unexpected events

Writing prompt: An unexpected event

This prompt is more stymying than expected. I’ve found myself turning it over in my head, trying to think of something unexpected which has recently occurred (besides my dog almost dying), and I can’t really think of anything. Nothing big, anyway—there are the usual small things. Coupons in the mail I didn’t expect, an unplanned-for phone call, a last-minute change of schedule. But those aren’t really “events”. Those are just … life. The heyday of the everyday.

I am a routine sort of person. I like routines; the predictability of them. I like schedules. I enjoy the soothing reliability of to-do lists, check boxes, and calendars breaking up the day’s hour-by-hour. I am the type of person who, when working, likes to leave the house at the same time each morning. I usually know what I want to order before I’ve ever looked at the menu—oftentimes before I’ve entered the restaurant.

It’s not that I’m unadventurous. Or maybe it is? I don’t see why that’s a bad thing, honestly. I enjoy stability and reliability. It’s not that I can’t handle surprises or I’m incapable of going with the flow. It’s more that … I guess it’s that I’ve had my fill of instability, and now I prefer the comfort and reassurance of a routine.

The result is a life with very few unexpected events. Over the past year, the most unexpected event that comes to mind is our dog almost dying.

The unexpected event of 2015 was … hmmmm. I guess our spur-of-the-moment trip to San Francisco? We were sitting in the living room talking about my husband’s upcoming weekend—I think it was a 3 or 4-day weekend—and he said he wanted to do something different, like drive straight to San Francisco. While he was talking, I started googling touristy stuff in San Francisco, and looked at Alcatraz. There were tickets available for Sunday afternoon, and I said, “Hey, we can buy tickets to Alcatraz.”

So we bought the tickets, packed the car, and drove down. It was about a 10 hour drive. We arrived shortly before a friend flying in from England to go to Burning Man landed, which was serendipitous. That first night, we ended up sleeping in the car (which was broken into on the street the next day). The following night, we stayed at a campsite a few miles outside the city, and the third night we camped at Crater Lake. It was a really fun trip.

No unexpected events come to mind for 2014 or 2013, happily.

2012 was the Year of the Psycho Neighbor– an unexpected and surreal situation which ended with physical assaults on our family, broken bones, and us having to a file a restraining order. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced—the more we tried to shut ourselves away from them and detach entirely, the more frothy-at-the-mouth this guy got. “Unexpected” somehow doesn’t seem strong enough for how baffling and unreal it was.

You hear about harassment situations, but it’s hard to comprehend how intensely off some people actually are until you actually have to deal with someone like that … there’s always some part of you that secretly, deep down, thinks, “Oh, I could’ve handled them. I could’ve talked ‘em down.” No. It turns out some people can’t be handled. Some people can’t be talked down. Some people are just unhinged.

Nothing unexpected in 2011 or 2010, happily.

In 2009, a family member passed away, beloved to those I love dearly. I was fond of the family member, but did not know them well, due to long illness and the nature of said illness. Even so, the actual death was a shock, and a devastation of grief crashed in the wake of it. The influence of their life, love, and childcare has rippled across our lives in countless ways large and small.

In 2008, I was in my first motorcycle accident. I’d had my learner’s permit for two months, and was riding my yellow Ninja 250 home from a practice ride. A white van ran a stop sign and t-boned me. It was a 45 mph street, but I was going a little under the speed limit. The white van left the scene. I came to surrounded by strangers, with a man asking if I could wiggle my toes. I asked where my motorcycle was, and he told me they were setting it upright—that it was unharmed. The police arrived before the ambulance. I had a mild concussion. The ambulance was blue instead of fire-truck red, so I refused a ride to the hospital. I found my helmet on the side of the road, and an officer asked if I was sure I could ride home. I explained my house was less than 5 minutes away, and I didn’t want to pay $1000 for an ambulance ride when my husband could just drive me to the hospital. They offered to escort me to the house, so I accepted, which is how I came to end one a practice ride with a police escort.

