Thursday, November 1, 2007

"Advice Goddess": Marrying the Hatchet

There's a column from Amy Alkon, "Advice Goddess," that's getting a lot of discussion on Reddit today. An advice-seeker writes in:

My husband of two months has always treated me very well, and is usually thoughtful. But, one week before our wedding, he broke a promise. I hate the whole stripper thing, so he agreed to a coed party at a dueling piano bar. There was a strip club next door, but he promised he wouldn’t go in. All was well until I learned that he and his brother (who’s nothing but trouble) were at the strip club. I went over and went crazy and tossed an ashtray at his head. I was kicked out, they followed, and his brother yelled at me. I wanted to call off the wedding, but we still got married. Since then, I keep bringing this up and he keeps begging for forgiveness, saying he’d never been so drunk, and he didn’t know what he was doing. I just can’t understand how he could hurt me this way.

The discussions that follow are exemplars of clashing narratives. On the one side, we've got the misogynists complaining about how women are controlling harpies, and how they're as abusive as men. On the other side, we've got folks (forget being neutral, let's call them "voices of reason") pointing out that, while her violent response was unacceptable, two wrongs don't make a right, and it doesn't excuse his own broken promise.

Alkon, unsurprisingly, sides with the misogynists. The bulk of her reply is about the ashtray sentence - his breaking of his promise is dismissed with a "Bummer, human nature happens." After that, she pretty much verbally abuses the woman for having a problem with her fiance going to a strip club, implying that she went through with the marriage out of greed, that she's just trying to control him. (Then there's the random fat-bashing at the end, which came out of left field.)

This sort of thing is Alkon's bread and butter. Her angle as "Advice Goddess" is to be hipper than Dear Abby, Ann Landers, etc. by (a) being snarkier and (b) being more about entertaining the readers than helping the advice-seeker. She also tends toward the Ann Coulter style of gaining currency by being a woman who tells misogynist men what they want to hear - in this case, that breaking a promise isn't so bad, and that women shouldn't be able to ask anything of men they're in relationships with.

Here's my advice, not that anyone asked:

If your partner asks something of you that you're not comfortable with, you don't agree to it and then break the promise. You tell them it's a problem, and you try to work out a solution that's acceptable. Maybe the solution is that it's not enough of a big deal to one partner, maybe it's a compromise promise, maybe it's deciding that this is an irreconcilable difference. But you don't get to have your cake and eat it too by telling your partner you're okay with the condition and then breaking it.

Now what's done is done, and you have the choice of what to do about it, which basically boils down to staying or leaving. I suppose there's a third option, which is trying to use the broken promise to effect some other concession from him, but I really abhor the idea of bartering misdeeds, which is why the whole thing about the ashtray doesn't exculpate the fiance. This is a relationship, presumably, not a hostile negotiation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen! I sure wish you could write the column instead. Amy Alkon is the most irritating, irrational, and just plain mean columnist out there.