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September 25, 2006

Adultery: Plan B For The PoMo Female?

I suppose nothing should shock me anymore; even that in the post-feminist era the once forbidden thrill of adultery has become just another lifestyle choice likened to treating oneself to that yummy household cleaner down at the local Piggly Wiggly:

"I was talking with my therapist today," my girlfriend tells me. "I deny myself pleasure," she says, with wistful resignation.

Midforties, attractive, relationships but never the white dress ("divorces without the wedding," she calls them), my girlfriend has enticing men circling the nest—the Elvis look-alike Yugoslavian sailor, the Richard Gere look-alike Italian ("former") porn star. Doesn't she sleep with them? Or at least masturbate?

"So," I venture innocently, "like, er, what would be an example of depriving yourself of pleasure?"

"Well," she says, "like the other day, I was in the supermarket and I bought the $2.19 toilet cleaner instead of the $2.99 one that I really like that smells like lavender." After making a quick mental note of the name of the good stuff, I offer my sympathies.

Toilets, cleaning, and female pleasure: My friend is in Laura Kipnis territory.

Kipnis is the feisty author of Against Love: A Polemic (2003), a witty, well-argued rant against the trials, tribulations, and—lest one forget—virtual impossibility of monogamy. Kipnis covered the ins and outs—social, emotional, biological, ethical—of adultery. Her conclusion? Go for it. Besides, you probably will anyway. We are, after all, not one of the 3 percent of mammal species that are naturally monogamous, and now, with genetic testing, it looks like even female birds can be two-nesting sluts. Tweet-tweet.

Kipnis doesn't think much of love either, calling it "both intoxicating and delusional, but in the end, toxic: an extended exercise in self-deception." On the other hand, she suggests, "a citizenry who fucked in lieu of shopping would soon bring the entire economy grinding to a standstill." Such a society does in fact exist: the lascivious little bonobos of the Congo. Genetically, we are 98 percent like the bonobos—and now we know what that 2 percent discrepancy entails: Retail. (And tails.)

Though breezy and enjoyably written, the article leaves me with a downright post coital sense of tristesse. After four and a half decades of earnest post feminist navel gazing, we have the answer to all our unfulfilled yearnings; we should, we're told, blithely make promises we have no intention of honoring? Follow your bliss!

After all, someone will no doubt be around to pick up the pieces. Very likely an attorney.

This appears to be what LBJ's Great Society and forty years of liberal legislation intended to help women have wrought: the paradoxical notion that promises aren't worth the paper they're written on: entirely optional, unilaterally rescindable, and nonbinding. All of which begs the question, why even bother to get married anymore? What's the point?

Of course humans aren't naturally monogamous. If they were we wouldn't need marriage vows. They would have no significance. There would be no consideration to support the marriage contract, nothing given up by either party to support those supposedly sacred promises, that so fragile illusion of trust.

I am always amused by supposedly knowledgable sources who argue that women don't ever think about sex or cheating; that marriage is a one-way street, an unfair bargain in which women give up nothing and men give up everything. Nonsense.

There is a reason for the Muslim fear of female sexuality.

There is also a great deal of truth to the notion that many women suppress the sexual side of their personalities, especially during the childbearing years. Not only is it a distraction, but we often find a certain amount of societal ambivalence to that part of our nature, even in America, even in this supposedly open society. People want to classify women. She's a career woman. She's a lady. She's a mother. She's a slut. She's religious. She's a bookish type. God forbid a woman be more than one of those things at once - we find it almost unbearably annoying. It confounds people's expectations. Witness Michael Noer's recent foray into psychoanalyzing women: "Stay away from career types - they'll just cheat on you."

The other reason a career can hurt a marriage will be obvious to anyone who has seen his or her mate run off with a co-worker: When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase that he or she will meet someone more likable than you. "The work environment provides a host of potential partners," researcher Adrian J. Blow reported in The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, "and individuals frequently find themselves spending a great deal of time with these individuals."

There's more: According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extramarital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 times more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas). Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.

Aside from displaying an amusing distain for the fact that both of these observations apply equally (if not more so) to the male side of the house, (Should the little homemaker avoid marrying a well-educated man who makes over $30,000? Good heavens - who will bring home the bacon?) Noer's entire essay ignores the fact that no one marries a demographic. We marry individuals, and hopefully individuals we have come to know well over the course of several months or years, with whom we share common goals, morals, values, dreams.

