I’m Marrying A Feminist


Eric's side of the story

Im Marrying A Feminist | A Practical Wedding

by Eric M. (Yes, that Eric)

Before Rachel and I met, the fact that she was consistently attracted to men with opposing political views was kind of a joke. In her words, she’d fuck a Republican, she just wouldn’t vote for one. (That’s my future wife!) But after things between us got serious, the question became… could she marry one?

When we started dating, it’s fair to say that feminist issues just weren’t on my radar. I simply didn’t have a lot of conversations about things like abortion access or racial profiling. It’s not like I was a caveman… but being a straight white middle-class male meant that I didn’t have to think about them. My friends weren’t particularly passionate about these issues, and it’s not like they are being covered regularly on the nightly news or ESPN.

After I met Rachel, I found myself having a lot more of these conversations, mostly thanks to her go-to phrase, “So, I read this article today…” Though Rachel and I have very different views and priorities, we are both pretty reasonable, open-minded, and willing to listen, so most of our discussions about controversial issues were spirited but not overly emotional. We could talk about the facts, do further research together, and educate ourselves. Sometimes things got a little heated, but mostly we had hours-long, interesting conversations and the occasional healthy debate.

In the weeks leading up to the presidential election last year, our debates became more frequent and considerably less fun. Every day, Rachel was reading about more of the antics happening in the GOP (hello, Todd Akin and Legitimate Rape!) and I had the feeling that she was looking at me differently and wondering if I was one of them. Even though I repeatedly reminded her that I didn’t agree with any of what was being said in the slow-motion rape comment train-wreck, I could tell her anxiety was growing. Frankly, everyone’s anxiety was growing at that point, my own included. As the mythical swing voter you always hear about, I felt forced to pick a side, and was inclined to go with the side I had leaned toward my entire life.

Things reached a breaking point a few days before the election. It was Halloween, Rachel’s favorite holiday, and the first time we were celebrating in our new house. We had no idea what to expect or whether we’d even get trick-or-treaters. I started the evening on candy duty, and, as the night progressed, I felt consistently disappointed. Because while we did get trick-or-treaters, very few of them were wearing costumes. No cheap Halloween mask. No barely recognizable and hastily applied face paint. No bed-sheet-turned-ghost. They were just wearing the khakis and polo shirts they had been wearing when they got off the school bus, and their trick-or-treat bags were their backpacks, which they had just emptied out right before heading out. This bummed me out.

I thought back to my childhood—one that I can admit was sheltered and privileged—when kids at least did something before going out trick-or-treating. Don’t get me wrong, I get it: costumes are expensive. Even my parents were not particularly excited about going out and spending lots of money on my costumes, so I mostly made my own. But I always felt like trick-or-treating was the reward for that creativity and thoughtfulness. I felt like as kids, we entered into a social contract when we went trick-or-treating; we went to our neighbors’ houses and gave them license to judge us accordingly. If they liked your costume, they would hand you good candy (or just a bigger handful if all the candy was the same). If your costume was lame, well, I hope you like Mounds and Bit-O-Honeys. So that’s where my mind went when the costume-less trick-or-treaters showed up. I found myself wishing I had a separate bowl of Good-N-Plentys, because while I was not going to turn them away, I certainly did not want to be giving them the Blow Pops or Butterfingers.

I expressed my disappointment to Rachel about how these kids weren’t even trying. She wasn’t fazed by their lack of costumes, and we started to have a discussion about it. That’s when I may have (definitely) said something to the effect of, “They have to do the work; they can’t just show up expecting handouts.”

Note: this was the wrong thing to say. At that moment, Rachel’s fear that she was marrying one of them crystallized. Words like “privilege” and “bootstrapping bullshit” started coming at me rapid-fire. She was on the verge of tears. Then she was in tears. Her reaction seemed to confirm the fear I’d had all along—that she really did think I was sexist or racist—and it wasn’t a good feeling. Thus began a very intense discourse on the ramifications and socioeconomic implications of manufactured holidays with regard to the human condition. It was never about the trick-or-treaters. It was a microcosm of the opposing views that existed within our relationship. It went on until 3 AM.

For my part, it was frustrating because, while ultimately I have always leaned more Republican, I don’t identify with the GOP in some very fundamental ways. I’m not religious; I don’t want others’ religious beliefs forced upon me or anyone else. I think that women are capable of making decisions about their bodies, and it’s not okay to make that decision for them. I believe that gay people are, you know, people. But I can admit that at times last year, I was a little belligerent defending aspects of my party, particularly with regards to job creation and the economy. Not so much because I actually believed all their bullshit, but because after I evaluated all the good with the bad, I still identified as a Republican. Last fall, I wanted so desperately to feel like they are doing the right thing that I blindly defended their actions in the hope that I could convince myself I wasn’t betting on the wrong horse. (Hint: don’t do that.)

For my entire life, my paradigm was one of like-minded people (who were predominantly affluent white men in Kansas and then Texas), who believed that they worked hard for the things they had, and who took issue with perceived injustices such as being passed over for a scholarship/job/promotion/etc. when it was given to someone who did not seem to work as hard or was otherwise as meritorious. Rachel introduced a major shift in that paradigm, and became the voice of a group that was unrepresented in my world.

I wish I could say that things were fine the day after Halloween, but they weren’t exactly. There were more tense moments, and we pulled a few more all-nighters to shout at each other, including one on Election Day.

In the coming months, she got through to me; honestly, I’m not sure how she did it. Maybe it was her persistence in raising my awareness of the issues facing women and minorities in a casual but compelling way, or maybe it was because when I would oppose her views she would stay focused on the facts instead of just calling me sexist or racist. Ultimately, I appreciated that she didn’t treat me like some doofy bachelor in a rom-com who was in need of fixing. Rachel owns it when there are gray areas or when she doesn’t have the answer. Even when we’re losing our shit over Halloween candy entitlement programs, we are always trying to learn from each other.

I began to understand her points of view, particularly with regard to feminism, and, slowly but surely, it just became part of my daily life. My views and opinions on things have not changed overwhelmingly—I’ve just gained some much-needed perspective. I realized that when you look at what it really means to be a feminist, I’ve actually been a feminist all along. Rachel hasn’t overtly tried to change my views, but she has done a very effective job of presenting me with information I didn’t have. Once equipped with that information, I still applied my own system of values to assess the situation and drew my own conclusions. But it was much easier for me to draw feminist conclusions when I had a feminist around full-time. (Which is how, last month, I found myself confidently going head-to-head with some of the older white men in my office in Texas, about the battle over abortion rights.)

So, as a straight, white, conservative-leaning male on the verge of vowing to spend the rest of his life with a biracial feminist, I can tell you that finding common ground takes a little bit of faith and a lot of patience on both sides, but it’s definitely possible.

Photo from Rachel’s personal collection

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  • KEA1

    My faith in humanity has just been restored. This was *brilliant*.

  • SamA

    Reason’s why i *love* APW, No.999… posts like this one.
    ;)

  • Sonarisa

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us! Brilliant post, and I love how you kept coming back to communication and understanding in your and Rachel’s relationship. I think that is something that a lot of people (possibly not as many in this community) forget is important. Love that you both discuss more than fight, and that both of you seem to constantly be reevaluating the facts to make a decision!

  • Kirsten

    This is awesome. Thank you. Love seeing that political views, while important, are not the be-all, end-all, especially in relationships.

