I am entering my 67th year, and reading some of the problems in your columns made me reminisce about my own life.
My wife and I came from poor families and worked our way through high school and college to finish our education. Through sheer determination, frugality, and working almost 20 hours everyday, we were able to start a little business. It succeeded well enough to send our three children not only to good schools in Manila, but overseas, too, for their post-graduate degrees.
When she reached her 40s, my wife did not only find so much time and money in her hands—she also started finding fault in herself. She was already pretty to me, but suddenly she was complaining about how her nose was too thick, her breasts too small, her chin too weak, and other stuff I couldn’t even see.
The crack in our marriage apparently started with the first of a series of her plastic surgeries. Once, I was gone almost a month for business meetings, and when I came back and saw what she did to her breasts, I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know whether to stare or look away from her. She felt very hurt at my reaction. It took great effort for me to make love to her again after that. I was truly horrified to touch her for fear that her breasts would leak or get smashed!
Her unhappiness with her looks continued. One day, at breakfast, I almost didn’t recognize her! She looked so heavily made up so early in the morning, and when I asked if we were expecting company, she looked at me funny. Turns out she had tattooed her eyebrows, her eyeliner, and even lined her lips permanently!
Instead of finding it amusing, I felt disgust at how weird she looked. Even her skin, which was meticulously cared for monthly by her dermatologists, appeared scaly! I’ve not been remiss in telling her how pretty she already was, but that only started an argument.
She used to be this woman who was so naturally pretty that we’d laugh at her friends who were so vain. But she turned out to be exactly like them.
I am a quiet, simple man with simple pleasures and desires. I worked hard all my life hoping to give my family everything I never had. My wife and I were together through all that, but instead of appreciating our blessings, money became a burden to her, and she couldn’t seem to wait to throw it all away. I wish she spent it more in educating herself or doing charity work. She’s always with her friends, shopping here and abroad and getting fixated on fixing something in their bodies.
Her unhappiness with everything made us snarl and throw harsh words at each other. The rift in our marriage just widened, and we drifted farther and farther apart. Eventually, our kids had their own families, and my wife and I had to find solace somewhere else. She went from one affair to another, and nothing lasted more than a few months.
While my friends went for young girls, I found an educated, feet-on-the-ground woman of my age whose wisdom constantly astonished me. She already tried marriage once, and that was enough for her. We have been together 18 years now.
My wife has her own life, and is still vain as ever. Oftentimes, I’d think of our “hungry years”—the struggles and hardships we went through—and still feel pangs of regret. I look back at how happy we seemed to be then.
Your marital experience certainly gives pause, and there’s no answer needed here, is there? But for purposes of reminiscing, let’s see what happened.
Your wife obviously took the angst and poverty of her childhood a little harder than you did yours. She must have been so scarred from fighting the windmills of want and despair, that upon conquering them with your newfound wealth, she started to unleash all her desires and dreams on what was nearest and dearest to her—herself! Weren’t you there, her primary spectator, seated front and center, watching her destroy every remnant of her old self?
There must have been something so hollow, so deeply empty in her being, that no amount of self-indulgence could fill it up. Sadly, this preoccupation with remaking herself made you drift away from her. You could have stopped her, but you probably were too busy or just didn’t have the patience to buoy her spirits enough.
She mistakenly thought, perhaps, that despite your protestations, you were indeed proud of her new features. She failed to read what your mind was silently screaming at her—that she was transforming herself into a complete stranger, and hopelessly eroding your affection for her.
You clearly had the same problem that Donald Trump, the American entrepreneur, had with his wife when she underwent the same procedures. He remarked how he “couldn’t touch those plastic breasts, or look at her trout pout.” His marriage to her went downhill, and he ended up with a woman with her natural looks intact.
Looking back at the past is certainly good for the spirit. But much as you wish you had done it differently, your hungry years will always remain great fodder for reminiscing.