In 2007, my husband was riding his motorcycle to work on Black Friday when a car t-boned him. He had just come out of the 15 mph roundabout, and was in the straightaway heading toward the stoplight. There were two traffic lanes going the same direction and a single lane going the opposite, with businesses on either side. According to the witnesses/ police report, a car driver in the far-left lane saw a car waiting to leave a driveway exit on the left side of the road, so they stopped and politely waved them into traffic. The car took the invitation/ opening and darted forward to cross the two lanes of traffic to the driveway on the other side, ignoring the motorcyclist in the way.

A week later, our house was flooded in a natural disaster. It was especially unexpected because the last time the area had been hit with a 100 year flood (a decade earlier), our neighbors said the floodwaters had never even approached our house. This time, though, the dyke holding back the river broke. Apparently, it was in some amount of disrepair and with the pounding strain of rain and river, it just gave in a great gush of mud and water. Our house, despite being raised 18 inches off the ground, got a good 6 inches of flood water inside the house proper.

So 2007 had two unexpected events, which should be enough for any year. Except that was also the year my grandma died and I found out I had a small inheritance, so really it had four unexpected events.

In 2006 my husband brought me flowers for Mother’s Day. That was unexpected, because by then flowers were less common than arguments. I liked the flowers, though. Flowers are lovely. I can’t remember most of our arguments from that year, but I remember the flowers. The separation in September was not an unexpected event.

My grandpa died in 2005. That was the unexpected event of the year. I knew grandpa wouldn’t live forever, obviously, but I didn’t expect him to die while I was still in my 20s. He played golf and drove his Cadillac around right up until the last year or so of his life. I thought grandpa would live until his late 90s, still pulling wooden nickels out of my ear and dandling my son on his knee. They said at his funeral that when my mom died, all the fire went out from him.

Mom’s death was one of the unexpected events of 2003. I don’t have an unexpected event of 2004. I don’t remember 2004. It was a black hole. In 2003, two of the women I loved most dearly died by suicide. One in spring, one in fall. My best friend and my mom.

I cannot say my son’s birth in 2002 was unexpected, because it was not only expected, it was scheduled. He was induced. I could lie and say the emergency c-section which followed was a surprise, but somehow it wasn’t. It was definitely an emergency and not planned, but for some reason, I’d been expecting a c-section since the first trimester.

So when they told me he wasn’t turned right and his heart rate was dropping during labor, I didn’t feel panicked at the thought of a c-section. Just sort of calm. Like, all right, so this is happening, and I had this weird sensation I get sometimes that’s kind of like déjà vu, but not quite. Not like I’ve experienced it before, but more … as if events are unfolding exactly as they are supposed to. In retrospect, it was quite the curiosity. I can’t explain it. I have no idea why I was so full of conviction the birth would be a c-section, but I was.

In April of 2002, my husband woke up at dawn and collected armfuls of pussy willow buds and flowers, and covered every surface of our living room with chocolates and flora. That was unexpected.

The unexpected event of 2001 was probably the positive pregnancy test and my husband getting laid off a week later from the plant nursery, both occurring nearly two months after our wedding day. Wham-bam, one after the other. You know how people say bad things come in threes? Writing this out, I think they come in pairs.

Unplanned pregnancy + Layoff.

Suicide + suicide.

Accident + flood.

Reviewing this, I realize something else: apparently, I see unexpected events as emergencies or tragedies. When I think of the happy moments in my life, they were not unexpected, but worked toward and planned. Expected (except for, obviously, finding out we were pregnant—which, while happy, was complicated).

Weddings, births, graduations, parties, holidays, celebrations in general … we see them coming. We anticipate them, plan them, and, well, expect them. I had a surprise party once when I was 17, but since becoming mom of the house myself, those are sort of a thing of the past, haha. So I guess I do try to arrange my life to avoid the unexpected, as I associate unexpected events with tragedy, heartbreak, trauma, and instability.

caught in between 10 and 20

Kidling began high school this week.

