(from a letter to a friend)
“When a man loves a woman . . . Sen. John Warner has no shame, as his absurd marriage to Liz Taylor in 1976 (above) and his pathetic attempt at intimidating Lt. General David Petraeus yesterday attest,” we captioned this image of Liz and her sixth back in January of 2007. (©2005 TopFoto / AP)
By Sissy Willis of sisu
Chelsea, March 23, 2011. In recognition of the splendiferous, eminently quotable — “I have a woman’s body and a child’s emotions” — Elizabeth Taylor’s passing from this vale of tears this day, a republication of our January 2007 post confirming her sensible decision to divorce Husband #6 John Warner when she realized it was all about him:
Many regarded Ms. Taylor’s glamour as a chief reason for the relatively unknown Warner, a former secretary of the Navy, getting a Senate seat in 1978. The supporting role as political spouse did not suit Ms. Taylor, and she returned to a life where she was undoubtedly the main attraction.
Our four-year-old post resonates. Plus ça change:
Chelsea, January 24, 2007. “Addressing the crisis in leadership among American boys and young men” was the topic of pc-lite Esquire author Tom Chiarella’s brave new article last summer, “The Problem with Boys.” The soon-to-be commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, Lt. General David Petraeus, was one of the earnest author’s expert witnesses. We stumbled upon the thoughtful if somewhat annoyingly naive piece as we were getting up to speed on the man of the hour that Thomas P.M. Barnett in another Esquire article called “the closest thing the Army has to its own Lawrence of Arabia.” Chiarella skirts delicately around the edges of the insidious Marxist feminist anti-boys-will-be-boys movement of the last few decades that has turned Mother Nature’s “snakes and snails and puppy dogs’ tails” into carriers of a “disorder” that must be kept at bay by the administration of Ritalin and other inadequately tested drugs that kill the soul and may precipitate murderous acts [see Columbine]. Speaking of a young, rudderless friend named Gerald, Ciarella — seemingly channeling John “Stuck-in-Iraq” Kerry — writes:
He’s got no way to grab on to the culture of work. Nowhere to go, except Iraq maybe. They keep raising the bonus for enlistment; they keep tempting him to put himself in the mix. I always think he’s a bag of flesh to them, a bullet stopper.
Reading that military-culture-challenged bit of drivel, we gagged and nearly clicked away in disgust, but remembering that Lt. General Petraeus had brought us to the site, we read on and were duly rewarded with Chiarella’s reportage of the General’s take:
I tell him about the boys I know, about how I’m concerned that the Army may be the only option for a kid like Gerald. “That’s the problem,” he says. “It may not be an option for him. We have a profile we’re looking for; we need high school graduates who are physically fit and driven by the desire for self-improvement. We need men who are prepared to be better soldiers.
“I see the same things you do. The numbers are declining among boys,” he says, clearing his throat. “I always call them men.
“What boys need,” says Petraeus, “are role models, parental supervision, encouragement to pursue excellence in all that they do, especially in education, where we must do whatever is necessary to keep them in school.” Old stuff, but tried and true and often lost amidst today’s multiculti pc cacaphony:
They need direction to stay on the straight and narrow, a push to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, help to pursue a healthy lifestyle, recognition that they must be accountable for their actions, and reinforcement of good performance.
We couldn’t help but think of those aging Peter-Pan boys — and girls — in the Senate who made such fools of themselves yesterday when they bypassed the opportunity to ask General Petraeus to educate them — and us — with his vast store of knowledge about the subject at hand, the “way forward” in Iraq. Instead they used the opportunity of Petraeus’s confirmation hearing to — what else? — grandstand at will. Our favorite exchange came after Sen. Lieberman asked Petraeus whether Senate resolutions condemning White House Iraq policy “would give the enemy some comfort”:
Petraeus agreed they would, saying, “That’s correct, sir.”
We’re not a division here today of patriots who support the troops and those who are making statements and working on resolutions that could be translated as aiding and abetting the enemy. We’re trying to exercise the fundamental responsibilities of our democracy and how this nation has two co-equal branches of the government, each bearing its own responsibilities.
