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Recently, a friend told me I’m lucky my husband allows me to be myself. Allows? He loved and married me as myself. And no one asked him if I could continue to be an individual once we wore our rings. Who I am is not his choice.
We didn’t sleep well after watching the film THE WIFE with Glenn Close—neither my husband nor I. My husband couldn’t tolerate the suggestion that a man who truly loves a woman could humiliate her with love affairs and happily devour her soul for his own gratification. That, clearly, is not love but possession. (Many women either don’t know the difference or are willing to ignore it to procure the illusion of love, security, and second-place belonging.) And, if he didn’t love her and she was powerful and insightful enough to write Nobel-worthy fiction, how could she surrender her deepest creative needs for expression as well as her integrity in return for family, sex, and back rubs—not temporarily but for her entire life?
Sure, this story line required compelling acting, but it’s a cliché. First, I didn’t buy the premise. Any author who couldn’t comfortably discuss the characters and motivations in his novels extemporaneously would probably not make it to a Nobel prize. Second, the tale of women who willingly betray themselves is not new and deserves to die instead of being perpetuated as an example of normalcy. THE WIFE is not a cautionary tale but a recurring nightmare of self-destruction. It’s time for women to step out of the shadows to be their power. In fact, I would contend the reality of people—men, women, or alternative genders—who are willing to subvert their best selves out of fear, pride, a desperate bid for easy identity, or an unexamined life must end now…or we will continue to create a world none of us wants to inhabit.
Take, in contrast, the stories behind the film HIDDEN FIGURES. Here are the real-life accounts of three people who happened to be African-American women who didn’t ask to be equals. They simply didn’t accept invisibility. They rose above the disdain of those around them without using violence or sex. They made themselves equal and more than equal on the same playing field. Don’t ask–become. They didn’t permit themselves to accept subservience even to those they loved. Each one developed her own professional talents and intelligence until she was necessary—not unlike many immigrants and other minorities have done in various fields. Without those three women, the USA would have lost the space race. Period.
Let’s pretend THE WIFE is true. Why couldn’t the wife demand her name be included with her husband’s so she could be published? Her willingness to disappear is appalling. Or, once the work was recognized, why didn’t she stand up like the real wife of artist Bill Keane and insist she be given her due? Would she have been awarded a Nobel prize? It’s doubtful, but not impossible. Yet once her talent was established, she would have been read and admired by other aspiring women and men alike, and that should have been a greater honor and truer goal.
Why THE WIFE totally surrendered in the end to a lie that merely preserved an unworthy fiction, I don’t know. It wasn’t an honor to her husband. He hadn’t earned it. It cemented him as a loathsome liar to be uncovered at a future date. He didn’t love her or their children unconditionally or he would’ve insisted on telling her truth long before. The female author of THE WIFE embraced a cheap dramatic ploy. We cannot stand back and be silent while evil is done in our names or we become that evil.