It’s a strange moment. Weird to be the parent of a high schooler. He grew up really fast. They tell you that, when he’s a baby and toddler–everyone tells you that. “Treasure these years, they’ll go by so fast.”

And you’re thinking, one day at a time, 365 days a year. Diaper after diaper.

In the moment, it doesn’t feel fast. Dealing with midnight feedings and potty training and pooptastrophes and meltdowns. Soothing a hand across a sweaty brow after yet another nightmare. Listening to story after story about dinosaurs and robots and lasers and legos.

It doesn’t feel fast.

But then, somehow, 2 months has become 18 months has become 5 years has become 8 years, and I find myself blinking and rubbing my eyes as I peer backward through time, wondering if it was only three years hence he was starting kindergarten.

And now even that was 6 years ago.

When I was 14, I still thought parents knew what they were doing–that they at least had a clue on this whole “parenting” ride. That it wasn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants gig. Now, of course, I know the deal.

Back then, I remember, I tended to group the adults around me roughly by age.

Youngish adults in their 20s were hard to take seriously, like too-old teenagers, just barely out of high school themselves. Too much my older brother, not enough my parents. When hired as teachers at my high school, I smirked and joked through their classes, viewing them less as authority figures and more as co-conspirators.

Adults between 30ish and 60ish had that parental vibe of authority, the automatic clip to their voice that adults with long practice dealing with recalcitrant youth acquire. I took them a little more seriously. I tended to like and respect them, and seek their approval.

Anyone over 60 was grandparent status in my eyes, and had a little extra bump of authority from the expectation of a lifetime of lived experience.

I remember disliking adults who made presumptions on me–who assumed I would follow their directions/ orders because they were the adult and I was the child, or thought they could get me to respond positively to them if they tried to talk to me “on my level,” or tried to be buddy-buddy with me. I didn’t like adults I perceived as being dishonest, unfair, or manipulative.

I didn’t mind rules or boundaries, so long as I  felt they were fair, clearly communicated, and fairly enforced.

I try to recall how I felt back then, how I related to adults, in raising and dealing with and talking to my son. But it’s a fine line to walk, because in the end, he’s not me. He’s similar to me in personality and interests in a lot of ways, but he’s not me, and it’s not fair to treat him like me.2 … I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I’m proud of him. He’s a really great kid. Polite, compassionate, intelligent, witty, good-tempered. We recently got his state test scores back, and he scored above-average for his grade level in the school, the school district, and the state in every subject.

I’m a little nervous about the next four years. For me, high school was not a good time. But then, public education in general was less of a learning experience and more of a prolonged bully gauntlet–my son doesn’t seem to be having the same experience. He’s run into a few bullies–the usual sort, projecting their misery from abusive homes outward–but has thus far handled them firmly and gracefully, with the support and advice of myself and other adults. I’ve been impressed by his composure and self-possession thus far, and I am more hopeful than concerned about his high school experiences.

lil old outspoken me

It’s funny, sometimes, how the way we see ourselves and the way other people see us can be so radically different. This is something I’ve often pondered, since I was a teen–the old song line, You never know just how you look/ through other people’s eyes comes to mind–but it was recently brought home again when I attended a recurring social event and someone (who’s only met me twice, and in the context of talking about books!) referred to me as a person with “strong opinions.”

It’s not the first time I’ve been described as such–though mostly since my mid-to-late 20s–and it always makes me laugh, because it’s really not how I think of myself at all. I guess when I think of people with “strong opinions,” I think of people who aren’t willing to listen to guidance, or cede an argument when presented with new information? Or, maybe, people who enjoy arguments and intentionally try to foment dissent at social gatherings as a form of, like, amusement, and that’s not my bag at all.

I consider myself more of a pacifist–a mediator and negotiator in personality, someone who prefers to avoid conflict if possible, but if it becomes unavoidable, I prefer to opt for communication resolving in peaceful resolution first and foremost. I have what’s often been called a naive belief in the innate goodness of humankind, and I truly believe the majority of people mean well, it’s just, we have different ideas of how to achieve it.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize the behaviors I exhibit which are often described, “bold,” or “outspoken,” or, “strong-minded” are just enthusiasm. I get really enthusiastic about things … books, Harry Potter, income inequality, motorcycling history, labor law, Star Trek, board games, writing, the publishing industry.

