Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Better Late than Never, Right? Right!?!?!?

No excuses for my lame-ass response to this article - I'd apologize but that would sound more than a bit insincere. Let's just get down to it.

WARNING: Nonsensical ramblings to come. Do not expect logic, sense, or even remotely sub-standard writing. You will not find that here. Teacher Lady tries to become "Philosopher Lady" and fails miserably.

I think the reason that article really resonated with me is because that if I had met Mr. J. before I had met my crazy first husband - or, if I had never met my crazy first husband, I would have written him (Mr. J.) off.

I am in no way saying that I "settled" with Mr. J. - far from it. But my experience with my first husband was so life-changing. Once, when I was living with my parents (oh, the humiliation) after I had left Lt. Loser in Hawaii but hadn't yet got my emotional or financial footing back, my mom said something about how if I had my life to do over again, I would just erase that entire chapter. From a mother's perspective, I understood as much as someone who's never been a mother could understand. She had to be worried. She had to be scared. I can only imagine how terrifying some of my phone calls must have been. I was living with an abusive, narcissistic crazy bully who had no problem using violence to demonstrate his anger. (I've said this here before and I'll say it again - our "therapist" who failed me in countless ways I think but that's for another time said to me as I announced I just couldn't take another minute and was leaving the nut-job, "Well, if you were going to stay with him, that was really the equivalent of deciding to spend much of your life in the hospital and no woman should have to make that decision." (Then it sounded brilliant - now all I can think is, "Well, duh!") I lived in fear of him every day and my parents lived thousands of miles away - they were helpless to do anything.)

What was my point? Oh, yeah. So while from my mom's perspective, my marriage to LL (Lt. Loser) should have been completely eradicated from my life if I ever had a "do-over", I'm not so sure I feel the same way. There MUST be easier ways to learn such lessons, but I guess I was rather thick-skulled and had to sit through the very time-compressed yet intensive version of "What Really Matters in Marriage, 101."

You see, if you take the craziness out of the equation (which is difficult, but obviously the man had some good qualities or I never would have married him), LL made a great boyfriend. And by that I mean, he was charming and gregarious and no one who knew him on a strictly social level could have imagined what he was capable of doing. He was clearly intelligent (in some ways) because he once said to me, "All I'm doing is what we do in the Navy. We have to break down the new recruits to nothing so we can build them back up into officers who know and do things our way. I'm just breaking you down so I can build you back up into a good wife." Why was that intelligent? Because he knew damn well not to explain his "philosophy of marriage" to anyone else, including our marriage counselor. Maybe intelligent is giving him too much credit - maybe he just wasn't completely stupid.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Good things about the ex. So LL was up for anything, meaning if someone up the street called and said they were having an impromptu 70s costume party, we were off and running to the Good Will, finding the perfect costumes, complete with accessories. He was all about entertaining and being social and he had lots of interests from snowboarding to surfing to sailing and would try anything once: Fashion show? Okay, why not? Hawaiian church service, totally in Hawaiian language? Let's give it a whirl. That may not sound like much, but when I was in my 20s, I had just come out of a very long, very boring, very serious relationship and this was such a refreshing change I couldn't believe my luck (yeah, the word "rebound relationship" occurred to me, too.)

But you know what? Mr.-Lots-of-Interests and up-for-anything was a financial disaster. Who needs to eat when there's a full drum set for sale in the paper for only $1,000 that we don't really have? And we don't have any place to put it? Oh, well let's rent a studio for $100 a month to house these drums that you don't really know how to play in the first place.

I'm all over the place here (apologies - my blog muscle is very rusty), but one thing my Nana always said was "Pay yourself first." She was all about the IRA and the 401k and anything else you could do to save money. I heard that my whole life and I knew what that meant. One day, LL came home with one of his newest toys - something ridiculous that we didn't have space for and couldn't afford - that was about $400. He said proudly, "I know we haven't paid our bills yet this month, but you know what they say: You have to pay yourself first." Yeah, I don't think that's what that saying actually means, but you didn't correct LL unless you wanted to instigate a huge fight, so I just bit my tongue. (I did that a lot in those days. I'm surprised it never fell off.)

He also didn't understand that spending every minute of every weekend with his semi-retired parents wasn't my favorite thing to do. Don't get me wrong - I loved my mother-in-law (which a close friend said was the sign of a doomed marriage. She thought it sick and perverse that I actually considered my MIL one of my closest friends) - but if you have in-laws, I think you know what I'm talking about when I say that I couldn't exactly be 100% myself around them. I couldn't have a bad mood, or a quiet mood where I didn't feel like talking and there was certainly no wandering off and curling up with a good book. The in-law thing became an important lesson for me - and maybe it's only me - but I discovered that spouses have to be on the same page where in-laws are concerned.

But LL was good "boyfriend" material. Maybe not even "boyfriend" - he was good dating or friend material and I confused that with good husband material. (How could I be so silly?)

Mr. J. is so opposite of LL it boggles the mind. Mr. J. is extremely introverted. (This is an understatement.) He will never be the life of the party because he will probably never go to the party. And had I never met LL, I would have written off Mr. J. immediately as boring. I wanted a gregarious, entertaining guy who would not just be the life of the party but would be hosting the party. Now? So. Highly. Overrated.

