Sunday, March 25, 2012

Then and Now 32 - Amy

Then and Now 32 - Amy
Time: Late 2007, single and at my apartment.

I had finished up a shift of work one day, and had taught my final student for the evening: this whip-smart young girl who easily rivalled native English speakers in skill. She was one of my best students, in terms of not only skill and study ethic, but cheery and funny personality, as well. When she had left, my boss came in the classroom with two locals I didn't know. One was a beautiful girl in her twenties, and the other was a guy who was a decade or two older.

I soon learned that the girl, Amy, was a somewhat known (now semi-famous) model who had appeared in magazines, at store openings and at several charity events in this country and a few others. The man was her manager, and spoke mostly in the local language with my boss while I listened in. They had come to the school looking for a foreigner to teach Amy English so she could better communicate as she worked around the world. I was going to be paid thirty dollars an hour for a class or two every week, if I accepted.

I agreed, and introduced myself to both of them. Almost immediately, I acted like a complete idiot when I heard Amy's working name, which sounded like something in another language I had learned, and I told her this. I was trying to show my language skill to provide examples of how I could help her learn, but it turned out that Amy knew about the slightly suggestive double meaning from dozens of other people. I saw a flash of annoyance as she told me, but I didn't know she was really bothered about it until later, when I apologized for my comment. But at that point, we were getting along very well. I got to know about her and the work she did modeling clothes, the places she had been and her experiences abroad, and I shared some of my own stories traveling around. She and her manager left shortly after, and Amy and I met up in the middle of town, just outside the main station, a few days later.

The restaurant where we got something to eat was a great place. There were two floors, and the walls were large glass windows that provided looks to the tree-lined streets outside. There were many pieces of local art and pictures hanging all over the walls, including vases, landscape pictures, local flora, and much more. It was a fancy place, one that I never really ate at because I wanted to save money for charity later, but there I was with a beautiful model that day. And not only that, but Amy had a minority, but substantial, stake in the restaurant, so she and I got to eat for free. We ate on the second floor a little ways away from a wide window that looked out onto a couple of apartment buildings and a little park down the road. She had some vegetables and a little spaghetti, while I had some incredibly delicious breaded soup.

Our tutoring session was a pretty simple affair: I shared a couple of English idioms with her based on some common themes (Hammer of God, drop the hammer, etc...), and used them as a springboard to let her practice her speaking skills on other topics. About half an hour later, some friends of hers came over and sat at a table nearby, and she talked with them in the local language about what they were up to. After a short while, I waved hello to everyone, then Amy and I went back to our lesson. When lunch and our class was done, we went outside, and I took a picture with her so I could brag to my friends about knowing a model. She and I set up another time to meet up, then I started down the road back to the main station.

It was either a Sunday or a Tuesday that day, because I didn't have work in the afternoon and the sun was still shining brightly after that lunch class. The roads were pretty clear of traffic, but there was still quite a bit of bustle from other pedestrians and a couple of cars zooming by. I walked down the hot streets for a while, until I came by a freeway underpass where I sought shelter from the sun for a bit. A little bit later, I found myself in front of a museum or office building of some sort, and there was a strange sculpture out front: it was a little tower, maybe twenty feet high, and made of metal. The metal wound around itself like a double helix, then met up at a colored, metallic circle on the top. It hit me there, as it hit me many other times before I got married, that I was a stranger in a strange land and seeing little sights like this every day, when every other person I had ever known was back home and going through the same routine day in and day out. I felt blessed.

As if on cue, when I was starting to near the main station, I saw a very large temple across the street on my right, so I decided it would be nice to have a look. I don't remember what the outside looked like, but inside, it was spacious, tall and very clean. The ceiling was at least twenty or thirty feet high, the floors were sparkling white, and there were several white columns in a square pattern holding the building up. A balcony ran in a circle around the top of the building on the second floor, and behind it were several little offices and a library where the caretakers studied and slept, but I didn't want to intrude by going up to look around more closely.

