Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The deep cleavage between fact and fancy.

Yesterday I read an interesting feature on AOL's "Parent Dish" forum. You can read it for yourself, obviously, but to summarize, it's a first-person account of a woman's attempt to come to terms with her mastectomy scars, her (former) husband's evident distaste for same, and her tweener daughter's reaction to all this. It is a thoughtful, touching feature with many points to commend it. In arguably the piece's most striking line, the author, Dori Hartley, writes that her husband found her post-surgical lookshere I quote"hideous and unlovable." Then I read the numerous comments, soaking up the unbroken outpouring of empathy for this woman and contempt for her ex-husband. After about five pages of "everyone is beautiful!" idealism, I felt that a little reality check was in order. (Hey, if you're a regular on this blog, you know how I am.)

And so I tried to post what I thought a commonsensical, if not terribly uplifting, comment of my own. I pointed out that you can't legislate sexual attraction or make it PC
that people are going to be attracted to, or repulsed by, what attracts or repulses them. Some men (and I don't think this is limited to men) find scars and disfigurements unappealing, especially when those scars or disfigurements happen to mar the very places that men typically find most alluring in a woman. Whether that's right or wrong, genetically hard-wired or a telltale symptom of arrested development, I'm sure that there are men in whom it can't be helped.* What's more, I pointed out that attraction/revulsion is an automatic, knee-jerk phenomenon, and as such, it doesn't distinguish between "passive" afflictions like surgery scars (where we feel nothing but compassion for the person with the scar) and other disagreeable traits like letting yourself go to flab after a few years of marriage (where we may feel somewhat less compassion). I admit that I probably went a bit over the top in my inelegant analogy between mastectomy scars and Freddy Krueger-type facial disfigurements, but I went over the top in intonation only: Though it was an ugly thing to say, especially in the context of breast-cancer survival, I stand by the analogy from the very specific standpoint of the things that are likely to turn people on or off.

Be honest: All things being equal, how many of those of you who are already upset with me would choose beforehand to become involved with a double-amputee or a person who lost part of his (or her) face in an industrial accident? Christ, I've known fashionistas who wouldn't give a second look to a woman who wears a size 10! (And by the way, I've taken our culture to task on that very point a number of times. Try here and here, for just two. But, again, you can't legislate how people are going to feel.)

I didn't mention this in my comment, but I also think it's a tad hypocritical for any woman who has always reveled in her beauty—flaunting her face, figure and overall sexuality—to do a sudden 180, lecturing the rest of us on the importance of being "loved for who you are," when tragedy strikes. Is it understandable from a human-nature standpoint? Of course it is. Wholly so. But is it also hypocritical? Of course it is.

Anyway, by now you know where I'm headed. My comment was rejected. Twice. The first time it never got through at all. The second time it was up for about an hour, then disappeared. There are 196 comments at this writing, and so far as I can tell, none of them takes the contrarian view I'm describing, or even strays very far from the party line. They seem to disagree only on whether the firing squad should shoot hollow-points or rifled slugs at the ex-husband. Several comments contain profanity and/or are written at a decided street level. No matter. They're still up, and mine isn't.

Regulars will not be surprised to hear that this episode puts me in mind of Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Bright-Sided and, a few years earlier, "Pathologies of Hope," the
brilliant and biting Harper's essay that no doubt inspired her book. Just so you know, Ehrenreich is herself a cancer survivor, and is every bit as fed up as I am with the relentless overselling of Pollyannish, "it's-all-good" positivity. Here, for example, is the lede of her Harper's piece:

