Monday, April 6, 2009

Love and Money

So I was reading Eric Scheibeler's Merchants of Deception yesterday and there was a passage that seemed really shocking to me. It represents the most screwed up definition of love I have ever encountered. The author is talking about a certain group of people that he desperately wishes to join:

The women would speak of their husbands with a reflective level of admiration and would comment on how thankful they were to be married to a real man. These men were heroes in their own homes — men of integrity who were good providers. . . Something stirred deep within me. I would have given anything to have Patty feel that way about me. (28)

He would actually want his wife to love him because he is "a good provider"? He would want her to love him in exchange for money? Isn't this the most bizarre statement ever? If a man were to tell me that he loves me because I "provide" for him, I would be deeply offended. Isn't that the only normal reaction?

So, what's up with these people? Is their self-esteem so low that they come to agree with the view that they have to buy love? Is there no other way for them to reaffirm their gender identity (notice the passage about being "a real man")? Are they just spouting this garbage because everybody else does and it seems like the right thing to say? Observe the profoundly emotional tone of the statement I quote. This is not some half-hearted acceptance of a common cliche. This goes much deeper.

The entire book is a desperate account of this poor man's efforts to become "a good provider" for his wife who is dying to buy a mink coat. As a result, he drives himself into a corner, both financially and emotionally. At no point, however, does he come to question the reasons that drove him to adopt this sad vision of life where his only value as a human being resides in how much money he managed to make. So sad.

Later on in the book, we can see how the inability to provide destroys this man's identity and his sense of self:

I was unable to see myself as the man of the house, because I could not even get a stinking, lousy J.O.B and provide for my family. I was worthless. My mind was tormented with a raging stream of conflicting thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I did not know who or what I was. I felt no normal emotions. I wondered if I would ever become the same man I was years ago. I could not even conceive what happiness felt like. I literally could not remember the emotion. (156)

How wrong is it that gender identities are so tied up with these senseless cliches that a person would have to go through an emotional crisis of such incredible proportions.

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