[LMB] Re: Matrimonial buck-passing

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Fri, 28 Nov 2003 00:56:17 -0500

-- Paula Lieberman
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <CatMtn at aol.com>

> Paula writes:
> > She was a grad student at the time, and tried to strike up a
> > with the wife of one of her fellow grad students.  "What do you think of
> > Nixon impeachment hearings?" Sandy asked the woman.  The woman turned to
> > husband and asked, "Honey, what I do think about the Nixon impeachment
> > hearings?"
> M replies:
> Was the grad student sure the wife was serious?  Or maybe she disagreed

Yes. This was the first half the of the 1970s timeframe.  The wife probably
wasn't a college graduate.  That was back in the days when often the wife
would be working for a living and helping support the husband in grad
school. The husband would often ditch the wife after getting the masters' or
doctorate and a professional high-paying job, wanting a spouse with greater
trophy credentials and/or more able to hold a place of her own in an
intellectual discussion that the wife who suppressed her own
self-actualization to contribute to her husband's success... and then her
reward was being dumped.  YUCK!!!

> the departmental position on the subject and didn't want to embarrass her
> husband by saying so, but was giving him a not-so-gentle dig about it.
Joe and I

No, it was not that, not at all.

> sometimes, when one of us held extremely strong views about something that
> really didn't want to talk about because it would turn into a rant
> inappropriate for the occasion, would ask the other to explain their views
on the

The usual response for people who had no opinion was a shrug or who thought
that the proceedings were undignified and unjustified were to say they
thought it undignified and unjustified, or to change the topic to something
else.  Sandy was attempting to start a conversation with the wife, and
trying to find some subject, to get into a -conversation-, as opposed to
"grad students talk about their studies and the grad students' wives (there
were very few female graduate students at the time, and a relatively low
number of grad students' wives, or at least, that was the situation at MIT)
were just sort of there as supernumary warm bodies.  Sandy was trying to
treat the woman as a person and get into a conversation with her, and the
main common topic at the time was the impeachment.   But, the woman was
refusing to be engaged, and instead of expressing any opinion of her own, or
suggesting a topic of conversation herself, turned to her husband to speak
on her behalf.  There was no indication whatsoever that the woman wanted to
have any opinion of her own on the subject, or was willing to engage with a
female grad student who wanted to treat her as a person in her own right and
not invisible appendage to male grad student.

> subject.  Like "Uh, he feels so strongly in favor of (or against) *** that
he usually
> doesn't discuss it at parties.  If you really want to talk to him about
it, I

No, the exact words were, "Honey, how do I feel about....?"  The wife
apparently was doing the Vicarious Public Living thing, in which the wife
stays out of having involvement, opinion, or participation in public life
and citizenships and follows her husband's lead, sort of like Anita Bryant
parroting her husband-of-the-time's views about gays, was it? Then he dumped
her and suddenly she wasn't sure of what "her" opinions were anymore....
she'd basically suppressed  her own personhood in favor of being an
appendage to her husband's worldview and opinions and attitudes.

> suggest you come over to our place some time when it would just be the two
> you and he could talk freely."  This occurred several times, and usually
> person just dropped the subject.  However, once or twice they actually
> over and had a high-decibel discussion either in opposition or agreement.
> did the same for me a time or two.

It was not that sort of situation at all. The wife seemed to be a
not-all-that-bright sort.  LOTS of male grad students had wives who were not
their intellectual equals, at the time. And sometimes those wives got dumped
later, as noted above.  The situation was completely unfair, but was
encouraged by the parts of the culture that encouraged early marriage to
e.g. high school sweethearts, or because of lack of effectively used birth
control.... I've known a few people that that happened to, and there was the
definition. "Enid Virgin -- a divorcee with only one child" at Vance Air
Force Base, Enid, Oklahoma....   one of the people I'd known whose first
marriage was due to lack of effective birth control, got the shotgun
marriage while in pilot training, not sure it if were at Vance AFB or some
other pilot training base.

That makes me wonder about matrimonial customers of Barrayaran military away
from home for a long time, did they bring home non-Barrayaran wives, or did
they have off-planet children but no permanent relationships with mother, or
were there no pregnancies??   We know what happened in the case of fetuses
cause by rape in a certain war.... but what about otherwise?

[Note, I had a coworker who dumped her husband who wasn't up to her
intellectual weight, they had married relatively young and from the same
background, but she changed away from that background and he didn't, and the
result was a divorce.  I don't think he has paid her way through grad
school, however.]