thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: marriage

routes

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117528/monogamy-outdated-and-unattainable-ideal

Last week researchers at the University of New Mexico warned that girls rely too much on romantic relationships for their self-identity. The study found that girls are at greater risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts the more their relationships diverged from their ideal. There was no evidence that such romantic disappointments affect boys, who were shown to gain their self worth from sport or other achievements.

For these girls, Cameron Diaz is a good role-model. It is a great shame that these American teenagers are fortunate enough to live in an era where their future no longer relies on meeting a prince, yet they fail to utilize this. Perhaps they should be enlightened to the fact that just fifty years ago in some states of their country, women couldn’t take out a loan or a mortgage without the signature of a husband. Perhaps they should be reminded that in the 1970s a woman could be sacked simply for losing her looks and no one would bat an eyelid. It’s no good having all these victories in the battle for emancipation of women if we still send out a message that finding Mr. Right is the only route to utopia.

investments

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0199916586/?tag=saloncom08-20

In Marriage Markets, June Carbone and Naomi Cahn examine how macroeconomic forces are transforming our most intimate and important spheres, and how working class and lower income families have paid the highest price. Just like health, education, and seemingly every other advantage in life, a stable two-parent home has become a luxury that only the well-off can afford. The best educated and most prosperous have the most stable families, while working class families have seen the greatest increase in relationship instability.

Why is this so? The book provides the answer: greater economic inequality has profoundly changed marriage markets, the way men and women match up when they search for a life partner. It has produced a larger group of high-income men than women; written off the men at the bottom because of chronic unemployment, incarceration, and substance abuse; and left a larger group of women with a smaller group of comparable men in the middle. The failure to see marriage as a market affected by supply and demand has obscured any meaningful analysis of the way that societal changes influence culture. Only policies that redress the balance between men and women through greater access to education, stable employment, and opportunities for social mobility can produce a culture that encourages commitment and investment in family life.

vicious circles

http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2014/05/book-review-carbone-and-cahns-marriage-markets-how-inequality-is-remaking-the-american-family.html

Carbone and Cahn describe these developments in terms of the concept of “marriage markets.” Many scholars from all political and philosophical persuasions object to the very idea of treating intimate relationships as something that should ever be the product of calculation or exchange. Yet, most also agree that supply and demand affect “price.” Carbone and Cahn add that sex ratio imbalances produce virtuous and vicious cycles that influence expectations, alter behavior, and ultimately transform cultural practices. Sociologists Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord demonstrated in the eighties, in an influential book on sex ratios, Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question, that relationships are in fact the product of a market. If the men outnumbered the women in a given group, Guttentag and Secord argued, men competed among each other to land the “best” women. Women in turn tend to select for some mix of worldly success and good behavior, so an excess of men tends to produce “virtuous cycles” in which men compete to satisfy women by working hard, remaining faithful, and investing in their children. The fact that men outnumber women among high earners eager to pair with each other, Carbone and Cahn argue, provides an explanation for why the marriage rates at the top have remained relatively stable and why divorce rates remain relatively low.

What happens if women outnumber men? The men could seek out higher status women and the women might compete to satisfy the men in a similar fashion to what happens in a market where men outnumber women. It turns out that isn’t what happens: men and women don’t react in the same ways when they are outnumbered in a given marriage market. Instead, men prefer more relationships than committed unions with partners who might outshine them, and the women become jaded by the men’s behavior. In the face of persistent disappointment with male behavior, their standards for an acceptable husband increase and they, too, become more reluctant to marry or to commit to a long-term relationship. The result tends to be what some would term a “vicious circle,” that is, a cultural shift toward greater promiscuity, more gender distrust, greater investment in women’s income opportunities and less in men’s, and fewer stable long term relationships.

[…]

At the end, they note that America has not yet created the infrastructure for the post-industrial era that would make the relationship between home and family more seamless and that, in an era of inequality, American companies have built in greater instability in employment that also undermines family stability, damaging any efforts to rebuild the home-family bridges. They offer a deceptively simple solution to diverging family patterns: fix economic inequality. They also recommend fixing the pathways to adulthood with proposals ranging from better pregnancy support to early childhood education through college and employment.

the crew

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/24/millennials_are_just_this_screwed_the_next_generation_will_not_do_as_well_as_their_parents/

