I am but an extension of my husband.
February 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
I met my husband in the third-and-final year of my MFA program. We were friends for a year before we started dating. I was 31.
A few months later I had coffee with one of my favorite former professors and told him I was dating Marc. Professor got very excited and said “you know Jen…he’s kind of an Art Star!!!”
“Really?” I said. I didn’t much care at that point because I was super-excited about finally finding someone I loved and trusted and fit with. Someone funny and smart. Someone who didn’t give a crap about my penchant for excessive punctuation. Someone awesome.
“Really!” said my professor. “He’s really well-known.”
“Oh” I said. What else was there to say? That was my first inkling there might be trouble ahead, and not just for me. Marc’s entire body of work stands in opposition to the very idea of an Art Star.
I’ve never been especially good at putting myself forward, having been trained all my life to keep my very strong personality very strongly in check. But when I did make myself known I was usually well-received. Because I am smart. And creative. And a good writer (I am totally in control of these sentence fragments my friends – never doubt this).
And every once in a while I’d do something totally wild – like submit a poem for publication, or work to a show, or get a chapbook published. Radical stuff.
Meanwhile a friend called me for the first time in 18 months to ask for my husband’s phone number. Meanwhile one of the vendors in our wedding would send emails only to Marc no matter how many polite reminders he got that all emails needed to go to both of us. Meanwhile friends would ask me where Marc was if I showed up unaccompanied. Meanwhile people in my family are still pissed I didn’t take his name.
Recently, Marc and I were invited to participate in a public art project. Marc replied that he wouldn’t be able to do this but that I might still be interested. I was interested. I would do it.
Since that invitation, Marc has reiterated two or three times that he won’t be participating. I’ve sent two or three emails to the curator. We both talked to the curator in person last week, both of us saying out loud that I’d be doing this.
Today the curator sends an email addressed to both of us: “hey you two. Is coming by around 1pm ok for saturday”?
Sometimes sexism is the big things, the seeming insurmountables – rape culture, the epidemic of domestic violence, low pay, the (conscious or unconscious) training of girl-children into silence. This culture of fear.
But often it’s the small shit, the microagressions, little hints of disrespect that wear away at a person the way weather does stone. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and I’m dead certain it won’t be the last.
Meanwhile the thing inside me that is girl, nice girl, good girl is whispering or shouting in my head over and over “be nice be polite you know it’s not that bad he didn’t mean it that way he meant nothing by it BE POLITE BE POLITE BE GOOD.”
I’m sure though, that being polite is not the thing that brings about changes, especially not structural changes. And this is interpersonal, but it is also structural. Even if no harm is meant, I still have to go through all of this thinking about how to deal with this in the best possible way. Which takes so much energy from me. But not just me; this puts Marc into an awkward and painful position as well because these kinds of things matter to him.
I don’t want to be rude or hurtful, especially not when I know someone is well-intentioned. Not being actively hurtful, however, is not the same thing as going out of my way to be polite. I don’t know a polite way to do this anymore. I am 35 damn years old.
Dude. I am not an extension of my husband.