July 21, 2006

Divorce madness.

The previous post is about a ridiculous -- and ridiculously long -- article in the NYT about how women cheat on their husbands [and boyfriends] with the contractors who work on their house. It begins with an anecdote about a guy -- David Mager -- who made a joke about his wife longtime girlfriend and the contractor -- "Maybe I should just get you two a hotel room... It would be cheaper" -- only to discover later that they really were having an affair. One theme in the comments to that post is: Why the hell did the guy further humiliate himself by telling his story to the New York Times and letting them take his picture?

An article I read in the NYT this morning suggests an answer. As usual, I didn't read the article straight through. I jumped around looking at parts that interest me, forming questions, and searching for answers. This is a divorce proceeding, and the husband is a well-known -- not by me, of course -- football player: Michael Strahan.
She accused her husband of beating her, secretly videotaping her sister undressing and carrying on affairs with three different women, including one nicknamed Cupcake. He complained that his wife last year spent $22,500 on photographs, $27,000 on clothes for their 20-month-old twin daughters, and $1,700 in sign language classes — even though neither daughter is hearing impaired.
I'm completely on the side of the wife at this point. The offenses are not comparable at all. If they are rich -- and they are -- buying expensive clothes for the children is quite ordinary and even laudable. She puts her efforts into the children, and twins are a lot of work. Dressing two girls beautifully, while not the loftiest undertaking in the world, is worthwhile and, I would think, what the typical rich man would love for the mother of his children to do. Having the girls take enriching classes is also something good. To make it seem extravagant to teach them sign language when they are not hearing impaired is perfectly obtuse. Learning any language develops mental skills, and wanting to be able to communicate with people who don't speak your language or to translate for them is altruistic. Paying for education is the norm.

I scanned the article for something supporting Mr. Strahan's side and saw that there was a pre-nuptial agreement. Ah! I was ready to switch to his side. The agreement should be enforced. But what's this?
The 41-year-old Mrs. Strahan, a former cosmetics store manager, and her husband entered into a pre-nuptial agreement in 1999, the year they were married, that was to have set aside 20 percent of Mr. Strahan’s earnings annually. The accumulated amount would be hers in the event of a divorce. On top of that, she says she is owed half his assets and is seeking $14 million.

But Mr. Strahan’s lawyers have argued that the Strahans agreed to verbally void the arrangement shortly after their marriage, and that she is owed only $7 million of his estimated $23 million.
He's the one trying to get out of the agreement! He not only got her to sign a pre-nuptial agreement. He now wants her to get even less than she agreed to!

The article generalizes about how vicious both parties sound, but Mr. Strahan has no material:
For instance, the 34-year-old Mr. Strahan in a radio interview during the trial said his wife of seven years was a “very, very disturbed person” who spent to excess but at the same time had more frugal tastes like Target, Kmart and Houlihan’s Restaurant.
What sense does that make? That's the normal way people spend money. You go to a nice clothing store, but you still go to Target for housewares. You might even buy some clothes there, especially for children: socks, underwear, pajamas. This isn't a sign of a mental problem!

Strahan, I see, is a big football star with a $46 million contract and commercial endorsements. Why wouldn't he pay up quietly, following the pre-nuptial agreement? Why would he want his daughters to see this? Why would he impair his own earning power? He's done commercials for Campbell’s Chunky Soup -- a product women buy and feed to children. He's ruining the image you need for wholesome products like that.

How do you explain his behavior? Maybe his lawyers are playing him for their share of the big pot of money, but you can only be played if you've got a mind for it.

I'm thinking Michael Strahan and David Mager are case studies in divorce madness. They've lost all normal judgment and perspective. Mager is a lot easier to understand: His wife not only spent a lot of his money, she spent it providing cover for the man she was having an affair with. Strahan, what explains him? He's beyond belief! He cheated on her, he won't even meet the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement, and he's dragging the mother of his daughters through the fire for -- what? -- spending some money? Absolutely incredible!

CORRECTION: Mager wasn't married. The story is about his "longterm girlfriend." The couple had two daughters, however, and "shared" (owned?) an 18th century country house. ADDED: Too bad I'm committed to the post title "Divorce Madness." Mager's not being married makes his humiliation less poignant, more humiliating.

47 comments:

Joe said...

Strahan is noted for having an ego as vast as the great outdoors, coupled with a thin skin and the pro athlete's sense of entitlement.
I still can't understand why Mager would want to publicly debase himself in that other article. Maybe he gets off on it.

