Much has happened to Gabrielle Reece since her 1997 bestseller Big Girl in the Middle. Shes still gorgeous, still 63, and a dominant force on and off the beach, but in the last fifteen years, shes settled down with world-class surfer Laird Hamilton and raised three stunning blonde girls. Her life might seem like a fairy tale from afar, but four years after her picture-perfect Hawaiian marriage to Laird, Gabrielle filed for divorce. In the end, the couple worked it out, but My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper tells the unvarnished and often hilarious tale of the turbulent ups and downs that beset every wife and mothereven the women like Gabrielle who seem to have it all. Reece writes with wicked humor and down-to-earth wit about how she handles the sometimes mind-numbing details of domestic life, and she turns the notion that women can have it all on its head. As Gabby dismantles the notion of happily ever after, she gives readers plenty of concrete takeaways about how to deal. She underscores the notion that you have to make yourself happy before you can make anyone else happy. My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper is an irresistible, hilarious, and helpful portrait of the humor, grace, and humility it really takes to stay sane given the challenges of being a modern wife and mother.
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Gabrielle Reece is a former women’s beach volleyball star, television host, fashion model, fitness expert, and author of Big Girl in the Middle. She was named one of the 20 Most Influential Women in Sports” by Women’s Sports and Fitness, and one of the top five most beautiful women in the world by Elle. Gabby recently appeared as a trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. She is married to professional surfer Laird Hamilton. They have three daughters.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
My Foot is too Big for the Glass Slipper 1 SO YOU’VE GOT THE GUY ON THE BIG WHITE HORSE
My happily ever after began on November 30, 1997. On that day I married my prince in the middle of the gently winding Hanalei River, on the north shore of the garden island of Kaua’i. Ever resourceful, my prince lashed together a pair of canoes and affixed a platform on top of them, then decorated it with purple orchids, tuberose, and plumeria. During the only sun break of the day, we exchanged vows.
My prince was bare-chested and wore a pareo, a wrap-around skirt traditional for men of the Pacific Islands. He looked even more studly than usual. I wore a white Calvin Klein bikini beneath a sheer white Donna Karan dress. I might as well just confirm what you’re already thinking: I looked completely fabulous. (What you don’t know, of course, is that I was a hot mess only an hour before, madly doing laundry and scrubbing the bathroom for our out-of-town visitors.)
After the ceremony, we repaired with our dozen guests, close friends all, to Hanalei Bay, where we had a champagne picnic. It was the perfect ending to the fairy-tale courtship that had begun two years ago that very day.
Naturally, four years later I filed for divorce.
• • •
My childhood was rough enough to knock the belief in happily ever after clean out of my heart. My parents split when I was too young to remember; then, when I was five, my dad died in a plane crash. I’ve always been one of those hard-headed chicks who believe that we’re all responsible for our own happiness. Still, when I married Laird I was confident I’d found my soul mate. Who could be more perfect for me than a guy who was my height—six feet three—and was even more intense and focused than I was?
Laird and I met in 1995 while I was shooting a TV show called The Extremists. Like pretty much everything else these days, you can find it online. I was twenty-five and wore an oversized white T-shirt. My hair—are those bangs?—is whipping around in the wind. The sky behind me is angry with bruise-colored clouds.
“Today I’m hangin’ with an extremist who catches some serious waves,” I say. “His name is Laird Hamilton and he lives for the big swell.”
I ask him whether he considers this to be a big swell day, and even though it looks as if a hurricane is about to roll in at any second, he says no. Laird looked exactly the same way he looks right this minute: tan and focused. You can see us falling in love right there on camera. Ten days later we moved in together.
We didn’t even make it to our fifth anniversary before our sexy fairy tale turned into one of those unwatchable Swedish domestic dramas that makes the audience want to throw themselves off the nearest bridge. We were so simpatico in so many ways, but stupidly we’d counted on this fact to remain immutable and provide an unshakable foundation for our relationship. Our love was and is complex. We were lovers, friends, and partners. We weren’t simply hot for each other, or companionable good friends, or a couple who had been together so long marriage was the obvious next step. We had it all covered; then, without knowing how it happened, we’d become two really tall near-strangers stomping around the house, fuming, slamming doors, and glaring at each other over our green smoothies.
How clueless was I about marriage, about living under the same roof with another human being with—surprise!—his own personality and his own life? Those who know my husband call him the Weatherman. I don’t put a lot of stock in astrology, but he is one of the world’s primo watermen and a Pisces—known for their deep sensitivity and mutable moods. It took being married to him to learn that he was more emotional than I’d ever imagined, and moody. Life with Laird: it’s windy, no wait, it’s raining, wait, wait, now it’s sunny. It hardly mattered what put him in a mood (if you guessed it usually had to do with there being no surfable waves that day, you’d be right), because like the temperamental weather in Kaua’i where he grew up, it would all blow over in a few hours.
