Archive | Articles

Lucy Stone: A Place of Honor on National Women’s Equality Day

One day, when I was seventeen, I approached my father with questions about love,  like Why should a woman marry?  This confused him because he and my mother loved each other, their marriage was good, and their other daughter, my older sister, was already also happily married.

Nevertheless, I said..  Why? And what’s this “obey” business?  

We exchanged ideas. He was patient. “So: you want a Lucy Stoner marriage, is that it?” he said. Thankfully, since I didn’t know what a “Lucy Stoner marriage” was, he went on to tell me about his early brief marriage to a writer named Hagar Wilde that ended on friendly terms. “We had a Lucy Stoner Marriage,” he confided. They had lived in Greenwich Village, he told me, but she had insisted on a separate studio, one outside their home, for her work. (Hagar, by the way, wrote the famous screwball comedy with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, “Bringing Up Baby,” which I later decided was successful because she had a place of her own.) I hadn’t heard about his first marriage, of Hagar, or of a “Lucy Stoner marriage,” whatever that was, until then. He also told me that he and my mother did not have a Lucy Stoner marriage.

Continue Reading →

Share

“So, Georgia, Are Those Flowers Really Vaginas?”

In reading Deborah Solomon’s interesting review of the new book, “My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Steiglitz”in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, I was struck once again by how free literary and artistic men have historically felt to reveal themselves in all their egomaniacal splendor or horror (think Picasso, Hemingway, Styron, Faulkner, Keroac, to name a few) while literary and artistic women have kept silent about themselves (from Austen on).. Steiglitz, the famous photographer and gallery owner, wrote letters that Solomon says “read like an exercise in negative self-salesmanship,” endlessly revealing his hypochondriacal, egomaniacal, wounded self without inhibition to the woman he first hoped to and then did marry.  O’Keeffe, by contrast, throughout their friendship and later marriage “retained her armor of discretion,” Solomon says. She remained silent about her deepest self in these letters–just as she remained silent when critics asked whether those luscious flowers of hers depicted women’s sexual organs.

Continue Reading →

Share

The Coming Backlash

Okay, so Treasury Bonds are being grabbed; gold is being hoarded; God is being called upon like never before to save us all from chaos, as He was in Houston a few weeks ago, by tens of thousands of evangelical Christians. Many have written about the problem of harking back to our belief systems, and our superstitions, and our specific faiths , instead of using better means to solve problems, like clear thinking, open-mindedness, conciliation, and negotiation. (See Frank Bruni, “True Believers, All of Us, The New York Times, August 6, 2011.)

I worry particualarly about women, vulnerable now to similar magical-thinking-solutions. I’m hearing young women talk about finding a guy to marry—quickly. I’m hearing older women talk about the futility of trying to reinvent themselves and instead figuring they’ll just hang on for dear life. As with trying to solve the world’s problems with faith and belief systems, trying to stay safe through all the old conventional means is dangerous to our collective psyche. When the economy is tight, and when men get scared, certain things happen like clockwork: There’s more domestic violence. Women tend to retreat; to return to the home, if not literally, then figuratively, as if the homely virtues ever paid off. We imagine that things were so much better long ago.

Continue Reading →

Share

Why the Very, Very Righteous Make Me Very, Very Nervous

Now that we’re no longer a married culture; now that we have more single people floating about the country than wedded ones, it’s fun to watch the family-values contingent race to point fingers. Who is responsible for this cultural sea-change? Who, they want to know, is bad, and who is good?

I always want to know who’s doing the asking.

When you see a study claiming to somehow assess our morals, be suspicious of interest groups conducting that study—just as you’d be suspicious of a drug company conducting a study of one of its drugs. You want to know if it’s the Christian Right surveying people on their infidelity habits, say, or if it’s a neutral organization like the Pew Research organization, which analyzes census data. For when the Very, Very Righteous claim to be objective about a moral issue, I get very very nervous. Continue Reading →

Share

“So, Fred, When You Gonna Make Me A Grandma?”

So now young gay couples are feeling the heat from their parents:   One friend of mine, a man who has been a couple with another man for years, got more than “So, when are you and Fred getting married?” He got a whispered, “So, when will your dad and I be grandparents?” My friend said, Mom! Stop! Just ‘cause I can doesn’t mean I want to! And a BABY? Whoever said I want a kid? Are you insane?”

