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.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!
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.
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.