But male or female, there is nothing more depressing than someone who has abandoned hope. A while back, sitting on the ocean in Islamorada, I sat sipping some rum-laced concoction while the ocean breezes playfully lifted tendrils of hair off the nape of my neck. Unfortunately, they also carried strains of conversation from the next table over to where I sat, eyes closed in bliss.

"American women are the worst", he said. "I never date them anymore. You can't beat Latin women. They'll do anything for you. Anything, man..."

Dear. Sweet. Jesus. Take me now.

I must have done something really awful in a previous life, and I'm being punished for it. That's it, isn't it?

"Yeah. You're totally right about that. American women, they are so arrogant. Latin women know their place. They know how to make you feel like a man."

I open one eye and glance over at the next table, expecting a bevy of young Adonises. Surely I am about to feast my aging perimenopausal eyeballs on a veritable buffet of manliness. I'd better hurry before the Spousal Unit gets back. After all, it would be bad form to let him catch me ogling the local "eye candy", such as it is. But then I don't tend to look at other men - had he not chosen to enlighten us all with the Mysteries of the Latin World, I wouldn't be looking at him at all.

Batchelor #1, from what I can see through my squinty eyeball, is in his early 20s and already has what can only be termed "ze handles of love". He is also completely sloshed. It is 10:30 in the morning. I do not hold this against him since I am already idly working on my second drink, but unlike him, I am not holding forth at the top of my lungs about my sexual exploits in a bar. At some point, I am reminded of a Ron White joke from You Can't Fix Stupid.

Apparently he was visiting Ft. Polk, where there are about 30,000 Army guys stationed. And after he mentioned that fact, a very nicely dressed women yelled out, "Yeah, and every one of 'em's a bad f*ck!".

To which he replied something to the effect of, "Wow. After the first 20,000 or so, I might start to wonder if *I* might be part of the problem. After all, you seem to be the only common denominator in that little equation of love..."

Like these guys, our adulterous author is disappointed, cynical, and afraid of taking chances and now she wants to hedge her bets, to indulge in a little pre-emptive cheating on the theory that nice gals finish unsatisfied.

It's an interesting theory. But as so often happens when I read such "post-feminist" works, I end up thinking that they only confirm so-called "outdated" stereotypes about the inability of women to think logically, for even if feminists don't always want to admit the obvious biological disadvantages our ability to bear children confer upon us, they have ever been ready to remind the patriarchy of the many other ways in which women are not 'empowered' in a male dominated society. How well do they really expect women to fare in a dog eat dog world where commitment means nothing, promises are not honored, and we can trust no one?

Female masochism again raises its head with the curious current practice of "hooking up," where girls claim sexual "freedom," while the boys enjoy a waking wet dream. As for this new romance—more accurately described as the blowjob-in-the-toilet encounter—Kipnis writes, "at least under the old femininity, you got taken to dinner." Indeed, if this is female liberation, then give me death—or at least some decent "pompous and deliberate" digital subjugation. Wouldn't feminism dictate just the opposite: the eat-me-then-get-out-of-my-bedroom romance? I'll sign everyone up.

In "Envy," Kipnis updates the eternal mystery of what women want (Freud, Freud everywhere, so much for our despair). There is always, she explains, something "invariably missing," hence, the "underlying sense of female inadequacy." The "Feisty Feminist," she writes, "wanted to have what men have, without stopping to consider whether it was worth having."

It was never lack of interest that kept me from cheating during those long years when my husband was overseas, or in the field. Nor was it some spellbound sense of female submission, or pleasure avoidance.

It was the knowledge that something precious would have been violated, even if I got away with it (and I almost certainly would have - I never got caught as a teen, when leading my friends through this or that crazy scheme). I would have known that the promise had been broken, even if no one else ever knew. And aside from all the other very good reasons not to do an obviously wrong and destructive thing, aside from not wanting to lose something I valued, there was simply this: I would never look at myself or my husband in the same way again. I would become, like Laura Kipnis, one of the disappointed who settle for illusory promises they don't believe in, then find themselves feeling unsatisfied because they have ignored one of the oldest truths in human existence.

