Thursday, November 1, 2007
This poor guy
I met a young couple the other day with three little boys. The father, who was in the military, was getting ready to leave in a couple of days for Iraq. As I chatted with them, I tried to think of a way to convey my thanks to him for putting his life on the line in the service of our country; I tried to think of a way to express my concern and my empathy for him and his family. As I was half listening to the conversation and half trying to decide the best way to express my gratitude and concern to virtual strangers, something happened that really made me sad. I was speaking to the wife and the youngest son, barely a toddler, decided he wanted to try and tackle the staircase. As he attempted to go downstairs, his oldest brother got in front of him and stopped him. The toddler got upset at this impediment and started crying. The mother saw what was happening and began reprimanding her older son for upsetting the baby. Upon this, the father stepped forward in defense of his son and explained to his wife that he'd told the boy to watch his brother and not let him go downstairs. His wife's response was to roll her eyes and yell, "Hello! Who's the adult here? You don't put your six year old son in charge of the baby, you do it yourself. My gosh! Am I the only adult around here. Can't I trust you to handle anything?" Then she turned back to me, rolled her eyes and apologized (I'm sure for the alleged stupidity of her husband and not her own behavior) and politely continued our conversation. I watched her husband throughout this and felt so bad for the guy. You could tell he was angry and embarassed, but too polite to start a fight with her over it in front of me. I, not only pitied the poor man, but I was also really angry. Here her husband's getting ready to leave for Iraq for a year, having to be separated from his family, who knows if he'll even survive, and THESE are his parting memories...this is the respect and appreciation he'll carry with him. I related this incidence to another person who speculated that perhaps the wife's behavior was atypical and merely an expression of her own stress and anxiety over her husband's leaving. Maybe...but who cares? Knowing what her husband was about to face, knowing what little time she has with him, she should have buried her own fears to be there for him. Ofcourse, noting the ease with which she derided him in front of a perfect strange, I tend to think this was typical behavior. I seriously doubt she gave it a second thought. This is, unfortunately, how many husbands are treated today. The message in the media is that men are to be treated like incompetants or like children. They aren't intelligent enough to do anything on their own and the average wife has little patience for their "ineptitude". It's amazing that men gave us the ability to fly and got us to the moon but still manage to be given the title of incompetant. Ofcourse, we all know they're not. This is the feminist ploy to empower women. Get them to look down on and belittle their husbands so they can feel better about themselves; and men, because they're too kind to respond in like, let them. You hear the word abuse tossed around quite regularly in conjunction with marriage, generally being attributed to a husband's treatment of his wife. This--meaning the behavior I described above--is abuse. It is verbal and emotional abuse and it happens all the time and nobody thinks anything of it. On the contrary, many people find it funny. After this humiliating experience, the duly chastened husband avoided further conversation and stayed with his sons. I tried to convey some of my feelings to him, with my eyes and sympathetic smile, but I didn't have the opportunity to extend to him my thanks and well-wishes. I can only hope that at some point, his wife looked beyond herself a bit to give him some of the warmth, love and respect he truly deserved before he left.