"Good relationships take work."
June 17, 2009 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. The author [Sandra Tsing Loh] is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?
posted by you just lost the game (315 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The single most insufferable person on NPR.
posted by anazgnos at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


oh thank god another rich person who fucked up her life is here to tell me what to do
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2009 [133 favorites]


No, it's not.

...a Tocquevillian spirit of restlessness that inspires three out of four Americans to say they believe marriage is for life, while only one in four agreed with the notion that even if a marriage is unhappy, one should stay put for the sake of the children.

You know what else American's have an annoying habit of being inspired to do? Take their most painful personal experiences and intellectualize about and generalize from them to the Nth degree as they happen. Geez, lady, at least let the ink dry on the divorce papers before you go sharing your insights with the whole world!

posted by saulgoodman at 10:04 AM on June 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


The single most insufferable person on NPR.

Well, she's single NOW.
posted by DU at 10:04 AM on June 17, 2009 [63 favorites]


too long; don't care
posted by slogger at 10:04 AM on June 17, 2009 [14 favorites]


Look, we just married our MeFi spouses yesterday; can't the ink dry?
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I normally enjoy her writing, but I have to say that this article could have been summarized as follows: My marriage failed, therefore marriage is basically pointless.

Also, this guy (if the description is true):

“Ian won’t have sex with me,” Rachel says flatly. “He has not touched my body in two years. He says it’s because I’ve gained weight.” Again, we stoutly protest, but she goes on. “And he thinks I’m a bad mother—he says I’m sloppy and inattentive.”

...needs a gigantic kick in the crotch. Two years? WTF?
posted by jquinby at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2009


...what I cannot authentically reconjure is the ancient dream of brides, even with the Oprah fluffery of weekly “date nights,” when gauzy candlelight obscures the messy house, child talk is nixed and silky lingerie donned, so the two of you can look into each other’s eyes and feel that “spark” again.

Oh my Lord.

Where do these people come from? People who get paid to be entirely too introspective at the expense of sanity? Is it a generational thing? Because I was living with my spouse for several years before we got married and I never had "the ancient dream of brides". I don't even know what that means.

It must be a generational thing - we twenty-somethings who are just starting to get married have no illusions about the nature of divorce. Most of us recognize that marriage offers a false promise of eternal happiness. We also recognize that sometimes, life is easier with two people sharing the economic and social burdens of adulthood.
posted by muddgirl at 10:07 AM on June 17, 2009 [19 favorites]


"Good relationships take work."

At least a cessation of anti-work. "Fellow transgressor" indeed. Pfff.
posted by DU at 10:07 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


My commitment to finishing this article, at the very end of the first page, came unglued.
posted by Your Disapproving Father at 10:08 AM on June 17, 2009 [44 favorites]


I should have said "two or more people". There's no point in being restrictive.
posted by muddgirl at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2009


OK, I read the first 2 pages and skimmed the second 2. Is there a point to this, beyond her need to vent? It sounds kind of like she's bragging that she wasn't quite the breeder-drone that she'd thought she was.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


“Ian has his Cook’s Illustrated,” Rachel adds. “And his—his men’s online fennel club.”

Nuke the site from orbit.
posted by jquinby at 10:10 AM on June 17, 2009 [17 favorites]


> Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance.

> It has been almost 10 years since I dined with adults on a weekly basis. My domestic evenings have typically revolved around five o’clock mac and cheese under bright lighting and then a slow melt into dishes and SpongeBob…

> In any case, here’s my final piece of advice: avoid marriage


Sounds to me like it was the added workload and pressure of childrearing that deep-sixed her marriage, not inherent problems with her husband.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 10:10 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


This comic is what I think of everytime authors write suprised essays about their lives.
posted by srboisvert at 10:11 AM on June 17, 2009 [18 favorites]


Ugh, what an awful article. That was like being trapped in an elevator with a sobbing person who also can't stop farting.
posted by Skot at 10:11 AM on June 17, 2009 [205 favorites]


I generally don't care for Double X, but the "conversation" there about this article is good. In particular, as is almost always the case, Dahlia Lithwick nails it.
posted by The Bellman at 10:11 AM on June 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sandra Tsing Loh is the reason why I don't subscribe to KPCC, because they keep paying her to talk and talk and talk and talk and OH MY GOD WOULD YOU PLEASE KEEP YOUR INSUFFERABLY SMUG NAVEL-CRAWLING TO YOURSELF LADY YOU ARE MURDERING MY SOUL and talk and talk...
posted by RakDaddy at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


TL;DR; take it to LiveJournal.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2009


The only thing from her that I've ever enjoyed was the This American Life bit about her dad (you know, the one that's a staple of pledge drive "best of" shows). I guess that the precursor to this essay (which I couldn't get past the second paragraph of) was her book review in which she discusses her lesbian bed death envy. No, seriously.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


hey guys

guys

did you know if you resentfully work 80-hour weeks and get married to a fellow obsessive-compulsive type-A person and also have sex with other people that the marriage might not work

q.e.d. all marriage is dead
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2009 [79 favorites]


sometimes life is easier with two people sharing the economic and social burdens of adulthood.

It can also under extraordinary circumstances be kind of fun and satisfying (or so I'm told).
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know, if you can't make an essay seem compelling and convincing even to yourself without mentioning yourself, it's probably a really crappy piece of work.
posted by orange swan at 10:14 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


A patina of sociology doesn't make airing one's dirty laundry in public any more pleasant, or relevant.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:14 AM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I am a 47-year-old woman whose commitment to monogamy, at the very end, came unglued.

Why do I get the impression that she had an affair, and is now trying to rationalize it?
posted by davejay at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2009 [26 favorites]


Just because she (and presumably her husband) decided to put aside all notions of being married for however long doesn't mean most married couples do this. If you want to have kids, that's wonderful, but marriage is not for having kids. You can have kids without being married. Marriage is for joining your life with another person's. If you can't handle that shit, don't do it.

It just gets so tiresome that people like Sandra Tsing Loh will essentially put the marriage on the back burner for 20 years, and then be surprised when it's gone to shit, as anything neglected for 20 years would be.
posted by explosion at 10:16 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


A patina of sociology doesn't make airing one's dirty laundry in public any more pleasant, or relevant.

My goodness, I think the better part of the Internets just collapsed on themselves.
posted by jquinby at 10:16 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Man, Betty Friedan must be spinning in her grave.
posted by boo_radley at 10:16 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


my dearest childhood wish was not just that my parents would divorce, but also that my raging father would burst into flames

maybe this has something to do with it
posted by poppo at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


It can also under extraordinary circumstances be kind of fun and satisfying (or so I'm told).

Yeah, but whenever I bring that part up, people start to complain about how restricted they are.

*Shrug* as an introvert and a shy person, I like that I have an automatic companion for hobbies and errands. YMMV of course, and marriage certainly isn't the only way to ensure that.
posted by muddgirl at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Four pages? egad. Also, I hope Rachael had a chance to talk to Ian before this, because guess what, homeboy?
posted by boo_radley at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2009


I bet she also can't shut up about the latest new band she's discovered or this new thing called Twitter.

Folks, there are, like, seven billion of us on this planet. Surely there isn't one right life for all of us. Why is that so hard to understand?
posted by bondcliff at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think that it's fair for us to judge Sandra Tsing Loh for being against marriage. After all, she was in a marriage that included Sandra Tsing Loh, and that would be enough to sour anyone on the experience.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2009 [44 favorites]


I hate her and everything she's ever written.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's an Ann Landers letter run amok. Maybe she should become an "accidental" slumlord.

I year for the days when journalists wrote about other people. Camus was not talking to you specifically journalists.
posted by GuyZero at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, let me get this straight. This woman, who seems to be non-religious and who admits to having an affair which resulted in divorce, who does NOT seem to be religiously motivated throughout the rest of her lengthy essay, offers this up as her first justification of the collapse of marriage: It is a religious institution, and religion is collapsing world-wide.

As a non-religious gay man who cannot marry in his home state and who longs for full marriage equality... I find this line of justification specious, at best. Marriage, as she continues to describe it over the four pages of her essay, is not a religious institution. It is social or economic or sexual, but she never once goes back to her initial point about marriage and divorce and religion.

She doesn't believe it herself, and yet she puts it forth FIRST. It's insulting and shows a greater participation in the American Myth Of Marriage than the author believes herself.
posted by hippybear at 10:22 AM on June 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


Like Halloween Jack, I wasn't really surprised she's getting divorced when she's admitted that Doritos dipped in cream cheese and salsa sounds more appetizing than sex.

"It is a particularly vexing problem for heterosexual married females, who -- now that we and our spouses are living so long, what with all the improved medical care -- can expect to face another several decades of domestic union with a man. And clearly we can't just let the sex fall off like an unused appendage. Unlike Teri and Pat, we don't have the luxury, as we age, of letting our sex drives die a merciful death, or at least be ecstatically smothered (can't breathe! can't breathe! ooh, ooh! getting light-headed!) in Philly cream cheese. "

I can think of something/someone I'd like to see die a merciful death....
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:22 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why do I get the impression that she had an affair, and is now trying to rationalize it?

Maybe because she says so in the article?

I realize it's fun to pile on a piece of flame bait like this, and it's pretty hard to not to loathe Tsing Loh, but I don't think you can accuse her of hiding stuff.

For a paragraph or two there I thought it might be an interesting article (the bit about comparing American optimism about marriage to people in other western countries), then it just turned into a confessional.
posted by malphigian at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2009


What The Hell?

Okay, my parents are pretty typical American Surburban 50-60 somethings. (My dad's 61, my mom's 58). I cannot remember a time where they DIDN'T "dine with adults on a weekly basis." why my sister and I were growing up.

That's what a babysitter is for. That's what relatives are for. That's what being friends with OTHER adults with kids is for. Rotating babysitters so the other 4 families can go out, and the next week, it's someone else. That's what making your oldest kid babysit her little sister and having her try to extort you for another ten bucks is for! (Yeah, that rarely worked for me, but still!)

Look, I'm not saying it's easy, because it's sure as hell not, but it sounds like this woman didn't even TRY to have an adult life separate from her kids, and then she resented it, and blamed her husband. Which is -crap-. It's a crappy way to treat someone you love, it's a shitty way to treat your kids, and if she spent ten years not finding a way to HAVE dinner with adults -on a regular basis- and spend time away from her kids, then it's her fault, not the fault of marriage.

And now she's whining and wants not just our sympathy but us to agree with her and get divorced in a mass migratory lemmingesque cliff-dive of separation?

FUCK. THAT. NOISE.

(I mean, first of all, doesn't she know that the lemming thing is BS?)
posted by FritoKAL at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


I actually would be interested in hearing more about this online fennel club, though.
posted by padraigin at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2009 [22 favorites]


A patina of sociology doesn't make airing one's dirty laundry in public any more pleasant, or relevant.
. . . .

My goodness, I think the better part of the Internets just collapsed on themselves.


but see, there's a big difference between sharing recollections and lessons learned from that time you got your (now impeccably clean) laundry extraordinarily dirty and actually airing that dirty laundry on the internet while it still stinks. this is the latter.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:24 AM on June 17, 2009


The comments in this thread are way more fun than the original article.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:25 AM on June 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


gawd is she an awful writer. just really worse than most in my freshman writing class. only thing worse is her voice.
posted by dawson at 10:25 AM on June 17, 2009


Drivel.
And I figured that was it too, then I saw it was FOUR PAGES!

I could comment on any number of moments through what I scanned that just made me think 'I'm fucking glad I don't know these people' (to paraphrase - 'You can't divorce him, look at this kitchen'), but I don't care.
I'm not even going to post this. I care that little. Only then I haven't demonstrated how little I care. So I will.
posted by opsin at 10:26 AM on June 17, 2009


Blah blah blah, etc, etc, another self-absorbed twat wasting my time on the Internet. I know she got published in the Atlantic, but honestly, how does this qualify as best of the Web?
posted by Lynsey at 10:26 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uck. That was four pages too long.

Part of me hopes she and Elizabeth Wurtzel meet, become friends and go out cruising for guys together but just wind up talking about middle-age burnout the whole time.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:26 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I, too, have the impression that she's rationalizing not her actions, but trying to transform them into some kind of universal principle, and she couldn't have made more of one with a Doc made out of neutronium. See, her commitment came unglued. She didn't do anything.

Passive voice means never having to say "I had sex with someone else."

As to Ian, whose lack of appetite in his conjugal duties has somehow earned him a similar boot in the genitalia (compare and contrast to the grim forbearance and furtive mistress-keeping expected of men in a reversed scenario, and the unpunted crotches of their wives), read further:
The list of violations unfurls. Last week, Rachel mistakenly gave the wrong medication to the dog, a mistake Ian would never make. She also forgot to deglaze the saucepan and missed the window to book the family’s Seattle flights on Expedia, whose chiming bargains Ian meticulously tracks.

Rachel sees herself as a failed mother, and is depressed and chronically overworked at her $120,000-a-year job (which she must cling to for the benefits because Ian freelances). At night, horny and sleepless, she paces the exquisite kitchen, gobbling mini Dove bars.
And that's the stuff to which Rachel will casually admit. Who knows what we'd hear if we asked him? I have no great love for the institution of marriage, but I've seen Mobius strips with more sides to this story.
posted by adipocere at 10:27 AM on June 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


Yeah, what the hell *is* a fennel club? Are we talking about the plant? If so, neglecting your spouse to spend more time with it sounds even more insulting than a rampant online pornography addiction.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:27 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I blame her for not having dinner with adults regularly, her friends sound insufferable.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:29 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I forced down all of page one, while it dawned on me that she was looking down her nose at me, even as she fucking FAILED. Sorry. Not going through the work of pages 2-4.

(longer diatribe redacted)
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: (longer diatribe redacted)
posted by hermitosis at 10:32 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sandra Tsing Loh is such a good writer that I'm willing to forgive her a large amount of self-indulgence.

Seriously, I'm baffled by the people in this thread who don't appreciate her prose style, whatever you make of her message or personality. You get that it's deliberately dry, right? She is satirizing the self-indulgent writers you disdain, at the same time, of course, as being one.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think that it's fair for us to judge Sandra Tsing Loh for being against marriage.

I don't. I judge her for writing myopically about herself and yet somehow lacking any sense of observation or insight into the material.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


So who does this woman know that she can get crap like this published in a major magazine like The Atlantic?
posted by bluesky43 at 10:34 AM on June 17, 2009


The author [Sandra Tsing Loh] is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?

Oh, hells, no! I just got a spouse today!
posted by octobersurprise at 10:34 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


He says it’s because I’ve gained weight.” Again, we stoutly protest, but she goes on.

I see what they did there.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really hate it when the entire point of a post is for all of us to collectively sneer at someone and feel better about ourselves in comparison.

But in this case, it is so well-deserved. Carry on!
posted by hermitosis at 10:34 AM on June 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


So this article didn't make me divorce my husband (I'm married to Lipstick Thespian, according to my contacts) but it did make me go buy some Doritos. Thanks, Sandy!
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:35 AM on June 17, 2009


anecdote anecdote anecdote personal opinion anecdote anecdote emabarrassing the hell out of my soon-to-be-ex by loudly proclaiming that I cheated on him and that loving him is too much work anecdote anecdote anecdote personal opinion anecdote blah blah blah

What a bitch. I can't believe this is in the Atlantic.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:36 AM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Reading this (and I did -the whole thing) is like watching someone wallow in their own effluvia except that it's more boring and pointless.
posted by ob at 10:36 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personally, I don't feel like I'm sneering. I'm honestly baffled. It's the first time in several years that I've felt too young to understand something. She is talking from a completely different realm than I recognize as reality.
posted by muddgirl at 10:36 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


But yes, some posters here are being insufferable assholes. A bitch? A pakled?? Really??
posted by muddgirl at 10:37 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think any of us can judge her until we have all had an affair and then written about it in a national magazine.

I've already reserved the hotel room. Who's in?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


I always enjoyed her pieces on NPR. Then, when she got pregnant, I sensed a shift, and after she had her baby, it was clearly there: she lost her edge, her focus. What had been an amusing David Sedaris-like mild snark turned into insipid narcissism. Maybe it was me changing. I don't know.