The problem was not the moods—that’s who the guy is—but me. I took every slammed cupboard door personally. I thought, if he loved me, he’d be happy most of the time. I’m not the Weatherman, it’s never windy/rainy/sunny with me. It’s San Diego with me, 75 degrees all year long. I’m constant and true, but I hang on to shit. His mood, the one that would make me feel unloved, would be long gone, but I’d still be feeling the sting of it, the injustice. I’d still be experiencing his mood, long after he was out of it.
But I would never say anything, which became the problem that compounded the problem, a layer cake of misery. It’s never one thing that tanks the economy or ruins a marriage. I didn’t communicate, didn’t tell him when he was being a jackass, didn’t tell him how hurt my feelings were. I thought that when you love somebody you don’t make a fuss. As a professional athlete, one of the first things I’d learned was to suck it up, and that’s what I thought you did when the person with whom you were in a relationship was an ass. You sucked it up.
My friends would come over, and if Laird was in a mood, I would warn them to tread lightly. I would fret when the surf report was bad. My mantra was don’t rock the boat. But after three years of tiptoeing around the Weatherman and his mercurial moods, I thought: peace out, I can’t do this anymore. I was curbing my personality for his sake. I was becoming bitter and resentful. And if there’s one thing that trashes a love story, it’s resentment.
To make matters more challenging still, when Laird and I got together, my career was, well, bigger, grander, whatever you want to call it, than his. I was captaining a team on the professional beach volleyball circuit, scoring glossy magazine covers with the matching big feature stories, hosting The Extremists. I’d just signed a contract to write a book, and I was set to make my film debut. I had a sponsorship with Nike, and I was the first female athlete to have her own shoe. By all the markers by which people measure quote unquote success, I had them and Laird didn’t.
This made me ridiculously uncomfortable. If there’s one person on earth who truly does not give a shit about fame and worldly success, it’s my husband. Don’t get me wrong. The dude is bursting with ambition, but it’s the ambition to have the most fun surfing the biggest, best wave for as long as he possibly can, the ambition to keep the sport of surfing exciting and relevant into the future. Even to this day, we’ll be watching some news show and I’ll say check out this guy, he’s Prince Fabulous, he’s got this, that, and the other: a great gig, an innovative idea, money for nothing, and chicks for free. Laird is unmoved. He’s got a clarity about what’s important, always has. He’s only interested in how people are in the world, what they do, how they act. He’s never swept up in the hoopla.
Still, during the few first years we were together, Neptune, King of the Sea, spent many days and weeks traveling with me on the beach volleyball circuit. Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, New York. You’d be amazed where you can build a beach. He did it because he loved me, and because with Laird there is no halfway. He was in, even when it meant being called Mr. Reece.
The whole scene was awkward. Even though I was a bigger deal celebritywise, and even though my success dominated the relationship, his personality dominated mine. This may come as a surprise to those people who may recall that I held the WBVL’s record for most kills four years running, or that I was named the Offensive Player of the Year the summer before that fateful day on the north shore of Maui where I met and fell for Laird. We’ve never been one of those modern, hip couples where it’s been clear from the first kiss that he’ll be fine hanging at home supporting her career by doing the laundry and planning the meals and she’ll be out in the world hammering it down and supporting the family.
By Christmas of 2000 I was done. The marriage had broken down, and I didn’t feel like fixing it. Part of me had withdrawn. I thought: Who needs this shit? When I was young my motto was “nothing and no one is above my own survival,” and after four years my marriage to Laird was threatening my sense of myself. I was downplaying my independence, my sense of humor, my competence, my celebrity (such as it was) in order to be with him. Every day I was consciously trying to make everything about me smaller to minimize the friction in our relationship.
So I filed for divorce.
For a while, Laird tried to talk me out of it, but then he let me go.
Then as now, we spent half the year in California, and half the year in Hawaii. When I called it quits Laird was in Kaua’i and I was in Malibu. He packed up every last thing of mine in the Hawaii house and stuck it in storage. You can imagine what a good time this was for him—he who plunges into one of his moods if he can’t get out of the house and into the ocean by 7:30 a.m.—spending days shoving the T-shirts, panties, and notebooks of the chick he still wanted into cardboard cartons, taping them shut, lugging them out to the car.
I attempted to “move on”—one of those phrases that we all use...
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