Athena and Persephone: Polar Opposites? Part 2


Our father's give us their name long before a husband does but dad's legacy is far more than that.

Athena was the Greek Goddess who was defined by the overwhelming presence of her father Zeus. Persephone was the Queen of the Underworld who was fundamentally personified by her father's immense absence. Only through a spouse did Persephone grow beyond the daughter psyche and become an adult. Athena grew into adulthood on her own but her father's presence was so strong that no man could take his place.

On the surface Athena and Persephone seemed like polar opposites. In reality they were two sides of the same coin. I identified with Athena so my marriage reflected that. My husband was absent most of the time. He loved that I never complained. Being lonely and single is one thing but to be so while married is a major red flag that something is out of balance. For six years I was fine with it only to cringe at the thought of him coming home. My marriage combusted when my husband was headhunted by another company that didn't require him to travel so much. By then, I was 25, and there was no room in my life for him.

Before he married me, my ex-husband was married to his first wife, Ingrid. Ingrid was a Persephone. She eloped to be with our mutual ex-husband when she was 23. They were an odd couple too. Ingrid was raised by a hippie mother who was a teenager herself when Ingrid was born. Ingrid's father wanted nothing to do with parenthood. So much so that when Ingrid was born he refused to allow her to have his last name. To her and I, it was an act of ultimate rejection, to not allow his own daughter to bear his last name. Like Persephone, Ingrid was over identified with her mother, and it was her mother's maiden name that became Ingrid's surname.

Ingrid's relationship with our ex-husband was more father-daughter than spouse. So was ours. The difference was that our ex was the adult and Ingrid like a little girl. She wanted him to raise her to compensate for her father's absence. When we were married my ex and I had more of an adult father-daughter dynamic where he functioned like an adviser who handled the bills. Ingrid was too needy and immature and I was too independent and willful. We even looked like polar opposites. Ingrid was a strawberry blond with green eyes and a lean frame. I was dark and exotic with curves. Both Ingrid and I suspect that our mutual ex went into extremes by choosing both of us.

Ironically Ingrid couldn't wait to change her last name when she eloped. I, on the other hand, didn't want to. It felt weird to have another last name beside my first name. Even the idea of hyphenating surnames was unappealing. I'd tell my husband that my surname was the one I was born with and it should stay that way. What I was really saying was how much I still identified with my maiden name, which was my father's surname. He didn't push for a name change so it never happened. Only in the last few years did I realize how even the most modern men are annoyed at the thought of being married and their wife not sharing the same last name as them.

Ingrid continues to be defined by a man. She is now on her third marriage at age 35 and fourth last name since birth. The sad thing to her is that she has never had the right to have her biological father's name. She tried once after her second marriage ended to legally change it but he blocked the request. I have remained single since parting company in an annulment and civil divorce granted at 26. Some say divorce is a death of a life and shared dreams. I agree. It was for Ingrid. For me, it was just another day when I got rid of a roommate and started living it up with freedom.