[LMB] Re: Matrimonial buck-passing

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Fri, 28 Nov 2003 16:13:48 -0500

-- Paula Lieberman
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jennifer Delaney" <clanwilliam at freeuk.com>

> At 17:22 28/11/2003, you wrote:
> >IIRC, Mr. Brummell was using the opportunity to give in importunate
> >youngster a severe set down.  Slightly a different spin.
> >
> >Robert

> Yes he was, but it is an alternative view of what the wife was doing as

That was NOT what the wife was doing, though.   The wife's words were those
of a total nebbish who didn't WANT to be someone with a  Life of Her Own, it
was all vicarious living.

I spent six years in the Air Force, and knew a number of military spouses.
They tended to get irritated about wives who "assumed" their husbands ranks.
That is, the attitude that the Colonel's Wife had a special social position
and authority because was the Colonel's Wife and therefore "outranked" the
Major's Wife, the Captain's Wife, the Lieutenant's Wife... rankled lots of
people.  The Colonel's Wife might have a number of responsibilities as
official hostess for her husband, and for helping younger women adjust to
life as military dependent, but that's not the same thing as a paid, legal
position as a US military officer with a legal rank and legal authority over
others of lower rank.   The military members tended to get annoyed about
spouses assumption of Rank based on spousal rank, too.

There were issues about the "Officers' Wives' Club" and whether civilian men
who were spouses of female officers should be allowed to join or not.
Traditionally the OWC functions focused around a combination of support
group for military spouses having to deal with all the things that military
spouses have to deal with -- sudden deployments of the spouse away from home
for weeks to months on end, leaving the civilian spouse having to deal with
everything at home and the military spouse far away unable to contribute any
direct personal attention to anything or anybody, the military spouse coming
home upset about work and taking it out on the family, the military spouse
dying suddenly and the family having to deal with funeral, having to move
off base and suddenly not being part of the military community anymore, the
isolation from the fully civilian world which isn't subject to military
discipline and life on military bases, and being uprooted at a moment's
notice generally.  The OWC traditionally also concerned itself with doing
Good Works, and providing things to keep the members from going stir-crazy
[part of being a support group].  It also included support about raising a
family, dealing with this, that, and the other, etc.  Officers' husbands
were threatening because they were not seen as part of the traditionally
female society of the OWC--even though they might face many of the same
problems of childlrearing with spouse getting sent away for weeks on end,
and of lack of a support group in the civilian world and lack of relevant
experience in the civilian world.

There were military members whose attitude was their their wives should be
sweet submissive things without an opinion of their own, and defer in all
ways to their husbands, and the wives helpless babies.  Most of the wives
and the widow I knew were serverely scornful of both spouses in such
situations--basically they viewed it as sick codependency.  The military
member needed the helpless waif wife for his ego, and the helpless waif wife
needed the military husband to live a life she couldn't herself but could
have him live for her, while she inflated his ego....  The reason the women
I knew were so scornful, was because the spouse really needed to be able to
cope on her own and be competent in her own right, and deal with the
military spouse gone for weeks or months and keep the kids in line, keep the
rent paid if off base, keep the car going, deal with tradespeople and bills
and health problems in kids and family crises, and deal with the prospect of
widowhood and having to cope back in the civilian world if disaster struck
the spouse.   Plus, there was that fine line to tread regarding
responsibilities and authorities when the military spouse was away on
extended trips and then when the spouse was back, the military spouse
expecting to be In Charge and making all decisions.... So, the women I knew
were scornful of helpless waifs unable to cope who expected Someone Else to
take charge and make decisions, exercise authority and responsibility, etc.

The women were also scornful of military men who divorced wives near their
own age to marry women fifteen or more years younger than the discarded
wives.  The women regarded the younger wives as lacking in seasoning,
lacking in experience, and having nothing worthwhile to say, and nothing in
common with the wives of the men who didn't do that.  That is, the young
"needs protection" wife appealing to the protective sense of the older
husband, had nothing to offer other wives of the older husband's
contemporaries and associates, as a person.   The older wives had been
through different sets of common experiences, dealing with the military
bureacracy, dealing with child raising with an often-absent spouse,
exercising authority and responsbility thrust on them for maintaining
household with spouse far away... the new young wife to the older husband
was out of step with all that, and socially not someone who fit in.  The
husband was regarded as being tasteless and clueless for failing to notice
or perhaps care, the social issues and problem, and for putting his ego
ahead of all else.


That sort of thing doesn't really show directly in Lois' work. The one piece
of insight that there is, are the descriptions of Aral's tragic first
marriage.  Vorrutyer brags about his role in destroying it and hurting Aral.
Aral also talks about it.  Aral's first wife was young and gay and
high-spirited, and lonely.  She was a young wife whose husband was far away
on military duty, and the social circles she was in, encouraging of
flirtations as one of the ways for wives whose husbands were far away to
pass their time and find something to do with themselves.  Looking deeper
into that, she didn't have a supportive support group, she didn't have older
responsible women helping her out, or contemporaries who helped provide her
other activities and goals to keep herself busy with and occupied with and
find some degree of satisfaction and self-value in. So, instead, she got
involved in flirtation, which extended into adulterous territory, urged on
by Vorrutyer;s malicious plotting to cause pain to Aral and disaster in
Aral's marriage.

Part of the  tragedy was that the young, bright, high-spirited, exuberant
young wife of Aral's on Barrayar, had no meaningful work to do with her life
or purpose to dedicate herself to, and in searching for something to do with
herself, left in the meaningless social whirl on Barrayar while her husband
was off serving the Emperor, was left alone and without a support group to
be led into a lethal trap embroidered with frivolity.

Compare that with Ista, who'd been acted upon prior to PoS.