Across from the entrance was the very best sight of all, though: there were three golden statues of famous religious figures, each serenly looking out on the peaceful, but empty, temple. I was the only one there at that time, and it seemed like I was the only one being looked after by the local deities. If that was the case, I wouldn't have been surprised: I was still a single man, I just had lunch with a beautiful model, and I was enjoying every minute of my fun life. Who wouldn't feel blessed at that point?

As for today...

I woke up at 10:00.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the computer.
I ate lunch.
I watched TV.
I played cars with my son.
My wife took him to his grandma's house.
I played video games.
I went out to tutor a student.
I came home to an empty house.
I played video games.
My wife and son came home, so I turned off the computer.
I ate dinner.
I started a load of laundry.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I slept.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leverage and divorce

I find it odd that most of the people who discuss why not to get married focus primarily on what might happen in the case of a divorce. It seems that there are very few people who discuss the things that you are nearly guaranteed to lose in a marriage: your strength, your money, your freedom, your time and your dreams. Because of this, I think it's quite easy for people to dismiss the numerous consequences of marriage and go for it anyway, because they don't know any better. I know I didn't. Hardly anybody mentions the things they'll probably lose, and the one thing they do mention, divorce, is easily explained away as impossible:

"Oh, my husband would never do that!"
"I love her, and that'll never change!"
"We'll be together forever!"

It's sad, because people brush aside the things they should know that they'll never have again, and focus on potential divorce as an impossible circumstance. But what is marriage, really? I hear the canard "the joining of two souls" or some such pithy statements a lot, but that's not what marriage is. Mutual support, friendship, love and the like are what make up a long term relationship, not marriage; marriage is the legal contract that's signed when two people decide to stay with one another for the rest of their lives. In reality, it's three things:

- A legal incorporation in the place that you live.

Depending on where you live and your gender, this will either tilt the scale far in your favor, or against you. In America, for example, women come out on top. 90% of the time that alimony is paid, it's from a man to a woman. 70% of the time, women receive sole custody of the children, with only 10% of the time being solely to a man, which means about 70% of the time, a man pays his ex-wife child support (which is not guaranteed, or even checked, to go to the children, and not the ex-wife's luxuries). And around 70% of the time, a woman initiates the divorce, probably in part to the above "long straw" bargain a woman consistently draws.

I don't have a clue about the divorce laws here. But I have spoken to one woman about it, a tutor student who divorced a few years ago, and from her surprised reaction at the above statistics, I can only conclude that men get a better financial shake here. She does have full custody of the kids, though, which is the biggest thing that worries me about a divorce with my wife.

- The coerced caretaking of the weaker partner by the stronger one.

It's caretaking because when one partner falls, the entire marriage goes with it. It's coerced because of the oath taken when the contract is signed, and depending on where you live and who you are, the alternative (divorce) could leave you stripped of everything you have worked for.

In my marriage, I work harder, am more emotionally stable, spend more time with my son, start less fights, pay more money and sacrifice more than my wife. In every possible way, I am the stronger spouse, so she takes everything I have to offer. In return, she causes me trouble or wants more.

- The transfer of a criminal amount of leverage from a man to a woman.

The first point above shows that women often get the better deal in a divorce, and even countries of tradition the world over are giving more incentive to women to divorce, not men. A woman, when divorcing a man, will be taken care of better than her ex-husband.

Women are also more likely to be treated with kid gloves by the media. If a husband hits his wife, he's rightly called out as an abuser. If a wife hits her husband, it's funny, or because he's a loser. If a husband stops doing chores, he's a knuckle-dragging, unappreciative, lazy neanderthal. If a wife stops doing chores, it's righteous payback, or because she's overworked. In almost any case, a wife's behavior is not equal to her husband's.

A wife also completely controls her husband's sex life. If he does anything to displease her, she will cut him off until he comes around, or divorce him and receive the benefits listed above. When the ring is on a man's finger, he has no choice but to abide by a life of back-to-back sexual deserts if his wife is ever in a bad mood. And because it's social custom not to blame a wife for a divorce, unless for extreme circumstances like child abuse or murder (and even then, women can still be "depressed" or "pushed into it" instead of monsters), she faces little denigration, or even punishment, for her bad behavior.

