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The Crane Wife (theparisreview.org)
80 points by ivanech 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments



This essay hit me particularly hard because I've been on the opposite side of this where I was the one not realizing my significant other's needs. It makes you question a lot of yourself. To think you can cause another person so much pain through your own action and/or inaction is hard to come to terms with. I don't think I meant to hurt someone else, but that was the result. It is easy to be oblivious or flat out ignore other people's emotional needs.

For me, I realized that what I should have been doing was just communicating my thoughts and feelings better. Meanwhile being able to accept my own limitations. Can you become a romantic overnight? Can you be completely open and honest about all your fears? Of course not, these things take time to learn how to do successfully and naturally. You might realize you cannot fulfill everything for your partner and maybe it won't work.

Realistically there are a lot of relationships that will fail. We tend to think their ending is some sort of cataclysm. The author put's this so well:

"There are ways to be wounded and ways to survive those wounds, but no one can survive denying their own needs."

At some point you need to be honest with yourself about what you need in life at an emotional level. It is very hard to go through life pretending otherwise or constantly sacrificing for nothing in return. For me that is the lesson of the Crane Wife tale.


This person was engaged to the caricature of Neil DeGrasse Tyson than Jordan Peele plays in Key & Peele.



A really fantastic essay. Thanks for sharing.


This is some really good writing style. I couldn't really relate to the character and the story, but I still really enjoyed reading every single word of it.


In conclusion, why not do nothing instead of doing something for the sake of it when you don't have long term goals


Nice essay, but the conclusion is a non-sequitur. If anything, the story seems to suggest that it is in fact "remarkable for a person to understand what another person needed."


I actually think the point of the essay is that you should allow yourself to have needs and to be who you are. There are a lot of people in the world who want you to be who they think you are. My therapist once told me that "feedback is like trying on clothes. When someone hands you a shirt, the polite thing to do is to try it on and see how it fits you. But not every shirt is your style, and not every piece of feedback is true."


That's an incredible quote and general piece of advice. It precisely articulated and idea I always found it hard to articulate. Two people could each reject an idea or advice and one would frustrate me more than another. It's because I wanted them to atleast try it on before insisting it wouldn't fit!


I think what she means is remarkable as in unusual, not as in worth commenting on. The fiancé was a man she had spent years of her life dating, courting, evaluating, and before that whom she had met through mutual friends. Jeff was some guy on a bird-watching trip that she joined on essentially a whim. The whole essay is, in a sense, a large remark on Jeff (and Lindsay), but the remark is precisely how natural it was for them to do what they did, how they aren't people who are impossible to find.


Jeff knew she needed to drive the boat, to symbolically steer her own life, rather than being railroaded and being convinced to like it like her asshole ex did to her. And among normal caring people, guys like Jeff are the norm.


I'm pretty sure seeking out the logical fallacies in a story like this is not the point...


I am reading this and enjoying everything up to this point, so far:

“ When men desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” or even “emasculated,” and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a woman needs she is needy.”

I’m not sure why people insist on thinking things like this. My male brain tells me I am being needy if I am wanting or desiring things, and I would assume others also see me as being needy when I am doing so. Certainly not confusing passion with need just because I am a male. Of course, people love to promote their feminism in 2019, or at least portray an appearance of doing so.


There are some sections of society where these attitudes are still common. We self-select our peer groups and so don’t see a representative sample of humanity as a whole. This leaves people like the author still fighting the old gender wars, and people like us saying “hey steady on”, and a lot of people talking past each other due to different definitions and experiences.


I agree, I don't think these generalizations are accurate. If anything the opposite has social encouragement.

It sounds like the author was engaged to a person who is more emotionally distant than average. But I also wonder how she would've responded to the opposite.

In this case, he didn't fawn over her by telling her how beautiful she looked in her dress, for example. At the same time, that sort of aloofness might have contributed something to her interest in him. If he were the type to overly fawn over her, she might not have considered him as high status, and might never have tried to marry him.


To be exceedingly frank, I'm more interested in the story of how these two people managed to decide they wanted to get married when from the very outset he's clearly a robot pretending to be a human and she's emotionally malnourished. Did he think she would just "get over it"? Did she think marrying him would turn him into a totally different person?


I think it works better if you take the genders out of it:

> “When people desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a another person needs they are needy.”

I've seen this story many times with both men and women featuring in both roles, and I think the lesson can apply, therefore, to anyone who reads it. As a general rule, society at large favors the provider; whichever of the two is bringing home the bacon. I've found this to be true across classes, and thanks to an increasing number of women getting the role, across the genders too.

I think as a species humans tend to ally with the ones we perceive to be stronger on an instinctual level, which when you consider our origins as a social animal, is really not surprising. I think the 1950's housewife trope was less to do with actual sexism of the populace, and far more to do with the sexism present in the job market. Men held the jobs; therefore, women had to clean the house. What the hell else were they going to do?

Yet, now you regularly see women just as sociopathic and socially detached from their husbands as many husbands were back then; they see their marriages as a convenience, their husbands as a source of child care and free labor, just as men did. And they cheat on their husbands with men they meet in their work lives, just as the men did before. And if the woman is bringing home enough bacon more than her husband, the end result is also the same; she rules him, because he has no options. Because being a homemaker is no career path and the longer a person is in that line of work, the less employable they become.

And this is not to say women are worse or better, in fact, it's to say they're largely the same. It's to say that both women and men, when given more or less entire dominion over another person, will treat that person, by and large, equally shitty.

Edit; I think it's also worth noting that the high success types, the ones who make enough money to sustain an expensive lifestyle on their own with a dependent, is a self-selected group of generally speaking, socially distant and cool/calculating type of people. That's an important distinction to make, and I should've made it on the first go.


A lot of interesting thoughts there! Although I’m not sure all successful people are socially-distant or cold persons.


All generalizations are wrong, including this one.




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