I hate hope. It was hammered into me constantly a few years ago when I was being treated for breast cancer: Think positively! Don't lose hope! Wear your pink ribbon with pride! A couple of years later, I was alarmed to discover that the facility where I received my follow-up care was called the Hope Center. Hope? What about a cure? At antiwar and labor rallies over the years, I have dutifully joined Jesse Jackson in chanting "Keep hope alive!"all the while crossing my fingers and thinking, "Fuck hope. Keep us alive."
As Ehenreich goes on to observe, it's not just that people today believe you're better off thinking positively; it's that people today believe you must think positively (and embrace positive, flowery notions, like those contained in Hartley's essay), or else you're some kind of monster, a traitor to the species. "It's not enough to manifest positivity through a visibly positive attitude," writes Ehrenreich. "You must establish it as one of the very structures of your mind, whether or not it is justified by the actual circumstances." Surely this is true in certain sensitive areas. In the case at hand, anything that takes the luster off breast-cancer survival is simply impermissible...unworthy of being read.

Realism (of the sort I attempted to inject via my comment) has fallen out of fashion. By the dictates of today's "cult of positivity"—another apt Ehrenreich phrase—you are required to say something pretty, or say nothing at all.

======================

I don't normally comment on these types of topics, but if it turns out that Joran van der Sloot's confession wasn't obtained through "enhanced interrogation techniques"...what a remarkable turn of affairs. What must Beth Holloway be thinking and feeling right about now?

* And I'm actually pretty sure that it's a lot more than some, and applies to women as well, though probably not in as great numbers, given that men are so much more visually oriented than are women, we're told.

33 comments:

Tyro said...

Call me a cold-hearted bastard if you wish but I think that it's better to be honest with ourselves than not, and in general it's better to be honest with our spouses than not. I know, a radical. If hubby is turned off by a change then which is better: suppressing it, lying to his wife and hoping it goes away or to confront it and figure out how to deal with it? Lets ask Larry Craig how denying his feelings worked out for him. Your life may change by being open but Barney Frank is openly gay and has a reasonable job & life while Craig and others finally snapped and self-destructed. You tell me who should be our role model.

I'm not pretending that telling your wife that you find her less attractive is a pleasant, bonding experience and I'm sure he wishes things were otherwise but at least you can deal with it. Maybe they can find a solution - reconstructive surgery or some other sex play which does work for both, who knows. And if they can't, at least they tried which is more than can be said for the denial approach.

I'm sure there's enough emotional turmoil after dealing with cancer without adding to it by heaping guilt on people who openly acknowledge their biological reactions.

Rational Thinking said...

Tyro wrote: "If hubby is turned off by a change then which is better: suppressing it, lying to his wife and hoping it goes away or to confront it and figure out how to deal with it?"

Confronting it by telling your wife she repulses you strikes me as a tad unhelpful :-) If she has eyes and access to a mirror, she gets to make the decision about how acceptable or otherwise her scars happen to be. It is, after all, her body - it's not communal property.

One of the more irritating side-effects of SHAM is that people seem to believe that they will harm themselves by keeping their mouths shut about how they feel about things, with no regard to the feelings of the other party. Sure, discuss the issue - but confrontation? Bad idea, in my opinion.

"Maybe they can find a solution - reconstructive surgery or some other sex play which does work for both"

Like a blow-up Barbie doll, perhaps? :-)

Seriously, as I said above, surely this has to be the woman's decision. Generally speaking, reconstructive surgery will be an option after a mastectomy (I believe), but to suggest to someone who has just undergone major surgery that she has another surgical procedure because her spouse now finds her appearance repulsive, is plain sad.

Steve, reading the article it came across to me that the husband and wife already had marriage issues, and perhaps the mastectomy was simply a trigger for divorce proceedings. So I can't really get too worked up about your comments not being accepted:-) I can see your point, to an extent, but in a marriage? I mean, don't people remember the line "in sickness and in health"? Perhaps an addition of "except in cases of facial disfigurement or breast removal" needs to be added.

RevRon's Rants said...

While I agree that honesty is an essential element in a loving relationship, I also think it behooves us to be at least somewhat sensitive in expressing our comments, especially where our partner's ego is already fragile. And in retrospect, I think that same kind of sensitivity is warranted in our dealings with people other than those to whom we are closest.