I am sorry for her that things turned out like this. As for the article, tl;dr, I got about 3 paragraphs in, found myself skimming, and was all "been there done that". I am sorry about that as well. I hope she finds happiness, or whatever.
posted by Xoebe at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've already reserved the hotel room. Who's in?

Well, heck, as long as it's for science journalism.
posted by rokusan at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2009


The "longer life expentancy so you spend longer together" arguement... is it true? It is my impression that life expectancy at birth as gone way up, because of a decrease in child mortality, but that life expectancy at 20 has not increased that much (not by 23 years, at least). But I'm not a demographer, so I don't really know where to look.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2009


Page 4 made me want to punch the Internet.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I can't find this online fennel club anywhere! Google has failed me!
posted by zsazsa at 10:42 AM on June 17, 2009


My commitment to flagging and moving on has come unglued. This woman needs to be a sitcom character cast opposite Zack Galifianakis. It's really the only redemption available to her at this point.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:43 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


God, that article makes me sad.

Because I read the whole thing and can't unread it.
posted by Shesthefastest at 10:43 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie, I'm in - but only if you promise not to internet marry me first. I'll even bring Doritos; we can judge her, twice!
posted by soft and hardcore taters at 10:43 AM on June 17, 2009


Hey Atlantic editors -- why not just set up a few cozy lunch dates between Sandra Tsing Loh and Caitlin Flanagan and spare the rest of us their idiotic ego-essays?
posted by grounded at 10:43 AM on June 17, 2009


And could somebody PLEASE explain something to me -- how come all of these "I Have An Alternate Take On Marraige And Family" are almost entirely composed of anecdotes? Does anybody find anecdotes to be persuasive at all? There's literally no actual content in this piece, except for Tsing-Loh needlessly embarrassing her ex (and their friends -- because, lets face it, they know who they are).
posted by Afroblanco at 10:44 AM on June 17, 2009


MetaFilter: (longer diatribe redacted)

Clearly the MetaFilter you read is not the MetaFilter I read.
posted by elfgirl at 10:45 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I cannot promise not to Internet marry anyone.

I am also a little confused about my own preceding sentence.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:45 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems to me like recently the Atlantic is cultivating this "women's section" of the magazine and assigning all the hard reporting to men. It's kind of bullshit, but then again, I could just be making that up.
posted by The Straightener at 10:45 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


all of these "I Have An Alternate Take On Marraige And Family" = all of these "I Have An Alternate Take On Marraige And Family" articles
posted by Afroblanco at 10:45 AM on June 17, 2009


I don't know what to make of her revelations about friends with children old enough to read the Internet. Who would naturally go "Oh look, there's mommy's friend!" And read about their dad refusing to touch their mom's body.

Is this fiction, fake gossip to spice up a weak article? Or is she playing Russian roulette with the hearts of 10-11 year old kids for profit?
posted by msalt at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2009


A bitch? A pakled?? Really??

Are you saying she doesn't look like a pakled?
posted by hermitosis at 10:46 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dear MetaFilter,

Many of you react with notable amounts of anger and vitriol to articles by women who have unconventional views about family and femininity and who reveal a lot of personal information about themselves and others. See, e.g., Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh.

WTF is up with that? I agree that there's plenty to criticize about all of these pieces, but it's like you're throwing tomatoes at the stage here.
posted by brain_drain at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


> Okay, my parents are pretty typical American Surburban 50-60 somethings. (My dad's 61, my mom's 58). I cannot remember a time where they DIDN'T "dine with adults on a weekly basis." why my sister and I were growing up.

Seconding that. Socializing doesn't have to be an either/or thing when it comes to kids and adults. I don't have children of my own, but when I was a kid my family went over to other peoples' houses all the time. The parents would have a few drinks and play cards or whatever, and the kids would go off and do their own thing until it was time to go home. Doesn't seem like rocket science to me...
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:49 AM on June 17, 2009


It rambled. A lot.

I'm in the minority here, but I honestly don't think it was boring, or too self-indulgent. She makes a lot of decent points about modern American culture and our perspective on marriage. How marriage is changing. She makes no bones about her choice being her failure, which seems oddly refreshing. I also think she effectively conveys her sense of dissatisfied ennui at the very idea that she should work to save her own marriage. (I suspect this is not an uncommon feeling for folks of either gender who are involved in very long-term relationships. Not that I would know from personal experience.)

Would I read it twice? Probably not. But I thought it was worth reading once, at least.
posted by zarq at 10:50 AM on June 17, 2009


Seriously, I'm baffled by the people in this thread who don't appreciate her prose style, whatever you make of her message or personality. You get that it's deliberately dry, right? She is satirizing the self-indulgent writers you disdain, at the same time, of course, as being one.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:33 AM on June 17


The next time someone pistol-ships you and takes your wallet, be comforted by the fact they are merely satirizing the self-indulgent muggers we all disdain.

But so anyway, now that I've gotten a lot of the disgust out of my system by comparing her to a Star Trek alien, I can approach this claptrap logically and point out that the article is 99% bullshit.

She had an affair, is getting divorced, but there is the last bit actually observable reality. Por ejemplo:

“Ian has his Cook’s Illustrated,” Rachel adds. “And his—his men’s online fennel club.”

Really? Now, I am a fennel-fucking-fan, and boy - doesn't joining an online fennel club sound fun?

oh no it's made up :(

Just like her fake-ass Sex and the City conversation with a bunch of stereotype- friends (the sex-crazed one! the one whose husband likes porn!), it's bullshit.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:50 AM on June 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


I was happier person 20 minutes ago, when I had no idea who Sandra Tsing Loh was.

I do want to say, though, that the snark in this thread is of such superior quality that it made me go back and actually read all four pages after having initially abandoned the attempt after a half-page.
posted by Shohn at 10:51 AM on June 17, 2009


literally during a five o’clock counseling appointment, as the golden late-afternoon sunlight spilled over the wall of Balinese masks—when given the final choice by our longtime family therapist, who stands in as our shaman, mother, or priest

The prose, it is a color of purple so deep, so rich, so majestic...
posted by elfgirl at 10:53 AM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Also, Tsing-Loh wrote this .... amazing review of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate, where she extols the virtues of not sleeping with your husband. Who'd think she would wind up divorced?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2009


*Shrug* as an introvert and a shy person, I like that I have an automatic companion for hobbies and errands. YMMV of course, and marriage certainly isn't the only way to ensure that.

I'm the same way. That's been a nice, unexpected benefit for me, too. :)
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I cannot remember a time where they DIDN'T "dine with adults on a weekly basis."

Yeah, it's weird. My parents divorced when I was three; my mom was in grad school around then and many of my memories from ages 3-8 or 9 revolve around being brought along to dinner parties. I learned to fall asleep on couches and strange beds and the back seat of the car. Other adults brought their kids along too, and while the grownups ate dinner we kids would play and then collapse into a puppy-pile of sleeping kids. Sometimes I spent the nights at my aunt's house, or one of my mom's friends would babysit. Honestly, if it was possible for my broke-ass single parent to either bring me along or farm me out for the night, how was it not possible for someone like Tsing Loh?
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2009


Many of you react with notable amounts of anger and vitriol to articles by women who have unconventional views about family and femininity and who reveal a lot of personal information about themselves and others. See, e.g., Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh.

Ye gods, if this had been written by a man the shitstorm would be at least as bad.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:55 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I can't find this online fennel club anywhere!

Me either, but they seem to have a mug.
posted by exogenous at 10:55 AM on June 17, 2009


Ah, one of the most popular online pastimes in the era of the Last Days of Traditional Media: assuming that any article you don't happen to like must be objectively crap, published only because the author knows someone at the magazine, or because the magazine is an establishment monopoly protected by its ownership of a printing press.

How do these smug upper-middle-class narcissists get away with it, huh? (Because nobody wants to read people writing about their own internal dramas, amirite? If there was a real market for that, you'd walk into Barnes and Noble and see the tables stacked full of memoirs or something, wouldn't you?)

And why does a correspondent for a major national magazine have to keep writing about things? Can't she just keep it to herself like the rest of us do? What makes her think, just because she's a magazine writer, that she should go around writing in magazines?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: the ancient dream of brides.
posted by chinston at 10:58 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


She's drowning in her own sorrow and doesn't like to drown alone.
posted by caddis at 10:58 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think "fennel" is code for "taters."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:58 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, man. The Balinese masks, that was the window closer.
posted by The Straightener at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The Emperor has no fennel!!"
posted by hermitosis at 11:01 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a 47-year-old woman whose commitment to monogamy, at the very end, came unglued.

Thank you, that's enough. We'll call you.

Next.
posted by swift at 11:01 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously, I'm baffled by the people in this thread who don't appreciate her prose style, whatever you make of her message or personality. You get that it's deliberately dry, right? She is satirizing the self-indulgent writers you disdain, at the same time, of course, as being one.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:33 AM on June 17

The next time someone pistol-ships you and takes your wallet, be comforted by the fact they are merely satirizing the self-indulgent muggers we all disdain.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:50 AM on June 17


I'm not sure I agree with you 100 per cent on your analogy work there, Optimus.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:01 AM on June 17, 2009


Yes, have we established what a "fennel club" is yet?
posted by ob at 11:02 AM on June 17, 2009


Fennel club?
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:02 AM on June 17, 2009


I don’t generally even enjoy men

I'm wondering what her fellow transgressor must think of all this.
posted by jquinby at 11:03 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh thank god another rich person

rich? did you see her car? besides -- she's a writer.
posted by krautland at 11:04 AM on June 17, 2009


Which is to say I can work at a career and child care and joint homeownership and even platonic male-female friendship.

Yeah you're 47. That's a successful marriage. Silently agree not to investigate too closely when each of you "works late" and everybody's set. This happily ever after idea that you get married and stay in amorous love forever is silly. Marriage can work, but magical fairy tale elven marriage can't. Expectations people. Jesus.
posted by ND¢ at 11:04 AM on June 17, 2009


> Honestly, if it was possible for my broke-ass single parent to either bring me along or farm me out for the night, how was it not possible for someone like Tsing Loh?

I have a bad feeling that people worry that teh pedofilez, they are everywhere. Don't let your kids out of your sight for even a second, even with relatives or friends you think you trust!
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2009


Fennel club?

Isn't she out west? Maybe this one?
posted by jquinby at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2009


The "longer life expentancy so you spend longer together" arguement... is it true? It is my impression that life expectancy at birth as gone way up, because of a decrease in child mortality, but that life expectancy at 20 has not increased that much (not by 23 years, at least). But I'm not a demographer, so I don't really know where to look.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:42 PM on June 17 [+] [!]


IANAD, but I am a social historian who is very interested in historical demography. It is true that marriages to death (as opposed to divorce) are probably on average longer, because life expectancy at 20 has increased since the 18th century (less childbed mortality for women, fewer accidental deaths for men, and fewer people dying in their 50s and 60s from smoke inhalation related disease). Many men or women were widowed - though they would also remarry if possible (gender roles being what they were, it was much more comfortable for both men or women to be married - women needed a money earner, men needed a housekeeper). But some people did live well into their 70s - three score and ten being the time accounted a man, and there were marriages which certainly lasted longer than this authors'. Expectations for marriage were, of course, not necessarily the same, and divorce (while not impossible) very difficult.

But as for marriage for 50+ years just being unnatural - well, I just think of my grandparents, who have been married for 65 years, actually 68 this February. They have had their rocky times, but now I think they cannot imagine not being with the other.
posted by jb at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey guys, I just bought a pair of new shoes and it turns out they were the wrong size. I hobbled around for a week and got blisters and stuff. It wasn't very fun. So in conclusion, you are all going to have to go barefoot from now on.
posted by Spatch at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


I can't find this online fennel club anywhere! Google has failed me!

Google knows the first two rules of Fennel Club.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:05 AM on June 17, 2009 [31 favorites]


How do these smug upper-middle-class narcissists get away with it, huh? (Because nobody wants to read people writing about their own internal dramas, amirite?

Hey man, I love magazines and magazine writing. I probably read ten magazines a month, at least - the New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, Utne Reader, NYTM, the Economist - everything your basic middle-class American liberal is supposed to read. I devour Best American Magazine Writing every year.

But you know what? I know plenty, thanks, about the lives of Upper West Side writers. I am filled to the fucking brim. I want to read about astronauts and victims of kidnapping and criminals and politicians and ten year-olds and the guy who crashed a million-dollar car and the woman who lived in Mongolia for a year and raised goats. Talking about nannies and magazine writing and not-fucking your husband is fucking boring. Bor-ing.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:06 AM on June 17, 2009 [65 favorites]


No one should have to stay in a bad marriage, but not all marriages are bad. Marriage can be the one thing that truly allows us to develop our spirit/intellect. It frees time and energy otherwise spent pursuing sex, and allows us to cultivate our better nature with a kindred spirit. Child-rearing is indeed a heavy burden, but it is one that is best shared; and the children do grow up and move away, so it is great to have a companion around who has shared that experience with you.
posted by No Robots at 11:06 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to say that this essay has one large, looming, wonderful thing about it that one might not notice.

Somewhere, in an apparently ridiculously well-arranged and -organized house, sits the man that this woman is getting divorced from. I imagine that he has moments of regret as I'm sure every guy who's ever kicked out a cheating wife does; I'm sure there are long, drunken nights when he cries and punches walls and asks himself how the hell could I have thrown her out? What was I thinking? I'm sure he misses the regularities of his marriage that were so comforting, so strangely meaningful; and I'm sure he sometimes aches with regret.

But I like to think that, in those times, he sits down at his computer and pulls up this article. He listens to the audio piece, wherein amongst a slew of shocking private revelations of things the whole family probably would rather have kept at least mildly private (“everyone is in therapy”) this woman can't even admit openly that she cheated on her husband without veiling the admission in this kind of weirdly misdirecting mumbo-jumbo:

Because a third party was involved, all my earthy possessions were flung onto our driveway; actually, I misspeak. Among my husband's many excellent qualities, including being a great artist and loving father, he is a phenomenal packer… Look at the packing!

He reads the article again slowly for the thousandth time—he studies all this crystallized ennui presented as semi-intellectual contemplation, and he goes all the way through to the very last line, where this woman to whom he was once married announces backhandedly, apparently as an afterthought, that she left him for love, apparently because she was in love with someone else

In any case, here’s my final piece of advice: avoid marriage—or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love.

…while she never once says plainly that she betrayed this guy; and, moreover, in an article full of private details, she shields whoever she cheated with by never mentioning her/him at all.

And I like to imagine that, once he's read through this article, a smile slowly begins to creep across his face, and he says to himself: “Thank God I did the right thing and divorced this woman.
posted by koeselitz at 11:06 AM on June 17, 2009 [88 favorites]


Many of you react with notable amounts of anger and vitriol to articles by women who have unconventional views about family and femininity and who reveal a lot of personal information about themselves and others. See, e.g., Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh. WTF is up with that?

Because, frequently, these women are claiming to speak for The Whole Of Womanhood, and we weren't consulted.

For example. Loh offers the following as a data point for the unreality of marriage:

...what I cannot authentically reconjure is the ancient dream of brides, even with the Oprah fluffery of weekly “date nights,” when gauzy candlelight obscures the messy house, child talk is nixed and silky lingerie donned, so the two of you can look into each other’s eyes and feel that “spark” again.

She makes it sound as if all of us who long for a commitment, who seek a partner in life, are looking for some 24-hour romantic mushy lovey-huggy-bear schmoopfest -- and isn't it a shame so many women are so deluded that they think this is possible? Alas.

Yes, I would like to find a second half. But that is not the reason why I am looking. The lovey-dovey stuff never fit into my idea of what marriage was like, ever. Nice when it comes along, but I always saw it as the icing on the cake. I never was one of those little girls who daydreamed about the long white dress I'd wear as a bride; even today, I have given absolutely no real "planning' thought to what my wedding would be like (save the song I'll dance to my father with). Instead, I spent all my time daydreaming about the marriage itself. Having a partner to team up and do stuff with. Having someone I can lean against when I have had a crazy day at work and I am staggering home and I am just so fucking tired I can barely stand, and having that sense of relief that I can just collapse when I get home because someone else can take care of dinner that one night. And then being the person to do the same for someone else when he is too tired to speak the next time he comes home worn out from work. I want someone I can trust enough to bounce ideas off of, someone who trusts me enough to bounce ideas off me, so we can each bounce those ideas off into becoming better people and growing into fuller versions of ourselves. I want to have a second person to wax the floor and paint the living room in the home I want, and I want to have someone else to bake the bread and wash the dishes with. I want someone to stand by me and someone I can stand by when there is danger afoot. I want someone to join me in the work I want to bring into the world so I know that I am not working in vain. I want to join someone else in his work so he has someone there at hand in case he has a crisis of faith in himself. I want to share the blood and the sweat that goes into the business of making a life -- both mine and another person's.

