No one ever regretted taking care of the person they loved, at any price
June 20, 2018 1:42 PM   Subscribe

"When I look back on it now, it’s hard to understand how I, a highly educated feminist, ended up devoting myself to Michael to the detriment of my own productivity and financial security."
posted by Lycaste (90 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow this definitely went in an unexpected direction for these sorts of essays. Thanks for posting!
posted by griphus at 1:54 PM on June 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


Is this the first part, or is this all of it?

(It's good, but something on Twitter says part 1 of 6, and I can't tell if the linked article is all of it)
posted by The River Ivel at 2:05 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thank you for sharing this.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:07 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


That was a really thoughtful and thought-provoking article.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:09 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh my God, that ending. It gave me frisson. I need to digest this, but holy shit. Thank you for posting.
posted by sockermom at 2:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh my gosh. I can relate to this very hard.
posted by bleep at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for a while now.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:24 PM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


That, that ending precisely, is exactly what I intend to avoid. It is the most calmly-written cautionary tale I have ever fucking read.
posted by Ashen at 2:28 PM on June 20, 2018 [38 favorites]


What a difficult and human narrative. I don't know how I feel about it. I'm not sure if she knows how to feel about it either.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


For 7 years, he said she saved his life; how many of her own years were lost - not in the opportunity cost sense, but the actual life expectancy sense - so he might gain those 7?
posted by palindromic at 2:36 PM on June 20, 2018 [49 favorites]


That, that ending precisely, is exactly what I intend to avoid.

It's one of the major reasons I've never married.
posted by praemunire at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


The pictures are so... affectionate, too, it seems like.
posted by Sequence at 2:43 PM on June 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


This went in a direction I was not expecting, and I am so very interested in this woman's thoughts on her situation. As Ashen wrote, it is very calmly, and I would add non-judgmentally, worded piece. I wonder if she feels angry (beyond angry that he was taken away)? I think it takes enormous clarity of mind to see this happening to yourself as it is happening, and I worry that I won't.
posted by hepta at 2:53 PM on June 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


Her partner had two adult children. I keep wondering where they were in all this.
posted by mochapickle at 2:59 PM on June 20, 2018 [46 favorites]


*(I may have been greedy, but I wasn’t fickle.)

Story of my goddamn life.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:59 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


He knew and acknowledged all along what she was doing for him, whilst all the time never reciprocating, just take, take, taking like the sheer pleasure of his company he bestowed on her was payment enough. I see people like this fairly regularly and I often wonder what it must be like to feel so damn awesome about yourself that you think this treatment is your god given right.

And yet at the same time, I’m sure he loved her, and her, him. The fact that she did love him and was happy to do this for him doesn’t make it any less wrong though. I also note that she’s very careful not to say how she does feel about this in the end, probably because he has children who will read this. We’re left to assess for ourselves how we would feel instead. Cautionary tale indeed.
posted by Jubey at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2018 [83 favorites]


I'm confused, because it ended so abruptly, and she just ended the story quickly. I wonder if she's still digesting all this, and is working through the grief. It's heartbreaking.
posted by honey badger at 3:24 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm not even sure if it's a cautionary tale.
posted by honey badger at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


When I’m really bitter, I suspect that cis het women need to build a heroic narrative around parasitic relationships because they aren’t given access to anything else. Lie to yourself or live alone.

I’m also aware that this is not my call to make.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:58 PM on June 20, 2018 [66 favorites]


That is what it looks like from the outside, yeah.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


For avoidance of doubt and abuse of the edit window: I’m on the outside too. A late thirties lesbian who has increasingly despaired of these things as women I know have sunk into situations like this.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:15 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


oh that's what it looks like from the inside too, don't worry
posted by poffin boffin at 4:36 PM on June 20, 2018 [58 favorites]


I see a lot of people here in the comments treating this like a Stockholm Syndrome situation.

I've gone back after reading the comments here and read through the article again, twice, to see if there is anything in it that indicates that she wishes she'd done anything differently or regrets what she did. I haven't found it yet.

I’m also aware that this is not my call to make.

It looks like she's made her call, and while it while it wasn't what others would have done, it's still valid and I am questioning the second-guessing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 PM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


I'm taking it that her "call" IS to second-guess, that this piece is about the questions we all ask ourselves about the way things turn out, in this particular case through the lenses of emotional labor, domestic labor, caretaking, and sacrifice of self and opportunities. It is an invitation to second guess. And so that's what people are doing here, about her story but about their own too.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2018 [41 favorites]


“It’s hard to understand how I, a highly educated feminist, ended up devoting myself to Michael to the detriment of my own productivity and financial security."
Well, here it sounds like she’s second guessing herself, so I think it gives us permission to do it as well.
posted by Jubey at 4:45 PM on June 20, 2018 [30 favorites]


Wow. That's an amazing piece and I hope it is not all she has to say because I was left feeling as though there ought to be more, and wanting to read it.

