We are up to day 21 of the Wordcount Blogathon 2013. I am glad I held a few ideas back for the end of the month because I am feeling a bit brain dead these days. One of the topics I’d like to explore over the next few posts is competition. When someone says the word – competition – people tend to picture an athlete, or more specifically, a young male athlete. They don’t normally think about middle aged women. Believe me, middle aged woman are very competitive.
In Overlook, the women are shockingly competitive. Stacia Curran abuses her already broken body to compete in long distance open water swims. She is fueled by guilty and ambitions. Kitty Haskell relentlessly practices her tennis strokes in order to win the neighborhood round-robin every year, she keeps track of who is in or out of The Lookers clique of popular moms, and she makes the most beautiful cupcakes on the bake sale table. Kitty doesn’t have to make cupcakes with fruit leather butterflies or decorated to look like ladybugs. She does it to one up the other women.
When you go to a school or church function, is there one women who always brings beautiful desserts or fancy hors devours? Is she doing so to express her creativity through food, or is she trying to one up everyone else?
When I read Ms. Heffernan’s article I thought about the ladies of Overlook. The two main characters in Overlook are both stay-at-home moms. Stacia Curran chose to stay home with her children while ruling her real estate empire. Kitty stumbled into the role through a series of bad decisions. Kitty regrets being a stay-at-home mom. She had dreams of having a career as a museum curator. She wanted to leave her repressive buttoned up childhood behind and be her own person. Motherhood and marriage short circuited those dreams. No amount of beautifully decorated cupcakes and luxuries could make up for her dashed hopes. She would identify with the statement: “The most expensive decision of my life I made alone.”
Music is evocative. There are certain songs that take me back to a particular moment every time I hear them. For instance, Marc Anthony’s I Need To Know transports me back to a Bruegger’s Bagels with my then three year old daughter dancing around the shop and singing at the top of her lungs. Songs can also evoke a person. I always think of my father when I hear The Godfather Theme and my husband when I hear anything by The The.
In Overlook, the character of Seth uses ringtones to distinguish between the women in his life. The songs he chose signify how he feels about each of them. Journey’s Open Arms plays when his wife calls because he does love Kitty in his own sad, twisted way. His mistress, on the other hand, has Bowling for Soup’s 1985 as her ringtone. She is a woman clawing at the remains of her youth with the tips of her fake nails. Seth doesn’t care for her at all. She’s a convenient joke of a woman.
Do you use special ringtones for different people? Are there songs that remind you of a specific person or moment?
I have known my husband for almost thirty years. A lot has happened in that time. We’ve moved five times, had two daughters, changed jobs about a dozen times, opened and closed a small business, and weathered cancer treatments. It wasn’t until I sat down to write Overlook, in which we witness a marriage in crisis, that I thought about what makes a marriage successful. Writing about Kitty and Seth Haskell’s dysfunctional marriage shed light on what was and was not working in my own marriage.
Here are a few of the lessons I’ve gleaned from the last two years of writing Overlook:
My husband is a pretty great guy. Writing about Seth Haskell’s jerky behavior made me appreciate what a decent individual my darling husband is.
Communication is key. Kitty and Seth don’t talk to each other about the important things in their marriage. If Kitty had an honest conversation with her husband about their intimate relationship, years of pain and dissatisfaction could have been avoided. When they finally have that conversation, too much damage had been done. My husband is not “a talker.” He avoids difficult conversations whenever possible. Writing about Kitty and Seth has encouraged me to corner him and tackle those tricky conversations.
A gilded caged is still a cage. Kitty has all the accoutrements of a perfect life, yet she is trapped. Her life is not her own. She is controlled by her husband, and to a certain extent, her mother. Writing Overlook reminded me that if you want to live authentically, you have to live your life on your own terms. No one else should be able to tell you how to live. My husband has toyed with the idea of leaving our secure suburban life behind and going on some big adventure after our girls are on their own. I think I should encourage him to pursue that dream.
Nothing is perfect.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You live with someone long enough, you will find them annoying. Get over it. My husband has this annoying habit of leaving his belt everywhere – on the back of chairs, on the stairs, in the middle of the floor. It annoys me (especially since I slipped on one of his belts in 1992 and fell down a flight of stairs) but it is not the end of the world. He also gets coffee grounds all over the kitchen counter every single morning. It bugs me. On the other hand, my seeming inability to put my shoes away annoys him to no end.
Compromise requires two people. If one spouse is constantly giving in to the other, that’s not compromise. It’s submission. Kitty told herself that she and Seth compromised on the tricky parts of their marriage. Not true. He what ever he wanted and she also did whatever he wanted. Two people who share a life need to compromise.
A mother will risk everything for her children. I don’t want to give away the ending of Overlook but suffice to say, Kitty does have a breaking point.
Pamela Meyer makes many fabulous points in this TED Talk. I want to focus on just one – Lying is a cooperative act.
Over my last two posts, I’ve discussed how to tell if a spouse is cheating. Today I’d like to talk about how infidelity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A liar lies to someone who either believes the lie or doesn’t. In Overlook, Kitty Haskell chooses to ignore her husband’s infidelity. She saw the signs, but it was inconvenient to acknowledge them. It didn’t serve her purposes to be the wronged wife. She liked her life as a loving wife and mother. She would have gone on ignoring her husband’s behavior – until she couldn’t anymore.
Yesterday we discussed the obvious signs that a spouse is cheating. A person has to actively choose to ignore those signs, for whatever reason. Sometimes though, a spouse can be more subtle in their cheating. In Overlook, Kitty missed all these clues that her husband was cheating on her.
Less Obvious Signs That Your Spouse Is Cheating
They shower you with gifts. Guilt motivates people to give lavish gifts. What does that diamond bracelet really mean?
No one talks to you at his company Christmas party. If his or her coworkers avoid you, they know about the affair and don’t know what to say to you. If they won’t make eye contact at all, the other woman or man is probably in the room.
They seem bored with their life – their job, the kids, things they used to find interesting.
They start seeking out danger or thrills.
They get a new cellphone that you do not have the password for.
They change the passwords on their computer.
Your sex life changes – more activity, less activity, different activity.
They become a clam or a Chatty Cathy – Your spouse talks in three words sentences or they start asking you a million questions, only about you.
Every other word out of their mouth is a criticism. If your previously pleasant spouse starts criticizing your appearance, your ability to do your work, or personality, question why. Are they making you out to be less-than-acceptable to assuage their guilt?
They seem uninterested in family traditions and get togethers.