I scoff at the "Oprah fluffery of weekly date nights" as much as she does. But that doesn't mean I scoff at marriage itself. And I can't be the only one who feels this way.

So we're angry not at what THEY say -- we're angry because they are also claiming that it is also what WE say. And that couldn't be further from the truth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on June 17, 2009 [50 favorites]


Congratulations Sandra, you're an assh*le, just like my ex.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:07 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


rich? did you see her car? besides -- she's a writer.
posted by krautland at 11:04 AM on June 17


Poor people can't afford to write for The Atlantic.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:07 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I love the article. But only because it led to this thread being created, which led to me wondering what a pakled is, which led to me looking it up and learning a new awesome (and geeky) word. Thanks, Sandra!
posted by The World Famous at 11:12 AM on June 17, 2009


Any writer who says something is "(modifier) American" to make their situation seem a little more global or revelatory is a pain in the ass.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 11:13 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I went straight to the video link where she has all her belongings in a 10 x 10 Uhaul portable storage unit.......that her soon to be Ex packed and labeled for her before tossing her/and them out the door. Not sure I could do that.....
posted by HappyHippo at 11:13 AM on June 17, 2009


I've helped an ex (girlfriend) move out before. It makes it easier when you are just SO GLAD to see them go.
posted by ND¢ at 11:15 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ye gods, if this had been written by a man the shitstorm would be at least as bad.

It was, and it was.
posted by applemeat at 11:16 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


♪ Tsing Loh,
Sweet egoist. ♪

♪Comin' to unmarry us all!
posted by Mister_A at 11:17 AM on June 17, 2009 [20 favorites]


I can't find this online fennel club anywhere!

fennelclubformen.com is available, if Ian and the rest of you guys want to get one started.
posted by TedW at 11:17 AM on June 17, 2009


Wow...4 pages of self-pity reimagined as uber-feminism and independence.

Agree with ALL statements above on how the author seems to not take any responsibility for her faults in the marriage (cheating, etc); the ONLY thing she takes fault for was getting married in the first place.

And because she could not handle her marriage and had to go off and have affairs, all of US should follow suit.

Hazzah!

(grumble grumble...)
posted by arniec at 11:18 AM on June 17, 2009


Anyone working for NPR has some nerve calling Oprah Winfrey "fluffery."

NPR is fluffery incarnate.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:19 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


While we are picking on a shitty piece of writing on a shitty part of the author's life.

Rachel has eschewed Ian’s customary wine-club Bordeaux and is mixing some alarmingly strong martinis.

My, this mixture of two particularly alcoholic liquors is particularly alcoholic!
posted by munchingzombie at 11:20 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


she cheated on her husband

No she didn't. Didn't you read the article? It wasn't her fault. She didn't betray the trust of a long-term partner. The institution of marriage was fundamentally flawed!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:20 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I didn't get to read all of this thread because as soon as I read her name all I could do was start singing "Tsing Loh, Sweet Chariot...comin for to carry me hoooooooome". Am I the only one?
posted by spicynuts at 11:20 AM on June 17, 2009


And because she could not handle her marriage and had to go off and have affairs, all of US should follow suit.

Oh for God's sake, do people REALLY not see that she is making an exaggerated controversialist case, deliberately? (And successfully?) And that the subhead on the article is meant to make you laugh?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorta maybe.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2009


Aren't all martinis alarmingly strong? I mean, it's gin with a teensy bit of fortified wine. There's no martini that is not strong by any reasonable definition.

And if you say something about vodka in martinis, Dick Cheney will shoot you in the face.
posted by Mister_A at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has really solidified my opinion that marriage should be reserved for gays, who seem to appeciate it, and denied to straight people, who have destroyed the institution. I'm a call my Congressman.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


(that was to spicynuts)
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2009


Aren't all martinis alarmingly strong?

Try them with Navy Gin. Then try to walk.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:23 AM on June 17, 2009


MeTa
posted by Mister_A at 11:23 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


i would rather be shot in the face than read any more of that crap
posted by Addiction at 11:23 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or do the author and her (possibly imaginary) friends all suffer from over-working? If they worked less, they could have more family time, and time together as a couple.

The thing about most long relationships is they change with the people. Sure, a lot of personal changes happen up through your 20s, but it's not like you get married and stop changing. So if you're not around to change with the person you married, of course it's going to be hard.

Stop striving to look perfect, be an amazing chef, and have a house that looks like one of those charming Italian villas you saw last summer. Families are about a group of people, not where they live, what they eat or how they dress.

And if all else fails, get fuck it all and get internet married to a bunch of people. Chances are, one of the many will still be around with you 20 years from now
posted by filthy light thief at 11:24 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I had no idea there was such a thing as Navy gin! What's a good brand?
posted by Mister_A at 11:24 AM on June 17, 2009


“Ian has his Cook’s Illustrated,” Rachel adds. “And his—his men’s online fennel club.”
This must be code for something, maybe his, maybe hers, but code unmistakably.

"Welcome to Fennel Club. The first rule of Fennel Club is you do not talk about Fennel Club. The second rule of Fennel Club is you DO NOT talk about Fennel Club!"

In particular, as is almost always the case, Dahlia Lithwick nails it.
Nailed to the door: "These are marriages built on the not-too-solid foundation of using books to build a better life. {...} Any marriage predicated on the idealized images of glossy magazines, the dopey optimism of parenting books, and the dispassionate analysis of whatever Marriage Sucks book is in vogue that week is almost doomed to fail." And, perniciously, the Atlantic provides Amazon hyperlinks to every one of the books Sandra Tsing Loh mentions.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:24 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had no idea there was such a thing as Navy gin! What's a good brand?

Plymouth.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:26 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


his men’s online fennel club

In Italian, the word for fennel is also a slang term for a homosexual. So there may be an overeducated version of "U R A FAGGIT" going on there. Or I may be beanplating.

I'm probably beanplating.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:27 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


wait - you need to read this article with this song playing* to get the real effect

hey, lady, hey, lady, you're going to hate me if you click on this
posted by pyramid termite at 11:28 AM on June 17, 2009


I went into this with a sympathetic viewpoint because I've got my own Doubts About Marriage As An Institution, but wow, what a shit article. Self-indulgent and purple-prosed and just terrible all around.
posted by marginaliana at 11:29 AM on June 17, 2009


Wow, the thing that really strikes me about this article is how utterly hateful it is toward her ex-husband. Not hateful in an angry or vindictive way, but in a dismissive one. The point being, more or less, that she was too lazy not to cheat on him and wreck their marriage.

"Yeah, I can pick the kids up at school and stuff, but not cheating on you? That's too much work, and I have enough chores already, thanks!"

Also, what Koeselitz said. The fact that her ex-husband carefully packed her things instead of piling them into a giant bonfire on their front lawn indicates that he's a far better man than most of us.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:29 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have to say that this essay has one large, looming, wonderful thing about it that one might not notice.…while she never once says plainly that she betrayed this guy; and, moreover, in an article full of private details, she shields whoever she cheated with by never mentioning her/him at all.

As someone who left an over-educated upper-middle-class spouse who cheated on me, I can tell you that this aspect of the piece rang absolutely true.
posted by aught at 11:30 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


You get that it's deliberately dry, right? She is satirizing the self-indulgent writers you disdain, at the same time, of course, as being one.

Eh, I find the whole "sarcastically overemphasizing my own flaws" excuse for having excessive flaws a bit weak. The problem is if you ever go over the line, you can always just say you were being sarcastic. Like how people claim Glen Beck and Ann Coulter are "satirical" (or how, if you saw the daily show a few days ago Stewart mocked the cast of "Morning Joe" for their enthusiastic "sarcastic" consumption of Starbucks coffee when Starbucks sponsored the program)

Being a self-saterizing turgid writer doesn’t change the fact that you're a turgid writer
--
Also before settling on 'turgid' I initially wrote "overwrought phrase grazing wildebeest". It didn't flow very well but I still feel like including it in my post. So I am.

I was happier person 20 minutes ago, when I had no idea who Sandra Tsing Loh was.

Really? I've enjoyed this thread.
posted by delmoi at 11:31 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


A bitch? A pakled?? Really??

Yes, really.
posted by Scoo at 11:32 AM on June 17, 2009


perhaps she makes her martinis with Everclear? *shudder*
posted by supermedusa at 11:33 AM on June 17, 2009


As Stonewall Jackson pointed out above:

Sounds to me like it was the added workload and pressure of childrearing that deep-sixed her marriage, not inherent problems with her husband.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 12:10 PM on June 17 [+] [!]


I thought that she missed the real reason for her marriage's demise: it sounded like she was pretty much carrying the whole marriage by itself -- including the responsibility of saving the marriage. If her description was accurate, there just wasn't a whole lot of marriage to save -- but more on that further below. Please indulge me with a short historical look at marriage that I think Loh would have benefitted from:

As someone else points out above, marriage is primarily a social, legal, and economic instutition. And as economies and societies evolve, marriage's meaning has had to evolve. Marriage has been used economically to: cement property alliances between families, provide economic support for a full-time mother when families were large and lifespans shorter, confer legitimacy and inheritance rights to children, and create an economically efficient single unit for the raising of children (as is evidenced by the fact that both custodial and non-custodial households see a drop in their level of living after divorce).

That's just the economic take. In early Puritan America, survival was hard enough that single adults had to live within a couple's household rather than alone, and single women were held suspect (and often accused of witchcraft). In traditional polygamous societies, plural marriages provided for women and children within a culture short of men, and men who could support multiple wives did so as a show of high status and prestige. Marriage can provide for some societal control of how children are socialized, which is the reason some religions (such as Orthodox Judiasm and Islam) frown on outmarriage. Marriage as a legal contract also confers certain legal rights that more informal relationships do not, including the necessity for economic provision to children in the case of divorce.

There is a legitimate question buried in this article: What IS the meaning of Western society marriage today? Is there just one meaning? We have lost much of the economic necessity in Western society; the inefficiencies of two households are usually not insurmountable. There are legal benefits of marriage (visitation rights in hospitals, sharing of job benefits) that gays and lesbians are fighting for because the provision of these outside of marriage through domestic partnership policies are hit-and-miss. Socially, it is much less stigmatizing to be a single parent.

To get back to Stonewall Jackson's observation, one of the important meanings of marriage in Western society today (which Loh somehow misses even when she casually mentions the problem at the beginning) is PARTNERSHIP. Reading Loh's essay was, for me, frustrating -- Loh dismisses the real lesson to be revealed, which is not that marriage is no longer workable in modern Western society, but that the expectation of marriage today is first and foremost equitable partnership, and without that, the economic and social benefits conferred by marriage are not enough.
posted by lleachie at 11:34 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure she wrote her own Wikipedia page too.
posted by Naberius at 11:34 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Isn’t it time you did the same?

"Sandra Tsing Loh reports on her divorce from inside her new 10 x 10 foot U-Haul storage trailer." Which sounded to me like she's living in the trailer, so no.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:38 AM on June 17, 2009


The fact that her ex-husband carefully packed her things instead of piling them into a giant bonfire on their front lawn indicates that he's a far better man than most of us.

I like to think that if my spouse of 24 years cheated on me that I would be decent about it after the initial shock wore off. I also like to think that my payment for that decency wouldn't be a facile, self-absorbed apologia for adultery in The Atlantic.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:38 AM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


God this woman fell for every trap hook line and sinker. It's almost Bateman-y in brand fixation and relentless aspirational consumerism.
posted by The Whelk at 11:40 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


It just sounds like she had a lot of unrealistic expectations. A marriage is hard work, yo. There are always two parts to a great marriage: The "I love you" part and the business-y part. The second part is not fun and not romantic, but it is probably the more necessary of the two. There are whole weeks when you're married when it's like, "I do not know who this person is or why I married them!" and that's the failure of that first, cute part. And if that's all you got, then shit starts backing up.

When people ask me why I married the woman I did, I always tell them it's because we had an incredibly functional relationship. Even when we were angry at each other, chores got done, bills got paid, life went on.
posted by GilloD at 11:41 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I hate being someone's fucking therapist.

This felt like one painful hour long session of listening to Sandra Tsing Loh describing her personal 9-11. She owes us ALL $150 for the hour.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:41 AM on June 17, 2009


I scoff at the "Oprah fluffery of weekly date nights" as much as she does.

Why all the hate for date nights? Is it here just an instinctive venom-spit at the word "Oprah"? Is it about how it is wrong for a romantic relationship to be in any way scheduled?

I resisted the idea of date nights (or rather, let's be honest, scheduled sex nights) for a while. But after realizing that we hadn't done anything at all as a couple for a long time, we pencilled in our Saturday nights. And lo and behold, after just a few months it's no longer a "scheduled task", but a tradition that we both look forward to.

Yes, you have to work at a relationship. And sometimes, just like at your job, you need to schedule things so that they get done even when there are a million other things demanding your attention. Kids will consume every last moment of your free time if you let them. Setting aside time for the two of you as a couple (and for each other alone!) is crucial, and may not happen at all if you don't do it explicitly.
posted by CaseyB at 11:43 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Atlantic seems to be lobbing these challenging opinions with increasing frequency. I haven't paid close attention, but I did take umbrage with their whole W. is like Winston Churchill thing six years ago:

"The decisions—about Iraq, about Korea, about fighting terrorism—that confront this U.S. President may turn out to be as momentous as any an American leader has faced in decades. ... Bush is, he concludes, focused, quick to make decisions, persevering, a good judge of character, and yes, "smart enough" to be an effective President. The unknown quantity is imagination—the imagination to foresee consequences, the imagination to be a wartime President"


Their editors are like a kid who derails a college class by digging in heels and defending some devils-advocate pose beyond all common sense.
posted by bendybendy at 11:45 AM on June 17, 2009


The fool eats offal on his plate and curses the taste. The wise man throws the offal to the dogs.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:46 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


The lady stays married for many many years and then, perhaps bored, she cheats. Now a MILF she divorces and writes a book that marriage sucks. In passing she mentions a book on Open Marriage and tells us that most of us can not live this way. In fact, the married couple that wrote that book fihally divorced and then the guy pumped out another book (writers never stop looking for things to write about) that tells us that open marriage does not work.

She could she simply have told us that (a) I cheated and got caught and my husband kicked me out or, (b). I cheated and decided I no longer wanted to be married. (c) I cheated, hubby forgave me but I moved on. Instead: I cheated and got an article out of it.

Slome 50 percent of marriages fail in the US today. But then most people who divorece try marriage again. Sam Johnson:" a second marriage is the triumph of optimism over experience. But then read his bio!

In my limited experience, women who have been married for many years, when losing or leaving a husband tell us that they prefer the single life...she seems, then, at that stage.
So be it and lots of luck. Sell when you can, lady. You are not for all markets.
posted by Postroad at 11:47 AM on June 17, 2009


I was a little taken aback that her failure should direct my life. (Reminds me of the line, "Your lack of planning is not my emergency" or whatever.) Project much?

Anyway, I like the Atlantic; Loh is often good, and always better than that insufferable "advice" column.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:47 AM on June 17, 2009


Holy fuck, I was pissed at the article, but I think I just realized that it's simply a new series of hints in the online ARG "This Is My Milwaukee"!

Fennel

posted by Greg Nog at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Setting aside time for the two of you as a couple (and for each other alone!) is crucial, and may not happen at all if you don't do it explicitly.

I see what you (inadvertently) did there.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 11:51 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought that she missed the real reason for her marriage's demise: it sounded like she was pretty much carrying the whole marriage by itself -- including the responsibility of saving the marriage.

I got the same impression from her last book, which was a disjointed mess about a) how she got fired from Pacifica for saying "fuck", and b) how she had to find a school for the older daughter without any help from the husband, because he was on tour with some more famous musician.

The thing is that when you marry someone who spends several months a year traveling for work, that's not going to change, so it might be prudent to think carefully about whether you want to co-parent with someone who's away all the time.

