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    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Your Cheapness Will Not Protect You

    You may not have TimesSelect, I may not have TimesSelect, but that does not excuse this (or Maureen Dowd's being published, I might add). If you doubt my criticism of Maureen Dowd, thinking, "Hey, EL's just bitchy, MoDo's not that bad!", please remember that she dated the asshat (John Tierney) advocating affirmative action for men in the Sunday New York Times.

    But, before you want to take Bill Keller out and shoot him, check this out. (It's not TimesSelect.) Yes, it's idiotically placed in the Style section (but, then again, so were women soldiers in Iraq), but it's fascinating that it was published anywhere at all, and it's also nice for Modern Love to actually have some meat, rather than simply about the influx of some new technology (email, eHarmony, text messaging) into NY single life.

    I read about the young mothers of today - educated, employed, self-sufficient - who drop out of the work force when they have children, and I worry and wonder. Perhaps it is the right choice for them. Maybe they'll be fine. But the fragility of modern marriage suggests that at least half of them may not be.

    Regrettably, women whose husbands are devoted to their families and are good providers must nevertheless face the specter of future abandonment. Surely the seeds of this wariness must have been planted, even if they can't believe it could ever happen to them. Many have witnessed their own mothers jettisoned by their own fathers and seen divorced friends trying to rear children with marginal financial and emotional support.

    These young mothers are often torn between wanting to be home with their children and the statistical possibility of future calamity, aware that one of the most poverty-stricken groups in today's society are divorced older women. The feminine and sexual revolutions of the last few decades have had their shining victories, but have they, in the end, made things any easier for mothers?

    I cringe when I think of that line from my Op-Ed article about the long line of women I'd come from and belonged to who were able to find fulfillment as homemakers "because no one had explained" to us "that the only work worth doing is that for which you get paid." For a divorced mother, the harsh reality is that the work for which you do get paid is the only work that will keep you afloat.

    These days couples face complex negotiations over work, family, child care and housekeeping. I see my children dealing with these issues in their marriages, and I understand the stresses and frustrations. It becomes evident that where traditional marriage through the centuries had been a partnership based on mutual dependency, modern marriage demands greater self-sufficiency.

    WHILE today's young women know from the start they'll face thorny decisions regarding careers, marriage and children, those of us who married in the 50's anticipated lives similar to our mothers' and grandmothers'. Then we watched with bewilderment as all the rules changed, and the goal posts were moved.

    If I had it to do over again, I'd still marry the man I married and have my children: they are my treasure and a powerful support system for me and for one another. But I would have used the years after my youngest started school to further my education. I could have amassed two doctorates using the time and energy I gave to charitable and community causes and been better able to support myself.

    But in a lucky twist, my community involvement had resulted in my being appointed to fill a vacancy on our Village Board. I had been serving as titular deputy mayor of my hometown (Nyack, N.Y.) when my husband left me. Several weeks later the mayor chose not to run again because of failing health, and I was elected to succeed him, becoming the first female mayor.

    I held office for six years, a challenging, full-time job that paid a whopping annual salary of $8,000. But it consumed me and gave me someplace to go every day and most nights, and as such it saved my sanity. Now, mostly retired except for some part-time work, I am kept on my toes by 12 amazing grandchildren.

    My anachronistic book was written while I was in a successful marriage that I expected would go on forever. Sadly, it now has little relevance for modern women, except perhaps as a cautionary tale: never its intended purpose. So I couldn't imagine writing a sequel. But my friend Elaine did come up with a perfect title: "Disregard First Book."


    You've got to give Hekker props for her humility and courage and her ability to pick herself up, dust herself off, and become MAYOR! This may all seem a little cheesy, but I mean it- sure, she was privileged in many ways, but she swallowed every bit of pride and then built it all back up.

    11D, Sivacracy, Sam I Am, and Generation Debt on the Hekker piece.

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