A Follow-up to the Divorce Post

Thinking about the mixed, and strong, reactions to my post about my divorce.

Any time I’m surprised by people’s reactions to something I’ve written, I know I’ve failed as a writer. I tend to write about controversial topics, especially topics I haven’t made my mind up on. And the way I think about things tends to be quite different than. So it’s certainly not uncommon for my posts to strike a chord I don’t expect.

I also tend to fear overexplaining, both out of a desire to never condescend to my readers, and also for the sake of brevity. But sometimes that means I make assumptions about what people think or know which aren’t appropriate. So here are some things that I didn’t explicitly say in my post that perhaps I should have.

That I made the right choice to leave my husband doesn’t mean you made the wrong one to stay with yours. Like, people are different, and different things are right for them. That’s basically the premise of my sex-positive feminism. True, I’ve had big adventures and a fun, if scary and stressful, life since I’ve left my husband. But maybe you have had equally big adventures and an equally fun, if scary and stressful life with yours. I do not claim to know. I only know what happened to me.

In fact, I don’t know that I could not have had those adventures with him. Counterfactuals are impossible to know. I just know that I left him, and then had them. And I know I felt like I couldn’t have them with him.

We can acknowledge that most people want to be fat while acknowledging that part of the reason for this is fat-phobia. In the article, I write “The best part of marriage for women is economic gain. Otherwise, it makes them fat, unhealthy, and socially isolated.” So, listing fat along with unhealthy and socially isolated definitely connotes that I think fat is a bad thing. I should have been more sensitive in my writing.

I do not think fat is a bad thing. I think fat is morally neutral. I think fat shaming is a bad thing. I do, however, think, based on the research I’ve seen, that most people don’t want to be fat. The reason for that is mostly, I think, fat phobia. So that’s why I listed it along with things that people generally don’t want to be. That’s definitely a nuanced position which I have been meaning to write about at length. I should have clarified that I’m not personally fat phobic and I don’t support fat shaming.

Your mileage may vary. The data on marriage generally states that it’s a good deal for men and of little benefit or possibly harmful to women. Now, I’m not claiming the data is super convincing or the issue is settled. But I think the data is definitely interesting, if for no other reason than it’s counter-intuitive. However, these are averages. Which means you may have lost weight after you got married, or gotten more friends, or gotten healthier. Maybe marriage is the best thing that ever happened to you. That’s really neither here nor there when it comes to averages.

A friend wrote: “I think the overall issue with your article is that it comes off as judgmental to those of us who are in happy marriages and don’t have the regrets.”

This really took me aback. Because I genuinely feel zero judgement toward married women, whether they’re happy or not. If anything, I feel tremendous envy toward women who seem to have it all — fulfilling careers, personal achievement, great bodies, and happy families.

I have tremendous angst about the sacrifice I’m making by not prioritizing getting married and/or having kids. I’m not at all sure I’m making the right decision, or that I won’t have regrets. What I know, though, is that life is full of tradeoffs.

I guess I also worry that some of the defensive reactions to my post are a sign that these women are unsure whether they are totally okay with the sacrifices they’ve made to stay married.

Because I wasn’t saying you should leave your husband. I was saying I don’t regret leaving mine.

And I don’t blame women for being insecure about their choices. Because the culture tells women that we’re supposed to want to get married and have kids more than the things I’ve wanted instead. People in the thread were actually mocking me for being proud of accomplishments like travel and TV. And I’m not immune from thinking that kids and a husband are more meaningful and fulfilling than traipsing through Europe or cable fucking news. At the same time, what makes sperm+egg more important than influencing the national conversation about freedom? Why would I be so self-important as to think the world needs my offspring? Why would I be so self-important as to think the world needs my thoughts about politics?

When I take a step back I realize there’s no meaning, except what we make for ourselves.

But I also recognize societal pressure. I recognize that it’s not really okay to wonder whether staying married and/or having kids was worth the other dreams you sacrificed for them. Because other people are involved. And you’re not supposed to regret what you do for other people.

At the end of the day, what friend 1 said is right:

“The important thing to take away from your article is to live your life true to yourself. If you are unhappy with the way your life is heading CHANGE it. I think it’s most important though that we respect one another despite our choices in life being different.”

Right, exactly.

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