  • etherealclarity

    Eric: have you considered that maybe you’re more libertarian-ish than conservative? That gels a lot more with the socially-liberal, economically-conservative POV you seem to have going here than it does with the GOP.

    In general – I love hearing stories about people who can have different views on things and still love each other. It seems to me like we can really make a difference when we acknowledge that the people we disagree with don’t have to be evil or ignorant. It took me 10 years to convince my dad to support gay marriage, but just this past weekend I found out that he had, indeed, changed his position on it because of all of those friendly-but-firm debates we’d had.

    • lady brett

      on a political side-note – i think it’s hard to define someone else’s political identity (for obvious identity reasons, but politically…) because in a 2-party system you are always going to have to make major compromises between your views and your vote, but especially with the republican party, which is in the midst of such a major identity crisis that it is very difficult to say what political views do and don’t fit within it at the moment.

      (of course, if i were to suggest an identity, i would also argue that socially liberal and economically conservative is a very accurate definition of the democratic party currently. not to derail the conversation.)

      • MisterEHolmes

        Plus in Texas, “libertarian” is sometimes code for “mild anarchist,” which doesn’t align with
        etherealclarity’s fit. This may only be Texas libertarians, however; I don’t know for sure. The New England types do seem to be more atheistic in bent, but not here.

        • etherealclarity

          Under the libertarian label you’ll find people ranging from ‘left-libertarian’ to ‘minarchist’ to ‘anarcho-capitalist’. Sounds like your Texas libertarians are closer to the anarcho-capitalist side of the spectrum?

          • MisterEHolmes

            “Every man for himself, who cares about the environment?, and also you’d better be Christian” is my understanding.

          • Jacki

            Wow, that is a little disappointing to hear, as the narrow summary you have observed is not at all my understanding of Libertarianism, at least not the brand of it that my partner and I identify as! (We will fully admit there is a really broad spectrum under the label, though.)

          • MisterEHolmes

            I’m sure there are! That just seems to be what is “popular” (if that’s the right term) here. But I live in a different part of this very very big state than Rachel and Eric do.

          • copper

            Most libs I know are very strident atheists actually. But that’s Arizona, where republican and libertarian are the two primary parties :)

      • etherealclarity

        “i think it’s hard to define someone else’s political identity”

        I 100% agree, was just offering up a possible alternative. :)

        Not sure that I agree with your assessment of the democratic party, but this thread probably isn’t the right place for that discussion.

      • Mbot

        As a Canadian, it’s always funny to see right-wing depictions of the Democrats as super-commie socialists, because they’re STILL further right-wing than our current government, which is the right-wing Conservative party.

  • js

    The thing I got after reading this is how much respect Eric has for Rachel despite their sometimes opposing viewpoints. Your relationship just sounds so darn nice and healthy. I am also married to a Republican and we have stopped discussing politics all together because I know he’ll never change his mind. I’d like to give Eric props for being open to changing his mind and not just blindly following a certain party.

  • lady brett

    brilliant. i find stories of gently expanded horizons and additional consideration infinitely more heart-warming than stories of 180-degree mind-changing.

    • Emma Klues

      This. Nobody feels like a doormat or a convert. (Or domineering or evangelical)

  • Kia

    Awesome article. More and more I’m loving this site. Well done Rachel’s dude ;)

  • Ali

    Being with someone who shares my politics is very important to me. I think it’s like how a lot of people want to be with someone who shares their religious views. So this is not something that impacts me with my partner, but I have family with completely opposite religious and political views. It can be tricky.
    It’s so cool that you guys were able to come together and try to bridge that gap. It’s hard to see things from the other side (especially politically!) because it gets to be about who’s team is winning. Which is not helpful.

    • ItsyBit

      “… it gets to be about who’s team is winning.” EXACTLY. That “winning” mentality is something that I have trouble getting over.

      • Ali

        Oh me too. Sometimes I can’t stop myself from launching myself over the cliff of– No I will not allow you to repeat that wrong thing you heard on Fox News, Mother, without a rebuttal! REBUTTAL!
        Annnnd that pretty much goes nowhere.

        • BreckW

          Oh gaaawwwd yes. It also doesn’t help that a lot of people who subscribe to this parroting of political phrases (my best friend, for one) are mostly very peripherally interested in politics. Not only are they getting a very biased side of the story, they also have no context for said story. I’m like you–I cannot stop myself when my BFF brings up how “generous” welfare benefits are. If you ever figure out how to let it go, please pass on any tips.

          • Ali

            Abruptly changing the subject is the only way. Sometimes I feel like she’s needling me with the Fox News stuff cause she knows it bugs me. And that’s a thing she does.
            So if I ask her a question about something she loves like her garden, then she completely drops the politics that she doesn’t pay that much attention to, to talk about the thing she actually cares about.
            Also, I suggest cocktails.

          • SarahG

            My mom and I have pretty fundamental political differences, and we are both strongly invested in our politics (mine are left, hers are right). For me, the turning point in our unproductive shouting matches came when I connected her particular politics to her personality. She has severe, untreated anxiety disorder (long story) and a lot of why she’s right wing and likes Glenn Beck (for HER, not saying this is true for anyone else) has to do with fear and anxiety — fear of things being taken away from her, fear of the world changing, etc. Now when we start “going there” (most recent example: she has a book about the “Obamapocalypse” — I mean really) I try (not always successfully) to pull back, take a breath, and say “well, you know, for me I have a hard time relating to the fear behind all this. It seems like a very stressful way to live, always being afraid that people are trying to take your money/guns/religion/etc etc.” If I can say it in a truthful and not hurtful way, it works surprisingly well to reground/redirect. Then we can talk about feelings instead of getting too entrenched in abortion, taxes, etc etc. Unfortunately, it relies on me — she is a wonderful human, but has yet to get to the point where she’s tried to understand my POV.

          • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

            Can I just say that I 100% agree with this? All of this comment and I want to “like” it so many times!

        • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

          Ugh, yes. My MIL and I are on opposing sides of the political spectrum it seems.
          And I have to bite my tongue SO HARD in her presence sometimes, because the things she says openly call her son and I the “bad people” in our economy.

    • Jacky Speck

      The religion thing is probably even harder than disagreeing about politics, because it feels like there is a lot more at stake when it comes to “whose team is winning.” Who’s governing the country seems like a really petty issue compared to, say, how the entire universe works ;)

      My fiance is an atheist like me, and his mom is Catholic. He argues with her about religion all the time, and he sometimes gets a little mean because of the emotions involved. The way he puts it, “It’s hard to believe that someone cares about you when they think you’re going to hell.” But his mom doesn’t believe that, which he’d see if he would let the conversation be about sharing views instead of trying to “win.”

      • KC

        So, a possible helping-him-be-driven-nuts-less option (which might or might not work):

        I’m wondering if “it’s hard to believe that someone cares about you when they think you’re going to hell” could be reframed in terms of, say, quacky cancer treatments. If you have cancer and are eating special mushrooms that you bought online and someone who cares about you is trying to convince you that no, those will not heal you, and really, you need to do what your real oncologist said to do ASAP or you are going to *die*, then… the emphasis they place on the fact that they truly believe that the path you are on is not going good places is directly related to how much they care about you (and how much they want you to *not die*).

        And, so as not to leave the only comparison as atheism = cancer “remedies” sold at high prices online by parasitic quacks: if you have a friend who believes that vaccines caused her child’s autism, and is desperately trying to convince you not to vaccinate your child because in her experience so far, autism is not a fun ride, your friend is most likely trying to convince you of this because she *sincerely believes this will harm you/your kid*, not because she doesn’t care about you.