Meade said...

"Mager is a lot easier to understand: His wife not only spent a lot of his money, she spent it providing cover for the man she was having an affair with."

A small point perhaps, but according to that most ridiculous article you've ever seen in the New York Times, David Mager's wife was not his wife; she was his girlfriend.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, I put in a correction. All the more reason for him to lie low. He's got less of a shot at self-righteousness.

PatCA said...

"Contractors and women at home, it’s shooting fish in a barrel.”

Oh, the poor things! Try a chador with your next "girlfriend."

Yes, Mager is an egotistical ass. He never made a commitment to the marriage, and she left him, quel surprise.

Meade said...

Legal marriage or not, I doubt anyone can disagree that it is the collateral damage - the children - who always suffer most when their divorce-mad grown-up parents are neither grown-up nor parents.

CB said...

I was about to make a snarky comment about the argument that the written contract had been verbally rescinded, but fortunately decided to do some quick research first. Turns out you can do that--who knew?

SteveR said...

Life styles of the rich and famous

P. G. said...

The most humiliating part has to be where Mager's girlfriend got the house. Frankly, while I normally hate Ayn Rand, I can see the virtue in picking up some dynamite and doing a Howard Roark here.

Joe said...

PG, that doctor in NYC who blew himself up in his brownstone recently, so his ex would not get it? She gets the last laugh - the property is more valuable without the building!

Sean said...

What I didn't understand about the Mager article is why the Times referred to his girlfriend's having an "affair." How can it be an affair if you're not married. It isn't even, in my book, being unfaithful, although my wife would claim that it would qualify as being unfaithful if the boyfriend did it.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

What's the big deal. Contractors screw you every other way, who's surpriosed they do it literally, too?

(I'm sure there are great guys in the business, but, I'm yet to hear of one amongst my friends or from my own experience. Dealing with contractors is easily one of the most stressful experience one can get involved in.)

Maxine Weiss said...

Target has some nice stuff. Less screaming babies in Target than WalMart. The children are far more well-behaved.

You'd think it would be just the opposite, WalMart with it's soothing blue motif would calm....and Target's red color-scheme would agitate.

But yet, Target kids are the most quiet and calm.

Where is Houlihans? Do they still have happy hour?

Peace, Maxine

Dr. Fager said...

I hope your comments about the spending on children's clothes and sign language were made tongue in cheek.

Strahan is 34. That's old for a football player (unless you're a quarterback). In the not too distant future his income will drop dramatically.

Jennifer said...

Why would those comments be tongue in cheek? Multi-millionaires should only spend the money on themselves - screw the kids? I don't get it.

Strahan is a spokesperson for Peta. I'm not sure how that relates, but I find it fascinating.

jult52 said...

Ann: I'm a passionate Giants fan and live very near to the Strahan's old residence. What's happened is terrible and has justifiably damaged Strahan's personal reputation but I would be skeptical about quite a few of Jean Strahan's accusations, which don't stand up to reasonable levels of examination. He does appear to have been unfaithful to her but some of the other accusations are ludicrous and she has engaged in some misdeeds herself, such as cleaning out their generously-funded joint bank accounts immediately prior to the filing. This is a textbook case of a very acrimonious divorce. I'd be careful about taking sides given your level of knowledge of this case.

Cedarford said...

Some general comments:

1. Most pro football & basketball athletes start out life poor or lower middle class. The Steve Youngs and Kobes are exceptions. Michael Strahan probably never had much growing up, and likely went nuts on: his wife last year spent $22,500 on photographs, $27,000 on clothes for their 20-month-old twin daughters, and $1,700 in sign language classes — even though neither daughter is hearing impaired.

These are 20-month olds!! 51,200 on baby pictures & clothes??? On sign language for babies under 2 years old not yet talking?

OK his wife is a former glorified cosmetics clerk, now a nouveau rich money-besotten spendthrift!

2. Whoever drew up Strahan's prenup should be drummed out of the legal profession. 20% of income, half his saved assets, and the house? The only thing missing was a contract clause committing Strahan to slavery once his pro days are over.

3. His agent should be drawn and quartered for not limiting Strahan's goldigger to a more defined and reasonable fee for consortium...and for not watching out for his client. Like, perhaps on the day Strahan walked in (if he was telling the truth) and said he and his beloved "verbally modified" the written prenup contract. His new lawyer team should be put on track for partnerships if they maintain the ability to plead the prenup is invalid on "verbal consent" with straight faces, and are magically able to buffalo a judge or jury with that argument.

