Archive for the 'marriage' Category

Making a point — or not

May 31, 2015

I wrote a comment about Ross Douthat’s concerns (in his NYTimes column for today), about a rise in the acceptance of polygamy, that asked whether polygamy isn’t an old practice and a return to it would be consistent with the conservative desire to return to past practices and attitudes.

But I do realize that the polygamy argument is usually used to try to push people back from supporting same-sex marriage:  “Aren’t you afraid of opening the floodgates by using a wide definition of marriage?  Won’t that lead to having to accept practices you don’t like?”

So why did I write what I wrote?

Part of it is that I just don’t share Douthat’s worry about a resurgence of acceptance of polygamy in our culture.  I have observed many marital relationships I would not want to be a part of (as one partner in a union of two — I am not talking about polygamy here).  It doesn’t provoke in me concern that someone will rope me into a relationship with a similar dynamic.  It’s not on my list of things I worry about — neither are natural gas explosions, although I have known people who worried about them a lot.  What we worry about, if we worry at all, says a lot about ourselves, I think.

Part of it is that I do see an inconsistency in a conservative raising concern about reviving an old practice;  it points up, in my opinion, how conservatives tend to pick and choose what about the past they like, which in turn seems to me related to how they seem to choose what they like regardless of how it would impact others:  “Let’s go back to X, even though X in the past had a negative impact on certain groups of people” (where, for instance, X can equal letting American retirees fend for themselves without Social Security).

Part of it is that as I’ve read Douthat over time, he seems to me to have become more wrapped up in particular ways of thinking and writing that remind me of being encased in a Gordian knot — maybe I was hoping to pierce through some of that.

Part of it was that I wondered if the argument was being made tongue in cheek, and so I wanted to respond in a way that could be appropriate to either possibility.

And, of course, part of it was that that was what I felt drawn to write, through whatever my own process is of arriving at what I submit.


Visigothic widows

March 15, 2015

I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned my old project about Visigothic widows and succession to the Visigothic throne.  When I was doing research on that, I couldn’t help but notice in legal texts like the Theodosian Code how children of first marriages were put in jeopardy as to their inheritances by the remarriage and subsequent children of a parent.

I got somehow involved recently in a colloquy online about divorce of wealthy parents, and I made reference to this issue.  So in keeping with the initial premise of this blog, this post is to spell out a little further what I meant.  To spell it out even further than what I’ve written would require me to get that part of my brain out of mothballs and then get up to speed on the subject again.

Changing old habits

October 26, 2014

I am probably in the habit of dealing with being expected to pick up the slack in my family by doing some version of stoic and a female version of macho.

Well, today I tried something different.  My mother has substantial mobility issues, and I have been trying to figure out how to drop her off at, for example, the building she needs to go to, get her safely ensconced, and then go park the car.  Do I leave the engine running?  Do I turn it off and risk being in violation of parking where there is no parking?

I asked my mother about getting a disability placard.  She said she had never thought of it, which was no surprise to me  —  she admits she thinks of herself in terms of a much younger version of herself.  I have been trying to point out that this “Let’s pretend” makes things, makes difficult situations, even harder, including at my end.  She said she would ask her doctor about it.

That’s another thing I’ve learned:  we can only do something if an M.D. says so.  It’s how she finally decided to move out of her house and close to me.  My doctor advised me at my annual check-up that I had too many stressful things on my plate, including trying to care long distance for an elderly frail person increasingly in need of supports.  That got her attention when nothing previous had.  She had been listening before to people who seem to have been encouraging a situation that was unsafe, and without taking any responsibility for it.

We work with what we have, including the people involved.

It struck me that I find it tough to have to suggest such ameliorative measures, because if they are rejected, then what attitude do I take?  I have broken the pretense that the situation is okay, and we cannot go back to the status quo ante, including how I played my role.

I learned some years ago that people’s level of cooperation varies, that different people have different degrees of cooperativeness.  Some people drag their feet or make everything into an argument or dismiss a call to make an adjustment.  It is especially pronounced, not surprisingly, when the status quo is working for them and they are not considering whether it is working for others.

Willy was eminently cooperative, even pro-active in that direction.  I wish more people were like that.  Maybe only a spouse does that and I became miscalibrated in my expectations.  Or maybe he was exceptional and I became miscalibrated on account of that.

Waiting for someone to change

September 25, 2014

I was reading what Gail Collins and David Brooks had to say, in one of their Conversations on the NYTimes website, about people who want their spouses to change.  (They decried it.)  And I thought, “Well, what about the situation of old in which on the wedding night after an arranged marriage, one spouse discovers the other is way too young to have sex?”  In that case waiting for change I think would be seen by most people as a healthy response.

On some sort of continuum, that might be one extreme, towards the other might be expecting one’s grown spouse to enjoy team sports to the same extent as oneself, or to like cats, and then at the very end of that extreme might be things that involve superficial behavioral change (like replacing the toilet paper roll when it’s used up).

I realize these Conversations are meant to be light and airy, but I get distracted by underpinnings (cultural or class assumptions, worldview or thinking constructs) to the humor when I see flaws in them.  Kind of similar, but in a different direction, to the engineer in the joke who points out to their executioner what is causing the guillotine to malfunction.