        (basically: if someone you care about feels that a *lot* is at stake regarding what you do about an issue, and you disagree both about the likely outcomes or the importance of the issue *and* which direction is the right way to take, this is how it can feel to be on each side of this sort of debate. If it’s helpful; great. If not, discard.)

        (my apologies, sort of, if anyone both believes vaccines directly cause autism and believes in magic cancer-killing mushrooms. But, as an anecdote for anyone who *is* looking into the purchase of them, magic cancer-killing mushrooms did not cure my uncle.)

        • Jacky Speck

          Actually I think he already has similar analogies in his head, because his thinking is that if his mom thinks he’s going to hell, she should be actively trying to “save” him. But at the same time, he won’t listen to her religious arguments, and that’s really the only way she COULD possibly “save” him. I mean, what else is she going to do, kidnap him and tie him to the pews during Sunday mass? That’s why I said he’s kind of mean about it. He puts her between a rock and a hard place, saying “you should be trying to save me” and “I’m never going to believe what you’re telling me” at the same time. At the end of the day, I think he’s just angry that his mom believes in something that he views as “stupid,” so he lashes out. It’s a situation where he should just be the bigger person and agree to disagree, but ends up fighting when emotions get the best of him.

          • http://alithompsonart.com/ Ali

            I’m an atheist and my family are evangelical Christians, and we finally just had to draw up pretty hard boundaries of things we don’t talk about. (Or I did.) It has been the only way we can stay on good terms.
            My experiences of growing up the the Church were pretty damaging for me, so I just don’t want to hear it. It’s triggering. I know it’s hard for them, because witnessing is a hard-core tenant of their religion.
            It’s similar to how I had to draw pretty firm boundaries about weight loss talk, because I grew up with very vicious fat shaming from my family, and at a certain point, I just couldn’t take it any more. It’s too damaging.
            They want to save my soul or my body or my life, but I have to save my mental health. I really want to have a relationship with my parents, and they love me and want to have a relationship with me. So we just have to leave some things alone.
            Being an adult is hard.

          • Jacky Speck

            “Being an adult is hard”… Tell me about it! Not talking about certain things can be the healthier alternative. Arguing with a parent isn’t always like arguing with, say, a romantic partner, who hopefully views you as an equal. It feels like no matter how old we get, my fiance’s and my parents will always subconsciously think of us as kids. Smart, successful, financially independent kids, sure… But still kids.

          • kc

            I don’t think most churches come with pew-restraints… um… fortunately. That *is* kind of mean, honestly; saying “don’t shove this down my throat” and “if you loved me, you’d be shoving this down my throat” doesn’t really give her any good options!

  • ItsyBit

    Great post. I have to say, I laughed out loud at the Halloween-candy-turned-privelege debate because it’s one that could have happened in my house. In fact, my fiancé and I have had frighteningly similar conversations. I give you both props for doing your best to listen to one another and talk about facts without the emotions- that’s something that I struggle with greatly. My emotions almost always get the better of me in these conversations (which quickly turn into heated debates or arguments), especially with my fiancé (rather than friends or acquaintances). I think this is because of my “we’re a team” thought process. The things that I need to work on remembering are that 1) being a good team doesn’t always mean agreeing 100%, 2) he hasn’t been studying/living feminist theory the way I have for as long as I have so it may take a while to wrap his head around some things, and 3) it’s healthy to have someone who cares about me challenge my way of thinking sometimes, or at least force me to explain myself. So anyway, good for you guys! :) I always love hearing partners’ voices on APW.

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

      I think your #2 is one of the most important things to keep in mind in these situations!

    • Elisabeth S.

      Yesss to your #2 and #3! Perspective, that not everyone is steeped in something you’ve spent ages thinking about, and the opportunity to re-evaluate and re-explain your position in a thoughtful way are key for me. Really liked this post and loved seeing the insight into your communication, Rachel and Eric!

  • Jacky Speck

    Props to both of you for being so open to the other’s viewpoints. I’m marrying a guy who agrees with me on 99.9% of all political issues, and don’t think I would have the kind of patience you’re describing. It’s one thing to argue about who will do the dishes, and quite another to argue over your fundamental beliefs about “right” and “wrong.” The latter is a lot easier to get emotional over, because for a lot of people attacks on our beliefs feel like attacks on who we are. I have to abstain from political discussions with a lot of my family members for this reason, and just agree to disagree.

  • Emma Klues

    This is totally unrelated to the feminism/politics discussion but my speech language pathologist friend posted this DURING trick or treating and it really helped me take a deep breath and have some perspective:

    In a few moments, a lot of creatures may visit your door. Be open minded.

    The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy might have poor fine motor skills. The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy might have motor planning issues.

    The child who does not say “trick or treat” or “thank you” might be painfully shy, non-verbal, or selectively mute. If you cannot understand their words, they may struggle with developmental apraxia of speech. They are thankful in their hearts and minds.

    The child who looks disappointed when he sees your bowl might have a life-threatening allergy.

    The child who isn’t wearing a costume at all might have Sensory Processing Disorder or autism. Be kind, be patient, smile, pretend you understand. It’s everyone’s Halloween. Make a parent feel good by making a big deal of their special child. Please share and remind others.

    • Laura

      Yes, I saw posts similar to this on facebook over the Halloween week. So lovey.

  • Leslie

    Very heartwarming, my girlfriend is a feminist too and I love her to the moon and back. I want to propose to her in the accord hotels Brazil
    http://www.accorhotels.com/hotel-directory/gb/south-america/brazil/paulinia/paulinia-hotel.htm, where we first met.

  • Kina

    Oh, I just love, love love love this.

  • Jessica

    Big grin on my face. As a self proclaimed democratic socialist who married a middle-of-the-road (raised REPUBLICAN) (all caps needed) moderate, this pretty much reflects what we’ve gone through as well. When we started dating J would never call himself a feminist, and before we got married I asked him again if he would identify as a feminist. He said he would, but only to people who actually knew feminism wasn’t a group of man-hating anarchists, because he didn’t want to have to educate people on what feminism really is. I appreciated the honest response and gave a mini victory dance to the audience in my head.

    Thanks for sharing, Eric!

    • Jacky Speck

      I can see where J is coming from, but I really do wish more people who are not “man-hating anarchists” would openly identify as feminists. That’s the only way to show those who believe the stereotype will see that feminism is for anyone who believes in equality!

  • anon

    “They have to do the work; they can’t just show up expecting handouts.”

    Pardon my ignorance, but why is this a wrong thing to say? My intention is not to start an argument but I just don’t understand what was wrong about saying this. My viewpoint on life, is people should do work to get results. Life isn’t handed on a silver spoon to everyone. Am I missing the point?

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

      Well, as the person who lost her shit when she heard that, I think I can answer that! First of all, it was basically the same statement made by a lot of people whose politics I vehemently disagree with, and it’s typically made in the context of denying people things like welfare or food stamps, or hating on affirmative action. I agree that life isn’t handed on a silver spoon to everyone…but I think that this sentiment is often expressed by people who have more privileges than they realize and think. “I worked hard, so why can’t everyone else?” It’s really, really frustrating to hear privileged white men (or women, for that matter) make the argument that all you have to do is work hard, because that ignores the systemic racism and sexism that is at play for so many people.

      Also, it was just sort of absurd (and laughable now) because he took this line that I find so shitty and stereotypical in politics and applied it to children on Halloween.