Admitting that a physical defect isn't - as Lenny Bruce said - "horny looking" can be done in such a way as to acknowledge one's reaction without compounding someone's pain. Even if a woman asked the clich├ęd question, "Do these pants make my ass look fat," nobody in their right mind would answer a flat "yes" (unless they just wanted to sleep on the couch). The response can - and, IMO, should - be softened somewhat out of consideration of the other person's feelings. And this from someone who prides himself on having been dubbed the anti-diplomat.

I have always had a prejudice against obesity. Probably got it from my mother's comments, but the source is irrelevant. I'm turned off by it. I don't pretend not to be turned off, but neither will I go out of my way to communicate my distaste. And if my partner was ballooning out, I'd probably give her positive reinforcement to reverse the situation if that were possible. If not, I'd have to be honest with myself in deciding whether or not I was comfortable with continuing the relationship. If it happened with Connie (which I think is highly unlikely), I'd weigh the other qualities I like against those I didn't (much as I would with anyone else). When all was said and done, I strongly suspect that my inherent aversion would become much less pertinent to me.

Cleavage?? :-)

Tyro said...

Seriously, as I said above, surely this has to be the woman's decision. Generally speaking, reconstructive surgery will be an option after a mastectomy (I believe), but to suggest to someone who has just undergone major surgery that she has another surgical procedure because her spouse now finds her appearance repulsive, is plain sad.

I agree that it is the woman's decision and I agree that it's sad but life is occasionally sad (the fact that she had to have a mastectomy should confirm that!). I think (and maybe you agree) that the decision should be an informed one. If the woman has reason to believe that not getting surgery could harm their sex life and maybe their marriage, I think that's an important consideration. Her decision, but his feelings are involved.

. Sure, discuss the issue - but confrontation? Bad idea, in my opinion.

I don't think Steve or I suggested the husband deliver an itemized list of all his wife's flaws using Powerpoint, witty metaphors and clips from Aliens, and I think we're all in agreement that the "shut up and change your nature & desires" approach isn't the way to go. From Steve's account, anything not toeing the "cancer is lovely" was grounds for suspension.

That was more or less Ehrenreich's experience, where women were berated and shunned if they didn't embrace their cancer and when they hit terminal stages, they were excluded from support groups (yes, really) and in some cases blamed for their own suffering because they weren't sufficiently positive. I can only imagine how the husbands would be treated if they weren't sufficiently pro-cancer.

Rational Thinking said...

"I agree that it is the woman's decision and I agree that it's sad but life is occasionally sad (the fact that she had to have a mastectomy should confirm that!). I think (and maybe you agree) that the decision should be an informed one. If the woman has reason to believe that not getting surgery could harm their sex life and maybe their marriage, I think that's an important consideration. Her decision, but his feelings are involved."

I do agree that her consent should be informed consent - and I'm not suggesting the husband should lie about how he feels - just that those feelings shouldn't impinge upon her consent being freely given:-) It's a tricky one.

By the way, in using the word "sad", I intended it in the sense of "lame" - apologies for the confusion - two nations divided by a single language, and all that.

As to the exclusion from support groups of terminal cancer patients, on the basis that they hadn't been positive enough - that is revolting. How very scared these 'excluders' must have been. Perhaps an inkling that positive thinking might not be enough - and a desire to stifle that frightening thought? And how tragic that at a time when support might have been most useful, when hope was gone, that they were denied that solace. Grim.

Jenny said...

Steve, you wrote (in part) to "... those of you who are already upset with me...."

Yeah, that would definitely be me. I came here with an ax to grind and before I ever saw any word you uttered in the current posting, my "upset" state of heart and mind has been influencing my reaction and response, even up until now. Hmph!

Well, I do hope you understand I am kidding because I am a frequent reader here who keeps coming back because you provoke us in a way that is designed (or so it seems) to inspire a little bit deeper thought and considersation.