Inconsistent defenses

September 4, 2013
  • “I was daydreaming.”
  • “I was addressing someone else.”
  • “I thought I was addressing someone else.”
  • “You were hearing someone else.”
  • “I was lying and you should have realized that.”
  • “I changed my mind.”
  • “I’ll do it later.

I remember learning in law school about inconsistent defenses.  In terms of zealous defense of a client, I can see where they have a place.  In terms of social relations, they tend to undermine credibility.

The above list come from a spiritual story in which the guy has promised the girl marriage.  In earlier versions he has given her a ring, but in later versions, the idea is reworked as a treatment of how people use words.  For me, it’s really about how one person’s indulgence in a diversion can be a serious, and potentially devastating, issue in the other person’s life.


June 13, 2013

I came into possession of this photo recently.  I had never had one from my parents’ wedding before.  Their anniversary was June 13th.

K & M wedding


February 23, 2013

I’ve gotten feedback at times that I intimidate people and/or  have expectations that make them feel inadequate.  It took me a long time to understand how that happens.

The basic idea is that if my talents go unacknowledged by others, and if I don’t appreciate them myself, then I expect everybody else to have them too — else why would mine not be valued and appreciated as special, as making me deserving of some sort of recognition?

Willy recognized and appreciated them, and, as I think I’ve written here before, wrote about that in a letter he wrote me when he was on Kwaj.

When I recognize and appreciate them myself, I am more charitable towards others, on the one hand; on the other, I am much more detached within my relationships.

After Willy died, my sister remarked to me that I must regret having married.  The context of her remark indicated that she thought of marriage as some dry business partnership in which there is exact bookkeeping of things brought to the relationship and things used from it, with a big emphasis on the financial.  I know her to be an outlier in many respects (my college roommates made that clear whenever she visited), so I didn’t give much thought to whether her notion of marriage is a model others use.  But I think I’m encountering it with others, with men who seem to want some kind of a resume in order to have a social relationship.

The most important aspects of my particular talents are not on my resume, although what is there reflects the skills I’ve learned that help me make use of my talents.  People for whom this makes no sense clearly need to be dating someone else.  And people with whom I have to have an argument about this probably don’t want to date me for some other reason they prefer not to examine or communicate.  That’s okay with me, too.  And both these sets of charming men can do what I do on their own if it’s so unremarkable, they clearly don’t need me.

Intimate things

September 20, 2012

I’m thinking about religious beliefs and wedding rings.

Some people have wondered why some Muslims feel so provoked by things like the video and cartoons recently in the news.  It has struck me as having to do with intimacy, with how close to one’s heart and personal identity a relationship or thing is held.

For some, their sense of self is bound up with their beliefs about God and their relationship to God.

I’m thinking that a way to understand this in the west is with wedding rings.  There are places into which one may not wear jewelry, places like surgical operating rooms and rooms for contact visits with people in prison.  But in both cases there is (often?) an exception for wedding bands.  For surgery the ring is taped, I believe, to guard against the importation of infection.  For prison visits, religious necklaces can be an exception, too.

For someone never married or religious, these exceptions can seem strange and a little arbitrary, but I think they reflect a cultural understanding of how closely we hold our marriages to our sense of self — the relationship becomes part of who we are.

I suspect that’s the degree of intimacy with some religions, especially those whose adherents are actively involved with them throughout any given day.  I suspect that that’s why it’s harder for such people not to take personally perceived insults to their religion.


September 11, 2012

Somebody was telling me how he gets accused of being a “tool,” and I, being happy to take a metaphor literally or find a metaphor in something prosaic, asked him, “Well, then, what tool would you like to be?  Vise-grips, hammer, chisel?  With what tool do you most closely identify?  Maybe you’ll see something helpful through figuring that out.”

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten accused of being a tool.  I’ve been accused of being “the evil woman,” though.  Willy used to tease me into not getting caught up in resisting the criticism, by his singing and dancing to the song “Evil Woman” by ELO and trying get me to dance with him to it.   Usually I couldn’t help laughing as a result.  Willy could whistle with perfect pitch, but his singing was another story — one of our dogs found his singing alarming.  His style of dancing was sweet but rudimentary.  (Nevertheless, he wasn’t shy about engaging in either activity, in fact he could be downright enthusiastic about both.)  It stands out to me years later as an example of how Willy could get past all my defenses and express his caring, and, also, help me.


August 21, 2012

It felt like a present.   Instead of taking the walk I had planned to take, I walked around the corner and up the steep hill I used to push Jordan’s stroller on the way to pick up Jonas from elementary school, and I followed the same route we used to take the rest of the way.

There’s a playground with a ball field on the same block, before one arrives at the (rebuilt) school itself, and on the grass near the sidewalk near the slide was a large striped feather — much white with brown horizontal stripes.  I picked it up and turned it over — on that other side the white sections looked smudged with brown.

I’m supposing it’s a hawk feather.  I like it.  I also liked finding it today, on what would have been my wedding anniversary.   I don’t much care who it’s from, I’m enjoying it without knowing exactly how to attribute its appearance in my life on this day on this walk.  It feels like a present.