Breadwinners and Power, Control, and Entitlement

  • As a divorcing woman, I can honestly say I am in no position to think about men, –not dating them, not having sex with them, nothing.

I’m quite sure it’s projection, but when I see men in public, I roll my eyes when I believe that they think that I’m interested in talking to them. They seem to walk further away from me and make sure not to make eye contact. I chalk it up to my age/weight.  Most women become invisible to men after a certain age and if she weighs so much, unless she makes herself visible.  The message from men is clear, be fuckable or be invisible.  I’m unwilling to play by those rules.  I don’t want any man to imagine that I fancy him.  Nope.

When I was exercising the other day, I purposefully forced a FED-EX tractor-trailer driver to talk to me when he was waiting for Lowe’s to open their receiving door. My daughter says I’m a troll. I was walking the perimeter of the parking lot while my daughter shopped.  He was so annoyed having to talk to an older less fuckable woman, but he was trapped.  The door was locked and he had a delivery and couldn’t leave until someone rescued him. Oh how I remember how if it were twenty-five years ago that very same fat ass middle age man would’ve broken his neck to talk to me.  Shallow. Receiving hours was listed on the door as 8:00 to 4:00, and judging by the time (3:45) and his panicky demeanor; he had fucked off and was trying to save his ass.  Typical.

I refuse to curry favor to any man. No, I’m not lesbian, nor do I have lesbian thoughts, and I am not willing to go so far as to say that I will never be interested in a man again, however, right now, no. I can barely not roll my eyes at the thought of a man and how they have exploited and abused their role as the traditional breadwinner.   Shame on me for not getting the memo to make my own money, I should’ve come out of the womb knowing the game.

To me, men are assholes. Power, control, and entitlement are all I can see, right now.

My father passed away twenty-three years ago and I just learned something about him this summer. He was a merchant marine for most of his adult working life.  As a chief electrician he made trips all over the world.  Often he would go to Africa (all around the African continent to various countries).  There was a inside joke when we were children that he spent so much time over there that he could just as well have another family.  This was all the funnier when our only knowledge of Africa was limited to National Geographic Magazines and the souvenirs he would bring home to us, so we would often picture his “African wife,” making him dinner in a dirt floor hut.

Turns out, he didn’t have another family. According to everyone, my father was a very faithful man.  If he was to be called a cheater, his mistress was a bottle of wine.

What I learned about my father from my mother (who protected him all these years.  Which, asking why women protect a husband’s bad behavior is a topic for another post), is how he doled out his pay.  Supposedly, he made good money, yet we lived in poverty.  My first visit to a dentist was when I was 17 years old.  We finally got dental insurance after a friend of my father who worked with him was visiting us and for some reason the topic of dentists came up.  When he asked why we (seven children) have never been to a dentist, my mother said because we didn’t have dental insurance.  Throughout all those years my father couldn’t bother to see if his company offered dental/medical insurance and/or he didn’t want to pay for it.  But that’s wasn’t the big secret.

The big secret that no one learned about, not even my mother was how my father’s money was doled out and spent while he was a merchant marine.  We all thought we knew how the money worked, but a very significant amount was hidden.  My mother did not discover this reality until a few years after my father’s death.

This is how my mother understood my father’s pay structure:  He would ship out, and about three weeks after he was gone she would receive an allotment check.  She was led to believe that the allotment was almost the lion’s share of his pay.  She thought that at the very least it was 50% of his pay.  After all, she was at home taking care of seven children and certainly needed the money. When the trip was over and he was home, the remaining portion of his pay was disbursed. This was a large check.  This final check, if managed properly, was to support him and his family until his ship made the rotation back around to pick him up again, roughly six weeks later.  The ship went in either for maintenance or a domestic trip or something that guaranteed my father’s position when it returned.

Often, he would pass up the six-week return to stay at home longer.  This caused a feast or famine cycle in our home because instead of managing the money and returning on time to assure future money, the last check would be spent within the first week or two on extravagance and then there would be famine until he caught a ship again.  Think of gorging yourself on steak and lobster after starving for months then having to starve again after the steak and lobster. Often my father would berate my mother.  He claimed there should’ve been plenty of money to provide for everyone. And us stupid children were often angry with our mother for being so careless.  Except she wasn’t.

Turns out, my father was a charitable man in Africa, not a Bill Gates or anything with an organization or foundation.  Sort of a lone-wolf blue-collar ambassador. His pay was not divided how my mother believed.  She believed he could draw off his pay if he needed money when the ship went into ports, which would lessen the amount of his final check. This, she assumed was evident by the gifts he brought home.  The truth however was, his pay was divided by three.  One-third of his pay was sent home through bi-monthly allotments, one-third was saved for the final disbursement, and the other one-third was given to him while he was on the ship and making port calls to do whatever he wanted to do with it. And, he would spend every penny of it.  On what?  Wine, souvenirs, and playing the foreign benefactor.  It went on for years.

My father worked with an African charity that in turn treated him like a king.  While he was there, they served and doted on him in exchange for his donation.  His family was at home starving.  His children did without school clothes, school supplies, shoes, medical care, dental care, washing machine, dryer, heat, regular groceries, toiletries, etc., and he was playing the foreign benefactor with one-third of his pay.  It now explains how when occasionally a mate of his would come home with him on the night of his return and respond with shock at how his family was living.  There was always something off with how they conveyed the man they knew compared to the man we knew.

Turns out, getting those accolades from strangers in a foreign land was more important to him and his ego than the accolades he would receive from taking care of his family properly.  The saddest part of it all is, it probably wasn’t even an apt charity.

 

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