Guess those moderators over there don't see your words that way, though. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that those particular words might be censored because they don't reflect the "supported" point of view. Such is life. Gives us something else to grouse about, eh?

NormDPlume said...

This whole story reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit from over 30 years ago (can't find it on Hulu or youtube): the whole skit centered around a woman who had breast cancer (Laraine Newman) - yet her husband (Bill Murray - maybe Dan Aykroyd) did all the grieving. "How could this happen to me???" he wailed. And Buck Henry (remember him?) played the husband's no-good friend urging him to move on and find another woman.

Women were horrified by the skit - but I thought it was pretty funny.

Our culture does not allow much rational thought when it comes to breast cancer sufferers - it's almost all the emotional feel-good crap you described. Somehow, prostate cancer does not get the same treatment.

Anonymous said...

Prostate cancer treatment, so I hear, often leaves men impotent and incontinent. So what if function is screwed up, at least nothing *looks* different. A missing breast? Now that's a big deal.

It also seems to me that it's a big deal (in America) if breasts are not sizeable. Probably not a lot of difference between small breasts and no breast/s . . . both are liabilities.

Anonymous said...

'Somehow, prostate cancer does not get the same treatment.'

Well, it does from the men, its the same wail from the same source: 'How can this happen to me?'
In that scenario its generally not the woman wailing 'how can this happen to me?' when prostate cancer strikes a couple, she fulfils the expected role of being supportive. When any illness strikes a couple the woman is generally supportive of the partner; it is a shock to many wives to find that their husbands decamp when the roles are reversed.

It was this realisation that prompted the beginnings of the womens movement as women gave up on expecting support from men and banded together to provide their own support systems.
I think most women would like a bit more acceptance and understanding of their feelings from their menfolk but life is short--if its not forthcoming they will also seek that understanding elsewhere. In a life threatening situation such as a cancer diagnosis it becomes a lot easier to make those tough decisions to go it alone if you are already, to all intents and purposes, alone.

I would suggest that as a reason that your comments were removed from the thread, Steve-- they were inappropriate in the context. You were looking to start a fight in a context of support and the moderator was wise to that.
Similarly on RickRoss, (you mentioned your banning in a previous post) the moderator does not allow grandstanding, victim-bashing or self-promotion that is not in the context of cult awareness since the forum is a supportive space for cult survivors and has an unerring eye for such antics, undoubtedly aquired from previous experience of dealing with such chancers.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 2:20: I'm not looking to start a fight with you, either, but your comment really goes to the heart of this post. Nowadays, injecting an element of sanity and/or reality into an "inspirational," kissy-kissy discussion is considered "starting a fight." Why? I don't understand that. And isn't it also "supporting" victims to remind them of how it really is in life, at least for some (if not many) people? For example, going back to the self-esteem movement in schools, were we really "supporting" children by giving them As for C or D work? Constantly patting them on the back and telling them how special they were? No. We were enabling a sense of complacency and undeserved entitlement, while also creating an illusory, problematic image of how life really works (and where they might fit in it).

Look, if I had to have some sexual or other surgery that disfigured me, and my woman thereafter couldn't stand to look at me or have sex with me, I would be heartbroken and angry. That would be my personal reaction. But I'd be wrong in the big-picture sense, because, again, people can't help what attracts or repulses them. (And incidentally, you'll notice that no one stood up for the husband in this little melodrama. People don't even know the man, and yet based on the author's few lines, they talk about him as if he were a leper.) And the thing that gets me is, we all know this is b.s.; we all know that in our hypothetical Match.com profile, we wouldn't put down that we're "seeking a 400-pound amputee who had a recent mastectomy and is missing her nose." But we have to go through this whole charade in the name of being, as you put it, "supportive."

