Jan 25 2009


I am very sorry to have read a review of a book called How to Meet a Man After Forty, but not sorry enough to refrain from foisting my review of this review on yall.

I am sorry that this book even exists. I am sorry that the author of the review wedges chunks of her own post-40 man-hunting autobiography around gushing praise for the author of the book. I am sorry that both of these women (and of course, millions more) have internalized the dominant culture’s urgent message — “Embed yourself in a nuclear family situation in your 20s, have babies, and disappear from public view” — to the extent that retrofitting themselves with a husband in middle age, when they are finally emotionally and financially stable and their lives are, by their own account, effing great, can even seem like a remotely good idea. I am sorry that a single woman over forty should consider herself a hopeless loser upon whom even her friends have “given up.” I am sorry that the message of How to Meet a Man After Forty appears to be this: getting a dude to marry your old hag ass is really, really fucking important.

Hell, it is important, if you consider it the pinnacle of human achievement to perpetuate and participate in a degrading sexist ritual and subsequent domestic arrangement the benefits of which traditionally accrue exclusively to men and their male offspring.

I do not disagree with certain of the precepts advanced in How to Meet a Man After Forty. Who, for example, can argue with the notion that nothing turns off a potential Mr Right faster than a confident, non-conforming “free spirit”? She may be “a breath of fresh air” but “he reads in her vaunted independence an adversarial attitude.”

Independence: Mr Right’s kryptonite!

The review author’s advice to overly self-actualized women?

Standing on your own two feet is great, but make a show of it and you come across as chippy or at the very least untouchable. He’s looking for The One, and seeks a woman who, if not instantly available, is easily accessible.

Be submissive. Suck up. Lower your standards. And for the lovamike quit being so goddamned adversarially independent. The author of the review — a woman with a great job, great friends, and a great “social whirl”– took it down a notch and, like magic, at the hopeless age of 42, instantly reeled in an unemployed sandal-wearing bald guy with 2 young sons, the lucky girl!

Without marriage to normalize femininity and misogyny and unpaid domestic drudgery and all that crap, the dominant culture would crumble.

[Thanks, Nora]


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  1. Serene Wright

    Letting go of the addiction of patriarchy isn’t easy. It takes such an independant point of view to do it, one whose constructs you must not advertise, that it can be a difficult line to walk. Unbeknownst to most women, the fact that once you have truly shorn your soul of the need for male approval, comes the freedom you felt before your body betrayed you with all this sexual advertising. (Puberty.) It can be a Herculean task to stick to this, given the easy fix of wifedom and vicarious identity. But, it is truly worth it. When you are your own person, men sense this and are far more inclined to treat you as human.

  2. Amalthea

    Oh my goodness – this is a little bit of a heart breaker, isn’t it? The world’s on fire and these ladies are consumed by the need to find a niche in the patriarchy to validate themselves. Upon whom this reflects the most poorly I’m not sure, but it just doesn’t say anything positive about anyone involved How to Meet a Man After 40. (Just typing that makes me cringe.)


  3. Twisty

    “When you are your own person, men sense this and are far more inclined to treat you as human.”

    When you are your own person — insofar as such a thing is possible for a member of the sex class — what men sense about you is irrelevant.

    My own experience has been that men treat me in one of 3 ways, none of which can be construed as “human”:

    — They plumb don’t notice or care that I am “uppity” and talk down to me the way they would any other woman.

    — They worship me (this response often contains a soupcon of masochism, as though I were a dominatrix whipping them into submission).

    — They are kind of intrigued, but ultimately they read in my vaunted independence an adversarial attitude and are secretly relieved that their girlfriends/wives aren’t like me.

  4. cafesiren

    As a book I just finished reading** (literally 20 minutes ago!) put it, the major problem with marriage as it is currently constructed is that it is a zero-sum game. There is room for one *whole* person in it, and deep-rooted patriarchal structures mean that in a “normal” marriage, this person is the man.

    **Frances Dolan, Marriage and Violence, if anyone cares.

  5. Nolabelfits


    You’ve got it exactly right.

  6. Serene Wright

    Perhaps it’s the difference between who we are as people, rather than as women. I know this will probably get me kicked off your site, but given that giving someone thousands of dollars for business services involves a large level of respect, I think the men and women I interface with do, in fact, respect me. And, I’m not uppity. I’m compassionate, highly knowledgable and professional to a fault. And I am selling professional legal and real estate services, not anything tawdry. Isn’t this what we want? Isn’t this the idea?

