communication, controversies, expressions, family

“Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”

Yeah, sing it, Avril…

Apologies for the old hit from Avril Lavigne. I’m not even a big fan of Avril’s music, but this song seems appropriate for today’s topic, which comes courtesy of Carolyn Hax’s advice column in the Washington Post. I had other topics in mind to write about today, but it’s Sunday, and I figured it would be better to write about something less serious. And today’s post from Carolyn Hax is definitely lighter than my subject matter has been lately.

Here’s the letter in question, which was adapted from an online discussion:

Hi Carolyn! 

I’ve recently started to attend family functions with my boyfriend. He always says I don’t need to bring anything, but I never go anywhere empty-handed.

His mom is preparing the entire meal for the next event, including desserts. I’m a baker and usually bring desserts but Boyfriend says mom might be offended if I bring a dessert when she’s already taking care of that. This party is for his sister’s birthday, and I don’t know her well enough to choose a gift, and he won’t give me any ideas because he insists I don’t need to bring a gift. I asked if I could at least get a card, and he said he’ll add my name to his card — but he and his sister have been passing the same card back and forth for 12 years as a joke. This is their thing and I don’t want to impose.

But I just can’t fathom going empty-handed. Any ideas as to what I can bring?

— Never Empty-Handed

Carolyn’s advice to the letter writer was to try to call the boyfriend’s mom and ask her directly what she should bring for his sister, if the boyfriend won’t “work with her on this”. She also said that the letter writer should explain to him that telling her that she doesn’t need to bring anything is easy for him to say, and maybe even well-intentioned by letting her off the hook, but it actually puts her in an awkward position. Carolyn further writes:

He is seeing this through the family lens, but you are not family and you’re newish to everyone, so you don’t know how you’ll be judged.

You want to make a good impression. If he wants to set you up to succeed, then he either needs to give you a token way to contribute, or be more thoughtful in explaining his family culture to you, or connect you to his mom (or whoever’s hosting) to find out for yourself.

This advice makes sense to me, I guess. However, there is also hopefully a good chance that Boyfriend is telling the truth. It’s possible that his mom and/or his sister really don’t want her to bring anything. Moreover, I would expect him to tell me the truth. So my response, which so far is being well-received was this:

I would just take the boyfriend at his word. If it goes awry, then I’ll know I can’t trust what he says and move on.

She can always warn the guy that if he’s not being truthful, and she shows up with nothing and his mom or sister thinks it’s rude, that will mean that she can’t trust him to be honest, and that might mean they shouldn’t continue the relationship. There is a good chance, though, that the mom and/or his sister really are among those people who doesn’t want guests to bring things. My mom is one of those people. She’s at a point in her life that she’s trying to get rid of things she doesn’t need. I have been the recipient of many lovely gifts people have given her that she just didn’t want or weren’t her taste.

If you think about it, bringing something for the host/hostess actually can lead to embarrassing situations. Here’s an example from my personal history.

Recently, I wrote about how I have a phobia of mushrooms. I can’t eat them or touch them, and I prefer not to look at them or smell them. One time, years ago, a woman invited me to her house for dinner. She was a vegetarian. Because I wanted to be a good guest, I baked two loaves of bread and brought one of them with me. Guess what… hostess wasn’t a fan of bread. And guess what else? The dinner she made was LOADED with mushrooms. And yes, it was very embarrassing. I explained to her, honestly, why I couldn’t partake of the dinner. Fortunately, she had a good laugh at my expense, and even told some of her colleagues about it.

People love to leave comments on the Washington Post’s Facebook page about this post, when it’s clear that they didn’t read the article. It’s mainly because they don’t want to pay for a subscription. If they had read the article, they would see that other people offered reasons why bringing the usual go-to gifts of wine, flowers, and candy might not be the best idea. Here’s what a couple of people wrote:

Re: Guest: Yes, please arrive empty-handed. I find hosting people who are compelled to bring something, anything, very tiring. Fine to ask if you can contribute to the meal, for instance, but if the answer is no, then accept that.