Sorry your marriage is ending, Sandra. My marriage is just fine, thanks for asking. Also, you are not the center of the universe.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:52 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sandra, thank you.

Up until today, I had never heard of you, but reading your piece in The Atlantic has sure opened my eyes.

I am beginning work on a preemptive divorce.

We are fairly happy in your marriage, and our sex life, 20+ years on, takes a bit more deliberation and maintenance but still provides both of us with joy. But, thanks to you, I know it can't last.

Call me in a month, OK?
posted by Danf at 11:52 AM on June 17, 2009


I AM GOING TO JERK SO HARD THE DAY THAT THE ATLANTIC GOES UNDER
posted by Damn That Television at 11:56 AM on June 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure she wrote her own Wikipedia page too.

Excerpts from Wikipedia: "Loh is also the author of several books, including the semi-autobiographical A Year in Van Nuys. The title is a parody of the title of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, though Tsing Loh points out that Van Nuys is not as glamorous as southern France."

You don't say.

"As of 2008 Loh's children attend public school in the San Fernando Valley."

And why would this be profile-worthy? That you're not above sending your kids to public school?

What IS the meaning of Western society marriage today? Is there just one meaning?

Marriage is the union of two people. What happens from there varies a lot. Sometimes there are gender-neutral roles divvied up evenly, other times it's the traditional stay at home parent who is supported by the working parent. Then there are shades of these two. Or maybe the couple is wealthy enough to hire a house cleaner, and maybe even a nanny. Hopefully those two people love each-other, or at least enjoy the company. But getting carried away with the notion of eternal romance is probably a bad thing, because nothing is always great.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:58 AM on June 17, 2009


Many of you react with notable amounts of anger and vitriol to articles by women who have unconventional views about family and femininity and who reveal a lot of personal information about themselves and others. See, e.g., Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh. WTF is up with that?

2 questions:

(1) Can you point to a single comment in this thread (or a thread by any of the authors you mentioned) that takes issue with "unconventional views about .... femininity"? I see comments expressing a range of views about conventional marriage and family; I don't see any comments criticizing Loh for challenging or not living up to gender stereotypes.

(2) Can you point to a single essay that was (a) written by a man, (b) about similar themes as this article, (c) as flawed as this article (which you admit has problems), (d) linked on Mefi, and (e) not harshly criticized? If not, then can you really say there's a double standard?

You say the commenters here are "throwing tomatoes at the stage." But people shouldn't feel the need to hold back from criticism -- even caustic, overstated, over-the-top criticism. This is the internet, after all. Male and female writers alike get routinely excoriated on the web for things they write in top-notch publications like the Atlantic. If commenters feel the need to hold back from criticizing the pieces by female authors for fear of appearing to be attacking them, that won't do any favors for women in the long run.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:59 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


[Some] 50 percent of marriages fail in the US today.

This is often said, but how could anyone possibly know this?
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:01 PM on June 17, 2009


>I scoff at the "Oprah fluffery of weekly date nights" as much as she does.

Why all the hate for date nights? Is it here just an instinctive venom-spit at the word "Oprah"? Is it about how it is wrong for a romantic relationship to be in any way scheduled?


Fair enough; my point was poorly phrased.

I think it's more the idea of marriage being a constant lovey-dovey, hearts-and-flowers, happyfest that I was scoffing at. Because it just isn't. It's impossible for any kind of life to be happy 24/7, and I never even liked the love songs that sang about that. Because some days you are going to bug the snot out of each other, and you're going to be tired and cranky and pissy and have bad days and yadda yadda yadda -- but that person seeing you having a hissy fit because you're having a crap day? They're gonna roll with it. Because they don't need you to always be "on" like that.

I understand the importance of trying to bring back the romance if you've only been focusing on the mundanities; I'm complaining more about the misconception that the mundanities aren't themselves also part of the marriage. I don't need someone to try to make my life perfect and sweet and wonderful all the time -- I don't need someone who is trying to only bring about perfect dates. I want someone who also understands that noticing we're out of cat food and going to get it so I don't have to because he knows I've worked late a lot lately and I'm probably tired can sometimes make me feel a kabillion times more loved than any candelit dinner.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


[Some] 50 percent of marriages fail in the US today.

This is often said, but how could anyone possibly know this?


I am going to go with:

[number of marriages] ÷ [number of divorces] = 2
posted by ND¢ at 12:10 PM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


"As of 2008 Loh's children attend public school in the San Fernando Valley."

And why would this be profile-worthy? That you're not above sending your kids to public school?


She wrote a book that was (half) about how crazy the private-school scene is in the LA area, and about how the public schools were not actually the dens of muggers and rapists that most middle-class Angelenos thought them to be, so I can imagine some compulsive Loh fan (Tsing is her middle name, not part of her surname) adding that, because it's Wikipedia.

Many of you react with notable amounts of anger and vitriol to articles by women who have unconventional views about family and femininity and who reveal a lot of personal information about themselves and others. See, e.g., Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh. WTF is up with that?

As a woman who has much more "unconventional" views about family and feminity than any of the aforementioned*, I would suggest that one reason I have found these essays objectionable is because they were poorly written, self-indulgent, and disrespectful of others--especially children.

*for example, my biological children have two parents, neither of whom are me, and both of whom are men. I could go on, but this isn't about me--the point is that any of my beef with the aforementioned isn't about my reinforcing the social norms that I myself don't adhere to.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:12 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


...the statement “Marriage is an outdated institution” than citizens of any other Western country surveyed (compare the U.S.’s tiny 10 percent with France’s 36 percent).

I'm pretty sure that if the U.S. were ruled by the same Napoleonic Code governing marriage and marital property, we'd top their 36 percent figure.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:14 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now a MILF she divorces and writes a book that marriage sucks.

MILF? MILF?!?

Dear God, man, was your mother a Klingon?
posted by cjets at 12:15 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Have you ever been clubbed with fennel? HAVE YOU?

Obviously not, else you'd know why no one wants to actually discuss it.
posted by owtytrof at 12:17 PM on June 17, 2009


Someone wrote: [Some] 50 percent of marriages fail in the US today.

This is often said, but how could anyone possibly know this?

ND¢ wrote: I am going to go with:

[number of marriages] ÷ [number of divorces] = 2


Yes, that's where people come up with the "50%" figure. It's not accurate, because it compares different marriages--people getting divorced this year got married at some point in time over the last 50+ years, and the population of people of marriageable age is now much larger, so you see the issue.

According to the Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the divorce rate in America for first marriages is 41%, the divorce rate in America for second marriages is 60%, and the divorce rate in America for third marriages is 73%. The page I got that from a couple of years ago is gone from their revamped website, so I don't know how they arrived at those figures.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:18 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Some] 50 percent of marriages fail in the US today.

This is often said, but how could anyone possibly know this?


Well, it seems someone is keeping track...

(Government websites aside, it's not a difficult thing to count. Since all marriages, as legal documents, must be registered with the state, and since all divorces are dissolutions of legal arrangements, then it's all in the state records.)
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on June 17, 2009


Mom
I'd
Like to (see face in noble combat the)
Fek'Ihr.
posted by ND¢ at 12:18 PM on June 17, 2009


You know, this woman's my age.

Was I really born into The Most Insufferable Generation?
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:20 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why was i hoping that this was a rally for straight couples to stay together but "divorce" until gay marraige was legal.

What a boring read. I got about 4 paragraphs in and scrolled to see that it was a small novel itself and gave up.
posted by djduckie at 12:21 PM on June 17, 2009


(Government websites aside, it's not a difficult thing to count. Since all marriages, as legal documents, must be registered with the state, and since all divorces are dissolutions of legal arrangements, then it's all in the state records.)

Nobody's ever cross-checked it on a grand scale, though. The "divide number of marriages performed by number of divorces granted" metric is pretty crude, for the reasons I mentioned above. The statistics that exist don't correlate the dissolution of a marriage with the performance of the same marriage, but rather compare two different sets of marriages; there have been some extrapolations done by institutions like the Marriage Project, though, and the divorce-rate projections are lower than 50% in those cases.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:21 PM on June 17, 2009


are legal. sorry.
posted by djduckie at 12:21 PM on June 17, 2009


She wrote a book that was (half) about how crazy the private-school scene is in the LA area, and about how the public schools were not actually the dens of muggers and rapists that most middle-class Angelenos thought them to be, so I can imagine some compulsive Loh fan (Tsing is her middle name, not part of her surname) adding that, because it's Wikipedia.

It's called Mother on Fire. She also started a web site called Ask a Magnet Yenta. Both of which are excellent resources for parents in L.A. trying to figure out where to send their kids.

And as a dad with two pre-schoolers who lives about a mile from her, I was a BIG fan of her work until today. This is very disappointing.
posted by cjets at 12:22 PM on June 17, 2009


Note: Thinking Sandra Tsing Loh's article is stupid and self-indulgent is not sexist.

Thinking it's cool to insult her appearance is sexist and childish as fuck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:22 PM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


soothsaying is alive
posted by naplesyellow at 12:23 PM on June 17, 2009


By the way, here is one of our local "fennel" clubs.
posted by cjets at 12:24 PM on June 17, 2009


Has anyone offered to hit her upside the head with a fennel club yet? I would. Metaphorically, at the very least.
posted by snofoam at 12:26 PM on June 17, 2009


This is often said, but how could anyone possibly know this?

By defining divorce as failure and anything else as success. That, rather than the statistical hinkiness that Sidhedevil points out, is my biggest complaint with this particular claim.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:27 PM on June 17, 2009


So, a better metric would be to say that the divorce rate is, per annum, around 50% of the rate of marriages?
posted by hippybear at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2009


Nothing like stirring the shit even more than it's already being stirred!
posted by ChickenringNYC at 12:29 PM on June 17, 2009


In Italian, the word for fennel is also a slang term for a homosexual. So there may be an overeducated version of "U R A FAGGIT" going on there. Or I may be beanplating.

If you're beanplating, may I join your beanplating club? 'Cause that's totally the first thing I thought of as well. And reminded me of matteo's excellent explanation waaaaay back in my posting history on how fennel became nasty slang for gay in Italian.
posted by romakimmy at 12:29 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Some] 50 percent of marriages fail in the US today.

This is often said, but how could anyone possibly know this?

Well, it seems someone is keeping track...

(Government websites aside, it's not a difficult thing to count. Since all marriages, as legal documents, must be registered with the state, and since all divorces are dissolutions of legal arrangements, then it's all in the state records.)


I know that marriages and divorces are a matter of public records -- that doesn't make the statistic easy to check. The comment said that 50% of marriages fail "today." What does "today" even refer to? It can't possibly be about marriages that happen "today" (even under the broadest definition of "today" -- say, the past decade), since we'll need to wait and see about those. Does it refer to marriages from the distant past? But can those really be attributed to "today"? See Sidehevil's comment.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:30 PM on June 17, 2009


What does "today" even refer to?

It is shorthand for "according to current statistics."

Really, you thought it was some weird "marriages consummated on this exact date" or some such thing? Honestly?
posted by The World Famous at 12:34 PM on June 17, 2009


For those of you joining late, here's a rough summary of the conversation so far.
Sandra Tsing Loh is:

The single most insufferable person
another rich person
self-absorbed twat
smug upper-middle-class narcissist
bragging
whining
self-indulgent
bitch
hateful
made me want to punch the Internet
claiming to speak for The Whole Of Womanhood
egoist
assh*le


Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh. Is it possible for an intelligent woman to write an essay about her personal life without getting burned at the stake by Mefites?

If anyone has an example from the archives that proves yes, please point to it. I'm feeling disheartened by Metafilter's recent collective "hate on the smart woman" habit, and could use a positive example.
posted by marlys at 12:35 PM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


All the stats I had seen in the past suggest that 50% of marriages end in divorce in the past few years.

As for Men saying such and such: take men such as Woody Allen, Ph. Roth etc: they divorce and say nothing. Their ex's though write books about how bad their former husbands were. Women seem to have a need to dwell on such matters; men move on. Now say this is a male thing I am pushing here but I say this from my experiences and for the simple fact that I tend to see things from a male perspective since I am a male.
full disclosure: I am now on my 26th year of marriage and love it.
posted by Postroad at 12:35 PM on June 17, 2009


take men such as Woody Allen, Ph. Roth etc: they divorce and say nothing.

Are you fucking kidding me? Woody Allen has written, like, 60 movies devoted to the death of his relationships. Just because it's not published in The Atlantic doesn't make it any less self-absorbed.
posted by muddgirl at 12:38 PM on June 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


Made myself slog through the whole thing (some skimming, I admit) just so I felt I'd earned the privilege of reading the comments. I am 47 too! Do agree with those who find the style irritating if not abhorrent, those who object to much of the content, and many for whom the twain do meet.

I think marriage is outdated. Not because it fails, or is doomed from the get-go, or because it takes "work." But I wanted it, it seemed silly and fun and gigantic and remains so. My personal travails will remain unenumerated or described.

If none of my children chooses to get married I would not cry a tear. Grandchildren would be nice, but one does not indicate the other.
posted by emhutchinson at 12:39 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


All the stats I had seen in the past suggest that 50% of marriages end in divorce in the past few years.

What I'm asking is how it's possible for any legitimate statistic to say that.

Really, it shouldn't be "50% of marriages end in divorce" -- for any time period. It's just impossible to know that. I believe the accurate statement would be, "The divorce rate is about half the marriage rate." But that doesn't sound exciting or dramatic enough, so everyone uses the inaccurate "50% of marriages end in divorce" phrasing.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:42 PM on June 17, 2009


Um.. I enjoy being married, and so does my husband. Maybe this woman just sucks at life.
posted by Malice at 12:42 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


It is shorthand for "according to current statistics."

Really, you thought it was some weird "marriages consummated on this exact date" or some such thing? Honestly?


Well, it could mean a bunch of things. If I read "50% of marriages today end in divorce", I'll probably make the assumption that the analysis isn't particularly sophisticated, and that what this statement really means is "the divorce rate (on an annual basis) is one-half of the marriage rate (on an annual basis)." But that simplistic statement could mean a bunch of other things.

It could mean, "based on an assumption that the currently measured change in annual divorce rate remains constant, we can predict that a marriage that begins today has a 50% probability of ending in divorce". Alternately, it could mean, "based on a sophisticated statistical model we have developed, we can predict that a marriage that begins today has a 50% probability of ending in divorce".

It could mean, "of all the marriages that ended last year, 50% ended in a divorce, while 50% ended in a death".

It could mean, "if the rate of divorce remains constant, as do the per capita rates of marriage and population growth, a marriage that begins today has a 50% chance of ending in divorce."

Really, there are more things in heaven and earth....
posted by mr_roboto at 12:43 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh. Is it possible for an intelligent woman to write an essay about her personal life without getting burned at the stake by Mefites?

Yes, absolutely. FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, SOME OF US WHO HAVE CRITICIZED THE SELF-INDULGENT PERSONAL ESSAYS BY THOSE WRITERS ARE WOMEN WHO ARE MUCH MORE ENGAGED FEMINISTS THAN ANY OF THOSE WRITERS.

Seriously, Waldman's cooing over how dreamy her big, strong husband is and how disappointing her kids are is not exactly appealing to many feminists. Similarly, Wurtzel's boo-hooing about how she's not a Great Beauty anymore is pretty fucking anti-feminist, down to her celebration of how awesome it was when creepy strangers harassed her. As for this essay by Loh, I have enjoyed a lot of her work, but this is solipsistic nonsense.