Reardon’s description matches up with what we have been describing throughout this book. The new upper-middle-class model has enormous payoffs for children—payoffs that re-create class identity. Upper-middle-class parents are more likely to raise children within two-parent families, and both mothers and fathers spend more time with their children than their parents did. These well-off parents, who spend substantial sums on cleaning crews and energy-efficient washers and dryers, devote increasing amounts of their own time and that of carefully selected high-quality nannies, preschool teachers, tutors, sports trainers, and camp counselors to creating activities that stimulate their children’s cognitive environment. Well-off families have remade the use of parental energies to invest ever more in children even with two parents in the workforce.

the over-insured

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/9553083/Slut-Selfish-Sad-No-just-a-single-woman.html

I know what you’re thinking: I’m going to die alone with cats. But this is a myopic and selfish vision. Selfish because it presumes that we should use a relationship as an insurance policy: commit your life as protection against the possibility that you’ll become lonely or dependent in later life. One survey last month claimed 51 per cent of us are over-insured. And that, I doubt, doesn’t include people staying in mediocre relationships just in case.

escapism

Wonderful analysis of Lolly Willowes here:

http://furrowedmiddlebrow.blogspot.com/2013/04/sylvia-townsend-warner-lolly-willowes.html

The novel became a surprise bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic when it was published in 1926 (it was the inaugural selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club). This might in part have been because there were so many unmarried women in the post-World War I years—“women living and growing old, as common as blackberries, and as unregarded”—who could relate to the character’s situation and savor her fantastic refusal of the role of demure, helpful, but largely invisible spinsterhood (a refusal, without doubt, that was—and still is—considerably harder to pull off in reality). In fact, another highly entertaining novel about a woman similarly resisting repressive social norms (though not by selling her soul), Rose Macaulay’s Crewe Train, appeared the same year.

[…]

When I returned to the novel a year or so later for a fourth (or was it fifth?) reading, I started imagining that a third possibility might exist (and this is where it may have gotten a little academic and egg-headed, but I still wonder about it, so I’ll share it here regardless). I started wondering if Warner was really doing something pretty postmodern—if she might be intentionally leaving the “reality” of the novel in doubt in order to focus instead on the whole idea of fantasy itself—of (in this case) a woman’s fantasy of escaping from a rigidly-controlled and ultimately male-dominated culture in which her only value could be as a wife and mother or as a permanent babysitter and domestic servant. Maybe she was questioning the politics of this escapism (Warner herself sympathized with Marxism and might well have been suggesting that fantasizing doesn’t make the world a better place)? Or maybe she was questioning if it was even possible to escape in any meaningful way from the culture we live in?

After all, whether Laura is dreaming comforting dreams or whether she really becomes a witch, it strikes me that the life Laura chooses for herself is really, when you think about it, only a sort of lonely, wide-open prison instead of a socially enforced, tightly constraining one. When her nephew Titus becomes engaged to be married, Laura thinks of the engagement as a business transaction, an engagement between the country estate Titus already owns and the woman he is about to own. She has no understanding of—or, perhaps more accurately, no trust in—romantic love—or, for that matter, much of any other kind of social interaction. Laura’s escape from society and social oppression has been a (surely somewhat bittersweet) escape from any meaningful human interaction whatsoever!

assumptions

http://candormagazine.tumblr.com/post/211502843/woman-writer-writer-mother-a-conversation-between

RZ: I was a writer and teacher before I was a mother but so much of my mental and physical energy is spent in my role of mother. Am I more a mother than a writer now? I’m not sure. I don’t think I can really separate them enough to measure them against each other.

It is interesting that despite our many similarities, we don’t know each other very well. Over the years our paths have crossed from time to time, but we’ve never become friends. Is it because I have children and you don’t?

I know that I’ve made assumptions about you, about the kind of nonmom you are.

I’ve always imagined that you went to parties and stayed out late and slept with various handsome men (and maybe women too) and had beautiful clothes that were not machine washable and that your body functioned in ways that did not surprise, alarm or amaze you. I felt sure that you went to sleep late, woke up late, and read the newspaper at breakfast. Your apartment, as I pictured it, was quiet and peaceful but not very tidy. Your life was your own. Your read books voraciously but were sometimes lonely. You traveled and went to writer’s colonies and applied for fellowships and teaching jobs that might require you to move to other states or countries for a few months. Your mother worried that you weren’t married and you told her that her alarm was antiquated and sexist.

SM: I think we both made assumptions about each other based on the popular stereotypes associated with New York women. I certainly did. I thought your life consisted of reading banal storybooks, making instant oatmeal, and doing laundry. I couldn’t imagine how that would feel fulfilling. I considered an obviously complex and evolved person but went straight to the stereotype, which is basically a failure of my imagination.