— Tired

Tired: Yes, yes. When I tell my guests what (not) to bring, I want them to take me at my word, not send me looking for a vase for the lovely and well-meant flowers.

In the case of someone new being invited into the fold, though, the standards shift a bit. The balance of power is more precarious. The boyfriend can be more helpful here. That’s all.

I have a policy that when people say they want no gifts, I take them at their word. I assume they had a reason for making that statement. If they didn’t mean it, they shouldn’t have written or said it, and they shouldn’t be upset when people abide by it. If Mom is annoyed with the girlfriend for coming to visit the family empty-handed that early in the relationship, that’s another sign that the letter writer might want to consider, should things go further in that relationship. I would hope that the boyfriend’s mom and other family members would be just as eager to make a good impression on his girlfriend, especially if there is a chance she might one day marry him, or otherwise engage in a more serious relationship. Because– that could one day be her mother-in-law… and you want to pay attention to red flags. Divorce is expensive, and marriage can be challenging enough without a mother-in-law with whom you don’t mesh. Fortunately, my own mother-in-law is awesome, and my mom adores Bill.

A lot of commenters seem to think that the letter writer should just ignore what her boyfriend says, and go against his advice on dealing with his family. I don’t know about other people, but it would really annoy me if I told Bill about what to expect from my family– people that I’ve known my whole life– and he didn’t believe me. I can understand the letter writer’s dilemma in not wanting to be rude, but I would consider not trusting my boyfriend’s word as kind of rude, too. I’m big on trust, and I don’t like it when people don’t take me seriously, even though I joke around a lot. Joking around is one thing, but I’m not the kind of person who would deliberately set someone up to fail. If I care enough to bring you home to meet the family, that means I’m serious. And I would not tell you not to bring a gift if I knew that not bringing a gift would make my mom or sister think you were a jerk. I would hope for the same consideration.

I also noticed that the people commenting were suggesting gifts that could be problematic. That bottle of wine might not be appreciated by someone who is fundie Baptist or LDS, struggles with alcoholism or some other health issue, or someone who just doesn’t drink. Flowers might not be appreciated by someone who has severe allergies or, like Madonna, hates hydrangeas… or whatever other flower. Some people don’t like plants because they have a brown thumb, and kill everything they touch.

Ouch!

Or maybe it will be an awkward exchange, like when Melania Trump brought Michelle Obama a fancy Tiffany box on Inauguration Day…

Nice of Melania to bring a gift. Too bad the Trumps didn’t have enough class to show up to the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.

Someone who prides themselves on being a great cook or baker might not appreciate it if you take it upon yourself to bring dessert. A lot of people go to great lengths to plan when they have a party. If you show up with a cake from a bakery or even one you’ve made yourself, it may send a very embarrassing message that won’t be well received. Or, again, it could turn out that someone has diabetes and has to watch their sugar or carbs for health reasons. I had a friend, years ago, who had an allergy to chocolate. She loved chocolate, but couldn’t eat it, because it made her break out in hives. Imagine showing up at her house with a lovely, expensive chocolate cake that took hours to bake. Hopefully, other people can enjoy it.

Here’s what I think is a fairly foolproof gift– sincere gratitude for the invitation, and authentic, attentive, and appreciative company. That’s it. Maybe that gratitude could be augmented by a handwritten note expressing thanks, mailed a day or two after the gathering. One of the nicest “gifts” I have ever received from anyone was a lovely, handwritten note from Bill’s younger daughter, who was considerate enough to think of me when he went to visit her in March 2020. I will treasure it always, for there’s no other gift like it. It came from the heart and, best of all, it cost her almost nothing in money, but yet it’s priceless to me. I will keep and treasure it always, especially since it doesn’t take up any room or collect dust.

Now THIS is what I call a good– and very classy– gift. There’s not another like it.

