Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Case of the Lousy Wife

For today’s repast here’s a slice of contemporary American life. I often find these in advice columns. The people who write to these columnists usually offer a fair description of their lives and loves. Most often, the advice they receive is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Oh well, you can't have everything.

This is especially the case with the Ask Polly column in New York Magazine. It has the virtue of affording considerable space to letter writers. It takes back the largesse by obliging us to wade from the fever swamp of Polly’s inanities.

I have recently chosen to spare you Polly’s perspective. I will note, as I have before, that we ought to throw some serious doubt on the mental capacities of people who believe that Polly will help them deal with anything whatever.

Yesterday’s column provides a portrait of a woman whose marriage is falling apart. She says that her life is falling apart, but she really means her marriage. She is in her mid-thirties, dutifully employed, married to a hard working man. She knows something is going wrong, but she doesn’t know what it is.

Of course, you will immediately ask yourself the salient question-- are there any children involved, do they plan to have children? Fair enough. It’s what Arthur Conan Doyle called, in the famed story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” the dog that didn’t bark.

Inexplicably, the letter writer does not bring up the issue. Polly doesn’t either. Why deal with the reality when you can immerse yourself in psychobabble.

The letter writer calls herself “Healthy But Not.” One is tempted to respond-- make up your mind.

Let’s take a look at her complaint-- because it is nothing but a complaint, filled with feeling, but largely ignorant of where the problem lies. After all, she is a modern liberated woman. Apparently, this prevents her from thinking clearly about her life and love and marriage. It's another of life's mysteries.

She opens thusly:

I’m in my mid-30s, and on the surface, my life looks pretty great. I’m doing really interesting work on environmental/climate issues, which is challenging enough to keep me entertained. I’m married to a lovely, funny, kind, wonderful person. But it feels like my life is teetering on the edge of totally falling apart. I’m terrified and don’t know how to stop it.

Let’s understand-- if she believes that her life is falling apart, that means that her life is falling apart. I trust her sense of the current state of her marriage. It probably means that her husband is about to leave her-- or some such.

She works on climate issues. So she is a do-gooder. Good for her. I am sure that the climate is very, very grateful.

She describes her husband in terms that could apply to either gender. Her hubby is kind and nice and funny and wonderful. There is nothing in those predicates to define him as a man. Take that as a hint-- she is woke.

Rather than try to understand what is happening in her marriage, she introspects. After all, she did some therapy. So she retreats into herself. As you might imagine the witless Polly does not tell her to get involved in her marriage. She tells her to get back into herself. Pathetic…

Where to start? I was raised by a narcissistic mother, and this definitely left me with some trauma and bad habits. I spent a lot of my later teenage years being raised by my dad. who is a good man but is emotionally immature, has a temper, and was probably not the parent I needed, either. So I had a few crazy years as a teen and a young adult. My saving grace was the fact I was a big nerd who loved school and university, so I finished two degrees and now have a good job and this outwardly normal life. I basically feel like I got everything I ever wanted when I was a powerless, lonely little kid who was scared of the constant shit my parents threw at me. I have power and choices and safety and a home and financial security, which I never had as a kid.

As though this drivel ever accomplished anything.

She continues that, by all appearances, she has an alcohol problem. Hmmm:

I drink too much — sometimes way too much. Even just at home I can happily get through a bottle of wine or a decent part of a gin bottle. I do have alcohol-free nights but not often enough. Too often I go too far and the hangovers give me low energy often for days and days. I then eat too much, struggle to exercise, crave sugar, struggle to fully apply myself at work because my equilibrium is off, and am exhausted. I’m totally ashamed of this, of course. 

Now, she might try recovery. She might look into 12 Step programs. She might talk to a physician about her alcohol intake. She might cut down on the booze. These thoughts do not seem to cross anyone’s mind.

As for her declaring that she feels shame, she is lying. If she were truly ashamed she would try to deal with the issue. She is saying that she is ashamed because she wants to hear Polly tell her that she should not feel shame. Another bit of stupidity.

