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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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Jul. 14th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
College Term Papers
You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

College Term Papers (http://www.ghostpapers.com/)
Jul. 14th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
Re: College Term Papers
Google needs to stop giving search points to link backs.
Jul. 15th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
20,000 a month
What I find most interesting in your ex-husband's blog post is that he makes you look foolish by suggesting that you spend nearly a quarter million dollars a year on clothing and shoes. Surely, "discretionary spending" includes a lot more than shoes, but even so,that's still a considerable amount of clubbing, manicures and movies (you must be paying your personal trainer A LOT).

Considering that the amount is 2, 3, 4 times the yearly salaries of his employees (who are working insane hours building his companies and his wealth), the idea of the man paying out that kind of cash for his ex-wife's wardrobe was surely meant to shock and awe (which it succeeded in doing).

Is life in the Hills really that demanding and expensive? Ouch.
Jul. 15th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
Re: 20,000 a month
It's interesting how "pain and suffering" clause doesn't come to play in divorce trials.

You go to jail for punching someone, but nothing happens to you when you under appreciate and ignore them, quit on them, rip their heart out, and six weeks later text them that you are engaged to someone else.

They built their life together, and she invested a lot into him. It seems like she wants a part of his company because she was there by his side as him and his team built it. She has no malice towards it, whatsoever. When you invest a large part of your life in someone and defer to them as the breadwinner, you should get alimony when you split based on the assumption that you were equal partners in the marriage. Justine is not however asking for half his wealth. I do agree that simplification is good: going without Starbucks, personal trainers, and $300 pairs of shoes.

I think his fear that if she had a stake in the company she would block things from happening is assuming she's vindictive; which she is absolutely not. I think in her case, she might not be fully grasping that having stock in a company does mean you are involved (lets say the company has another funding round). Do I think Justine would not go along with the pack and make things difficult - absolutely not. She'd be completely cool.

I wish Elon could see what is so clear to me and many of the other readers, that you do want to work things out, would never do anything to hurt him or his company, are proud of him, and want the best for yourself, for him, and for your sons. However, you're not going to settle for anything less than you deserve, because that's not your style.
Re: 20,000 a month - (Anonymous) - Jul. 15th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 20,000 a month - moschus - Jul. 15th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 20,000 a month - moschus - Jul. 15th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 20,000 a month - progon0716 - Jul. 16th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 20,000 a month - moschus - Jul. 15th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 20,000 a month - no_bull_steve - Jul. 15th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: 20,000 a month - no_bull_steve - Jul. 15th, 2010 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 21st, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
"then I must be...?" In the words of Momma Boucher (from The Waterboy) you're The Devil! (just kidding..)

None of what he says/you say matters as long as it's put in the public eye, it's all going to be interpreted in different ways depending on who reads it and how they read it.

Both of you need to keep it out of the public, and move on (IMHO).
Jul. 21st, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC)
To be fair, he *is* a public figure, larger than life & controversial & dating an actress who is famous overseas (she's in Inception, which I haven't seen yet). I'm impressed we kept it private for as long as we did (two years). :)

And I don't agree -- I think what you say matters. It's not supposed to be able to convince everyone. But personal stories are important.

But yeah, the above blog post might have been a mistake on my part, although I genuinely *was* trying to make a larger point.

(and...The Devil! I kind of like that. It cracks me up.)

Edited at 2010-07-21 01:04 pm (UTC)
If I was the judge: - (Anonymous) - Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: If I was the judge: - (Anonymous) - Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: If I was the judge: - (Anonymous) - Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: If I was the judge: - (Anonymous) - Jul. 25th, 2010 03:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: If I was the judge: - (Anonymous) - Jul. 26th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Inception - (Anonymous) - Jul. 26th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 27th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
on self-reliance?
Having read both your version of things and your ex-husbands, I still wouldn't presume to make any judgments about how much you do or don't deserve of your ex's estate, or what is or isn't fair. However, it does seem to me that persisting in this legal battle undermines the idea of women as independent and self-empowered beings. Granted that fantasy novelists hardly earn as much as high-tech entrepreneurs, it seems like you're a competent, intelligent, well-connected author with several published books. Simply put, why do you need your husband's money--so much of it--when you seem perfectly capable of succeeding on your own, not to mention the fact that by most standards you are financially secure, to say the least.

