careers, Ex, marriage, music

Partial repost: “Slogging” through life… or “I’ve never had what it takes to be a woman…”

I’m having some trouble getting into the mood to write this morning. I did, however, find this post from October 2018 that I think is pretty interesting. And it has nothing to do with the horrors of the news these days, either. It has to do with the horrors of life… “slogging” along in a job that pays the bills. We’ve all done it. Most of us keep doing it. Why? Because unless we live alone, we have responsibilities to other people. And so, a lot of us are truly “slogging” through life. I have edited this a bit, since things have changed for us since 2018. That makes it more of a “partial repost”. Maybe later, I’ll write something fresh.

This song cracks me up… Listen until the end to get the second half of my title.

The comments on this song are pretty interesting.  There were quite a few from men who were offended by the notion that they’re selfish and self-absorbed.  Clearly, they aren’t the ones Garfunkel and Oates are singing about, right?  Not all men are inattentive to their partners, obsessed with their jobs, and expecting women to wait around for them and follow them as they pursue their dreams.  Not all women are being forced to give up their aspirations for their men, either.  Hell, in my case, I wound up doing what I’d always wanted to do anyway, albeit not for a real paycheck. 

Actually, what really stuck out to me was a comment made by a man who presented the other side of this reality.  Behold…

The insinuation being that men don’t sacrifice their dreams to support their family? Maybe not in show business, but sacrifice is very much the norm for the working class (which constitutes the majority of the population). Nobody ever dreamed of working in a coal mine or in sanitation, but millions of people (mostly men) do it on a daily basis to support their family.

Lots of people, including many men, are just “slogging through life”.  It’s not just women who give up their dreams for a relationship.  Plenty of men do it, too.  How many guys do you know had dreams of being in a band or creating art for a living, only to wind up doing a job they hate simply for the money?  It takes money to raise a family, run a household, and make the world go around.  Not everyone has the talent, luck, or ability to pursue their dreams.  That’s true for everyone.

I can’t think of a single person I know who, when they were kids, said they wanted to empty port-a-lets for a living.  And yet, you can bet there are people out there who do it, simply for the money it brings.  I don’t know too many people who had aspirations of making refrigerator doors for their life’s work.  And yet, before Bill got back into the Army full-time, he worked at a Whirlpool factory and supervised men who had been doing just that for over twenty years.  They’d show up every day, punch in, and spend their shifts standing on the line, putting three screws into refrigerator doors all day.  Then, at the end of the day, they’d clock out, go home, and sleep until it was time to come back and do it all over the next day.

I don’t know anyone who, when they were kids, dreamt of waiting tables for a living, nor have I ever heard of any parents wanting that job for their adult children.  And yet, I know several career servers and bartenders.  Some of them stay in that work because it sometimes pays better than sitting in a cubicle all day.  Some stay because it’s a portable skill.  Some truly enjoy the work and find it more stimulating than an office job.  Personally, I hope I never have to wait tables again.  It wasn’t work I particularly enjoyed.  But I might do it again if I had no other choice.  I’d rather wait tables than shovel dog shit, which is another job I did back before I became an overeducated housewife.

I think this song probably resonates more with the stereotypical career woman.  That’s the woman who went to college, busted her ass in an entry level job, climbed the rungs of success, got promoted, and became unwilling to let that success go, simply for the sake of a relationship or motherhood.  Not that I necessarily blame them for doing that.  It’s hard work to succeed in the work world.  It’s not usually enough to simply be good at what you do.  There’s usually a certain amount of social engineering involved and a willingness to kiss up to the right people.  That takes a certain kind of person… the kind of person I’m not.  So although I am fairly intelligent– or so I’ve been told– and I might have gotten a career going if I’d worked at it, it’s probably a blessing for me that I latched on to Bill.  It’s also a miracle that we’re as compatible as we are.    

Of course, Bill is also lucky enough to be doing work at which he excels and finds interesting.  When he was married to his first wife, she had a vision of what her life was going to be, and she expected Bill to conform to her vision.  In the 90s, the Army was downsizing.  Bill’s military career, in those days, was not so good.  He lacked confidence, and didn’t have the “killer instinct” that is highly prized among some military leaders. Ex also didn’t like the Army dictating to Bill over her, nor did she enjoy having to move all the time.  She was not a fan of the “mission first” mantra to which all people in the military and most of their families adhere. She wanted her wants and needs to come first.

