When couples go through a divorce, someone takes the china, and someone takes the dog. Well, Tucsonan Kevin Cotter got the wedding dress. Cotter started using the dress as everything from a jump rope to a coffee filter—and even a yoga mat. He started cataloging those uses on a website he launched in May 2010. Penguin recently published 101 Uses for My Ex-Wife's Wedding Dress as a book. For more on the dress, visit myexwifesweddingdress.com.
Were you surprised by reaction to the website?
Mostly, what surprised me was that the majority of the messages encouraging me were from women who liked what I'd done. I didn't expect anything, and didn't know people would take an interest. I figured I'd get hate mail from women and "attaboy" from guys. ... Also, I got a lot of a radio requests ... from other parts of the world, and television within weeks.
How did you end up with the dress?
The day she moved the bulk of her stuff, she left the dress and emptied out our closet of all of her stuff. I regret I never took a picture of it sitting there in a big, fancy keepsake box by itself, dead-center on the shelf. ... I told her, "You are not leaving that thing here." She said, "I'm not taking it." I couldn't believe it. I said, "What do you expect me to do with it?" That was a rough day. I don't get too worked up about much. I wasn't going to chase her down the driveway with the dress.
How did you get the idea for 101 uses?
It came up when I was at my parents' house with my mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law that night. I asked them, "What do you guys think I should do with it?" I wasn't being serious. My brother immediately spoke up: "Wipe your ass with it. Make a pretty nice doormat. You might be able to come up with 101 uses for it."
Did your ex-wife know about it in the beginning?
We talk. We have kids, and we share custody evenly. ... We get along fine, and she knows about the website. Just days after I started it— when traffic was starting to pick up—she wasn't excited about how much attention it was getting, but she knew.
What about the kids?
In beginning, it was a little confusing. At the time, they were 6 and 8. I think the humor—someone using a wedding dress as a jump rope—registers more with an adult. I explained to them, "I don't dislike Mom. The reason I am doing this isn't because I am trying to get back at her." People make their own assumptions on why I am doing it and think I am bitter and angry, but that's not the case.
But was it cathartic?
It ended up being an excuse to hang out with my brother more than we would have otherwise, and he is my best buddy. He lives down the road from me, and we work together. He took all the pictures. Because it required all of us to hang out and laugh, no doubt this was a distraction, and the laughter was a big help to me.
Are you in a new relationship?
I share that in the book. I introduce my (new) wife. That's the very last pages of the last chapter. I met Ashley about five months after my ex-wife moved out, and we got married in June.
Did she know about the website when you first met?
I was worried after we started hanging out and really hit it off. I wasn't looking to settle down as quickly as I did, but I met her, and we got along well. ... When I started falling for her, we had taken the bulk of the pictures. ... She thought it was funny. She sees the humor in it, and she also knows where it was coming from—that I (wasn't) hung up on my ex-wife, and also the absurdity of these big, fancy, expensive wedding dresses.
Do you ever wish you did it differently?
There are things I would do differently, but honestly, if I was doing it all over again, I would have waited a little bit longer before I started the website. The one big mistake I made, because I didn't have any experience with blogs, was that ... we didn't restrict comments. Some comments were downright awful. ... Once I was aware (of the comments), we immediately changed it, and all comments are now moderated.