Yes, the people who are mocking Loh's appearance in this thread are being misogynist asshats. But not every critique of work by women a) comes from men, and b) comes from an anti-feminist perspective.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:43 PM on June 17, 2009 [21 favorites]


Ayelet Waldman, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sandra Tsing Loh . . . I'm feeling disheartened by Metafilter's recent collective "hate on the smart woman" habit

Oh dude. One of these things is SO not like the other.
posted by ND¢ at 12:44 PM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


For those of you joining late, here's a rough summary of the conversation so far.
Sandra Tsing Loh is:

The single most insufferable person
another rich person
self-absorbed twat
smug upper-middle-class narcissist
bragging
whining
self-indulgent
bitch
hateful
made me want to punch the Internet
claiming to speak for The Whole Of Womanhood
egoist


You forgot "ugly". Stay classy, Metafilter.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:45 PM on June 17, 2009


"hate on the smart woman"

Speaking as another smart woman, I'm hating on the bad prose and self-delusion. Can't speak for others.
posted by elfgirl at 12:45 PM on June 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I can't speak for how they're represented on metafilter but just for the record.. some awesome and intelligent women who are NOT full of themselves include Susanna Malkii, Mary Karr, Kaija Saariaho.

p.s. they're all hot too, but that in no way influenced my choosing them to link. ;)
posted by ChickenringNYC at 12:47 PM on June 17, 2009


Yes, I think people are responding to the lack of honesty and the bad writing. Well, those who haven't made sexist comments.
posted by ob at 12:47 PM on June 17, 2009


Shut up, ChickenringNYC. Nobody cares what you think of how women look, or how they present themselves. You've proved yourself to be a moronic fratboy with your comments in this thread, and your list of "Girls I Think Are Cool" is meaningless--those very accomplished women gain nothing by your endorsement.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:50 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really, you thought it was some weird "marriages consummated on this exact date" or some such thing? Honestly?

Really, you didn't read my whole comment? Honestly?
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:54 PM on June 17, 2009


Women seem to have a need to dwell on such matters; men move on.

Umm.....Alec Baldwin.
posted by lampoil at 12:56 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I don’t generally even enjoy men...." (from the first paragraph of the article).

If you don't like snow, skiing isn't going to be your thing...
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:56 PM on June 17, 2009


p.s. they're all hot too, ...

That's even more repulsive than your first statement.
posted by cazoo at 12:57 PM on June 17, 2009


It's not a "hate on smart women" thing in the slightest; it's more of a "hate on the poorly-written, self-indulgent article that really only amounts to a narcissist printing the rationalizations for their personal failings in a major publication" thing.

I would love to read a good article on these matters from an intelligent writer of either gender. A crappy article is a crappy article, no matter the source.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:59 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil, no need for all caps, jeez.

I too found Waldman's and Wurtzel's essays to be awful in their own ways. Also, I'm not suggesting that that every commenter here is male, or "anti-feminist".

What upsets me, however, is that there is no chance of having any dialogue on marriage, social mores, writing style, "tell-all" essays, or the like when every other person is yelling about how much the author sucks because she dares to think that her opinion matters to anyone else.

And hmm, so far my question still stands unanswered.
posted by marlys at 1:11 PM on June 17, 2009


You know what modernist middle-aged "feminist?" Fuck you.

I am so sick of reading the drivel these women propogate. First, because they're feeling stifled, we all have to go out and get high-powered, high-stress, high-paying jobs. Then, because that doesn't fill the hole that their "raging fathers" left inside their self-indulgent little hearts, we have to go find some hot young marriage material dude to marry. And because entering a loveless marriage just because that's the track you've set your life upon still doesn't seem like enough, we all have to go get IVF at 40 and have two perfect little snowflake children.

Then surprise when that shit doesn't work out either we all have to get divorced.

How about instead of every woman having to do it all (and then having to fail miserably to keep the drama alive) just so that we don't become our June Cleaver mothers or grandmothers we just do what works for us as individuals?

Or does that not work for this week's self-pitying look at me I'm such an enlightened bohemian/yuppie magazine article?
posted by tinatiga at 1:13 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure she wrote her own Wikipedia page too.

And then she created pages for all her best friends from high school, too! Ugh.
posted by Scram at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2009


It's not a "hate on smart women" thing in the slightest; it's more of a "hate on the poorly-written, self-indulgent article that really only amounts to a narcissist printing the rationalizations for their personal failings in a major publication" thing.

Maybe. But there's quite a bit of circular reasoning going on here, I think. People object to the piece for whatever pre-existing reason — maybe sexism, maybe not — and then, looking at it through those eyes, see it as terribly written and horribly narcissistic.

I know that quality of writing is a purely subjective matter, but, well, this just isn't desperately terrible writing. Come on, you people read blogs! You read the New York Post or Dan Brown too, maybe! That's bad writing. This is just a style you don't prefer.

And it's unclear from this thread how someone could ever write an introspective piece about their own feelings about their own marriage that would pass the Metafilter standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2009


The single most insufferable person on NPR.
Word.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:17 PM on June 17, 2009


What is annoying about Loh's article is not just that it is poorly written (which it is) but it is yet another example of someone having something happen in their life and they think they are the first to stumble over some fundamental truth that no one has ever written about before. As if there have not been discussions about marriage, and if it fits into current society for the past 100 years or so (at least in parts of Western society).
It is like the current up-surge in mothers writing about how hard it is to fit into the 'perfect mother' expectations, and the whole 'bad mother' thing. Five years ago when I had my son, there were writers - online, magazines, published books - writing as though they had some big revelatory experience to share - motherhood was so much harder than they had been told, and it was time for women to realise this, take hold of their destiny and reshape how they dealt with these expectations. Putting aside the fact that if you actual spoke to other mothers you would know that it was no walk in the park - wasn't this something that had been hashed over in the 70s? And in the past few months, thanks to Waldman having a barrow to push aka a book to promote, and a few new bloggers becoming parents, all of a sudden we have another slew of writers sharing their revelatory experience that motherhood is so much harder than it is depicted 'out there' but now they have had their experience they have figured out some unspoken truth that they are going to share with us all.
I don't know what the answer is. But if someone could point me in the direction of slightly less navel-gazing baloney discussion about current motherhood/marriage/feminism (without commenting on if the writer is hot or not) I would be grateful.
posted by Megami at 1:21 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


You forgot "ugly". Stay classy, Metafilter.

Yea, I disliked her essay but dislike this thread about 100 times more.
posted by octothorpe at 1:23 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


And it's unclear from this thread how someone could ever write an introspective piece about their own feelings about their own marriage that would pass the Metafilter standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent.

Actually, if you read reliationships AskMes, you'll see people doing just that. Granted, in AskMe, you can't snark the answerers. But I've seen many long, insightful comments on marriage in Ask Metafilter, and they they certainly passed my standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent.

Many of them were even written by posters critical of Loh, Wurtzel et al.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:25 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible for an intelligent woman to write an essay about her personal life without getting burned at the stake by Mefites?

You know, when you run around smashing everything with a hammer, then loudly proclaim in public how things were just smashed, because things just get smashed no matter what, and that you too should start smashing shit with a hammer because not-smashing shit is outdated and passe, then I think what happens is you've defined yourself as not too smart. The only smart thing she did was manage to earn some income from it, after the fact.

I think mostly (with a couple notable cringe-worthy exceptions) what people here are rejecting is the smashing part, not her gender.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:26 PM on June 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


You read the New York Post or Dan Brown too, maybe!

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's not say anything that we can't take back, here!
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:29 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The thing that's always bothered me about her writing is her dismissiveness. The short science pieces she does for NPR ("The Loh-Down on Science"- groan) are perfect examples of this in miniature. She'll offer up a tantalizing nugget of information, and then bat it around and snort at it and personalize it until you feel foolish for finding it interesting in the first place. She may not be a terrible writer, but her style is awful. It informs her subject matter to a distracting degree, and it hasn't changed AT ALL in at least 15 years.
posted by maryh at 1:33 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This article would also be terrible if a man wrote it.
posted by snofoam at 1:34 PM on June 17, 2009


I'm sorry, but paging back through the last couple months in the Atlantic it definitely is the case that articles by men are "HERE'S HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM THIS MASSIVELY IMPORTANT LOOMING PROBLEM" and the articles by women are this one, the breastfeeding article and article about Facebook. Total bullshit, there's no feminism to argue about, here, I'm sorry.
posted by The Straightener at 1:34 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


How can I put it so you understand?
I didn’t let him hold my hand
But he looked like you; I guess he looked like you
No he wasn’t you
But you can still trust me, this ain’t infidelity
It’s not cheating; you were on my mind

Yes he looked like you
But I heard love is blind.

posted by chunking express at 1:36 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe. But there's quite a bit of circular reasoning going on here, I think. People object to the piece for whatever pre-existing reason — maybe sexism, maybe not — and then, looking at it through those eyes, see it as terribly written and horribly narcissistic.

I came to this article looking on a fresh perspective on marriage, which I too think is somewhat outdated in the 21st century. I went in, if anything, aligned with the author without having ANY CLUE who she was (I don't listen to NPR...my wife does, but I'd never heard of this woman before today).

It truly is terribly written, meandering, ponderous, and fails to follow a single line of thought as either a column or an essay should do.

And...

And it's unclear from this thread how someone could ever write an introspective piece about their own feelings about their own marriage that would pass the Metafilter standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent.


There is a difference between writing an introspective piece about their own feelings, as you stated, and making a broad claim that "all marriages should end" and then, rather than following it up with any actual information, instead using only the author's experience as the primary reason, and then supplementing it with the experiences of a couple of her friends.

It is made worse when the entire thesis is "marriage doesn't work" but the article is written by the woman who fractured the marriage beyond repair by having an affair. She doesn't talk about the affair, why she had it, the neglect she may have felt. Instead she talks about how marriage is outdated and her friends are starting to see it too.

If she wrote an article entitled "20s are for marrying, 40s are for divorcing" and stated it as an article relating her views on what happened in her life and her friends' lives, then I might not react with such vitriol, but she framed it as "Marriage should be seen as the outdated institution it is" and then talks about her affair. Now her thesis statement is smart from a marketing standpoint, it was made the title of this Metafilter article I clicked on, and I would not have clicked if it was entitled "the tale of how an NPR personality's marriage broke down". So they got my clicks.

But not my respect.
posted by arniec at 1:36 PM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


First, who lives this kind of married life? I think she's polishing her own apple; there's an overly-refined, Douglas Sirk quality to her married hell. Second, boomers need to get-the-f***-over themselves! Full stop.
posted by walrus hunter at 1:42 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


> And I like to imagine that, once he's read through this article, a smile slowly begins to creep across his face, and he says to himself: “Thank God I did the right thing and divorced this woman.”
Imagine how he'll feel if he reads this thread! If I was Ian, I'd print this thread up and sleep with it under my pillow at night. I'll buy him a beer if he gets a Metafilter account and posts here.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:49 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Second, boomers need to get-the-f***-over themselves!

If she's 47, she was born in '62. That's totally gen-X, man.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:52 PM on June 17, 2009


This article would also be terrible if a man wrote it.

If they published an article in which a male author admitted to having an affair in the first paragraph and then proceeded to blame it on outdated expectations, the web servers would have burst into flames due to a massive rage overload on the HTTP backchannel.
posted by CaseyB at 1:59 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


You get that it's deliberately dry, right? She is satirizing the self-indulgent writers you disdain, at the same time, of course, as being one.

It's a style intended to make smart people giggle, but doesn't always work, especially when writing about something as personal as big-M Marriage.

My opinion of Marriage has always been rather negative, yet I indulged in the practice myself under the sway of an already-certified borderline-psychotic with an incredible skill at satisfying the ego I used to deny that I had. The result was textbook codependency and when I finally attended a Codependency Therapy Group, I was dismayed at the fact that the whole focus of the group was not in making your relationship less codependent but rather DTMFAing. It took me several years and her total failure at helping me during my own health crisis to get it into my head. She now resides in an institution as a full-certified psychotic but I never totally gave up on her until I stumbled onto some evidence that some of the traumatic childhood that she blamed for her craziness didn't really happen, which shook my perception of reality for a while until I settled into a comforting acceptance of the "X-Files Credo: Trust No One". My apologies if you've read all of most of this before; it's therapeutic for me and one of the reasons I appreciate MetaFilter: its semi-acceptance of my own self-indulgence.

So, I'm not going to criticize anyone for self-indulgent writing if it is interesting writing, but Sandra actually fell short this time and I was unable to finish the article myself. Even if you have succeeded in writing auto-bio-stuff before, it doesn't mean you can write about a very sensitive personal issue that you are still experiencing significant denial about. Unless it helps you break through the denial, which in this case, it didn't.

Although she will always have a special place in my heart for her past writing about Private Schools. In 1970, my father's income reached the point where he could yank me out of the Los Angeles Public School System and into a Private School, primarily because I was subjected to bullying in my neighborhood school. Of course, in Private School I was subjected to a much higher socio-economic level of bully (including one who was the son of a Television Legend who later wrote a book about his failure as a father; another example of the problem Loh had with this article).

Apparently, Sandra Tsing Loh and I share a number of personal disdains. I don't know whether that's a good thing or not; I'm not planning on sending her any love letters.

BTW, the statistic about "50% of marriages end in divorce" is somewhat misleading; if Sidhevil's statistics are correct "According to the Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the divorce rate in America for first marriages is 41%, the divorce rate in America for second marriages is 60%, and the divorce rate in America for third marriages is 73%," then 59% of people who get married never divorce. Good for them. It's that other 41% remarrying and repeating their mistakes that ups the frequency of divorce. THE FOOLS!!!

How about... we just do what works for us as individuals?

Most of us don't understand what works for us as individuals until we have tried things that don't work. And realized that they don't work. I stayed in that incredibly dysfunctional marriage with that incredibly dysfunctional person for 17 years. (Oddly, she was 47 when we broke up)
posted by wendell at 2:00 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's unclear from this thread how someone could ever write an introspective piece about their own feelings about their own marriage that would pass the Metafilter standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent.

Seems pretty clear to me. 1) Show humility 2) and humor 3) don't generalize from yourself to everyone 3) don't speak for everyone 4) don't share embarrassing details about people close to you while hiding key, probably embarrassing details about yourself 5) express some regret or mixed feelings 6) show some concern for your children 7) reflect before writing 8) revise, edit and shorten.
posted by msalt at 2:06 PM on June 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


If she's 47, she was born in '62. That's totally gen-X, man.

Sorry man, but baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964. I've tried telling this to my 46 year old buddy who likes carousing with women in their 20s, but it falls on deaf ears.
posted by exogenous at 2:10 PM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Seems pretty clear to me. 1) Show humility 2) and humor 3) don't generalize from yourself to everyone 3) don't speak for everyone 4) don't share embarrassing details about people close to you while hiding key, probably embarrassing details about yourself 5) express some regret or mixed feelings 6) show some concern for your children 7) reflect before writing 8) revise, edit and shorten.

So sorry. I just couldn't help myself.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:10 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this one of those 'tae-ter/'tah-toe divides?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:11 PM on June 17, 2009


Heh, Astro Zombie, but unfortunately the article would just suck more efficiently then. Her callousness toward her children and her friends' kids -- and the possibility of them reading this -- is what really strikes me. (And I say that as a standup comedian who talks a lot about his divorce onstage, and has wrestled often with how much to reveal and not.)
posted by msalt at 2:14 PM on June 17, 2009


People object to the piece for whatever pre-existing reason — maybe sexism, maybe not — and then, looking at it through those eyes, see it as terribly written and horribly narcissistic.

game warden, I share your suspicion exactly - that many people balk at Loh's essay because they don't like where she is coming from (for one reason or another), and then lay specific criticisms onto the surface. As a result, there's a weird defensive panic underlying many of these posts. It's an, "I'M NOT LISTENING!!!" vibe, exemplified by many, many "I read the first paragraph, it was insufferable" comments.

So I suspect that Loh is actually putting her finger on the pulse of a very real set of issues - one that even articulate mefites don't perceive amidst their own knee-jerk reactions against divorce, ambivalent wives, two-career families, the educated middle class, etc.

I mean, yes adultery is unquestionably wrong and ends many marriages. But Loh's spouse was out of town for nearly half the year (20 weeks a year, she says), for over 2 decades. Why are so many mefites assuming that her adultery was the sole cause for her divorce?

Perhaps she should tell all the gory details of her divorce in order to clear her name against those who would blame her for the marriage's collapse? Oh, but apparently not - because that would merely be more self-indulgence, right?
posted by marlys at 2:16 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


It upsets me that commenters have focussed on the "online fennel club". .. and not the phrase "man bitches"
posted by jeremias at 2:25 PM on June 17, 2009


I mean, yes adultery is unquestionably wrong and ends many marriages. But Loh's spouse was out of town for nearly half the year (20 weeks a year, she says), for over 2 decades.

So that TOTALLY justifies adultery! Of course! Silly of me to have missed that...

No she didn't go into gory details, but if she had perhaps she could have supported her thesis.