It's like--and I know I'm going way overboard with this, but--I manage an adult men's baseball team, and there are one or two guys on the team who can't hit. I don't insult their intelligence in the manner in which I treat them. They know they can't hit, I know they can't hit, and I manage the team accordingly. If the game is on the line, I don't clap my hands and barrage them with all sorts of faux-positivity ("Come on, Tony, you can do it! Come on, now, you're the best...!") I put somebody else up there to hit in their place. And I try to focus on other areas of the game where they can contribute. I am convinced that they like it better that way, because everything's out in the open and there's no pressure to do things they can't do. (Which, in fact, may even help them hit better, in time.) I'm not saying this is like having a breast removed. But it's another variant of the same phenomenon. In so many areas of modern life, there's a huge elephant in the room that everyone just ignores.

In plain language, why do we need all the bullshit?

Anonymous said...

Steve, there is a time and place for a reminder of the stark reality of life. Reality itself makes that point all too clearly in time without any human interferance.
It is not a particularly edifying spectacle to see reality mongers wearing cruelty as a badge of honour. Do you think that the woman who lost a breast was unaware of the reality of the situation with her husband? Do you have so little respect for her experience that you have to point out the horror that she faced--just in case she missed it?
I'd like to know your true motivation for presuming to know better and by virtue of what knowledge exactly?

Rational Thinking said...

"And the thing that gets me is, we all know this is b.s.; we all know that in our hypothetical Match.com profile, we wouldn't put down that we're "seeking a 400-pound amputee who had a recent mastectomy and is missing her nose." But we have to go through this whole charade in the name of being, as you put it, "supportive." "

Steve - I think you're being somewhat disingenuous here. The topic relates to a married woman whose spouse apparently found her appearance following mastectomy repulsive or distasteful. Whether someone would or would not set out to attract such a partner is completely beside the point. Nobody sets out to get breast cancer, do they?

As to appearances being important - to many people they are. And that's fine - as you write, they can't help it. You seem to be suggesting that those with birth defects, deformities, or who are obese, might as well give up because 'everybody knows that nobody will find them attractive'. That's a sweeping generalisation - believe it or not, there are people who have fetishes for all sorts of relatively unusual bodies - amputees, etc..

If a marriage is based purely on both parties' physical appearances, then both parties had better be darn sure they're going to be healthy for the whole of their lives - oh, and that they never get involved in any kind of an accident.

What the heck is wrong with being supportive? And what's right about inflicting one's own views onto a spouse at a time when they are dealing with a life-threatening condition?

The reason, presumably, that nobody stood up for the husband is that they didn't see the need to:-) You wrote your piece based on the article the woman wrote. So are readers of the article not entitled to draw their own conclusions - just as you have?

Steve Salerno said...

Look, I thoroughly acknowledge the legitimacy of the "too much reality"/anti-Steve sentiments being voiced here. I anticipated that reaction, which is why I addressed that paragraph in the post itself to people who are "already upset" with me. (Btw, I really like Anon 7:48's line about "reality mongers wearing cruelty as a badge of honour." Very nice.) And it wasn't so much the woman's article that inspired my response; it was the monolithic tone of the 190+ comments, plus the fact that my own comment--which I think was literate and sensible, certainly compared to the rest of the fare--got spiked.

Just so you know, if I were meeting this woman face to face for the first time, I would not say, "Wow, lady, I bet your breast looks pretty bad..." I am by most accounts a reasonably nice, occasionally tactful person. But this was an article placed on a web site that specifically invites comments; it was put "out there" for the purpose of getting a discussion going. Why can't I be admitted to the discussion?

Steve Salerno said...

And really, this whole discussion goes to a point that I've long wondered about: What are you supposed to do when the desire goes out of a marriage completely? For whatever reason. Let's assume you don't want to dishonor your vows--but you still want to be a sexual person, and you have no interest in being intimate with your partner. And let's please avoid (a) inferences about me personally and (b) "clever" jokes about vibrators and inflatable dolls. This isn't "Steve's letter to Dear Abby." I'm looking for an honest answer to what strikes me as a serious and common (if not near-universal) issue.