It reminds me of this quote: "Your personal affection for women exists alongside your unconscious domination of women in the same way that you can have both nostalgia for the movie Babe and a bottomless hunger for bacon." (from Too-Ticky's post a couple of days ago). Yes, he absolutely loved her and she loved him, I don't doubt it. And yet there was that unconscious domination, the complete taking-for-granted of all the physical, financial and emotional labour she did. The complete obliviousness to it, except for "I'm going to yell at you when you're not drawing enough". Riiiight.

So complicated.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:49 PM on June 20, 2018 [68 favorites]


I came to regret it, and I'll always hate myself for that.
posted by seraphine at 5:02 PM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans...”

We always want to second guess and figure out the right dialectic to place this life experience into. But time doesn’t always grant you an edit window.
posted by radagast at 5:08 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


You do what you have to do for the people in your life, and sometimes you regret it, especially when autonomy is essential to you. But regret is part of life.
posted by Peach at 5:26 PM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


The fact that he was 20 years older than her probably played into the caretaker dynamic.
posted by loquacious crouton at 5:31 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I can't imagine love being stronger than resentment, in a situation like this. But most hetero relationships seem like this, so maybe I'm just wired differently.
posted by Mavri at 5:34 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


Some factoids about caregivers. I would go on further but I could go on and on.

Not one false note in that essay (my .02 cents).
posted by datawrangler at 5:38 PM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


I think this is currently happening to a friend of mine (without the dying bits) and it is heart-breaking.
posted by maryr at 5:43 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ha!
I ran into my ex-husband's current partner yesterday, the one he moved in with shortly after separating from me 18yrs ago. He's ten years older than me, but the same age as her. Asking after his well-being she said, "Oh, he's still doing X and Y. He shouldn't be at his age, it's not healthy. I guess I'll be the one wiping his arse in a few years time." I smiled, and hugged her, and walked away reliving the relief I felt at our separation when I realised I wouldn't have to waste my golden years caring for a perpetual man-child who could never step-up to care for me when I needed it.

I lost a lot of friends when I separated from my last partner 3 years ago because in their rural, farming world, a woman stands by her man hooks herself up like a donor body/mind/heart/wallet, forgoing all her own needs, to ensure those of her man are met.

Menopause is awesome. Never again will I feel a biological need to partner up with a parasite. Call me cold but I am over being a donor. I have my own life to live and if they can't be an equal partner then there's no room on the ride for them. Love in a time of patriarchy does not conquer all.

I really liked the article. I hope she writes another about it in five years time. I'm not dismissing or trivialising the years or money she spent on this man, but I do wonder if she will feel he honoured her love when the cost is later counted.
posted by Thella at 5:53 PM on June 20, 2018 [62 favorites]


I don’t think it’s right for us to second guess her. Every decision she made she made because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. There are a certain points where she could have gotten out easily but it only seems to us that she should have because we have the benefit of her hindsight. And once someone gets old and/or sick you can’t just abandon them. That’s the bargain everyone makes in every long term relationship.

I’m in a very similar situation. We started out with a huge emotional labor imbalance which is a lot better these days as I found out that this was going to have to be something I explicitly demanded. Because I didn’t know that guys were actually raised to be selfish and clueless and not just born stupid. But I only learned this from Metafilter. 10 years ago I don’t know how I would have found out if at all.
posted by bleep at 5:54 PM on June 20, 2018 [30 favorites]


But regret is part of life.

Regret is part of life, and I have at least as many of them as I can carry, but my biggest regrets are staying waaaay too long in relationships where I gave and gave and received nothing in return. Or, maybe not nothing, but certainly not what I needed. I can only imagine how much more complicated -- and, honestly, soul-crushing and guilt-inducing -- those relationships would feel in hindsight if a partner had died before I managed to extricate myself.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:29 PM on June 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


Bleep, it’s interesting that you say that you can’t just abandon someone in a relationship when they’re sick. You’re right of course. But. There are a lot of statistics out there showing that when the wife gets cancer, the husbands leave in droves. It’s much less frequent the other way around. So while you think sticking around for the hard times should be a bargain everyone makes in a long term relationship, it just isn’t the case. This caregiving that men seem to expect of women so often doesn’t seem to apply when the shoe is on the other foot.
posted by Jubey at 6:50 PM on June 20, 2018 [69 favorites]


According to the Billfold, where this is also linked, this is Part 1 of 6.
posted by peacheater at 6:51 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


Bleep, it’s interesting that you say that you can’t just abandon someone in a relationship when they’re sick. You’re right of course. But. There are a lot of statistics out there showing that when the wife gets cancer, the husbands leave in droves.

