Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sistas And Brethren

Several months ago, I met C a desi man in his early 40s. Since the acquaintance had come about through work, we knew little beyond the other's name and job function. One evening, I had to scuttle from a meeting to pick up J from after-school care. That was when C became aware I was a parent. Soon after he moved on to a different job. In the interim we became aware of each other's single parent status - his two boys lived with their mother.

As we were very clearly not each other's type it was easy for us to get over the initial discomfort that results from our marital status situation to become friendly acquaintances with somewhat  similar challenges. A few weeks into his new job, he called me one day to see if I was up for lunch midway between his workplace and mine. We chatted about work (his and mine) for a bit and then conversation drifted to kids and from there to ex-spouses.
This was the first time I was hearing about his divorce. He had married an Indian woman born and raised in the US. C came to America as a grad student and had met his wife at school. Two children later, their incompatibility turned so pronounced that the marriage had to end. According to my math, that is also the period of time is takes for one such as C married to an US citizen to acquire an US passport. Of course, I did not point that out and let C continue with his story.

Now, he is back in the marriage market and looking for someone "unencumbered" by kids as he put it. Not being comfortable with the idea of a blended family myself, I was able to understand that perspective - C boys are tweens. It would take a whole lot of adjustment on all sides for a blended situation to work out.  He added that it was also imperative that  they possessed a green card or were US citizens. I guessed he probably did not want a woman to do to him what he had done to his ex-wife. This was not the first time that I have known a man who married a local (desi or otherwise) for a passport and then dumped the wife on largely frivolous grounds. The same men became very wary of women who due to their legal status could stand to benefit from marrying them.

But the conversation got more interesting at this point. "You know what bothers me most, she never expressed any desire for reconciliation - you would think she'd at least try. We have two kids together. I felt like I was used and thrown". How so I asked because the narrative up to now had been she had not tried hard enough to meet his expectations from a wife and he finally ran out of patience. It did help that the citizenship was taken care of.

"Well, she has the kids. I am left with nothing". I had to restrain my impulse to say What about that passport ? Then C added "But I am confident she will not be able to pull this off . Raising two boys alone is no joke, she needs the father's support. At some point she will give up and reach out for help. I would have bought a house here but I am sure I will need to move back to Colorado to be around the kids. It's just a matter of time." This was when I finally had to say something.

"You know, C. I have raised J alone in this country without any family within a thousand mile radius. I am not born and raised here and my ex does not even live in America. It was challenging but I was still able to do it. I would not hold my breath on having your ex beg you for help. Your boys are older, she has a network of family and friends here and she has a good job. Her challenges would be nothing compared to mine. She will manage very well without your help. You have to realize that unlike in India, a woman in America does not need a man to survive. She can do everything alone and do it well - specially someone like your wife. As for your kids, they are old enough to understand who wronged whom and they will make their allegiance known quite plainly."

As much as I hated to break his ego inflated bubble, I thought I would be doing gross disservice to the woman in the equation by not giving her credit for having the chops to pull it off as a single parent. Though I don't know her, I felt a sense of sisterhood with her.


unpredictable said...

Well good for you. I'm glad you called him out on his nonsense openly. I wish it was the same in India - i.e. women having the ability to bring up their children on their own so they can walk out of bad marriages if needed.

Anonymous said...

Somehow the presumption that the guy in question married the woman for a US passport doesnt quite cut it for me.
Sure there are the scumbags who do it, it would be a very small percentage. I wouldnt assume that automatically.

Sometimes people do not articulate well - maybe this guy is desperate for a role in his kids lives afterall.

Heartcrossings said...

unpredictable - Thanks for stopping by. In time, women in India will be able to do it to - leave with their kids from a bad marriage and be able to get on with their lives. Unfortunately, it is not the reality of life today.

Anon - The guy had to try really hard to explain why he left his ex - and I had not even asked. Incompatibility to the point where the marriage becomes unsupportable does not bloom suddenly after ten years.

Once he had his legal status in good order, it appeared as though his ability to adjust and compromise in the marriage disappeared rapidly. He no longer felt that he had to put up with things that he had in the past. I just find the timing and the lack of good reason indicative of motivation.

As I said, this is not the first guy like C I have run across and surely won't be the last. In all fairness, a lot of men say the same about the women the married - it was all about the green card. Once they were "free and clear" they just bailed out of the marriage.

While that situation is quite gender neutral, what really annoyed me was C's sense of entitlement. He dumps the woman and expects her to come begging for help - he did need a reality check at the point.


Hey, HC, don't you think that ten years is really a long period for someone to have led this farcical life? for a man, If i may add?

But what amuses me though is the automatic empathy and support he expected from you in his unraveling!

Priyamvada_K said...

I think someone married to a US citizen should get their greencard within a year, right?

After that US passport is a matter of 5 more years.

I agree that the man has a sense of entitlement and am perplexed at his thought of being "used and thrown", but I doubt if he went through having 2 kids just to have a US passport.


Priyamvada_K said...

Just adding to my comment, some men pampered by their moms remain boys. They want to be taken care of and don't offer to do much at home or with the kids. If their wife tells them their ego gets disturbed. I am seeing this complaint from several desi sisters.

Perhaps the incompatibility after 10 years came as a result of that. Its ok if its just the two of them - but with a working wife (I presume) and 2 kids, the man should have the sensitivity to offer help, and share the work.

Even now from what you said, he wants her to initiate any reconciliation efforts. He himself won't initiate! Lack of initiative, or sheer laziness? Looks like he only made more work for her and maybe she thought this isn't worth it.


Heartcrossings said...

Priya - Good to see you here ! I guess is is about 7 years in total from being a finance to being a citizen. Based on what he told me, that seemed how long he was able to make the marriage work :)

Maybe it's just coincidence but it's odd that things would head so far south after so long. And then as you say, the expectation that she would initiate the reconciliation - and assuming she'd fail because she's lacking a man.

Anonymous said...

I also feel the same way as unpredictable.

A special thanks to you Heartcrossings for standing up to that unseen woman. If more people are honest to themselves & supportive as you are it will work out in India.

Anonymous said...

We don't know C's ex-wife's story, only his. I bet SHE has an interesting one! I've heard/seen desi parents encourage (okay, sometimes PUSH) their daughters toward FOB men. I'm NOT saying it never works, BUT it can be an odd fit for many marrieds. But if the woman has a strong tie to her culture, religion, parents, etc. it COULD work out. I know a VERY happy divorced ABCD who's married to a recent arrival. Both are liberal, love Bangladeshi music/culture, and are successful professionals. And this is the wife's 2nd marriage (the 1st was a TOTAL disaster). This is VERY rare!

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with your observation here HC. You cannot just take someone by face value and judge him as an MCP just coz he married an American citizen. The GC arrives within a year and beyond that, you dont need to be married to get your citizenship. Of course, on moral grounds your citizenship might get rejected. But again, not the end of the world for him. He could still stay on. There are indeed tons of things that could go wrong in an NRI-Citizen alliance. Staying away from one's kids is as hard for a father as it is for the mother. And yes, incompatibility can bloom anytime during a marriage. Heck, I have seen people split after 40 yrs of marital bliss. Just coz you're a single mother and you could empathize with the woman in his story does not mean that he is a dick and needs penance :) You need to try a more neutral approach the next time around.