Anonymous said...

Nice try, but a clear swerve to avoid the point.

Steve Salerno said...

How so? Honestly. I don't see it.

Mike Cane said...

"The deep cleavage between fact and fancy." <-- srsly? You couldn't resist that one, could you?

So, Steve, you played the part of the guy in Jaws who, looking at all the yahoos getting into boats to get themselves a nice piece of fish, is ignored when you tell them they're all gonna die.

There are way too many dynamics here for me to even wrap my head around, even though that doesn't seem to stop other people from commenting.

One thing, though: After being rejected by her husband as repulsive, should a divorce ensue, she might go on thinking she'd be repulsive to *all other men too*. Which would not necessarily be the case.

BTW, I loved this: "... you are required to say something pretty, or say nothing at all."

Steve Salerno said...

Mike: Since you're the second person to address the word choice--actually, the third, counting the woman who emailed me off-blog with some not very "pretty" sentiments--I guess I should explain. First of all, the word "cleavage" does have other meanings besides the one that springs most immediately to mind when we hear the word. In fact, in the online dictionary, the No. 1 definition is "the act of cleaving or splitting"--which is perfectly appropriate to my intended meaning. Now, did I groan just a little bit myself when I thought that one up? Yes, I did. But I wanted something that would seem playful, lightening the mood just a little bit over what it was likely to be ordinarily with this kind of post.

I don't think I succeeded. And who knows, maybe lightening the mood is unseemly here. ("Un-seam-ly"?)

Rational Thinking said...

"What are you supposed to do when the desire goes out of a marriage completely? For whatever reason. Let's assume you don't want to dishonor your vows--but you still want to be a sexual person, and you have no interest in being intimate with your partner."

I don't think this is a logical premise - if one spouse still wants to be 'a sexual person' with another person, I presume you mean? - then they clearly don't want to keep their marriage vows.

In such a situation, does the spouse who still wants to 'be a sexual person' want a free pass to sleep with other partners? If so, then that is something that needs to be negotiated with the spouse. And it may be that it can be negotiated. But there's that inconvenient little line in (some) marriage services about "keeping thyself only unto [each other]" that is going to be a bit of a dealbreaker so far as honouring the marriage vows is concerned.

Seriously, I think the situation could be resolved, but it would depend so much on the individuals that it is hard to offer any kind of blanket solution.

Tyro said...

What are you supposed to do when the desire goes out of a marriage completely?

Good question, surely this goes to the heart of the matter. If we're supposed to stay in the marriage no matter what then by all means lie to yourself and your spouse, smile to the neighbours, the kids and the pastor and soldier on trying to be like everyone expects. Perhaps you have some sort of mutual respect and that's good enough.

But maybe that's not enough for everyone. Is it so unreasonable to have a frank and open discussion with your spouse and try to work out a solution even if that means a divorce? We're not living in the dark ages, God won't smite us for getting on with our lives and making a clean break and then a clean start can turn out to be a better choice than living in denial. Maybe you even stay in the marriage and take other partners - it's not my thing but if it could work for some.

Anonymous said...

'Why can't I be admitted to the discussion?'

Cos they don't want you, matey.

---that's my bit of reality mongering for today.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I found a great article on 'Last Psychiatrist' blog called 'Love Means Not Letting The Other Person Be Himself' that addresses your query regarding the marriage blues with a unique perspective:

"One thing I almost forgot: Laura's husband is a dying breed.

The trend now-- generation <40-- is for the woman to have the mid-life crisis. Before you jump on men, it's a combination of factors.