  7. Kate

    “…giving someone thousands of dollars for business services involves a large level of respect…”

    Why? How? Because you are on the receiving end of the money?

  8. Twisty

    You have found a way to get people to give you thousands of dollars for non-tawdry business services? You go girl. Capitalism is, at its core, kinda antifeminist, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do in this crazy world.

    As you correctly surmise, my own reptilian personality precludes anyone giving me thousands of dollars for anything. It has been pointed out more than once that I would win a lot more people over if only I were nicer.

  9. SKM

    Perhaps it’s the difference between who we are as people, rather than as women.

    That we are still meant to regard “people” and “women” as mutually exclusive categories is sadly telling.

  10. Jonathan

    My suspicions are that, for the Dudes, the personal traits of any 40-something woman they are trying to date is irrelevant.

    For a man to be an an equal relationship with a woman, it requires, you know, work! He’d have to do a good portion of the tedium that Male Privilege says he can just as easily foist onto his wife-slave. When the Dudes see an independent woman, they don’t see anything but the work they would have to do.

    Thus, the only signals a Dude would desire from older single woman would be the femininity signs that indicate that the woman who would be willing to become a servant.

    And so the only effective tips contained in How to Meet a Man After Forty would be, as Twisty deftly points out, to 1) reduce one’s standards for human treatment and 2) communicate said dehumanizing to the Dude through various femininity cues.

    If you want any other kind of relationship with a man, you’d have to be willing to keep “none of the above” as a viable option at all times. On the plus side, not having to display the femininity cues or follow the advice of a “How to Meet a Man” books would save you a ton of harassment.

    Out of curiosity, what are the book’s purported goals/needs/expectations/point for a woman who is finding a man after 40? Or is all that just assumed?

  11. PhysioProf


  12. eb

    I disagree.

    The reviewer is not telling women to be submissive or to lower standards. The reviewer is telling women to stop having unrealistic expectations.

    The reviewer looked down on certain men because she was (and still might be) a classist. This is no different than being a misogynist or a racist.

    When she made the decision to accept all men as equals, she found a man she could love and who loved her. Isn’t that what feminism is all about – treating people as equals?

    It sucks that this is all cloaked in the patriachal institution of marriage. Throw that away and it’s about finding love – and we all want to be loved.

    Yeah, I’m like a hippie but I use deodorant.

  13. polly styrene

    Jonathan – the book’s main tenets as far as I can see without actually reading it are: (I feel I don’t need to actually read it, as I’ve already read far too much about it, including one dude who managed to meld it with even MORE evolutionary psychobabbling)

    Lower your standards to the point of no return. Accept anything with a pulse and a penis. Totally subjugate your needs/wants/desires to his needs/wants/desires. Then if you’re lucky, he’ll pick you!

    NB: I think the author main motivation was the idea of fast bucks.

  14. thebewilderness

    I have had a fourth experience, Twisty.
    Men are terrified that I will influence their wives or girlfriends.

  15. Twisty

    “Men are terrified that I will influence their wives or girlfriends”

    Yeah, I forgot about that one.

    “When she made the decision to accept all men as equals, she found a man she could love and who loved her. Isn’t that what feminism is all about – treating people as equals?”

    Feminism is about the liberation of women from patriarchal oppression. It doesn’t have anything to do with mid-life heterosexual love-matches or “accepting all men as equals.” In any event, there’s nothing in the article to suggest that the author made any such all-dudes-are-equal decision. She accepted one dude as a husband (not an “equal”), because she realized her mythical biological clock had run out, and because he had twinkly eyes.

  16. not a dudetiful wife

    Lock up yer womein’ the feminist is at the lunch table!

    This chat reminds me of the male comedians who riff on the ideal of finding a really attractive woman (i.e, professional feminine with the hours of grooming, de-hairing, weight obsession, etc), who doesn’t know she’s attractive….

    If she don’t know better, she won’t ask for better. The fool, heh, heh! Keep her in the dark. It’s the fantasy shown on every sit-com with a husband who is in every estimation is not on the same level as his hot wife.

    I don’t want to get married. I do, however, like being a practicing sexual person. I think it is a joke sometimes that I like men sexually – the joke is that you are born with your sexuality and can’t change it really, because if I had to choose, there are far more enlightened women who actually like women than men who actually like women. Do you get what I’m saying here?

    I find that a lot of men want women as a lifestyle accessory rather than a real person. It’s like shopping for a sofa that fits a spot. And the older you get, it is annoying to me that men with children want an extra nanny who happens to fuck them. I know this will be outrageous to some, but as much as I like children, me and my best friend have sworn off seeing men with children if we can avoid it.