Everyone wants to believe. But belief comes with a price tag, the risk of being disappointed or betrayed. No guts, no glory. It's so much easier to be cynical. Cynics certainly write more books. And the disappointed buy them, and follow their advice.

And a few deluded Pollyannas will undoubtedly continue to put their stock in outdated things like promises and commitment, even if sometimes it doesn't work out so well, because if you look beyond the
individual case, these are the building blocks on which societies are built. To use a well worn cliche, you can't build a house on shifting sand, even if you're an author of an entertaining book about love, orgasm, and female masochism. Perhaps especially not then.

Posted by Cassandra at September 25, 2006 06:41 AM


So, I guess we won't be hooking up then?
(Running away, laughing maniacally...)

Posted by: camojack at September 25, 2006 08:23 AM

Now you know why I put my photo on that page. Deterrence has its uses... :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 08:38 AM

Dear God in heaven. Our society is now fleshing out the ethic that integrity is bad -- a view that once would only have been emitted from the mouth of the devil in some tired byronic college drama. Now, we're officially toying with the cosmology that There Is No-one In The Universe Other Than Me. When you become a liar to maximise your pleasure, you kill the ones you love, whether you actually have time to see them die or not before you die alone.

The courage to Be, you say? Why not just take it all the way? If you can betray your spouse for a shudder in the loins, why not drown your children in the bathtub for an afternoon of quiet? Why not?

Posted by: Tim Smith at September 25, 2006 08:47 AM

Et tu, polly? :)

Just kidding. I couldn't resist, Tim.

What I can never figure out is why people like this get married in the first place. I can understand not believing in it all. Lots of folks don't.

But if I were that person, who needs the confining nonsense if you are not a believer? Why not have the courage of your convictions and be a real bohemian? Don't make someone else pay the price of your cynicism - be honest. That's what I can't understand.

I'll tell you why: part of them does want to believe. But they are either so selfish or so insecure that they have fallen into the Do Unto Others Before They Can Do Unto You trap. This way, the person who gets hurt is never them, and that's thus the most important rule of all, self-preservation, is observed.

You just hope they don't have kids.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 09:05 AM

I don't know.

I can deal with a lot of things.

I can deal with the fact that people screw up. It happens. There but for the grace of God.

What I can't deal with is people writing books about how this is a desireable state of affairs (pun intended).

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 09:11 AM

Well, I think this approach may work for some "enlightened" women in their 20's to 40's, before everything starts to sag. But I know one woman who took this approach, and she is now divorced from husband #3, her boy-toy (1 year older than her older son). She is 58, alone, not really looking like bar bait any more. She can dye the hair, but living a hedonistic existence takes its toll on the soul. She smiles, but it's just face muscles doing the work. A real smile comes from some happy-battery deep inside, and one can really tell the difference.

She is now just a self-centered aging (not gracefully) woman alone, back to living in an apartment at an age when most married couples are about to finish up on the mortgage and have some spending cash. She is bitter and jealous about what others have, though possessions just naturally accrue to people who stay together, and are not constantly having to do divisions of property in the divorce.

If she would have stayed with one of the guys, instead of constantly sampling the grass on the other side of the fence, they could be sagging together, and looking to have fun traveling or just staying home together.

Me? I prefer the ball and chain. Deliver me from such an empty existence!

Posted by: MathMom at September 25, 2006 09:16 AM

Why not "make someone else pay the price of your cynicism"? Why not? If fidelity to a marriage vow is only a tactic, to be changed like soiled bloomers, why would the initial vow not just be another tactic? After all, if we get past all that inconvenient paperwork, marriage is just a punctuation mark between last night and tonight.

Your failure to imagine the depth of this cynicism is so charmingly normal.

Posted by: Tim Smith at September 25, 2006 09:19 AM


I remember reading some apocalyptic novel years ago about what happens when people are left on some desert island (none of them with their original mates). In the beginning of course the men all competed like mad for the young hot chicas. I think one even killed another.

But after a while it was funny. They wised up and found that two of them were just maddening (or the smart men did) - they were narcissistic and self-centered. The smartest man - and handsomest - ended up, in the end, with a same-aged, chubby Polynesian woman who made him blissfully happy because she thoroughly enjoyed life and made his home a haven of tranquility. He could have had any of the women, but decided she was the one who brought peace, and contentment.