So, when Bill had the chance to get out of the Army early, he took it, along with severance pay (that he eventually had to pay back).  Then he joined the Army Reserves, and he and Ex moved from Washington State to Arkansas. They bought a money pit of a house that Ex liked, because it reminded her of one she’d once seen in a snow globe. Ex proceeded to then spend money they didn’t have on furniture, carpeting, and landscaping. She said she didn’t want her children growing up in a trashy house or living like poor people, even though they were legitimately poor! 

Because the Army Reserves didn’t pay enough to cover all of the bills, Bill also worked in a couple of factories.  He did this only for the money.  He had looked into becoming a parole officer, which was work he thought he might enjoy, but the money was not enough to support the family.  So he worked in a hellish toy factory for awhile, making very little money and doing extremely dull, soul crushing work, simply so his family could eat.  He eventually got another, much better paid job at Whirlpool, where he was a supervisor.  He hated it; but he did it.  

Here Bill was, a guy who had gone to a great private university in Washington, DC and earned a degree in international relations, watching old codgers put refrigerator doors together.  It was not the stuff of his dreams.  He worked hard during the times when his young daughters were awake, so he didn’t get to see them much.  Meanwhile, Ex continued to treat him poorly, and work turned into an escape from his home life.  

Bill’s whole existence revolved around that factory job– a boring, soul draining, exhausting position that made it hard for him to properly support the family, let alone ever see the sun. And Bill is very much a morning person, so those swing and third shifts were pretty hard for him. His brain goes down with the sun; that is a fact! I remember seeing a picture of Bill in those days. He was in his early 30s, but he looked at least twenty years older. In fact, he looked older then than he does today, over twenty years later!

Then, an opportunity arose for Bill to go back into the Army with the Arkansas National Guard.  He could be in the Title X program, which would mean he’d be a full-time officer, same as he was when he was in the regular Army.  He’d just be paid from a different pot and serve at the pleasure of the governor of Arkansas.  It was a real blessing for him, because he was finally ready to excel in the Army. Yes, it would mean the regular Army lifestyle, but it beat the ever living hell out of factory work and never having enough money to pay the bills, or enough seniority to score a day shift.  

But Bill’s ex wife wasn’t on board with that decision.  She was presumably pissed off that the Army would, once again, dictate the course of their lives so much, and give Bill someone else to answer to besides her. She was not willing to let him go back into the Army to do work that was more appropriate for him, yet forced them to move all the time. She wanted instant gratification and total freedom to do what she wanted… although it’s hard to enjoy total freedom of choice when one is broke.  

It didn’t matter to Ex that the Army paid more, offered much better benefits and more prestige, and was work that Bill found interesting and fulfilling.  Bill’s decision to go back into the military wasn’t what Ex wanted. She resented that he’d made that choice for himself, and wanted him to get back in line.  So she tossed out the “d” word.

Ex later admitted she hadn’t wanted the divorce. She had meant for it to be an idle threat. But Bill went off script and agreed when she presented her ultimatum, which also included the false accusation that Bill hates women (I’ve been with him for almost 19 years, and it just ain’t so).  

Ex didn’t want to give in and be a good partner, and let Bill’s career disrupt her vision of what her life was supposed to be.  She expected him to keep working in that factory, living in podunk Arkansas, strictly so that she could maintain the status quo of that vision she had.  Bill realized that he didn’t want to live that way; so, when Ex demanded the divorce, he agreed.  She was supposedly shocked, and very upset. She locked herself in the guest room at my in-laws’ house and cried.

Instead of owning up to what was supposed to be an idle threat, Ex was determined to make Bill pay dearly for not doing her bidding. She still thought he’d eventually cave, even after they drove to the notary she’d tracked down who would work on Easter Sunday morning. She truly believed he’d come crawling back to her. She even told him he’d always know where his family is; which, of course, was a lie.

They had their ugly divorce, and then Bill and I found each other.  We weathered some difficult years financially, but I’d say our lifestyle is a lot more like what Bill’s dreams were for his own life. I’m relatively contented, too, even if I do worry about someday living in a refrigerator box– perhaps even made for a Whirlpool fridge— under a bridge. Ex, on the other hand, is reportedly still unsatisfied.

