The biggest adult film of the summer centers on a divorce (“Eat Pray Love”), the most talked-about television series of the moment revolves around a divorced couple (“Mad Men”), the hottest revival on Broadway of the season pivots on divorce (“Promises, Promises”), the bawdiest memoir of the year chronicles an affair that eventually led to a high-profile divorce (Andrew Young’s “The Politician”).
A recently separated friend of mine, still in her 30s, has a term for the current cultural fixation with failing marriages. She calls it “divorce porn.” “Married people are obsessed with divorced people,” she said, particularly their sex lives.
The Hugh Hefner of divorce porn is Elizabeth Gilbert, of course. She helped popularize the recent surge. Her 2006 memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” uses her painful divorce at 32 as a starting point for an exuberant yearlong “search for everything” across Italy, India and Indonesia, including lavish meals, romantic affairs and a happy ending in the arms of an exotic man (also divorced).
Like all pornography, the film “Eat Pray Love” openly objectifies its subject, in this case the misunderstood middle-age woman seeking self-discovery. The camera positively lingers on Ms. Roberts’s orgasmic reaction to a bowl of spaghetti, her impassioned defense of her “muffin top” midsection, her adoring stare as her avuncular lover kisses his college-age son on the lips, and waits — and waits — for the right time to have sex. The film’s money shot involves Javier Bardem putting on a mix tape, folding down the corner of his lover’s paperback, then whispering in her ear, “It’s time,” as Julia Roberts discreetly closes the bamboo door in the camera’s face.
Forget Penthouse, here divorce porn seems closer to a Williams-Sonoma catalog.
But in a manner that might make for a neat twist in one of Ms. Roberts’s novels, the obsession with divorce is playing out against a remarkable backdrop: actual divorce is plummeting. The divorce rate in America is at a 30-year low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the current divorce rate at 3.5 per 1,000, down 8 percent in the last five years, 16 percent since 2000, and a staggering 34 percent since its peak in 1979. Roughly 20,000 fewer American couples are divorcing every year as compared with a decade ago.
The upshot of this convergence is a fascinating cultural dissonance: Americans seem to be talking about divorce more, while divorcing less. Divorce porn may be that rare indulgence that actually slakes interest in the activity it celebrates. Don’t like divorce; partake in more divorce porn.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
News report on changes to MO law that make it easier for fathers to challenge child support orders based on paternity:
It didn’t take long for Michael W. to confirm that the 2½-year-old girl for whom he was paying child support wasn’t really his biological daughter.
He just had a DNA test done one weekend when she was with him for visitation.
But it has taken three years since then for Michael, 35, to finally make his case to a judge that he should not have to keep making those payments.
Until a new law went into effect last year, Michael and other men like him were stuck. Even if they had DNA evidence proving that they were not the biological fathers, they still were obligated to make child support payments until the child turned 18.
But Michael and thousands of other such Missouri men now have the opportunity to legally answer the paternity question and, perhaps, get out from under payments that they think are unfair.
The new law allows men broader opportunities to petition courts to order DNA testing and then set aside paternity judgments and child support obligations.
Under the new law, any man paying child support can file a challenge to the paternity question until Dec. 31, 2011. After that, men will have two years to file such lawsuits after judgments of paternity or support have been entered.
The old law permitted such challenges for only a year. Previously, the presumed father had to prove fraud — that is, that the woman had lied to him about being the father.
The Missouri General Assembly moved to change the law after an appeals court ruled in January 2009 that despite Michael’s proof that he was not the father, state law offered no help.
“He is certainly correct that scientific advancements in the determination of parentage raise new issues not previously addressed,” the appeals court wrote. “This court, however, is not the legislature. Whether our statutes are inadequate in light of scientific advancements to provide appropriate relief to these types of cases is a question better suited for the legislature.”
Lawyers cautioned, however, that a man who was not the father still could be ordered to pay child support.
After DNA testing is complete, the law calls for a judgment that is “in the best interest of the parties,” a new and untested standard that has not yet been refined by case law and appeals courts. Under the old system, the “best interests of the child” prevailed.
Read the full article here.