Now put all of the points I mentioned together: a wife is under no obligation to do anything for her husband, she controls her husband's sex life, and she controls the custody of their children and the bulk of his finances through threat of divorce. She is backed up not only by the legal system, but also by society's expectations of husbands and wives. Even when she acts badly and the marriage falls through because of her actions, she is the one who is rewarded. In other words, there are no consequences whatsoever for a wife to act as badly as she wishes in a marriage, knowing the consequence, divorce, will almost assuredly go in her favor. Because after all, if someone has a gun trained on you, they don't need to pull the trigger to make you do what they want.

When a human being is offered the chance to acquire and use power, and to leverage themselves into a better position in life through consequence-free action, they will tend to use it. A good way to prove my point would be to ask a few questions:

If someone handed you a million dollars, string free, and you got to use it any way you wished, what would you spend it on? Most people would take the money and buy themselves a new car or house, or reupholster their furniture, or get a new TV, or quit their jobs and retire at a younger age. Unlike most others, though, I wouldn't. I wouldn't have earned that money, so I wouldn't feel comfortable using it on myself; it would feel like a cheat. So I would either refuse the money, or I would take it, pay the requisite taxes, give the rest to charity, then give the tax refund for the charitable donation to charity, too.

If you killed someone, and your lawyer found a legal loophole that would guarantee you to be found not guilty, what would you plead? Most people would try to beat the rap, then rationalize that they would make it up to the world later, or that the law had spoken. Or maybe they wouldn't care, and would just want to avoid punishment. I would plead guilty. I did the crime, and I would deserve to be punished for it, if for nothing else than the victim's family's peace of mind.

Do you download movies, music or video games from the internet, knowing you probably won't get caught? Do you treat clerks and waiters at stores and restaurants rudely, knowing they can't fight back? Do you misrepresent yourself when trying to get a date, knowing your partner won't find out until you've gotten what you want from them? I don't do any of those things either, but I bet most of the people reading this would admit to at least one of the above instances, where they would choose using strength for selfish or hurtful reasons at the expense of others.

It's human nature to try to maneuver ourselves into a better position. And because women are offered the opportunity to behave as badly as they wish in a marriage, only to be rewarded for it in the end, the only thing stopping her is her moral code. And how many people have one of those, much less rigidly adhere to it at all times? For a man to avoid being put in the position that I mentioned in my Spectator post, to be given only negative-negative decisions, then he must avoid getting married. It doesn't matter what his girlfriend is like before he marries her; people change. It only took my wife a year after we moved in together to go from supportive, sexual and fun, to controlling, demanding, rude, lazy and frigid. To avoid choosing between:

- Taking a trip and losing sex, or not doing what he wants and having sex
- Working a job he wants and losing his kids, or working a job he hates and having his kids
- Winning a fight because he's right and accepting passive-aggressive revenge and possible divorce, or losing a fight even though he's right and pleasing his keeper

...or anything similar, a man must avoid marriage at all costs.

If my wife and I divorce, I will lose access to my son (and hurt him for the rest of his life). In addition, she'll probably move back in with her mother, where he'll be exposed to the destructive impulses of my in-laws. And this is where the leverage of my wife over me lies: she knows that I'm a good man and I love our son, and it's better for him to be with us while we're together, so I'll never divorce her. And that's why she can, and does, treat me like garbage: because she knows I'm not going anywhere for our son's sake.

Compare that to the woman she was when we were dating, when she knew that if she caused me too much trouble, I would have dumped her. After all, there weren't only the dozen or so women who were chasing me during that time, but millions of other women in the country, and hundreds of millions the world over, who I could have been with. She had incentive to behave in our relationship, because if she didn't, she would have lost me. As a result, she treated me with respect. It's the same respect she offers her friends, boss and extended family now, because if she ever treated them like she treats me now, they would leave her. It's the same respect she seldom ever shows me now. If you want to maintain strength and leverage in your life and relationships (and ideally to use that strength and leverage to treat the people around you with kindness and respect), then avoid marriage.

