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no angel

What I thought was interesting about the blog post my ex-husband published in the Huffington Post was how he, unwittingly or not, invoked the age-old "madonna/whore" complex even as he (by implication) warns against the danger of thinking in "cliches" (in this case, the cliche of the successful middle-aged man who dumps his first and aging wife for a younger woman). Which speaks to some things that have always frustrated me about how this culture views women.

He says:

It is worth mentioning that [his fiance], as anyone who knows her would attest, is one of the most kind hearted and gentle people in the world. The cliché that has been propagated, of me abandoning a devoted wife to "run off" with a young actress, could not have been more falsely applied.

I've met his fiance and I think she is very cool (and smart and witty and a talented actress besides). But my ex seems to be suggesting that the nature of a woman's character is somehow directly responsible for actions that he himself either did or did not take. Which falls in line with the idea that it's "the other woman" who is always "the homewrecker", that she is the one to be blamed for "stealing" the man (no matter that the man allowed himself to be "stolen").

(No one is responsible for the end of my marriage except my ex-husband and me, but that's not the point I'm trying to make here.)

Of course, what my ex is really saying is I did not have sexual relations with that woman before I was officially separated, and no one can fault him for that, or for defending the woman he soon plans to marry. But he does this through a rejiggering of certain female stereotypes. His fiance, he is assuring us, is not and was never "the other woman" or "the homewrecker". Both of these stereotypes carry the connotations of whore, which is the "ultimate" degradation of reducing a person to her sexuality (what's more, that evil female sexuality that kicked us all out of Paradise and continues to plague and victimize helpless men). She is instead "one of the most kind-hearted and gentle people in the world". She is an angel.

Because he's also (wittingly or not) juxtaposing her against me, pulling me into the 'cliche' as the 'devoted wife' even as he states that this cliche could not have been more 'false'...

...because he then, a couple of paragraphs down, goes to some length to assure the reader that Dude (whom he makes a point to identify in full, and also to claim that Dude was a "friend" of ours throughout the marriage) did not play a role in our divorce. By saying this, he is implying -- "framing" -- that, in fact, Dude might have done just that. (This is a rhetorical device called 'apophasis', where you communicate one thing by stating its opposite.) He also refers to Dude as my "long-term" boyfriend, which might make a reader wonder, How "long-term" could he be if they just got divorced?

(We started dating nine months after my separation, but that's not my point either.)

Of course, what my ex is really saying is, Justine is no angel. Which is fine; I will admit that I am infinitely more complicated than that (and so, for that matter, is his fiance).

But if I'm no angel, then what am I? What are the options? You're a good girl or a bad girl. You're a madonna or a whore. And if his fiance is the good girl, then I must be...?

And then he swings into the rest of it, including his interpretation of the events surrounding our divorce. Which I won't get into here, but needless to say it puts me in a less than flattering light. One might even use the word (and say it with me, boys and girls): golddigger. And what is a golddigger but a glorified....[fill in the blank]?

So by saying that he is "correcting the record" about our divorce, by putting himself forward as the final and real authority on the situation, he is also defining a certain kind of reality in which his fiance and I get slotted into our "proper" places.

And I must roll my eyes.

I agree whole-heartedly with my ex about "the danger of cliches". People cannot and should not be reduced to cartoon characters. And women should have the freedom and dignity to exist in a space that does not involve pedestals of any kind (whether you're still on it, or you've been knocked off it). That is not truth. It's distortion, and it hurts.
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( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 10th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
You give such clarity to the reality of this situation that I just want to hug you. I've seen friends go through similar situations and am constantly frustrated by how badly perceptions and personal definitions can become distorted. So my hat goes off to you, I think you've just about hit the nail on the head.
Jul. 11th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
No Angel?
If your not a gold digger, why are you appealing? Why not just agree to the premarital terms you agreed on?
Jul. 11th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
Sorry to post this as anonymous...
but i can't remember the openID url.

when i saw the blog post by elon musk in the huffingtonpost, the first thing i thought was "good for him!" i followed it by googling you and found your blog. after reading it, i still think "good for him." i think that he has the right, as you do, to speak to this issue. true, you have made it all very public. this is what writers, do, you have said. so, i think he deserves to do the same - not to be painted as a bad person who left his wife and 5 kids and ran off with an actress, since both of you agree that that is not the case.