I had my own “dreams”, back when I was a lot younger, although to be honest, I’m not sure how they would have worked out for me.  I got through my graduate programs just fine, but if I had taken work in those fields, I’d probably truly be “slogging through life”.  It would be work I was doing to put a roof over my head.  I’d probably be waiting to die.  

But then, I probably would have also liked the career I trained for more than shoveling dog shit or waiting tables.  Maybe I’d feel better about myself… although if I know myself, I doubt that’s what would have happened.  I would always be coveting something else and kicking myself for not following my elusive dreams.  My real dream, by the way, is to be a writer and a musician who actually gets paid regularly, not a public health social worker.  Right now, I’m fortunate enough to be able to chase my dreams with little hope that they’ll come true… but I also don’t have to slog away in a job I hate just to maintain my existence. 

It’s hard for a lot of people to be satisfied, though.  Even though I do pretty much get to do whatever I want most days, I still feel a bit unfulfilled.  I do sometimes feel like I’m just waiting to be done with this life.  Listening to “50/50” and reading the comments reminds me that I’m not alone in this reality.  I probably shouldn’t complain.  

Edited to add:  I played this song for Bill and he immediately got what Garfunkel and Oates were singing about, even before they got to the punchline.  Then I shared the comment I quoted in this post and he was about to protest, until I reminded him that many people aren’t lucky enough to pursue their dreams.  They’re simply trying to keep the lights on and the fridge full.  Often, accomplishing that involves slogging away at a job they don’t enjoy.  

So while I get the point of the song and enjoy it– I also realize that it really applies to a relatively small segment of privileged people who had the opportunity to even try to chase their dreams.  Many people are not that lucky.  That being said, as much as I complain, I do realize that I’m very lucky, and luck can be a fleeting thing.  

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condescending twatbags, mental health, modern problems, musings, sex

Transaction denied!

This morning, as I enjoyed coffee and a chocolate cream cheese muffin with Bill, I read today’s Dear Abby. The first letter was this:

DEAR ABBY: Two months ago, I met a lady I will call Amber. We were instantly attracted to each other. The first date went well, and we reached first base (kissing). On the second date, we reached second base (fondling). On the third date, which was also going well, after I finished paying the check for dinner, I asked her if she wanted to continue where we had left off. Amber said no. I was fine with it.

Later that night, when we spoke over the phone, I pointed out, nicely, that she did not even say thank you for dinner, and Amber got offended. I decided to end things after that phone call. I felt she was being disrespectful of my feelings by not listening to what I was saying.

Fast-forward: Her birthday is in two weeks, and I don’t know if I should bury the hatchet by dropping her a Happy Birthday text that day because I really did overall like her. — BRAND-NEW IN NEW JERSEY

Dear Abby, to her credit, very diplomatically set the letter writer straight. She wrote:

DEAR BRAND-NEW: Amber may have become offended when, after she declined to proceed with further intimacy, you told her she “hadn’t even” thanked you for the dinner. When I read that line, for a moment I wondered if you equated the two and had expected that after buying her dinner you were guaranteed sexual favors in return. The two of you have a significant communication deficit. Contact her again only if you are willing to acknowledge that fact and hope she is willing to work on it with you.

As I read this piece, I was reminded of a post I wrote on the original Overeducated Housewife blog. Actually, I wrote a few articles on this subject– about the idea that if a man takes a woman out for dinner, she owes him sex. Or she owes him ANYTHING, except perhaps money if the date is a “Dutch treat”.

In April 2018, I wrote about a woman named Amanda Burnett, who went out with a guy. He paid for dinner, but Amanda never texted him back afterwards. A few weeks later, Amanda got a letter from this guy, along with an invoice for about $40, because she didn’t respond to his request for another date. In true 21st century fashion, Amanda posted the “bill” online. It proved to be a controversial move. Many people felt Amanda’s date was rude to send her a bill. Others felt that Amanda was the asshole for “ghosting” the guy. Dating is not cheap, and the least she could do is thank him for taking her out and treating her. Except he didn’t really treat her, since he expected her to pay him back for the dinner.

