Justine Musk's divorce from her high-profile-CEO husband could be much uglier: There's a new younger woman, five kids and a big fight over money. But her blog, and even her blog comments, have been admirably graceful. Let's look:
When husband Elon, CEO of electric car maker Tesla Motors, invited ex-wife Justine to attend the birthday party of one of their five children, which his new girlfriend would also be attending, she did not flip out. In fact, when invited to a pre-party breakfast one-on-one with the new girlfriend OMG, the novelist agreed, and promptly issued a very interesting blog post about the experience. A blog post that confirmed her own maturity, her sarifices for her kids and her sense of perspective, all, somehow, without smearing the new woman. Classy! A taste:
We had breakfast. More than one friend pointed out that meeting her for a couple of stiff drinks might have been more appropriate, but carbs are good too. We had previously agreed to leave aside the uncomfortable topics. At one point I heard myself say, "I am so much happier now than I was this time last year" and realized this is true, there has been a reclaiming of time, friendships, interests, life in general. My sense of myself as person and mother is stronger now, and my writer-self, also going through some lessons, revelations and adjustments, is not far behind.
"It's kind of like a French movie," observed my friend Sam.
He had a point... So I said in an email to Talulah :
I would rather live out the French-movie version of events (the ex-wife and new fiancee become friends and various philosophies are pondered) than the American version (one is 'good' and one is psycho, there's a big catfight sequence and someone gets thrown off a balcony)—the latter of which seems vastly overrated.
She responded, Let's do as the French do.
Sophisticated—or at least sophisticated sounding, which is precisely the point here: While a bad breakup might leave you in constant emotional crisis, your blog or Facebook or Twitter or whatever does not need to reflect that. Through the time-honored practice of selective sharing and editing, you make yourself look better than you are instead of worse.
And sometimes you can make yourself look better by making yourself look worse. Justine Musk has a new post called simply "Golddigger," about her ongoing court battle with Musk over how to split the couple's assets post marriage. The effect of the title is magnified by the fact that it runs, on her blog, next to a picture of her face. It begins, "For those who want to know the extent of my golddigging..." This very much makes you want to read more.
It turns out the first sentence's sarcasm and self-deprecation are just a tease; what follows is a reasonable post laying bare what Musk asked for, financially, in her divorce. Money and breakups have to be two of the hardest things to talk about, at least for Americans, and here Musk is diving right in. It probably helps that she's Canadian, but it's basically impossible not to be disarmed as she lays her position bare right there in front of everyone, and even concedes she has no idea if she's justified in what she's asking for:
...this is what I asked for, from my ex-husband and the father of my five children Elon Musk, who is a billionaire and likely to become one of the wealthiest men on the planet.
alimony and child support
6 million cash
10 percent of his stock in Tesla
5 percent of his stock in SpaceX
(and he retains all voting rights)
and a Tesla Roadster (I really, really want one...)
Is that what I deserve? I don't know. Who exactly deserves that kind of wealth? But based on our life and history together, is that reasonable? I think so. And I want to do good things with it (and bring my parents down from Canada so that they can live near their grandchildren).
Justine Musk's position isn't just stated in a disarming and refreshingly open manner; it's stated with real PR savvy, too. She knows her financial demands are going to come out in court papers anyway, given the publicity around the trial. So why not get in front of the story and get the first chance to spin it?
The lessons here: Laying yourself bare isn't self-defeating or "oversharey" if it's done in a rational manner; being transparent can net you sympathy; and try to call yourself an awful name before your enemies do.
Also: Jump into the comments as thoughtfully and carefully as you write your posts. Here's a nice bit Musk wrote underneath one of the many supportive comments:
This is life and marriage, Ben, and although there are formulas involved it can't be cut and dried so easily. The court puts greater emphasis on the responsibility the more powerful partner owes toward the less powerful partner; Silicon Valley, in contrast, is very concerned about what that less powerful partner has "earned". I think you can arrive at a place between the two—you just need a point where one person's idea of 'fair' overlaps with the other person's idea of 'fair' and that hasn't happened with us.
Under a critical comment:
Then that happens to be our point of disagreement.
I respect and appreciate your viewpoint, but I'm also not going to dwell on this.
In one comment, Musk even concedes her David-Letterman-hobnobbing ex, entrepreneurial speaking, "has huge steel balls. He truly does." In both her blog posts and comments, Musk looks, above all, well grounded, level-headed, and generous. It helps that many of her readers will contrast Musk with the unfair stereotype of ex-wives as crazy and jealous; it also helps that she knows how to write. But above all her online writing about the Musk divorce has real dignity, and that's something anyone can imitate.