Thursday, January 11, 2018

Is She Too Old for Love?

It would be nice to say that New York Magazine columnist Ask Polly gets this one right, but, I cannot tell a lie… she embarrasses herself again. Oh well, you can’t have everything, can you?

As happens with many of the letters sent to advice columnists these days, the letter writers leave out the most salient details. This allows one to fly blind. Apparently, Polly has no problem with this. She offers up the same psychodrool every week, no matter what. She tells each of these women—have you noticed that nearly all of the letter writers are females-- to feel their feelings.

Most have lived out the feminist life plan, but they never say that they are simply doing what feminism told them to do. They never tell you very much about their lives. But, they are totally absorbed in their feelings, in their emotions, in their soulful longings. Could it be that this is the problem and that Polly’s psychodrool simply compounds it?

Today’s letter writer is 53. Five years ago her husband left her for a younger woman, even though she really, really loved him. Does she have children? She doesn’t say? Did they want children? She doesn’t say. Have her children grown up and left home? She doesn’t say. How long was she married. She doesn’t say. Polly is unconcerned.

Did her husband leave her because she did not want to have children? She doesn’t say. Did her husband want to have children? She doesn’t say. Did she drown him in love? She doesn’t say. And, what about menopause? Does it figure into these equations? Who knows? She doesn’t say and Polly only alludes to it. Evidently, this biological reality is unspeakable. Is the letter writer so completely absorbed in her emotions that she has no sense of reality? It sounds like it, but Polly misses it entirely.

For your edification, here’s the letter:

I’m one of those readers who never thought I would write to an advice columnist since, deep inside, I know (or should know) what to do. However, I am writing because I am still stuck. And as an “older” reader (I’m turning 54 this year — ugh) it seems I should be in the prime of my life, not struggling or feeling down.

Specifically, while on the surface all seems fabulous (great job, wonderful friends and family, own my condo albeit with a mortgage, I travel, etc.), while I am truly lucky/blessed (though I’ve worked very hard all my life for all of this), I feel an important piece is missing. I so very much want to be in a relationship again. Or at least I wish I didn’t WANT to have a relationship again — as in, if it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ve been separated/divorced eight years now and tried online dating and I’m just depressed about it all.

When I reread the above, I get so mad at myself. I have NOTHING to complain about. Absolutely nothing. I work hard and get to do what I want — whether that’s a trip to Europe or lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant (all on my own). But I loved my ex so deeply and completely and I loved being married to him. Getting divorced was not my choice (I wanted to fight for my marriage, but my ex did not — and surprise, surprise, he ended up marrying someone 15 years younger than me). Frankly, it took me far too long to get over my divorce, over five years. But when I reread the above, I guess I’m still not over it (and yes, I blame myself for the failure of my marriage, though of course I know it takes two to tango).

Yes, I am in therapy. Yes, I have spoken with my friends. Yes, I have my gratitude list, which I update everyday. Why can’t I just be happy with the incredible (single) life I have? I feel that at 54 I will never truly be fulfilled. If some of your 20- and 30-something readers can’t find the life they want, what chances do I have?

Stuck in My 50s

On a positive note, she blames herself for the failure of her marriage. But she does not tell us what she did to cause it to fail. Aside from the many reasons that we know nothing about, perhaps she was too self-absorbed, too self-involved, too self-actualized and too self-sufficient to function within a cooperative enterprise like a marriage.

Did you notice that she is proud for going to a Michelin starred restaurant on her own? Isn’t that bizarre. Who goes to expensive restaurants on their own? Is she trying to make a point about her independence and autonomy? If she wants to pick up the waiter, I would understand. If she is trying to make a statement about feeling liberated, I don’t.

We have all been told that marriage is based on loving someone deeply and fully—Stuck believes it—but that is simply a lie. If all she brings to the marriage is deep and complete love, she is missing the point.

What does Polly have to say? Well, she happily regales us with a torrent of obscenity. If she stopped feeling her feelings for a nanosecond, she would remark that this language does not cause anyone to treat women with respect and courtesy and decorum. Whatever women really, really want, surely they do not want to be cursed at.

Polly’s point, such as it is, is that Stuck is presenting a face to the world that is not her inner truth. As always, it’s all about the feelings and the obscenity:

When you’re furious at yourself for HOW YOU SHOULD FEEL about your life, that usually means that you spend most of your time pretending that you feel the way that you SHOULD feel, and you spend some of your time feeling angry at yourself for feeling terrible. This ping-ponging between I AM FINE and FUCK EVERYTHING is not good for you. It doesn’t help you to grow. And it alienates you from other people. What they see is a conflicted person who lies to their faces about how she’s doing. It also makes you more and more insecure, because people aren’t that kind or open to you when you’re at war with yourself. And I don’t need to tell you that it’s fucking impossible to try to meet people and date when you feel this way! No one likes a person who’s manifesting anxiety and self-loathing while trying to sound cheerful.

Perhaps Stuck is depressed, but Stuck does not present us with a picture of a woman who suffers from self-loathing.

After suggesting that this woman is “an expired can of beans”—if I said it I would have immediately been accused of misogyny—Polly continues her caterwauling, this time about the culture and the patriarchy:

Women are handed so many bad, unbelievable scripts over the course of their lives. Fuck this triumphant, grateful, divorced-lady script you’ve been handed! Shred it. Set it on fire. It’s unjust. This script is making you miserable. Every single day that you repeat the lie that you’re over your divorce, it makes you more stuck. This is how obsessions work: We keep denying that we feel what we feel, but something inside of us gets more and more invested in exactly what we’re NOT supposed to care about. “Caring about this makes you weak!” our culture tells us, and we repeat it to ourselves until it’s THE ONLY THING WE CARE ABOUT….