    I think contrary to the book, men want a woman that won’t cost them much, so they want THAT independence, and I’ve had men approach me because they think with my good income and their family situation, that it’s ideal for me to fund their families and financial problems. You see that with some women in their thirties and older, funding a “loser” and his boat and kids to keep him. I didn’t read the book you point out, but I’m betting there is no advice in there to RUN from men. On the contrary, be so thankful for whatever peen you can get, because your ruse is working. It seems to be on the premise that you’ve fooled him, because getting a man when you are over forty is done with a ruse.

  17. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    Why get married after 40? To attach yourself to all that male privilege, that’s why. To provide yourself with three hots & a cot. To fund your retirement, which, making slave wages you have of course not been able to fund yourself. To obtain health insurance, which your job does not provide. Because a woman living alone–especially an old woman living alone–is such a target. These are both the reasons some women are out looking, and the reasons others won’t divorce the bum. They’re neither looking for love, nor staying for love, eb.

    And what, pray tell, do bonobos have to do with anything??

  18. cafesiren

    I just have to comment again. From the review:

    …you’d see them refuse to go out of their way to meet the one available man […] When they were dragged over to meet him eventually, they wouldn’t flirt or flatter him or express any interest at all. And when they left they wouldn’t slip him their number unless he asked for it, and even then they might demur. Everything about them, even their body language, is saying: “You can try all you want, but I’m not yet so desperate that I’m ready to compromise.”

    You’ll notice that the self-inflicted tragedy here is a begged question: Even in this wholly anecdotal “review,” the review author cannot find a single anecdote (with the exception of the book author herself) to substantiate the a priori assumption that the behavior described above made the women unhappy.

    And I agree in part with what Jonathan said above: A man sees a confident adult single woman who’s made a good life for herself, and he realizes that he has to be all that much better to actually add something to her already complete life. In the end, it’s easier for most of these men to go for the woman who doesn’t demand you meet her on her level.

    And quite honestly, we’re better off without them.

  19. Twisty

    “And what, pray tell, do bonobos have to do with anything??”

    I deleted the bonobo comment because it didn’t, as you point out, have anything to do with anything, and because bonobos are banned from this blog, and because it wasn’t a actually a comment, but in fact an uncredited quotation from a New York Times magazine article disguised as a comment!

  20. Rugosa

    -Sigh- what not a dudetiful wife says. I’d love to have, in my way-over-forty life, a male companion for sex and other companionly purposes. I don’t want to be a nanny, or support some guy who thinks he’s too good for the labor market. I have a few good male friends but none filling that niche that we unfortunate hets have.

  21. Joolya

    Hang on … the reviewer makes a point that her daughter is 5-yr-old and her marriage id 4-yrs-old. Is she slyly insinuating that she got Mr. Sandals to marry her because she was knocked up?

    I, for one, and totally fine with the kids out of wedlock if that’s what you’re into, but she made a big deal about being Catholic.

  22. Joolya

    Seems like this woman also was looking for a life partner more as accessory than person, which she does acknowledge. IBTP.

  23. Anna Belle

    Good point Joolya, but she did manage to override her Catholic aversion to divorcees first. But yes, the math works out; their child was born out of wedlock.

  24. yttik

    “…but make a show of it and you come across as chippy…”

    I had to go look “chippy” up. Never heard it before.

    The Urban dictionary says:
    “A stuck-up, prissy, high-maintenance girl with no brains, and all boobs who all thoughtful, intelligent girls want to slap, because they are so damn clueless.”

    Another dictionary says, “Slang: A woman prostitute.”

  25. not a dudetiful wife

    I just went and read the review. Hated to give them the click, though.

    I thought the woman was a liar. So…have unprotected sex after forty? So..she had gotten this far in life without having a child, supposedly because she knew about birth control, and she gets knocked up blaming a book that told her she had a 2% chance of conceiving? I guess she can call her kid “lil’ 2%” like the milk. Now she has all the lifestyle accessories, as someone else mentioned. Yes, here’s a woman looking for a lifestyle accessory just like some men do. Except her new sofa comes with a sandal fungus, two probably pissed off kids from a divorce (it cannot escape their notice someday that he knocked up girlfriend during or so shortly after his divorce from mommy), and all the debt she can eat from Sandals Boy. Yeah, this is a deal for her.

