html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Reaping what they sow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reaping what they sow.

"Honey," I begged. "Can't we please talk about your friends who are worse at dating than I am? Please? How's that couple that is supposed to be getting married? What is happening with them?"

Dude. We have been talking about this couple for easily six years. I remembered her telling me about them the first time. My friend told me about this guy she knew. He'd been telling her about his girlfriend in LA. He talked about how great his girl was, so beautiful, but smart too, and how they were totally serious but she wasn't done with school. He said they'd been dating for years; long distance 'cause she was in school in LA, so she couldn't visit much or talk much. After hearing this for a while, a year or two, my friend went to dinner with the couple. She called me after, shocked.

"Megan," she said. "She's not dating him. He made it up." He had flown her up for the weekend, given her a nice watch, and tried to spend time with her. She had begged off any daytime activities on Saturday or Sunday, saying she had homework. She did go to the dinner, but when my friend asked her about their relationship, she looked surprised. She got a phone call and took off early, to go clubbing. With my friend's brother and a bunch of his guyfriends. My friend asked the guy if this was normal, and he didn't know, because it was the only time she'd ever visited! My friend asked how, then, did he think the girl was his girlfriend, and he said they talked on the phone every couple weeks. She had to concentrate on her school. Oh. Had they ever kissed? No, no. She was a good girl. My friend did not ask whether they were doing the deed. My friend also started to wonder exactly how much homework you had to do to become a dental hygienist. All day Saturday and Sunday?

My friend and I talked this one over, decided he was hopeless and thought nothing more of it until a few months ago. My friend called me, shouting! THEY'RE GETTING MARRIED!!! The part we can't believe is that we don't think anything has changed. She accepted his proposal, but they live at opposite ends of LA and only see each other every two or three weeks. They talk on the phone every week or so, if he calls. He was thrilled a few weeks ago, because she agreed to have dinner with him and then went to a movie. It was a big night. Then he drove her a couple hours home and drove himself a couple hours back.

My friend can't understand why they are getting married, but, uncharacteristically, I am the cynical one here. I totally understand why she's marrying him. She's an aging club girl in an ethnicity that gives women the option of virgin, madonna or whore. My friend reported that when she mentioned the fiancée to some other friends of hers, one wrinkled her nose and said "that girl? She's kind of used.", which we took to mean that she had had pre-marital sex. She is in her early thirties and I'm sure every auntie she meets on every occasion asks her when she is getting married and having some babies. I would bet big money that she got rejected by a guy she liked, for not riding exactly the right line between party-girl at the club and good girl, like the young ones. I fully believe that she was getting ready to go clubbing one night and she sank into a chair and said Fuck It. I quit. I can't. She got a vision of all the attention and cash all her girlfriends got at all those infinite weddings she went to and she decided.

She sortof decided. Because there is still the part about how she has no interest in this guy. She knows she wants the next stage, with the house and kids and not the same, endless clubbing with the new pretty girls, and she knows she won't get those club guys she loved, but she isn't thinking about the part where she will live with him and have sex with him. (Twice, y'all. They'll have two kids, for sure. That will likely be the only sex he ever has; my friend is sure he hasn't yet.) I'm sure she spends her whole days and weeks working very hard to not think about it.

I should feel bad for this guy, but I can't. I know he wants to keep her, but he has never noticed who she is. He wanted a hot size-two club girl and he got one, and he has never even paid enough attention to her real self to notice the very conspicuous signs that she doesn't like him. So I am not sorry as it just gets more ridiculous.

He has started to notice that they don't actually spend time together. He thought that she wasn't being very attentive for someone engaged to marry him, so he... told his mother. His mother called her mother to address the situation. The mothers agreed that they should all talk; they called a meeting and the fiancée didn't go! She skipped it to go to her regular weekly pedicure! (We were dying laughing.) They decided that her behavior was very serious. His mother decided that they would show her the error of her ways by postponing the wedding. (The one part my friend and I genuinely do not understand is why her father is tolerating this gossip and shame to his family. I figure the family is desperate to marry off a daughter in her early thirties and willing to do anything to please his family. My friend says that he's been in the home country while a lot of this was going down, and now that he's back, he'll quash her resistance.)

The mothers informed the fiancée about the postponed wedding, but it doesn't seem to have brought her around. The guy and his family came up to the Bay Area for several days; she wouldn't have known, except that he broke down and called to tell her. They have been telling everyone that the wedding was postponed because her grandmother died, but she hasn't told him when or where the funeral is. Now they need to get the astrologer to pick another auspicious day for the wedding. I can't imagine she is working too hard to get that lined up.