after reading this post, i can appreciate it for it's analysis of his essay, but i would have to assume based on reading this, that his post was not inaccurate. is that the case?

you are a brilliant writer and thinker (who doesn't need me to say it) and i wish you the very best. as someone who will never see a million dollars (let alone 80), though, i find it hard to relate to your struggle. i'm truly asking these questions that follow, not being flippant: in a divorce, what is fair? why is spousal support fair, as opposed to child support? why is it fair to have a percentage of stock in a company that you didn't build? i don't understand the divorces of the super wealthy. they just don't make sense to me. it would seem to me that if a husband supported his wife and she did not have to work, but she is capable of it, spousal support wouldn't be necessary, right? I would think that child support, a home, and whatever you built TOGETHER along with whatever you had before you entered the marriage would be fair. but i am just a common person. i wouldn't have anything much to split if this happened to me.

anyway, good luck! i wish you and your ex the very best. i hope and pray that you get what you perceive to be fair and that you find the peace that you're seeking. sounds like you both deserve it. thanks. Tiffany T.
Jul. 11th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry to post this as anonymous...
I didn't make it public -- Venturebeat did, and I reacted to that, and then the whole thing just snowballed.

Oh, I consider Elon's version of things to be about as accurate as he considers *my* version of things. Our case is not as simple and straight-forward as he makes it out to be, for one thing, and his victory wasn't quite so clear-cut. He takes some liberties with certain numbers. Trust me, if he had offered me a genuine 80 million dollar deal, I would have jumped at it. Also, Elon tends to assume that things revolve around him (ie: I'm writing about the divorce, thus I must be writing about it in order to pressure him to do something in some way). He has a kill or be killed mentality which means he's quick to assume the very worst about my own motives. But it's my "story" just as much as it is his, and my viewpoint is worth just as much.

And -- what is fair? -- it's a good question, and I've been wrestling with that from the beginning. What's fair is to be treated with respect, and not to be pressured or bullied or dictated to or treated like a second-class citizen or derided or dismissed or manipulated. Just saying. Also, now that I'm no longer so angry at him -- for a while there I was dealing with some genuine outrage and fury -- and now that I'm happy and in love and moving on, how I'd answer the question is different from how I would have answered the question two years ago.

The whole issue of "maintaining living standards" has to do with the kids -- the idea being that they shouldn't be "induced" into preferring one parent over the other but should have similar lifestyles at both residences. In our case, that's unrealistic, and I don't expect that -- I will never be flying my kids around in a private jet, for example (I know, I know, boo hoo for me...:)

Spousal support is to give the less-powerful spouse enough time to "get on her feet" and get her own income going. It's not meant to be forever.

And community property has to do with the idea that marriage is a partnership and the two of you built a *life* together that goes beyond paychecks (ie: maybe the woman didn't "work", but she contributed in other ways and that she herself in the role of 'wife' has a value that should be acknowledged and recognized, and made a very real investment of a very real chunk of her life that could have been dedicated to other things). The legal question has to do with the responsibility the more powerful person has toward the less powerful person.

To be perfectly candid: when this whole process started, Elon was still considerably cash-wealthy by anyone's standards (I know this because when you're getting divorced the law requires that you have access to this information). He refused -- and refused -- to negotiate, and by the time mediation rolled around a year and a half later, he was cash-poor and living on "borrowed funds" (he blames the legal fees for this, but trust me, the legal fees weren't nearly enough to be the sole cause, nor our combined living expenses). The reason why my side requested stock in the first place was because we couldn't ask for cash (because he no longer had it). So the idea behind the request for the stock was supposed to be along the lines of: I'll take the risk with you, and if it doesn't pan out, fine, you're still off the hook, and if does, well, then it's no skin off your nose anyway. It wasn't because I felt I "deserved" it (but I do feel I deserve something, yes), it was meant as a kind of compromise. I would rather take cash than stock. But when the man has already become conveniently cash-poor, and there are five kids involved, you can maybe understand why I wouldn't want that cash to be spread out over twenty five years. The problem with the deal Elon offered me was that there was relatively very little offered upfront (even the house wouldn't be in my name for two years, so I wouldn't be able to sell it and downsize immediately) but would keep me tethered to him for an extremely long time with no guarantee of security (and again, because of the kids, this is something I think a lot about). I would rather have one bird in the hand than five in the bush.

