Damaged Goodsby Tessa Lavel
After the head fell off the doll, and the toaster (invented in 1893 in Britain) quit popping, and the sweater snagged, someone started (in the early 1900s) calling women who weren’t virgins “damaged goods.”
More recently a male friend of mine (and yes, we still are friends) told me that divorced women were damaged goods. “Damaged how?” I asked. The list of damage went well beyond simply having had intercourse.
And the truth is that after I got divorced, I felt damaged. I knew that I was in pieces and had forgotten that the fragments had ever formed a whole. Somehow it felt like it was my fault that the marriage had failed.
It didn’t matter that both marriage counselors had told me that I had to get divorced, saying that my ex had psychological issues that were too much to bear. It didn’t matter that my ex threatened to divorce me unless I had sex with him on demand, giving a whole new meaning to real time. It didn’t matter that our son, who had just turned five, said, “Good, now Daddy won’t be mean to you” when I told him that his father had left. No one needed to tell me that I was damaged.
I have spent the last two years digging my way down into the damage to see what I can see. Psychologists say that divorce is like death, but as a culture, we treat it like just one of those things: commonplace, ordinary, trite, humdrum... Heaped on top of my own feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy, I experienced a general aversion from people toward my new singleness, a “find your own kind” mentality, and a simple dismissal: isn’t everyone divorced these days? And all of this made me feel deeply lonely.
I didn’t grow up thinking about myself as a commodity, but as I went back online for the first time, I knew it was what I had become. GOODS: height, body type, hair color, eye color, religious affiliation, salary... Without thinking too much, I wrote the following profile: A man I know recently called all divorced women "damaged goods," and yes, we are still friends, but if you don’t know why this is offensive, please don’t get in touch with me.
Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of messages, but for a period of time, it gave me great satisfaction just to put it out there. Show me the person who isn’t “damaged goods” who isn’t searching with the rest of us for meaning, peace, and happiness; maybe there is even someone out there hoping along with me for fewer cliches and greater understanding.
I’m focusing on a better future: reduce, reuse, recycle.