Furthermore, I'm curious, if things had turned out differently, and your ex-husband's enterprise had failed whereas you had launched a wildly successful fantasy series--along the lines of Twilight or Harry Potter, say--would you be willing to give him the house, $80 million, a stake in your work? Would you be willing to give him everything you're asking for now?
Jul. 27th, 2010 06:26 am (UTC)
Re: on self-reliance?
He never offered me 80 million or anywhere near. I find it ludicrous that people believe that, but whatever. He offered me child support, alimony, the house, and 2 million, and then instead of negotiating terms with me to find a win-win situation in this he kept reducing the deal and giving me ultimatums. Those tactics alone meant I couldn't accept the deal.

I'm completely happy and willing and "prepared" to settle for much less. What I asked for -- which was never a "demand" -- was meant to be a jumping off point. You know, bargaining. Negotiations. (And the only reason why stock was involved was because he was cash-poor.) Because you're right -- I don't need "so much" of my husband's money. There is, however, the issue of what that money stands for. Namely, respect. He's the one who made it clear that there are to be "no negotiations"; he's the one who would rather pay lawyers astronomical fees than sit down with me to negotiate an end to this; he's the one who has framed this an an all-or-nothing, capitulate-or-else situation. Let me be very clear on that, because I want this to be over. I've always wanted this to be over.

This is about women refusing to let men define what they're worth in ways that are convenient to the *men*. (When is a woman a golddigger? When she asks for more than what the man -- and other men -- decide she's "worth". And who gets to decide what she's worth? And how does that get to be decided?)

Edited at 2010-07-27 06:33 am (UTC)
Re: on self-reliance? - (Anonymous) - Jul. 29th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: on self-reliance? - (Anonymous) - Jul. 29th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: on self-reliance? - (Anonymous) - Jul. 30th, 2010 08:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 28th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
Bells and Whistles
This rang a loud bell. Soon to be ex husband recently described his 23 year old girlfriend in exactly the same glowing terms. The fact that she left her 9 month old baby and husband doesn't bother him at all. It bothers me greatly. It didn't bother her that my husband was 48 and married with 3 kids. But why would it when he's in the entertainment industry and she was living with her in-laws and wants to be a stand up comedian. I don't particularly want her around my kids but who knows they are so close in age they'll probably get on.
Yes I know I sound bitter. I am which is why cannibals never eat divorced women.
Aug. 1st, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
What happened to ethics and fair play?
Yup - Justine you are definitely no angel. What you are is an embarrassment to women. People like you, with your materialistic and greedy entitlement mentality, are the reason American men have lost respect for females in general. It's a sad phenomenon.
Aug. 1st, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
Hard times
Divorce is a terrible thing to go through. You have my sympathies, you really do. More than that, I'm sorry for your children. Divorce, or at least some of its nastier aspects, to paraphrase Larkin, f*cks them up.

Kids are strong, resilient - but they never forget this sort of warfare. Like all forms of bloody, internecine conflict, it leaves a lasting mark.

My parents divorced after forty years of marriage, and both of them, hardworking and barely holding on to their place in the fast disappearing middle class of America, are now bitterly separated and slowly sliding into poverty in their old age.

I'm scrambling, trying to become a jobbing author while taking care of two wonderful kids - in no small part not just to make their and my life better, but because I know I'll need to look after both my parents now, and much sooner than I would have if they'd stayed together. It's not easy, and it gets me down sometimes when I'm up typing through the night on not enough sleep and the bills aren't getting any smaller.

Aug. 1st, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
Hard times too
Fortunately, I have a great wife. She has worked incredibly hard to land a good job for herself and to provide for her family and her would-be-writer husband. She's not had it easy. It's touch and go and we've known real difficulties, real hunger, real despair - choosing between ourselves and what our children need even more on a regular basis.

