Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Way of the Bachelor

There's a nice phrase I picked up from here: "a bachelor's way of being in the world is both rich and arid, exciting and static". That strikes me as about right. It's exciting, if I want it to be, because of what I can choose to do, and how I choose to perceive the world around me: it's static in that there's nothing happening in my life that changes its structure and gives it a sense of time passed. As opposed to having children growing up under your nose, and living with someone who, after a while, starts to change and get irreversibly older in front of you.

My way of being in the world is rich, in that I have the time to entertain, educate and develop myself almost every day, and can loaf in a manner a man in a partnership simply cannot, and I'll accept that what the writer meant by "arid" is that, in the end, I don't have children. Or they were just being snotty. I can kinda live with either.

A bachelor does something with his life that doesn't need the company of women: study, good food, discussion, mountain-climbing, sailing, collecting art, healing the sick, whatever. The way he earns his money may have something to do with that purpose, but often it's just a day job. So when he leaves work, he is moving into his real life. He doesn't want to "share his life", or anyone else's, he wants to share his interests. His interests are his life.

A bachelor who lives on his own comes to value the quiet, security, privacy and comfort of his own place. At the end of a day spent in a hostile or indifferent world full of work-related nonsense he has a couple of hours to recuperate, to expand and feel safe. Anyone who has experienced an empty flat or house as a place of recuperation will never give it up.

Then we get down to the practicalities and it gets a little less metaphysically romantic. 

I cook my own food, iron my own shirts, do my own shopping, clean my own house, make my own bed, have a job, can entertain myself, and am relaxed eating in restaurants on my own. Weekdays, I wake up at 05:30, leave the house at 06:30, commute and have an hour in a cafe before arriving at work at 08:50, leaving at 17:00, when I go to the gym, to a meeting, a movie, or sometimes just straight home. I'm home between 18:20 and 21:30 and target bedtime is 21:30. Sunday morning is a visit to the gym, and whatever else to pass the time. Saturday is the messy day of ironing, shopping, housework or just goofing off because there's only so much order a guy can impose on his life. Plus I hate seeing the miserable, unhappy parents and their screaming children who infest the world on Saturday after about 11:00. Sorry, did I say that last bit out loud?

The logistics of that life doesn't give other people many hours to make a valuable difference to me. Women can do so by being amusing, interesting, attractive, good company and maybe lovers, but only if they have somewhere else to be tedious, messy and scratchy. I keep to myself in such a mood and don't expect to inflict it on others nor them to inflict it on me. Since part of the price that women charge for sex is that men put up with their tedious, messy and scratchy hours and weeks, I and other bachelors tend to have affairs, if we can afford them, or a succession of what amount to extended one-night stands.

However, as you have just read, even I have flinched. Everyone does.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The LTR and Break-Up I've Never Talked About

I was dull and unhappy in a long-term relationship too.

I have never written about that, or about the break-up. I'm not a female journalist looking for a novel, so I am not going to write about it in detail. I'm not going to say "long-term relationships are like this and that" because that will only set off the Denial Chorus in your head, and who knows, yours may actually work. Just don't think it's anything you're actually doing that makes it work, or you will be that chump when she drops the D-Bomb.

This wasn't your miserable marriage. We never lived together and we didn't have children. We did stay together for ten years, and through a fair amount of thick and thin, until it got to the point where we weren't having fun together, and we weren't doing each other any good.

If I have to explain why "we broke up", I say that we had been through too many bad times and not enough good times, that we were dragging each other down and were had better times on our own than we did together. This has the advantage of being true, and missing out the part where we hadn't had sex for years before the break-up.

If I am absolutely blunt, I got into the relationship because there it was and I was tired of being on my own. I was pushing mid-forties, had just finished an affair with a woman in recovery who was a couple of symptoms short of DSM-IV Narcissism. A career change to teaching had fallen flat (thank God in retrospect), and I was trying to get back up the job ladder from a period of unemploy... I mean, consultancy. I was a few years sober and had shaken off the worst of my resentments and bad habits. She was divorced, no children, and similarly working her way up the ladder, taking her ACCA exams. We both had our own places and a proven ability to live on our own without leaving empty pizza boxes around the living room for a week. There was an attraction and a certain amount of compatibility. We're not talking mad teenage love here, but then neither of us were mad teenagers. She charmed everybody, had a dazzling smile, and only those close to her knew the tougher and non-empathetic side.