      • KC

        I found the “be kind to children on Halloween, even if they’re not behaving the way you think they should” post way above interesting. The majority of non-dressed-up kids probably do not have sensory processing disorder; the majority of kids who grab extra candy are, frankly, probably kinda greedy. And the kid who takes forever to pick out their candy was me (I just didn’t get much candy, so the question of which option is the absolute best choice was more loaded; no non-candy-deprivation-related neurological delays involved). But you should still be kind to them all, because you really just don’t know what’s behind a specific behavior. (which: probably also a good principle to apply to aggressive drivers [since *some* of them, at least, are driving as fast as they can to get to the hospital or to the desperately-needed job interview] and most other people who annoy us; the grumpy person is maybe in the midst of a migraine; the person who is walking So Slow on the crowded sidewalk might have super-blistered feet; the person who is taking forever to order at the deli in line ahead of you might have just learned about a food allergy and be trying to figure out what’s safe for them to eat; etc.)

        I’m not sure if “assume the person you’re talking to is not referring to an explosive subject if they use relatively normal/common words or phrases which other people use in a different context to refer to an explosive subject” is also applicable. I’m also not sure whether it’s possible to usefully deal with systemic bias using that sort of “best-first” thinking, though (because a specific individual non-minority hiring decision could have just happened that way, but if a company has no minorities of any kind, then there is a Big Fat Problem Somewhere).

        Any thoughts? (I find your thoughts useful!)

        • Emma Klues

          Great points. I certainly didn’t think that most kids displaying those behaviors had anything to do with a disorder, but it helped me think beyond my immediate assumptions, just like your other examples. I like the mantra of “you don’t know” because you never do. It might not be a speech issue but it might be something else, the speech thing just helped me think beyond negativity. But in this instance, I had 2 bags of candy that I bought to give out freely, and I realized I didn’t want to care who got it, and shouldn’t get hung up on evaluating children.

          But to your other point and in other contexts, should we always operate under best-first thinking and not second-guess or challenge things? Certainly not! I just like reminders that help me not to slip into the thinking that I hate that starts with, “I bet this person is doing this because X and they always act this way and value Y and not Z.”

          • KC

            I had a really, really weird situation a couple of years ago when I realized that a friends’ husband (who had, for several years, generally driven me absolutely bonkers because his behavior not-infrequently resulted in her crying when we visited) might not be “being a jerk” so much as “having neurological issues which make it less likely that he will respond in socially-appropriate ways to transitions/changes/surprises”. (he would, basically, throw mini-tantrums if things went not precisely according to his plans; when guests are around, fewer things are in normal-mode)

            He’s getting better at coping with transitions or plans-with-flex-built-in, and is also improving his communication patterns to be less abrasive to his wife (having now met his family-of-origin. they appear to communicate primarily via yelling when under any slight stress at all, whereas I’m pretty sure my friend’s family was/is no-yelling), and she’s also adjusting to not feel as hurt by his responses to situations, which all also helps me not detest him. But the biggest shift in my view of the situation was realizing “wait, maybe – even likely – he’s not doing this to be a controlling jerk, but is having a stress response overwhelm him due to probably being not quite neurotypical”. Also, he is working on these things and making progress.

            It’s a bit odd, the way that single realization – that he might be on something like the autism spectrum – swung my opinion around. I obviously still don’t like it when he upsets my friend. Duh. But how I feel about him is radically different when I feel like he’s not just doing it as a power play, but that he is likely trying to cope with more-limited-than-normal resources.

            I guess: what people are working with, and why they’re doing what they’re doing: it makes a really, really big difference. But we often don’t get the evidence to confirm or debunk our initial assumptions.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            As the wife of an adult victim of verbal abuse, who also has a mental disability, thank you for your attitude.

          • KC

            I’m really, really glad this is a decent attitude to have in this situation. I haven’t discussed whether my friend’s husband is in fact non-NT with her, since from other conversations with him, I’m pretty sure he would not be at all okay with having a “label” of any kind, so I don’t have any feedback from her on what is useful or not useful except on a situation-by-situation very specific basis (i.e. whispering in the hallway “should we leave? No problem if that would be easier.”).

            I would note that my earlier opinion of him (prior to meeting a fair number of people with autism/SPD/etc. and having the lightbulb of “wait, he’s a lot like that…” go on) was… not positive at all, because as far as I could tell, he was just a super-controlling jerk with serious anger-management issues who might just get worse as they progressed in their relationship, on the “if this is how he behaves during the honeymoon phase, what’s going to happen when they hit a life-speedbump” theory (and, frankly, I was *not* okay with her being in that situation). So if your spouse is okay with some disclosure to close friends, then that can potentially help everyone involved know how to help (for instance, in my friend’s husband’s case, as far as I can tell: Even “good” surprises are not good; if something in the group plans goes awry, give him time to work out new plans of his own and be in the driver’s seat; etc.)(we’d figured these things out after a few years, but I resented doing them when it felt like pandering to a controlling jerk’s sense of power, although it was still worth it for the reducing-friend’s-social-misery; now I can make potentially slightly more educated guesses and don’t resent it, which makes a big difference; obviously, if we could be just plain told where the landmines are, that would be even easier!)

            I wish you the best as you two navigate things! :-) If you have any advice on how to be a good friend in this situation, I’d love to have it!

          • ElisabethJoanne

            For better or worse, even my parents, with whom we’re both fairly close, don’t know about the abuse or his diagnosis. He is very sensitive about societal stigma against mental illnesses and disabilities – sometimes too much so, IMO, but I’m not the one living with a serious diagnosis. Nor do his issues present as disruptively as your friend’s – My husband just tunes out, very visibly beginning something else in the middle of conversations where most people would consider it impolite. But because of the abuse, he’s always really quiet about it; he’s used to being ignored.

            It sounds like you’ve made the big step of just being aware there could be issues that don’t mean he’s a jerk, just that he’s dealing with hidden problems outside his control. With both my husband’s disability, and my personality, it’s been helpful to subtly train my family to make firmer plans. My family’s the kind that would normally say “come by any time after noon for Thanksgiving dinner.” We now say, “Can we schedule dinner for 5pm because of [my church schedule, the parade schedule, whatever]?”

            I also really appreciate it when my friends and family take my word for it when I say my husband is happy, etc. “No, really, he’s fine alone in the basement with his book.” “Yes, he really did enjoy meeting you; he was just tired.”

          • KC

            Thank you!

            (and “taking friend’s word for it” – check! thank you!)

      • anon

        Gotcha! Thanks for clarifying this for me. As a minority myself, there can be quite a dichotomy between class in my race. For example, I didn’t have the best socioeconomic upbringing but still worked hard to achieve a good life vs. those who may have had the same upbringing and decided they couldn’t and shouldn’t do anything more to get out impoverished situations. So my stance, “doing the work” isn’t coming from a sense of privilege but more of, if you want something bad enough, you’ll work hard to get it because it can be done. Don’t pity or underestimate yourself. From what you’ve said, I see how political views that have no frame of reference can be frustrating especially from those who have more privileges than they are aware of.

      • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

        I agree complete with this sentiment, especially when you bring up that “it’s typically made in the context of denying people things like welfare or foodstamps, or hating on affirmative action.”
        As someone whose family has had to rely on SNAP benefits and welfare and programs designed to help low-income people and families, I always ALWAYS cringe when someone makes claims that we as a country shouldn’t help people who need it. It is one of the many things that makes me physically ill about how our world works and how people within it seem to think. Not everyone has privilege and it really bothers me when someone who seems like they have all of the privilege seems to think that because of that privilege they can comment on the choices of the unprivileged or the support programs in place to help folks.
        I don’t know if this is articulated clearly..

