Sunday, May 01, 2005

A couple of unrelated rants

Well, they're related to each other. But not to anything else I've been writing about.

1) Rosie and I were talking on the phone today (O, blessed phone contact! One step closer to sitting together in person at a coffee place!) and I found myself going into this total rant about Ayelet Waldman. Or rather, about the incredibly virulent response to her that I've read both on her blog (even months after she stopped writing it) and on salon.com. I mean, really, really hateful comments and letters about what a rotten person and mother she must be. And it's totally mystifying to me.

I've read most of Ayelet's books as well as her blog and essays, and met her once at a reading, and she seems like a smart, frank, funny woman, loving mom, good writer, with a mouth on her-- a lot like a lot of people we know. Like a lot of people I'm friends with, in fact. Not that different from a lot of people whose blogs I read, come to think of it. So how come she touches off this nerve in people so they react like she's the Devil incarnate, and feel the need to wish terrible things on her and her family?

I mean, I mean, I've been sitting here on the Group W bench for a while now, and like anyone who writes or reads blogs for more than five minutes I've seen some nasty trolling. But something about her seems to make people--lots of people, women as well as men-- consistently foam at the mouth in what seems to me a disproportionate way. I just don't get it. It's not like no one else ever writes with brutal honesty or touches on controversial subjects. Is it something about the way she writes? Is it the fact that she was on Oprah? That her husband's famous? That she has short hair? Does she emit some high-pitched sound that only some people can hear, that makes them batshit? What's up?

It's not like I'm asking for trolling nasty comments over here, on either her or me; honest, I'm just as glad I've never had any (except for my very own troll, of course). But if anyone has a cogent, reasoned explanation for this phenomenon (which reminds both Rosie and me of the mud flung at Hillary Clinton), bring it on.

2) One thing that seems to piss a lot of people off is the way Ayelet's been writing and talking (in the New York Times and on Oprah) about how she loves her husband more than her kids. Since I'm very late to the party, lots of other people--who I should link to here but won't because I'm too lazy-- have weighed in on this on their own blogs (and on Ayelet's comments, and in the salon.com letters), and their responses mostly fall into two camps:

a) Ayelet Waldman is a bitch from hell! How can she be such a degenerate, neglectful mother as to love her husband most! I love my kids most, like any good mom, and so should she. And all of you. So there, underwear.

b) Ayelet Waldman is the best! Of course she puts her relationship with her husband first! So do I, and so should any good spouse. Otherwise, the marital bond will wither on the vine and you'll be divorced before your kid's out of diapers. So pooh-pooh to you.

Here's the thing: I think everyone's right. Or wrong. I mean, what's with the lecturing everyone on how what's best for you is what's best for all of us? Ayelet loves her husband best, he loves her best, their bond is at the center of their family, and I'm sure their kids blossom in the shelter of that love. It works for them, as it does for many families. She's being honest about it, and for whatever weird reason (see Rant #1) has gotten blasted for that.

But it doesn't work that way for all families. RW and me, for example: both of us love Mermaid Girl best. There's no "should" about it; we just do. She's the center of our world. If either of us were stuck in that proverbial lifeboat, there is no question that our beloved life partner would be facing a watery grave if that was the way to save our girl. The two of us have a lot of things in common, and our overriding love for her is one of them. It's strengthened our relationship, if anything. We've got our share of issues--maybe more than our share--but we're absolutely united about her.

Maybe this setup we have will lead our relationship to deteriorate in the long run, even though we try to make time to connect as adults together as well as each having some alone-time. And some people who put their spouses first may find that their kids suffer for it. It depends on the family. For most people, it doesn't matter so much; it's not like there's a shortage of love, you know?

I'm afraid this is coming out defensive, when I don't mean to be. It doesn't make Ayelet wrong, or anyone else who puts their kid first irrefutably right. All I can say is: this is the way it is, with us. And it seems to work for us. And if it works for you that way too, great. Just don't be trashing Ayelet about it*.

(*Not that anyone still is, since everyone but me has totally moved on from this subject. I just had this sudden need to get it out there. And now I have. Thank you all and goodnight.)

4 Comments:

Blogger That Girl said...

I love Aylet. I didnt realize she was being slammed so hard. I read her original post back when she was blogging on her own. I neither agree or disagree, I guess I am unable to quantify love like that. What I am able to do however is recognize that everyone in the world is different and feels differently about everything without there being a "wrong" or a "right" attached to that. I dont understand where the arrogance to judge others so casually comes from.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

Maybe people are feeling guilty for whatever side they fall on in that question, so they vent it all on her? Strange. I like her. I just read the second mommy mystery and it was very fun and smart. I accidently said some mean things about a friend of hers whom I accidently happen to know from preschool here, though, and I'm still embarrassed. Accidently. Gulp.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous mamacate said...

I haven't read the Salon essay in question, though I have seen some of the discussion, and it did seem to hit a nerve. I have actually not read the article because, like ThatGirl, I don't quantify love in that way, and I'm not that interested.

But I think part of the nerve she hit has to do with some cultural stuff about straight families. The whole thing about loving DH more than kids reminds me way too much of Babywise and other born-again christian parenting advice that insists that mothers ignore infants' needs in order to take care of their husbands. I'm not saying Ayelet is saying this stuff (I did read her blog when she was blogging and I liked her writing), but I think it may be touching off some reactions that are tied to cultural messages that force straight mothers to CHOOSE between children and partners. And I think that's pretty messed up, and perhaps we should be questioning the concept of finite love and expectations of mothers, not setting up false choices--no matter how provocative. Interesting, though, huh. And no, Ayelet does not deserve to take the rap for Ezzo and his cohort.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I'm sure no-one else but els will see this comment at this point, but I think mamacate is right on target here. What else could explain such virulent reactions? So choosing your children is a gender rebellion. Odd, though, because it's also a way women surrender their selfhood. Which would make choosing your husband an act of gender rebellion. Really, straight women can't win. I don't understand why so many of them don't just give up. With my straight friends, I act like they have a relationship and I have a relationship and everything is wonderful, but honestly, I do feel for them. For all that the world is fucked up, and patriarchy dwells fully-formed in my own head, when I get home I can shut the door and we can be ourselves. And it doesn't matter whom I love more because we're already so terribly inappropriate that no-one cares.

--Angela

4:30 PM  

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