So, she then goes on to describe her husband, in interesting terms:

Another problem is that, like me, my partner is a bit of a Type A hard-working perfectionist, too. He is very hard on himself, he also likes to drink a little bit too much, and he is also struggling. He works in a very ruthless, challenging environment, but he’s not that type of person. He’s like a beautiful, fluffy Labrador in a sea of sharks. He comes home totally exhausted and feeling crappy about himself every day, and I want to help him so much but I don’t even know how to help myself. He suffers particularly from disorganization and procrastination, and it’s seriously standing in the way of him achieving his goals.

The pandemic hasn’t helped. I oscillate between wanting to do everything for him forever — including issuing reminders, making meals, and project managing our existence to within an inch of its life — and resenting him horribly for not contributing more (to be fair, he often works up to 100 hours a week; he’s not a lazy jerk at all, he’s just tired). And so we have lots of fights about division of labor in the house. But I’m convinced we’re not fighting about that. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think I’m just miserable and taking it out on him.

Again, she has no real respect for her husband. She sees him like a beautiful fluffy Labrador in a sea of sharks. I know, it’s an inane image, but it’s hers. For all we know, he is a shark himself-- only she refuses to recognize it. Or else, she wants to turn him into a guppy.

One suspects that he is in a high powered profession, but that she feels contemptuous of his success. So, she is effectively trying to bring him down, because she does not want him swimming with the sharks.

Consider this-- the man works around 100 hours a week. Do the math. He works about 14 hours a day 7 days a week. If he is tired, he certainly has a right to be tired. One imagines that he is well compensated for his labor, and that he supports his woke wife. 

How does she show respect for how hard he is working? Why, she wants him to do more housework. They have fights about it. But, she is convinced that they are really fighting about another issue, because it is inconceivable to her woke peabrain that a man who works 14 hours a day every day of the week would not willingly want to vacuum the carpeting and dust the mantlepiece.

Where did she learn this? Why does she have absolutely no consideration for his work schedule? Apparently, she took a few too many courses in Women’s Studies. 

But, then she has something like an epiphany:

I’ve been thinking more and more that maybe he’ll do better without me — maybe I’m somehow causing the feelings of procrastination and the self-worth challenges he’s facing, too? I literally almost broke up with him over the weekend and I woke up and I couldn’t believe I could’ve done something so hurtful and stupid. Both of us can be really emotionally stupid, insecure, and anxious, so I don’t think the confounding effect of both of us being this way is helping.

Truth be told, she is on to something here. She does not show any appreciation for her husband. She does not respect him. He might be stressing about her attitude, about her lack of appreciation. She ought to try showing some respect, take over the household chores herself and start thinking about having that first child. 

She adds that she has cut her mother out of her life, for reasons that are not overly clear. She then concludes:

What I want more than anything is to support my husband, support and love myself more, and treat myself with real self-care. I want to properly commit myself to my career and personal goals and really love and appreciate this great life I have. I would love any advice you might have. I feel really stuck.

How can she support her husband? Why, she can read my last remarks and stop getting into fights with him about household chores. As for loving herself more, self-love is called narcissism. It is not the royal road to conjugal bliss. It is the royal road to divorce court. 

My advice, start being a better wife. Or better, start being a wife. 

1 comment:

Dan Patterson said...

Someone wrote "So many women want to be married but so many of them do not want to be wives".
I wish I could give attribution.
The chick in question has lost her way, and in typical modern femme manner, seeks to understand, to pick at details, to nag herself into depression. Poor thing never left adolescence and continues to wallow and navel gaze; she might have been a decent and desirable sort at one point but she has so long since departed that port and hasn't fuel to return. Very much a shame and I wonder if women like her can recover.
Was the world we had pre-birth control pill/motherhood-is-sooo-unfulfilling a stew of toxic oppression? So much so that we upended gender roles and diminished testosterone levels and created the dangerous myth of the SuperGrll?