Yeah, I was gonna say. Men don't think twice about dumping their wives for a younger version when they get sick. Men aren't the least bit embarrassed to leave their wives who have had mastectomies due to breast cancer, even if it sends them into permanent remission, because the tits are more important than the woman.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2018 [44 favorites]


my mom's disgusting boyfriend, for example, did actually stay with her during her cancer, and thoughtfully reminded her of this every single day, and would regularly threaten to leave her to die alone if she argued with him about things as mundane as what to have for dinner, or if she committed such heinous personal crimes as talking to me on the phone when he was trying to watch glenn beck.

the crowning moment of this all for me personally was the look on his face during the reading of her will when i got 99% of the estate and he got 1%.

chefkiss.gif
posted by poffin boffin at 6:58 PM on June 20, 2018 [112 favorites]


Maybe I'll send my mom a link to this essay to explain why I haven't put any effort into looking for a romantic relationship since my twenties.
posted by Meow Face at 6:59 PM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


I can't imagine love being stronger than resentment, in a situation like this.

It's a seeesaw. First you love and invest and shape yourself in a certain way to fit the available space, and then as you creep past the fulcrum things begin to feel stranger and more unsettled and starts to wobble toward the other side. By the time the other side slams into the ground it may be incredibly difficult to get out.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2018 [30 favorites]


Menopause is awesome. Never again will I feel a biological need to partner up with a parasite. Call me cold but I am over being a donor. I have my own life to live and if they can't be an equal partner then there's no room on the ride for them. Love in a time of patriarchy does not conquer all.

IUDs do a pretty good job of this as well, in my experience.
posted by mantecol at 7:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


cast off your uterine shackles my friends FREE YOURSELVES
posted by poffin boffin at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2018 [40 favorites]


And then, my solicitude surprised no one, not me, not him, not our friends and family. You stand by your man,you throw your own life to the wind if there’s the remotest possibility of saving him. You are rewarded with admiration and respect, if not the extra four hours in the day you really want and need. No one ever regretted taking care of the person they loved, at any price.

Even so, I wasn’t sure he’d have done as much, sacrificed as much for me — or if any man would have. I still think I was implementing a uniquely, in sociological terms, womanly strategy. But being able to articulate this to myself didn’t help in practical ways, even if it somewhat helped psychologically.


I'm glad for her that she never did have to find out for sure whether he'd have done that for her. The answer may well have been heartbreaking. That's a small grace here.

So many feelings about this.
posted by limeonaire at 7:25 PM on June 20, 2018 [17 favorites]


Remembering an Adored Cartoonist - Michael Crawford's obit

& I am reminded of something I'd hear from my mother and her contemporaries when an older widower remarried. 'That's a lot off the children's plate', meaning the adult children could go about their lives now that their father was seen to. Otherwise would they have to take over helping with domestic chores, etc? That was my understanding.
I'd like to think this mindset is dying off.
posted by readery at 8:06 PM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


I suspect that cis het women need to build a heroic narrative around parasitic relationships because they aren’t given access to anything else.

We, like other human beings, have (and have 'access to') what we have for many more reasons than that they were given to us. women do make and take things, sometimes, even heterosexual ones. we don't sit passively weeping with empty begging hands outstretched quite all of the time.

the other thing is that you don't build heroic narratives around men you are able to respect.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:30 PM on June 20, 2018 [23 favorites]


This made me very angry. So he was 19 years older than she was. That’s the age difference between me and my daughter. He was 56 and she was 37, when they got together. Perfectly normal. Coincidentally, I am 55 right now! The men my age are much too busy hitting on my daughter and her friends to ever glance at a woman their own age. I won’t even get into the large “whoops I forgot to have kids but i’m ready now!” subset of 50 something males. Or the ones with toddlers and 30 year old wives. And yet somehow, 37 year old men are not, by and large, interested in dating 55 year old women. In this culture, the older man and the younger woman garner no comment at all but the opposite, not so much.