I guess I want to eat all the way to the bottom of the cherry bowl, not just to skim off the top over and over again. It's not the same experience. Not at all. But to each his own.

I just think people ought to be up front with each other about what they want in life, that's all - I'm not wild about people saying one thing and doing another.

On that note, I've been reading a lot of articles about the "cougar" phenomenon and it always cracks me up every time I go into a bar. WAAAAAY too scary.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 11:51 AM

the 'ins and outs' of adultery? Not with the fifty foot pole...

Posted by: Cricket at September 25, 2006 12:03 PM

Who said humans aren't? I know the natural man is an enemy to God, hence the contract/covenant nature of marriage and the Ten Suggestions.

Oops. I mean the thou shalt and shalt nots.
I loved what Scarlett unwittingly said to Rhett Butler about adultery when he asked her to be his mistress:
"But what would I get out of that but a passel of brats?"

I know abortifacients existed at that time, but so did morality and Rhett, despite his lustful intentions, did follow through with marriage and would have been a wonderful husband.

Posted by: Cricket at September 25, 2006 12:10 PM

Very perceptive, blogmistress.

I had a discussion with my daughters in the car that basically went: "A marriage is not about the white dress, or the party. It's about The Promise™. This is where you promise to love for the rest of your life. Oh, the honor, cherish and forsake all others stuff is basically commentary. If you love you will do those things. When you promise to love, you are not promising to feel love, you are not promising to only love if you are loved in return. You are promising to make the choice to love your beloved each and every day of your life.".

My daughter was aghast! "You mean you don't love mommy!?!?!?". I said: "No, of course I love mommy. I promised to do so. :)"

I hope she gets it some day.

What has happened is that society (at least in the U.S.) has decided not to support The Promise™. It is easier to get divorced (even over the objections of the other party in the contract) than it is to get out of a car lease.

And we wonder why men are afraid of getting married. They love their wife, are a wonderful provider, fabulous father and still find their wife has left them, taken their children and half or more of what they may have primarily earned with a note that says "I don't love you any more."

And heck, why should a man have to. With the advent of birth control, women everywhere sterilize the normal and sacred functioning of their bodies so they can make them available for the pleasure of men, risk free. And if an "accident happens", there's always Plan B, (when plan A[bstinence] always works). If plan B fails, there's always plan D & C. :P

And women have been liberated? Sheesh.

But to come, somewhat, to the defense of the boor who doesn't like American women, his crime was generalizing all American women by the stereotypes put out by Madison Avenue, Cosmo and MS. Magazine.

If he wants a deferential woman, he should indeed look for one. He'd also be more likely to find one in Latin America, Ukraine or even Iraq. But he shouldn't be faulted for wanting a certain type of woman, just like women should not be faulted for wanting a certain type of man. I'm trying to train my daughters to be discerning as to the type of man they will date and ultimately marry.

Posted by: Tony at September 25, 2006 12:15 PM

Cass -

"Cougar" phenomenon? Whazzat? (*blush...btw, what is PoMo? Post MoDo?*)

Posted by: MathMom at September 25, 2006 12:25 PM

Post Modern?

Posted by: MathMom at September 25, 2006 12:25 PM

Well, and I agree Tony, that a man should not be faulted for wanting a 'certain kind of woman', but if you read that New Yorker article, I wasn't too happy about the "certain type of woman" who was wanted. I find that in general, like attracts like :) Not always. But often. I noted that he certainly hadn't settled down with any of these "perfect Latin women".

How much do you want to be he is using them for sex, and when it comes time to get married, he will marry an American girl? That was what made me angry. Big talker. And very likely a big hypocrite who is using girls who are compliant because they have stars in their eyes but who are being taken for a ride.

I think most men fantasize about going back to a more old fashioned time and place, and with some good reason. But if you'd heard these guys at the beach, it was all a rather one-sided proposition. Very disturbing. Respect, as you note, is a two-way street. Real men understand that and will give as good as they get. This is why good women will give everything for them. But smart women respect themselves. I'm not a complete pollyanna - that doesn't always mean they wait until marriage in this age where everyone seems to get grad degrees and defer marriage.

But if they're smart they don't let themselves be taken advantage of.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 12:39 PM

Oh, and cougars are (I had to look it up too MMom) 40-something women who cruise bars hooking up with younger guys but don't want commitment. IOW, they act like men.