I find it odd that many people dismiss, or are ignorant of, the things that happen in a marriage, which are the many weights that bury me in my purgatory. Equally odd is that these same people ignore or explain away the horrors of divorce, but to me, it's conceptually a good thing. What better way to prove your commitment to someone than removing that contract from your relationship, and showing through your action, not through financial or social mandate, that you want to be with them? What better way to show your love than to allow your partner the opportunity to leave if they find that the relationship is unfixable and not what they thought it would be, and not force them to stick around despite their wishes?

For men, though, divorce would seem to be a disastrous end to an unfulfilling marriage. Having his children taken away, alimony, poverty, it all sounds like a nightmare. It might be a surprise to know that, apart from losing my son, I really don't care about that stuff.

I disagree with child support, because if someone has custody of the children, they should be paying. It's the same reason I agree wholeheartedly with equal, joint custody, with heavy penalties for proof of interference from one ex-spouse on another. But I'll pay if I have to. I also fundamentally disagree with paying alimony for more than three months, because it seems like a tacit way of saying to women that they can't support themselves, and that they need a man to take care of them. And this act seems an effective way of disempowering women by offering them an attractive, but ultimately self-destructive, life of co-dependency and irresponsibility.

But for me, as a man, who really cares if I lose all of my money and then some for several years, if I can get my life back after the divorce is over? It's not the divorce that matters as much as it is the marriage, which is a life of subservience that awaits anyone who gives up all leverage over their life to another human being, who by nature is wired to utilize that strength to put themselves in a better position, even at the expense of their partner.

How much would you pay for your life and dreams?

If you answered anything less than "everything I have right now," then you have no idea how much you've lost in the prison of marriage. Divorces cost men a lot, yes. But they cost a lot because they're worth it. Coast through decades of moderate to severe mediocrity, boredom and/or suffering, or pour alcohol on the wound, let it sting for a couple of years, then be back to awesome in no time. It's up to you.

But to those people out there who are permanently mired in marriage because they have children, like me, I'm sorry you've made the one and only decision in life for which there is no solution or escape that doesn't end in destroying someone.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Then and Now 31 - Odds and Ends 3

Then and Now 31 - Odds and Ends 3
Time: Before I got married.

Just a week or so after I got to my apartment, I was walking from the subway station outside of my town back to my place. I had taken the trip by bus from the main city to my house several times, but that day, I wanted to try hoofing it. It was a very hot day that day, but I was extremely happy with the view from the bridge over the river. Where I had to look around the heads of dozens of people and through less than clear windows from the bus before, I was free to check out the huge, sparkling river from my vantage point that day.

There was a huge line of green on both sides of the river. The area I was heading from was still part of the main city, and it was a huge line of shining buildings that sat opposite the more humble buildings of my town. When I got to the end of the bridge, I began to wander the city in search of my house, not quite realizing at that point how huge my town was. I was actually just north of the park, but not knowing where I was going, I wandered from store to store asking people how to get home.

The people were really nice, and bit by bit, I not only found a line of computer stores to find some stuff I needed later, but I was slowly able to piece together an idea of where I was, then finally got home to shower and enjoy a day in peace and quiet.


A week or so after I came to this country, my bud and I were taking a walk around town on a very hot day. He pointed us to an Airsoft store across the road, and we went inside to talk with the owners there. I wasn't interested in the guns, and they were speaking completely in the local language (which I still didn't understand), so I tried to pick out pieces of what they were saying with my limited ability. I heard a couple of key terms related to buying and selling.

When they were done, and my bud and I were outside, I saw half a dozen locals waiting at the red light to cross the street, and between them was a cute little brown dog. I watched in amazement as the pup waited at the light with everybody, then when the light turned green, he crossed with everyone else with a big panting grin on his face. I couldn't stop laughing.


This next memory from my hostel days is incredibly hazy. I remember being out with a group of friends, and we were taking a walk through a market area to see what there was to see. I don't remember any of their names or faces, but I remember us laughing and having a great time weaving through a couple of outdoor clothes stalls and alleys as we blundered our way back to the main station. There was nothing on the horizon for me that night: no chores, obligations or people waiting for me to take care of something. There was just me and my new friends, wandering around aimlessly and talking as we had a nice walk in the night air.