Edited at 2010-07-11 06:15 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry to post this as anonymous... - (Anonymous) - Jul. 11th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
That wording sounds very very familiar except in my case the younger woman was around before, well before. And there is no Dude.
But yeah.
Good luck!
Jul. 11th, 2010 08:13 am (UTC)
Hi Justine,

I started reading your blog a month ago and find you quite fascinating. You remind me somewhat of my best friend, a self-proclaimed aloof, a rebel, a ballbuster. However even a cactus has a soft interior, so it must have been flooring when the person you've been married to for almost 10 years cuts off your credit card as if he were making an executive business decision.

I read Elon's article in HuffPo. He made some valid points, though didn't exactly take the high road, bringing Dude into the matter (now we know his real name!), and suggesting that you potentially may have married him for money.

I was a little confused when I read: "I even had to endure her attempt to enjoin my companies, which would have required her participation and permission in every significant corporate decision."

You clearly stated (http://moschus.livejournal.com/140610.html) you wanted him to retain all voting rights when you requested 10% of his stock in Tesla and 5% of his stock in SpaceX, so I'm perplexed why he was trying to portray you as a vindictive media-hound trying to prevent him from running his business when you stood by his side for so long.

Even if you have no voting rights, the fact that you would have stock, could muddle things, I guess? My unsolicited opinion: Let him have SpaceX. The fact that you barely had a husband because he micromanaged the shit out of building spacecraft as well as running another company definitely is unfortunate, but let him have it - you have enough going for you.

You have never failed to acknowledge his accomplishments, yet it doesn't seem like you have received appreciation from your ex on how you made his dreams your dreams while sacrificing your own dreams for many years of your life. I don't mean your dreams in mere regards to your career aspirations (do vampire novels really compare to Space travel), I meant in the sense that it probably would have been nice to have a husband who was there to change a diaper and spend Christmas together without a Blackberry. I think you need an apology more than you need 5% of SpaceX.

Now, I know this all sounds rather corny, but the same I believe is true for Israel and Palestine. Read this great article. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/opinion/25atran.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

You don't believe that Elon has a capacity to think beyond numbers, so by asking for these tangible things (which you admit you don't really need), it seems to me more like you're probably just trying to reach him on his level.

What jumped out at me in your itemized request wasn't the 6 million in cash, or the alimony, but the fact that you wanted that fucking car (which he evidently invested more TLC into than his marriage). Is that what you really want (despite it's coolness)?

- Y
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
The car? Not anymore.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jul. 11th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Word Girl! - (Anonymous) - Jul. 11th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 11th, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
The whole issue of "maintaining living standards" has to do with the kids -- the idea being that they shouldn't be "induced" into preferring one parent over the other but should have similar lifestyles at both residences.

Is that the legal take on it really? I never knew that. How utterly bizarre. I don't really think kids get venial till they hit their teens. And frankly when they're teens you wish they'd live somewhere else. They're horrible.

I feel a great compulsion to say something pithy and interesting (less for the sake of saying something pithy and interesting than so that people reading this will think, Who is that pithy, interesting person? and read my blog) but really, there's nothing pithy and interesting to say.

Please go back to writing about writing and making witty observations about LA parties. You're a delight to read when you write about that.
Jul. 24th, 2010 09:22 am (UTC)
Standard of Living
Perhaps another way of explaining it is that the standard of living between the two households is to be equalized at the time of the divorce so that the children do not see a swing in their lifestyle from pre-divorce to post. The kids aren't supposed to suffer a severe loss in their standard of living because their parents split up.

It's not a guarantee that things will always remain equal - just a semblance of it. This protects both parents. After all, if the child support award leaves the mother in a large house with a pool, and dad in a two-bedroom apartment in a poor neighborhood, dad is disadvantaged in where the children prefer to spend their time. That principle applies whether we're talking support of $100 a week, or $1000.
Jul. 11th, 2010 10:53 am (UTC)
I am a regular reader of your blog, and I checked out the Huffington Post to read what your ex-husband wrote. I have to say that I didn't get the impression that your ex-husband was trying to incriminate you in any way. I thought his post was quite dignified (and I know something about dignity from reading this blog), and I don't think people will call you a golddigger because of it. People will call you a golddigger out of envy or prejudice or irrational feeling, and there is not much you can do about it. Both you and your ex-husband come across as remarkable individuals, who deserve the best.
Jul. 11th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
I read the article he wrote, and I found the whole thing written with a very contemptuous tone. Very patronizing. While I know that it is good that even he feels free enough to write out his thoughts on a public forum, as you do here, I have yet to see the same disdainful tone from you about him as he wrote about you.