It cracks me up - every time I see it I think, "rrrawr!"

And PoMo is short for postmodern - you're right.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 12:43 PM

Thank you for the explanation of PoMo. I'm usually not bad at figuring out abbreviations, but that one lost me. :)

Posted by: Grim at September 25, 2006 01:07 PM

MathMan calls me his "trophy wife" (a huge 6-year difference in our ages... :) ) He says that even six years means I don't remember Buddy Holly and the things that were part of his generation's culture. He says he wouldn't want anyone any younger than me, because there would really be nothing to talk about in that shorthand of people who remember the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan, etc, or understand immediately all the connotations surrounding a guy's receipt of a letter from the government which starts out with the word "Greetings".

I have a friend from Ukraine who worked at a business there that connected American men who wanted a nice Russian or Ukrainian woman to marry, because they are "traditional". But when they get them here, they see what women can do, they change and become more American, and the guy is disappointed. What he wanted was a programmable model that he could keep from growing, not a real-woman person who would adapt and change like humans do. Can be very sad for the woman.

Posted by: MathMom at September 25, 2006 01:15 PM

This is true. I know a Vietnam Veteran who married a Pole who spoke no English. How disappointed he was when she learned! They divorced, but not before having two children, who grew up having to live with that.

Posted by: Grim at September 25, 2006 01:22 PM

If you love you will do those things. When you promise to love, you are not promising to feel love, you are not promising to only love if you are loved in return. You are promising to make the choice to love your beloved each and every day of your life.

Very perceptive. On multiple levels.
The action of love invariable leads to the emotion of love, much moreso than the emotion of love ever leads to the actions of love.

Which is why I about stood up and cheered when my pastor said in his sermon on marriage: "Why do you love me?" is an inappropriate question. The only answer to "Why?" is "Because..."

I love you "because you're funny"
I love you "because you're witty"
I love you "because you're charming"
I love you "because you're beautiful"
I love you "because you're kind"
I love you "because..."

Those things are all conditions. What happens when those conditions are no longer met? Will you no longer be loved?

Love is:
I love you. Period. Stop. End of sentence. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at September 25, 2006 02:22 PM

I can see where a lot that would be an issue if your ages are different, Math Mom. But I think you can run into some of the 'wanting to freeze time' phenomenon just when you're the same age. It's weird when you fall in love so young.

My husband and I literally grew up together, and growing apart has always been a big worry. I think that's one reason I've always liked both these songs, even though they're a bit corny. It's like a dance - you have to be willing to give each other the space to change without being threatened by losing what attracted you in the first place.

A lot of memories:

Well, I've been afraid of changing
cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
Im getting older too


I'm not a child anymore
I'm tall enough to reach for the stars
I'm old enough to love you from afar...
I'm not a child anymore

I will do
As I'm told
Even if I never hold you again
I never hold you again

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 02:43 PM

I'm glad MathMom asked about the "cougar" thing and the PoMo. Amazingly, I actually figured out the PoMo (lucky guess), but one that I've wondered about (and figured I was just missing it because of my newness to the blogosphere) is "meme". For one, how the H-E-Double Hockey sticks does one say that? As for what it is, I've kinda gotten that one figured out.....kinda...maybe...maybe not. Oh who knows. Where is Mullah 'Toda Yada Yada when I need someone to tell me what to think!!

Posted by: Sly2017 at September 25, 2006 03:06 PM

As to this post, I've always liked this line from the movie "The Man in the Iron Mask" (don't go there), delivered by D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne): "I think that it is possible for one man to love one woman all his life and be the better for it, yes." The vice-versa of this is also as true.

Posted by: Sly2017 at September 25, 2006 03:25 PM

Here ya go:

meme, complete with pronunciation!

I couldn't live without it. The other one I love is the Urban Dictionary: (I really need to update the references in my sidebar) - indispensible. Someone kept putting Debbie Schussel in it ... heh...but she keeps disappearing.


Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 05:40 PM

A meme is a terrible thing to waste.

Posted by: Cricket at September 25, 2006 05:44 PM

The picture a deterrent? Quite the antithesis of one, IMO.

No, although of course it was a throw-away line I posted, the real deterrent is our respective relationships...and our respectful relationship.