4. Next to semi-senile 89-year old oilmen entranced with big busted strippers, pro athletes remain the easiest mark for goldiggers and socially climbing trailer trash.

JodyTresidder said...

Jult52 wrote: "she has engaged in some misdeeds herself, such as cleaning out their generously-funded joint bank accounts immediately prior to the filing. This is a textbook case of a very acrimonious divorce."

Not a lawyer, not divorced. BUT...every middle-aged chick lit novel I've ever read has the sharp lawyer for each side advising Hoovering the joint bank acoount before the other side does as standard operating procedure before filing? This generally catalyses an unholy stink, of course: but I had formed a cynical impression that any divorce lawyer would be an idiot not to suggest it?

Jennifer said...

Cedarford - Let's clear a few things up.

1. [Male] athletes start out life poor or lower middle class while their [female] spouses are socially climbing trailer trash?

2. Perhaps you haven't been to a yuppie play morning or park gathering, but sign language IS for babies not yet talking.

3. You may look down on the service industry in general, but a store manager is hardly a glorified clerk any more than a pro athlete is a glorified Pee Wee player.

I wish this man's defenders would please explain where making lots of money entitles people to beat their spouses, video peeping tom their in laws and commit adultery.

Mary said...

Jult52 expresses my thoughts:
unless you're one of two in the primary relationship, beware judging from the outside. There's just too much spin, and too much that only those two divorcing know...

My sister's children learned "sign language" -- it was a new thing a few years back for family to communicate with pre-verbal children before they could use their words. ie. "More", "all done", "I love you" -- she checked out some books from the library, like the other interested parents, and saved $1,700. Norms differ. I suspect you're reading a bit much into the Strahan family intentions for these 20-month olds: "...wanting to be able to communicate with people who don't speak your language or to translate for them is altruistic. Paying for education is the norm."

The $27K for toddler clothes might be concerning for a father too, in ways you are not considering. How much of his children's time is spent shopping for these darling treasures? Could that time, money, and indication to the girls of what is important, be better spent? (goes along with the high pricetag for photographs)

Again, I think you're assuming the culture here. Those pricetags may have something to do with objections to how his children are being raised; not all rich men want trophy children -- some might still hold the concern that it's not good to build someone up thinking they're bigger/better/prettier than they are, better to take the child down a notch or two now before society does it to them. Better to value other things for your child than looks. He is an athlete afterall, and maybe prefers performance over pretense. Again, it might not be your or my parenting style, but then we are not members of this family or marraige. Read until you get your fill, cluck-cluck about the adultery sure, but understand it's a might big world out there, with a lot of different players who value different things.

JohnK said...

It takes a lot of balls and very few brains to screw around with the wife of a 280 pound NFL defensive lineman. I would say the contractor was not bright and that if I were a famous athlete I would get a vasectomy and never marry.

$CAV3NG3R said...

Johnk: truer words...

Jennifer: the difference lies in the fact that one of those two made the money. Maybe it's because I live in the north east but I'm yet to find a woman who makes a decent living who's willing to 'marry down' as they are wont to put it.

And those who always defend the women like to use the abuse excuse (like it's all men that are abusive). Maybe you can explain to me why I'm supposed to go into a marriage with $125 million in liquid and otherwise assests but these - wonderful can't marry a man who makes less than me even though they only make $50k - $75k - women should automagically get half of what she didn't help me make after whatever number of years she thinks she can stand me.


Probably that's why at 31 I've come to the conclusion that women on this side of the pond aren't worth the trouble.

Dr. Fager said...

Earth to Jennifer,

Spending $27,000 for clothes for kids that aren't even two years old, and $1,700 for sign language lessons is so ludicrous that I think many people would tend to be dubious that thst's where the money actually went.

You are defending the indefensible.

Freeman Hunt said...

You are defending the indefensible.

No, she isn't. Lots of rich people spend lots of money on ridiculous crap. Spending 1/5 of 1% of their wealth on stupid things is hardly comparable to having affairs and, allegedly, committing abuse.

Jennifer said...

Earth to Dr. Fager - $27,000 per year on clothes for two children represents less than half of one percent of the man's salary. A person making $75k per year and spending their income proportionally would spend $150 per year per child on clothing. I certainly hope your doctorate is not related to math.