I don't regret a bit of it, and together - or even if we were ever to go our separate ways, I know my partner and I have our children's best interests at heart. We're not likely to be rich but what we have, we've got because we've worked for it with everything thing that we have. We've never let hardship stand in our way or to stop us from helping our family out - unfortunately on both sides of the marital divide they're no strangers to poverty and fourteen hour working days with the endless suck of health care expenses for those few who have it and the crippling worry of those who don't.

We don't have a car. We live modestly. We value cheap train tickets, books, and our small but close family unit. We don't own a house, though one parent does, a modest affair in an out of the way place - and if we're lucky and the taxes don't take it or something else, such as our own mounting debt, we might eventually inherit it. Or we might not. Hopefully, before that, we'll be able to afford a place of our own. It would be nice and we both dream of it - in no small part because we've yet to be able to live someplace for more than two years at a stretch, and our kids are starting to get wind of the fact that where we live, often isn't going to be "ours" in a real sense, at some point in the future. It makes them worry sometimes. They've met homeless kids in the park and you see the wheels turning even at their young age.

Now, what's all this got to do with you? My tale after all, is not particularly rare or likely even interesting to anyone outside of myself. All over the country and across the wider Western industrial world, there are people just like us. In fact, there are millions and millions whose plight is much worse - the numbers rise the farther down the chain of worlds you sink. But we needn't even cross the oceanic waters or drive down through the poverty and drug-warfare riddled isthmus that separates north from south. The recent display of corporate-greed, fueled by a nation hungry for petrol burning cars, air-conditioning, suburban sprawl, cheap travel, and glittering swimming pools slapped down in the hot L.A. sun, just to use a topical example, has released a torrent of poisonous petrochemicals into the Gulf. It's not just killing life in the sea and along the shore, but throwing whole communities into penury and long term financial despair.

Perhaps the stalled economy is just gathering its breath before it rallies. Perhaps the coming global tide caused by anthropological warming - due in no small part to some of those same nasty petrochemicals going into our gas tanks instead of the Gulf - will lift someone's boat, though it's unlikely to be those of people like me - and even less likely to be those of the world's poor.

Oil however, is just the scum on the top. Greed, now that's the real killer. It's the one that says you never have enough, no matter how much you have and even if having more, means someone else, somewhere, is gonna have even less.

It hurts us all of course, even those who benefit, oddly enough. Greed fuels not just cars and oil spills, spiking temperatures, and corporate profits, it fuels acrimony, bitterness, and divorce. It blights lives, as surely as any environmental disaster, and in both cases, it's often the children who suffer the worst.

Aug. 1st, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
Hard times still
This brings us in a wobbly full circle back to the start of my post. I feel for you, but I feel even worse for your children. Why go through this? I'm sure you have your reasons but they're going to be, when you break them down, when you strip away the fictions you've spun around them - and which I'm sure your ex-husband has paid people to spin for him - to good old fashioned greed.

How much do you need? I understand people get angry, but they get greedy as well. You may not be a rocket scientist, I'm sure you didn't work on many of the designs for your husband's next generation of electric cars, though I know we sure could use some - just as he didn't write any of your novels. You had five children, and contributed a lot to their future and their family life. I respect you for that, being a full time, stay at home dad. I've had a lot of jobs but none so demanding as looking after my children. I'm sure you have done well by your own. Take comfort. They're liable to be much richer than you - no matter how the ax falls in the court of appeals, unless the divorce tosses all of it into the bottomless pit that is the legal profession. That's unlikely though, as your ex-spouse has a very great deal of real wealth and so do you, even if you lose. Your children will very likely live lives of great privilege and will enjoy more money that my entire family will ever see even if we combined every member, living and dead, for three generations. What more does a parent want, than to see that? Not the lawyers of course, but the thing about your kids being better off than you.

But that's going to happen either way. Isn't it?