    I’m glad she married him, because she wouldn’t get child support from sandals boy. He could not live by himself though, going direct from divorce to knocked up girlfriend. If they did not marry, he’d have another woman knocked up in short order.

    Is it in the book that a way to get a man over forty is to get knocked up by a broke divorcing bloke with two kids? He wanted to get divorced, but what a deal for him…a partner to do the women’s work, who has or had her own money (probably contributing to getting him out of being broke), supplying sex, and so much gratitude for getting out of her uppity nature in the National newspapers. Yeah, her life was totally fucked up before him. The next list she will be making is a his and hers list for the movers.

    The kicker is, she presents this as a romance. A happy ending to the cautionary tale of the “uppity woman.” I think that was a movie on Lifetime, actually.

  26. Hedgepig

    Rugosa, you’re right, we hets are very unfortunate that we require our niches to be filled by males. It makes living feminism rather than just believing in it virtually impossible. And most of the time all we really want is prolonged physical contact, which we ought to be able to get from close female friends but we’ve had it so drummed into us that we can only have a long hug in a sexual context that we end up having to get a man or be completely touch deprived and then in most cases you don’t get long hugs anyway. I think that’s another reason women have babies: to get culturally approved long hugs, that being the only other relationship in which prolonged physical contact is allowed.

    Twisty, I think bonobos should be allowed to post here just like anyone else can.

  27. Twisty

    RE: bonobos.

  28. lawbitch

    “Men are terrified that I will influence their wives or girlfriends.”

    Yes! I lost my best friend from college when she married an abusive asshat. That dude isolated her right away. Dude pulled off her car handle while she was pregnant. Total insecure loser. I told her before she closed me off completely that I would help–to call me any time night or day. Unfortunately, she believes that this is all she deserves. IBTP that she felt that she had to marry this guy before she became too old.

  29. Ayla

    I understand the concept of wanting to be with a particular someone. I cannot understand the concept of wanting to just be with anyone.

  30. Hedgepig

    Twisty, I was joking.

  31. Nolabelfits

    ON the “prolonged physical contac thing”….thats what I got from my children, NOT from my husband. You can hug kids all day long and it means something. Its real. With a man its just a precursor to sex, which you may or may not even want. IBTP.

  32. Twisty

    “Twisty, I was joking”

    So was I. We got our jokes crossed. Chalk it up to my disdain for emoticons :)

  33. Flores

    Hedgepig – One of my favorite things about the radical/anarchist scene is the physical contact. Long hugs, group hugs, cuddle parties. Touch for its own sake, not to lead somewhere. As Firestone writes, our culture has unduly focused bodily sensuality on traditional intercourse and sex partners. This notion must be destroyed. I want touch in many relationships, diffused across my life.

  34. Lar

    Kind of off topic here, but to answer a fellow blamer’s question “chippy” is a British term to describe a person who is very cold or unfriendly. “Chippy” as a term for prostitute is only used in the U.S. (although I’m assuming it’s from our great-grandparents’ generation)

    The article came from the UK, so the reviewer – while still upholding the sexist ideals of the P – was not referring to these women’s promiscuity. She’s encouraging women to drop that “cold, unfriendly” attitude toward men and adopt one that says “instantly available and easily accessible.” (Equally yuck.)

  35. Distingué Traces

    What does “chippy” mean?

  36. Rugosa

    Hedgepig – it’s not just the long hugs, it’s the everyday intimacy and partnership. I’ve seen it in successful marriages, and it’s something I will never have. Not the end of the world, of course, but as Marge said of her sisters Patsy and Selma, some choose celibacy and others have it thrust upon them.

  37. Hedgepig

    “Chalk it up to my disdain for emoticons :)”

    And mine ;@}# (It’s a winking smiley with syphalitic nose, peeping tongue and rakish goatee – isn’t that obvious??)

  38. PhysioProf

    be so thankful for whatever peen you can get

    For some reason, I think “peen” is a magnificent word.

  39. thisisendless

    I find that the whole being independent thing and being yourself as a non submissive female tends to make finding a male partner difficult at any and all ages. Not just over 40.

  40. Erzebeth

    Preach it! That’s what I’ve been hearing my whole life – that I’m too strong, too intelligent and too independent. And my (divorced) Mom got the same bullcrap too.

    Well, sorry, but I’d rather be alone than be some dude’s mommy, maid, nurse, cook and blow-up doll.

  41. Helen

    Oh, I see the woman who wrote that review also writes a hilarious column about a woman who is cheating on her husband with one of her more interesting exes. How charming.