In the early years we had some good times. Our careers went well: we wound up doubling our salaries in five years. Having someone to "do things with" meant that I was much more inclined to take holidays. Over the years we went to Nice, Florence, Amsterdam, New York, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Seville, Barcelona and Sicily together. This was a woman who actually liked Jean-Luc Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her and took to Steve Reich's music instantly. Other times we could simply cuddle on the couch and watch three straight episodes of Homicide: Life On The Street. 

On the other hand, we could also slump together rather badly: whole grey winters went by and we would barely leave my place at the weekends. We could get locked into "grumpy old men" discussions and complain about all we saw. She got odd things wrong with her girl parts, which meant the Rome holiday wasn't as romantic as it might have been. She had high blood pressure, and sex was off the menu for a long-ish while for medical reasons. We put on weight and I started snoring - badly. So some Sundays she would be sleep-deprived and snappy. Both of us had periods out of work, or living with a lot of uncertainty about employment. We would compromise on what we would do together, so it wasn't what either of us really wanted to do. We were better and more effective even on a shopping trip when we were apart. The last holiday in Taormina was a disaster from the location of the hotel, to the weather (yeah, sure Sicily is super sunny in September), to each other's company. 

It takes some time to realise that the sex has stopped. I kept thinking it was my fault, her fault, our fault, or that maybe every other couple our age I saw had the same lack of sex, and that this was what it was like to be mid-Fifites and in a relationship. So I thought that the relationship could or should go on without sex, or that we could get the sex back. I thought this was how it was supposed to be and I should live with it. Right up to the point where I couldn't any more.

In the end she started to get picky and critical, which she knew I don't tolerate, I blew my stack over something trivial (it's always "something trivial"), she walked out leaving her copy of my door key behind, and that was that. We had a "we must talk" meeting which was for her to establish that it was All My Fault, and I didn't care, because I was getting out. 

After a break-up a guy can do many, many things. I had a new manager who had been told the best thing he could was set me up to fail, followed by six months waiting for re-organisation after the biggest banking merger in the UK to reach my humble level of peon, while I lost a whole bunch of weight because my GP scared me with tales of diabetes, followed by what amounted to a demotion and a new manager, followed by adapting a whole new role and, and, and... I didn't have the time or energy to get bitter. I got my old job grade back in 2010 and started at the gym. I started reading philosophy again, then took on some serious mathematical studies, all of which is in this blog. Hell, I started the blog about six months after the break-up. It took much longer to get her out of my conversation - over supper with sister I said "I talk about X like she's my ex-wife, don't I?" and Sis replied "You were going out for ten years".

Why did I stay in for so long? Did I stay in because I was a hopeless Beta? You can claim that she trained me to stay as a partner and do so without sex, which is pretty damn Omega. I will reply that she never got into my house or bank account, which isn't. I stayed in because... I have no idea why I stayed in. Every time I write an explanation, it doesn't feel right. 

I stayed in because I was beat. Not by her, but by the entire freaking world. I was going through a second period of unemploy... consultancy and a really bad job, and was low on confidence. I was overweight and unhappy with it. I felt stuck and un-creative. I was short of money and low on energy. I was, in short, a man in late middle-age who was damn nearly broke. All I had to show for my life was that I was in a grown-up relationship. We gave good couple and treated each other well in public. It was in private it wasn't working. 

But I really did get out pretty sharply once the marginal benefit dropped below zero for a length of time, once the snarky and lack of sex got more irritating than the company and cuddles were comforting. Somewhere in her girl-hindbrain I think she was manoeuvring me to break up as well. Getting a single bed to replace your old double bed is a pretty clear signal. We'd had a spat a couple of years before that, where she had clearly been in the wrong, and after a week or so - when I didn't call her - she called and made an apology. This time, I had the feeling she wanted out as well. I did.

To someone on the receiving end of a divorce-rape, this must seem like a story of civilised behaviour the like of which they could only dream of. What on earth am I complaining about? If you look carefully, I'm not complaining. I could bitch and moan about three lost years of my life, but I haven't and I'm not inclined to. I'm not angry any more - but nor am I dropping any charges. I think I have some idea of what it's like to be caught in a marriage that has died, but there's no way I could understand what it's like to have nowhere you are safe and can relax.

It taught me a number of things, but the big one is that when the sex stops, the relationship stops. Absent sex, you're just flatmates, child-minders and possibly friends with a lot of history. The obligations that make a "relationship" are made by the sex: if you're not fucking, you have no more obligations to your "partner" than you do to any same-sex buddy with whom you have the same length and quality of history.