On the male side, the drive for novelty and nueva vida loca is turned inwards, so that rather than chase new experiences they close off from the outside world and dream them. They don't end relationships, they stay caulked to the inside of one, unmoving, ungrowing, apathetic; while their minds and DVRs are an imaginarium. The few things they do choose to jump recklesslsy into are obvious go-nowheres: one night stands (for the married man); making a movie; daytrading. They're easy to attempt, and easy to blame on externalities when they inevitably fail.

They don't break up with the girl, they ignore her until she breaks up with them."

I think you'll enjoy the whole piece, its worthwhile reading for that 7 year itch:

http://tinyurl.com/3al7cmp

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve,
I think I've gotten to know you well enough over the last few years to know that you're not the callous bastard that some might think after reading this post. In general, I do agree that we need to quit pumping up the world's collective tush, albeit by approaching honesty with a bit more gentleness than your comments might indicate.

IMO, where you ran into difficulty was that you were applying reasonably clear logic to an emotionally-charged situation, and as you know, the two rarely mix well. Breast cancer has become such a prevalent issue that many women who are not sufferers still feel - and empathize with - those who have been so diagnosed. It is a disease that has become a near-omnipresent "issue" with a lot of women, who tend to internalize the situation you described, simply because it resonates with their own fears. "Will he still love me if...?"

Many years ago, a couple with whom I had a close friendship lost their 2-month-0ld son to SIDS (though it wasn't recognized as SIDS back then). They were devastated, to say the least.

I went to my sensei, a very wise and compassionate old monk, and demanded...DEMANDED... that he tell me why such a horrible thing could happen. He responded by smiling sweetly and saying, "Why not? The soul apparently had little to accomplish, and left when he was finished."

His answer stunned me; initially because it seemed so uncaring, but ultimately, because it was so in keeping with the teachings he offered. However, I knew better than to approach the couple with that logical response... they were deeply enmeshed in the grieving process, and such a comment would have only accentuated their pain. It was a lesson that they would have to arrive at according to their own emotional schedule.

And I would suggest that the same might be the case with the reactions you got on the discussion. When the grief is most acute, people often need nurturing and supportiveness more desperately than they need wisdom. And the husband(s) in question would, IMO, be wise to withhold their "honesty" at least until the initial trauma passed. Who knows... in moving through their own trauma, they might actually come to realize that they aren't as turned off as they might have first thought. And if they are, and the relationship ultimately ended, they would at least know that they had handled the situation with sensitivity to their spouse's most acute pain. And as I see it, that's not a bad thing at all.

Jenny said...

Steve, you ask: "What are you supposed to do when the desire goes out of a marriage completely?"

My .03 on this one: Obviously, it is a very personal question without a specific "one size fits all" answer. In general, though, I think the answer ought to depend upon the consequences one is willing to bear weighed in with the perceived benefits one might experience in the aftermath of whatever decision one makes. I would also question the nature of the desire itself.

Mike Cane said...

>>>First of all, the word "cleavage" does have other meanings besides the one that springs most immediately to mind when we hear the word.

Don't be pedantic. We do know our word meanings around here. I would hope!

I wound up using that line in relation to the Helen Thomas situation, in a post today.

Steve Salerno said...

Hey Mike, WADR, you were the one who raised the question with, well, a question mark. Weren't you?

Jenny said...

I only now read the article and am struck by the fact that this woman reports an "already decayed marriage." Not decaying but decayed. That puts the ex-husband's supposed insensitivity in a whole different light. It actually seems a moot point.

Steve Salerno said...

Jenny: Exactly. For all we know, he already found her "unlovable" prior to the surgery. And yet if you read even a portion of the comments, you'll see that most readers gloss over that fact completely, instead choosing to vilify the man (and even use him as an archetype for male insensitivity, as you imply).

I also think we have to consider that the author may be overstating a bit in service of her point: that perhaps "hideous and unlovable" is her highly dramatized characterization of his lack of interest in her, rather than a wholly accurate portrait of the true dynamic that existed in an already "decayed" marriage.

Mike Cane said...