Aug. 1st, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
Hard times end...?
So then it's not about providing for your family, or even keeping the wolf from your door. You live in Bel-Air, so I don't think there are many left outside of the fossilized ones in the tar pits down in Le Brea. You have a profession - a livelihood even, and have achieved a laudable level of success with it. Oh - and the millions. There may be some disagreement about the particulars but you were never, ever going to be poor. You won't be, and that's a good thing. Let me tell you, it's not fun. Nothing like it looks on TV. I hope that my kids and I make it out, because when you're hanging on just on the edge, you can see how much farther down you still have to fall. It keeps me up nights - in the most literal sense.

Greed then, whether you're a good person, whether you think your pre-nuptial agreement wasn't playing fair, whether you've been left or set aside by someone who swore he'd be there until the end, isn't just an innocent bystander in the affair. Greed is making you ask for more. Go on, get offended, I'm sorry. That's not my intent. But I feel that you're lying to yourself, well telling a good story anyway to put it in more kinder terms, if you think you're not under its spell.

How much do you need? How much can you possibly consume? Do you really need even ten percent of several billion possible dollars? Can you remember what it was like to have so much less - and is it that fear, lurking there, or something else, that keeps you reaching to place more in the pockets of your hardworking legal team?

I'm sure they're all great folks and they have kids they need to send to Yale, so in a way, you're just spreading your ex-husband's considerable wealth across the wider community. Shame though, that it's a community which is already doing rather nicely for itself without your generous help.

As for standing up for what's fair, for demanding what you think is just... If you really were in this for moral principle you'd fire your legal team and spend the same amount helping shrimp farmers in Louisiana afford the counseling that might keep them from blowing their brains out. They'd thank you, and so would their kids. Losing a parent not to mention all those who'll just slide further into poverty, is a terrible thing. Like divorce, like greed, it can really f*ck you up.

I don't know why you're working so hard to have more when you have so much to be thankful of - justice isn't ever going to be enough to explain it, not when you think about how much this is costing your children. Not just in money they'll lose out on as this war between a rich person and a very, very, very rich person sputters on. They'll pay in a currency you don't get monthly itemized bills for - not now anyway, not for years to come.

We've ruled out principle - you're not going to help out any causes except among a very small class of already rather rich divorcees. It's not a strike in favour of all those who stay home raising the kids - like me.

But it's the kids, yours not the lawyers in this case, that I'm most saddened to think about. They didn't want more. They didn't need it, that's for sure. The greed hasn't likely had the time to fully set in. The paint's fresh and the rot hasn't crept past the seal of innocence. But they're quick studies I find, and they always, always want to be just like mom and dad.

I wish you the best, but I wish even more that you'll pass up on that - and think of the children instead.
Aug. 6th, 2010 01:47 am (UTC)
Both sides.
There are always more than two sides to a story.

Anyway, I think I see where the divorce came from. He is married to his work, first and foremost. I could guess that it felt like his kids were more important to him than you were, which would be in keeping with the married to the work thing. His work is one of his children.

Marriage to an entrepreneur is always going to be hard.

I think you're reading too much into the negative space, when you say he is implying that you are the whore (== money digger), or maybe you are just being more extreme in your wording than I would think necessary, but when I think about people I know and the language that often gets used in the heat of an argument, it would not be unusually extreme.

FWIW, my impression (male POV) about the comments about your boyfriend, juxtaposed with the comments about his girlfriend, were rather that he was recognizing that both of you had friends outside the marriage, and that he was trying, in his way, to say that he felt that none of those friendships constituted an adulterous affair.

So, you are both wrong. That's the way life usually ends up. It seems like you are both trying hard to see things from the other guy's point of view, but not succeeding. (Had it been possible, the divorce might not have been necessary, of course.)

My daughter is making a mess because I am typing this instead of giving her attention. Wasting tape on giant non-flying paper airplanes made out of newspaper. We all need attention.

