Writer's Divorce Totally Upsetting … For Her ReadersMadeline Holler
Sandra Tsing Loh’s divorce was no doubt emotional for her, her husband of 20 years and their two children. But I find myself particularly concerned about the others who have been shaken to the core by the writer/humorist/performer’s Atlantic magazine confessional bombshell: her readers.
They’re really upset!
In a conversation over at Double X, Hanna Rosin asks “how did the drive for equality end here?”, while also sounding the alarms of disappointment that the marriage didn’t end with Loh pounding her chest and breathing the air of freedom after 20 years of patriarchal oppression. Instead, Loh describes a marriage that kind of fizzled over the years. No forced sex or delicious pot roasts had been required.
Jessica Grose blames the divorce on her kids (the kids!), spanks Loh for not getting a nanny (thesis topic: do people with nannies have longer-lasting marriages?) and questions Loh’s ambivalence about hired domestic help (she worries it’s exploitative — lots of feminists used to).
Dahlia Lithwick blames the books about which Loh writes in her essay (Loh’s Atlantic contributions are, however, book reviews), thinks Loh had media-influenced expectations of herself as a wife, and seems a touch disappointed that Loh’s kids aren’t a little sadder about the break-up:
Perhaps it’s no accident, then, that Tsing [sic] Loh takes comfort that her children aren’t suffering too badly from the divorce because “their most ardent daily fixations continue to be amassing more Pokémon cards and getting a dog named Noodles.”
Sadly, and to her horror (I’m guessing), Loh’s divorce induces Double X’s Abigail Pilgrim to gag.
Liza Mundy wants a schedule and blueprint of living arrangements, bedtime rituals and school pick-up before she’ll believe this split is OK.
And over at the LA Times, James Rainey hints that the end of holy matrimony never would have come for Loh and her husband — if only they had bought a place in Pasadena!
Maybe Loh lost more than she knew when she failed to find a home a few years back in South Pasadena, another episode documented in her commentaries. The little city where I live might not be perfect, but it seems to me that most of the couples we know enjoy much better than the joyless “companionate marriages” Loh dreads.
You get the impression that Rainey and some of the Double X commenters wish Loh would beat herself up a little more over her failure as a wife.
I think it’s kind of sweet that people (Americans, all of them, which also underscores Loh’s first take on the institution) want to (1) keep marriage pretty (2) look out for Loh’s kids (3) fix her relationship and (4) stick up for her husband, the cuckolded.
Because who went and got married — or plans to get married — with the expectation of divorce, affairs or a boring sex life? And after 20 years? There’s so much history. So much shared. Even in lives spent physically and emotionally apart for some time (as Loh describes her and her husband’s).
Only the least romantic — the least American! — of us thinks we’ll ever wiggle into our nightclothes and pull toward us a full-bodied … glass of wine. And big, long, passionate …. book. But then? Then you look at your nightstand and … well?
On the other hand, I can completely get behind everybody’s call for more details –specific details of her marriage, her actions, the emotions (!), her secret lover and their passionate (if, alas, short-lived) affffaih! But only because I’m nosy — not because I think the more salacious information would shed any light on modern motherhood and modern marriage.
I’m a married mother, you see. So I can picture, pretty clearly, how these things could go.