I’ve been having a strange week. Something is rattling around in my brain — a restlessness. For instance, I spent hours this weekend watching Vampire Weekend videos compulsively.
Look at their lead singer, Ezra Koenig. Isn’t he adorable? The quintessential boy English major. It takes me back in time to 1987 (when Ezra Koenig was three), and boys like this were everywhere.
Here’s the funny thing. I had no idea that this terrific band even existed until yesterday. The only reason I “discovered” them is I was doing research about the Oxford comma for a freelance piece.
Life is passing me by, gentle readers.
This summer, I did something pretty phenomenal, though.
I bought a six bedroom historic Maine homestead on the Blue Hill Peninsula. And a three bedroom Adirondack style cabin. And a barn, a three-acre meadow, 20 acres of mixed forest, and a two-acre field of wild blueberries.
That’s what I did with the retirement funds I was awarded in my divorce settlement. I withdrew them all and paid cash for the property. It’s mine. Buying a place like this is something I’ve dreamed about my entire life.
This blog is supposed to be a record of my impressions in the wake of this bold move. I could never have done something like this had I remained married. The whole time I was married, my dreams were like mist rising; there was no way to get my hands on them.
But I got exhausted by the logistical process of buying the place — it took nerves of steel to handle the paperwork, not to mention the negative comments from people who said I shouldn’t do it — and I’ve been unable to focus on the fact of ownership except in disconnected bits and pieces. I talk on the phone to my carpenter one day; another day I fill out the contract to have a local agency manage the rental details next summer. I just wrote checks to all the people who worked on the place this fall, bolstering the foundation and repairing rotten clapboards.
I write about much of this in Bedrock and Blueberries, a blog that I’ll eventually link to a business site for the property.
So what do I want to say here, on Divorced Moms?
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
I read a lot of the stories on this site. Quite a few of the women here are younger than me, young enough to be contemporaries of Ezra Koenig. I’ll be 55 next week, old enough to be his mother.
I grew up in what is fast becoming a different world. The principles of feminism were something my generation tried to make happen in our real lives. We were aware of being diminished and objectified. I remember telling people sternly that I was a woman, not a girl. Along with a small band of people at the college I attended, I fought to have fraternity row disbanded because the male-dominated climate led to a series of rapes and sexual assaults.
I was bold and argumentative in those days. I marched for choice. I marched to take back the night.
And then I met a man with better earning potential and quit my job to follow him. I thought that my ex was a feminist, but it turns out he can only idealize and devalue women. Idealization is not the same thing as respect; instead, it is another form of objectification.
Being objectified, day in and day out, took a toll on me. I could say I should have worked, but I was working. I managed to save enough money to buy this property with just my asset share. That didn’t happen by accident. We were in debt when we got married. I learned how to invest money.
Every day, I worked.
When we were divorcing, my ex said to me, “How many hours exactly do you think you spent helping me establish my career? Twenty? Thirty?”
Thousands of hours. Years of hours spent editing and revising his papers, coming up with ideas, putting on a nice dress and making conversation at events, being charming to the colleagues in his male-dominated field. Strategizing. Oh, the strategizing. Thousands of hours, stroking his ego.
It was not anti-feminist to support my ex’s career. It was a smart use of resources. We were a successful team.
What is anti-feminist is how our society devalues a woman’s contribution to the traditional allocation of resources in a marriage.
The man says, “She did nothing. She is nothing.”
For me, divorce was a lifting of the veil.
It’s a different world, yet at the same time not that much has changed. When I mention feminism in the classroom, my female students turn inward in a kind of collective but subtle embarrassment, as though I had mentioned their menstrual cycle. They know they will work, but they will earn less and be devalued, and if they take a stand against it, they will be accused of beating a dead horse. After all, we live in a post-feminist world.
Their children will go into daycare and aftercare. They will be raised by parents and step-parents. We tell ourselves that it’s better this way, better for the kids than to live with parents who don’t get along. And yet the statistics tell a different story. Two-thirds of second marriages end in divorce. Three-quarters of third marriages end in divorce.
Parents who don’t get along the first time are less likely to get along with anyone else. This, too, will impact the kids. Harsh, but true.
I’m not looking to partner up with anyone else. I’m looking to do something of value with the rest of the time I have here on planet Earth. Something that is real, and mine.
Watching the video Oxford Comma, with its perfect symmetry and composition, was just what I needed. People still care about making something beautiful. This is good for kids, for us, for everyone.
It’s a start.