A great story about Justice Ginsburg’s parenting trials and tribulations:
After she finished reading her
husband's charmingly funny speech, and while folks in the audience were still
wiping away tears, Ginsburg sat down for a "fireside chat" with the
chief justice of
"One day, I was particularly weary," she explained, and so when the school called, she said, "This child has two parents. I suggest you alternate calls, and it's his father's turn." She said calls from the school came much less frequently after that, because the school was "much less inclined to take a man away from his job."
Read the rest here.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Piece in the New York Times on "The Joys of Vicarious Divorce":
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
A fantastic historical look at the difficulty of obtaining a divorce in New York appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal. An excerpt:
In the early 20th century, a number of young women hired themselves out as "correspondents" in divorce cases—essentially bait for philandering husbands. In 1934, the New York Mirror published an article titled, "I Was the 'Unknown Blonde' in 100 New York Divorces!"—featuring one Dorothy Jarvis, who earned as much as $100 a job. Ms. Jarvis had several tactics, beyond taking her date to a hotel room and awaiting ambush. There was the "push and raid" (where she would push herself into a man's room, dressed only in a fur coat, then whip off her outer garment), as well as the "shadow and shanghai" and the "dance and dope."
Read the piece here.
A new study on happiness offers some insights:
In general, more happiness comes with age, as several studies have reported in the past. But there is an age bracket where happiness dips noticeably: among 35- to 44-year-olds. Parent suggests that is because issues with children are the heaviest, and related it to another finding of the survey: that people with children who are separated or divorced tended to report unhappiness.
When it comes to relationships, people who are engaged are the happiest, whereas those who are separated but not divorced are the least happy, the survey found. But after coming out of the limbo of separation, people seem to be happier, Parent said. Married people are somewhat happier than divorced people, but even they have about average happiness, he said.
Read more here.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Anna Klabunde and Evelyn Korn (University of Marburg, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration) have posted "Parasites and Raven Mothers: A German-Japanese Comparison on (Lone) Motherhood" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Having a child out of wedlock used to be associated with shame and scorn. This is mostly not the case anymore in the western world. Therefore, freed from social sanctions, single motherhood has become an additional family-choice alternative for women, along with marriage and childlessness. Yet, the institutions that influence women’s decisions differ across countries. We compare the institutional frame, in particular labor-market characteristics and family law, in Germany and Japan and, in addition, the interaction between culture and institutions. Both countries had a very traditional (one-earner) family system until the second half of the 20th century. Now we can observe that social changes that happened in Germany decades ago are happening only now in Japan. We analyze if and how the consequences in terms of family structures and fertility rates that resulted in Germany can be transfered to Japan.
Monday, September 6, 2010
My friends (of both genders) keep drooling over this arrangement, so, back by popular demand, here’s another post dedicated to it:
Over the past 15 years, the streets
I had expected great physical comedy in Daddyland—fathers covered with diaper leakage, babies covered with motor oil, men forcing resentful toddlers into soccer matches. I realize now how insensitive to my Swedish brothers this was. Swedish dads of my generation and younger have been raised to feel competent at child-rearing. They simply expect to do it, just as their wives and partners expect it of them (even though women still do far more child-related work in general). It's eye-opening in a really boring way.
The working world has adjusted accordingly. Most companies seem to fill parental-leave vacancies with short-term contracts, and these seem to function as good tryouts for permanent employment. It all feels pretty organic in a globalized world of flat organizations and gender equality, of employees who are not locked into one assignment or skill set.
Read more here. And, somewhat relatedly, Happy Labor Day!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
From the Washington Post:
A new study finds that babies raised by working mothers don't necessarily suffer cognitive setbacks, an encouraging finding that follows a raft of previous reports suggesting that women with infants were wiser to stay home.
Researchers at Columbia University say they are among the first to measure the full effect of maternal employment on child development -- not just the potential harm caused by a mother's absence from the home, but the prospective benefits that come with her job, including higher family income and better child care.
In a 113-page monograph, released this week, the authors conclude "that the overall effect of 1st-year maternal employment on child development is neutral."
The report is based on data from the most comprehensive child-care study to date, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care. It followed more than 1,000 children from 10 geographic areas through first grade, tracking their development and family characteristics.
Infants raised by mothers with full-time jobs scored somewhat lower on cognitive tests, deficits that persisted into first grade. But that negative effect was offset by several positives. Working mothers had higher income. They were more likely to seek high-quality child care. And they displayed greater "maternal sensitivity," or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers. Those positives canceled out the negatives.
Read more here.