Posted by: camojack at September 25, 2006 06:51 PM

That explains the $49.99 automatic monthly bill pay debit on our account for membership in the "Shower Head Of The Month Club!" I think this month is Marcello!

Is that why our water bill is so much higher than the neighbors??

Posted by: vet66 at September 25, 2006 07:49 PM

You are a very, very wicked man, vet :)

And camo, you are very sweet. I was just being a smart aleck - it's a reflex. I knew you weren't serious - no one is at my age [hand to forehead]. And DON'T SAY ANYTHING. I'm just being melodramatic for comic effect :p

And also because it happens to be true!

*running away*

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 08:15 PM

No kidding? "Meme" with a long "E"? That makes it even more of a wussy word than I thought it was.

Posted by: Grim at September 25, 2006 09:21 PM

I kinda liked my pronounciation (yes, I was saying, "Me Me" -- ok, group laugh on three), at least I was pretty much right about the meaning.
Thx, Cass.

Posted by: Sly2017 at September 25, 2006 09:30 PM

Part of the issue is so many have the wrong expectations, a forgivable lapse, but a damaging one.

Regrettably true love is an elusive creature, fleeting and scarce.

I will post two poems, one from my wife to be and one from me. You be the judge of the commitment and the anchor in feelings.

From my wife to me:

This poem that is by an anonymous author was given to me by my future wife on the occassion of my asking her to marry me

Touch me --- in secret places no one has reached before,
--- in silent places where words only interfere,
--- in sad places where only whispering makes sense.

Touch me --- in the morning when night still clings,
--- at midday when confusion crowds upon me,
--- at twilight as I begin again to know who I am,
--- in the evening when I see you and I hear you best of all.

Touch me --- like a child who will never have enough love,
--- for I am a girl who wants to be lost in your arms,
a woman who has known enough pain to love,
a mother who is strong enough to give.

Touch me --- in crowds when a single look says everything,
--- in solitude when it's too dark to even look,
--- in absence when I reach for you through time and miles.

Touch me --- when I ask,
--- when I'm afraid to ask.

Touch me --- with your lips,
your hands,
your words,
your presence in the room.

Touch me --- gently for I am fragile,
--- firmly for I am strong,
--- often for I am alone.

A lovely poem that totally reflected the essence of my wife.

Sadly I lost her last August, but I am humbly thankfull for have having the pleasure and priviledge to have known and loved and been loved by such a sensitive lady

My poem to her:

It is by Rod McKuen

This is the way it was
while I was waiting for your eyes
to find me.

I was drifting going no place
Hypnotized by sunshine
barking back at seals along the beach.
Skipping flat stones on the water,
but much too wise for sand castles.
My castles were across the sea
or still within my mind.

There were the beach bars
and the other beach people
sometimes little bedrooms were my beach,
but I was drifting.

I must have thought the night could save me
as I went down into pillows
looked up through dirty windows
smiled back from broken mattresses
turned in Thunderbirds
and kissed in elevators.

I cried too sometimes
For me.

I loved every face I thought looked pretty
and every kindred eye I caught in crowds.
But I was drifting,
before you.

Both express that you have to have a connection, a link to make the bond. Casual relationships work in the interim, but they are ultimately less than compelling.

To destroy that by wishing to sample others means you never had the right choice to begin with, a sad situation but to often applied.

Posted by: SlimGuy at September 25, 2006 10:41 PM

Looking it up, to sort out the etymology, I see why it's so unnatural:

According to Dawkins, who coined the phrase and didn't know about mneme, meme is short for mimeme (from Greek mimos, "mimic"). He wanted "a monosyllable word that sounds a bit like gene".
Made-up words aren't organic, and thus feel wrong. Real words have a history we remember almost naturally. Tolkien best explained this through his work, in which he could evoke meanings long forgotten through the recovery of words like warg or orc.


The term "meme"... refers to a unit of cultural information that can be transmitted from one mind to another.
Anyone as clever as Dawkins shouldn't need to invent fancy new words to show off his brains. "A unit of cultural information that can be transmitted from one mind to another" is not something for which we needed a new word. We have several, for example, idea and concept.

Posted by: Grim at September 25, 2006 10:42 PM

My condolences, Slim.