I neither agree nor disagree with the statement that all marriages should end. However her article does NOT support that statement, instead it comes across, honestly, as self-pity and 4 pages of wallowing.

And just so I could comment here I did suffer through the 4 pages. And the honest truth? I cannot believe she is a professional writer. I've seen teenager's diaries that had more of a follow-line than this "article".

The fact is, if you are going to take an unpopular or revolutionary stand in an article, it must be supported with a preponderance of evidence, much like a court case. However here, the author wants to have it both ways. She wants to say "you want evidence, look at my failed marriage!" then she hides the details of said failed marriage so all we can do is speculate. Was her dalliance out of lust? Alienation from her partner? (There's a CNN article today asking is cheating ever deserved...equally outrageous a statement but it goes hand in hand with this article here).

Had she been able to look at her own situation dispassionately perhaps she could have crafted a reasonable argument about the obsolescence of the institution of marriage. But what I read came off as holier-than-thou and a TON of self-indulgence.

Could it be the entire article is her reassuring herself "It's good he threw me out. Really it is. It's fine that I cheated. Marriage is outdated anyway. I need to tell the world, cuz I don't regret my bad decisions. It's good he threw me out. I'm liberated now. My friends should be as liberated. As should my readers"
posted by arniec at 2:26 PM on June 17, 2009


As someone else points out above, marriage is primarily a social, legal, and economic instutition. And as economies and societies evolve, marriage's meaning has had to evolve. Marriage has been used economically to: cement property alliances between families, provide economic support for a full-time mother when families were large and lifespans shorter, confer legitimacy and inheritance rights to children, and create an economically efficient single unit for the raising of children (as is evidenced by the fact that both custodial and non-custodial households see a drop in their level of living after divorce).


That's fine and all, and probably true, but it is also besides the point. Nowhere in popular culture or in the upbringing of daughters is there ever the notion that marriage is anything other than finding your one true love and settling down to start a family with them. With boys, the message is that marriage is a requirement and an inevitability, and that they should be in a position to support the family even if there wife works, because there's a very good chance she won't after you have kids.

I found this article interesting because of how backwards it is. Her friends are lamenting that their husbands don't give them sex? That's the complaint that married men have about their wives after their wives have children. The wives have to work at marriage? It's the husbands, we are told, who need to get off the couch and away from the computer and pitch in to be partners in the marriage.

Where the author gets derailed is that she perceives the choice to be that she either works to restore the spark in her marriage, or she gets divorced. The real solution is to adapt to the reality that as a 47-year old mother with a very good and stable career, it is absurd to want to restore the marriage you had when you were 20. Why would you want to?

It's true that in marriages with young kids, the kids are always on everyone's minds. The kids stuff so saturates your attention that to have an adult thought seems subversive.

The reason wives and husbands are frustrated in their marriages at this point in their lives is that their relationship comfort zone has expanded all the way up to where their boundaries were in their 20's. The conversations and the stories are rehashed because people aren't growing, or aren't taking an interest in how the other person is growing. The husband belongs to an online fennel club? It might be worth it to inquire why he took an interest in that. Maybe it's a lifelong passion for fennel, but I doubt it, because no one in the world even knows what fennel is before they are 25. It's more likely that he's entering some stage of his life where he's learned the career hasn't made him a master of the universe, that it's just a pointless grind like any other, so he's taken to this as a way of doing something, creating something. He's changin, and she is changing (obviously) but they aren't talking. The reason they aren't talking is because they subconsciously know the conversation will go outside of their comfort zone, and simply put, they aren't comfortable with that. So they watch, detached. And consequently they grow detached.

The same thing happens with romance, but it's a million times worse because expectations in romance and sex are completely and hopelessly imbalanced from the start.

She talks about trying to rekindle the spark with a candlelight dinner. Why that? A candlelight dinner is only romantic when all you know about them is what your read in books or saw in movies, because you haven't had any of them in real life. There's anticipation because it's new. After your 274th candlelight dinner, are they really still romantic? A candlelight dinner is staid, predictable. There's no uncertainty there. It is not part of a seduction. You know exactly what it is a prelude to, so it becomes a parody of romance. A hackneyed scene from a romantic comedy. Candlelight dinners are for "getting in the mood." But when you've been married 20 years, can't you tell when the other person is in the mood, just by how they look at you, or the tone of their voice?

We are taught to think of love, romance, and relationships as getting things. For women, it's getting "the perfect guy" with the right pedigree and resume. Getting the right house in the right suburbs, getting you kids in the right school. The author of this article rights a blog about getting kids into the "right school!" She's still collecting her life accessories.

For men, it's about rite-of-passage. They have to get to first base, second base, third base. Lose their virginity. Get a blowjob, Get anal sex. Get get get. As if you can keep these things in a box. Once they get a wife and kids, they've completed the sex set because you don't brag to your friends about sex stuff with your wife. So after marriage and a kid, they want to surrogate markers of masculinity - fast cars, electronics, fast bikes, bigger muscles - they don't exercise, they want to compete in 10ks or bike races.

The reality is that we want some danger in our marriages, because danger is passion. Where this article fails is that the author admits that she's comfortable only in doing the things that are psychologically easy, taking care of the kids, house, etc. She's not comfortable being a 47-yr old married woman, because no 47-yr old married woman of any intellectual maturity talks about "date nights" or "sparks." It's about watching another person grow into a new and unexpected other person, and having them watch you do the same. Those changes become the source of an evolving and immortal relationship, that will have it's own unique language of romance and friendship.

Stop trying to make everything fit into you're preconceived notion of the world set when you were 20. 20 yr olds are idiots, discovering that is part of the fun of being 40.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:34 PM on June 17, 2009 [33 favorites]


It's an, "I'M NOT LISTENING!!!" vibe, exemplified by many, many "I read the first paragraph, it was insufferable" comments.

Actually, I read this article on the bus this morning, three times in a row, because I couldn't believe how shitty it was and that it was published in The Atlantic. That's why I was so prepared for this thread. Also if Loh can call her friends' husbands "male kitchen bitches," it's fair to point out that she resembles a Pakled, just as I call Karl Rove a "pale little turd."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:36 PM on June 17, 2009


"...that many people balk at Loh's essay because they don't like where she is coming from [...] So I suspect that Loh is actually putting her finger on the pulse of a very real set of issues..."

So, in your opinion:

An article + a lot of criticism of the writing style of the article = Neurotic projection by readers avoiding their own issues

and not,

An article + a lot of criticism of the writing style of the article = A badly written article?

Let me introduce you to my friend Occam and his amazing razor.
posted by elfgirl at 2:37 PM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Perhaps she should tell all the gory details of her divorce in order to clear her name against those who would blame her for the marriage's collapse? Oh, but apparently not - because that would merely be more self-indulgence, right?

Or... perhaps, if she really can't fight the urge to put her life on display, she could own her own shit and avoid generalizing from her very a-typical experience. Trying to discredit marriage itself as an excuse for her own failed relationship is pretty pedestrian writing (I hesitate to call it analysis).

it's unclear from this thread how someone could ever write an introspective piece about their own feelings about their own marriage that would pass the Metafilter standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent

The biggest problem with this article, in my opinion, is that it contained absolutely zero introspection. The author is too busy listing her favorite authors and the accoutrements of her circle's upscale lifestyle to actually question her own motives or provide any real insights into the human interactions behind the story. And really, if she doesn't care about the human side of her story, why should we?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:45 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Her husband's absence may not justify adultery, but it certainly justifies her sense of relief about the divorce. She's basically been a single mom for half the year. And now her ex will, presumably, be forced to share the parenting load a little more equally.
posted by chowflap at 2:48 PM on June 17, 2009


Sandra Tsing Loh anecdote:

Way back in 2002 I worked at a Border's books in LA. Sandra Tsing Loh was going around promoting her book at the time (A Year in Van Nuys, I'm not sure) and she was coming to the store. The Regional Events Planner Manager whateverthehell was busy or something so she asked me, lowly 23 yr old bookseller that I was, to help Sandra set up for her reading. Sure thing, I said. So she came into the store, was nice, and I helped her set up her little reading. I had heard her on NPR and thought she was over-the-top but funny, and it was all kinda cool. So after the reading I helped her out to the car, and this being California, we parted with a pleasant little hug, and then, yup, she gave me a little peck, real friendly like.

But I didn't expect to ruin her marriage and I sure do feel awful about it now.
posted by slickvaguely at 2:49 PM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


...one that even articulate mefites don't perceive amidst their own knee-jerk reactions against divorce, ambivalent wives, two-career families, the educated middle class, etc.

I mean, yes adultery is unquestionably wrong and ends many marriages. But Loh's spouse was out of town for nearly half the year (20 weeks a year, she says), for over 2 decades. Why are so many mefites assuming that her adultery was the sole cause for her divorce?


No.

No Knee-jerking here. I'll be frank about this -- In my defense, I Am Not a Diarist, so I'll also try to be concise. I had a marriage end in divorce because of a cheating wife. It was an awful, painful, miserable, drawn-out experience, that in some ways I still suffer a sort of PTSD from. i'd say I'm permanently scarred. Yes, there were children involved. They stood between me and serious contemplation of murder. Yes, I sought help with that, thank you.

Here's the take-away. If you're unhappy in a marriage -- for whatever reason (my then-wife had reasons to be unhappy, which she pointedly articulated after the affair came to light) 1. Express your unhappiness to your spouse. 2. If this invokes no improvement, leave. 3. THEN take up with a third party. Even if your spouse is absentee, or in her case, just an object like the refrigerator, inflicting the pain that she glibly inflicted is quite simply the wrong goddam thing to do.

I reacted most viscerally to the glibness, I suppose, and could have articulated all this better to begin with, but it's a busy day at work, and I've got finish up and go home to the current wife, who loves and appreciates me, and shower her with some well-deserved attention.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:01 PM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Most of us don't understand what works for us as individuals until we have tried things that don't work. And realized that they don't work. I stayed in that incredibly dysfunctional marriage with that incredibly dysfunctional person for 17 years. (Oddly, she was 47 when we broke up)

I totally feel you on this. What I was trying to point out in my earlier comment is that there is an annoying tendency for older feminists to tell younger feminists how to be the best feminists and I personally am over it.

I'm fine with people trying and failing. I am not fine with other people - people who have no connection to me - telling me how I should try and fail.
posted by tinatiga at 3:23 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel, I presented the "economic/social/legal" anecdotes as the HISTORICAL basis of marriage, not as the current dominant culture mythos of marriage. You correctly point out rightly that we are not currently "sold" on marriage in this society in the traditional terms, and I am glad you make that point which I missed making. The truth is that we are sold marriage as an inevitable and perfect sealing of a romantic relationship, not as a partnership. This has been the case since the Industrial Revolution, longer lifespans, and fewer children.

The important thing that has changed since the beginning of the development of the "forever romantic" marriage mythos is not the likely impermanence of romance after 20 years, but what couples are expected to do when romance inevitably fades. And that change in behavior is largely driven by economics and the liberalization of divorce laws. Whereas before the 70's divorce was rare, the growth of the middle class, the growth of married women's employment, and liberalization of divorce laws made marital dissolution much more likely.

However, as you point out, we are still fed the "forever romantic" mythos and not prepared for the effects of children, jobs, emotional maturity, the leveling of sex hormones, and time on that 20-something notion of romance. This is why we need, as a culture, to look at what marriage in modern American society really IS.

Thanks for pointing out the gaps in my comment. I'm really not as linear a thinker as I'd like to be, and when I write what I think to be an excellent essay (hah! conceited much?!), I often make a leap of logic such as you point out.
posted by lleachie at 3:26 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, I am heartened to discover so many other people do not care for Loh. I first read her short articles in the Los Angeles Times, then heard her on NPR, then avoided her depressingly self-absorbed rants after that. Ironically, she is back where she began with "Bad Sex with Bud Kemp" no insights after all these years. All that education and still yet a moron.

She reminds me of a character from a cel phone commercial that played here in Los Angeles a few years ago....."and then someone with a bigger SUV than mine cut me off, and I got so upset, I accidentally took a drink of tap water"......

so tiresome.
posted by effluvia at 4:07 PM on June 17, 2009


Pastabagel - on a day of MeFi that includes a mass marriage in the gray, you typed my favorite sentence of the day in your prior comment -

Maybe it's a lifelong passion for fennel, but I doubt it, because no one in the world even knows what fennel is before they are 25.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:16 PM on June 17, 2009


Right at the top of her article: "I don’t generally even enjoy men"

Uh. Then yes I would predict a high probability of failure IF YOU GO AND MARRY ONE!

I think I concur with her conclusion. Marriage is a bad idea. For her.

Every friend we have had that has divorced had relationships that shared the most of the same five fatal commonalities as this one:

#1: They had kids and put the kids before the relationship.

#2: One or both had few or no outside interests/hobbies separate from their partners.

#3: There was resentment (on either or both parties side) that women made more money or worked too much.

#4: They stopped fucking.

#5: They bitched about not fucking to everybody but each other.
posted by tkchrist at 4:31 PM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


never able to commit to a nanny...I secretly worried that using domestic help was exploitative

As a nanny, I have to say that this is my job and I in NO WAY feel exploited for doing it. I provide a service (child care) for which a fair wage of money is exchanged. It's just like whining my face off on NPR, except I'm doing something actually useful!

If you were underpaying/hiring someone under the table who didn't have legal work status - then yeah, you'd be exploiting someone. But hiring a qualified child care provider to be a nanny isn't exploiting anyone. No one gets into nannying thinking "Oh my, I thought I was going to be sunbathing and I am changing a diaper! I AM BEING REPRESSED!"

(This is my only point that hasn't already been said. I find the "Wahh, I'm a busy mother, but I don't want to stoop to having a nanny!" argument to be total horseshit. Nannies are no longer overworked wet nurses. I make more as a nanny than I did as a teacher and no one says "I don't want to stoop to sending my kid to school!" I don't know why there's this stigma of hiring a nanny as a sign of maternal failure when it's also seen as a status symbol to be wealthy enough to hire a nanny.)

(PS: Hire me. My current job ends next week.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:51 PM on June 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


Wanna hear something cool, and totally pertinent?

My wife's grandmother just passed. She and her husband were married for more than 60 years, and were still enthralled with each other until the day she died. Part of the evidence of this is present in diaries she kept, and wrote in every day, since the 1930s. I kid you not; they're on our bookshelf at home as I write this, and her husband (my wife's grandfather) explicitly gave her permission to read them (as she and her grandmother were very, very close.)

And you know what? Turns out they had problems about specific, big-ticket things (that I won't share here, for obvious reasons), as bad as (if not worse than) what this article describes, and over fifty years ago they found an arrangement that worked for them, and it allowed them to enjoy each other's company, raise a child together, and generally be completely committed to each other for the time since.

Marriage is hard; marriage doesn't work for all people; what counts as a wonderful marriage for one couple might be hell on earth for another. I even have my days when I think marriage is a terrible idea, specifically my own. And yet, my parents stayed together, her grandparents stayed together, and we're doing pretty good on that front as well -- to the benefit of both of us, and to our kids.

So I'm not going to lose sleep over one failed relationship. At least she got paid to write the article, so something good came out of it, right?

right?
posted by davejay at 5:00 PM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


a constant lovey-dovey, hearts-and-flowers, happyfest

My marriage is like this, every other day or so
posted by poppo at 5:09 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do think criticizing her looks was pretty lame. It wasn't exactly a flattering angle.
posted by delmoi at 5:45 PM on June 17, 2009


I had a marriage end in divorce because of a cheating wife. It was an awful, painful, miserable, drawn-out experience, that in some ways I still suffer a sort of PTSD from. i'd say I'm permanently scarred. Yes, there were children involved. They stood between me and serious contemplation of murder.

