Thursday, September 4, 2014
This sounds really great; the problem is, it's just sheer crap. I think by now we all know it because the people who are of childbearing age now have seen so much of the insecurity, sadness, loneliness, anger, violence and abuse that are the results of broken families.
It's hard to even type that phrase, "broken families," because I've had so much negative reinforcement and reeducation of the "every family type is unique and valuable" kind. "No family is broken, we're all just making different choices, etc., etc."
So last week I found out that a woman I know, have known for several decades, who comes from a good intact family of loving but strict and religious parents, who was homeschooled as a girl and has been homeschooling her many children, has decided to Eat Pray Love and dump her, by all accounts, kind, decent looking, good provider, good dad husband so she can find herself. Or whatever. I should have known this was going down by the large increase in Facebook preening selfies (a number of them on horseback) being posted on her timeline, but I guess I wasn't paying enough attention. I really didn't pick up on the fact that she was getting divorced until she changed her last name back to her maiden name and her status to divorced.
She has many children. And, yes, she's held together well. She's still really attractive, and she's fun and creative and energetic, but what a nightmare. At least one of her daughters is taking being separated from her daddy really hard. And looking even a short distance into the future, her economic prospects are fairly grim. She's not particularly educated, and her job training isn't in a lucrative field. I don't know what she's thinking. There is no way that she's ever going to do better than her now ex-husband.
She says her children are doing really well, but "well" is a pretty relative term.
My son spent a lot of time this summer playing with a friend whose parents got divorced two years ago. It was an "amicable" split up, and they were both very discreet on the reasons for it. Their son had anger issues then, and I remember thinking, "This isn't going to make him less angry." He spent this last summer terrorizing his family, including both sets of grandparents who were helping to take care of him. Apparently the only time he was easy to be around was when he had friends over, so out of pity, I let my son play there more than I was comfortable with because I know his grandmother, have known her for years, and I was dismayed to hear her say in astonishment how good he was when my son was over.
The last week of the summer his mother locked herself in the bathroom with her daughter because he was so out of control. Her father had to come over and get this boy talked down. Another total nightmare.
While I think this boy could seriously benefit from the establishment of some strict parental boundaries, the longer the summer wore on, the more I realized he was punishing everyone because he was angry and because he couldn't do anything about the divorce two years ago, but he sure could now. So he did. He made everyone in his family as miserable as he could.
In the last six year since my son went to school we've seen numerous families split up, and a number of my son's classmates have really floundered. They've been angry. They've hit kids on the playground, they've gotten thin and ghostlike, and their grades have seriously suffered in school. I've had to inform my son's school of abuse, and I've testified in court. And this is a private, middle class Catholic school, not the inner city.
Their parents have suffered too. They don't know how to handle escalating misbehavior. They don't have time to do enough intervention. They don't have any money. They've married and divorced again, or not married and just had serial relationships. Or posted a lot on Facebook about how strong and independent they are when it was obvious that they were just hanging on by a thread.
I don't know what was going on behind closed doors in most of these situations, but divorce didn't make any of these people better parents or happier. Yes, it's still the short term, but there has been so much collateral damage.
Marriage is hard. It's not always happy. Sometimes there are long spells of sadness, disappointment, health problems, money problems, or incompatibility that must be weathered. Children add complications and stress. Individual wants or even needs often must be put off. But the sheer act of keeping on keeping on in the face of difficulties is an education for kids, and the long term benefits of growing up in a house with both biological (or adoptive) parents are of immeasurable. An inheritance richer than pearls or diamonds.
If that's a gift you can give your children, why wouldn't you do everything you can to provide it?
Friday, September 10, 2010
A wedding shouldn't be an excuse for a woman to get her narcissism on. Weddings are ceremonies by which a community witnesses the formation of another stable family unit and, having witnessed it, ideally will exert some help or pressure to keep it in functioning order. A wedding was not for the bride or for the groom, it was for the community and an exercise in reaffirming community customs and beliefs.
At least that's what they once were.
Now they are expensive parties, hugely overpriced blowouts organized and choreographed around the main event, the bride. Everyone else fades into the background - it's Bridezilla's day. It's been a winding road to this point, of course. The day was always important for brides because marriage holds more protections and perks for women than it does for men. That's why historically women have wanted - have dreamed - about getting married and men generally have had to be pressured - gently or with the pressure of a metal barrel - into it. It's normal for a young woman to look forward to her wedding day and anticipate saying her vows and celebrating with her loved ones, surrounded by the beauty of the occasion. I had a wedding. It was a lovely wedding in the gorgeous Polish Catholic church I attended, and other than being hot, tired, and somewhat nervous, I had a great time. It's a bit of a blur, actually. What I remember most is wishing that I had more time to spend with all of the people who had traveled so far to see me get married.
The problems I have with weddings as they currently are celebrated are:
- They rarely longer serve any cultural purpose in that they aren't there to transmit culture or values forward. How can they when all the participants know going in that there is a 50% chance this will end in divorce? With the meaning behind the wedding gone, what we're left with is a fancy party that requires an extensive consultation of etiquette no one knows anymore. And
- They are so overpriced. On average an American couple spends $19,581 to celebrate that magical day. Let me write that out: nineteen thousand, five hundred and eighty-one dollars. Just shy of $20K for a one-day party. Wow. Again, there's a one in two shot this won't even last.
I don't want to be a hypocrite; after all, I've admitted I had a nice wedding. But for me it was a celebration of my religious beliefs, and I did not bear the expense. It was important for my parents and my husband's parents to be there and for it to be an occasion of note and in a church. These are things that have to be factored in. If I'd have had to pay for it, it would have been much humbler and with fewer stressful details. I certainly would not have gone into debt or more debt to pull off a big production. My grandparents married in their minister's front room and they were married over 50 years. I think that is a valid way to celebrate.
We have a secular, highly consumer-oriented society. Keep that in mind when you plan your wedding and ask yourself who benefits from the decisions you are making about how to celebrate it. And if you do get married, count yourself lucky. Not so many women will because it's a very risky venture for men these days with even fewer benefits than there were traditionally, so if you accomplish it keep the vows you are planning to take. Be grateful. Oh, and treat him right. With any luck, if you picked a good one, he will do the same.