.

Delancey has been open for seven and a half years now, and I’m finally feeling like I’m not a total newbie at it. 

Boy, I never expected that I would be divorced with a young child.

I was always attracted to men. And then one day, I developed this crush on a woman that felt absolutely crippling. I struggle with how to explain it, even to myself. 

There was a time when my husband and I were still living together and both dating other people—and we went and spoke to people in our community, to let them know. It was so uncomfortable to think people would see us and think that we were being less than forthright. That was more painful, in many ways, than the announcement that we were ending our marriage.

I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but we all go through difficult things that we might feel ashamed of. If we all talked about it, we might suffer less. 

I don’t have a word for what I think I am, or what I experienced with this shift in my sexual orientation. I do think it is all much more fluid than I could have understood intellectually. 

I’m looking forward to a whole other life, and the beautiful part of it is that I get to bring along my best friend, who I used to be married to, and our daughter. I’m looking forward to that feeling less new, and more normal. It’s way easier to be angry, but putting our child first helps us remember to be kind.

The other day I made a cake and this roasted butternut squash with a chickpea salad for a teacher appreciation thing at my daughter’s school. I am not a good school mom. I don’t know the other moms’ names. But this was my way that I could contribute. I made these things. They are beautiful. I can just hand them off, and they will go out into the world and do good.

I think we all learn things about ourselves at the time when we are supposed to learn them.

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