You’ve read my memoir now, so you know that my life and my relationship to my body are not as you describe above.

I don’t know if the severe limits on my life have been greater or lesser in degree, or similar or different in type, to the limits on your life, a mother’s life.

RZ: I agree that most assumptions about mothers and nonmothers are erroneous.

For example, a few months ago I sent a YouTube link to a movie I made about my son’s home birth out to everyone on my email list. I was surprised when you responded. I had assumed you wouldn’t be interested in my movie. I thought you might find it overly sentimental or possibly disgusting. But you said it inspired you. How? Why?

SM: “Inspires” as in fills me with breath and hope, as in somehow both increases and decreases the mysteries surrounding motherhood and birth.

During a high school internship program at a local teaching hospital, with a teenager’s total assurance that I would be a doctor when I grew up, I watched a vaginal birth and came close to fainting. The attending doctor had to take care of me while the mother was in labor. It was almost funny. So I was surprised by how clean and simple the birth process seemed in your movie.

I am genuinely interested in the lives of mothers inasmuch as I am interested in the lives of people in general, but I’m separately fascinated by some mothers’ apparent conviction that nonmothers are shallow, that mothers suffer and feel more deeply than nonmothers. It seems as if these mothers want to shun me because I’m not a member of their sorority—hell, I didn’t even show up to rush.

RZ: I’ve never thought that you or nonmothers in general are “shallow” but clearly I’ve made a lot of other uncomplimentary or idealized assumptions. Perhaps I should have spent more time thinking about what you and I have in common or about what I have lost in the years in which I signed on so completely to the world of mothers and the idea that we are different from nonmothers. How does such a perception affect women? What can we do to change things?

SM: The problem with sustaining the dichotomy between mothers and nonmothers, of course, is that in doing so we weaken all women against the reigning culture of men.

James Baldwin is supposed to have said at Berkeley, that no white man, no matter how wretched, would want to trade places with him. Well, no man, no matter what color, would want to trade places with me.

RZ: Maybe because I’m trying to justify my own path or maybe because I truly feel this way—I don’t know—but I’ve spent my whole life assuming that (to bring it back to James Baldwin) no mother, no matter how wretched, would want to trade places with a nonmother. So I’m back to the dichotomy.

SM: I find it hard to understand that feeling.

RZ: Obviously I’m exaggerating. Some women do not want to be mothers. Women have abortions or give children up for adoption or responsibly avoid pregnancy, but by and large, despite the fact that motherhood is not physically, logistically, financially or socially supported, most women do become mothers at some point even if they don’t choose a particular pregnancy or child.

Is this because of a cultural message that motherhood is the ultimate goal for women? Why do so many women become mothers?

And how can I discuss my feeling of having chosen the “right” way, the only path that makes sense to me without being offensive? Motherhood, it seems to me, is both extremely difficult but also and ultimately, the greatest privilege. I guess I fear nonmothers’ scorn and envy when I say these things.

SM: It is hard for me to understand mothers who assume I envy them, or who assume that motherhood is my goal.

But the problem here is that the dialectic of mother versus nonmother isn’t a perfect one. Every mother has also been a nonmother, so only they know the difference. Nonmothers simply can’t have this perspective.

It’s generalizing an individual belief—that my, or anyone’s, experience of womanhood should be considered the ultimate experience for all women—that’s the problem.

RZ: I can see how my assumption that motherhood is (or should be) your (or anyone’s) ultimate goal would be offensive and problematic. I need to think about what’s led me to embrace such an essentialist view of womanhood.

SM: My friend J., the mother of a severely disabled child, finds the mother/nonmother dialectic deeply problematic. She knows that not all mothers are in the same boat.

I find that dialectic problematic, too, because I know that not all nonmothers are in the same boat.

There’s a vast difference between the life of a committed artist and the life of a person who gets paid to take orders forty hours a week and spends the rest of the time entertaining herself.

There are very many ways to live a nonfulfilling life. I have found several. But from where I’m standing, plenty of mothers seem to have found them, too.

What I want to know is: what do thoughtful and insightful mothers know that I can’t know?

RZ: So much of being a mother is learning to tolerate discomfort. There is an athleticism to motherhood, a kind of torture-victim’s resolve. Nursing a child is like a spiritual practice, a meditative disciple, a consecrated patience. I imagine I might feel this way about yoga if I had time to do yoga. Also, I would give up my life for my children but not for my husband and not for my parents and not for my friends….