We are not allowed to live in reality. Instead, we have to mouth lines from some fantasy realm where nothing can touch us. Even though we were taught at a young age that our value is the sum of our charms and our sexy bodies, even though we swim through toxic messages every day that tell us, as we age, that our value is slowly leaching out of us, drop by drop, we’re still not supposed to internalize the news that our spouses have left us for younger and therefore more valuable mates. And now you blame yourself for all of the mundane ways you failed to be the perfect wife! Whew. What you need to understand is that just as your “failure” as a woman is a story line you learned from our culture, your trauma over your divorce has been amplified by our culture: You discovered that all of your fears about getting older were true — you aged and therefore you became disposable. On one level, sure, we can all say, “Marriages fail, people move on, whatever.” But the fact remains that this is not how it feels from the inside, as a woman, living in our poisonous sexist culture, after 54 years of swimming through polluted sewage.

After all, what good is feminism if it does not absolve you of all the errors you made in your life… by blaming them on the patriarchy? If Stuck followed the feminist life plan and ended up unhappy about the outcome, she should take responsibility? She does not; in Polly she finds a perfect enabler.

After declaring that Stuck has “a gigantic capacity for lovePolly rants on about how she wants Stuck to become nastier, uglier and more bitchy. She wants Stuck to embrace her new witchy self. Here Polly refers to a character called Ursula in a movie called The Little Mermaid. I know nothing about it and do not care to know anything about it:

Even though you’re scary and your eyes are bloodshot and your skin is lavender and you are fucking GIGANTIC, it just feels so good to SHOW YOURSELF to BREATHE IN THE TRUTH to LEAN WAY THE FUCK IN to your hideous, frightening self! That’s Ursula throwing all of the toxic unfair nightmares she’s been fed back into the faces of those drippy tedious losers in their drafty castle by the sea. Those fucking gutless aristocrats matter? They’re the kinds of motherfuckers heartless enough to murder singing crabs! They have bleached white teeth and no souls! That dipshitty prince kicked Ariel to the curb the second she couldn’t sing like a bird anymore!

Throwing all that shit in everyone’s face is probably not going to make Stuck more loveable. It will not help her to find a new relationship. It will help her to cultivate a bad attitude.

Polly tells us that she herself is around 46, and that naturally she has her own Polly way of dealing with the attendant biological realities—you remember biology; feminists told us all that it was a social construction:

And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever looked better than I do now, but maybe I’m a little biased because I really do like myself as I am, even when I’m a bitchy old piece of shit. I do what feels good now. I set my own standards for myself. I trust myself. I forgive myself.

So, Polly is sometimes “a bitchy old piece of shit.” Might we recommend that Polly and her acolytes use more ladylike phrases? It would probably help them to sustain their relationships.

Polly continues to say that Stuck was “fucked from the start:”

You’ll feel proud of your sadness. You’ll see how big your heart is, that you could still feel so sad and so full of love for your ex. And maybe you’ll even laugh at the terrible wrath that was placed on you, from day one. You were fucked from the start. Everything good about you had an expiration date.

As I said, Polly wants Stuck to act more like a witch. Because nothing is more attractive than a witch:

That was all a lie. Your power and your scary hideous rage and your real wisdom and beauty grow more and more each day. The more you accept your true feelings instead of telling cheerful stories about how well you’re doing, the more the full force of what you have to offer this world will expand to infinity and beyond….

I want you to stop putting on the white dress and singing “I got over that a long time ago, no worries!” in a pretty voice. I want you to take up more space. I want you to write very sad poetry about your divorce. I want you to cry into a series of very nice hankies, and leave them piled up around you in a heap. I want you to be big and bossy and negative and frightening as hell for once in your life. I want you to be everything you were never supposed to be. And when people tell you it’s not okay, you should be over this by now, you’re desperate, it’s not attractive, I want you to throw your head back and laugh like Ursula the fucking sea witch, a laugh that says, WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW, YOU FLACCID LITTLE SLEEPWALKING ARISTOCRAT?

Yes, indeed. If Stuck has a problem, Polly has advised her to double down on stupid. And on hatred of men. Do you really think that that is going to help?


Jack Fisher said...

The letter and Polly's screeching were hard to get through, but sure as shi'ite, this is true: they both need to get laid.

Shaun F said...

Only a fool would sleep with these banshees. And they would be inevitable victims of the consequences of said rash decision. I guess fools would go that road though, and probably deserve it.

I agree - the elephant in the room are the facts about the relationship with the husband which we aren't made privy to. It's almost like they've been deliberately redacted. Because you notice, it's all about her. A lot of the Daily Mail stories about moms never mention the father. These women end up on meds and very bitter with a posse of enablers. Not pretty to see.

Sam L. said...

It would appear that anyone asking Polly for advice is gonna get a beat-down. Make it worse, Polly! Make it worse.

Anonymous said...

Polly needs a shrink.

Sam L. said...

Jack, I trust none of Stuart's readers would EVER think of volunteering for that.

James said...

After reading the above it's rather obvious that being "old" is the least of her worries. There seems to be quite a few other things that might keep any potential lover at a very safe distance.

Jack Fisher said...

Sam, there's something to be said for crazy chicks ...

... but there's crazy and then there's batshit insane.