Man, does this sound familiar....
AMERICAS MODEL HOUSEWIFE TURNS FEMINIST AS HUSBAND ABANDONS HER
Hekker admits her story is partly a lament for the lost concept of marriage for life. Though a self-proclaimed liberal, she believes easier divorce has
played largely to the advantage of men. Socially, it is acceptable for men to divorce these days. They still get invited to everything. If my father had left my mother the way my husband left me, no one would ever have spoken to him again. Divorce has become a licence for men to behave badly, she said.
The study found that 22 per cent of divorced women over 65 live in poverty, five times higher than the norm for married women. Experts expect the number of poor elderly divorced women to grow.
It is 25 years since Terry Hekker hailed the housewife, now in a landmark decision the acclaimed author has rejected her past saying she was wrong
Paul Harris in New York
Sunday January 8, 2006
Terry Hekker wrote a book in 1980 that made her famous. Ever Since Adam & Eve was a passionate defence of her decision to eschew a career and spend her life as a wife and a mother.
Coming at the end of the Seventies, when feminism was enjoying a renaissance and the career woman was emerging from behind the cooker, Hekker became a celebrated poster child for more old-fashioned values. She wanted her job
choice of homemaker to be considered as valid as those of up-and-coming women bankers, bosses and company directors. The book sold well, Hekker
appeared on all the TV prime-time chat shows and went on a national tour. But that was then.
Today, Hekker told The Observer, she is planning a follow-up book. Its working, albeit jokey, title is bluntly honest: Disregard First Book. For her life did not turn out as she planned, and she now believes her decision to become a housewife and homemaker should serve as a warning for young American women.
My anachronistic book was written while I was in a successful marriage that I expected would go on forever. Sadly, it now has little relevance for modern women, except perhaps as a cautionary tale, Hekker wrote last week as she announced her U-turn.
In a display of spectacular bad taste, Hekkers husband presented her with divorce papers on their 40th wedding anniversary and left her for a younger woman. The divorce left her facing an uncertain financial future, bereft of income and - after spending her adult life bringing up five children - lacking skills to make her attractive in the job market. Despite that, the
judge in her divorce case suggested that - at 67 - she go for job training.
She ended up selling her engagement ring to pay for roof repairs and discovering she was eligible for food stamps. Her ex-husband, meanwhile, was
holidaying with his new lover in Mexico. Hekker, once a role model for young homemakers, is now rapidly becoming an icon for so-called silver divorcees, older women who suddenly find themselves alone without skills and with a much reduced income.
She said that in the 48 hours after her story appeared in the New York Times
(http://archives.his.com/smartmarriages/2006-January/msg00002.html) she received more than 100 emails and phone calls from women in similar situations all over America. The response has just been incredible. I have touched a chord with so many people. I never knew there were so many who had had the same experience, she said.
For some, reading Hekkers story has been cathartic. One woman sent pictures of her taking a television set into the desert and destroying it with an axe after discovering that it had been a gift from her husbands lover. For others it merely illustrated the problems that older women can face when husbands they have relied on for all their income leave traditional marriages.
This is an increasing problem in America. As the population grows steadily older, the divorce rate is growing, especially among the over-50s. One study
from the University of Michigan showed that the proportion of women aged between 55 and 60 who divorced jumped from 4.8 per cent in 1970 to 18.7 per cent in 2002. The baby-boomers are getting ready to retire. You would expect to see more of this, said Brette McWhorter Sember, author of Divorce
Hekker admits her story is partly a lament for the lost concept of marriage for life. Though a self-proclaimed liberal, she believes easier divorce has played largely to the advantage of men. Socially, it is acceptable for men to divorce these days. They still get invited to everything. If my father
had left my mother the way my husband left me, no one would ever have spoken to him again. Divorce has become a licence for men to behave badly, she said.
When she was divorced, Hekker felt like a social pariah. What saved her was the community work she had done in her home village of Nyack, near New York. As a result she was able to run successfully for mayor, landing a post that pays $8,000 a year. It saved my sanity, she said.
Others are not so lucky. The study found that 22 per cent of divorced women over 65 live in poverty, five times higher than the norm for married women. Experts expect the number of poor elderly divorced women to grow. Employers
do not want to hire elderly people, and it is hard to start training for a job when you are almost at retirement age, or even above it. It is very, very hard to find a job, said McWhorter Sember.
Hekkers advice to young American women now could not be more different from that of 25 years ago when she travelled the country extolling the virtues of making good meals, keeping a clean house and bringing up fine children. She still believes that those things are worthwhile, but she is under no illusions about marriage being forever. Today, she says, women have to look out for themselves as well - to prepare for being abandoned, so that if you end up alone you will have the skills to look after yourself.
McWhorter Sember agrees: Any young woman who didnt acquire skills to earn money for herself is taking a huge risk. It is not just divorce, though. After all, your husband could die.
For Hekker, though, the story does have a happy ending. For months she had been offering a new book to New York publishers without success. Now,
following publicity for her Times writing, she has literary agents knocking at her door and she is being signed for TV appearances. She is once again - a quarter of a century after her last appearance - booked for the Today television show.
Finally, she is putting the legacy of being left in the lurch behind her. But it has been a hard way to learn from a mistake. With divorce, when one
door closes another one always opens. But until then it is hell, she says, laughing.