SM: That might be it — the essential difference between us. I don’t know anyone I’d die for. That is a fascinating dialectic

candor

http://candormagazine.tumblr.com/post/211502843/woman-writer-writer-mother-a-conversation-between

SM: Well, we have that much in common: our adult identities were formed at least in part by the ways we observed and experienced our own mothers’ identities. After she graduated high school, my mother stayed at home while taking classes at a local college, then worked for a few years, still living at home, before she was married. I don’t have all the information on what she did for the nine years she was married to my father before I was born, but afterward, she was a full-time wife and mother. She responded “housewife” when asked to identify her career on official forms. For as long as I can remember, I felt depressed by that. I sensed (imagined?) her depression and boredom. Later on, her rage and despair became even more obvious (imagined?) to me. I swore I would never get married—my parents have been married forty-four years and counting—or take on any dependents. I left home and became financially independent a few days after I graduated college.

My fear of becoming the woman I perceived as my mother—trapped, frustrated, helpless, enraged—is what has impelled me to make most of the major decisions of my life. Then again, an older woman friend said to me—offhand, but it became indelible—“She’s probably happier than you think.”

It fascinates me that so many women continue to choose motherhood. Does this mean I want to remain a child myself?

Do mothers perceive women without children as, essentially, children themselves?

RZ: I will speak for myself. I think that when I think of women who are not mothers I both fear and pity them. I feel threatened and confused. I am fascinated by and ashamed of these feelings. They probably have more to do with ambivalence about my choices then with theirs.

Is this because, despite feeling that I would never trade places with women without children, I worry that I am throwing my life away? I worry that the hours and hours of child care and domestic child-related tasks I do day after day and year after year are a waste of my time?

SM: What’s the threat? As for the confusion, I guess I feel confused about what people do if they aren’t workaholics, but then I think, well, they run marathons and go on trips and play softball and have healthy, well-rounded, rewarding lives. And they have children.

RZ: Making art sometimes feels highly indulgent and narcissistic. So does having children. At the same time, making art and having children sometimes seem to me like the only valuable things to do. I feel confused about what gives nonmothers’ lives meaning. Is that terrible? Condescending? It’s hard to admit that I wonder about this. The tone and attitude remind me of how fundamentalist Christians talk to me when trying to tell me “the good news.”

SM: Making art can often be indulgent and narcissistic, but if one is doing it right, the ego doesn’t necessarily participate.

I understand your position, I think—I can’t imagine calling my life meaningful without as much time for silent contemplation as I have. It’s hard to imagine fitting parenting into the life I’ve devised, and which seems like the only way I can remain alive and sane. Yet I know there must exist a deep fulfillment in being a parent.

RZ: I have this idea that if I didn’t have children I would read a million esoteric books, and I would become so smart and interesting. I do sometimes wonder if I’ve “wasted” my education. Once, a friend of my father jokingly said to me, “oh, you went to Yale to get your M-R-S,” I wanted to slap him. In dark moments I fear it’s partly true.

I obviously want things both ways. I feel defined by my role as a mother and wife and am grateful for the ways these identifications give my life a sense of purpose. At the same time I intermittently feel a festering restlessness, a self-loathing for what I’ve become: mother of three living on the Upper West Side. A good girl.

There are all sort of contradictions for me: becoming a mother made me a feminist but being a mother means I spend a lot of my time doing menial domestic tasks. I’m not sure how my mothering—the daily aspects of caring for my children—fits into my ideas about feminism. I hate the way motherhood seems to separate me from women who don’t have children, and I hate the way motherhood separates mothers according to the choices they make about birthing, nursing, economics, parenting philosophies, working, etc. At the same time I feel that motherhood brings me into a crucially important and sustaining sisterhood with other women, especially other mothers.

SM: It amazes me that a mother would think my life is not fulfilling. I truly appreciate and admire your courage in admitting that.

My psychiatrist tells me that many mentally retarded people report internal fulfillment. Did you feel unfulfilled before you had a child? Is having a child what led to fulfillment? Do you think anything else could have led there?

RZ: For a long time I believed that the world was divided up into two groups: mothers and nonmothers. I had friends in the second group but more and more they seemed foreign or even burdensome to me and I disliked the way I imagined I seemed to them. Becoming a mother awakened in me a strong interest in feminism, but to be honest, for several years this interest was pretty much confined to feminist issues that concerned mothers.