Like, super enthusiastic. And when I get enthusiastic about a topic, I research it backwards and forwards and up and down, like a super nerd. I read about it, I think about it, I talk about it. I daydream about it, come up with theories, and link it to other things I’m enthusiastic about.

Now, just like anyone else, I don’t randomly bring up this stuff at inappropriate times–I’m not sitting at, like, work functions rambling on about esoteric factoids regarding labor law history to a bunch of dull-eyed coworkers and/or clients. No.

But … I mean, yeah, I have been at, say, book club, and waxed intense about my feelings on a book. Or book series. Occasionally in a very detailed breakdown of the plot structure and the flaws therein (like writing a book where the overriding relationship question was resolved in the first THIRD of the book, thereby completely nullifying any plot tension for the remaining 2/3 of the book, OUTLANDER 2). 

Also, I’ll plead guilty to, say, standing around at some dull social function, participating in make-nice chit-chat, and I hear someone make a reference to a shared topic of interest, so of course I gravitate over, because hey. Interesting conversation thataway.

And sometimes I’ll share an interesting factoid–like, maybe telling a fellow motorcycle fan that the Indian Motorcycle company was a casualty of WWII, and explaining why; or mentioning in addendum to some anecdote about marketing or customer service that, The customer is always right is actually based on a 1920s marketing slogan rather than any sort of overriding consumer ethos, because my general assumptions are that history is cool, trivia is fun, and most people enjoy learning new things.

I think this is where the bold/ outspoken/ opinionated impressions come from. It’s interactions–like casual social gatherings, or seminars where we’re explicitly discussing reactions to readings, or classroom settings where discussion is encouraged–where I feel comfortable, because of the context of the situation, in voicing my opinion and why I believe as I do.

When I was a kid/ teenager, whenever I wanted to do something my parents were uncomfortable or ambivalent about, my dad’s thing was for me to argue my case. I guess it’s a lawyer thing. He would tell me if I could come up with a convincing list of pros and cons–because a good lawyer has to understand both sides of the situation in order to rebut the opposing argument–then he’d consider my request. That’s actually how I negotiated most of my teen concessions.

So I do feel pretty comfortable examining an issue thoroughly, from all sides, and coming to a conclusion regarding my stance. Thanks to great parents and some fantastic professors over the years, I’ve also learned how to organize my supporting arguments when participating in a discussion so I can support my stance, and I’m comfortable revising my stance in light of new information which may alter my perspective.

All that said, I really do not like debate or disagreement, especially outside the specific parameters of the classroom (where it’s moderated and all are working from the same base reading material). This is one of the factors in me deciding not to pursue a law degree (though hardly the only).

I know that might seem incredible to someone who’s only knowledge of me is this blog, but it’s important to recognize the words on this screen are on stream-of-conscious, largely unedited personal blog–this on-the-fly verbiage represents my internal world, and while the values of fairness and equality espoused herein aligns with my real-world values, beliefs, and general behavior, there’s a pretty key difference–I’m a lot more polite and in real life.

Call it esprit de l’escalier, or a lifetime of gender conditioning, or empathy from having been bullied myself. Whatever it is, the sometimes pointed language I use on this blog when venting about disagreements doesn’t come into play during personal disagreements. I believe there’s no need to get insulting or derogatory during a conflict–any resolution to the disagreement will hinge on the facts of the situation, not he said/ she said opinions on character.

So it’s funny, because when someone describes me as, “bold,” or “opinionated,” or “outspoken,” I hear “argumentative,” or “rude,” or “disruptive,” and I automatically flinch away from those descriptions–they feel weird and uncomfortable to me. I pride myself on my ability to be civil, pleasant, cordial, and generous in personal interactions. Sure, I’ve sometimes felt frustration at walking away from an encounter where someone was rude or derogatory to me and I didn’t yell back–I’ve thought to myself, coward, wimp, chickenshit.