Posted by: Grim at September 25, 2006 10:48 PM

I wish there were something I could say, Slim.

Thank you for that. I will remember it, always. It was beautiful, as I can tell your wife must have been.

I wish you comfort.

And one day, again, some measure of joy :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 25, 2006 10:58 PM

Thank you both Grim and Cassandra.

If you wish to get a feel for my wife's sense of being, see the following web site she created when she was running a graphics arts mailing list which had about 7500 members on her distribution list.


Posted by: SlimGuy at September 25, 2006 11:10 PM

SlimGuy -

I am very sorry for your loss. Several posters here have lost loved ones, and you can be sure they know the depth of your sorrow. A donated heart saved me from losing my husband in March of 2005. I knew we were down to days, but we got a reprieve.

My heartfelt condolences to you.


Posted by: MathMom at September 25, 2006 11:31 PM

Thank you MathMom.

Yes I know I am not alone, and sadly the odds against your own position are not good.

We can only hope and love, which is so contrary to the lesser view that was explored in the original commentary.

Cassandra got the essense, light links and soft committments and disposable relationships can work for some, but where will they be later in life?

Can I as a person look forward to another relationship now?

Perhaps if I find the right person, I may go to that effort, I am not one to say I had something great so that precludes all others, but that is not something I wish to even contemplate at this time. A person who loves as much as my wife and I did would expect their spouse to move on, because they both knew how much love meant to them. However, it should never be wasted or belittled, that would be wrong.

Either of us in the passing would hope that the gift we had could be expanded on.

The trick is it took me 45 years to find the first one, what is the odds?

Posted by: SlimGuy at September 25, 2006 11:55 PM

My neighbor just married for the first time at 48, to a woman who is 46, and had never been married. It happens. Take time to heal, and the rest will work out.

MathMan has had five very close brushes with Death, four of them in a six-month period just before the transplant. During the first one, 5+ years before, he told me to remarry if I found a good man who would love his sons, but then and now I don't think I would or could. Finding him was a miracle, contemplating replacing him is unthinkable.

Per the subject of Cass's post, I'd rather be in love as I am and face the agony I'll feel if I lose him, than bob along the surface, pursuing dalliances and infidelities, breaking faith and lying to keep from feeling. It's better to have been full and have it all drain out, than to have always been empty.

It's late. Good night.

Posted by: MathMom at September 26, 2006 12:09 AM

Have faith, Slim. My brother-in-law (a Marine as well) and sister (Spouse-Abuse survivor/escapee) have both found that "someone special" after more than a decade, each, of raising children as single parents.
She's out there. And she is waiting for your gentle wisdom and deep appreciation for love and life.

Posted by: Sly2017 at September 26, 2006 02:05 AM

In the aftermath of my loss, I have had about ten of the wifes of people we knew approach me too "get to know me better".

I was shocked at first and withdrew.

But on reflection , I looked on it as a compliment because they knew we had what they could only wish for in their relationships.

We were always the couple that could walk into a room and every one would know that this was a relationship they could only wish they had.

I don't think truely it was me myself they were after, it was the feeling my wife and I exuded wherever we went. I feel they somehow wished to experience , even for a moment that magic and grace because sadly it was lacking in their relationships.

I am still on good terms with them all. I have not taken advantage of all those easy opportunities. But perhaps, if I got it right, all those ladies had to know it was a hopeless cause. But I understand the desire for what they were reaching for.

Posted by: SlimGuy at September 26, 2006 07:45 AM

Having said all that , I know there were a couple that were hopeing by their efforts they could somehow enable me to soften the blow on my way down and not observe me crashing willy nilly into the abyss. I appreciate their concern and what they wer e willing to give up, even if it may have run against their normal agenda.

I truely believe that this was a first time "out of the box" concept for some of them, and even they could not explain it to themselves.

Emotions are strong, they carry all of us along.

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

I have the hope, but I still don't have the dream.

But I smile and go on..my sweety would like it that way.

Posted by: SlimGuy at September 26, 2006 08:28 AM

It takes time.

My mother in law never thought she'd marry again either, but after several years she reconnected with an old friend and found that he, too was grieving for his wife. They had a lot in common.

They've been married nine years.