I'll buy you a beer too.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:06 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


marlys: game warden, I share your suspicion exactly - that many people balk at Loh's essay because they don't like where she is coming from (for one reason or another), and then lay specific criticisms onto the surface.
No, I bailed somewhere in the first paragraph because the writing was absolutely plurgid. My reaction was so pronounced I had to concatenate 3 synonyms to describe it.
pastabagel: Stop trying to make everything fit into you're preconceived notion of the world set when you were 20. 20 yr olds are idiots, discovering that is part of the fun of being 40.
Flagged as fantastic in toto, and I'm 28. Damn shame everyone is going to miss it.
posted by Decimask at 7:02 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


pLurgid
posted by Decimask at 7:03 PM on June 17, 2009


Metafilter: It's so plurgid it makes you think it was written with malcompetence aforethought.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:11 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


She had an affair with another woman, right? I mean she gives some big hints. Like, not liking men to begin with. I read the article in print last week and don't remember if she specifically mentions the sex of the non-spousal person she fell in love with.
posted by Faze at 7:14 PM on June 17, 2009


I was looking forward to reading what people had to say about this article, but I can't make my way through the massive trainwreck of egos.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:17 PM on June 17, 2009


It really annoys me when people take a personal experience and try to apply it to the entire world. You, lady, don't represent more than a fraction of the wealth of human experience and possibility; pretty obtuse to think that your model is the right one for everyone else.
posted by Billegible at 7:51 PM on June 17, 2009


Is it possible for an intelligent woman to write an essay about her personal life without getting burned at the stake by Mefites?

Probably, I'd guess.

Look, the problem with Ms. Tsing-Loh is that, in her radio monologues, she leans on over-exaggerated inflections to emphasize her points. It's gratuitous, jarring and, I think, intended to mask the blandness of her material.

The actual (exceedingly thin) content takes a back seat to her phony delivery. It's Shatneresque, but not in a so-bad-it's-good way.

For the 15 years I've lived in LA and listened to public radio, it's been agonizing each time I heard her savage the English language with her insufferable musings-ZUH.

I'm very heartened to learn that there are others who share my sense of revulsion. And to think that, wherever she is, she must be suffering at least a little bit.
posted by univac at 8:12 PM on June 17, 2009


If you were underpaying/hiring someone under the table who didn't have legal work status - then yeah, you'd be exploiting someone. But hiring a qualified child care provider to be a nanny isn't exploiting anyone.

Yeah, but I was amazed upon being at basically a job meet for nannies how many of the extremely financially well off[1] spent all their time bitching about the cost and wanting to gouge every buck out of their prospective employees they could.

Yuk.

(PS: Hire me. My current job ends next week.)

Wrong country, and ours is brilliant anyway.

Is it possible for an intelligent woman to write an essay about her personal life without getting burned at the stake by Mefites?

Sure, you got any examples?

Self-indulgent claptrap by men tends, as has been pointed out repeatedly, to get an even worse reception, not least because there's no one standing around waiting to attempt to suppress criticism by alleging sexism.

[1] As in, way better off than me and I'm no slouch.
posted by rodgerd at 8:28 PM on June 17, 2009


Just because we know that nearly half of U.S. marriages end in divorce—[...]—doesn’t mean we aren’t confident ours is the one that will beat the odds.

Hmmm, someone needs to learn about odds.
posted by wilful at 8:28 PM on June 17, 2009


It always amazes me when people are amazingly self-involved without ever reaching the insights that come from introspection.
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 PM on June 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm thinking this should have been titled "Don't Marry Him!", to go along with Marry Him! (by Lori Gottlieb) in the March 2008 Atlantic.

I liked the Explorer/Builder/Director/Negotiator taxonomy. It's pretty similar to the Expressive/Analytical/Driver/Amiable taxonomy (satirical version).
posted by russilwvong at 11:14 PM on June 17, 2009


I can't believe she fucked Garrison Keillor.
posted by benzenedream at 11:30 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


marlys: " I'm feeling disheartened by Metafilter's recent collective "hate on the smart woman" habit, and could use a positive example."

I think you're seeing what you want to see. As the old saying goes: "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are pockets."

If this had been written by a male, I would have used the words "insufferable twat" as well. Take this article for instance. This crybaby makes Sandra Tsing Loh sound great by comparison. I'm having a severe case of empathy fatigue and it doesn't care if you're male or female.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:47 PM on June 17, 2009


I actually like Sandra Tsing Loh - I'm from the Valley and really thought A Year in Van Nuys was amusing, and I recently read Mother on Fire also and while it had its ups and downs, as a former LA Magnet Kid there was a lot I could relate to. I agree that sometimes her writing goes past "pleasantly obnoxious, like talking to a mean friend" and veers into "grating, like talking to a mean friend of a friend" (I can't listen to her on the radio - her voice drives me nuts). This article crossed that line, I think in part because Loh hasn't really processed how she feels about her marriage ending and went ahead and wrote the article anyway.

I thought their marriage sounded pretty cool. They were both artists and both had a lot of demands on their time and it seemed like they tried to pick up the slack for each other under very uncertain circumstances. Being a freelancer married to another freelancer sounds terrible. I'm sad that it didn't work out for them and hope the kids are really as okay as she seems to think they are. I always thought they would be a fun family to hang out with. Guess not. Still, I feel a little bit of grief that what seemed like a union that would at least survive is apparently biting the dust.

For some reason, this has been a bad year for a lot of longer-term marriages in the social circle of my parents - we've seen a 25-year marriage and a 13-year marriage ended since January, both over infidelity. In both cases, the cheater wasn't the original friend/relative and it's interesting for me to read something from that perspective.

Anyway...thanks for posting. And yes, I agree with the above poster that Dahlia Lithwick really cut through the knot on this one.
posted by crinklebat at 12:15 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Excellent article. Der Spiegel had an interesting piece in this vein recently.

THE MOSUO MATRIARCHY
'Men Live Better Where Women Are In Charge

posted by telstar at 2:00 AM on June 18, 2009


She made a unilateral decision that surreptitiously fucking someone else was okay, consequences be damned. I can't quite muster sympathy for that sort of self-indulgent emotional adolescence.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:27 AM on June 18, 2009


Fennel. Awesome. We can now add it alongside our beans, taters, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Metafilter has the makings of quite the potluck!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:35 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


game warden to the events rhino: I know that quality of writing is a purely subjective matter, but, well, this just isn't desperately terrible writing. Come on, you people read blogs! You read the New York Post or Dan Brown too, maybe! That's bad writing. This is just a style you don't prefer.

And it's unclear from this thread how someone could ever write an introspective piece about their own feelings about their own marriage that would pass the Metafilter standard for not being narcissistic or self-indulgent.


Look, I've had the day to think about it, and I believe what it comes down to is this:

You need to understand that it's not the ‘quality’ of her writing or the words she uses or the relative complexity or beauty of her sentences that's setting people off here. Really. This is frankly not ‘bad writing’ in the sense of writing done by someone who is incompetent; she's a great writer.

What's setting people off about this article is the way that this Ms. Loh can apparently speak about something as serious, as huge and heartbreaking and mind-bending as her own divorce while not only side-stepping the issue of personal responsibility but actively and willfully ignoring it. Seriously. I truly believe that she knows how much she's choosing to ignore her own responsibility; but she does it anyway. I've never actually cheated on my wife—I've only been a jerk sometimes, been insensitive, been untruthful about petty things, been derisive in arguments; but I feel it when I'm alone, I feel shame and guilt that I have to spend some time processing. She actually was unfaithful—how it must eat her up inside!—and yet she barely mentions that fact, burying it instead under a pile of dazed reflections on sex and her lack of desire and dedication.

What she's really grappling with in this essay is a single question: “how could I have let myself do this?” The entire essay suddenly makes sense when you see it in this light. She's just offering a stream of rationalizations for it; ‘I cheated because the effort to keep romance alive must have gotten to be too much for me’…‘I strayed because I'm just like all the other Americans who get divorced’…‘maybe I cheated because marriage is just obselete.’ The hardest thing human beings ever have to face is guilt, and an adulterer has to feel that pain more than most people, I imagine; she's trying to ignore it and make it go away by misdirecting. Finally I think she settles of the noise of life, the ‘practicality’ that she says ‘will save us in the end.’ But she has to know, even if she's conveniently ignoring the fact for the moment, that practicality is nothing without an end toward which it aims, a goal; having a marriage means having a clear target, while losing a marriage means losing a very useful method humans have of defining themselves and their goals.

But, though she's a writer who puts herself out there for a living, and though she's chosen to write about her divorce rather than anything else under the sun she could write about, she's still unwilling to drop the mask—she's unwilling to admit personal responsibility, to lay claim to her stake in the breakup. That's what's annoying; that most of this essay is psychological misdirection away from the things that are really at issue: personal responsibility for what happened, what that will change about the future, how all of it will be handled.
posted by koeselitz at 3:48 AM on June 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


<>, and good point.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:47 AM on June 18, 2009


I just sent this letter to the editor:

Why is hard reporting about serious issues pertaining to Asia, the Middle East and the economy seemingly the sole domain of the Atlatnic's male contributors, with women's voices marginalized to stories about their divorices, breasts and Facebook pages?

Thanks.
posted by The Straightener at 5:09 AM on June 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


I think somewhere along the line she missed the opportunity to rationalize that marriages just don't work unless your both committed to each other's happiness. It really doesn't get any simpler...
posted by samsara at 5:48 AM on June 18, 2009


What is annoying about Loh's article is not just that it is poorly written (which it is) but it is yet another example of someone having something happen in their life and they think they are the first to stumble over some fundamental truth that no one has ever written about before.

Ha ha ha! This perfectly describes my feelings when all of the A-list bloggers started having babies and writing about it.

I really hated this article at first, but as a 42-year-old with four kids who has been married for 15 years I can relate to some of what she says, and although it's unfortunate that she is getting buckets of money for working through the early phases of denial, hopefully she will say something more introspective and useful in about three years when she's got some perspective.
posted by mecran01 at 6:41 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't liked the comments on her looks in this thread, and I thought the comment about her looking like a pakled was particularly egregious since it seems to combine a comment with her looks with a comment about her Asian epithelial folds.

However, when I read the article it made me really angry for several reasons:

1) Loh really lost me at the start because she wrote about her affair in the passive voice. She was too sly about it, and, in being sly, not honest. This made it hard for me to credit her as a honest reporter when she enumerated what she did, and what her ex- didn't do.

2) This was followed quickly by her statement that she didn't want to "work" on her relationship, and then her equation of that work with the daily grind of helping to run a household. She seemed, throughout, to forget the distinction between nurturing (sic) something like a career and nurturing a relationship with one of the most important people in your life.

3) Her piece was predicated on the idea that men are to blame for the ills of modern marriage. She was quite brutal in this, willing to deride anything done by men as inadequate or nefarious. Loh runs her household, and her husband sucks because he doesn't help enough. Her friend's husband runs their household, and sucks because he expects his wife to do anything at all. That poor sap even cooked the dinner for his hanging party!

4) Despite her affair being the supposed proximate cause of her divorce, Loh went out of her way to try to make her ex- seem like a bad guy. She didn't even have the decency to let him rest in peace.

I didn't think the piece was particularly poorly written in terms of sentence structure and word choice, but certainly the rhetorical choices she made lead me to believe she is a bad writer. Had her omissions been at the service of discretion, or had her brutality been at he service of honesty, or had any of it been at the service of humor, I might have been more sympathetic. As it was, however, the piece read as dangerous self-justification at the expense of several other people. It's hard to see that as a mark of particular intelligence, and I have no other experiences with which to assess her smarts.
posted by OmieWise at 6:45 AM on June 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


koeselitz: You need to understand that it's not the ‘quality’ of her writing or the words she uses or the relative complexity or beauty of her sentences that's setting people off here. Really. This is frankly not ‘bad writing’ in the sense of writing done by someone who is incompetent; she's a great writer. What's setting people off about this article is the way that this Ms. Loh can apparently speak about something as serious, as huge and heartbreaking and mind-bending as her own divorce while not only side-stepping the issue of personal responsibility but actively and willfully ignoring it. Seriously.

I think you make really great points. But a vast proportion of the objections voiced in this thread are based on the bizarre claims a) that this is somehow a terribly-written article; b) that there's something inherently wrong with journalists using anecdotes to build their case, or making a polemic argument about what others should do; c) that the realm of the domestic and the ordinary is somehow less appropriate a topic for journalism in a major national magazine than, you know, astronauts and tales of mountain rescue or discussions of the Middle East peace process; d) that if a journalistic narrator doesn't come off as likable and good that's somehow an argument against the piece's very existence. All these arguments are specious. Yours aren't, though.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:46 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting thread, if only because the vitriol here is as illuminating, in a different way, as Loh's denial is within her piece.

I love it here, in the MeFi hivemind, but sometimes it seems very, very self-selected. This is one of those times. Loh seems kind of "other" to this tribe, and that makes it easy to do what we're doing.

The fantastic-tuscan-kitchen, heavy-travel, great-kids, busy-non-cube-jobs, success-on-my-own-terms fantasy that she and her friends seem to be trying to live out is easy to flag as superficial, but it is a style of life they are invested in. The participants here are not invested in that same lifestyle. So from a tribal perspective, she's "out." The fact that Loh is also still in the process of deluding herself about her own responsibility for the failure of her marriage only makes it easier to point and laugh. But that's all just meta-discussion.

Midlife divorces are not about superficiality; they are about mortality. Underneath these desires for desire, behind the drive to infidelity, is the simple knowledge that one is going to die. And acknowledging that "this is the last person I will ever fall in love with," is horrifying, particularly to people who have always wanted more, sought more, tried to live life "fully" according to their own definition of full. People who are inclined to be grateful for what they have, tend to remain that way, grateful that they have fallen in love so well, and aghast at the waste inherent in throwing away a perfectly functional marriage for a fling with the next new.

Some of the spite here sounds like a bitter sense of unfairness being vented. "Loh should grow up and deal with the hard facts of life, because I've done so and am fully invested in my philosophy. She's a callow brand-obsessed ugly thing because she refuses to believe that the death of passion, which we all know to be normal and expected, is a natural consequence of life."

She's entitled to refuse to believe that. And she will live with the implications of her decision, just as every MeFite will live with the implications of his/hers. For some, more is better, even if that more means more pain, more guilt, more emotional ugliness, more baldfaced selfishness. For some others, less is more, even if that means less passion, less personal growth, less spontaneity. In my experience, most people will vacillate between those two poles to a greater or lesser degree. The trick is finding someone whose vacillation covers roughly the same range as yours, and who will still be understanding when you're out of sync with one another.
posted by Pliskie at 7:43 AM on June 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Some of the spite here sounds like a bitter sense of unfairness being vented. "Loh should grow up and deal with the hard facts of life, because I've done so and am fully invested in my philosophy. She's a callow brand-obsessed ugly thing because she refuses to believe that the death of passion, which we all know to be normal and expected, is a natural consequence of life."

You (and omiewise, and koselitz) make excellent points. I wish you all had written this article for her. But I think you may be rewriting it for her right here.

I am all for raging against the dying of the passion. Hell, I'm exactly Loh's age and I'm getting remarried in a month, and the resignation in this thread bugs me too. But Loh doesn't have the courage to claim this. Her stance is resigned, drifitng along, blaming others for being unrealistic when they promote standards like monogamy and honesty and taking responsibility.

If she was committed to passion, she would have worked to keep it alive with her husband and if that was impossible, ended the marriage honestly and directly without taking the coward's way of cheating until caught. That's like the people who point guns at cops to commit "suicide by policeman."
posted by msalt at 10:17 AM on June 18, 2009


Midlife divorces are not about superficiality; they are about mortality. Underneath these desires for desire, behind the drive to infidelity, is the simple knowledge that one is going to die. And acknowledging that "this is the last person I will ever fall in love with," is horrifying, particularly to people who have always wanted more, sought more, tried to live life "fully" according to their own definition of full.

Now, see, if she'd just said that, I would have had a very different reaction to her article.

But she didn't. She chose other words. She made different points.

And that is one of the reasons why I and many others are probably hanging the "poor writer" tag on this. We don't mean that she was ungrammatical or florid; the points you choose to make, and the points you choose not to make, are just as much a sign of good/bad writing as are the way you spell them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't read all the comments, and i'm sure this was addressed, but that was the most poorly written and structured piece of english i have ever read in anything beyond a high school literary magazine. Pure drivel. how about you start from the beginning? this is the just self-important girl-talk.

Had to get that off my chest.
posted by brocklanders at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2009


that was the most poorly written and structured piece of english i have ever read in anything beyond a high school literary magazine.

