Monday, March 29, 2010

"I Have a Wonderful Wife"

Let's consider this an addendum to my post, "How to Be a Good Wife." Link here.

Some of you will gag on this example, because it concerns the wife of hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen. When asked to explain his emotional equilibrium, Cohen burst out: "I have a wonderful wife." The quote appears in a story about Cohen's first wife and their divorce, but the picture of Cohen's second wife, Alexandra, stands out like a beacon in the darkness. I do not think that writer Steve Fishman did it intentionally, but still, Alexandra Cohen seems to be a wonderful wife. Link here.

Alexandra Cohen, nee Garcia, did not grow up rich. She was born in the Harlem projects, grew up in Washington Heights, and did not graduate from college. Clearly she did not come from privilege. She does not feel entitled.

Clearly, she lives in a world of absurd wealth, but you get the sense that, however much she enjoys it, her first loyalty is not to the money or the status, but to her husband.

Sometimes women wonder why men like Steve Cohen do not marry the any of well educated, successful and competent women New York has to offer? As I suggested, the answer is that most of them do not want to be wives or do not know what it means to be a wife.

Author Fishman is too polite to ask the question, but it is there: Why would Cohen marry someone like Alexandra Garcia?

Strangely, it is not a mystery at all. When Alex met Steve Cohen through a dating service: "She thought he was the funniest person she'd ever met." Better yet: "Alex didn't want to change Steve; she wanted to be with him."

And New York Magazine describes their relationship in these terms: "These days, Alex helps give away millions to charity, shows up at events on Steve's arms. Still, she wears Gap and drives to Costco, alert to bargains. And she takes care of her man. She doesn't complain that he works too much; she lauds his devotion to their kids. If he has had a bad day at work, she cooks his favorite meal: pasta with anchovies."

The article also mentions that Alexandra Cohen runs the household and the family finances.

Clearly, this is not the portrait of a billionaire's wife. Most of the qualities and attributes that please her husband, and the magazine writer, do not require any expense. They are specific to the role of wife, nothing more or less.

I daresay that they could easily be accomplished by any woman, with or without a career. I would also venture that they could not be accomplished by a feminist, a woman who was wedded to a cause, or by a woman who was in love with money and privilege.

[Late addition: you'll be happy to know-- I am-- that Jessica Grose shares my perspective on marrying alpha males. If you are a feminist, and find the notion of being a wife repugnant, you should not marry a CEO, i.e. alpha male. Link here. Grose also makes clear that if you do not know how to be a wife, your marriage, as Cohen's first, will be a hotbed of drama and contention. If you know how to be a wife, your marriage, as Cohen's second, will be peaceful and harmonious. Finally, be careful who you marry. An alpha male will prefer a wife; an omega male will be more comfortable with criticism and complaining. At least, now, women can make an informed choice.]

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