Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We'd Rejoice--If We Weren't So Tired?

Women. We can't win for losing, can we? This New York Times article by Kate Zernike had me shaking my head in wonderment. Go ahead, click over and read it. It's a very short one, really. I'll wait.

OK, you're back? Good. Are you as stymied as I was? I have to admit, I did laugh at the one elderly woman's comment to her husband that he'd already "had assisted living for 40 years."

The point is, it looks like men will be living longer now than before. We should all be thrilled about this. Hasn't it been on just about every married couple's mind at some point--the fact that statistically, he will be gone about 10 years before she? We (married women) are bombarded with dire warnings about providing for our futures and our almost certain long years of widowdom. So, when this news of increasing male longevity breaks, do we celebrate it? Are you kidding, women? Have you learned nothing in your time on earth? You will not be allowed contentment! Really, you should have learned this by now. I mean, you had childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and beyond to get the joke--why aren't you laughing yet? Oh, yeah, that's right--you're usually the punchline, from girl bullies to workplace inequality to the much-hyped "mommy wars" and beyond.

If you look hard enough in this article, the positives, the things of which we could be proud and by which we could be encouraged, are plentiful. Women develop strong friendships and social connections that help us in times when support is needed. We are vigilant about our health, and vocal with our doctors (this, I'd argue, has come about out of neccessity, and generations of being ignored and trivialized by the medical profession, but I certainly have my own bias in that area). More companies "cater to our interests," which they well should, since we do most of the spending and carry the most marketing clout. The message could be, we are strong, we are capable...and now our helpmates, our husbands, may be living on this earth with us longer. But, dang it, that would be a positive spin, and, well...we can't have that, can we?

No, instead we wives get to focus on how hard we work, how little our husbands actually do around the house no matter how equal our workloads outside the home are (and that they're not likely to improve much over the next 50 years in that area), and how little "good" our men do us--"It's not just the extra years; it's all those extra meals to prepare." I'm trying to figure out just who the target reader for this article is, because it's unflattering for men and downright depressing for women. Who does that leave?

One minor, but jarring, for me, detail was the bit about how fully ONE THIRD of married men do not leave their pensions to their wives, and that "that number used to be higher...until wives were required to sign off on the deal." This blows my mind. But I digress.

Finally, we get this cheery summation about how things may ultimately "even out" between the sexes:

"There is a lot of poverty among older single women, so if men live longer, that's good economically, for women and men," Ms. Hartmann said. "Men are generally happier when they're married. The women may not be happier, but at least they've got more money."

Wheee. Money can't buy happiness, but apparently, it compensates for it. This idea makes me want to just puke, because I happen to know just how much financial security that my mother and grandmother would happily sacrifice if the loves of their lives could be returned to them.

I am really interested in feedback about this, from men AND women. Oh, and Honey? Stay with me as long as you can, all right? It's worth the extra sandwiches and laundry. But at the same time...pitch in as much as you like.

15 comments:

  1. What an incredibly narrow view of marriage she has. My fear is that something will happen to him before it happens to me. Because honestly, I have no idea what I'd do without him.

    I was also disappointed by the extent to which she emphasized a woman's financial dependence on her husband - that may have been true for our grandmothers, but as for my mother and I, we were solvent before we met our husbands, and have continued to provide for ourselves throughout our marriages (at least thus far).

    And as for 'forcing' doctors to pay attention to our 'health concerns' - I felt that her implication was that our health concerns were trivial and that we've asserted ourselves beyond what is necessary by demanding health care. That is just not the case.

    Perhaps it was the negative tone, perhaps the subtly denigrating remarks about women’s value, but this article p*ssed me off! Umm, thanks for that. :P

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  2. I am single and this article is still upsetting. Having watched both of my grandmothers outlive their husbands and living quite well on the money left, it seems very irrational.

    I'm sure everyone gets tired of cooking for their spouse at some time or another, but wouldn't you be glad that you still had a companion at that time of your
    life?

    It was a depressing article and left the pain that women are not as capable as men to save and invest money wisely.

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  3. Great blog! My husband is 10 years older than me so it's my fear that he'll depart from our lovely life together all too soon. I am kind of infuriated byt that article. Life is a precious gift, we should celebrate it!

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  4. Meh. I skimmed the article because my attention span is shorter than a gnat's. But as Erin stated above, that view of marriage doesn't exactly parallel mine.

    Sorry ladies, but if your man's a bum who thinks you're his maid and personal chef (and you object to this), it's your fault. Seriously. You married the jerk.

    My husband does all the cooking. Since I dropped out of fulltime employment, I do much of the housework, but if need be, he is always willing to help out. We make financial decisions together and are best friends.

