Tag Archives: marriage

The Currency of Cars: How to Leave a Husband

Debbie Weingarten | Longreads | April 2017 | 10 minutes (2,609 words)

 

The winter that I leave, the desert nights become so cold that cactuses uproot beneath the weight of ice. Old saguaros the size of trees lay like fallen men in front yards and on medians. Under the ink sky, it is so dark that the mountains disappear—even the wall of the Catalinas to the north—and I lose my compass entirely.

I am standing at the door, my breath freezing in punctuated wisps beneath the porchlight. The sky is a low-hanging ceiling, and the city lights have swallowed up the stars. If I could, I would make a bed from the clouds. I would turn like a dog in a rounding ritual before lying down.

Don’t go inside, thrums my heart, and so I stand, idling, inspecting bricks and mortar, the very bones of the house. I do not know it, but the thought of leaving has made a home in my body. It is an animal scratching toenails at the walls.

***

The lady at the Motor Vehicle Department has done-up fingernails stamped with tiny chevron lines. I feel underdressed. She says I need to take the car to the emissions testing center, even though the check engine light is illuminated and we both know it will fail. But she needs proof that it will fail so the car can be transferred out of the ex-husband’s name and into mine. Besides our children, this is the last thread that connects us, and the rope will not fray.

There are inspection and penalty fees, extra paperwork, countless people meddling in one 1998 Volvo station wagon. I am consumed by the work of untethering. I consider giving up, abandoning the car on the side of the road, gifting it to someone in need of a dry place to sleep.

The seat belts snap apart while driving. The driver’s side door panel falls off. The glove box is secured by a jumbo paper clip. The rearview mirror will not adjust. Everything in this stupid car is coming loose. When I clutch the steering wheel, mine are the white knuckles of vulnerable mothers. Read more…

‘Hopely I’ll See You Again’: An Unlikely but Wonderful Love Affair

At Catapult, Noah Cho ruminates on why his mother, a “symbol of America, the homecoming queen,” was attracted to his father, a “barely-bilingual” Korean immigrant who came to the U.S. to pursue a career in medicine.

I’ve been thinking about how my parents met, and how unlikely it was that my Korean father caught the eye of my stereotypically “all-American” mom. Even now, forty years after they met, a partnership like theirs is still rare. The cutting remarks they heard have not entirely disappeared; queries my mother fielded about my father’s manhood from the white people around them still flicker in shows like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and in films like The Hangover. Korean ahjussis still grunt in disapproval over their sons abandoning Korean blood quantum in favor of people Not Like Them, and therefore inferior.

I never got the full story from my father, who died when I was thirteen. Even before his death, he was a man of few words and seemingly fewer emotions. I have only ever been able to understand their courtship from the perspective of my mother, a white woman in love with an Asian man at a time when a war in Southeast Asia raged and the only knowledge the average American had of Korea were fleeting memories of newsreels, battles of a forgotten war.

Once upon a time, seeing my father in the hospital where they both worked brought her the greatest joy. As the whirring of machines tie him to what remains of his life, he is handsome to her even now—no matter that the chemo has taken his hair and the cancer has taken his weight, his voice, his lucidity. She looks at him, still in love, still seeing something wonderful in his face, but she also knows she has lost him. I see her sitting beside him after the ventilator is turned off, holding his hands the same way she used to during their smoke breaks, saying goodbye. Thinking, Hopely I’ll see you again.

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‘I Thought, Well, We’ll See What Happens!’: Iconic Editor Nan Talese on Her Marriage and Career

For Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz profiles 83-year-old iconic editor Nan Talese, who rose through the ranks of one publishing house after another before being given her own eponymous imprint at Doubleday in 1990. Aside from being one of the most powerful women in publishing, Talese is also known as one-half of one of the most interesting and curious marriages in recent history. One of the underpinnings of her union with famously non-monogamous New Journalism pioneer Gay Talese is a pledge she made to him early on that she wouldn’t ever impinge on his “freedom”—an agreement that allowed him to have many affairs, some supposedly in the name of “research” for his book about the loosening of sexual mores in the free love era. The profile comes just as Gay plans to write a book about their marriage.

In 1981, when Thy Neighbor’s Wife came out, something discomfiting was starting to happen to Nan and Gay: their power in the world began to shift. Gay’s book was critically panned, not for the substance, which reviewers barely paid attention to, but for the salaciousness of its author. “What was alleged was I was doing frivolous research. Getting my jollies, hanging around massage parlors, getting laid, getting jerked off, all that,” says Gay, whose reputation dimmed. An active member of the writers group PEN, he’d been on the verge of becoming its next president. But in light of Thy Neighbor’s Wife, the women of PEN revolted, and he resigned. Nan’s career, meanwhile, was skyrocketing. In 1981 she was named the executive editor of Houghton Mifflin, the old-line publishing company based in Boston; she’d commute there while still running the New York office. Gay believes her rise was at least partially tied to his downfall. “She started getting a lot of publicity about Thy Neighbor’s Wife . . . . What about this guy’s wife? This guy’s wife is Nan Talese. She’s this terrific, revered editor, and she’s married to this disgusting guy.”

