Vote Obama, and Tuna Casserole

Sometimes it seems to me that people think divorce is a popular fad and that staying together is what dedicated and stoic people do. This just in, I was more than stoic enough to stay with my ex husband.  I might have continued to be bullied indefinitely. I wanted that much to make my family work. I wanted that badly to be the every-night parent of my child. Luckily for me, he wanted out (though, when my child is at his father’s, I still don’t feel lucky). Tell me that you’re not voting for Romney.

My ex and I got divorced because I wasn’t letting him be an “authentic man.” His desire as the household’s only authentic man was to come first. He wanted to slap my bottom and for me to laugh at his jokes—funny or not—no matter how many times I'd heard them. He wanted to be in charge and free to do whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it. Our social calendar needed to meet his requirements.  Our son’s routine should not interfere with his sleep, workout, work schedule, or any other activity that involved him. Sex should happen when he wanted it to happen (“I married you because of sex,” he tells me. “Not my winning sense of humor? Intelligence?  Sensitivity?” I want to protest.).  I was to take care of our son. He was to be in charge of the money and how either of us spent it—though I should only spend money that I had earned. I was working 30+ hours a week (I was an entrepreneur, working as an owner and executive at my fourth start-up), and he was working 40+ hours, but because he was making more money, his job needed to come first. This had been true even before our son was born.

I can’t imagine what authentic meant to him. It seemed to be defined by some version of man from the early sixties before I was born, a new terminology for the same old thing: not chauvinistic, authentic. It’s funny. My ex defined himself when we were dating as the most liberated of men but spent most of our marriage treating me like a 1940s housewife. Tell me again that you’re not voting for Romney.

He also spent most of my pregnancy canvassing the neighborhood for a democratic president. He did this after making it absolutely clear that he didn’t care if I had the baby or not. Perhaps this defined liberated for him. He wasn’t opposed to abortion. He wanted a democratic president. With Mitt Romney's threat to overturn Roe v. Wade, some days this might almost be enough. Tell me again that you’re not voting for Romney.

My ex may not have treated me like a person (a lot) or as his equal (much at all), but he was a dish machine, a soap and suds wizard.  And yet, when we went to his family’s house, his father would sit like a king at the head of the table, and his sister and I would carry dishes into the kitchen.  Queens were the cooks, table clear-ers, and dish-doers in his family’s liberal household. Tell me again that you’re not voting for Romney.

My definition of authentic men runs contrary to my ex husband's definition and is best defined by the man my father is.  My father is gentle, kind, healthy, and he likes to read. He is stoic in a way that my ex will never begin to be. My father will stay the course in the hardest circumstances and the most difficult of times. He still speaks from the heart and cares about what he cares about.  He isn’t ashamed to admit that movies sometimes make him cry, the turn of a phrase can last in him for weeks, an interaction in a grocery store can touch him deeply, the never-ending span of sky behind everything can be overwhelming.  He likes poetry, animals, babies, and, yes, even football. He was an academic and taught at the university. He is an intellectual, and I believe he actually sees woman as his equals—at the same time that he accepts their differences.

After spending a childhood in the company of a man like my father, I wonder why I didn’t recognize the “authenticity” claimed by my ex. Tell me again that you’re not voting for Romney. I know that there are many good men out there, Michael Chabon, Barack Obama . . . Finley (from a previous post).

So I am fearful: Mitt Romney, Jon Kyl, Rick Santorum, Richard Mourdock. What scares me is that some people think Mitt Romney might make a fine president.  Who am I to talk after choosing my ex husband as a husband?  No one really, and this scares me all the more.  If I can tell that a vote for Romney would send us reeling backwards, take away our rights as women, why can’t every woman? Why couldn't anyone? Tell me again that you’re not voting for Romney.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/51940856 w=500&h=375]

"You Don't Own Me" PSA -Official from You Don't Own Me on Vimeo.

One of my best friends got divorced a year before I did.  She had been married over half her life to a man she thought was her best friend. He betrayed her. I can only imagine what that does to your life. I have no idea how you ever begin trust anyone again. But through it all she managed to be a rock for her two boys, to protect them from the worst of the divorce, to hold down a job, to keep getting out of bed every morning, to cook and clean and work and put her children first. No one ever offered to make her a tuna casserole.

In great contrast, a woman with two boys in her community had a sick partner, and people rallied to help her.  They went grocery shopping for her, and took care of her kids, and made her tuna casseroles. Despite everything she was attempting to juggle on her own, my friend went shopping for her. When she delivered the groceries, the woman she was helping didn’t offer to pay for them. She said thanks and closed the door.

I know this post is a little all over the place. As the daughter of a fair and forward-thinking man, how did I end up marrying a backward-thinking chauvinist? As a country that has been slowly moving forward to find a better place for women, why is Mitt Romney even a threat to Barack Obama?  It's messy.  Just tell me you're not voting for Romney.

In the second debate, Romney suggested that the key to gun control was having married parents. There was an appropriate response of outrage against this remark (not that it's the point but statistics show 2/3 of recent shooters coming from two-parent households). I can't imagine why any single-parent (man or woman) who struggles to be the present, sane, pillars for their children would vote for Mitt Romney.

Tell me again that you’re not voting for Romney. Just don't do it.  We may not all get tuna casserole, but maybe we can have Obama, my kind of authentic man.

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