The reason I'm meandering through here and not coming to a point is that I can sympathize with you ex's devotion to his companies, but I can also see that he hasn't figured out that family, including wife, is way more important than even the future of the race. Way too much belief that his contribution to the space industry is irreplaceable, and therefore transcends. That kind of drive sure sometimes seems to be necessary, to make those lasting contributions. (I know I'm looking at myself, too, in case you're curious.)

I was going to tell you that you would do better to let his other children (the companies) go to him. Letting go is sometimes necessary for happiness. But now I think I will say that I was going to and decided not to.

Just don't let the lawyers, or your boyfriend, or his girlfriend, or anyone else make the decision for you. Only you can know what's best here and why.

Aug. 8th, 2010 04:48 am (UTC)
Good wishes
As a reader of the Huffington Post I found my way here after reading that rather remarkable blog post by your former husband. It was troubling to me that many of those who commented seemed to accept his version without question, and vilified you without knowing you, or him, or the facts. I've begun reading your blog and am greatly enjoying your witty, astute observations on writing and LA and all else. You sound like a really lovely person, and I wish you well.
Aug. 12th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
Hi Justine, I was a big fan of your ex before today. After I found out what he did to you I have totally lost faith in his credentials. Please do tell him that he lost a very big opportunity if you do get a chance. Do take care of your kid and wish you the very best for the future. Kind Regards, NJ
Aug. 23rd, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
Okay so you say the offer he gave was alimony, child support, the house, and $2 million cash. How much was alimony? How much was child support? If the alimony and child support are at all commensurate with the cash offered, I really don't see how you could claim this is imposing some sort of hardship.
As I understand it, you signed a prenup at the start of the marriage. Is this true? If it is true, why wasn't that good enough when you finally decided to divorce? Was it really signed in good faith or not? See, thats what sticks for most people: you signed a prenup, now you want to break it. That spells gold digging. Seeking significant chunks of stock in his companies is even more manipulative, shows you want to exert control over his life after the divorce, possibly betray him in the worst way by selling that stock to third parties who would then be able to take over his companies and boot him out.
There are plenty of people in this world whose lives get totally screwed up because of divorces. They lose their jobs, they spiral into depression, wind up alcoholic, homeless, lose custody of their kids, etc etc etc. None of this is happening to either of you, so really, grow the hell up.
Aug. 23rd, 2010 07:57 am (UTC)
I'm hardly claiming "hardship" of any kind. And since the question re: the postnup is whether or not it is valid *because he betrayed his marital fiduciary duty to me under the protection of mediation confidentiality*, (ie: he wasn't honest, ie: committed fraud under the protection of mediation) then, yes, clearly there's an issue with the "good faith" part of the equation.

But the part of your post that amazes me is that bit about me having the audacity to seek "significant chunks" of his stock because I want to control and betray him, etc. What this says about your view of women in general is just -- sad. And scary. Not to mention -- you honestly think this is a man who can be victimized, taken advantage of, manipulated, controlled by a woman with no financial or business experience to speak of? What kind of delusions are you living under? Exactly who needs to grow up here?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 31st, 2010 06:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moschus - Aug. 31st, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 25th, 2010 02:26 am (UTC)
The Law of the Jungle
Methinks it interesting that you had a conversation with your son about poaching the old tiger of the woods. People aren't all that different and the old tiger may hold the preponderance of the guilt, but.... his behavior is quite predictable. The tigeress of this society, in general, seems bent on denying affection, poaching dreams and then happily skipping off for a spa treatment. This is a real problem. If we can't agree on some kind of traditional marriage arrangment (for the male and female), then it's time to end it and make everything a business relationship where at least you get what you pay for.
Aug. 25th, 2010 03:50 am (UTC)
Re: The Law of the Jungle
I think traditional marriage arrangements are kind of the problem, actually -- two roles so polarized that the sexes (often) become alienated from and resentful of each other. Women need something meaningful to do and to define themselves by that goes way the hell beyond spa treatments.

Also, may I remind you -- that "conversation" was fiction.
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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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