  42. Irlandese

    Oh, the story I could tell you all about marrying after 40! Suffice to say, Senor Estupido and I are almost divorced. Why is it these dudes think independence is so attractive, then turn around and attempt to wrest it away literally as the ink is drying on the marriage lines? So, from now on….physical satisfaction, Si! Ball and chain, No!

  43. Lindsey

    @not a dutiful wife

    Getting married won’t prevent him being able to knock up other women – unless you have a special kind of marriage I don’t know about…

  44. speedbudget

    I couldn’t give a crap what any of these guys think of me. I can take care of myself, I have for many years, and whoever said up there that us independent, full-lived women don’t actually need a guy but rather would like to have one around to fulfill certain needs for affection and companionship and thusly he better damn well ADD SOMETHING to our lives, not just be a leech is damn right. And that scares these Dudes cause they realize that with us, they can’t just show up. They better come to the game prepared and ready and able to actually participate instead of just bask in our desperate, grateful glow.

    And why can’t we hold out? I was told when that awful article came out a while ago about lowering standards that I need to do that. I laughed in everyone’s faces. Why should I lower my standards? Why not just meet someone who embodies them so I can be happy? And lo and behold, I seem to have done so. And it pisses all of the chicks off that settled.

  45. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Jeez, what’s wrong with me? I’ve just never, ever wanted to be married. Not when I was 6, not when I was in my irresponsible 20’s, and sure as shit sticks to a blanket, not at 49 (the depths of haglitude).

    Who buys these crappy books anyway? Doesn’t anyone believe observable reality? Most long-term married couples I know are, at best, tolerating each other to preserve the status quo. Not exactly something to which I aspire. I’d rather end my days living on cat food in a refrigerator box (a very likely prospect) than shackled to some fella I don’t like or respect. The ones I do like and respect, I don’t want underfoot 24-7.

    I seriously BTP for imbuing women with the falsehood that the only path to true happiness lies in pair-bonding.

  46. VibratingLiz

    “Men say they love independence in a woman, but they don’t waste a second demolishing it brick by brick.” –Candice Bergen

  47. yttik

    So “chippy” in the UK means, very cold or unfriendly? In the US it’s slang for a prostitute or a gold digger.

    That one word and it’s two meanings pretty much sums up the only available roles for women in the patriarchy. Madonna or whore, frigid or too easy. You really can’t win because both roles are considered wrong and there is no middle ground. It reminds me of politics, Hillary Clinton was too cold, Sarah Palin was too hot. Caroline Kennedy is inexperienced, Gillibrand is a self promoting and overly ambitious. You can’t be female and win in the court of public opinion.

  48. ElizaN

    Twisty, the fact that you’re not nicer is why I love this blog.

  49. Lovepug

    Well, having recently been kicked to the curb at age 43 by the man formerly known as Nigel because, well, I’m just old and boring and have the unsexy habit of wanting to do things like make a will.

    Former Nigel rushed right out and went on a date as soon as he was free and clear of my sorry old ass. What’s 15 years of wifely devotion when there’s younger pussy to be had. Me, I’m rethinking the whole, dang shooting match. Thus far, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is really no reason for me to have a man in my life at all. Can’t think of a one. I’ve been in some form of relationship – twice married – pretty much continuously since age 15. It’s gotten me NOTHING except for my wonderful daughter. I’ve put enormous amounts of effort into sustaining every fucking relationship I’ve had only to be shown the door once he’s done getting his needs met. I can think of at least 5342 better things I could be doing besides going off to “Meet A Man After 40.”

    But what about:
    Sex? Masturbation
    Companionship? My friends, family and dogs
    Protection? Guns
    Fix-its and Honey-Dos? Very competent contractor
    Financial stability? Gettin’ a better job
    Back rubs? Qualified massage therapist
    Someone to be there for you? See #2

    I defy anyone, including the “authors” of this book, to give me one good reason to every sign up for that crap again.

  50. Standtall-The Activist

    In Nigeria, when you are getting close to 30 and you are a single woman, people espcially friends and family start to bother you. They will even organise prayers for you. Some churches even do special prayers for single women!

    A friend of mine that is close to 40 came visiting this weekend and her mentality is such that she is hopeless cus she is still single at that age. Nothing I said would change her mind, so I kept my peace or troubled mind over that issue.