I know that this is a lifetime of misery in the making. He is going to want her attention and affection for the rest of his life; she will dedicate herself to avoiding him, the man she never particularly liked. I would feel bad, except that it is so clear and they will not see. They're both especially trapped by the gender roles they chose and want. He wanted a beautiful club girl and never thought about more than that. He's never thought of her as a real person and he'll be shocked at the one he gets. She is using him, although I kinda have to give her props for making it so blatant. Nevertheless, they'll be bound and it will be awful for them. Either could prevent it by looking at either inside or at the other person and facing that there is nothing there. Neither will, so I won't feel bad for them.

40 Comments:

Anonymous Ennis said...

No no silly, the minute the child is born it will all change. A child will bind a family together in love.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Awesome.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Capella said...

This situation doesn't sound unusual, except in its blatancy. I seem to have a large number of male friends who (after dating a series of intelligent and challenging women, often including myself, and obviously getting quite tired of it) spend six to twelve months telling me how smart and beautiful and easygoing their new girlfriend is, often in the face of a lot of evidence to the contrary, and then they marry her, and then all of a sudden they're all, "you mean I'm actually supposed to like the person I agree to spend my life with?" I don't know what the long-term outcome of these marriages is, but so far it seems they just limp along, and every time things get really bad she gets pregnant again.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay, schadenfreude!

Nothing more clearly delineates where one's life is going right than hearing about a life that is so truly fucked.

And ennis is so right about the kids. That'll fix things right up.

Cheers,
Tim.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Justus said...

an ethnicity that gives women the option of virgin, madonna or whore

Isn't that every ethnicity?

It is certainly the case for many of the white girls around here.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous h said...

That's why they say that asian marriages are "family" marriages. As long as the families are good the belief is that the bride and groom can "work" it out after marriage. Surprisingly a lot of them last, but the question of whether they are happy is a different one

9:38 AM  
Anonymous h said...

Isn't that every ethnicity?

Oh you haven't seen it till you have seen the south asians (indian etc) and the east asians discuss it.

-h

9:40 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Isn't that every ethnicity?

It is certainly the case for many of the white girls around here.


My family and peers are more generous with me, which I attribute to our culture.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous D said...

dudette, are you kidding my with this judgemental bent? 'cuz, someone of your intelligence must know how much more complicated this is... and why would you wish harm on an acquaintance? This will be harmful, to all four parties, but especially any children ever had. People can be surprisingly naive, and perhaps even delusional about relationships, what they want, and what they deserve... but regardless, children will be innocent. If their parents relationship doesn't work out, they will feel the blowback from that their whole lives. I suppose we might hope that the couples duty to each other, and to their mores and family will kick in, and perhaps they will tolerate each other in the long run...

But I'd be praying [actually, I just did] that a trainwreck never happens. I know that people endure, and sometimes failure is only a lesson for doing well the next time... But I feel only sadness when I see or hear of such things. I guess I hope not to see people breaking, even if they only have themselves to blame...

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Dagon said...

What kind of bad won't you feel for them? I feel a mix of good and bad.

I feel a pretty deep sorrow that they're apparently so unhappy and out of control (in the "trapped in misunderstood expectations" sense) that they'll go down this path.

I'm VERY sad that the story isn't that atypical. However, the fact that it is so common gives some hope that there are happy outcomes (well, at least some happy times along the way to the same outcome we all will get) available.

It's believable that one of them does some actual soul-searching before (or after, for that matter) the wedding, and decides to make some changes that lead to more respect of self and of partner.

It's even more believable that they make do with their lives - get married and have kids because that's expected, get some joy at various parts of life, experience lots of pain and confusion, and generally live like most humans.

I feel bad for them, in the same sense I feel bad for everyone who lived or lives without all the advantages I have (from indoor plumbing and good sanitation to reasonably high intelligence and self-awareness). I feel happy for them in that they're better off than the majority of the current world, and pretty much everyone in the historical world.

They have a chance at some amount of happiness, and I wish them luck.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Justus said...

Oh you haven't seen it till you have seen the south asians (indian etc) and the east asians discuss it.

Why would you assume that I haven't?

10:48 AM  
Anonymous jms said...

I like this blog -- usually I find your writing to be nonjudgmental, insightful and sympathetic. So this entry is kind of a disappointment.

When you make a generalization like, this particular "ethnicity [] gives women the option of virgin, madonna or whore," and then later add that your own culture is much more generous, it reads like a thinly veiled attack on a particular race. You know what? I am east Asian, and my family is very generous with me, and I've never felt like my only choices are virgin, madonna and whore. I don't attribute my family's generosity to my ethicity; I attribute it to their essential kindness and love for me.

