Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Blumenstrauss
An Essayby Debra Jo Immergut
Hello, women rising up against toxic men. I salute you. And with a discomfit that seems to increase with each passing day of the revolution, I apologize. I enabled one of these men. He is dead now, my Mr. Blumenstrauss.
I didn’t have to assist him in his predations and serial adulteries. I could have stood my moral ground. But two years into my marriage, my husband John and I were learning what it meant to be stone-cold broke.
The year was 1995, and we had just moved to New York after five years in Europe, where we’d lived a charmed life as twenty-somethings in post-Wall Berlin. I had a book contract, and John worked as a foreign correspondent. He was blessed with a luxuriant expense account (rent on a penthouse apartment, utilities, even our taxes were paid for). We thought this is what our adult life would always be like. We were spoiled children, but we didn’t realize it then.
At the end of his term, John was offered a posting in Moscow, but I missed my family and so he agreed to head stateside again. We rented a two-bedroom on the Upper West Side, dark and narrow but just off Riverside Park, important because we had an energetic dog who needed plentiful walks.
John’s employer assigned him to a desk in their New York bureau, and I began to look for work. And look, and look. John’s first US paycheck came in. Suddenly, he was paying his own taxes, and we realized that, after all those deductions, his monthly take-home pay equaled an amount very close to our monthly rent.
That meant precious little money left over for food. Or anything else.
The first week, we filled four shopping bags with books, lugged them downtown on the M5 bus, and sold them at the Academy Bookstore for dinner.
My job search was going nowhere. I was a published author, a freelance journalist, and, apparently, in very little demand. The only offer I received was for a copyediting position at a porn magazine. I seriously considered it, but the idea of staring for hours at those fake-compliant faces made me despondent. Instead, I took a typing test at Manpower, the temp agency.
I could do 65 words per minute. A secretarial job came up right away. I was sent to a skyscraper on Broadway. And that’s where I met Mr. Blumenstrauss.