    Being single isnt a disease and it’s fine to be single. I just hope a lot fo single ladies will come to term that there lives need not be at a stand still cus they aren’t married

  51. Rikibeth

    Rugosa, hedgepig, why does daily companionship have to be male, or part of a sexual relationship? I’m divorced, share an apartment with my female best friend, and have some male sexual partners who don’t live with me. Domestic companionship, check; nookie, ALSO check; just not the same people. Added bonus: sexytime continues to follow the “dating” model where food and entertainment are part of the occasion, instead of the boring “marriage” pattern where it’s either at the end of a long day of domesticity, or something that requires waking up early and rushing the morning routine. I’m not saying that I view the food and entertainment as compensation; I’m saying I like it better when it ALL comes under the heading of “entertainment” instead of feeling like another domestic obligation.

  52. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    “reptilian personality”? Dang, Ms. Twisty, I think I’m in love!

    But I guess the bonobo ban means that I can’t point out that as soon as women got out in the field to study grizzlies, elephants, chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and any number of other species I can think of, we discovered that the boys had been lying all along about the biological inevitability of patriarchy… Surprise, surprise.

  53. slythwolf

    The reviewer looked down on certain men because she was (and still might be) a classist.

    I think you’re missing the point. I don’t see that it’s classist to refuse to date, sleep with or marry someone you don’t want to date, sleep with or marry. You may have classist reasons for not being with that particular dude, but to contend that those reasons are “not good enough” or something–that, in fact, “I just don’t want to” is not a sufficient reason–is to contend that all men “deserve” their own personal woman to fuck. This is simply not the case.

  54. Lar

    Yttik – interesting analysis, and I couldn’t agree more.

  55. Claire (CJ)

    If you don’t want/need to hear me whine, don’t read the rest of this comment. Lots of whining today.

    I’m *hoping* I have the strength of will and presence of mind to be independent (and single…trying to free myself from male relational bondage at the moment) at 40.

    I have the utmost respect for women who have been able to form an identity and life outside of the patriarchal ‘relationship’. I hope to count myself among them one day.

    I’ve been almost utterly dependent on the goodwill of men I’m fucking/otherwise under the control of my entire fucking LIFE. It hasn’t made me happy. It’s made me sick and crazy, and weak as fuck.

    The other day, when my hopefully-soon-to-be ex dumped me (for perfectly sound reasons, honestly), and I sat at work trying not to cry and scream and pull my hair out, I realized how very little life skills I had. How so much of the work and responsibility of adult life had been outsourced to other people. Male people.

    I’m 30 years old. I don’t know how to keep a job. I don’t know how to pay bills. I don’t know how to get a car fixed, and couldn’t change a tire to save my life. I don’t know how to budget. I’ve never rented an apartment of my own or bought a car myself with my own money. All things men know how to do, are taught to do. Indeed, are taught to DO FOR WOMEN.

    Dependency on men, at least in my case, was TAUGHT. I was not allowed to do *anything* for myself as a teenager/young adult. My father/family was supposed to do everything for me. I was PUNISHED for getting my own bank account (with the help of an ex, of course). I was PUNISHED for spending the money I earned on things I wanted or quitting a job without my father’s permission. Any show of independence of thought or action was quickly and severely punished. Every time.

    I lived at home until I was 23, because my father insisted I could not afford to rent an apartment (I later found out I could have easily done so. I found out later, much later, that I could have easily done all of the things my father insisted I could not do). Because he insisted I could not take care of myself. My sister got out the year before with a boyfriend. I wasn’t able to find any that were willing to let me shack up full-time (or who had a place of their own to shack up in/at), so I basically lived part-time with boyfriends.

    I moved out when the abuse, physical and otherwise, became intolerable. I moved out into a now-ex’s family’s house. Life was hell until I *did* rent an apartment of my own, with a former co-worker.

    My one experiment with independence failed utterly. In six months, I got myself fired, ran up all kinds of medical debt that I couldn’t pay, and ruined my credit. Without a man telling me what to do, all I knew how to do was self-destruct. I drank and self-harmed. I had unprotected sex with man after man. I spent every dime I made and stopped making my car payments. When it became apparent that I could no longer pay rent, I crawled home for a few days before moving in with an acquaintance (male), 20 years my senior, who offered me room and board if I would agree to be his personal assistant.

    Needless to say, we ended up fucking. It lasted about 4 months…and ended with me living in a house he was renting out. I lived there rent-free for a few months until I found work (ah, the perks of whoredom!). A couple of months later, I met my now ex-husband, who proceeded to completely take over my life. He backed over my beloved vibrator with his van (I just laughed. It was so cute! He was jealous! He loved me!). He threw a paperweight at me on our wedding night (I curled up in a corner and cried, beginning to understand what I’d done). He refused to allow me to leave the house alone for any reason (that’s about when I started to grow a spine). He isolated me from my ‘friends’ and I lost all of them.