While the parents of gay men and Lesbian women are ecstatically pushing marriage and children on their kids, these same kids are finding themselves under a startling new kind of societal pressure, not always welcome. “Just as I got my parents used to the idea that I was a societal flop, a cultural bad girl, a institutional drop-out,” says a young woman friend of mine who has been living with another woman for a few years, “along comes my eligibility into the most sanctified status of all, the one state-of-being the culture worships: marriage. And my parents have gone into deranged White Picket Fence mode. They asked me—really—if Samantha and I wanted a Dalmatian puppy after we were married.

Continue Reading →

Share

Honesty about Infidelity? Not on Your Life!

Last week, a Portland, Oregan documentarist interviewed me about my feelings about open marriage. He’s making a documentary about marriage, and he wants to share his idea that couples should ditch sexual exclusivity and, moreover, be open and honest about it.  A few days later I read Mark Oppenheimer’s article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (“Married with Infidelities,” July 3, 2011) quoting Seattle-based sex columnist Dan Savage, also a married man who believes in both sexual nonexclusivity and openness about it.  I’ve spoken with hundreds and hundreds of people about infidelity, and I want to point out something I’ve learned over the years from women who tried being open about their infidelity:  The “openness” playing field is not level. However free men feel to tell their wives about their indiscretions, wives should—and I mean this—shut up about theirs.

Continue Reading →

Share

One Reason Gay Marriage is Great for Straight Marriage

Gay marriage is not only good for gay men and women, it is brilliantly good for wives.

That traditional marriage has been sensational for men but not for women cannot have escaped notice. Year after year, studies consistently show that men thrive—emotionally, physically, spiritually—inside the very same institution in which women tend to languish, become depressed, and lose themselves. This counterintuitive truth, that so many wives become less themselves in marriage, as if the very walls of the institution contract their souls, goes against our deepest assumption: that women want marriage more than men and that, moreover, it is the most natural place in which a woman might flourish. Not so. If it were, and if wives were thriving, then over two thirds of divorces wouldn’t be initiated by wives.

Continue Reading →

Share

“Honey, I want some…SPACE!”

More evidence that women’s attitudes toward  marriage have changed dramatically: The Pew  Research Center, which analyzes census data,  confirms what I’ve been hearing from  women:  the desire to make their own self-expansion as important as it has always been for men and children.

Women want more space in their relationships. Yes, I know, we used to mock men for saying they wanted more “space”– because it was such a cowardly euphemism for  “I’m outtahere.”  But women mean it differently: They don’t necessarily want to leave their relationships,  but they definitely want to expand; to flourish inside their relationships, just as men always have.  Hearing the word “space,” though, men tend to hear the worst: they hear the ambivalence; they  hear what they call women’s  “commitmentphobia.” Funny: That’s the very word women once used to describe their ambivalent, skittish boyfriends, the men who didn’t want to get married. 

Continue Reading →

Share

Ask Not What Gay Marriage Can Do For Us, But What We Can Do For Gay Couples

Yesterday’s jubilant march along New York streets celebrating the right of gay men and women to marry was a spectacular reaffirmation of something we haven’t witnessed in awhile: A victory of civil rights, yes, but also a victory for marriage.

Marriage needs a victory, for it’s in deep trouble. I’ve long lamented the high rate of depression among young married women—a depression the culture has stonewalled, and which has led to a massive walkout strike among wives. I call it “Matrimorphosis,” this transformation of sexy, authentic brides into unhappy wives. And now that so many middle-class women no longer need marriage to put a roof over their heads, they’re finding other ways to live.

Continue Reading →

Share

Weiner’s Reasons? Schwarzenegger’s Apology? Do We Care?

I mean, what is there left to say but “Whatever”? That’s now the word of choice used by the young when, yet again, some famous, important guy does something weird and inappropriate or bizarre with his libido.  It’s our only remaining response to a morality that these men envision as entirely situational: a way to comprehend why they’re so self-righteous one moment, showing their penises to strangers the next. Situational morality is Anthony Weiner’s “But I’ve never had sex with any woman other than my wife” used as a defense of his honor. Hey, man, just because my privates are flying all over the net, don’t EVER DARE accuse me of infidelity!

An interviewer not long ago asked the creator of “Mad Men,”  Matthew Weiner, whether he felt Don Draper’s fall from power and failed marriage was a result of his basic, underlying badness–a badness like, say, Tony Soprano’s.

Not at all, he replied. Draper, unlike Soprano, “has a lot of admirable qualities and is basically a moral person, and he makes mistakes. His morality is conflicting. It’s situational, which is the disease of the 21st century.”

There it is.

Continue Reading →

Share

UA-22388103-2