SM: Yes. I tend to prefer the company of people who share my values. It’s convenient not to have to defend oneself. I remember being challenged by a woman who asked me if a yearlong university fellowship required that I live on campus. When I told her it did, she railed that it wasn’t fair, that she had a husband and a daughter upstate and couldn’t leave home, and that she wanted the fellowship, too. I couldn’t believe this woman—how could she not see that I had made sacrifices in order to be able to accept the gift of such a fellowship, that I had no house, no partner, no child, no health insurance? That the fellowship existed to help people like me, writers who had chosen writing over the comforts of family, writers who actually needed money and a place to live? It infuriated me that this woman’s sense of entitlement blinded her to this. She took for granted the comforts she’d chosen.

the flurry

http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/advice/article/Carolyn-Hax-I-m-mad-sad-and-jealous-that-all-my-5431386.php

It sounds as if you’re already dealing with your feelings in many productive ways, and they just haven’t delivered results. Yet.

That doesn’t mean they won’t. It can take time for the dividends of your choices to become clear to you. For one, I think they’re being obscured by the newness of this phase of life for your peers — and the fact that each is traditionally launched with a party. When you’re in the flurry of weddings, showers, housewarmings, etc. — and it is typically a flurry — you’re seeing many people who are at the height of their joy with these milestones.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, just realistic — some of these marriages will unravel; some of these houses will be money pits; some of these kids will be difficult and wear out their parents, who will love them nonetheless but who will give up a lot of other valued things to make it all work. The highs and comforts inherent in marriage/house/kiddos are real and significant, but so are the lows, and the mehs.

And this will become steadily more apparent to you as your friends and family get beyond the cake-and-gifts phase, and celebration mode gives way to the rigors of daily life. (If we had showers and receptions for singleton milestones instead, would the jealousy jump sides? Discuss.)

This will happen, possibly, as your “new/fun” activities and travels evolve into deeper commitments and pleasures.

blessings

http://eleanorewells.com/divorce-envy/

Janine says:
May 5, 2012 at 6:29 AM
I, too, have divorce envy, due to the frequently obscene payouts they get once it’s done and dusted! It’s true – you have to admit, financially they come out laughing most of the time. Those of us struggling can only envy that.

It is a perplexing thing, that the three-time divorcee is congratulated. I think it’s the whole notion of popularity – men in general tend to aim for the most in-demand female in the school, at the party, in the office, on the internet dating site. It’s something that never seems to change as they age. I used to get so tired of dates whining about single mums and women with “baggage” that I would proudly tell them I was never married and unemcumbered, until I realised it was turning any serious prospects off. Meanwhile I’d see women with the most complicated lives win hearts time and time again. Thank God I no longer date. Can’t please the pricks no matter what.

Many times – particularly as I’m hurtling towards 50 – I lament the fact that I was cherished and adored for such a brief period in my life (the rest biding their time), and may never be again, but then I think hard back to that time and the reasons why I left him. I knew I couldn’t have sustained that relationship – and probably ANY relationship.

So when all this gets me down, I look at the downside of all those divorces – going through divorce is like going through death, so they say. I see these sad, broken souls who never get over their spouse leaving them – consumed for years by bitterness and angst, engaged in diobolical family court battles. There’s one I know who leaves multiple daily cries for help and vicious threats to his ex on Facebook. SEVEN YEARS ON. And they call US tragic?

All those guys I met who were emotionally unavailable cos they still had it bad for their ex. Surely the same applies to women, although women do tend to leave men a lot more often. Why? Well for the reason you alluded to – women tend to marry regardless of whether or not they truly love the guy, just for the sake of being married. You can only keep that charade up for so long before going bonkers – just ask me. At least I stopped short of getting a ring on my finger, and you know what? I really, really respect myself for that.

So, when confronted with this kind of lunacy, I suggest you counter with these very arguments. Yes, we may get lonely maybe once a month, briefly, but I’d much prefer that to some prolonged living hell arising from a messy divorce. And let’s face it – we all know it isn’t always “amicable”. It was genuinely traumatic, and they also have to deal with a loss of status. You should see all the guys in my apartment tower downsizing from their mansions to a one-bedroom “bachelor pad”. How crushed, how small, they feel. For me, I’m delighted with my flat and couldn’t be happier with the size of it. Life goes on merrily, even if I don’t have that special someone to holler at.

So I’ve decided not to have divorce envy. I’ll just think of all those embarrassing divorcees, like Kim Kardashian, enjoy the peace and quiet, and count my blessings.