    Said ‘friends’ scolded me for wanting to leave upon learning he had stolen my tax return and lied about it. They said I’d made my bed and needed to lie in it. They said 6 months of hell was not enough punishment. I’d made a commitment, I needed to see it through.

    The conditioning, the filtering process, the beatings, the screaming, the dehumanizing. It’s taken it’s toll. I’m helpless without a man. I really am. The *thought* of being alone so terrifies and paralyzed me that I’m staying in another horrible relationship to avoid it (great example for my kid, I know!). This came into full, pathetic, horrifying focus as I realized I would be alone and HELPLESS in the world when my ex dumped me.

    I mean, I make pennies. I truly cannot afford rent. I have no car (ex took it when I got into an accident last year…now the guy who’s credit he used to get it is filing for bankruptcy and he wants my boyfriend’s help. Go figure). I have no insurance. I have no friends or family. I have no idea how I’ll survive once this relationship ends. No idea at all. My only experience with independence was such a wretched, flaming failure. I’m petrified of repeating history with a child to care for.

    I can’t help but think that my soon-to-be ex (hopefully) is using this as a bargaining chip/ace in the hole to put me in my place. He knows I have nothing and nobody…whereas he has a stable job that pays a living wage, lifelong friends and a loving family.

    The only reason people write these ‘books’ is because they sell, and because they speak to a larger truth for an awful lot of women. Most of us are poor or just on the cusp of it. Many of us are friendless, come from profoundly broken/abusive homes, and have nobody to help us grow and navigate adulthood. We cling to our partners and mates for dear life. So many of us are so desperate for any kind of connection, any kind at all, that we will put up with the most despicable treatment to avoid being left alone.

    That’s my life. I’ve known so many other women, in my own family and outside of it, who’ve lived this too. It’s something women higher up the hierarchy can’t really understand. We don’t have money or friends or family to fall back on. We don’t have anything. All we have are the shitty ‘relationships’ we’ve affixed ourselves to to survive.

    You don’t want to be here, people. You really don’t. I plan to and want to get out any way I can, but it’s going to be the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done, and excuse the fuck out of me if I’m not exactly looking forward to it.

  56. Jennifer

    This reminds me of my future ex-cousin-in-law. She settled at 31 or 32 or something for my dickweasel cousin, who hates all women that aren’t his mother. (I can’t help but think it’s unfortunate that he’s heterosexual, because he hates them but has to shove his cock somewhere.) Years later she decided she wanted to be a SAHM and I thought, “what are you, nuts, to trust this guy with your money?” Sure ’nuff, cuz cleaned out all the accounts and dumped her that way. Cuz is one cold bastard.

    A year later, FEXIL is still STEAMING EFFING MAD that she doesn’t get to have the Happy Family Platter with husband, 2 kids, one of each gender, nice house, and SAHM-hood. She only just finally sucked it up and got a job. She wanted THAT PACKAGE, dammit, and she is SO MAD that she doesn’t get to have it. She wants a mayun, period, even if he’s a total bastard (and let’s just say that cuz has been acting like such, no sappy moments here).

    God. When will some people learn that no man is better than a jackass man who treats you like shit?

  57. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Claire, lots of us fail at important life stuff the first time we try. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you never learned it, how can you be expected to know it?

    It’s painful and it’s not always easy, but it ain’t without reward, either. (And it *does* get easier with practice, I promise. Until one day you realize it’s the only way you want to live.)

    You are a strong, capable person, and you CAN master independence. And I guaran-damn-tee you will find people along the way who will help you. Friends who tell you to lie in the bed you’ve made aren’t your friends.

  58. Kate

    Claire said “…couldn’t change a tire to save my life.”

    If it really were your life at stake, you’d figure it because it’s not that difficult.

  59. cafesiren

    CJ —

    Jesus. That’s seriously messed up.

    Just so you know: independent does not usually mean “she does it alone.” Print out what you just wrote and take it and yourself to your local women’s resource center. Places like this tend to specialize in battered women, but even if you’re not their usual clientele, they will have some suggestions for resources for you. If you live in a town with a college or university, there’s probably a women’s resource center there, too — generally set up to serve students, but these are generally women committed to feminist ideals, and I can’t imagine they’d turn you away if you asked for referrals.

    You may not have a support network now, but you can build one. And it doesn’t have to be at the price of your independence or your peace of mind.

