Mary, Michael and Bride.

This entire paragraph is fucking depressing, in that it paints women as these put-upon creatures with no lives or interests of our own outside of fawning over men and domestic chores, who don’t understand that going out and having fun stuff, but will, with wan smiles, tolerate our men doing these things because we understand that we must in order to fulfill our womanly duties towards men. I don’t doubt a lot of couples live like this, where he gets to have an outside life and an identity outside of the marriage, but she does not, and I suspect that women in this situation who martyr themselves by tolerating a man’s outside interests without having their own won’t last for long with all that resentment building up.

Amanda’s commenters astutely point out that, just like that bad “how to be a good wife” thing from the 50s floating around in e-mail forever like a zombie joke, none of what’s contained in there is exactly horrible advice, except as it’s applied specifically to women and especially in the final bit about “make sure you’re not smothering him with your all-powerful vagina and that you let him go play poker and fart.” A more reasonable way of putting it might have been “make sure to have your own social lives so you don’t get on each other’s damn nerves and then have nowhere to go during those occasional periods of your relationship where everything one of you says drives the other one up a tree.”

What always gets me about this stuff, though, more even than the sexist bullshit, is the way it seems to make committed relationships and especially marriage just sound like the worst thing on earth, like drudgery and misery and at best some kind of weird armistice sitch where you’re negotiating the terms of your life under constant threat of nuclear warfare.

I read this sort of shit and think, “Who the hell would WANT to get married, if this is the recruiting poster?” With all the crap we lay on young couples leading up to a wedding, about their last days of “freedom” not to mention the bride shit about how it’s “the most important day of your life,” and then this “turn yourself into According to Jim the moment the honeymoon sex is done” I can see where people are coming from with avoiding the whole prospect, because after a while you start to feel like a character in a sitcom instead of like yourself.

It’s not that relationshps are never hard, or that the fights about exaclty this never happen. Just the other day, I grilled up dinner and Mr. A and I sat down to watch, not Top Chef, but Project Runway, and he noted that we hadn’t had a home-cooked meal that wasn’t frozen pizza in quite some time. My first reaction was a defensive “you’re free at any moment to go make me a pot pie from scratch yourself, bitch” (which has less to do with gender roles than it does me being a paranoid who thinks everything’s about her) but looking back, we had fallen into the kind of rut you fall into when things are busy, of takeout and/or simply skipping a meal in favor of Ben and Jerry’s out of the carton at 2 a.m. With a fork. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say we had some fights early on about who was spending more time with her friends at work than at home, and who needed some “me time” despite spending six hours on the computer every night playing games. The point isn’t that it never applies.

But so much of this seems to be about how to get through things, how to battle nobly on despite your overwhelming existential despair. There will be times when you need that, sure, but you also need advice on how to remember why you’re together in the first place, and odds are, it isn’t because you enjoy the prisoner/guard dynamic a lot of this kind of advice seems determined to force partners into.


2 thoughts on “Resolution

  1. God, I must be in an idyllic marriage. We get along great. But I think it has a lot more to do with self-awareness than anything else. I know when I’m feeling bitchy, and I know enough to let Mr. BuggyQ know when I’m like that. And when I do lash out, I know enough to apologize. It may not be *easy*, but it is pretty obvious.
    The other part is that we both have rich and full lives independent of our relationship, and we both love that about each other. We enjoy being together, but we don’t *need* to be together. I think when you’re entirely dependent on someone else for your happiness, you’re doomed.
    And why are we like this? Who knows. But I think it helps that we got into our relationship after we were already both well established, emotionally and socially, as adults.

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