But, for Nan, who still saw herself first as Gay’s champion, the power shift hardly felt like comeuppance or victory. His bad reviews, and his fallen reputation, were as devastating to Nan as they were to Gay. She defended him publicly, as she does today. “I think most of the press told more about the reporters than it did about Gay,” she says. And so, for the next few years, life continued as it had before, in keeping with the pledge—only, now the pressure had intensified for Gay, as he was looking to recapture literary greatness. There continued his long periods of absence, notably in Rome, where he went to research Unto the Sons, about his ancestors in Italy. There continued romantic entanglements on the road. “I don’t want to degrade people by representing the whole all-star cast of women. I could, but I won’t,” says Gay.

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A Conversation With Ariel Levy About Writing a Memoir That Avoids ‘Invoking Emotional Tropes’

Jessica Gross | Longreads | March 2017 | 17 minutes (4,391 words)

 

When she was 22 and an assistant at New York Magazine, Ariel Levy, hungry for success and action, went to a nightclub for obese women and reported her first story. New York published the resulting piece with what Levy, two decades later, claims is still the best headline she’s had: “WOMEN’S LB.” Levy worked for New York until 2008, when she was hired as a staff writer at The New Yorker. There, she has focused largely on gender and sexuality: she’s profiled comedian Ali Wong, long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, boxer Claressa Shields, and Nora Ephron. She has traveled to Jerusalem with Mike Huckabee, to Italy to report on Silvio Berlusconi, to South Africa to report on runner Caster Semenya.

And she has traveled to Mongolia. In 2012—38 years old, married and in love, and five months pregnant—Levy got on a plane for what she felt would be her last big trip for a long time. But, while there, a pain in her abdomen grew and grew until, in the middle of dinner at a Japanese restaurant, she had to rush back to her hotel room before the food came. On the floor of her hotel bathroom, an “unholy storm” moved through her body, and she gave birth to her son. Less than twenty minutes later, he died.

Levy recounted this experience in her first piece of personal writing, the essay “Thanksgiving in Mongolia.” Her new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, tells the broader story of her gradual realization, through trauma and loss—including divorce from her wife, who struggled with alcoholism—that our options are limited by nature.

Having read your work and knowing how adventurous you are, I was surprised to read about how fearful you become before you travel. I’m the type of person who, when I feel very fearful, often heeds that and runs away. You seem to do the opposite—diving headfirst into fear. What’s that about?

That’s just how I’ve always done it. I mean, you’re absolutely right.

If you’re an only child, you only ever talk to grown-ups; it makes you a very weird kid. So when I was a kid learning how to talk to other people my own age, I do think my initial problem was that I’d be really scared, and I’d come on so strong. People were like, “Who is that aggressive, terrifying child?” I was just overcompensating for fear.

That’s definitely how I deal. I hope I’ve gotten less weird socially, but if a story scares me, if a job scares me, I’m definitely going to dive in. I just didn’t like the idea of living a terrified life, you know? I didn’t want to go down that way. Read more…

All You Have to Bring is Your Love of Everything

Ada Calhoun writes, in Elle, about a weekend getaway with her husband to the kind of “romantic” Poconos resort she used to see advertised on television as a kid. Could a couple of nights away from their kid and all the post-election news — not to mention sleeping on a bed beneath a mirrored ceiling, plus baths in a champagne-glass-shaped jacuzzi — help to rekindle their spark?

Sitting around the bar for Sexual Feud, I saw couples aged 25 to 75 yelling out answers: “Balls!” “Blindfold!” “PMS!” The breakdown between white and African-American guests was about 50-50, and I tried to remember the last time I saw such a diverse group—an older white woman with long gray hair and big glasses, a middle-aged white man with the manner and attire of a duck hunter, and a stylish young black couple with matching cherry-red high-tops—laughing together. There were even people in their twenties and thirties who seemed to be there without irony.

Here the Northeastern middle class, with everyone smelling like bubble bath and sandalwood, was united by its knowledge of popular erogenous zones—”the neck!”—and its stoic refusal to ever laugh at the host’s rape-y “take it” joke. And this may just have been the three glasses of Barefoot pinot grigio talking, but as I looked at the scene I felt genuinely optimistic about America for the first time since the election.

I looked over at Neal. He, too, seemed to be happily watching the couples around us. I wondered if he might also be reflecting on our nation, perhaps having a similar epiphany—that there could be some way to unify the country under a banner of booze and R-rated game shows.

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Basking in Reciprocated Love: Can Molly Save a Marriage?

What we did was talk. For six hours, we talked about our feelings for each other, why we love each other, how we love each other. We talked about what we felt when we first met, how our emotional connection grew and deepened, how we might deepen it still. The best way I can describe it is that we were transported emotionally back to our relationship’s early and most exciting days, to the period of our most intense infatuation, but with all the compassion and depth of familiarity of a decade of companionship. We saw each other clearly, loved each other profoundly, and basked in this reciprocated love.