I don't understand the money nuances, being pretty poor myself (my yearly income, school loans included, come to 12,000), but I do know that the more money there is, the more confusing and complicated it is. And there's a lot of money here, so it's very complicated.

Divorce is not easy on anyone, and for that and for the fact that you have to deal with a very public divorce, you get my respect, no matter how it goes down.
Jul. 11th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
An Excellent Post
Justine I have the utmost empathy for you. I have suffered a marriage failure that left me single for 18 years and alienated two of my children forever and broke my heart. I had to go through many relationship failures for 18 years before I found Elena; who has been wonderful! You are a great lady. Be strong and let this hard experience make you even stronger and better. Anton Myrer wrote my favorite book "Once An Eagle." Please read it. The central theme of the book was: "Sadness can either deaden the soul or enrich it!"

A big hug for you and stay strong and positive! You have lost nothing. Quite the opposite, a new door has opened for you.

-Jack Waldbewohner
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
I know this runs the risk of tapping into another "cliche", but:

Jul. 11th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
Also, his mansplaining is COMICAL in its ineptitude.
Jul. 11th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
Well, here is my 2 cents
I had never heard of either of you prior to my finding his blog today in the HP. The first thing I thought is "Why is such an accomplished, succesful millionaire airing his personal, dirty laundry in public?".

It soon became obvious that he cares greatly what others think of him (insecure) and he is filled with resentment towards you (Angry) and wishes to be percieved as a victim, not an agressor. (people pleaser).

Based on the fact that he travel 200 days per year tells me he chooses to care more for his business than likely his 5 children and was more than likely a crappy husband.

So, my closing thoughts are.....fuck him and get all the money you can. :)
Jul. 12th, 2010 02:54 am (UTC)
Hi Justine,

I stumbled on your blog a couple of week ago via HuffPo and had an entertaining few days reading your previous posts - you're a talented and insightful writer. As a fellow Canadian, mother-of-multiples, and previous resident of LA, I found a lot to relate to.

I read Elon's post and found it cringeworthy, particularly the inference around the timing of your marriage. I've never met the man, but I have met men of a similar ilk, and my guess is that he's a very 'black and white' thinker: people are good or bad, you are either wrong, or right, etc. However life, particularly marriages, don't work that way - real life is made of shades of gray.

Unfortunately, the success that he has encountered in his life (at least in his business life) will only strengthen this type of thinking. After all, he probably has people tell him every day how brilliant and, well, RIGHT, he is, right? ;-) The only thing that will change him, and perhaps make him a more realistic and a sympathetic person, will be a spectactular failure. As for any future relationships he might have (including his current one) - well, as soon as the rose-coloured glasses come off (as they will, and should) and white turns to black, good luck to her.

I wish you well in this. I don't find what you are asking is at all exorbitant.

Joy (don't have a user ID)
(Deleted comment)
in awe - (Anonymous) - Jul. 12th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: in awe - (Anonymous) - Jul. 12th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: in awe - moschus - Jul. 12th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: in awe - (Anonymous) - Jul. 12th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 12th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
I've followed you for several years now, and I'm sorry you're going through all this. You two are the only ones who know what's "fair" in this case, and it's my hope it's settled soon in a way you'll both be able to live with.

I just hope you are okay. I understand that writing is cathartic, and it's healthy to respond on the page when responding to your ex is not an option. However, publishing that catharsis creates its own problems. Don't get me wrong: I'd be hard pressed to hold back when I felt attacked, and I get wrapped up in that which I cannot control as much as the next guy. On the other hand, I'd hope I had people in my life to pull me back from the ledge before that albatross pulled me down. You're paying your lawyers to protect you emotionally as well as legally and economically--let them wear themselves out and save yourself for the important stuff.

Like... the beach, maybe? Sending you positive vibes,
Jul. 13th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
My Take - A male's perspective
First off, I am a male. I personally have lived through a few failed relashionships, so I know how manipulative women can be.

Although I do not know Elon personally, I have indeed observed his rise to greatness over the last 10 years. After encountering your blog, I have attempted to read through as many posts as I can to try to get your side of the story. I admit to at first being biased, but now I have a better picture of things.