It's not, for either of them, the love of their lives. That was their first marriage. But it is love, and comfort, and shelter. It is all good :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 26, 2006 09:09 AM

About the Latin women -- I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile for two years in the early 90s. At least four of the men volunteers married Chilean women. These women were not desperate. They were beautiful, educated and accomplished. (One guy married a woman who is now a cardiologist.) The guys were also educated professionals (CPAs, etc).

My theory is that the guys liked the women in a more "traditional" role -- ie, someone who saw marriage as a good thing, who would be willing to stay home to raise children, who didn't think that marriage meant turning life into a madhouse of competing careers and schedules where they never saw each other or their kids. These guys wanted someone who would put them first - and they in turn put the women first.

Rightly or wrongly, these guys saw American women -- women they would consider their intellectual peers -- as not sharing these values.

Several of them have returned to Chile after a stint in the US because they discovered it's easier to live a family-focused life there.

Posted by: class-factotum at September 26, 2006 09:16 AM

Sorry...I just read all these and had some intense reflective moments. Nearly all of us here has faced the loss of a loved one, or the threat of death to a loved one. What is interesting is the relationship and how you connected to that person.

In the case of losing a spouse, I am with MathMom on that. Better to have loved, and been loved in return and suffer the agony of the loss than to have never known the joy and beauty of
a relationship.

Losing a child is a close second to that.

Slim, I am so sorry for your loss.

Posted by: Cricket at September 26, 2006 09:36 AM

Rightly or wrongly, these guys saw American women -- women they would consider their intellectual peers -- as not sharing these values

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would consider myself to be my husband's intellectual peer also, yet I stayed home with our two boys. My daughter in law has a master's degree (my son doesn't yet), but she plans to give up her career when she gets pregnant to raise their children. Many of her co-workers are leaving the work force (all have postgrad degrees) to be full-time Moms.

They will return when their children are older. But for now maintaining a well-run home and raising their children is paramount in their eyes and someone has to do this important work.

You would have had to be there to hear this young man's tone - there was an insinuation that was decidedly unpleasant and I cut out a good deal of the conversation. My son has moved to GA precisely because it is more supportive of family life than the urban setting up here, so I fully understand that :)

Posted by: Cassandra at September 26, 2006 09:52 AM

"I would have known that the promise had been broken, even if no one else ever knew. And aside from all the other very good reasons not to do an obviously wrong and destructive thing, aside from not wanting to lose something I valued, there was simply this: I would never look at myself or my husband in the same way again".....quite likely neither would he. Why do so many think that ethics, morals, and responsibilty are unattractive qualities. They are not.

Posted by: Edward Lunny at September 26, 2006 12:43 PM

I think most men fantasize about going back to a more old fashioned time and place, and with some good reason. But if you'd heard these guys at the beach, it was all a rather one-sided proposition. Very disturbing. Respect, as you note, is a two-way street. Real men understand that and will give as good as they get. This is why good women will give everything for them. But smart women respect themselves. I'm not a complete pollyanna - that doesn't always mean they wait until marriage in this age where everyone seems to get grad degrees and defer marriage.

Now that I've had a chance to read the post more carefully I tend to agree with you. I really hope those guys were not using the latin women (and especially illegal ones who are desperate for citizenship) for their personal pleasure.

This is piggishness and shouldn't be tolerated.

Posted by: Tony at September 26, 2006 02:29 PM

All I know after 30 years of marriage is if you want it to work you have to say ByeBye to your MeMe.

Posted by: Mr. Forward at September 26, 2006 04:05 PM

OH, NOT FAIR! Mr. Forward. I think I just fried my monitor with the power-ejected soda stream that WAS in my mouth. (And is now partially up my nose, thanks, thanks alot.) That was funny. ^5.

Posted by: Sly2017 at September 26, 2006 04:42 PM

Mr. Forward is quite right. A successful marriage involves the destruction or rearrangement of many aspects of the Self. In a selfish and self-centered Age, such practices are anathema and are to be looked upon with scorn and derision. Life is all about self-fulfillment, you see...in other words, What's In It For Me?

The Big Lie comes in trying to persuade us old fuddy-duddies that those who reject that worldview are just as happy and just as self-fulfilled as those of us who embrace it, so what's the big diff?

Forgive me if I remain somewhat skeptical.

Posted by: Sloan at September 26, 2006 05:01 PM

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