This would all be very well and just one bitter woman’s rant but nowadays everyone wants to deny that they age, that anyone ages, that we’re not all just the same adults together. Except we are not, and depending on your genes, the years between 70 and 80 for most people will bring changes just as extreme as those you hit between ages 10 and 20. I spent my own 40s watching this progression in first my father, who died at 74, and then my mother, who died at 81 and then my aunt, who died at 86. It’s not an easy progression to watch and you’re a damn fool if you don’t come away from it knowing that there too, in the fullness of time, you also will be.

Being single, I fortunately never had to watch my much older husband go through it and then myself end up, hello, alone. I never had to think that he must have known, but arrogantly chose to ignore, that he would be elderly and in need of care and I would be - stuck. Both then and later. Because 55 year old women are a glut on the market: see above. It’s a trap and it’s a pity and a shame that it’s such a common and well regarded one.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2018 [52 favorites]


none of us have the power to withdraw from the tyranny of patriarchy altogether, but it is absolutely not typical of present-day heterosexual women in the main that we are able to take 19-years-older men seriously as long-term prospects. cupid's dart alighteth where it listeth or whatever, but even the more self-destructive of us usually have the perspective to keep old men for a season and then let them go and let them be.

I fall in love as foolishly as anyone, but there's loving someone, there's marrying them, and then there's adopting them as one might adopt a child or a pet. we should all love whom we love, but adopting a grown man is a bad bargain even if he is not about to predictably decline and fall in the same decade your dad will.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:42 PM on June 20, 2018 [27 favorites]


I wish I could change my username to “And obviously whatever I just said doesn’t apply to shitty people, I am never referring to them”
posted by bleep at 8:56 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


If they'd married earlier, while she was investing worldly goods in his comfort, she'd have widow's rights to his Social Security, yes?

(Was anyone else thinking of Strong Poison? Not the murder part, the proposed terrible deal between a male artist and a female one.)
posted by clew at 10:02 PM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


And yet somehow, 37 year old men are not, by and large, interested in dating 55 year old women.

I plan on spending my later years being scandalous and seducing half-drunk college boys by promising to teach them how to give pleasure to the girls they want to seduce.

I will consider this my donation to those girls' happiness.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:38 PM on June 20, 2018 [25 favorites]


the thought of dating a guy 19 years younger than me is grotesque, unimaginably revolting. good god. a 20 year old? i didn't want to date guys that age when I WAS 20. they don't wash their junk and they expect you to do their laundry.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:07 PM on June 20, 2018 [48 favorites]


If they'd married earlier, while she was investing worldly goods in his comfort, she'd have widow's rights to his Social Security, yes?

No, she's not old enough (if I'm doing the math right). When she turns 60, she'll be eligible; the date of the marriage won't matter. But it sounds like her benefits would be superior to his, so the only advantage is that she can begin drawing his (likely meager) at 60 and then switch over to hers at the full retirement age or later. SS "survivor benefit" doesn't mean double payments.
posted by praemunire at 11:21 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


I am not straight, but I recognize myself in this. I recognize my personality, how easy it would be to slip into a caregiver role out of fear of loss, how easy it would be to just do it myself when things aren't done how I want them to be; and I have been fighting both geographic lonliness that makes me yearn for company, and the knowledge that I simply do not have the energy to bring someone new into my life.

This essay was heart-wrenching, and I honestly mourn a bit for the author who had the luck to fall in love with someone who did not reciprocate in emotional and household labor. All the research she did--about the lightbulbs, making the house more accessible, finding the house to begin with--I can see myself in all of this if ever I fall into the same kind of unbalanced relationship, and there is a slow-simmering anger that sometimes, I feel I am the only person I know (even among friends) who goes to these lengths to prevent handwave-whatever in advance. it's possible my sample size is too small

I might be projecting. This essay terrifies me.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:33 PM on June 20, 2018 [20 favorites]


To be fair though, separate laundry bins would have helped.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:31 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Only I didn’t want to be yelled at. I wanted him to make more time for me by taking over a little of what I was doing for us, and to do so on a routine basis instead of for special occasions or to placate me when I was in a “mood.”


This quote follows a panel where he says he’ll yell at her if she isn’t drawing enough. In that panel she asks him when she is supposed to draw.

I’m feeling this so hard right now. I’m supposed to be healing from a serious illness that I’m in a hospital for and I’m with a dude who...isn’t actually taking care of me but thinks he is.

The thing about men leaving women when women get sick? I’ve had that too and it’s also awful.