Here is my take:
1. Elon married you thinking you would play the role of "trophy wife" in his quest to change the world. However, he forgot to ask if you were willing to participate in this endevour....You had no intention of just being the "hot wife", and Elon totally underestimated your intelligence from the get-go.

2. After the PayPal IPO, you figured you were set for life, and wanted a more relaxed lifestyle for yourself and your husband. You did not realize that from Elon's perspective, he was just getting started....

3. Your anger towards Elon is almost entirely due to that girl he left you for. As evidence, I refer you to one of your own blog posts, where you admit that you have always been used to being "the hot one".
Now, Let's not pull any punches here, this chick Elon got is a super hottie, with a capital "H"....no question about it. If you ask me, she's got a serious shot at being a hollywood A-lister, and Elon knows that. It burns you up inside that Elon chose her over you, because it threatans your belief that you are the "hottest babe on the block". Lets face facts. If Elon dumped you for Rosie O'donnel, you would have taken the $20 Million and walked into the sunset....by picking a hot chick like that, you took it personally, and now he's gonna pay for it.

Justine, I have a lot of respect for you, but you gotta cut this guy some slack. He's trying to make this world a better place. The guy probably doesn't get more than a couple hours sleep a day, and the last thing he needs is a distraction like this messy divorce to ruin the success of Tesla Motors.

Just calling it the way I see it.
Jul. 13th, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
Re: My Take - A male's perspective
Who is this guy?

I'm pretty sure they met their freshman year in college and married for love, not because she was trophy wife material. Trophy wife implies you sit on a shelf looking pretty, and it's evident that Justine is razor sharp, edgy, and no "trophy." This isn't to say she isn't bangin.

From a woman's perspective TR is insult to injury, but not the root cause of hurt, whatsoever. You're having trouble in your marriage, you go to a counselor, it's the third meeting, the counselor probably agrees with you since you make a damn good case - this pisses off your single-minded husband, and he cuts off your credit card and it's over in 1 day. Your entire life together. gone. Your identity was significantly shaped by this guy, and now you're at rock bottom and don't have any cards to play because the game is fucking over. So you have to pick up the pieces, and everyone sees you knocked down - the victim - even though you rather people see you as strong. So you fight.

The fact that both have been hurt from eachother most likely enables them both to be nicer to the people they are with, and to appreciate the things that they had taken for granted from each other when they were lost. Elon must have dreaded being deemed inadequate in Justines eyes (even if her resentment was deserved), but god damn it, she had his kids, toasted his fucking english muffins, hosted his parties, listened to him vent about work drama, and put her own ambitions on hold because she believed in him. And she deserves a fair settlement, and to be treated with more care. I think they both need to make compromises (she needs to accept non-cash stuff and try the course of least interference and E should try to pull strings to give her liquid assets, noting he seems to be able to pull of miracles in his entrepreneurial endeavors- may as well use that scrappiness to find a peaceful end to your divorce.) Neither is starving or lacking. Justine didn't even mention in her blog that Elon pays $50,000 rent for his place with TR. Justine seems to be doing fine, too. Being that every night I worry/panic how I am going to pay for rent at the end of the month ($900), I think both forgot their modest roots. But then again this fight isn't about money at all (money in their case is just a weapon / power play).

Yeah, I'm not going to lie it's got to be annoying that someone you see as your equal is with a 23 (now 25) year old model slash actress with her alleged wit and sincere interest in quantum physics. She's lovely, yes. But Justine has what they call "soul power." And she's still got it going on.
Re: My Take - A male's perspective - (Anonymous) - Jul. 13th, 2010 10:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: My Take - A male's perspective - (Anonymous) - Jul. 24th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 13th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Jul. 14th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
This person is a little crazy. Last names aren't a big deal. In spanish cultures they use both, but it's more misogynistic. But I like the point about accepting second place. I would imagine thought it would be impossible to ever be first place with E. Really!
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About Me

I'm the author of three published novels: the dark fantasies BLOODANGEL and LORD OF BONES (Roc/Penguin) and the YA supernatural thriller UNINVITED (MTV/Simon&Schuster). I also have stories in the MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE ROMANCE 2 and ZOMBIES: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HUNGRY DEAD. I'm working on a psychological thriller called THE DECADENTS. I am divorced, with sons, and live in Bel Air.

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