>>>Hey Mike, WADR, you were the one who raised the question with, well, a question mark.

Yeah, as in the Oscar Wilde remark for you: You can resist anything except temptation. Temptation there being double-entendre.

Maybe next time I will say pretty things. LMAO!

Your PR Guy said...

I would go as far to say we misunderstand "hope." Hope isn't euphoria. It is merely a state of forward-looking mind. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Mh.

It's not that the positive fundamentalists want people thinking positively without surcease - it's that they don't want people thinking AT ALL.

Which is pretty much the case with all fundamentalism.

Making an immediate 180, I do have a different reaction to the cad husband.

El Cad comes across as abusive, if his post-op commentary is accurately reported; it is hard to believe any remotely decent person would say such a thing to someone still reeling from the double whammy of potentially mortal illness combined with potentially futile surgical disfigurement.

Mrs. Cad seems a bit disingenuous in her response, if it is true that the marriage was already decayed prior to her diagnosis. Cads don't turn into princes when the chips are down, Happythink notwithstanding.

Where I disagree with Steve is with the notion that it is perfectly right, and should be the accepted norm, that marriage commitments last only until the marriage becomes inconvenient, or, for whatever reason, the attraction fades.

I know a couple who married AFTER a horrific accident in which the wife-to-be was badly injured, losing part of one leg. Drunk driver, husband-to-be was driving the other car, wife-to be was in passenger seat.

He didn't marry her out of guilt or obligation, he married her because he loved her. Her near-death made him realize just how precious she really was to him.

Yeah, that actually does happen in real life.

Two interesting factors. First, they're not American. Perhaps that is why she didn't immediately become a damaged commodity in his eyes - she was a person, his beloved, and he had nearly lost her; not a thing that became marred and therefore disposable.

This attitude seems rare in the States (limited data, but consistent; sorry).

The other interesting factor is that they are both people who think, often, about the consequences of their actions. It's a basic element of their characters.

Point of the anecdote is that if it's only about looks it isn't going to last. More importantly, if it's only about looks, there's not enough there to be solemnized.

Kelly said...

I'm late to the party, but have 4¢ (damn inflation).

I got kicked off a site, once, for something like this. There was a discussion where everyone was clustered around a woman defending her because she knowingly got married to a fitness freak and years into the marriage, she got out of shape. She said she KNEW he wasn't attracted to overweight women, but she didn't care. This was HER. She loved herself for who she WAS and so should he!

Yeah, you see the problem here, right? Well, a lot of people don't. I stepped in and told people...Hey, she knowingly married a fitness freak...What did she expect? She also knows it is not healthy to be at her weight, not just a 'statement of being' so why won't she make the effort to work out and eat right? She loves her husband, right? What if he took up a habit she found disgusting like watching midget porn right in front of her and saying, "This is me! Deal with it!" after there was an implied understanding that she found midget porn disgusting?

There is such a double standard. Yes, people change. That's why marriage is always risky. It can only work if two people are willing to commit to not making any changes diametrically opposed to their spouse's lifestyle. Is that cold and crass? Well, I thought it was common sense.

There is also a lot of rambling about Lane Bryant vs. Victoria's Secret. I swear there are more hate groups against thin people on Facebook than hate groups against fat people. I'm fed up with politically correct STANDARDS that are upheld and never challenged.

Steve Salerno said...

Kelly, thanks for weighing in (no pun intended, given the subject matter of your comment). This is your first time here, yes?

It almost seems there is more hatred against everybody nowadays, and I'm not sure why that should be. One doesn't want to fall into the trap of romanticizing the past, because we all know that the good old days weren't that good. It just amazes me that given our overall social progress and supposed enlightenment, there is still so much ostensible anger and envy and what-not. (Especially what-not.) In fact, I sometimes think that social progress actually makes things worse by driving the various enmities underground, where they fester and emerge in new and ever-more-sinister ways.