  60. Level Best

    I can tell from your comments on this site, Claire (CJ) that you’re wicked intelligent. That is a true asset you have. I am so sorry that you were plunked down in this non-working (for women) cycle and so angry that we’re all programmed this way!

  61. Hedgepig

    Rikibeth, your lifestyle sounds great. I do notice though that you’re divorced, which means that, like most women, you had to experience the realities of heterosexual co-habitation before hitting upon a better formula for happiness. What I’d like to see is young women realising BEFORE they make hard-to-reverse life decisions that such an alternative lifestyle is attractive, fulfilling and possible. It seems as if each one of us has to make the same mistakes personally before we can really believe that the fairy tale is a lie. It’s no surprise, as we are bombarded with fairy tales from birth. We need to take seriously how damaging romantic ‘chick-flicks’, novels and actual fairy tales are. They are the vehicles of patriarchal propaganda, but because they’re only stories they’re dismissed as harmless.

  62. Rikibeth

    Hedgepig, I couldn’t agree with you more. This is one of the reasons I try to speak up about the way I’ve arranged my life now, and how satisfying I find it; there need to be other models out there for young people to see, beyond heteronormative couplehood. I grew up seeing the regular het-marriage model, and while I observed plenty of post-divorce situations, those were tagged as failures, and the divorced women were universally acknowledged to be seeking new marriages. My mother’s college roommate had a very successful career, and lived at a highly enviable address in Manhattan, but she was held up as a personal failure despite her professional success, because she hadn’t married, and when she DID marry, she was past the age of childbearing.

    I’ve got nothing against marriage for those who find themselves happy in it, but I wish I’d had more positive models for other ways to be happy.

  63. Samantha

    Apparently 40 is the new 35.

    Your review of the review jogged my memory of this other absurd guide that came out a few years ago entitled “Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School” by Rachel Greenwald.

    Here’s a snippet from the book that I think pretty much sums it up:

    “Men are usually more attracted to women in skirts than in pants… literally as well as figuratively.”

    And then there’s this inside the front cover:

    “In her bold, no-nonsense style, Greenwald tells women how to package their assets, develop a personal brand, leverage niche marketing, use direct mail and telemarketing to get the word out, establish a husband-hunting budget, and hold quarterly performance reviews to assess the results.”

    We could only suppose this Greenwald chick set aside any further “writing” or other career aspirations once she was properly hitched to some white dude.

  64. Jezebella

    Stickers. I need stickers that say “A man is not a retirement plan.” I need to plaster them across every “self help”/”trick a man into marrying you before your ovaries wither up and you become a hairy lesbian” book I can find at the bookstore. I also need a crack team of distractionary forces that will keep the bookstore staff occupied while I deface their merchandise.

    Who’s with me?

  65. tfitz


  66. Carolyn

    I just want to say that reading this comment thread (especially you, Lovepug) has meant a lot to me. I’ve had sex exactly once in the last I think four years, and wish I had a setup like Rikibeth’s, but all the crap it seems like I’d have to go through to get a man interested in fucking me is just way too much work, not to mention demeaning and distorted, and in my experience once you do they start making all sorts of unreasonable demands. This, by the way, is an example of my rule of thumb that anything that’s generally believed about one gender is in fact true of the other gender–it seems there are plenty of women out there who aren’t desperate for true love and romance and who’d be thrilled to have the opportunity to meet pleasant, presentable, well-behaved casual fuck buddies. Claire, you are fantastic and your website is fantastic, and I wish you everything you want for yourself.

  67. Hedgepig

    I have a short anecdote illustrating the doublethink we hetro women seem to be capable of. I was visiting an old school friend in my home town. She was full time caring for her first baby, an 8 month old as I recall. She complained openly and unapologetically about how hopeless her husband was now that their situation had changed (she had had a job as lucrative as his before the baby). She said the past eight months she’d felt like a single mother with a lodger.

    As we were talking a car pulled up on the street outside and two women got out and walked up to the next door house. My friend immediately started talking in utterly scornful tones about how these lesbians had just moved in next door. She talked about how pathetic they were and ended with a “well, if you can’t make it with a man…”

    So, her rationale, as I could see it, was “If you can’t make it with a selfish, emotionally retarded, lazy chimpanzee then you might as well settle for an equal.”


  1. January 28, 2009 « Rising in Phoenix

    […] Without marriage to normalize femininity and misogyny and unpaid domestic drudgery and all that crap, the dominant culture would crumble.  Source:  http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2009/01/25/sorry/ […]

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