I hope that this colloquy has not entrapped you into some responses that you might later regret. I wonder if you would just give me the assurance that you’ll go back and examine the transcript as to what you replied with respect to certain of these questions and review it, because we want you to succeed.
We expect intimidation from the left and from campaign finance “reform” types like John McCain. How disappointing to see John Warner going wobbly when the going gets tough. As Gen. Petraeus told Esquire author Tom Chiarella, “We have a profile we’re looking for.” Would that our fellow citizens who vote these people into office had such standards.
Marcus Buckingham at HuffPo provides an overview of the research suggesting both that women’s life satisfaction has declined since second-wave feminism opened up so many more opportunities for us, and that women get unhappier as we get older, while men get happier. Buckingham has his own theory about why, which he won’t unveil till next week (meanwhile, he pitches his own book, hinting that it contains the antidote).
The Love Goddess thinks the latter unhappiness, at least, comes because society doesn’t value older women, and because women who have been pouring out care on others all their lives know that no one is likely to do the same for them.
These are really two separate issues, so let’s take them one at a time.
As for unhappiness unexpectedly keeping pace with opportunity, if this is even true — I can’t even begin to relate to it personally — I think some tough love is called for. Opportunity brings with it anxiety, stress, and responsibility. It requires a kind of worldly maturity and direct exposure to rough-and-tumble that women were protected from as long as they were sequestered in the moist nursery of “women’n’children.” And it also means you dare to want more, much more, so you are likelier to fall short of your aspirations. That’s as it should be. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs (well, um, no; that’s a whole other issue for women, as I hope Sara of Shady Sadie will soon post here); to paraphrase Robert Browning, “Ah, but a woman’s reach should exceed her grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Men have lived with this inevitable shortfall for millennia; women are just discovering it. No, you can’t have it all! But that’s no excuse not to try!
I still remember the first time I read Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, in my twenties. What I remember so very vividly about that novel is that the narrator, protagonist, heroine, whatever you call her, described her loving and sexually fulfilled relationship with her husband as a long sleep. I don’t even remember how that relationship ended, but at the end of the novel, she is involved with a crazy man named Saul Green — based on Lessing’s real-life lover, radical writer Clancy Sigal — who keeps shocking her out of her desire to fall into that trance again. As a result, through great pain, he forces her to consciousness, gives her herself. Not exactly “happiness,” but maybe worth more. It’s not incidental that that was the part of the story written in the golden notebook.
Now on to the aging thing.
A big part of most women’s power is our sexual attraction for men, as women briefly tried to deny during the heady early days of hairy legs and baggy overalls and “love me for my soul,” soon to rush back to “If you’ve got it, it’s masochistic not to flaunt it!” It’s fair to say that the vast majority of women now blend their beauty and nubility and sexuality into their creative and professional power, just as men do their sexual potency. And while men’s hydraulic potency may falter, their desire and their fertility, unlike women’s, never do.
Another big part of most women’s power is motherhood, or at least the potential for it — and even if you’re not a mother, take it from me, you’ll be seen as a mother and cast in a mothering role, because that’s such a huge part of what Woman means to men, to everybody.
It’s arguable that with all these powers, in addition to the powers of mind and spirit that we share, women have more going for them than men. The price we pay for that abundance is that we lose two-thirds of it at menopause. And we mourn it. Duh! Men can substitute money and Viagra for youth without making themselves quite as ridiculous as the superannuated cougar buying herself a young companion. Nature gives and nature takes away.
Older women still have a lot going for them. Us. What Margaret Mead called “post-menopausal zest” really does exist; it’s like being twelve again, with that pure passion for absorption in the world that was lost for forty years in a voluptuous haze of lust and fecundity. On top of that, there are children and their amazing attraction to grandmother figures, which offers you a whole second (and in my case, first) wind on mothering if you want it. Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy and others think that grandmothers greatly enhanced child survival, and that’s why we live so long past menopause; that this bond was even crucial to human evolution. There it is for the taking, again, if you want it — little kids opening up and reaching out to you.
The unhappiness of female aging is partly legitimate fear of being alone, and awareness of shallow society’s disdain. But it’s also partly just a narcissistic wound. And to that part I say: mourn it, and then get over it.