There’s no reason to sweat the small stuff. There’s no reason to make things more complicated than it needs to be. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. While giving a small gift to a host or hostess is usually considered good etiquette, when it comes down to it, the best etiquette is considering what will make the other person feel most comfortable and at ease. I would expect that the boyfriend in this situation knows his family well enough to advise his girlfriend honestly. She should take what he says at face value. If it goes wrong, that will be a sign of things that could be coming in the future. At the very least, it could be a signal that he’s not going to be straightforward about other things.

Damned right.

Some of the comments on this remind me of the American attitude about tipping. So many people seem to think that everyone loves gifts. Not everyone does… just like not everyone expects or appreciates a tip. Seriously… in some cultures, tipping is actually considered rude or just isn’t a thing. American culture is not the end all, be all, and there’s a lot to consider in any relationship. If you don’t know the guy’s parents, I actually think it’s better to wait before you bring a gift, unless you’ve been assured that they would appreciate one. Gifts can go awry. Besides, meeting new people is a two-way street. I see no reason to complicate that meeting by adding in an unnecessary element, like what gift to bring. Especially when it’s been made clear, by someone who should be in the know, that gifts aren’t expected or even desired. I think it’s smart to learn about the culture in any new situation before assuming you know what should be done.

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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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family, LDS, love, marriage

Discovering you’re wife #4…

Yesterday, someone wrote an off topic post on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. Or, she’d labeled it as OT. Personally, I didn’t think it was an off topic post at all. I’m sure a lot of people who are ex members of the LDS church can relate to the ultimate breach of trust and lack of respect she describes with this post.

I was aware of my husband’s previous marriage. What I didn’t know, until I recently discovered it, is that I’m actually wife #4, not #2, I thought. We discussed previous relationships before we got married, but he referred to them as relationships, not marriages. I also pulled out our marriage license application where you have to declare which marriage this is…he wrote “second”.

When asked why he did this, he replied, “it was along time ago, the marriages were so short, I thought you may not marry me, you didn’t ask”.

I’m really struggling with this. It feels kinda like discovering hidden church stuff all over again.

This lady’s post was up for several hours before someone responded to it. I happened to be that person. My comment to her was this:

I don’t blame you for being upset. I would wonder what else I wasn’t told in that situation. It’s a breach of trust.

I could have written more, but I was on my iPad and it’s a pain to type on the iPad. Also, I really just wanted her to feel heard and validated without having to wade through too much. Her instincts are correct. Her husband lied to her, and that’s a major betrayal. I’m not an ex Mormon, but Bill is. When we met, he claimed to be a devout church believer. However, we met in a place not typically frequented by church types. After awhile, I realized he was trying to convince himself that he was a believer. He wanted to save his first marriage– felt it was his duty to try to save it, even though it was a relationship built on bullshit. Those kinds of relationships pretty much never last.

A couple of hours later, another nevermo regular poster also replied. She agreed with me. Then, came the somewhat inappropriate responses from men. One guy wrote:

“Everyone with the ability to speak ‘edits’ their life story.”

That may be true… but glossing over two previous marriages is a bit extreme, in my view, even if they were super short and “meaningless”. At the very least, it means that her spouse once had little regard for the institution of marriage. He obviously didn’t take it seriously a couple of times in his life. I would have a hard time regaining trust for my husband if it turned out he’d hidden something this significant. I also think it says something when the spouse who lies by omission says something like “I was afraid you wouldn’t marry me if you knew the whole truth about me.” Cover ups are almost always worse than the truth. At least if you tell someone the truth, they have the ability to decide for themselves about the right thing to do .

I’m interested in the whole story… even the ugly parts. Sometimes, the ugly parts make the story more compelling.

Consider this. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know that I love my husband with all my heart. This year, we will have been happily married for 19 years. But if I’d relied only on my common sense, I never would have married him. He had a lot of baggage that would have sent a lot of women packing. Here’s a list of his “shortcomings” from those early days, over twenty years ago.