I haven't had a day like that in years.


One night at the hostel, I was up late at about one or two in the morning and talking with May on the couch in front of the receptionist's desk. Although she and I were keeping our voices soft with how late it was, we were suddenly surprised by a foreigner bursting out of the only single room in the establishment. Red faced and wild-eyed, with his local girlfriend cowering behind him, he glared straight at us.

"Hey, it's really late and I'm trying to sleep," he growled. "Do you see these walls? They're paper thin." He then clenched his hand into a fist and pounded the wall several times, as if either May or I, sitting outside, would understand how our voices sounded from the inside.

I smiled. "Sorry, man," I said. "We'll keep it down." He scowled, then stormed back into his room, slamming the door behind him. I looked to May and said we should probably head to bed, and that I'd see her the next day. She looked a bit rattled, but agreed, and we went to our rooms.

Five years before, I would have shut down and looked at the floor while I apologized, then felt sore about it for weeks. Two years before, I would have insulted him in an effort to provoke a fight. But that night, I only thought, This guy's probably having a rough time. I hope he feels better soon. At that moment, I was very proud of the great strides in life that I had made, to truthfully think so well of someone acting so primitively. I also think that that coolness was a factor in May starting to like me in the coming weeks.


One weekend off from work, I went to the big city with an unfortunate situation waiting for me: I had booked three friends that I had met on the internet for a hangout time at the exact same time, and I didn't realize it until it was too late. On the bus and train ride over, I wondered what I was going to do. Would I hang out with some people the next day? If so, who would I hang with that night? When I arrived at the station where I was going to meet everyone, I decided I was going to meet everyone at the same time and host a little mini get-together for my new friends.

Rick, a funny and very nice guy, came early and was waiting for me when I got to the exit where everyone was meeting up. When I told him my plan, he said it was a great idea, and called another of his friends to come with us.

Alicia came next, a very tall and very overweight girl who absolutely refused to smile. When I told her my plan, she seemed to be ok with it, and I apologized by saying I would handle the bill.

I got a call on my cell shortly after from Jay, a quieter but nice guy, who was also in the station, but a little lost. He agreed to the party plan too, so I excused myself from Rick and Alicia and sped off to track down our final buddy for the night. I found him quickly enough, and he had brought his girlfriend, who was extremely quiet, but quite cute. We shook hands, then started planning where we could go that night.

When we all returned to the meet-up point, Rick was waiting for us, but Alicia was gone. I asked what happened, and Rick said she suddenly had some business to take care of. I felt kind of bad that she had left so early. I knew it was because I didn't call her earlier and tell her of my new plan, and that she either felt too shy in front of too many strangers, or because she wanted to date me, and having others there was proof that I just wanted to make a lot of friends.

In any case, after Rick's friend Kyle came by, our new group of five headed out to a restaurant, and we sat down in a V-shape. I was sitting with my back to the wall on a couch, and between the two tables where everyone else was sitting. Rick and Kyle were at the table on the left, and Jay and his girl were at the table on the right. It was quite a challenge for me to play host that night. Not only did we speak in a mix of the local language and English, which caused some communication problems, but Rick and Jay's groups weren't talking to each other at all.

I played mediator for about fifteen minutes: telling Jay that Rick was studying business, chatting up Jay's girlfriend while those two were talking, switching over to Kyle and talking about his favorite sights in the city, going back to Rick when his and Jay's conversation ran out of steam, and so on. It was tiring, but very fulfilling, to talk with those four at the same time. Eventually, everyone started talking to everyone about school, work, life at home and dozens of others topics without me having to pair everyone up.

The food was delicious and filling, the drinks were sweet, and the company was, of course, the very best part. I never heard from Alicia again, but Rick, Jay and I hung out one-on-one later. I don't know for sure, but maybe one of them was in that group of people walking through the markets that I mentioned earlier.

As for today...

I woke up at 6:00.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the computer.
I ate lunch.
I watched TV.
I went out for job training.
I came home.
I took my son to the arcade, then we went home.
My wife took him to his grandma's house.
I played video games.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I showered my son.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I did the dishes.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I slept.