Generally speaking, I agree that ghosting someone is a shitty thing to do. It’s disrespectful, rude, and hurtful to just disappear without a trace. However, Amanda may have had good reasons for ghosting the guy. Maybe he gave her the creeps. Maybe he was too intense for her. Perhaps she detected a bent in him toward being controlling and petty. She may have even been concerned about her safety. I would submit that any guy who is dickish enough to send someone a bill weeks after a date is probably not someone most people would want to spend time with long term. On the other hand, I also understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, and whether or not they want to admit it, a lot of guys do expect something in return for investing in dinner.

What prompts me to write about today’s Dear Abby is that, as I read the letter, it seemed pretty obvious to me why “Amber” got offended by the guy’s chastisement for not saying “thank you”. He clearly was hoping for sex after their date. After all, on their previous two dates, Amber had allowed him to get to “first and second base” (is this guy still in the 70s?). It probably seemed to be a given that Amber would let him get to “third base” on their third date. When she demurred, he thought she owed him gratitude for taking her out to eat. While it would have been good manners for Amber to say “thank you”, there are any number of reasons why it slipped her mind. For him to basically insinuate that Amber is rude for A, not fucking him, and B, not saying “thanks for dinner”, I get the sense that this guy has a very transactional view on relationships. I do something for you. You do something for me. If you disagree, we’re done.

But now he admits that he likes Amber, even though she didn’t want to put out, and didn’t say “thank you” for dinner. And he wants to know if he should wish her a “Happy Birthday” via text. Abby wisely told him not to contact her unless he understands why Amber got offended by his chastisement and is willing to acknowledge it. My guess is that he won’t want to do that.

Any man who sends a woman a bill for not agreeing to more dates or, any man who is rude enough to criticize a woman’s manners after he buys her dinner and she doesn’t put out, is likely a major asshole. It’s also likely that Amber and Amanda behaved as they did because these guys offered major clues during their dates that they’re assholes– who strongly believe that paying for dinner means they get access to the woman’s company and, eventually, her body.

A $40 dinner is not a fair exchange for a woman’s health or well-being. Sex is a big step for a lot of women. Bill and I did not have sex with each other until two weeks after our wedding. Now… it’s not that I was against having sex before marriage. I would have had sex with Bill if he had wanted to have sex with me. But it turns out we are compatible when it comes to that. When we first met, Bill was a Mormon, and Mormons don’t officially agree with premarital sex. Granted, he quit practicing Mormonism while we were dating, but I was a virgin and he had only been with his ex wife. And we both wanted to wait for marriage. Then, on my wedding day, I had the same problem Ginny from Sixteen Candles had…

Yep. I got my monthly bill on my wedding day. It also rained. Isn’t it ironic?

Fortunately, I didn’t take a muscle relaxant or tranquilizer before I walked down the aisle. In fact, Aunt Flow even had the decency to wait until after the reception. I don’t regret waiting, and I’m grateful that Bill was willing to wait. He was concerned about my comfort and didn’t see our relationship as transactional. He has never acted like he has the right to free access to my body. Eighteen years later, we’re still in love. We probably would be in love anyway, even if we’d had sex before marriage. But I can honestly say Bill is the best lover I’ve ever had. I never had to experience worrying about pregnancy or STIs. I don’t have any bad memories of sex with some jerk who used me, or had the idea that after a certain number of dates, I needed to either fuck him or end the relationship. Waiting until marriage was the right decision for me. Bill loves me for who I am, and not just how I can make him feel when his dick is inside of me.

In any case, I don’t think either Amanda or Amber have anything to be ashamed about. Granted, it’s rude to ghost someone, as Amanda did, but if she was really a gold digging hussy, she would have kept stringing the guy along. He should have been glad she only cost him $40, if he’s that concerned about money.

And Amber might have been shocked that “BRAND-NEW” had requested sex and put her in the position of saying no thank you. I can tell you that I would have been pretty upset if I was on a third date with someone and they expected sex that early. Some women are fine with having sex that early in a relationship, but a lot of us aren’t. It sounds like the guy was rather forward in his request. When he later “nicely” reminded Amber that she hadn’t thanked him for dinner, he was sending a big clue as to what kind of a man he is. And when she got irritated with him for calling her out, then he decided not to call her again, he sent another clue. For all he knows, Amber has a history of sexual abuse or another issue that makes her less sexually adventurous. I’ll bet by the third date, they hadn’t ever talked about that. Which, to me, is the more amazing thing, especially for those of us who grew up in the era of HIV/AIDS. I would certainly want to know my partner’s basic history before I opened myself up to him sexually.