  • He had bad credit. He and Ex had gone through both a foreclosure and a bankruptcy. After getting to know him, I realized that Bill wasn’t the one with the problem handling money. But if I had been exercising common sense, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with him because of his financial issues.
  • He was broke. After his divorce, Bill was paying over half his salary to Ex in child support and alimony. It was really tough going for awhile, but I realized it was a time limited issue. And, based on our lifestyle, you can see that I was right.
  • His ex wife was (and still is) legitimately “crazy”. Those of you who have followed my blogs probably already know how crazy. She has no compunction about making insane demands on people and smearing them to others. She withheld visitation with the kids from Bill and completely alienated them after he married me. I strongly suspect she has a character disorder.
  • He’d had a vasectomy. Bill is not only my first husband; he’s also the only man I’ve ever been intimate with. I wanted to have children, and he’d already had them with Ex, who then asked him to have a vasectomy. He obliged. However, he was willing to have it reversed for me. That was enough for me, even though I never managed to have children. Now, I realize maybe not having children was a good thing, given how complicated his situation with Ex and their kids has been.
  • He was involved in a “weird” religion. Not everyone thinks Mormonism is “weird”, but coming from the South, where most people are Protestants, it was certainly different to me. Fortunately, Bill wasn’t that committed to Mormonism, nor did he feel compelled to convert me. If he had, our relationship probably would not have worked. I can tell you right now, I would never willingly be involved in a faith that dictates what undergarments I wear or what beverages I choose to drink. Other people’s mileages vary, of course.
  • I met him on the Internet in a chat room! I might as well have met him in a bar!

So why has our relationship worked, given all of these “obvious” shortcomings? It’s worked because Bill was completely honest with me. Three months after we started chatting, he sent me a long email explaining everything, even though he worried that I might reject him. Also, he stayed platonic in his conversations with me until he was legally divorced. He even wore his wedding ring until his split was official. We didn’t meet in person until about a year after his divorce was official. Even after the divorce was official, he wasn’t inappropriate with me. I realized that he was a decent, honest person and I could trust him. He also eventually learned that he could trust me, despite what he’d been through in his first marriage.

It took about five years before Bill completely trusted me with finances. He finally gave me access to his bank account when he deployed to Iraq and I had to handle the household bills. While he was gone, I made a point of paying off all of the horrible, high interest credit cards he had because he’d trusted his ex wife to pay the bills and she hadn’t. A year later, USAA, which had taken a loss in his bankruptcy, granted him a new credit card. PenFed let him refinance a car loan, saving us hundreds of dollars. He’s never missed paying a bill the whole time we’ve been together. He now has an excellent credit score.

When Bill goes on business trips, he is incredibly reliable about contacting me. In fact, it’s almost annoying… I’ll be watching a movie or something and he’ll want to chat. But I appreciate it, because I know he’s thinking of me and is faithful. I don’t worry about him fucking around when he goes TDY. He is extremely respectful and faithful, and I knew he was when he was still married to his ex wife. Meanwhile, she was shacking up with her now third husband in the house Bill was paying for and she later let go into foreclosure. I was certain he was trustworthy when I met him, and so far, he’s proven me right.

Over the years, Bill has been incredibly brave about telling me pretty much everything about his life, even some things that are completely embarrassing and potentially humiliating. And he has had quite a life… and a lot of weird stuff has happened to him. He could write a book. Every day, I’m amazed at how balanced, reliable, and decent he is, despite everything that has happened in his past. He could have chosen not to tell me about the embarrassing things in his past and risked being rejected by me. But, it turns out I was willing to trust my instincts, rather than common sense. I knew he was the best kind of person, and I was right. It would devastate me if he’d hidden something as major as prior marriages, no matter how short. It would mean he didn’t trust me, and that would make me wonder if I should be trusting him.