Ha! Brocklanders demonstrates exactly the point I was making. People who argue that this piece (or anything that appears in the Atlantic, to be honest) is completely illiterate nonsense just embarrass themselves. I guess it's theoretically possible that Sandra Tsing Loh could make a career as an author of books, magazine articles and radio monologues without being capable of writing, and that all the layers of editors and copy-editors at the Atlantic could fail to render her work even slightly literate during the editing process, and that thousands of readers could subscribe to the Atlantic year after year without realizing that they were reading the worst writing available outside of high-school magazines. But it's significantly more likely that you just don't know what you're talking about.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2009


People could also strongly object to her style, and call her "illiterate" because it irks them: this is an internet forum; overstatement is to be expected. I personally find the accumulation of stylistic devices in the first paragraph annoying; all these commas and dashes, the semi-colon and the ellipsis... it's a bit too much.

Add the "anecdotes" (she says she disguised her friends; who's to tell she didn't make them up entirely?), a few statistics, and a thesis from an author that could very well be bullshit (I don't know, but she doesn't establish the author's credentials, and books that try to categorize people in categories like that are often worthless), and I think you have an article that shouldn't have run in a professional magazine.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2009


People who argue that this piece (or anything that appears in the Atlantic, to be honest) is completely illiterate nonsense just embarrass themselves.

I agree. Grumpy, Dave Barry-esqe exaggeration as critical device is about as fresh and insightful as…well, Dave Barry. Trite hyperbole is painful, but also boring. Like a canker sore.
posted by applemeat at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2009


I guess it's theoretically possible that Sandra Tsing Loh could make a career as an author of books, magazine articles and radio monologues without being capable of writing, and that all the layers of editors and copy-editors at the Atlantic could fail to render her work even slightly literate during the editing process, and that thousands of readers could subscribe to the Atlantic year after year without realizing that they were reading the worst writing available outside of high-school magazines. But it's significantly more likely that you just don't know what you're talking about.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:56 PM


Maybe her earlier work was better and now she's just coasting. I mean, much-beloved Updike published Toward the End of Time and that book was a huge piece of shit. By your logic, no one who was ever good or who ever published in a national magazine - with editors and copy-editors! - could ever be objectively bad. Bill Kristol had a column in the New York Times; ergo, he is a brilliant analyst. That is a deeply flawed perspective.

Regardless, I don't have an issue with the style - I have an issue with the content: namely, that it is mostly made-up conversations with the writer's friends, all of whom conform to some pretty gross stereotypes. That's the kind of journalism I expect from a state college's newspaper, not The Atlantic.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2009


Fennel. Awesome. We can now add it alongside our beans, taters, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Metafilter has the makings of quite the potluck!

Don't forget pancakes.
posted by delmoi at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It really annoys me when people take a personal experience and try to apply it to the entire world.

Don't most people do that?

Not a bad article, once you understand the writer's viewpoint and don't take it personally.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 PM on June 18, 2009


Apparently this is one of those threads where MeFites find themselves tearing down an author because they dare challenge their preconceived notions. Married people (and people who want to be married) complaining because someone dares say that the emperor has no clothes. Sort of like the threads where parents come out of the woodwork and go on tirades against those of us who choose to be childless.

Regarding marriage, I still don't get the point. I've had the same SO for going on 12 years now. Now that her friends are getting married and having babies, she's decided she really wants to get married because for some reason she doesn't want to be 30 and unmarried. Thankfully she hasn't decided she has to have children because it's what all her friends are doing.

The only reason I even consider it is that it will make her happy and it won't make a bit of difference to our lives, which makes me wonder why exactly I'm putting forth the effort when it won't make any difference.

Marriage makes no difference to anything, yet people persist in marrying. Why? Is there a reason that comittment is somehow different when it's spelled out in excruciating detail in front of a judge or in a house of worship? Does the ridiculous expense some people put into it somehow make it better? As an example, take the following:

EmpressCallipygos wrote: She makes it sound as if all of us who long for a commitment, who seek a partner in life, are looking for some 24-hour romantic mushy lovey-huggy-bear schmoopfest -- and isn't it a shame so many women are so deluded that they think this is possible? Alas.

Yes, I would like to find a second half. But that is not the reason why I am looking. The lovey-dovey stuff never fit into my idea of what marriage was like, ever.
...
I want to share the blood and the sweat that goes into the business of making a life -- both mine and another person's.


My response? OK, that's great. What does making a life with someone have to do with marriage?

My overly cynical view of marriage is that it's simply an institution that makes it more difficult and painful for people to move on to the next relationship when the time almost inevitably comes. It's good for divorce lawyers and wedding planners, but nobody else. Least of all the children often caught in the middle of an acrimonious divorce.
posted by wierdo at 1:39 AM on June 19, 2009


wierdo: My overly cynical view of marriage is that it's simply an institution that makes it more difficult and painful for people to move on to the next relationship when the time almost inevitably comes. It's good for divorce lawyers and wedding planners, but nobody else. Least of all the children often caught in the middle of an acrimonious divorce.

I think you've got a great point; and I agree with you to a large extent.

But you apparently missed the point of the article, which wasn't that a ceremony makes no difference in the quality of a long-term relationship. The author, like most of us Americans, doesn't seem to differentiate “marriage” from “lifelong relationship;” but that's the custom here, I suppose.

No, the point of the article was that lifelong relationships, or even very-long-term relationships, are obselete because they take entirely too much effort, because we're full of Tocquevillean ennui, or because they're impractical. That indicates that she would include your 12-year relationship in that indictment.
posted by koeselitz at 3:47 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it too late to show up for bucketloads of favourites, just for being snarky & cynical?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:39 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Regarding marriage, I still don't get the point. I've had the same SO for going on 12 years now. Now that her friends are getting married and having babies, she's decided she really wants to get married because for some reason she doesn't want to be 30 and unmarried. Thankfully she hasn't decided she has to have children because it's what all her friends are doing. The only reason I even consider it is that it will make her happy and it won't make a bit of difference to our lives, which makes me wonder why exactly I'm putting forth the effort when it won't make any difference.

....But see, that may not be a sign that "marriage doesn't matter." That may just be a sign that the two of you in the specific shouldn't get married.

What does making a life with someone have to do with marriage?

I think you're confusing "the wedding" with "the marriage". It has zero to do with the big party and the church and the whole fussiness around it. Marriage, to me, is just a formal and public declaration that "this is the person I am going to build my life with. I mean it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:42 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling disheartened by Metafilter's recent collective "hate on the smart woman" habit

Just thought I might pipe in to say that I strongly doubt that MeFites hold a whole bunch of hate for smart women.

In the case of recent examples of piling-on, I think it's more the case of hating on the high profile "smart" women who revealed themselves actually to be thicker than two planks.

And those 2x4 planks have been measured in cubits, not inches.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:05 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the case of recent examples of piling-on, I think it's more the case of hating on the high profile "smart" women who revealed themselves actually to be thicker than two planks

No one who can afford a nanny gets to bitch about how hard life is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:04 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is it too late to show up for bucketloads of favourites, just for being snarky & cynical?

yeah pretty much...u gotta get the rss feed if u want to play in the big leagues....
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Apparently this is one of those threads where MeFites find themselves tearing down an author because they dare challenge their preconceived notions."

Yeah, man, we're just hostile because she BLEW OUR MINDS with her amazing insights into why ennui trumps all.

Not because it's more glib bullshit from Loh.
posted by klangklangston at 8:43 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: more glib bullshit
posted by jquinby at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2009


klangklangston: amazing insights into why ennui trumps all
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2009


I've had the same SO for going on 12 years now. Now that her friends are getting married and having babies, she's decided she really wants to get married because for some reason she doesn't want to be 30 and unmarried. Thankfully she hasn't decided she has to have children because it's what all her friends are doing. The only reason I even consider it is that it will make her happy and it won't make a bit of difference to our lives, which makes me wonder why exactly I'm putting forth the effort when it won't make any difference.

I say this with all sincerity as a divorced guy: if that's really how you feel, please don't get married. And REALLY REALLY REALLY don't have any kids together.
It really will be painful and pointless for all concerned.

Also, it's safe to predict she will not want to continue your relationship without first marriage and then kids. So make your plans accordingly.
posted by msalt at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


msalt: say this with all sincerity as a divorced guy: if that's really how you feel, please don't get married. And REALLY REALLY REALLY don't have any kids together.
It really will be painful and pointless for all concerned.

Also, it's safe to predict she will not want to continue your relationship without first marriage and then kids. So make your plans accordingly.


I actually don't believe this is true…well, it's complex, anyway.

When I replied to weirdo's comment earlier, I think I was simplifying what he was saying. He actually seems to have a two different points: his ‘overly cynical’ sense that divorce is ‘inevitable’ and his sense that the ceremony doesn't mean much of real substance.

While I disagree with him on the first point, I think I can almost wholly agree with him on the second: weddings are a pointless tradition that, in nineteen cases out of twenty, end up hurting the couple they are supposed to be lifting up. I have sincerely been astounded and amazed throughout my adult life at the little ways that weddings leave scars on my friends and family. My own wedding was better beyond all expectations, a really pleasant and wonderful thing in many ways, but there were still enough complications and hurtful things that I've wondered ever since if we did the right thing in having it and getting married.

Again, we Americans tend to draw absolutely no distinction between “lifelong commitment to one another” and “marriage,” to the point where we believe that if people are really committed to spending the rest of their lives together, they'll just go ahead and get married anyhow.

My sense is that this is one of the few really deep instances of a cultural divide between the US and Europe; nearly every European I've met, even devout and Orthodox Christians, has been taught from a very early age not to take this fact for granted, and parents of two, three and four children together quite often never even think of having to get married. For us, it's unthinkable not to.

I think we're wrong. And if I could do it again without capitulating to my family's whims, without having to parade around in front of them in order to legitimise my partnership, and (good god almighty) without having to feed them all and hire a band—in short, if I could go back and affirm for myself and my partner that our partnership isn't something that requires anybody else's permission or blessing—then I have a feeling I'd do it in a heartbeat.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


…I guess I mean, more specifically:

If, in saying he'd just get married to please his partner, weirdo means that he doesn't think his relationship or any relationship is really lasting when it comes down, well, you're spot-on correct; it would be a very bad idea, because both partners would have different expectations as far as commitment.

If, however, he means that both of them are committed to each other long-term, but one of them likes the idea of a wedding, well, I don't think it's really essential whether they get married or not.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on June 19, 2009


I liked Depth Takes a Holiday. This, not so much.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:28 AM on June 19, 2009


A wedding does not a marriage make.

We never had a ceremony, or filed papers with the county or any of that, yet somehow, I'm still a committed member of a relationship which I'd be very happy to see last all my days. I just use the word "marriage" to describe it because it's succinct and easy for the listener to understand, since our relationship is based on the same premise as a marriage. It would be quibbling for me to insist on using other terminology to describe it.

Weddings have fuck-all to do with whether or not someone is capable of conducting themselves as an an adult in a reciprocal relationship -- as the article does point out, in a rather circuitous & narcissistic way.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2009


I don't think that grudgingly making a lifelong committment that you consider pointless and driven by your partner's peer group pressure is a good idea, whether you seal it a ceremony, paperwork, or a handshake.

This is not a trivial difference of perspective in a relationship, something to do for her as a favor. Even if you're right, and she's totally deluded by friends and the US marriage industry and women's magazines or whatever, she wants to get married now. And the odds are very high, at age 30, that she will feel a strong pull to have kids in the next few years.

If you can't accept, respect and share her feelings, it will be disastrous to get married (or make a lifelong commitment.) No one ever wants to be told they're "going through a phase", especially if it's true.
posted by msalt at 12:44 PM on June 19, 2009


koeselitz wrote: That indicates that she would include your 12-year relationship in that indictment.

If that was her point, I should care because...?

Although I think her point was actually that lifelong relationships maintained for the sake of the relationship are obsolete. More that it's not a goal worth pursuing for its own sake, but merely something that is great should life happen to work out that way.

EmpressCallipygos wrote: Marriage, to me, is just a formal and public declaration that "this is the person I am going to build my life with. I mean it."

So what again is the purpose of the formal institution?

msalt wrote: Also, it's safe to predict she will not want to continue your relationship without first marriage and then kids. So make your plans accordingly.

If we hadn't had the kid discussion several times over the last 12 years and determined each time that no, we really don't want children, I would be inclined to agree with you.

Anyway, the whole discussion about my plans for the future seem to hinge on what exactly is meant by commitment. Must it take the form of a near certainty that one is willing to do whatever it takes to remain in a relationship with a person? Or does it mean that a person desires to continue a relationship for the forseeable future? One seems awfully close to "relationship for relationship's sake" territory to me.

Anyway, entering into any relationship or continuing in one without at least being aware that the chances of it lasting the rest of your days are slim at best blinds you to the truth of the matter. I don't think that precludes commitment. My SO seems not to think so either, thankfully.

I've seen too many 20 and 30 year marriages end to have any certainty about a relationship's permanence. It does not, however, follow that relationships are trivial things, however outmoded and, yes, inherently trivial the institution of marriage may be.
posted by wierdo at 3:45 AM on June 20, 2009


So what again is the purpose of the formal institution?

....I'm still not quite sure what the disconnect is here. Are you asking "if she and I both know we are going to be permanently bonded, what the hell do we have to have a piece of paper for?

Well, if that's the case, one practical answer is that, like it or not, there are legal issues at play. There are legal protections married couples have that unmarried couples do not -- protections involving rights to property, tax issues, medical care, etc. That's a pretty damn big reason right there.

Are you asking "why do you have to go through the whole whiz-bang of a ceremony rather than just going to a justice of the peace?" One answer for that is that human beings like ritual. We like celebration. We like making a big deal of the things that we feel are important.

But if you're asking "why IS it that we have set up these special protections for married couples" or "why IS it that we feel we have to make a special ritual out of this relationship," well, those are harder questions to answer. If that's the case, it sounds like you have a more fundamental objection to the whole concept of marriage; which is fine, some people do. But if you just have a fundamental objection to the whole concept of marriage, and your girlfriend doesn't, that may be a big sticking point you may want to sort out...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 AM on June 20, 2009


A couple of whys and then a how. One why is, I've seen too many couples where the stated reason for not getting married is challenging the formalistic institution, anarchism, just a piece of paper etc. but the reality (it later became clear) was unwillingness to really commit. The bigger societal why is, I think marriage is ultimately an arrangement for taking care of children, ensuring that they have good guardians. In that sense the terms of divorce arrangements are as important a part of marriage as the rest of it.

The how is my personal answer to "what is meant by commitment." When I married, I certainly didn't mean "I'll stay with you no matter how you treat me, or even if we grow to hate each other." But I did mean, I will throw literally everything I can into making this work before giving up. In practice, we were married for 10 years and in counseling for 8. I couldn't get it to work but I stayed monogamous while we tried, and initiated the split directly when I just couldn't take any more. I don't think anyone (outside of religious fundamentalists) is expecting any more than that.
posted by msalt at 10:34 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil, who gives a fuck about who you think is allowed to have an opinion? Only asexual people may apply?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 8:20 AM on June 21, 2009


Non Prosequitur, what the fuck are you on about?
posted by rtha at 11:26 AM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil apparently feels that if you find one woman attractive you're not allowed to appreciate another woman's talent, or something. I can't tell from behind the shouty venoum. Was there a deleted comment from ChickenringNYC or something?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 1:54 PM on June 21, 2009


Well, I think there was another deleted comment, yes, but even with just what's left in the thread, your comment seems insane and belligerent.

So, uh, yeah.
posted by klangklangston at 2:16 PM on June 21, 2009


As I was gonna explain my point I realized I was dragging a bunch of baggage (reactions to other things I've read recently) into her remark and that is not defensible. Sorry, my mistake.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 2:26 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The author was on the Today Show this morning.
posted by Tenuki at 8:36 AM on June 22, 2009


Oh, I have a follow-up about the part of the article that everyone really cares about: You know how, upthread, I said this was just a viral for thisismymilwaukee.com? 'Cause of the fennel connection?

So I got an e-mail a day or so after posting that, informing me:

It's not a fennel, it's a Family Tree. They belong underground.

Hope this clears things up!

Your friend,

Mike Russo
MTC


So for you ARG fans, make of that what you will.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2009


Fark just found the article and is currently chewing it, shaking it violently, and throwing it up in the air.
posted by CaseyB at 12:54 PM on July 2, 2009


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