In my April 2018 post about this subject, I wrote:

A lot of guys seem to think that if they pay for dinner, they are entitled to sex or company or whatever else.  The fact is, a $40 dinner is not a fair trade for someone’s health or well-being.  No one owes another person access to their body.  If one party wants more than good times on the town and the other person doesn’t, then it’s probably best to just find another partner.  Paying for a date entitles you to absolutely nothing more than a person’s company, for as long as he or she wants to offer it.  Moreover, I’d love to see that guy actually collect his bill.  I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

I have never “ghosted” anyone, but it has happened to me before.  I was in college when I had a “date” with a guy who didn’t spend a dime on me and got disgusted when I wouldn’t put out, hours after I met him.  After that, he wouldn’t even speak to me.  In retrospect, it was really no big loss.  But no… I’ve never ghosted anyone and generally speaking, wouldn’t… unless I had a very good reason.  

I wouldn’t mind singing this song about ghosting, though…

In that same post, I continued with a story about a guy I used to know who has probably been ghosted a few times and scared the fuck out of me…

Back in the fall of 1999, right after I began graduate school, I ran into a guy I used to know from ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) meetings.  He and his ex girlfriend had a baby and he wanted to know if I wanted to see the little girl.  Although I had plans for later in the evening, I agreed.  Stupidly, I rode in his truck with him.  After we visited his adorable little girl, we got back in his truck and he proceeded to drive to the Colonial Parkway, which is, if you’re familiar with the Tidewater area of Virginia, a well-known pretty drive that has also been the site of several notorious unsolved murders.  

I told the guy that I had plans to meet a friend– and I did.  I was meeting a male friend from college for dinner.  The truck driving creep wanted me to “blow off” my friend because, apparently, he found me alluring that evening and wanted to “hold me”.  I had to insist that he take me back to my car because my friend would be waiting, and I told him he would call the police.  My friend probably wouldn’t have called the police, but the dude driving the truck didn’t know that.  

The whole way back to my car, my body was numb with fear as he lectured me about how wrong it is that I “let other people dictate what I do” (and apparently not realizing that he was trying to dictate to me how I should spend my evening).  We got back to my car.  I heaved a sigh of relief and got out of his truck, about to crap my pants because all of my fight or flight impulses were firing off at full steam.  Yes, had that been a date, I absolutely would have ghosted him.  In fact, some months after that incident, I ran into that guy again.  He acted like nothing had happened while I fought to control the nauseating sense of fear I had, seeing him again.  I feel sorry for his ex girlfriend, who presumably had to share their daughter with him.  She’s a grown woman now.  I wonder how she feels about her creepy dad.

Amanda might have had a good reason for “ghosting” the guy who billed her. Maybe he gave her the creeps. However, I think it’s more likely that he wasn’t scary. If he was, she wouldn’t have posted his bill on the Internet. She probably just found him boring and stingy. Ghosting him was rude, but since he sent her a bill, my guess is that she probably found him offensive on the actual date. Amber’s date sounds like he might have been too pushy. Any guy who refers to steps in intimacy in baseball terms, especially in 2021, is probably a jackass. I don’t think I would have wanted to fuck him. Of course, he probably wouldn’t have wanted to fuck me, either. 😉

So… I do understand why some men think women are rude for ghosting them, not thanking them, or not having sex with them. But I also think that women should always remember that there’s “no obligation to buy”. A $40 dinner is not a fair trade for one’s health or well-being. And we have to protect ourselves from diseases, pregnancy, and the mental anguish from being intimate with assholes, literally and figuratively. Decent men, who were brought up properly, understand this. Frankly, I think that if all you want is sex, you should simply hire a professional and pay her for the experience. That way, you don’t have to shell out for dinner and there won’t be any crying jags. Unless, of course, you pay extra.

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Andrew McCarthy and Anna Maria Horsford, who played a black prostitute named Naomi in the film St. Elmo’s Fire. When Andrew’s character, Kevin, asks Naomi why she never tries to sell her wares to him, she says, “I thought you were gay.” Then she goes on to explain why a prostitute is a better deal for a man who just wants sex.

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