I don’t think strong relationships start with deception, either outright untruths or lies by omission. When I married Bill, I was taking on a new relative. That means he’s family… family I CHOSE. I wouldn’t voluntarily choose to make someone a family member if he didn’t trust me enough to tell me the whole truth about who he is. Likewise, I would expect my partner to know everything there is to know about me. But I also realize that I have been extremely lucky. Bill is an honest person who doesn’t hide skeletons in the closet. I am also an honest person. We told each other the truth. A person who can’t handle hearing the whole truth about serious issues before agreeing to marriage is probably not the best candidate to be husband or wife.

A good example of times when honesty is NOT the best policy…

Now… it’s true that I do believe in being completely honest about the major things, like prior marriages, criminal history, health situations, and finances. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s always a good thing to be completely honest about everything. Like, for instance, if Bill thinks my ass looks especially dumpy one day, he doesn’t have to be honest about that and tell me so! That would hurt my feelings unnecessarily, especially since there’s nothing I can immediately do about having a dumpy ass. Fortunately, he’s not the type of guy who is overly hung up on looks. 😉

But yes… if I found out that I was wife #4, rather than wife #2, I would be very hurt and feel betrayed. I think it would be difficult to trust a partner who hid something major like that from me. And I would not think too highly of someone who tried to brush it off by saying the marriages were short or insignificant and, therefore, unworthy of being mentioned. Marriage, to me, is a huge deal. The fact that someone got married twice, but doesn’t see them as significant is a huge red flag, in my opinion. I have a lot of empathy for the lady on RfM who is making this discovery now. I wish her luck and strength. She might even feel like she doesn’t even know this man anymore.

At least at this point, Bill and I are a team. We work together to achieve common goals. He supports what I do, and I support what he does. We trust each other, and, for the most part, we’re completely honest. We don’t hide things. Like… I can say whatever is on my mind and, for the most part, Bill doesn’t judge me for them. The same goes for Bill. Because I think we both know that neither of us wants the other person to be hurt. That being said, though, I also think I hit the husband lottery. Bill is an unusually mature and respectful person. Most people aren’t like him, including myself. I never forget that, and I try not to abuse it.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists

A review of Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It by Ann Silvers, MA

I have just finished reading Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It, a book for male victims of abuse written by Ann Silvers, MA, a counselor who practices in Washington State. Silvers is herself a former abuse victim, but she is also formally educated in counseling and has a speciality in helping both men and women survive and escape abusive relationships. She’s been practicing for over 30 years.

This first edition book was released in September 2018 and appears to be a product of self-publishing, as it was published by an outfit called Silvers Publishing. In spite of the fact that it’s apparently self-published, Abuse OF Men BY Women is an excellent book. It’s surprisingly comprehensive, well-organized, and readable.

Why did I read this book for male abuse victims if I’m a woman?

There are a couple of reasons. First off, I have master’s degrees in both social work and public health, and if I weren’t “The Overeducated Housewife”, this might be considered professional reading for me. As it stands today, I just find it interesting subject matter. Secondly, my husband’s first wife abused him. Bill and I have been married for 18 years, and I’m still learning about everything that happened during their marriage, which lasted almost ten years. Although he’s come a long way since we first met, the healing process has been long… and a lot of people have little empathy or regard for men who have survived abuse.

Since I have both an educational and real life background in the subject matter Ms. Silvers covers in her book, I thought it would be interesting to read her thoughts on male abuse victims. More people need to realize that women are not the only ones who get abused in relationships. Unfortunately, it’s much harder for men to get help when they are in toxic relationships with women. A lot of people don’t take them or the issue seriously, or they assume the man is lying. I have seen firsthand the psychological and physical scars my husband bears after his first marriage. I take this issue seriously, and I want others to know more about it.