Lt. Loser was a Navy pilot. This was an exciting job. Being the shallow nitwit I was in my 20s, for some reason, I thought it was important for my husband to have an interesting job. (Dear gob, could I have BEEN more immature? What exactly was wrong with me?) Mr. J. does something with computers. Or networks. Or something. And, oh yeah - project management. Can't forget the project management. Lots of project management. You hear words like "scope creep" around our house all the time. He gets magazines like, "Project Management Professional" - which, by the way, is mind-numbingly boring. Just in case you were wondering.

Lt. Loser's parents had been married to each other and only each other for about 30+ years. I also thought this was important. It said something that LL came from a "good family". (Oh, I could not have been more wrong. I mistook marital longevity for love, stability and commitment. And as I mentioned, my ex-MIL left my ex-father-in-law after 37 years of marriage; I was long gone by then.) Mr. J.'s mother was deceased, but she had been married and divorced 3 times in her life. Mr. J.'s parents had gotten divorced when he was 3. His siblings were all what I would call "the working poor", except for his younger sister who somehow managed not to work and (not surprisingly) was incredibly poor.

If you read that article and thought it was silly, then my hunch is you are or were incredibly mature in your 20s and had good sense. I made a choice during my 20s based on passion and fun and what I thought was "love" and it was an unmitigated disaster. And had I met Mr. J. in my 20s, I wouldn't have married him and thought I was "settling" - I would have written him off entirely. Not my type for about a million reasons.

And I would have so, so SO missed out on the best possible person for me. I don't like to think about it. So that's why I wouldn't necessarily delete the Lt. Loser chapter from my life: because I think I would have continued to have this immature, practically stupid and incredibly naive idea of what matters in marriage. (At least to me. I know everyone has their own individual criteria and "deal breakers".) And if I had met Mr. J. in my 20s and I had given him a second glance, and let's say I had married him at that time in my life I would have thought I was "settling" big time. My experiences (and that article) make me wonder: How many women out there are dating/living with and/or married to a great guy and yet think they're "settling"? Someone who shall remain nameless recently flipped out because her fiance asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her reasoning: He just should have known. He shouldn't have to ask. The perfect present is out there for her somewhere and he failed her by not finding it. This is someone who, I fear, will believe she is "settling" for less than she deserves when in fact she is incredibly lucky to be with someone who is so devoted and loyal and loves her so completely.

I'm going to stop typing now. I never knew where this entry was going and I still don't, but thank you (if you're still there) for reading what is basically the swirling miasma of my brain put into words.

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Blogger L said...

Out of my own crazy-ex experience: A woman who thinks her mind needs to be read is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT ready for marriage.

Oooh it hurts just to remember.

April 06, 2008 12:45 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Oh, L. I am SOOO right there with you. But what can I do?

April 06, 2008 1:55 PM  
Blogger L said...

Hell, I don't know. Maybe sit her down and tell her you think her priorities are a little out of whack. Maybe do a little sanity checking with her, i.e., "how often do you see real live people read each other's minds like that?" or "what does he do that shows he is totally devoted to you? / what does he do that shows he doesn't love you?" and look at the lists that emerge.

On the other hand, it's really hard to stop the Wedding Train once it gets a-rollin'.

I should amend my previous post to say that men who need their minds read are not ready for marriage either. It's just that, I think, men who feel that way tend to get abusive when their minds are not read, and that's a whole other can of worms. As you probably know.

Sigh. At least we're happily married! Mr. J. sounds like a hell of a guy, and I congratulate you on having found each other.

April 07, 2008 9:50 AM  
Blogger flossie said...

I too entered into a bad marriage in my 20s and a good marriage in my 30s, so I hear ya, Teacher Lady.

It was a bit different for me because I feel like I "settled" in my 20s, and it made me feel trapped. So the article's advice, "Don't be so picky--settle for Mr. Boring" sounds like a baaad idea to me.

P.S. I tagged you for a meme; see my blog for details.

April 12, 2008 5:13 PM  
Blogger Jhianna said...

The article irritated me. Most of the examples in the article were so superficial. None of those things really matter when you start thinking about finding a partner who is going to help you get through the crud and celebrate the joys.

I blame TV, movies, and all those fairy tale love stories. They end with "and they lived happily ever after" and ignore the part where Cinderella finds out that Prince Charming crop-dusts his way down the hallway to the ballroom.

As for your friend, that's a tough one. Is she extrapolating the fact that he didn't just know what she wanted into him somehow not knowing her at all? Or not caring enough to pay attention to every little detail? Guys sometimes freeze when it comes to gift giving. Heck, people sometimes freeze. I'm not sure that you can do anything to get through to her. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way (losing a good one you didn't appreciate or living through a really bad one).

(Oh, and I'll see you one swirling miasma of a post and raise you a barely coherent comment. Gah!)

April 14, 2008 6:41 PM  
Blogger ABC Journeys said...

This cracked me up. Many parts of this post reminded me of my sister and BIL. Their relationship sounds much like your first, excluding some of the abuse. You current husbands sis that you said was not working and extremely poor also reminds me of my sis.

I guess I was lucky, and had many similar views of marriage, love and such, and learned from a couple prior relationships. Fortunately those ended before marriage, and now I am very happily married to my dear computer geek, and I am so happy I "settled" for such a great guy. It really is amazing how some of life's mistakes can change your views for the better. Had it not been for those previous boyfriends I never would have given my current husband a real chance. Your post really does make a very good and valid point! And believe it or not, I also kind of like how your post is all over the place like you mentioned.

July 05, 2009 10:11 PM  

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