And you say that you "know" or "totally understand" the motivations of this woman, but you're apparently not close to her, and you appear to be making guesses about her thoughts and feelings based on your (apparently charged) perceptions about her race. I've always been surprised at how hard it is to predict other people's thoughts and feelings, even those I think I know quite well. When the predictions are based, in part, on assumptions about ethnicity or group prejudice, it gets even harder.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me go out on a limb: this sap doesn't have older brothers.

One implication of smaller families is the lack of older siblings to pull one aside and explain periodically in clear, non-therapeutic language why one truly needs to pull one's head out of one's anus.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Scott Lemieux said...

That's why they say that asian marriages are "family" marriages. As long as the families are good the belief is that the bride and groom can "work" it out after marriage. Surprisingly a lot of them last, but the question of whether they are happy is a different one

Margaret Talbot had a good article a few years ago pointing out that, historically, American-style marriage based primarily on love were really the historical outlier. Marriage was more commonly an economic phenomenon, in which erotic desire may develop or play some role but often wouldn't. (You can still see this, in small form in Mitterand's mistress openly showing up for his funeral.)

1:10 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

it reads like a thinly veiled attack on a particular race.

I'd say what I wrote was more of an overt attack on their lack of reflection and self-awareness. Margie said it really well at the pool; they are both looking for a role player and that is all either is getting. You could, of course, tell a very similar story about a pair of Trixies and Chets, but I don't happen to know any. I told the story with the people I know of.

I filled in details from their culture because they were relevant and funny. I think that culture played a role in how the details are shaping up, but it isn't determinative. Either of them could avert this whole thing with some self-reflection and some gumption.

I hit the points about the roles of madonna, whore or virgin because my Secret Agenda was to show that those reduced choices are hurting everyone in this scenario. It is easy to see how they hurt her, but I was hoping people would also notice that they are going to hurt him just as much. To the extent that people still believe that virgin/madonna/whore is a system that serves men well, I wanted to show an example where his investment in it is about to cost him dearly.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I love that you guys think better of me, but I am totally going to let you down on this one. Not only do I not feel bad, but my friend and I howl with laughter when we talk about them. She GOT HER TOES DONE instead of go to the meeting that determined her engagement. It is just such a big Fuck You to the moms and to the whole situation, and everyone is pretending that it isn't.

He's calling her to say that if she wants her fiance to show up at the funeral, SHE HAS TO TELL HIM WHERE IT IS! The whole thing is so surreal, and it cracks us up.

(If she were a real friend of mine, and she came to me saying that for the first time in her life, she realizes that she is in a dead end and she wants something to fill the void and it is time for her to be someone, I would give her every support I could think of. But she isn't going to do that, so instead I am going to watch and laugh as she blatantly tramples societal norms and everyone does everything but fix the cause.)

1:39 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

And, you know, the bulk of the misery will adhere to the two people who caused it. It is a shame, but there is no tragedy of third party victims.

It will probably suck for the kids, but on the other hand, their mom will spoil them to avoid spending time with their father. It will only be regular miserable, not extraordinary.

Y'all should appreciate my new laissez-faire attitude about people's private lives. It won't last.

1:43 PM  
Blogger James said...

What's funny, for me, is that if it were a story I were told at a bar, it would be hysterical. If they were people I knew passingly? Same again.

But for whatever reason, in your telling of it, all i can see is how terribly trapped in themselves these two people have to be, and how horribly, horribly lonely it must be inside them as a consequence, and so it makes me sad.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous h said...

sorry if I made too many assumptions... justus

2:42 PM  
Anonymous bjk said...

There's no way they're getting married.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Dagon said...

It will only be regular miserable, not extraordinary.

I love this distinction, and I think it applies to pretty much all things. It gives permission to laugh at all tragedies, which I heartily recommend.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Where does her money come from? She sounds as if she doesn't worry, and lives a subsidized lifestyle (all that clubbing and beauty time). She may be worried her folks are going to cut the purse strings if she doesn't marry him. Maybe she's hoping to postpone the wedding until she comes into some sort of inheritance, then break off the engagement or get a divorce?

I've known some arranged marriage girls who were pretty wild, and at least acted like they could go out with other guys. Only young ones, though. Maybe they really do settle down when they have a baby.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

She's never worked, even after completing school with all that homework. Naw, I think her folks will pay for her forever. I just think she's tired of it. (This is why I think the Dad can crack down, though.)

4:51 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

I can't help thinking of a "Love Boat" I saw when I was 10 or 11, which featured a tempestuous Latin couple. There, it was the husband, not the wife, who was running around (even on the cruise ship!). So the wife hatched a scheme to make him crazy jealous, and it worked. And I think he was about to kill some poor innocent dupe, maybe the captain, when she announced she was pregnant. This instantly calmed him down and make him vow to turn over a new leaf and be devoted to her forever.