These people live in a world where an individual can spend more than $27K on a single coat. Wake up.

Jennifer said...

Oh, well, Freeman Hunt said that much better than I did.

Jennifer said...

Scavenger - If only he is entitled to walk away with assets since only he earned them, then perhaps only she is entitled to the children since only she raises them?

Everyone has their job in a marriage, presumably these two penned a prenup that dictated exactly what those duties and entitlements were.

Aspasia M. said...

No, she isn't. Lots of rich people spend lots of money on ridiculous crap. Spending 1/5 of 1% of their wealth on stupid things is hardly comparable to having affairs and, allegedly, committing abuse.

Too true. And sign language for babies is the newest "thing."

Ann Althouse said...

Why do I get the feeling everyone defending Mr. Strahan is just a football fan?

Internet Ronin said...

Mary said:

unless you're one of two in the primary relationship, beware judging from the outside. There's just too much spin, and too much that only those two divorcing know


For once, I'm with you Mary! Your whole post in fact. ;-)

Although the mind boggles a bit at the thought of +$20,000 in baby pictures. Then again, probably a well-known professional photographer. (Definitely out of my price range.)

Mary said...

" Why do I get the feeling everyone defending Mr. Strahan is just a football fan? "

For the record, I said nothing about the alleged abuse or videotaping. (I always hope that stuff is reported in the course of the marriage, when it occurs, instead of being introduced in divorce proceedings, but do we have enough facts here to determine credibility?)

A guess though:
maybe football fans understand the length of the career, the uncertainty of continued success though investing or staying healthy, and the nature of an aggressive football player like Strahan. Your PR advice was good, no doubt, but the man is not say, a professional golfer. It's probably his nature to go all out and "fight", even when it costs him.

Conserve_Liberty said...

Strahan, I see, is a big football star with a $46 million contract and commercial endorsements. Why wouldn't he pay up quietly, following the pre-nuptial agreement?

It's all about keeping score.

Kathy said...

My husband is a Dallas Cowboys fan and hopes she takes every penny! lol

$CAV3NG3R said...

I'd really like to see the stats for those who've only been married once and never divorced for the U.S.

Johnny Nucleo said...

The problem with all these guys is that they do not know what it means to be a gentleman.

A gentleman does not bang the wife or girlfriend of a man who is paying him to do a job.

A gentleman does not tell the world when he has been cuckolded. Also, a gentleman marries the mother of his children. Even if there are no children, if you're shacking up with a broad, you marry her, dammit!

A gentleman does not lowball the mother of his children during a divorce. Even if there are no children, you don't lowball the broad you were shacking up with!

In fact, a gentleman does not divorce, period. If he wants a little on the side, he gets a little on the side. Discreetly. If his wife cheats on him, he challenges the paramour to a duel. But what if his wife's paramour is a woman? Then the gentleman thanks his lucky stars!

I'm telling you, the answer to all these problems is to bring back duelling.

Aspasia M. said...

I'm telling you, the answer to all these problems is to bring back duelling.

Well, it's an idea.

Did you all know that America used to have "anti-dueling societies" to get rid of dueling?
---------------------

Just bought Affairs of Honor by Joane B. Freeman at Half Price books. She talks about the Hamilton-Burr duel.

Johnny Nucleo said...

That sounds like an interesting book.

It reminds me of a story I heard about Lincoln which may be apochryphal.

Lincoln was anti-duelling. Once, he was challenged to a duel. Since he was the challenged, he had the choice of weapons, so he chose battle-axes. Lincoln had very long arms. The challenger naturally backed down.

37383938393839383938383 said...

I'm completely on the side of the wife at this point. The offenses are not comparable at all. If they are rich -- and they are -- buying expensive clothes for the children is quite ordinary and even laudable. She puts her efforts into the children, and twins are a lot of work. Dressing two girls beautifully, while not the loftiest undertaking in the world, is worthwhile and, I would think, what the typical rich man would love for the mother of his children to do. Having the girls take enriching classes is also something good. To make it seem extravagant to teach them sign language when they are not hearing impaired is perfectly obtuse.

Lest we forget that Ann Althouse is a feminist law professor who is a registered Democrat, just look at the above quote. She's smart, knows how to slant facts to fit her theory, the theory of a feminist law professor who is a registered Democrat.