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      Yeah, I agree with what Rachel said – and for me at least, in those moments, it’s more about what’s triggered than what’s actually said. So it’s not so much the statement, because yes it sounds nice and good in theory, it’s what it triggered – especialyl considering everything going on that year, that time.

      • BreckW

        For me, it’s the complete opposite: what exactly is said is what causes my brain to explode. Things like Eric’s statement about handouts set me off because they seem to be these oft-used catchphrases that either wildly oversimplify extremely complicated issues or completely disregard a lot of facts surrounding those issues (or both). See also, “traditional America.”

        • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

          yes i agree with that too – the “oft used catchphrases” yep, totally hear you.

        • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

          i guess what i meant- and maybe it still bothers you- but I meant if it wasn’t a used catchphrase and had never been said before and was just words and was strictly meant about halloween costumes, it doesn’t make me angry. but the whole oft-used catchphrase thing is the reason it would anger me. because of what it goes along with. not sure if im making sense.

          • BreckW

            Makes sense and I agree!

        • KC

          Wait, so what exactly is said? In this specific case, it sounds like he was assuming a social contract for Halloween wherein kids *do something* (dress up and go door to door and say “Trick or Treat” or “Please” or something) to get candy. (like you have a social contract for parties that says that people don’t steal your stuff when they’re invited over, or a social contract for weddings wherein people don’t come up and do karaoke with the mic uninvited during the ceremony, even if they just looove an open mic, or a social contract for merging wherein people let other drivers in occasionally)

          But it sounded like it’s the use of those words in other situations that caused the rage (welfare is bad because people “should have to work for it” or whatever, which I had hoped would *die* as a phrase after the last economic downturn because, seriously, was there anyone who *didn’t* know someone who was willing and able to work but couldn’t get a job at all for a prolonged period?).

          (also, what on earth is “traditional America”? Things have been diverse and both good and screwed up, as per the rest of humanity, from pretty much day 1 [see: Native American tribes sometimes killing each other and sometimes cooperating, even before you get immigrants])

          • BreckW

            I’m not sure I understand your question… I mostly meant that, for me, it’s hearing those exact phrases (like the one Eric used) that hit a nerve, even in an unrelated situation. There would have to be *some* context (in this post: continuing political discussions between Eric and Rachel, the upcoming election, etc.) for me jump down someone’s throat about it, but even without that, those expressions bother me.

            Re: “traditional America,” I have no idea what it means, and I think that’s kind of the nature of these catchphrases. People don’t *actually* know what they are, but they sure do sound serious/ominous. Also, I have heard Bill O’Reilly use “traditional America,” and it makes me laugh until I cry, then just cry.

          • kc

            Ah! I was thinking “triggering” was being used in the sense “it’s not necessarily actually related, but something pulls other baaad associations up out of the brain”. (like recoiling from people wearing neon green shirts because someone in a neon green shirt mugged you a month ago)

            Thanks for the clarification!

            I sort of feel like we’d generally be better off in political discussion on both sides if euphemisms and catchphrases were never used; make people say what they mean. If you can’t define a word or phrase clearly and completely, don’t use it. (this might have the unintended side-effect of silent political debates, though…)

    • Guest

      The question kind of reminds me of this cartoon about the education system. Of course we should be expected to do work to get results, but statements like “They have to do the work; they can’t just show up expecting handouts” assumes that everyone starts from the same starting line. Using the Halloween example, does a kid whose parents have to work double shifts to pay and don’t have the time or money for costumes rent deserve less candy than a kid whose parents are able to take the time or have the income to buy or make a costume? Sure you could argue that the first kid could get creative and make a costume using what’s available around him or her, but it’s important to acknowledge the disadvantages that kid is working with from the start, before we judge how hard they’ve worked. (Or the shortened version, we like to judge how hard someone has worked by the end result, rather than the effort put in to the result, which leads to flip statements that don’t capture the whole truth of a person’s situation).

      • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

        LOVE what you said about assuming people all have the same starting line. I meant to post this in my original response, but I am once again reminded of John Scalzi’s post about “the lowest difficulty setting”: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

        It’s so easy to lose sight of what difficulty setting you’re playing on, and which ones others are playing on.

        • BreckW

          That was pretty great. I loooove a good analogy.

      • KC

        I think the phrase “they could have at least…” is possibly one of the most insidious judgy things around, because it assumes that you *know* a base line that another person can manage (and also assumes that the other person knows it is important to you and considers it important enough to put in that time/effort/whatever). Yes, a kid possibly “could have at least” gotten ahold of a paper bag and colored on it with markers and cut out eye-holes, if they had markers and scissors, if they had time ahead of when their friends called them out to go trick-or-treating, if they knew this was a Definite Expectation, if they were willing to potentially be mocked by their friends for a homemade not-great costume instead of not being mocked for playing it cool in regular clothes since they can’t do a *good* costume, if, if, if.

        But I think we basically all do it, just for different stuff. It’s pretty obnoxious. (they could have at least sent a card; she could have at least called if she wasn’t going to show up, etc.)

      • Class of 1980

        You nailed it, Guest. I get sad when some people don’t think about all that.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Ugh, I fail at commenting today, guys. Sorry for the double post! Leaving them both up because I’m letting the internet win this one. :)

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      The question kind of reminds me of this cartoon about the education system. Of course we should be expected to do work to get results, but statements like “They have to do the work; they can’t just show up expecting handouts” assumes that everyone starts from the same starting line. Using the Halloween example, does a kid whose parents have to work double shifts to pay and don’t have the time or money for costumes rent deserve less candy than a kid whose parents are able to take the time or have the income to buy or make a costume? Sure you could argue that the first kid could get creative and make a costume using what’s available around him or her, but it’s important to acknowledge the disadvantages that kid is working with from the start, before we judge how hard they’ve worked. (Or the shortened version, we like to judge how hard someone has worked by the end result, rather than the effort put in to the result, which leads to flip statements that don’t capture the whole truth of a person’s situation).

      (Edited to actually include the photo this time!)

    • Alison O

      I think the example of kids on Halloween can be instructive about the larger myth of meritocracy.

      First I think about, what kind of work would the children without costumes need to do to be able to deserve Halloween candy? Meritocracy is based on the idea that hard work is the primary means of getting ahead, and thus the people at the top deserve to be at the top, and the people at the bottom deserve to be there.

      Part of privilege is not having to be aware of your own privilege, which enables the mythical belief that everyone starts the race at the same line.

      If I am, for example, a 6 year old child in a family that has little money (no savings, few if any significant assets) despite the fact that my parent(s) work(s) multiple jobs (minimum wage) (these describes almost all of the first graders I taught), what am I realistically going to do to get a costume? Halloween costumes are very much a luxury good, regardless of how much they cost (of course, you can make some very cheaply, and some are exorbitant). They are a frivolous and unnecessary (albeit fun, of course!) and useful on one day of the year (and for many people, one day ever, if they don’t repeat costumes). Aside from not being able to buy one, it’s unlikely their parents have time to help them be creative and make one. There may not be a lot of spare materials around the house that can be creatively whipped up into a costume. If you have one bed sheet, it’s not particularly appealing to wear it out on the street as a toga.

      Also think about more affluent children. What work do they do to get costumes so they deserve Halloween candy? Most of them do no work at all beyond telling their parent what they want to be, and maybe occasionally whining a little bit to ensure that the parent buys them the costume they want.

      • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

        Excellent point about the assumption that affluent kids do real work on their Halloween costumes! In most cases, parents assist in some way or another. (And I think that point can be applied to larger conversations about meritocracy as well.)

        Eric and I actually had a great conversation this Halloween about some of your points (that it’s a frivolous expense and probably not worth it to a lot of people) and had a good discussion about store-bought costumes — we were pondering whether they are seen as a good thing or a bad thing depending on your class background.

        These conversations are clearly another reason Halloween is my favorite holiday.

        • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

          I would love to hear your thoughts on the store-bought costumes, because due to my class background and familial size, most of our costumes were store-bought out of necessity. Supplies for four kids’ worth of costumes can get pricey AND involved! :-)

          • kc

            We had homemade costumes as kids, but a significant portion of the younger years involved buying pyjamas or a sweat suit in a specific color for the fall and temporarily stitching on felt, then repurposing it after halloween. (brown sweat suit + white spots + pink blotch on the underside = cow (I think we also had a bell that came off of a stuffed cow that went on a ribbon around the neck); green sweat suit + green spots + frog-shaped hands = frog; black sweatsuit + white front + cone-shaped, elastic-on-nose orange felt + orange felt on shoes = penguin; grey sweatsuit, grey felt fin sticking up in back = dolphin; that sort of thing) In some cases, the sweat suit was a hand-me-down, in which case the halloween costume was selected based on the color of available materials; sometimes we also had some face paint of some kind. Later on, we sometimes went as characters from books or as generic “types” (to go as a farmer: pull out the overalls, swipe a flannel button-up-the-front shirt from dad and a trowel or a packet of seeds from the garage, safety-pin things so they fit), which sometimes meant a thrift-store run to get, say, a checked shirt, or we recycled costumes from previous years/occasions, or swiped things out of parents’ closets. Or sometimes we had a specific thing we wanted to be and figured out how to be it, with help.

            So, low on cost, medium-high on time/ingenuity (and/or talking the kid into wanting to be the animal or item that you have just figured out how to easily represent with the available materials until they’re old enough to do more of their costume themselves).

            I didn’t feel cheated by this because I was either dressed up as what I wanted to be (yay!) or had been somehow successfully convinced that what I was dressed up as was what I wanted to be dressed up as (I generally wanted what my older sister had/wanted, so “she wore this!” was usually a surprisingly good argument).

            But I also didn’t feel that store-bought costumes were inferior – they were just irrelevant, because that’s not how we did it.

            I now feel like storebought costumes are probably usually not as much fun for kids and for candy-hand-out-ers (because candy-hand-out-ers see the exact.same.costume on so many kids, and more of the homemade-costume kids seem to be excited about their costume than the storebought-costume kids), but as sanity-savers for busy parents, they are probably really excellent, and also some kids do really just want to be Dora or Batman or whatever, and in that case the store-bought costume is a really good option. (just, a lot of kids seem to have been store-bought costumed without caring about it, and that’s less fun? It’s harder to not really care at all about your costume when you’ve invested time in it, I think? But on the other hand, it’s just one night, so how much time/effort is it worth if you don’t enjoy the process?)

          • Tennymo

            My family was the type of people that didn’t have money and so figured out ways to make costumes for what we already had. But by late elementary school, I definitely remember a feeling that is was “cool” and “better” to have a store bought costume the same way it was “better” to have a t-shirt from The Gap compared to the same t-shirt from the thrift store. I.e store bought costumes were things that middle class people could afford and so they were desired. I can see kids who come trick or treating with no costume as maybe recognizing that its not “cool” – at least amongst their friends, if not the grown ups at the door- to wear a simple homemade-by-the-kid costume cause its a marker that your parents couldn’t buy you a “proper” one. So they opt instead to be “too cool” for the whole game and just are like screw it, no costume, I’m still gonna get some candy.

          • KC

            Yeah, I unfortunately saw some teasing of non-traditional costumed kids by their storebought-costumed friends last year (not a lot, but some), so I could definitely see a socially-savvy kid in some circles coming to the conclusion that they’re just better off without a costume than with a “not cool” costume. (but the not-storebought costumes were so much more creative and interesting! but apparently, if you’re a 12 year old boy in this particular group, it’s not cool to be something other than spiderman, batman, superman, or a ninja, pirate, or skeleton, approximately; it must be immediately recognized by them and certifiably a cool thing, or it’s lame beyond belief. Bah.)

        • KC

          Background/exposure really does seem to make practically all the difference on whether something specific (wedding details; clothing/jewelry options; costumes; garnished food/decorated cake; etc.) is viewed as:

          1. a ludicrous waste of time/money
          2. something normal/expected/standard/default
          3. a delightful but optional form of art and expression
          4. something out of reach for now but to aspire to someday
          5. something that’s tacky or “beneath you” because it is so common

          and whether something

          a) has most cachet when done “by hand” in the family
          b) has most cachet when purchased from an experienced professional
          c) has most cachet when purchased mass-produced
          d) has most cachet when purchased in some sort of “exclusive” way (an amateur starting out; picked up in a foreign country in a small market; an Artist; whatever)

          … and that background-based response is where I think a lot of the “leftover” judging comes in on wedding decisions (the part of judginess that’s basically only our own insecurity and/or bitchiness-for-entertainment-or-superiority is, I think, probably generally the largest). (with the last 15% or so of judginess being sheer differences in taste, such as really not liking orange and being completely baffled that someone could, etc.)

          On the other hand, I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist, so… many grains of salt. :-)

          • Class of 1980

            No grains of salt required, KC.

            I was just thinking about this the other day when it comes to decorating a house. Background and exposure inform judgement and it applies to weddings and decorating … and lots of things.

            Then you realize that any judgement is really saying that one group is setting themselves up as the ultimate authority on what’s desirable, valuable or tasteful.

          • K.

            Wow! OT, but this is actually helpful for understanding cultural differences between my in-laws and my family, in regard to their attitude toward our wedding. I’d say, re: weddings, my family falls to #2 and my fiance’s family falls to #1. Fiance and I both fall to #3, but it’s still been difficult for me to see his family’s #1 attitude as something cultural rather than a rejection of me/our future together. It still won’t be easy, but it helps to come from a place of understanding maybe. Thanks!

          • afdp

            Yes! This totally makes sense to me. Much more pondering needed.

      • KC

        I, um, always give more candy to kid-made-costume-wearers, if I can get away with it (if they’re not in a group with purchased costume-wearers) than to purchased-costume-wearers. That may also make me a bad person. But I feel like they put more of themselves into it, and I certainly get more fun out of seeing their hilarious/awesome/what-on-earth-is-that costumes than an endless parade of whichever-superhero-is-most-fashionable-this-year identical from-the-store costumes.

        (kids who ham up whatever character they are or who are proud of whatever character they are or who hide behind the doorpost because they are shy, etc., also tend to get extra candy. I guess I feel like there’s the “basic rate” that everyone who comes to the door gets, and then I give not-terribly-thoroughly-thought-out additional “bonuses” based on my personal enjoyment of the interaction, unless they’re with a herd of kids who I’m probably not giving extra candy to, in which case they all get the same. Life isn’t fair? But everyone gets candy.)