The end scene was someone (cruise director Julie?) remarking, privately, that she hadn't known the wife was pregnant. The wife replied, "Oh, don't worry. I will be soon!"

If only credits rolled so conveniently in real life.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Club guys are, sadly, so useless.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

No no. Club guys are pretty and they dance. That is not useless.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

Okay, so this is another happy opportunity for us all to project our issues onto some hapless inkblot, but still:

I should feel bad for this guy, but I can't. I know he wants to keep her, but he has never noticed who she is. He wanted a hot size-two club girl and he got one, and he has never even paid enough attention to her real self to notice the very conspicuous signs that she doesn't like him.

I think his denial has more to do with fear of rejection than with shallowness. It sounds like his eyes have opened a little bit since she agreed to marry him (which, I imagine, reduced that fear).

7:08 PM  
Anonymous quirkybook said...

Megan, the liberal, liberated, upper middle class suburbia-raised American chick in me is laughing right along with you and your friend. This whole story sounds utterly ridiculous.

But the part of me that was raised in an unabashedly "ethnic" household knows that these kinds of relationships are not only pretty common, but also often quite successful. Maybe not successful from the passionate/romantic love point of view, but according to other metrics that the individuals in question may hold even more dear. And yeah, there certainly doesn't seem to be even friendship between these two, but plenty of cultures believe that that arises organically AFTER marriage.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I wish them any kind of success they can create.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

No no. Club guys are pretty and they dance. That is not useless.

Point conceded.

But you must admit, that's about it.

9:22 PM  
Blogger billo said...

"in an ethnicity..."

No stereotyping here!

Disappointing, Megan.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Cala said...

"virgin, madonna, or whore..."

And two of the three categories are redundant!

I have a couple of friends who end up married out some sense that that was what they were supposed to be doing at their age. Time will tell, I suppose.

10:43 AM  
Blogger wlotus said...

I am going to be honest, and my honesty will not be politically correct in the least.

I feel sorry for her, but not for him. I am thrilled for him, because he is getting exactly the misery he deserves.

No doubt he has had several perfectly wonderful, attentive women interested in him. But since those women are not size-two club girls, he didn't give them a second thought. Instead, he held out for the girl whose exterior met all of his requirements, while not paying attention to the beautiful interiors of the women who were interested in him.

She, on the other hand, is in her early thirties, and is all too aware that being in one's early thirties is the death knell of a woman's "dateability", in much of society. Like you said, she's probably sick to death of the club scene, of being asked when she's going to settle down...and probably of being turned down by guys she is interested in, but who are looking for a younger, blonder girl, instead of someone like her. He is probably the only man in a very long time who has given her the time of day, so she is settling for him, just to chase the idea of "normal" society has put in her head. (Single in one's thirties is not in that class.) I feel bad for her, because she is going to be legally tied to this man, and will probably end up having a couple of his babies, and will be less happy than she is, now.

He is getting exactly what he deserves, I am sure of it. She, on the other hand...::sigh::

4:43 PM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

I don't see the mention of ethnicity and its influence as having been done in any sort of a disrespectful way. I don't think Megan deserved the criticism. And it was a very insightful post. I wish them all the luck, and like you said, I rather admire her for being so very obvious about her true feelings, even while observing the technicalities.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Yes, wlotus, poor size 2 club girl who hasn't had any dates in oh-so-long. I mean, size 2 and funloving are qualities no man appreciates in this society. poor, poor, her.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Honestly the guy sounds like he's completely clueless about girls. I do feel sorry for him. If only there was some way to pump every person full of all the expereinces necessary to make sound decisions.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous bryn said...

After reading your post, my takeaway was that this was a tragedy of shakespearean proportiions and that I felt incredibly bad for both of them, because, I suspect the guy has little control over liking her, and the girl has little control over not finding the right guy and aging. I guess where we differ is that you think they can both snap out of this or do something about it, and I suspect humanity, genes, society and other things make free will there very difficult. After reading your comment about how funny it is, I can definitely see in the details a lot of humor.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous bryn said...

@yoyo,

Don't you think if we had all that sound judgment nobody would ever take a risk and we'd all slowly proceed safely and carefully in quiet lives of sheer desperation?

8:52 AM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Bryn, I have no idea what you are refering to.

I think the guy, from lack of experience, really doesn't understand what a clusterfuck this will be. The girl does know, and is just too afraid to make the changes she needs to.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous bryn said...

I just meant that the general case of not taking risks in life and love often means that nothing much ever happens. In this case it doesn't seem likely good things will end up happening. but if the guy sat in his room and never tried to love anyone where would he be?

7:42 AM  

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