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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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Comments

(Anonymous)
Jul. 12th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
Re: in awe
If I was e I'd be infuriated that I was:
a) Paying people trying to screw me over. $170k per month is not reasonable. It's about 5 times more than I made this year.

Sidenote: While necessary, the premise of our legal system is based on weird technicalities, clever maneuverings, and rarely justice. The fact that your fates and fortune rely on lawyers being able to pull shit from their ass and not on what is actually fair is absurd.

It doesn't seem to me Justine, like you fully understand how much this is killing him and making him hate you, even though you insist he's asking for it, which does seem to be partially the case. You write it off as something he deserves to be paying because of the shit you've had to go through, but he is feeling the pain every day. It's a vicious cycle.

If I was Justine I'd be extremely hurt that:
a) The person I stood by for 15 years now treats me like an evil thing, not a human who had 5 of his children.

Justine, you're kind of a bitch, but underneath you're clearly vulnerable and have a heart of gold. Your comments like "Dude is so handsome, I was used to being the hot one." Your posts about loving the feeling of getting past the velvet rope, when TR famously states she "hates clubbing" and just wants to make babies; your self-description as a "fashionista" when Elon describes himself as a "wearer of T-shirts" seem to me like a subtle "fuck you." However, in your last article about BP it showed how proud you are of E. You also vaguely did that literary thing you accused him of doing by bringing up Dude in HuffPo when you were talking about what you learned from him, in a way .."his ability to block out distraction."

You are trapped in the binary like everyone else, myself included. The fact that you had to add the fact that Dude was a CEO when you were listing the 10 characters of your life, speaks volumes about our society - that even as modern women - we still value guys for their achievement.

It takes a lot to impress you. After 15 years, I think E just needs someone he could impress (I suppose the pretty car show girl act is just an added bonus). It's sad, because I don't think E really knew how much you did respect him.

I really hope he cuts the crap and doesn't defer you to his assistant, but reaches out to you as the wonderful, smart woman who was with him through it all.
(Deleted comment)
moschus
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
Re: in awe
And I want to add...because I was literally just thinking this...that getting others' perspectives (such as yours) has been invaluable in so many ways, acts as a reality check, and punches much-needed holes in what would otherwise be a kind of stale and painful isolation.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 12th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
Re: in awe
Jesus Christ, you are so similar to my aloof friend who does that, so aware of her own aloofness I begin to question how aloof she actually is. She isn't impressed by most things I do personally, and asks me tough questions. This is a good thing, but in stressful situations, I'm already my own biggest skeptic. Then I talk to other people about my dreams, who share my excitement. I would think what Elon does is very scary, and sometimes you Just want a cheerleader. There can be man cheerleaders, too.

When he achieves most of what sets out to, and is 70, do you really think he or anyone else would want a gentle type, or do you think someone would want a You? Someone to exchange one knowing glance with making fun of the ironic comment someone at the other side of the room made. My aloof friend and I are on the same "level," and I have never laughed harder in my life than I have with her - falling out of your chair - streaming tears, like you reported with you E, K and Jen. Though you're technically supposed to only wish the best for your ex, I would have a ... smart satisfation of sorts... knowing that despite your vicious battles and daily frustrations with each other (videogames, endless business trips, criticism, competition), that his best, most honest, moments were with you.

I'm happy that you and Dude really are equally supportive of each other, interested in each others passions, and can take some time out to dance. :)

After the War of the Roses subsides, years down the line, I do see you and Elon being friends. There's a lot of shit to laugh about.

I wouldn't put so much worry into a settlement that leaves you "tethered" to him if he can't pay you in liquid assets now without selling the T-shirt off his back. He's going to be part of your life anyway. Being nice to each other should be a provision, that you may want to try to quantify.

Good song rec: Band of Horses - Our Swords.

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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