I would like someone to take over more than ‘a little’ and I want that person to be a Ken to actually take over. Having to cruise direct all the details of what needs doing is awful. I don’t want to have to say ‘these are the very specific ways I need to be cared for,’ have my partner not do those things, and then have him be sad that I’m upset while he says he wishes there was more he could do. He could do the Fucking very specific things I requested when he asked what he could do. I’m not asking for things that adult men are incapable of. I’m asking for comforting drinks and protein rich foods from a major super market that is literally a five minute walk away. If he can’t find what I ask for he just guesses at something else instead of letting me make choices. And yet he’s happy to ask me to make choices about things that don’t affect me. I tell these stories in person (thanks Metafilter visitor!!!) and they sound pretty funny but I think it’s obvious how upsetting it is.

I’m sorry. I’m really angry about being a caretaker for a well person while I am unwell.

Carolita and her partner were both well for 7 years together but I bet she caught a cold sometimes and I wonder how she remembers his caregiving in those times. I want to whisk Carolita to Crone Island where real estate is affordable and caretaking is appreciated and not taken for granted.

My relationship advice for all people is still : watch the hour long video on YouTube called Sliding vs Deciding. Make active decisions about your relationshio status with your partner. Do not assume who will take which roles. Don’t move in together because it’s convenient or for geography reasons or financial reasons. Move in together because you are making a mutual long term commitment to each other. Do not continue in a relationship out of obligation or social pressure. Continue because you are choosing and because you truly feel chosen. See also: Gottman, John and Julie (t really upsets me when people don’t mention her name in their research. Please credit Julie too. I’m half tempted to just cite the work as hers and watch people tell me I’ve spelled John wrong.)
posted by bilabial at 3:40 AM on June 21, 2018 [76 favorites]


This NYT article about elderly people at a singles' club has stuck with me for literal decades and is relevant to this discussion:
What would be her idea of the perfect man at this point in her life?

Florence said she had taken care of her husband for 14 years before he died. She had loved him, but it is not something she wants to go through again. She smiled slyly, then said, ''I would like a note from his doctor stating that he's healthy -- or if he isn't, that he only has six months to live.''

Her companions whooped with laughter. They could have been any group of women anywhere, indulging in a favorite pastime: trashing men. They giggled over the line about single men at On Top of the World: ''All they want is a nurse with a purse.''
posted by palindromic at 4:51 AM on June 21, 2018 [20 favorites]


Anyone else reading this thread, who is married to an older man?

It sure puts a voice to the worries.

I will say my husband is not like the guy in the cartoon, at all. He is happy to do domestic or emotional labor, and he does it well. I never feel like he is shirking things and assuming the woman will take care of them. But the future is still a worry.
posted by elizilla at 5:47 AM on June 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Anyone else reading this thread, who is married to an older man?

My younger wife is a MetaFilter member, but she rarely visits the site anymore. I did mention this thread to her, but she didn't seem interested, and (not for the first time) advised to me to quit wasting time "hate-reading" stuff on the internet.

I did think the linked article was great, though.
posted by JeffL at 5:57 AM on June 21, 2018


JFC I love her work and have been reading her for years and this is crushing.

Thank you for posting, I would not have seen this if it hadn't been here. Good Filtering.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:24 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]



Anyone else reading this thread, who is married to an older man?

I am married to a man 14 years older than me, we have an 8 year old child. Reading this brings up some interesting but disturbing thoughts for me. My father died from a brain tumour when I was 10, and he was in his forties, and the care that we gave him in his illness was borne out of love and thankfulness for the wonderful hands on dad that he was in the 70’s and 80’s when this was a rarity. We would have done it forever, had we needed to.

But now I am married to a man who is 14 years older than me and we have a young child. He isn’t great with self care, and has some ongoing health issues, and somehow the age gap that seemed fine when we met 20 years ago suddenly feels like more of a looming monster than it did before. Overall he is conscious of the disparities in our relationship, and works to address this and to do his fair share this but you can’t really get round the age gap.

As I age too, I worry who will be looking after who but also about the ‘lost’ years that being with a much older partner mean. And at the same time my experiences with my father tell me that you get no guarantees of health regardless of age, but you know that sickness is a given eventually for one partner or the other.

I hope that the author is able to find some peace. I would really like to hear more from her.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 7:48 AM on June 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


I plan on spending my later years being scandalous and seducing half-drunk college boys by promising to teach them how to give pleasure to the girls they want to seduce.

I will consider this my donation to those girls' happiness.


