Relationship Recall: Real-Life Alex From ‘OITNB’ Says Piper Wasn’t Her Girlfriend

As a writer, I’m pretty much given the license to portray my life however I want. More importantly, I can write about my past relationships in any way I feel is cathartic or entertaining, because take that exes! Don’t mess with a girl and her laptop. However, what happens when a writer’s ex speaks up? What if they state that what was written isn’t true? If you inhaled Orange is the New Black in a consecutive 13-hour block last summer like I did, then you have a pretty good understanding of Piper and Alex’s relationship; in fact, you probably are totally shipping them because they’re such an awesome and destructive couple. Regardless, it’s been almost a year since the first season’s release, so let’s briefly go over the major details. In the show, Alex is Piper’s first girlfriend. After falling for her, Piper (reluctantly at first) becomes involved in Alex’s drug ring antics, but then ends up calling off the relationship. Years later, grown-up and established Piper is sentenced to prison because someone gave the feds information about the drug ring. Piper goes to prison, leaving her fiancée Larry at home to watch Mad Men by himself for awhile. In prison, Piper is reunited with Alex, and even though Piper suspects Alex is the one who gave up her name, she still ends up hooking up with her. I didn’t read the memoir that the show is based on, but from what I can tell, Jenji Kohan fictionalized some of the plot lines, and veered away from some of the book’s truths. However, Catherine Cleary Wolters, the real-life Alex Vause, claims that not only did she and Piper never have sex in prison, but the two weren’t even really in a relationship.



Wolters claims that she and Piper Kerman (Piper Chapman in the show) were only in the same prison for five weeks, and that she and Piper were more like friends with benefits. They definitely weren’t the adorable, adventuresome couple seen on screen. In fact, the two didn’t even become sexually (or romantically) involved until after both had trafficked drugs run by a Nigerian drug kingpin.

In response to all this, Piper states, “I think anyone would understand that my relationship with her was, and is, complicated. What I wrote about us in my book is true. If Cleary believes we were never girlfriends, that is startling news to me, though it’s certainly not the first time she has surprised me.”

This kind of mix-up happens all the time after a relationship has ended. One party may fondly remember their partner as their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” whereas the other may not. In fact, the way we remember our exes tends to change over time. I absolutely hated my high-school boyfriend right after he broke up with me. I was devastated. I thought I could never love again, and I listened to angry girl rock like Garbage for like, seven months straight. A couple years later, I decided that the whole experience was ultimately good for me. I got getting broken up with out of the way, like the chicken pox or something. I realized I shouldn’t even have been upset, since I only dated the guy for like four months anyway. Now, I never really think about it, except when I need material for my writing. It was just a glitch in my life which is now filled with all kinds of experiences with guys, both positive and negative, but I’m definitely not upset about it anymore; I don’t even consider it an important part of my life at all. Isn’t it crazy how we go from one extreme to another?

I mean, maybe I’m just really cynical and own a lead-based heart. Maybe I shouldn’t be so flippant about a relationship, even if that relationship was super, super brief and happened when I was sixteen. But I’m not sure if we can help the way our perspectives evolve over time. Like real-life Alex, I’m able to look back at something and call it for what it was.

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  • Starla Trotter

    In the book, Ms. Kerman (the real life Chapman) does not describe her relationship with Nora Jansen (the real life Alex) as anything even close to what happens in the series. But this happens with book to film adaptations all the time. Everything gets sensationalized – no surprise there. They may both look back upon the “relationship” differently, as far as what they would each label it, but I didn’t read anything in the book that described their real life association much different from what Ms. Jansen is now saying.

  • Jenny Bradley

    No matter how hurt I am at the time of the breakup, and subsequent months to years afterwards, at some point I am usually able to look back at my relationships with rose-colored lenses! I mean, yes, my friends tell me I have the worst taste in dudes, but they’re not bad guys. The qualities I liked in them remains intact, the feelings for each other just don’t. Also though, I’ve never had to deal with infidelity or drug rings, so lucky me!

    I don’t feel like I always have to remain friends with them, but it is such a relief when the bitterness finally fades!

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Agreed! Perma-bitter is never a good thing.

  • Beth Sutinis

    Or she’s lying. It’s odd that the author doesn’t consider that the real “Alex” isn’t telling the truth. While I agree that some relationships are remembered differently, Wolters is denying basic details. It seems unlikely that one of them is misremembering whether they had sex in prison.

  • Shelby E. Moore

    I remember my first relationship. I was fourteen and was kind of weird and I was dating a senior at the time who was also weird. We made out and braided each other’s hair and I broke up with him after nine months because I didn’t love him and he wasn’t going to go to college.

  • Shannon Joy Blaylock

    I am completely in love with the idea that you shared: “I am a writer and I have a creative license to say whatever I want.” That is the best way to describe a writer. :)

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Haha. It does have consequences sometimes!

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