Saturday, June 10, 2017

Another Snit Post

Or maybe just a sad post.

School's let out, so I have been an amazing blur of fitness activities. Daily exercise of either trail hikes or Jazzercise.  The sun's been shining and I feel good!  Until I read a self help book!  Now I feel terrible!

It was a self-help book about Marriage. As someone with a Marriage I value highly, I thought I would read it and see if I could garner some helpful thoughts. I deleted the Kindle Unlimited feeling more or less devastated.

It's written by a Christian Pastor, which is sometimes a bit of a yellow light for me. I am a church-going leftie Christian myself, but there are some forms of Christianity which make me really batty so I exercised caution going forward. He seemed to be older (my age? older?) and frankly admitted to a marriage failure which was very painful for him. (Where all this fits into a fitness blog which become clear, hang in there).  He cited an oddly high statistic for infidelity, 70ish percent for women and men, which is higher than you normally see in general and quite a bit higher than you usually see for women, making me think, Ah, he cheated.  Well, it happens. He felt this failure gave him unique insight and maybe it does. He has the Perfect Romantic Marriage with his second wife whom he met on Eharmony, so he thinks his scientific method really works.

So what's the scientific method?  Beyond the familiar and perfectly valid Love Tank business-- (1) women should put out whether they feel like it or not and (2) they DEFINITELY shouldn't change physically from initial factory condition. Don't cut your hair, change how you smell (?) and DEFINITELY don't gain weight. Because Men Are Visual.

There's other bits-- women are the emotional gatekeepers of marriage. Men are simple beings, etc etc. He writes that his first wife asked for the divorce-- he does not explicitly reveal why, but it's pretty clear he cheated on her after she wouldn't sleep with him. Based on textual emphasis, we can guess she Changed (gaining weight seems statistically the most likely), he lost attraction, she felt hurt and closed down the marital bed, he went elsewhere, she booted him, and he experienced quite a lot of pain from the divorce.

It's easy to get annoyed by all this but mostly I'm struck by how sad it is. Because it's a different story depending on what you think about weight change.  If you believe that it is mostly voluntary and preventable, then motivation like keeping a loving marriage should be enough to overcome just about anything.  If a partner gains weight, they are being lazy or careless enough to jeopardize their partner's feelings of affection and their children's security-- that's huge.

If you believe that weight gain is mostly involuntary, it's an even sadder story.  Because the marriage has broken down over something that's no more preventable than a car accident or an illness.

And that's why our cultural narrative matters so much.  There's a lot of data about weight and health out there. There's not very much to show that weight gain is reversible.  People can and do alter their weights, sometimes permanently, but the statistics are not favorable. Prevention of weight gain may be a different story, but it's hard to study.  Last I checked, weight is thought to be about 80% hereditable. It may well be that this was the necessary evolution of this man's marriage-- a slim, physically affectionate wife was super important to him, and in the end that's what he got, although he had to change horses mid-stream.  Probably better than perpetually wanting something from his wife that she was just not able to give him.

I could take from this story that this guy is not a very admirable person for insisting that women must avoid weight gain if they want to stay married.*  I could take pains not to marry someone like that. (Whew!) The melancholy nugget I prefer to salvage from this particular shipwreck is accepting that this marriage, and ones like it, broke down for something that was probably outside anyone's control.  I will go out on a limb and say that I don't think castigating the male partner for sexism or faulty taste is helpful-- attraction is a fickle beast, and not necessarily something you can voluntarily change any more than weight.  But the burden of the persistent cultural message-- that you can fix it if you just try hard enough, that if you haven't fixed it, you're lazy or you don't really care-- is something we can try to change.

Anyway-- I feel a little better now. Off to take a walk on the trail with my husband, whom I will try very hard not to be giving the side-eye since he has vigorously protested being tarred with this particular brush, LOL.

*My FIL who was a colorful character cheated on his first wife after she got fat having kids. (HIS kids, I will waspishly point out.) He told his second wife, my MIL, upfront that he would divorce her if she gained weight. She was on board with that, having quite a lot disdain for fat people herself. She did not gain weight, but she did get old and critical, he cheated on her, and she divorced him.  After which she quit smoking and gained 30 pounds. My FIL never did quit smoking, but he lived to a sere 85 doing things his way. If there's a moral there.