        • Alison O

          Hahaha although the rub is, like you said elsewhere, depending on how you sort the comments :P, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Maybe the store-bought costume is more affordable than the same costume made from scratch (fabrics, crafts, etc. can add up FAST, not to mention if you don’t own a sewing machine), maybe the parent is a controlling type and dictated what the child was going to be and made them wear a particular costume, etc., so the justice you’re meting out, one Tootsie Roll at a time, is directed at the wrong party.

          I smiled at your list of who gets extra candy (assuming they are not accompanied by non-extra-candy-recipients). I would love to hear examples of children in whom you cannot find a redeeming quality that compels you to give them more candy. You could always give everybody extra candy, and take heart that for those lame kids, it will rot their teeth and give them diabetes. That’ll show ‘em!

          • KC

            Kids I do not want to give extra candy to: Kids who run up in clumps while squabbling amongst themselves, continue squabbling amongst themselves (often including shoving!) on the porch until you bring out the bowl of candy, push to the front of the pack while looking straight at the bowl of candy, grab, and run off again. Or kids who are insulting people they’ve recently walked past or gotten candy from, or their right-there siblings or friends, as they walk up and while standing on the porch waiting for the door to open, either based on “inferior” character choices [read: not The Most Popular Superhero] or on other attributes such as slowness-to-bolt-from-door-to-door or general stupid-head-ness or how lame that last place’s candy was and how unattractive the grownup handing it out was or how mean their parent is for wanting them to not stay out for longer than an hour or whatever. Or kids who take candy or beloved props away from the smaller kids.

            Fine, my “social contract” is that they come to the door on Halloween when my porch light is on and whatnot, they still get candy and a smile [albeit sometimes with an eyebrow raised, or sometimes slightly forced.]. But I don’t enjoy their behavior or, honestly, the interaction, and they don’t get *extra* candy.

            It’s not that they have no redeeming qualities. But if I do not enjoy any aspect of the interaction with them, I feel no deep need to take it on faith and “tip” them extra candy, especially since they’ll probably get more than enough anyway. I don’t tell them that they’re not as fun compared to the kid who showed up before them and yelled “Trick or Treat, Please!” with a giant grin or proudly showed off his homemade stapled-together-and-stuffed-with-newspaper-butcher-paper costume and explained it down to the last slightly-baffling sticker and crayon mark [I am still not clear on what that kid was, but boy was he proud of it!] or ran up onto the porch in a Superman flying-pose with a heroic “Duh da daaaaa!” in a princess dress with wand or staged a fake pirate swordfight with their friends or helped another kid up off the sidewalk when they fell down or the kid who had to be coaxed by her parents up to the very bottom of the porch steps with the bowl extended on hands and knees to bridge the distance or the kids who actually looked at the human behind the source of candy and said “Thank you” or who was so incredibly, incredibly excited that you had gummi bears because they’re one of the candies they can eat and whatnot. :-) With some kids you are so thrilled with the effort they made (either to help a friend or overcome shyness or make their costume or thank their parents or still be nice about candy that’s not their favorite or escort along a little sibling in a coordinating costume even though they feel ridiculous) that you really want to do *something* to thank them for making the world a slightly more nifty place, and telling them that they are fantastic (and also giving them extra candy when reasonable) is generally what I go for.

            Out of curiosity: do other people (besides Eric, ha) also enjoy some trick-or-treaters significantly more than others, or is that just me?

          • Alison O

            (I just want to make sure…I was being 99% playful above. Can’t quite tell from your response if it was understood that way. I was a teacher and enjoyed some kiddos more than others for sure.)

            I look forward to living somewhere someday where the average number of trick-or-treaters is greater than one. We didn’t even bother the last two years. The description of the clumps totally took me back to my trick-or-treating days, though. I remember those clumps. I am the opposite of a ‘go all out’ kind of person when it comes to pretty much anything (except maybe commenting on this post), especially holidays, but it would be kinda fun to install some jarring spooky special effects that I can selectively turn on to scare the sh*t out of the clumps.

          • KC

            (I wasn’t totally sure whether you really thought it was unfair to prefer some kids to others, so I tried to play down the center line. ;-) I wouldn’t *not* give a kid candy unless a parent requested it… but seriously, some kids are kind of jerks when they go trick-or-treating and I’m not willingly giving them extras. :-) )

            We had, not just clumps the way I was used to (clump of kids; walk from one house to the next), but multiple kid-nados this year. It was amaaazing. (but we live in a set of reasonably high-density complexes with a ton of kids around, next to *another* set of complexes which may also have high kid-density, so that helps with them being able to run through the *entire place* without apparently getting tired?) Probably over 60 kids in total! The kid-nados were all either positive or neutral sounding, though (I mean, screeching and giggles and the sound of rushing elephants as they pounded up and down flights of stairs and flurried in front of doors and then swooped off again, but not whiny/mean/angry/squabbly-sounding at all, which was pretty cool. But even when they were in front of a door waiting for a response, they didn’t stop, exactly, just sort of swirled in place!). There were also some ones and twos who were more on the walking-from-door-to-door side/escorted-by-grownups, but these flocks of kids of perpetual motion… it was really something. And no pumpkins were smashed!

          • Alli

            You are definitely not the only one. I grew up in a really rural area in a town with one of the only “downtown” areas in 5 surrounding towns, so a lot of kids would come in from the other towns to trick or treat so they could walk and not drive from house to house. One of the old ladies from my church made two sets of bags of candy: a normal sized one (the Halloween themed ones that you can buy) for the out-of-town kids and one twice as big for the kids she knew were from my town. I don’t think she even tried to hide that she had two “levels” of candy. I thought it was hilarious (but then again, I always got a big bag).

      • Class of 1980

        We were kids in the 1960s. Most of the moms sewed the costumes – and they were fabulous. A few older kids did make their own and a fewer bought them. It’s funny, but back then a store-bought costume was considered inferior.

        Eric’s experience of most kids making their own costumes is a foreign concept to me. We’re all colored by our own experiences.

        If I saw a kid trick-or-treating with no costume, my knee-jerk reaction would be silent pity. It wouldn’t occur to me to penalize a kid for what I would assume was parental disinterest or outright poverty.

  • Gina

    Wow. I identify with this in so many ways. I too am more socially liberal, economically conservative. I too feel like the GOP doesn’t represent my actual beliefs, but on balance, I identify more with them than the alternative. I remember getting into a yelling match with an ex-boyfriend the night of the 2008 presidential election and deciding I couldn’t be with someone that I couldn’t find ANY common ground with.

    In your article you talk a lot about seeing things from a more feminist perspective. Which is awesome. But the implication seems to be, you can only be a feminist if you’re liberal. And “finding common ground” sounds a lot like you adopting her beliefs, and not so much her becoming more receptive to yours. If anything, it reinforces the misconception that conservative-leaners are to be feared as all various incarnations of dumb Todd Akin. Which is obviously not true, because, you. You don’t need to apologize for thinking that women and minorities would both be better off if our economy was better, and fiscally conservative principles are a better way to get there. I think it’s taken for granted a lot that if you care about women and care about minorities, there’s no place for you politically except on the left. And this article seems to be buying into that. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I do think you can be a feminist, conservative white guy in Texas :)

    • Class of 1980

      Thank you, Gina.

      The GOP was long ago co-opted by social conservatives that downplayed fiscal responsibility. I have also been offended in the past by the assumption that fiscally conservative people are clueless about social issues. I believe economic policy impacts all of us, including the poor far more than is supposed. I am rabidly against wars of conquest and aggression that divert our tax dollars from taking care of our own in favor of interferring with other countries … and making the military industrial complex stinking rich instead.