It also taught me this: everyone flinches. Everyone has a weak moment, and sometimes the consequences of those weak moments can take years to undo. Everyone gets sick and weak, in soul, mind or body. (Those people who say "Fifty years of working, never had a day off sick"? Psychopaths.) Everyone thinks they don't want to die alone, or get old alone, or miss the social invitations because they are the single person, or think it really is time they tried for a Proper Grown-Up Relationship. I acted on that, and took the consequences, perhaps longer than I needed to, then I undid it, and now I don't give a damn about getting old and dying alone, or about social invitations and Proper Grown-Up Relationships. Been there, done that, wasn't my thing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Clapham Junction Autumn Evening

My Tuesday evenings find me on platform six of Clapham Junction around 20:55. It's my longest day. Anyway, I arrived earlier this particular evening - the bus app wasn't yielding times so I left slightly earlier, caught an earlier bus - and had enough time to get some shots. I prefer waiting for trains at Clapham Junction: Waterloo is just so damn busy with, well, people. Clapham has space and open views. Boarding at Waterloo, I feel like I'm running in my usual ruts: boarding at Clapham Junction is because I made a choice about what I was doing that evening.

I guess the people who commute from there daily don't feel the same way, but hey, maybe they feel the same about boarding at Putney, or something.  Also, I know everyone is rude about the iPhone camera, but it handles the extremes of contrast here pretty darn well for a phone.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Tell Me Four Good Things About Yourself

I was caused to remember this pop-therapy canard because Anne Hathaway's character Maggie Murdock uses it in Love and Other Drugs, which is a better movie than you think it is. Sure it has sentimental moments, and the whole ending is silly, but there's also the short scene where the guy married to a woman with advanced Parkinson's says "Go back to your hotel room, pack your bags and leave. Find yourself a healthy woman to live with. I love my wife, but I wouldn't do it over again." I'm betting there were husbands in the cinemas all over the world who murmured "Allelujha' and then went back to caring for their wives. 

Anyway, there's a scene where Maggie Murdock (did I mention I really, really like Anne Hathaway? No? Well, now you know) asks boyfriend (Jake Gyllenhaal) to name four good things about himself. He can't, of course, and Murdock does a sympathy number on his terrible competitive family. Because of course, there are any number of things to like about his character's character. But that's not the point.

The "four good things" thing is a therapeutic one-two. It's intended to prove to you just how lousy your self-esteem is, just how badly you got worked over, and just how much work you need to do - at £50+ an hour - to get better. I mean, how badly beaten up do you have to be not to know four good things about yourself?

You don't have to have any psychic bruises to be unable to roll off four good things about yourself. Being able to do so off pat comes across as a party trick. Being able to do so after a bit of thought might suggest decent self-esteem. It's what the therapist does with the answer that's the real blow. Any answer can be dismissed with something along the lines of "is that all?", or "those things aren't about you, they're about your roles at work and at home. What about you?", or "those are all about performance, aren't they? What about who you are?" (After you've said you're an award-winning photographer, can run the Marathon in under four hours, cook to Michelin One-Star standards and coach deprived children in English during your lunch-hours.) 

It's a silly question. As daft as naming four good things about your car. ("I don't know: the tyres?") The car works as it should, and for modern cars that's a given not a thing of wonder. You are a regular guy, and regular-guy-ness is a given. It's not remarkable. Of course you can't name four good things about yourself, let alone four that a half-competent therapist can't turn against you in two minutes. 

However, you shouldn't be able to name four terrible things about yourself easily either: if you can, someone did really effective emotional sabotage on you. And that needs working on.

What you should be able to do is name four things about yourself that you're improving right now. (My bench press / upper body; my heart-lung and legs by interval training on the treadmill; learning LAtEk; my 2013 work and casual look. Since you asked.) You should be able to do this because you are not a self-satisfied SWPL and there are always things you can improve or change.

If you ever get asked that question, in earnest, by anyone, be polite and give them the answers to "tell me four things you're working on right now". Then thank them for their time and delete their contact details. Because they are either a new-age manipulator, or an idiot who thinks it's a sensible question, or overly impressionable. None of those are people you want to spend time with. (Okay, if she's pretty and available, then one night. But that's all. Maybe two. But no more.)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Why Marriage Was Allowed To Collapse (3)

(Continued from part 2)

So we have: a legislative decision to remove the legal and State support from a dysfunctional and redundant institution, followed by some unforeseen consequences around who divorces and who makes the decisions about support and custody, followed by some equally unforeseen truths about just how few women really wanted to be married and raise children, followed by the rise of "globalisation" - an agenda openly pushed by post-modern Capital - and here we are. Cock-ups and self-interest all the way. The only thing all these have in common is a staggering mis-understanding about how women would behave - and how they did behave is pretty much how the Manosphere describes it. Feminists were pushing at doors the legislators had opened for them. Feminism might have started as a kind of Trades Union for women, but feminists soon turned into apologists for hypergamy, PR flaks, lesbian agitators, old-school sex warriors and guilt-tripping verbal bullies.