    I would be devastated by the loss of my bestest buddy.

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  5. Articles like this are no surprise, Belinda. Generally speaking, if you're going to write something up like this, then you have an agenda to push. So as a result normal attitudes like yours and mine aren't represented. So we have to read between the lines, and you did that superbly, Belinda.

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  6. erin--you know that you and I have a similar perspective on women's healthcare issues, and the attitude you describe is definitely one I've run into, even as far as having one specialist accuse me of "faking" symptoms! I wish he'd been there when I finally found someone to listen to me and had the big ol' tumor removed AND the double hernia repaired. Funny how my "fake" symptoms went away after that!

    kim--Apparently, there are a lot of women who leave all the financial details to their husbands, and are left clueless, if not high and dry, when hubby's gone. I got married relatively late in life, and I already had my little "farm" and my truck and my horses and dogs...I certainly wasn't looking for "financial security" in getting married! I married when I found...oh, call it a "soulmate," for lack of a better term. The person with whom I felt better than I'd felt alone. I wouldn't have settled for less.

    dana--here's to as many years of togetherness as is possible, for all of us!

    pat--Alex doesn't shirk housework or cooking (heck, he did one fantastic job right down to a thorough mopping of the living room just this weekend), but I know that, in his heart, the idea of a domestic situation in which he comes home from work to a clean and orderly house and a hot meal is HIGHLY romanticized. And you know what? I wouldn't mind that reality one bit--if I wasn't coming home from work alongside him!

    dave u.--you are wise and observant, as usual. A scientist's mind is a wonderful thing!

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  7. I read this article as well.

    I guess the thing that it made me remember (yet again) is that although there are statistics, in the end it's 50-50 for you. By that I mean it's a crapshoot as to whether you or your hubby goes first.

    So it's one way of putting it sociologigically, but not so much individually.

    Of course, since my mom died 6 months ago and I am now stuck with a relatively young dad actively looking for a partner (he thinks we don;t know) you could CERTAINLY call me cynical and a little nuts and ignore this comment completely.

    I think I invented a word up there, BTW!

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  8. "Men are generally happier when they're married. The women may not be happier, but at least they've got more money."

    Barf! Sorry for being so trite, but really.

    Is it possible this is just good news because I like having my husband around?

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  9. anne--I share your grief in the recent loss of a parent way too early, and you're right, of course. Statistics mean nothing to the individual. I know *so* many horse breeders who will say that, because a stallion has produced x number of colts, "we're due for some fillies." Cracks me up.

    Chantal--No. No, it can't, because then we might feel a sense of contentment, and that just won't do, will it? Bleah.

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  10. That article was crap. Both Mrs. Fab and I welcome and will treasure as many years together as we can get.

    Of course, if she dies first, all bets are off!

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  11. OK so we all think that article was way off.

    Are there a bunch of still-married grannies sitting around somewhere saying, "Girls, I can't WAIT for that husband of mine to kick off!"?? I don't think so. What a crock!

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  12. You know, if the author had even a whit of dry humor tossed in there, I may have chuckled along. That she was serious is very depressing.

    You know, I joke about my hubby. I crack wise about our marriage. And I haven't really delved too deeply into my psyche to figure out the why's and what for's of my playful poking. But without digging too deeply, yes, it's that sort of black humor of knowing that even with both our idiosyncracies that go from darling to maddening, the thought of one day without them is more pain than I can bear.

    Anyway, long live my man! He hugs real good, keeps my feet and heart warm at night, and he can pick up heavy objects. ;-)

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  13. Oh that old acorn.

    Love is love. Is love and then love. If it's a financial bargain or lousy contract, then I don't know what. Yes, women do more, we've known that since time began, but the truth is, as Bette Davis said in "All About Eve" (and I paraphrase) "If you don't have a man to look at over your shoulder in bed, or that face to look at over the breakfast table in the morning, then your aren't fully a woman."

    Sad, sometimes, and not fully the truth, but close enough.

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  14. My husband has Lymphodema and severe Apnea. I worry all the time that something is going to happen to him. Yeah we're pretty young- He's 33 and I'm 28. But gosh darn it I want him around as long as I can.

    That type of article is sooo sad. I, personally, think that a lot of women just need to learn to quit complaining. If you marry- be a wife. If you have kids- be a mom. If you can't fulfill the duties.. then, by golly, don't do it. Simple as that.

    Thanks for the interesting read. Now.. . I'm off to do the dishes. *grin*

    -n

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  15. I heard that men die before women because of the boredom...

    :)

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