1. The point is that the mother is spoiling the children. Because spending so much on their clothing promotes bad behavior, not personal enrichment or good spending habits, it is a total waste. Compared to the fact that she is cheap when it comes to stuff that matters (e.g., Target, K-Mart), it shows that she is uteerly terrible at budgeting and calculating what appropriate costs are. That tends to suggest a. she's a bad mother, so she shouldn't get custody and b. she is overestimating the amount of money she needs for the children in the event she gets custody. Given that the standard is in "the best interests of the child" the question is: do you want to give custody over kids to a woman who skimps on the stuff that matters and wastes money on pointless luxuries, can't budget, and promotes bad behavior? The obvious answer is no.

2. Maybe I misread things, but the sentence reads "clothing ... for the 20-month year old twins, and sign language courses ..etc." In other words, the sign language courses are for the mother. The babies are too young to learn sign-language. The point is, the mother doesn't need to learn sign-language -- it has nothing to do with raising the kids. There is no reason Mr. Strahan should have to pay for her sign-language courses when it has nothing to do with raising the kids or their best interests. Now, teaching little kids a language is great -- but 20-month years olds are not taking sign-language courses, for sure. It is just more proof that this woman is trying to make Strahan pay for pointless luxuries. She wastes money. If she wants to waste money on pointless luxuries for herself, she can get a job. And given how generous totalitarian Title IX is these days, maybe she could even play football.

3. I think Mr. Strahan sounds like a jerk, simply because he cheated on his wife. I cannot comment on the secret videotaping of the sister or the alleged physicla abuse, except to say that some wives engage in all sorts of weird sexual practices with their famous husbands and then falsely claim those acts were all his idea and his fault after the fact because tarnishing his public image has nuisance value and increases the chance of settlement.

4. I don't watch football. I had never heard of Mr Strahan before this. But playing professional football is hard to do. He at least knows the value of hard work.

Ann Althouse said...

Critical Observer: You didn't read the other commenters. Teaching pre-verbal kids sign language is a big trend these days. And the things you said about shopping at Target are completely out of touch with reality. And the stuff trying to attack me is basically incomprehensible. Were you drunk when you wrote that?

37383938393839383938383 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
37383938393839383938383 said...

No. It was a bit of a joke. But I didn't defend Mr. Strahan because I watch football. I'll also note that there is no proof in the article that the babies are taking the sign language courses. And I would note that buying baby formula at Target and buying them clothes from Vera Wang is what's totally nutty -- you should be buying them clothes from Target and sparing no expense on their health care.

37383938393839383938383 said...

btw,
I still think you're the awesomest blogger gal ever, Ann!

Freeman Hunt said...

And I would note that buying baby formula at Target and buying them clothes from Vera Wang is what's totally nutty

Where else should be buy the formula? Boutique De Formula? Are there special designer formulas out there?

37383938393839383938383 said...

Here is the full quote: And I would note that buying baby formula at Target and buying them clothes from Vera Wang is what's totally nutty -- you should be buying them clothes from Target and sparing no expense on their health care.

No, actually, my original draft was "sparing no expense on their health care, which means including the resource of time, like reading the current literature that advises breast-feeding." Thanks for taking one-half of the quote out of context and ignoring the point being made. Derrida is dead, by the way. Join the world of today.

Jennifer said...

CriticalObserver - What 20 month old drinks formula? Nice strawman.

The article reads $1,700 in sign language classes — even though neither daughter is hearing impaired which, of course, only makes sense if the daughters are taking the classes.

Ann Althouse said...

Faulting a woman for not breast-feeding has nothing to do with faulting her for shopping at Target! Anyway, you have no way even to know whether she breast-fed the children. It sounds to me as though you mainly just don't like some picture you have of a woman who shops for clothes at expensive places. But that's standard behavior for very rich women like her. The notion that the mother of twins who's married to a multimillionaire should have to get a job if she wants to buy expensive clothes is just silly!

Andrew said...

I'm guessing it's incredibly (and unfortunately) common to lose all sense of commonsense and judgment in cases like this. Your readers might also be interested in an article entitled The Affair-Proof Marriage that talks about some of the same issues.

bb8a5d78-c294-11e0-b0ab-000f20980440 said...

I actually just came across this article. Argh! Sordid, and what foolishness on the part of Mr. Mager to let himself be depicted in full color for being a cuckold.

One thing no one mentioned: that Mr. Mager had TWO children with his GF and had never married her.

She's now married to el contractor.

Connect the dots, anyone?