So where are we? Marriage is dysfunctional, redundant, the State will not support it and isn't going to change its mind. Post-modern capital does not do stability and long-term. It certainly does not do lifetime. What it does, for an elite, is interesting work and an amount and variety of culture and entertainment surpassing anything ever offered before in history to anyone. The non-elite get regular jobs and as much junk entertainment as they can stand. Everyone has the vague feeling that their job might be done by someone called Rakesh in Mumbai next week and that they will never be able to save money worth a damn: since they can't save and plan for the future, they spend and live in the present.

If you get with the program, you will stay single and childless, enjoy the culture and entertainment, stay fit, avoid junk food, and pay your taxes. Men will not expect women to be home-makers and child-raisers, nor will women expect men to be reliable providers. Relationships will be about sexual attraction or shared interests, not any kind of mutual-support arrangement. When women hit The Wall they can stay home with their cats and thank the Lord they don't have to deal with men again; when men finally decide to retire from The Chase they can go to the gym, read, watch anything starring Maggie Q, and thank the Lord they don't have to put up with any more of that crap just to get laid.

The change has been a little too fast for some people. The fusty old codgers over at Art of Manliness recycling patrician crap about how to be a man that was old in 1930; the guys who still think it's a problem that female hypergamy is being allowed to rage unchecked; and the whole Married Man Game Crowd. Marriage survives as a ceremony because almost all women want to be Princess For A Day. It never did work as a personal arrangement and wasn't intended to: it was intended to bring together my family's land with her family's sheep. Or something. So stop thinking something has gone wrong: it never went right in the first place. If you want to spend your life with the same woman, please be my guest in the attempt, but don't expect the legal system or the State to prevent her from leaving when she feels like it. That support vanished in 1971.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Why Marriage Was Allowed To Collapse (2)

No-one foresaw in 1969 that seventy per cent of divorces would be filed by women: they thought it would be men wanting to get away from their wives. (This was a world before feminism.) When it's the man filing, everything is easy: he can with some justice be asked to pay for the upkeep of his ex-wife, since he's leaving her at his convenience. He has no right to suppose the taxpayer will or should take her on. When it's the woman filing a no-fault divorce, you can't ask the man to pay for her upkeep: even a Family Court judge might blanche at that, and she becomes a welfare burden. But if she gets the children some alimony can be baked into the child support. The Family Court has to award custody to the woman so that continued payments by the husband to a woman who doesn't want to be associated with him look even vaguely just.

In 1969, no-one understood how that Social Services and Local Government would become the garbage can where national politicians would throw publicly-visible "people issues", nor that both would be given powers far beyond the competence of their employees. I don't think Family Law was hi-jacked by feminists, but I do think that social services houses misandrists and not a few bullies who exploit the ambiguities in the law, the closed-hearing process of Family Courts, and the alleged lesser minds who practice Family Law. MRA stories sound like what happens when a weakling meets a bully, and I suspect it takes a fairly unholy alliance of wife, social worker and lawyer to really work the voodoo. 

The legislators didn't foresee the demand for female labour that was about to be created by a change to process-oriented service industry jobs that would form much of the post-industrial economy. They certainly didn't foresee that women would find it easier to get jobs and have a higher probability of keeping them. They didn't understand just how many women didn't really want to be married and would be quite happy being wage slaves or living off a mixture of welfare, child support and alimony. Nobody knew that almost half the female population are happy to fool around in their twenties and early thirties and then settle down on their own with or without cats or children (the noises about "can't find a good man" from post-Wall women are self-deceiving camouflage on their part: what they mean is that they can't get laid at will like they used to be able to). 

