Friday, 4 March 2011

The Bitch in the House (ed. Cathi Hanauer)

This weekend I am hoping to go to the London meet up of the A Practical Wedding Book Group. The past few books, I have neither been in London on the right weekend, nor managed to read the book in time. But this time, I ordered the book in good time, have actually read it and am looking forward to the discussions that (the small) group will have.

I have to say, I find it hard to relate to a lot of the essays contained within the book [The Bitch in the House (ed. Cathi Hanauer)]. Each essay is basically an insight into each author's life and issues and the essays are roughly connected into groups which deal with marriage, motherhood, sex and body issues. I may be married but I don't relate to a lot of the marriages described within the book. I am not sure how much I want to say about sex on this blog (given that, among others who read this blog include my sister, my best friend, my Grandmother-in-law and I suspect quite a few friends/acquaintances since every now and then things pop up in conversation regarding the blog) but I do not think it would come as a surprise to anyone that my husband and I do have sex, we are not in an open marriage and we are very much into each other. Passionate if you will. Sex is and always has been very important to us. I would go so far as to say that I think sex is a fundamental part of a marriage or relationship - of our marriage - and I think for a marriage or relationship to succeed, sex is one of the areas in which equality is essential and compromise will only pave the way for issues to grow. And by that I do not mean compromise as in taking it in turns to be the instigator or to choose the position. I mean compromise in how much and how important it is in the relationship.

I found the article on open relationships particularly disturbing. Not in content, because there was no graphic descriptions, but in the sadness that emanated from the page. And also because I know a couple who are (or were) in an open relationship and I could see their faces on the names of the author and her husband.

The articles on motherhood I found, frankly, terrifying. Off putting. And, I've no doubt, extremely honest. I would say I am already the bitch in the house (as in, perfectly lovely at work but quite "happy" [not happy but I still do it anyway] to take out my hormones and frustrations at my husband. Who isn't perfect but certainly doesn't deserve rage on the level he gets. I am already prone to anger when hungry or riled or feeling defensive. I have an ability to choose the best, most satisfying, most cutting words, often dished out to those who least deserve it, and it worries me enormously that these might be dealt out to a child.

I've just started the chapter on body issues which I plan to finish on the train to London tonight. As a tall and skinny girl and only slightly curvier woman [I have issues with that word. I may be almost 30 but I still feel uncomfortable describing myself as a woman] I have been blessed with less body issues than most. I, for the most part, feel entirely comfortable in my body (flaws and all) and have no problem with swimming costumes or nudity (in the right environment - communal changing rooms etc). What I do have a problem with is the idea that you can't tell someone they are too fat but people constantly feel they can question my weight (as in, there's not enough of it, apparently). I eat. I exercise (not much, sex and 2 hours of dancing a week). I am healthy (within reason). There is no need to comment. Worse still, if you are skinny, you are apparently not entitled to be unhappy with your body. I may not have *put on weight* but I have gained fat in places it wasn't 3 years ago - hips, tummy etc. But apparently it is not ok to discuss this if you are deemed skinny.

I am looking forward to the discussions that this book will bring, both in person and either here or on the APW page.

[I commented to my husband how I thought blogging had opened my eyes. Before I started blogging there is no way I would have thought I was a feminist. I am gradually realising that I have always believed in choice. Educated choice. This really hit home last week during the dance show when the other ladies, many of them mums, were talking about their husbands. How they expected supper on the table to be provided for by mum, even if both had been at work all day and even if mum was in the dance show. How all the child care arrangements were left to mum. How some of them had to drive their child home during the interval because it would inconvenience the husband to come out and get them, before racing back to perform  in the second half. I found myself asking why they did not share child care evenly and why their husbands couldn't cook their own supper. The reaction was one of mild curiosity - as if they had never considered that there was an alternative.]


Abigail said...

Re: body issues. I have the same problem, where I'm deemed 'skinny' but people question me all the time. I eat and I'm healthy, but I have people constantly telling me to gain a few pounds or if I say I want to work out (to tone muscles, lose a little tummy pooch) I get dismayed looks. I worked in a lingerie shop for a while and a curvier girl came in who, when both I and her boyfriend told her she looked good in a certain babydoll (which she did!), flew into a rage about how skinny I was and how perfect I must always look in the merchandise. Then they left without buying anything. It was frustrating. It's nice to know I'm not alone over here.

Kirsty {a safe mooring} said...

I am LOVING your exercise regime - sex and dancing?? Suddenly the treadmill seems reeeeally unappealing.

I'm reading this for APW too, except nobody is around for a Scotland meet-up - boo. Still, I've found it very interesting and it's made me really want to read more feminist writing - I'm so uneducated about feminism, I think it's easy for our generation to be complacent and believe the war has been won, yet every day we're surrounded by evidence that that's not the case (from the mums in your dance class to the Planned Parenthood stuff in the States - even in supposedly "developed" countries it feels like we are almost slipping backwards).

Totally with you on the open marriage essay too - it just seemed so sad, like they were missing out on all the best things about being married.

Kristy said...

I've found it hard to relate to a lot of the book, also. And that open marriage chapter - oh, it was so sad to me. I know the author acknowledged a type of sadness, but...I don't know how to explain it. I guess it works for them, so it's fine; but that situation is so not okay for my own relationship.

I think I've actually related more to some of the body image issues in the book. It's something I'm struggling with a lot right now, since I've gained quite a bit of weight rather quickly (effing PCOS...). But I'm afraid to talk about it with most of my friends because I've always been the "small, petite" one; the one who gets eye rolls at mentioning the need to work out more; the one who gets the "oh, whatever" comments if losing weight is even vaguely hinted at. It's just a no-win situation, this body image stuff.

Cate Subrosa said...

I read this book a few years ago and by the time I finished it I was just so angry, wondering why so many women were accepting their lot like there was nothing they could do about it. Your story at the end about the other dancers had the same effect on me. Don't they discuss this stuff with their husbands?! Ugh.