I'm currently doing this at 42. It's awesome. (and you can send them home after)
posted by fluttering hellfire at 7:57 AM on June 21, 2018 [12 favorites]


Wow. I kept thinking this would go someplace else, someplace explosive or cathartic or feminist-preachy. And instead, it just was. I know that the ambivalence is intentional, but wow is it a hard place to just sit and be in. Kudos. But I wish there was a trigger warning for whatever it is I'm feeling-not-feeling right now.
posted by Mchelly at 8:00 AM on June 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


I never like dating older guys because they wanted to give fatherly advice and protection which, no thanks, I already have a dad, and at the same time expected you to do everything their mom did. Sadly this cartoon reaffirmed that because of the "yell at you to draw more!" part after all of her unnoticed labor.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


This is a great piece, so honest. It feels cold, but it's not cold: she's just shifted the empathy to acknowledge her own plight.

I have been the support person for both my parents as she got Alzheimer's and he had a stroke and other health problems. I was a single parent for years and work as a nurse. My whole life is about caregiving. So as different as my life is from this it certainly resonates.

It was hard to read. I kept imagining Michael's grown kids: I bet they have a different perspective. But it was so good.
posted by latkes at 8:22 AM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


Over the years, there's a type of guy I've become well acquainted with, not just from my own experience but that of my sisters, my mom, and my mom's friends. This type of guy is preoccupied with earning and saving money, to the exclusion of serious intimate relationships. The reason: he sees a girlfriend or wife as an expensive burden, not as an asset.

This type of guy thus stays determinedly single until late middle age, when, as retirement and/or infirmity approaches, having a woman in his life becomes an asset, not a liability. At that point, he's perfectly willing to get involved with a woman, though to what degree will depend on his inner cheapskate. The more reasonable fellow is willing to marry to secure his caregiver. The cheapest will prefer to find a woman whose own financial situation makes her a little desperate, more likely to stick with him even though she gets nothing more from him than vague promises of taking care of her or remembering her in his will. Of course, once the guy dies, the girlfriend/caregiver finds out she wasn't taken care of, and there's nothing for her in his will.

I've seen this played out numerous times over the years, and it still makes me angry that the person with the money calculatedly takes emotional as well as financial advantage of the person without. They cloak their exploitation in a supposedly romantic relationship because it saves them so much money to do so.

So (sigh) put me down as one who doesn't believe her partner would have reciprocated had the tables been turned. I believe he would've been out of there in a hot minute.
posted by Lunaloon at 8:24 AM on June 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


I guess what I keep thinking about is how the US opposition to socialist policies exacerbates gender disparity. Imagine how this story would be different if New York had mass scale social housing, so limited income workers could have secure and affordable housing? Imagine if artists were compensated by robust government funding programs? Imagine if in home caregivers were subsidized? And if there was a guaranteed old age pension that kept up with inflation instead of the income based crumbs of social security? None of these interventions would cure gender disparities, but without mass community welfare programs like these, sexism is exploited, consciously and unconsciously to pile all the work onto women's backs.
posted by latkes at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2018 [46 favorites]


>I can't imagine love being stronger than resentment, in a situation like this.

It's a seeesaw. First you love and invest and shape yourself in a certain way to fit the available space, and then as you creep past the fulcrum things begin to feel stranger and more unsettled and starts to wobble toward the other side. By the time the other side slams into the ground it may be incredibly difficult to get out.


There's some sunk-cost fallacy in this too. "Surely I wouldn't have made all these sacrifices if I didn't love him. Surely it was worth it. Surely no one regrets caring for a loved one."
posted by maryr at 8:30 AM on June 21, 2018 [21 favorites]


Wow. This is hitting way to close to home right now.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:44 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Don’t move in together because it’s convenient or for geography reasons or financial reasons. Move in together because you are making a mutual long term commitment to each other. Do not continue in a relationship out of obligation or social pressure.

I'll add to this: Sure as shit don't do it because you have really good health insurance and your partner doesn't so you think "hey, we've been together for a while, we own a house (which you were against buying, but she did it anyway, but never mind), so we might as well make it official because, you know, she could really benefit from my health insurance." I mean, just at baseline, that's a really bad reason to enter into a legal union, and I know that now. But it's especially maddening when you learn during the divorce that for all of her vague complaints about financial instability, which were backed up by her asking you to reimburse her the $3.12 she spent on the onions and potatoes you asked her to pick up at the grocery store, she was actually making more than twice your salary the entire time.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:12 AM on June 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


I can't imagine love being stronger than resentment, in a situation like this. But most hetero relationships seem like this, so maybe I'm just wired differently.

