This one is for women and, according to the friend whose sorrowful story it tells, any other human whose brain resides above his waist and is therefore equipped to comprehend how a personal tragedy can defy solution for a middle-aged women living in a foreign land.
It also raises, in a nation reported to be the world’s fourth largest user of Facebook and have the world’s most Twitter-addicted population which also accesses Friendster, mostly through mobile phones, the fear that cyber life is increasingly regarded as an acceptable alternative to real life.
And in Bali, where rising domestic violence is not discouraged by customary law which relegates a wife to the position of chattel of her husband and his family, it helps dispel any doubt that psychological abuse is just as thoroughly debilitating as physical abuse.
Like many of us, my friend and her husband of 30 years severed their careers, divested themselves of assets and embarked on a new life in Bali, in an environment that would give them a more gracious lifestyle and the opportunity to enjoy experiences together as they grew older.
That was her motivation, and it disappointed her that he preferred to spend his newly created leisure time consumed by his computer, up to 18 hours a day, obsessively keeping abreast of world events and social networking, creeping into their guest bed before dawn so she wouldn’t know his lateness.
At the dinner table, to which he dragged himself late, talk was of his cyber friends. He stopped exercising. She watched his buttocks drop and his belly swell, along with his level of irritation at any interruption. She cringed in anticipation of his snappiness if he was required to leave his desk to do a household chore.
She refused to join Facebook, preferring real friends. He urged her to explore his own account, no doubt convinced she would be so captivated that she’d get her own. “Have a look at the video I posted,” he said, and in seeking it she saw a post from a young London-based woman whom he’d vaguely said might join their list of houseguests. Perhaps their on-line conversation would provide an ETA, she thought, as she clicked her way into a miserable nightmare that crushed her to the core.
In a 677-word effusive testimony – a misguided attempt to ease the young woman’s broken heart and doubtless to boast of his inferred sexual prowess – her husband unreservedly exposed their three-decade marriage as a massive fraud. He spoke of his first real love, of his “only Love” who had eluded him. He regretted his mistake in not pursuing her and now, 40 years on, he wished they were together.
On the eve of his first marriage, a 10-year union that sensibly failed to accommodate his incessant yearning for someone else, he opted against a buck’s party in favour of enjoying the “exquisite pleasure” of his only love. By his admission, the deluded cad must believe his crass and craven act of betrayal has merit. Wrong.
He spoke further of the pit he’d fallen into and the huge, black hole that would be in his life beyond his death.
My friend is devastated at having been deceived into living a 30-year lie and at his revelation to another that she is inadequate and has failed to make his grade. She can’t sleep, feels constantly nauseous and shakes unexpectedly at the sheer horror and waste of it. He might just as well have incapacitated her with a giant body blow. But he has messed with her mind, which she can’t clear sufficiently to assess her options. She suspects Bali is not the ideal place for an ageing, single Western woman but feels trapped by the cost of re-establishing elsewhere.
Her husband’s thoroughly thoughtless and self-seeking confession, she says, not only explains his growing ambivalence to her but his fixation with the cyber world. Wouldn’t you want to go to fantasy land if your real world was a black hole?
While social networking sites and other internet technology can provide welcome escapes from sometimes brutal reality, usage needs to be kept in perspective. Experience testifies that the sooner you face up to real or perceived problems, the smaller they become. If you don’t deal with them, they fester into the type of black hole that has shattered a woman and her marriage.
One wonders, if the husband had applied a modicum of energy to living a real life with his partner instead of engaging in the self-absorption that is within easy click of any internet addict, whether his black hole might have diminished to a manageable little aperture, through which he could even summons fond memories, instead of becoming the gaping abyss into which he has dragged an innocent.
While physical abuse of any sort is to be deplored, the impact of psychological torture is just as severe. One wonders what goes on in the heads of educated, self-supporting young women who, on marrying Balinese men, customarily become slaves to the husbands’ families. I know many of them who don’t like it at all, but won’t quite say so. They’d have to get permission for that.
Let’s hope they are not discussing it via social networking. Chances are they’d be found out and have to face the real-life consequences.LCFiled under: ILAND