Cultural Assumptions

“What does your husband do?”

“Does your husband do that too?”

“My husband plays golf, does yours?”

I am still surprised by the assumptions that others make when having brief, friendly conversations.  I end up in conversations with people I don’t really know quite often. Friendly conversations with acquaintances at work, at the store, and all sorts of places.  Cuz you know…I kinda like to talk to people.   And quite frankly, if you live in Illinois you already know it is “too cold,” “too rainy,” or “too hot” every freaking day, so let’s move on to more interesting topics…or let’s just plain move.

Anyways, I find that people, both men and women alike, are quick to make assumptions about my “husband.”  The husband I don’t have.  The one I am divorcing.  The one who no longer holds the position in my life to be called husband.  It’s a horrible and stuck place to be.  Kinda divorced in my head, almost divorced (I hope) on paper, and assumed by most to own a husband.  They call him “your husband.”  They assume that I own a husband as the pronoun “your” indicates ownership. The comment is innocent and lacks any sense of malice.  But it is also indicative of ignorance.  Ignorance that there are other beliefs that don’t subscribe to owning each other in marriage.  Ignorance that a female with two children is married to a male who she has some sort of ownership over.

Which is ironic because I have been thinking a lot about my life and my independence. I don’t know what my future holds, but I don’t know if I am meant to have a partnership relationship.  I know, I know, I am sure that there are many people who have convinced themselves they are happier not being married in order to feel better about their situation.  But truly, I feel really good about my situation. I like not being married.  I like feeling like I can move ahead with ideas and plans.  I can be creative and spontaneous.  I don’t need someone’s approval for my life. It feels freeing.  It feels like that is how it should be.

I especially notice it and pause for a brief second whenever someone mentions the “your husband” nonsense because I have been quick to assume myself.  Growing in knowledge takes time. I am sure I have insulted more individuals that I can count over my lifetime, but when you know better you do better.  But having people drop the “your husband” question into casual conversations is tricky…and I’m an open and transparent person.  And it’s tricky for me, so I can’t imagine how difficult it is for people who aren’t as comfortable sharing their personal life with others as freely.

So, today, when I was asked about “your husband.”  I quickly said, “I’m divorced” and continued on with the topic. But because I am intuitive and can read people, the tone and mood changed ever so slightly.  Everyone knows divorce is a deeply emotional, traumatic experience.  I imagine people look at me and think, here is a successful, dynamic woman who talks about her children.  Of course, she has a husband. And then they find out there has been a divorce, and let’s face it, a divorce is juicy gossip-worthy material, so it is tempting to ask more questions once the statement “I’m divorced” has been bomb-dropped into the conversation. But I don’t want to be defined as a “divorced woman” just like I don’t want to be defined as a “successful woman” or “powerful woman” or any other adjective that would precede the word woman.  I just want to be me and accepted for me.  With my flaws, my mistakes, my successes, and my failures.  I want to live with others in a “judge free zone” that is called the world in which we live.

I have never considered myself a feminist as much as I have an equalist.  I don’t think that women in particular should be granted equal rights as much as each individual should be granted equal rights.  Isn’t is that the beauty of freedom?  Freedom to believe what you want without infringing those beliefs on others? I want to be equally assessed on the “content of my character” just like I want to assess others on their character not their race, sex, religion, gender, etc. Our culture is strong, but the change movement to a more equal society is stronger.  I don’t think we will be genderless, I just think how we categorize and identify others will begin to be based on deeper definitions rather than “woman” “wife” and “white.”  We are beginning to realize there is more to the equation.  We are living in a day where we have seen the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all states.  Where a woman is running for president and has a chance to win.  And the NBA hired a woman to be a coach this summer.  We are learning how to change paradigms, shift a culture, and build momentum towards more acceptance of cultural norms we have simply accepted as truth.
And for me, right now, my truth is I want to be sensitive when I make assumptions based on perceived cultural norms.  I want to hold to the fact that my identity and the identity of others is based on internal not external factors.  Divorce has taught me a little bit about being marginalized and has made me much more sensitive to others.  It is a work in progress, but I am getting closer every day.

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