Friday, September 02, 2005


How exactly did an article in the "Hartford Advocate" about a woman who's bitter about her divorce end up getting a link from Arts & Letters Daily? It might be because it is the most bitter op-ed ever written. Sure, there have been plenty of angry op-eds, furious, even, but bitter? That's far more unusual.

Not for one second does Annabel Lee's account of her failed marriage read as broadly applicable social commentary. Lee's strong suit seems to be projection: her marriage didn't work, so no one's will. She and her husband didn't have sex, so marriage, by definition, dooms sex. She didn't get custody, so divorced mothers do not get custody. You think you're just hearing one woman's story? Oh no, this is your story, reader.

Her claims are preposterous. First, she blames the divorce rate in part on the availability of cable shows starring George Clooney or Kate Winslet. (Why those two?)It only gets more bizarre:

"[A]s I've learned, by inserting the well-placed question into many a casual conversation, most married couples are sexually incompatible. People with strong sex drives tend to admire and marry people who basically disapprove of sex. People with low sex drives are intrigued by people with high sex drives. Sexual opposites attract and then go on to torment each other 'til murder or divorce, whichever comes first, do them part."

Huh? While surely some are neurotic and twisted in this way, it's the "most"s that confuse things. Do any studies support this? Better yet, do her friends' experiences even support this, or does she assume incompatibility and squeeze the right answers out of her friends? And then there's this charming nugget:

"Marriage is a naturally polarizing process that causes one person to detest, over time, what the other person loves."

Bitterness defined. That's all this article provides. Lee makes no convincing argument about the state of marriage in contemporary society. She does, however, insert a "(ha!)" into the middle of one of her sentences, and for this we must be grateful.

As a personal essay or perhaps a first-person short story, Lee's piece makes for a compelling read. But her insistence that her story is everyone's story, and the placement of this story in what appears to be a news section, makes the whole thing a bit odd. The NYT's new "Modern Love" feature doesn't pretend to be anything other than individuals who write well enough holding forth on their breakups. It's once these stories replace more reasonable discussion that we should be concerned.


Anonymous said...

I think this piece was meant to be funny, but it fails as humor and is much too long. Amazing that it was published anywhere. Hopefully the writer won't be overly encouraged. -- JM

Rachel said...

Maybe she is bitter about being named after a bad Edgar Allen Poe poem? and then having to live in Northern CT. By the way CT has one of the lowest divorce rate in the country.