I mean - I don’t know, like, I come from a family of immigrants who were practical as fuck about marriages and kind of look askance at pure love matches, so it’s easy for me to say “normally in this situation when you care for the other spouse you will then inherit something as a sort-of-reward for taking care of them”, like, that normally the hetero patriarchal equation is you take care of the dude emotionally and he takes care of you financially. I literally can’t even imagine a reason to take care of a dude both emotionally /and/ financially if you don’t want him to give you children. Like what are you actually getting from that relationship? It’s weird to me.
posted by corb at 9:28 AM on June 21, 2018 [15 favorites]


I'm a disabled, chronically ill man with a similarly selfless wife, and I am having many feelings at the moment.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:33 AM on June 21, 2018 [13 favorites]


My husband is 11 years older than I am. He also has bipolar. He's expressively grateful about a lot of the things I do for the two of us (handle financial matters, work the job with health insurance), and he does what he can when he can. It's still a lot of caregiving, which is talked about in my family as the thing women do (although many of the older women have sidestepped it by being wealthy or by using hypochondria as a way to discard those duties.)

The age gap isn't nearly as big as in the essay, but it puts a finger on some of the fears I have, as well as some of the thoughts I think.
posted by PussKillian at 9:38 AM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


This type of guy thus stays determinedly single until late middle age, when, as retirement and/or infirmity approaches, having a woman in his life becomes an asset, not a liability. At that point, he's perfectly willing to get involved with a woman, though to what degree will depend on his inner cheapskate.

It is truly amazing how many men who have skipped out on, fluffed over, and generally disregarded many of their family responsibilities develop an acute appreciation for family ties when they hit middle age and start needing people to bring them home from day procedures, or just start feeling lonely.
posted by praemunire at 9:41 AM on June 21, 2018 [19 favorites]


This was my mother, in many ways.
posted by PMdixon at 10:15 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Selfless" should be a word we use to express concern, not praise. No one should lose their self.
posted by PMdixon at 10:16 AM on June 21, 2018 [27 favorites]


I'm a disabled, chronically ill man with a similarly selfless wife, and I am having many feelings at the moment.

FWIW, what's hitting a lot of us reading this isn't, "she spent years of her life taking care of someone who didn't contribute money or housework to the relationship," but "she spent years taking care of someone who seemed to think that of course she would wrap her life around his comforts, of course she would give up opportunities for him, of course his preferences would always come first and hers would only be tolerated if they didn't bother him."

If you can't do much housework, you can ask which parts of the housework she hates most, and try to help with those. Even if you can't *do* them, you can almost certainly make them easier: Stack dishes so they're easier to wash; sort laundry into ready-to-wash baskets; organize the bills in chrono order by due date -- help out with whatever part of the task she finds most frustrating. That may not be "the part you think is hardest."

Find out which parts of the cognitive load she dislikes most. Again, this may not be the parts you think are the worst. Maybe she's fine with researching medical options but hates filling out online forms, or vice versa. Maybe she's fine with all of that if there's music she likes in the background. Maybe what she really wants is a half hour after she gets home from work, in which absolutely nothing is asked of her, not even "how'd it go today?"

The point is to work toward a partnership based on who you both are and what resources you have.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:24 AM on June 21, 2018 [54 favorites]


I feel for the author. I can see it happening to me, too, though I am not as self-sufficient.

If something happened to my husband, I would not even so much as date again. Fuck that, so much.
posted by corvikate at 10:33 AM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


And yet at the same time, I’m sure he loved her, and her, him.

I love my nice new mattress, too, but I won’t cry when it stops doing the job for which I got it and I throw it away. It’s a tool and a thing, not a person.

He loved her, sure.
posted by winna at 11:26 AM on June 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


You know, I've been mulling over this and after reading the obituary I really want to just come out and say this: I'm really tired of seeing men be celebrated as beloved when behind the scenes there were multiple women who gave them the place and security to do what made them beloved to those who are oblivious to this. It begins with mothers and carries on to wives (yes, likely multiple). And if the women speak out about their experiences of living in said man's shadow, even if they don't condemn him for it, they are dismissed or viewed as bitter harpies who should have just APPRECIATED that they got to spend their lives with someone so great, when really, they aren't that great to have lived with. It doesn't have to be an abusive relationship for it to be detrimental to someone else. To which, I say:

FUCK THAT.
posted by Young Kullervo at 11:26 AM on June 21, 2018 [37 favorites]


FWIW, what's hitting a lot of us reading this isn't, "she spent years of her life taking care of someone who didn't contribute money or housework to the relationship," but "she spent years taking care of someone who seemed to think that of course she would wrap her life around his comforts, of course she would give up opportunities for him, of course his preferences would always come first and hers would only be tolerated if they didn't bother him."