The feeling lasted not for hours or for days, but for months. Actually, the truth is, it lasted forever. We’ve done the drug since, every couple of years, when we feel we need to recharge the batteries of our relationship. Though the experience has never again been quite so intense, it has been a reliable method of connection, of clearing away the detritus of the everyday to get to the heart of the matter. And the heart is love.

At Lenny, read an excerpt of Ayelet Waldman’s memoir of LSD microdosing, A Really Good Day.

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Is Infidelity A Search for Identity? On Coupling: An Inventory

On a friend’s porch, someone has left behind a deer skull, beautifully intact, antlers and all, inside a wood crate set up against the wall. I consider the dead skull, the solid antlers, which won’t age for ages, which won’t die. The hollow sockets where eyes once looked for grass, the empty caves where a nose once bent to dirt. This deer must have lived in the woods behind here, in the fir and madrone, on the hillside taking a bed for its children, laying down in nights cold and rainy like this one. It makes me think about the wild in us all, how it stays tight, how we manage it or don’t, how we are animal in our marrow, our depth, our desire for sex as natural as the instinct to build a home, to shelter, to protect.

At Guernica, Melissa Matthewson explores infidelity in the search for her identity.

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The Story of a Marriage: Jenny Offill’s ‘Dept. of Speculation’

“The Buddhists say there are 121 states of consciousness. Of these, only three involve misery or suffering. Most of us spend our time moving back and forth between these three.”

-From Jenny Offill’s wonderful 2014 novel Dept. of Speculation — the story of a married couple in Brooklyn, told through snippets of wisdom, anger, love, and bedbugs. In the New York Times Book Review, Roxane Gay called the book “joyously demanding because you will want to keep trying to understand the why of each fragment and how it fits with the others.”

Further reading:

Errors Renewed: James Salter on Children, Futurity, and Hope

James Salter’s Light Years (1975) is a generous, intimate portrayal of a family that bends and splinters under the weight of its own differences and desires. This book exacerbated anxieties about marriage that I didn’t even know I had; thankfully, the novel’s emotional devastation is delivered in seductive, glorious prose. In the passage below, a sort of serpentine sense of doom winds its way around what is otherwise a tranquil domestic moment; this is Salter’s skill at play:

Their life was two things: it was a life, more or less – at least it was the preparation for one – and it was an illustration of life for their children. They had never expressed this to one another, but they were agreed upon it, and these two versions were entwined somehow so that one being hidden, the other was revealed. They wanted their children, in those years, to have the impossible, not in the sense of the unachievable but in the sense of the pure.

Children are our crop, our fields, our earth. They are birds let loose into darkness. They are errors renewed. Still, they are the only source from which may be drawn a life more successful, more knowing than our own. Somehow they will do one thing, take one step further, they will see the summit. We believe in it, the radiance that streams from the future, from days we will not see. Children must live, must triumph. Children must die; that is an idea we cannot accept.

There is no happiness like this happiness: quiet mornings, light from the river, the weekend ahead. They lived a Russian life, a rich life, interwoven, in which the misfortune of one, a failure, illness, would stagger them all. It was like a garment, this life. Its beauty was outside, its warmth within.

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Can ‘Mad Maps’ Offer Patients a Way to Take Charge of Their Psychiatric Care?

Like advanced directives for the dying, DuBrul explained, mad maps allow psychiatric patients to outline what they’d like their care to look like in future mental health crises. The logic is: If a person can define health, while healthy, and differentiate health from crisis, that person can shape his or her own care. The maps are not intended to be rejections of psychiatry, though they could be that. The maps are designed to force patients and family members to plan ahead—to treat a relapse as possible or even likely—in order to avoid, or at least minimize, future mistakes.

When Jonas was 16 months old, Giulia and I put a bottle of anti-psychotics in our medicine cabinet, just in case. This might seem reasonable, but it was silly. We hadn’t yet heard of mad maps, so we’d never discussed what a situation would have to look like for Giulia to take the pills, and that made the medication useless. Was she going to take them if she wasn’t sleeping enough? Or was she going to wait until she was already psychotic? If she waited until she was psychotic, she would also likely be paranoid, meaning that she wouldn’t take the pills willingly. Me convincing her to do so at that point would be almost impossible.

…This is where mad maps offer a shard of hope. Giulia and I, finally, are trying to make one, and now that we’re doing so I have to concede that in some ways, Laing was right: The treatment of psychosis is about power. Who gets to decide what behavior is tolerated? Who chooses how and when to enforce the rules? We started trying to create Giulia’s map by discussing the pills in the medicine cabinet. Under what circumstances would Giulia take them, and how much would she take? I took a hardline approach: No sleep for one night, pills at maximum dosage. Giulia wanted more time before jumping to medication, and favored starting the dose out light. We argued bitterly as we outlined our positions and punched holes in each other’s logic. Ultimately we had to sit down with Giulia’s psychiatrist to figure it out. Now we have a plan—for one bottle of pills. It’s a small victory, but a genuine step in the right direction in a world where such steps are rare.

—From “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward,” a recent essay by Mark Lukach for Pacific Standard. In the piece Lukach discusses his relationship with his wife Giulia, and how it shifted from husband to caregiver and back again after she suffered a psychotic break.