      This is why I’m a libertarian and not a republican.

      That said, I believe one should always approach these things with humility. We should be open to learning something from those we fundamentally disagree with. There are kernels of truth everywhere.

      Most of us want a good outcome for our country and it’s people, but disagree on how to get there.

      • Jess

        These are my thoughts in much prettier form than they ever come out of my mouth. Thank you for putting them so well.

        • Class of 1980

          Thanks for the compliment!

  • Fiona

    Woah! I’m inspired and impressed by your story. As I see it, when two people decide to strive together for a forever relationship, there will be disagreements, and some of them can be pretty fundamental. I applaud you on actually ADDRESSING those differences and having the courage and energy to see them through.

    Each of us comes with a set of inherent and chosen social identities, and no one has exactly the same experience as anyone else. Doing the hard work of listening to each other and attempting to understand each other’s perspective is commendable and, I think, crucial to a strong marriage.

    My partner and I share many political views, but we hail from two different countries. While I grew up in a very comfortable economic situation, his has been consistently unstable, even into adulthood and following his having earned a university degree.

    Reading this helps me renew my commitment to work daily to support my partner and understand his unique perspectives and to honor and love each other, even at the most heated moment of an argument.

    *The picture below is my love walking with his mother in her hometown of Ferrier, Haiti*

    • Lauren

      This really says it for me. Our different backgrounds can sometime seem miles apart so that sometimes I wonder, “what am I thinking trying to make this work?!” And then I have to remember dancing in the car, eating ice cream for dinner while watching cartoons (and grumbling about genderist character writing), and that amazing feeling when we snuggle in to go to sleep and we feel safe together. Most importantly I have to remember that I like the challenge, he compliments me (not completes me) and keeps me grounded with his opposing perspective. These moments remind me that this love is a choice, and I choose interesting and challenge and wonderful.

  • MEM

    this is pretty much exactly how my fiance and I function regarding politics and feminism and it’s good to know what the other side thinks!

  • Price of Tea

    This post is great! As a reader of APW who has now started reading Rachel’s blog, it’s great to hear directly from Eric. I am also a liberal woman who fell in love with a Republican. He has always been liberal socially, but he remained a GOPer because of economic issues (aka hating “entitlement programs”). You know what changed his opinion on “entitlements” super fast? Being unemployed for six months. Now he is a firm believer in helping people out, cause it’s not as easy to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” as people who have never had to think it is.

  • MC

    I love this, especially because my partner also is a white male named Eric! Even though he was raised in a very liberal family and we agree on most of our politics, the feminism thing took a looooong time for him to come around to. Some of our biggest arguments were about feminism and “women’s” issues. Like someone wrote below, I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t understand me because I had been living with a lot of these issues my whole life, and he hadn’t. Even though those arguments were no fun at the time, we both learned a lot about how to communicate with each other, and it definitely helped me get better at articulating my thoughts about feminism to others. YAY!

  • Shotgun Shirley

    “Even when we’re losing our shit over Halloween candy entitlement programs, we are always trying to learn from each other.”
    This cracked me up so much. Awesome post. Eric is a great writer too.

    • Class of 1980

      It cracked me up too.

      I am now wanting to use “Halloween Candy Entitlement Programs” in every other sentence. ;)

  • Jacki

    Eric, as a long time reader of your fabulous feminist fiancee’s blog – great to hear your take on things! :)

    One thing I’ve always appreciated in my relationship with Matt is that even when we disagree, he is willing to talk things out and hear what I’m saying. Shamefully I cannot always say the same about my approach to him, but I’m working on it. We both usually find that, despite approaching issues from a different point of view, or even agreeing to disagree sometimes, we deep-down respect each other’s opinions, especially when we understand what’s behind them, and often – we both move towards a new and evolving viewpoint after talking with each other. (For instance we recently talked about how he bristles at the word “feminist” because to him it has these angry, anti-man connotations that are, he eventually realized, skewed and totally inaccurate. So I was using the term based on what it means to me and he was hearing something really different.)

    • BreckW

      Matt sounds a lot like my lovely boyfriend, and you sound a lot like me. It’s nice to hear I’m not the only grown woman who still has some work to do in this area :).

      • Jacki

        You’re definitely not alone, Breck! :) Honestly, I feel really fortunate that my sweetie is stronger in this area and willing to call me to the carpet on it when necessary.

  • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

    This is such a wonderful post and I love reading Eric’s side of the equation. I’m a feminist married to someone who also didn’t think about feminism and feminist issues that much when we first met, for similar reasons. when we started dating I was the semi-liberal (more moderate then than now when I am far more liberal-minded) women’s studies major who would often be heard going “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED??” when reading articles for coursework.
    Now, he will point out articles to me about feminist issues he finds that I may like, and we will have conversations about feminist issues, housework, child-rearing, benefits programs, women’s rights and baseball until the cows come home (or until one of us gets too tired to continue). It’s been interesting as half of our partnership to see how much his thought processes have changed over that time frame, and also to see how mine have changed as well.

  • http://www.marbleryephotography.com/ Melissa

    Eric, thank you for taking the time to give us your perspective. So interesting.

  • Julia

    YES! This makes me really happy–and more importantly, hopeful.
    Go you, Eric, and go you, Rachel.

  • Lisa

    What an excellent man.

  • Tara

    I really love this article. Thank you for writing from the “other side” and also well done to both you and Rachel for talking through things instead of sidestepping the bigger issues, which it can be so easy to do.

  • Laura

    THIS is one of my favorite APW posts *ever* – and that is saying a *lot*.

  • Sarah

    Oh, this is nice. It’s really nice to hear this side of the story. My husband couldn’t be bothered to write any of his thoughts on the matter down, but his views likely align with yours and mine align more with Rachel’s, and ours is as close to a perfect marriage as you get. In fact, one of the reasons I married him is that when I’m losing it and going off on some anti-racist or feminist rant he actually listenes. REALLY listens. And then gives me his perspecitve, and has a way of making me see his point.

    For what it’s worth, I too would think it sucky that kids didn’t bother putting on costumes, but I think it’s funny that you pegged Halloween as a time that kids shouldn’t expect hand outs when that’s the essence of the holiday! Thanks for this piece!

  • Laura

    Thank you, APW, for this post. And for the person who wrote it. This is why we love APW… real, relatable, situations. As a straight-up liberal with a republican-identified partner, this is beautiful. It is true that we have intense discussions (cite: “It’s not about FREE healthcare, it’s about AFFORDABLE healthcare. It’s about whether we believe healthcare is right or not. GAH!”). And in the end, are still able to find common ground about personal life-values. (Which, at the risk of becoming too political, makes me want to say… maybe this party system in America really is effed up… and not a real reflection of the American people any more.)

  • Heather

    This is adorable and I teach Gov so I am super open to all views and can argue anything, but I will say, that my political views stem from my experience growing up poor in a minority majority community and I’ve found it really hard, culturally, to date people who don’t fit that. I think it might just be too personal for me. Also, I sort of argue for work and in my professional life a lot so I just don’t think I’d want to do that at home. Kudos for being way more mature about it than I could be.

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  • lockmm

    Republicans are not the fiscally conservative party by any viewpoint of what fiscally conservative is. They are the party that believes in cutting social programs that actually help people rather than a military budget that far outweighs social programs in cost.

    Feminists issues are also economic issues. How can you call yourself fiscally conservative and not consider abortion issues? Do you know how much unwanted pregnancies cost this country as opposed to supporting birth control?

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