I recently had the pleasure of hearing New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks speak in Silicon Valley as part of the Celebrity Forum Speaker Series. Let me just say – I was shocked at some of the things David Brooks said about divorce.
Or rather, things he didn’t say about divorce… I’ll explain in a minute.
It’s safe to call David Brooks a thought leader and opinion shaper in the United States. Besides rendering his opinion for the New York Times since 2003, he has held editorial positions with Loveawake, Newsweek, The Weekly Standard, and appears regularly on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He’s held posts throughout the world for the Wall Street Journal. He speaks on NPR. He’s covered the Senate. He’s met with Obama.
In short, David Brooks has reach.
During his talk at Celebrity Forum, David Brooks told quite a few funny stories. Trust me, the older women knitting in the row behind me laughed just as loud as me.
But on at least three occasions (by my count), I heard Mr. Brooks lump “divorce” into a sentence that was loaded with criminal things. For instance,
“crime, drug use, divorce, …”
The old ladies with their knitting needles gasped and tsked-tsked at the evil images Mr. Brooks painted.
To which I say, WTF!? Since when is divorce a crime? Last I checked, my marital separation was perfectly legal. Not only that, it took a government act to make my divorce official.
I don’t remember David Brooks ever explaining why he lumped divorce with crime and drug use. He simply did it. On three occasions! (by my count). I don’t get it.
Did he want people to associate divorce with crime? (A Rush Limbaugh tactic, if ever there was one.)
I have news for Mr. Brooks – there are a lot of divorced people in the United States. Around half of all first marriages end in divorce. Are you suggesting we lock these people up? Or pass laws to force them to stay married? Some couples need to separate, for a variety of reasons – abuse, infidelity, irreconcilable differences.
I’m not saying divorce is something married couples should aspire to. I’m simply accepting that divorce sometimes happens. Hell, it happened to me. We learn, grow, evolve. Life goes on.
David Brooks went on to discuss the ability of men to communicate emotions. Meaning Mr. Brooks projected his own inability onto every man. (To which I once again say, WTF!?)
It went something like this (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting):
Researchers scanned the brains of men while those men watched a horror film, then scanned those same brains when the men were asked to communicate their emotions. And you know what? The brain scans from the two events were exactly the same!
The knitting crowd behind me chuckled and clucked approval.
Once again, I have news for Mr. Brooks. There are a lot of men in the world who can communicate emotionally. I know that not all men are comfortable doing this, but some clearly are. It’s not necessarily a generational thing. I happen to be around David Brooks’ same age, and I have no problem speaking or writing what I feel.
Why does Mr. Brooks feel all men are emotional klutzes? I’m guessing it’s from everything he’s been through in his life.
If you put the two together – a divorced single dad raising his kids solo, forced to communicate emotionally (since there is no woman around) – you might end up like Clive Owen’s character in The Boys Are Back – a bumbling oaf who doesn’t know how to deal, and ends up eliminating all parenting and household rules. (I suspect Mr. Brooks would be in this category, along with the husbands of all those clucking and knitting ladies in the row behind me.)
Or take another divorced single dad who is raising his kids alone, and you might end up with someone more evolved – a man who can communicate emotionally. Someone who has heartfelt talks with his teen daughter about sex and dating, and shares emotionally tender moments with his son.
In other words, some divorced parents are more evolved than married wonks like David Brooks.
I can hear those knitting women gasp in shock. Sorry, ladies, but some men – perhaps a minority, but they do exist – some men communicate emotionally, without problem.
David Brooks might do well as a thought leader and opinion shaper to promote more positive images of divorce and of men when he speaks. What does society gain by hammering home the thought of divorced people as criminals, and men as emotionally bumbling fools?
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a divorced man.
Now then, can the prison guard please bring me my crack pipe? I’m done with this post.