Specifically for me, the part where she first spent down her life's accumulation on housing and comforts for him; then gave up her job*, declared bankruptcy, and was left with a month's rent to her name.

*at the New Yorker (it was impled) which should rehire her pronto.

He should at least have seen to making sure she wasn't left broke. That really sucked.
posted by Dashy at 11:28 AM on June 21, 2018 [13 favorites]


How do we get oblivious partners to open their eyes? How do women learn to avoid the increase in health problems that is linked to this obliviousness?
posted by crunchy potato at 11:54 AM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


Dashy she is still actively cartooning for the NYer, I read that part as her giving up her day job. Or maybr she is now actively cartooning again since he died? I am not sure now.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 2:53 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


The one thing I've tried to do is only date people who can take reasonable care of themselves physically and financially. Not a bodybuilder/financial analyst who never gets sick, just be an adult who likes to better himself and figure out problems.*

When I've bent those rules, it was too draining and frustrating. It is really sad how few people fit this description. I look forward to living alone, but with a life and home that is really mine.

I can't wait to read all the other parts. It sounds like a graphic version of this book on divorce and money, Feminine Mistake.

*An unemployed man who was going back to school, learning new software, and hitting the gym was great to me.
posted by Freecola at 5:33 PM on June 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


The one thing I've tried to do is only date people who can take reasonable care of themselves physically and financially.

My husband was taking care of himself physically and financially when we got together. That didn't stop him from turning all the household chores over to me, refusing to discuss his declining health, and giving up on his business unless I managed all the paperwork and "encouraged" him to work on it but managed not to "nag" about it.

I believe that looking for someone competent and self-sufficient kept me from several years of passive-aggressive BS at the beginning of the relationship, but I'm not sure there's any red flags to identify "this man is eventually going to expect his wife to act like his mother."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:46 PM on June 21, 2018 [15 favorites]


I am a woman married to an older woman, and we often quasi-joke that I am a bit more 'adulty' and/or neurotic about things like laundry and budgets and Planning and etc. And yet, we had to buy a car last year, I'd never bought a car before and she had, and I basically said "all of this is confusing and hard and can you please take most of this on because LOL IDK" and SHE DID. And I just..... sure, in a lot of relationships one person might be 'better' at some aspects of household management. But I can't imagine being in a relationship where you're that person and you never even get to have things where you can just tell your spouse "I need you to do this because my arms are flailing" and they just do it and you don't have to babysit them or beg them.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:57 PM on June 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


How do we get oblivious partners to open their eyes?

Leaving them and telling them why is always a good start. what is the line -- it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his comfort depends upon his not understanding it. Something like that. that is never going to stop being true.

How do women learn to avoid the increase in health problems that is linked to this obliviousness?

women don't have a lot to learn in this area, really. No amount of re-learning what we already know will help women avoid contemptuous mistreatment. We avoid it not by learning anything in particular, but by leaving men who harm our health.

most women who treasure their marriages above themselves will fall back on talking about learning when the real problem is doing. and people hate this answer because it isn't easy or fair. but being a doormat until one's husband dies isn't easy or fair either. some would say, less so.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:39 PM on June 22, 2018 [9 favorites]


If something happened to my husband, I would not even so much as date again. Fuck that, so much.

I say this often but my mother was a widow from very early in my life, and as she went on into and past her sixties, a lot of her friends and acquaintances were other widows. and she told me once that it was a funny thing, not a single one of her widowed friends had ever considered marrying again. I asked her why she thought this was, curious what she'd say, because she was never the enraged feminist I have always been.

and she said it wasn't like none of them were interested in men anymore; she thought it was because after having been married for years, once you get used to being alone in a house that belongs absolutely to you, you don't give it up for anything. you have your amusements, she said, but like vampires, you don't invite a man over the threshold. not to stay. not with legal privileges.

anyway I always thought it was funny how men have historically viewed untouchable widows with awed respect -- oh, how much she must have loved him, to never take another man after him. yeah, that's one explanation, boys, sure.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:40 AM on June 23, 2018 [27 favorites]


Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour.

All my classmates were pissed at 15 year old me for saying very loudly that she was imagining her freedom and having it taken away fucking killed her.


I’m sure it wasn’t a new or particularly nuanced reading of the story and my (female) teacher didn’t act terribly impressed with me over that one. But boy, were some teenage boys trying to explain to me that I didn’t understand how love wooooorks.
posted by bilabial at 7:47 AM on June 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


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