Nor did anyone foresee that the colossal incompetence and complacency of Western industrial management would lose millions of well-paid skilled jobs first to the Far East, then to India, and that management's response would be to join 'em, not beat 'em. Post-modern Capitalism (born 4th May 1979) created a pervasive sense of insecurity and contingency about employment, stopped training its new hires and hollowed out its business practices so that, in fact, there is very little to train new hires to know or do. As a result, a woman really does need a man like a fish needs a bicycle - if she wants to work. Add to this a changing attitude amongst men to cooking, personal care and housework, and it turns out that a man needs a woman like an eagle needs an anchor. By 1990 it is not obvious that either side needs the other except for sex and companionship - both of which have fairly short half-lives.

Post-modern Capitalism could not have developed as it did if women had still expected to leave the workforce to raise children for maybe twelve years, so that men needed to earn enough to support a wife and two children. The slow erosion in the inflation-adjusted value of working men's salaries since the mid-1970's would have been stopped by Trades Unions and the social consensus that said the role of women was child-raising. But once women work, and once having children becomes optional that resistance vanishes: the Unions have no support for any action to preserve male salaries. Two-income households, once the preserve of the industrial working class and agricultural labourers, became the standard way of life for the "middle classes". (What do you think all those "professional" thirty year-olds in their flat/house shares are but multi-income households?)

(Continued in Part Three)

Friday, 5 October 2012

Why Marriage Was Allowed To Collapse (1)

In the previous post I decided that the payoff from marriage - absent old-school fantasies - was net less than zero, and one serious contribution to that is the fact that the UK lifetime cohort divorce rate is around 40%. I didn't know that until I wrote the previous post, and it turned my head round. 

Forty freaking per cent. No businessman would go into a venture with a forty per cent failure rate. No Western armed force now would take any mission with a projected forty per cent loss of its troops. No engineer would build a structure that had a forty percent chance of falling down. I'm guessing a serious poker player would fold at the forty per cent prospect of a one hundred per cent loss. The only people who think that 3:2 on is good odds are people who bet on horses - and people who open restaurants.

And this institution is one of the pillars of our society? Nuh-huh. The way you know it isn't is that not one politician or commentator makes a fuss about that forty per cent lifetime divorce rate. Not. A. One. They make a fuss about the consequences, but not the cause. "Broken homes" are like the weather: it's what happens and we have to deal with the results. Anyway, it seems marriage never was a pillar of society, more that society was a pillar of marriage: the experiment run by Western societies since 1970 shows that marriage needed to be propped up by tax breaks and punitive laws, and created a lot of misery when it was enforced. Marriage isn't the cure, it's the disease itself. It was an institution designed to solve problems of legitimacy and inheritance, to resolve feuds and cement alliances between families. Marriage was always a social institution intended for an economic and political purpose. It was made redundant not by the Death of God and the Sixties, but by the Joint Stock Company, the Trust and laws codifying inheritance for tax purposes, which did the job much better. When passing on an extra couple of goats could mean the difference between poverty and comfort, inheritance and marriage mattered. By the mid twentieth-century, two wars, inheritance taxes and a rise in asset prices meant that inheritance was minimal in effect, and therefore irrelevant to the economic circumstances of most people.

The married couple were never supposed to be happy - that was a nice-to-have - they were supposed to be solvent and fruitful. All that advice to husbands and wives was not given because they were unhappy, it was given because they had been pushed together and were being told to make the best of it. By the mid-twentieth century, married couples were not happy, but nobody was pushing them together, so they had to accept it was their own dumb fault for getting married in the first place. Whereas in the past a divorce might have had serious economic consequences for the families, now it just affected the couple, and this began to look lie a decision that if made badly, should be reversible. In 1969, the legislators passed the Divorce Reform Act (1971) as the first step in removing the social and legal props supporting the institution.

The dissolution of marriage wasn't a feminist conspiracy: it was simple legal engineering. The legislators could not have been more clear about their purpose without actually stating it: marriage was a dysfunctional institution that was no longer going to be supported by the State. They created no-fault divorce, removed tax breaks for married couples, separated husband and wife for tax purposes, re-framed Family Law so that divorce was a viable financial strategy for women, and privileged the mother in custody settlements. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 made it politic to employ women. Married men lost their income and career advantage over single men. The legislation was done in about five years. Divorce rates have soared, marriage rates have fallen, and not one legislator is saying "Ooops. Looks like we went too far with this one." Not even the Church of England is calling for a change to the divorce laws.

Then the problems hit.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Crows In The Car Park

Apple send their apologies for the blurry pictures, but I had to use a lot of zoom on my iPhone camera. The fact it took these photographs at all is pretty amazing. This is half-past six in the morning in my local Cineworld car park on my way to the station.