This book’s strengths

One of the things I noticed about this book that may be a plus for some readers is that the concepts are broken down into easy to digest pieces. Silvers has an easy to read writing style that takes little effort to navigate. I think that is especially important in books such as this one, since the people reading it are likely to be in trouble and upset. The book is very comprehensive and realistically covers a broad array of topics that male abuse victims may face. For instance, Silvers confronts the reality that not a lot of shelters will accept male clients, even if they need somewhere to go after they escape. She even admits that if a man calls the police for help, it could backfire, and he could wind up the one in trouble with the law. But she also reminds readers that if they don’t ever ask for help, there is a 0% chance that they’ll get it.

I liked that Silvers covered the many ways men can be abused. A lot of people wrongly assume that men, who are often bigger and stronger than women are, can always fight back when a woman gets physical. That’s not always true. Aside from that, some women use weapons… and there are also times when the woman uses other means of getting her way. She may, for example, use her femininity to get sympathy from others. She may alienate children or family members, or engage in financial or legal abuse. As I read Silvers’ descriptions of the scenarios that can arise in female to male abuse situations, I found myself nodding my head. Almost all of them have happened to Bill.

Silvers explains that men may have to accept that some people won’t believe that he’s a victim, but they may end up pleasantly surprised that the public attitude is changing. Bill’s ex wife turned the children against him and even tried to convince his parents that he’s an abusive, woman hating pervert. However, Bill’s younger daughter, who was estranged for years, eventually recognized that her mother abused him. And her parents were not swayed by the Ex’s lies, either. His stepmother took a little more time to be convinced.

This book’s weaknesses

Overall, I don’t think Abuse OF Men BY Women has that many weaknesses. It’s a well-written and useful book. It’s practical, engaging, and easy to read. I guess if I had to offer a complaint, it might be that, to me, the book has a somewhat academic feel, not so much in the writing style, but in the way it’s laid out. There aren’t any graphics or charts, per se. The chapters are arranged as if they were done for a university thesis, rather than a book to be read by laypeople. The lone one star review on Amazon mentioned that the reader had been expecting journalism, rather than a self-help book. I knew this was a self-help book, so I don’t have that complaint.

Overall

I think Abuse OF Men BY Women is a useful tool for men who are in abusive relationships. I don’t know how many men in this situation would take the time to read a book like this one. I think it’s more likely their caring female companions, who get involved during or after the abuse, probably will. For instance, I noticed that some reviewers on Amazon were not men in abusive relationships; they were women who were involved in some way with men who had been abused (family members or new significant others). I have learned a lot about this issue myself, having been married to Bill. This kind of extra reading makes it easy for me to talk to him, even though ideally, he should talk to someone who is licensed to counsel him and isn’t directly involved, as I am. But this kind of book does make the problem easier to understand for me, and I suspect it would have been helpful for Bill when he was still in an abusive relationship.

Silvers writes like someone who understands the problem very well and has done her best to cover every angle. I like that she does so in a way that isn’t derogatory, either. Other books I’ve read on this subject have a tone that is unflattering toward women. I remember one book I read years ago was published in Ireland, and the title (which was later changed) was, That Bitch: Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent. While most abusive women are, in fact, legitimate bitches much of the time, I don’t think that title was appropriate. It’s hard to take a book seriously when the very title is a misogynistic insult. I suspect the publishers determined that the good information in that book was not being read, since the title was so antagonistic and, in and of itself, somewhat abusive. On the other hand, I remember reading another book, over 20 years ago, that was entitled Let’s Face It: Men are @$$#%\¢$: What Women Can Do About It. I remember not being very impressed with that book, although I’m sure the title attracted plenty of attention and helped make sales.

Anyway… Ann Silvers is much more professional in her approach, and that’s what makes her book more useful, in my view. Abuse OF Men BY Women is not just a book about offering sympathy and bashing males or females. Silvers offers practical and realistic advice, and even warns that sometimes doing the right thing can lead to unpleasant consequences. For men, sorry to say, calling for help can be legitimately risky. On the other hand, if more abused men would stand up to be counted, they would more likely be taken more seriously and have more access to the help they need. We’ve got to break the stigma against male domestic violence abuse victims. I think this book helps do that, so I highly recommend it.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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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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