But far more often, I’ve felt satisfaction at my ability to not only remain calm and collected in response to instigation, but when I’ve successfully de-escalated a potentially explosive situation. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not more of a fighter. But mostly I’m glad I gravitate to peacemaker. But I suppose it’s all in interpretations–here I’ve been thinking bold/ opinionated/ outspoken equates to argumentative, when really, those could just as easily describe traits of enthusiasm and mediation. After all, enthusiastic people will come across as opinionated and outspoken, and a mediator personality has to be able to have strong boundaries in order to mediate–its impossible to mediate if you can’t negotiate, set, or enforce fair boundaries. So those are strength characteristics, too.

growing up is hard to do

Sometimes when I’m around other women my own age, I feel like such a child. They have jobs and careers and goals and paychecks. They seem to know what they’re doing in life, where they want to go, what they want from the world. I feel like a giant immature idiot, drifting along without a clue or any achievements to my name.

I mean, I have achievements, but far too many of them feel not so much like achievements as things I’ve done that look good on a resume and make other people excited. The only ones that felt like achievements to me were my college diplomas. Even then, it (weirdly) felt like other people were making a bigger deal out of it than me — like I needed to pretend to a level of excitement I didn’t really feel. Sometimes I think … I think the only thing that would make me feel “successful” is to write and publish a book.

I’m 34 now, and I should know that none of us have it together … but I feel like I’m groping in the dark, lost and looking for advice. I feel like I can’t do any of it quite right … like (as my dad loves to describe me) I keep marching to the beat of a different drum. The way I would say it is “out of step.” The other moms I know got their degrees and careers first, and had their marriages and kids (multiple!) second. I got married, had a baby, and then went to college. 

The other women my age have jobs, or are in between jobs. Some have college degrees, some don’t. They earn paychecks and support their households. They have work histories that include publishing and teaching and banking and management and sales. They are professional women, with professional clothing and professional lives. 

These women often don’t know or care about canning and sewing. When we talk politics or social movements, my knowledge comes from news reports, college lectures, and research — theirs so often seems to come from experience and observation. I feel frumpy and childish and awkward, out of step and out of sync when I talk to them. I feel as though they pity me.

But then there are the women my age who are consummate housewives. They homeschool and cook gourmet meals and plan birthday parties down to the last detail. They scrapbook and hold stamping parties and whip up healthy snacks in fun shapes, and they like to talk about reality t.v. and the latest drama on Real Housewives of whatever. When asked what they like to read, they say Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. 

With these women, I feel gawkish and nerdy and somehow … bad. A bad mom. A mom who doesn’t make home-made yoghurt, and who gladly passes the responsibility of his formal education off to others. I am too selfish to be a good mom, and I feel like they look down on me for my choice to have only one child, as well as my professional and educational aspirations.

My kid sister has traveled the world. She has been to foreign countries, lived on her own, gone white water rafting and rock climbing. She has learned a foreign language. She works for a non-profit to help change the world. I envy and admire her, and wonder what turns we took in life that took us on such disparate paths. I wouldn’t mind trading places with her for a day or so, as long as I could always go back home (or take John with me).

My older sister has 4 children that she homeschools. She is a devout mormon and a stay at home mom. She runs marathons and volunteers at her church. My feelings about her are more complicated … I admire her fortitude, and am in awe of the patience she has to possess. But I do not envy her. I would not ever want to swap places with her, even for a day, or an hour. 

I love my husband. I love my son. I love our animals, and I love my town. I love the life I have, the family I have, the opportunities I have. But at the same time, I so often feel as though I never quite fit the expectations people have of me. I always feel a little out-of-step, a little awkward. 

I think that when I hit adulthood, someone forgot to supply me with the How-To Manual. 

 

sliding downhill

I’ve noticed that my happy/ energetic stages seem to be verging on the hypomanic, and my apathetic/ bored stages almost seem to tip toward a very mild depression. I’ve been tracking my moods again to make sure. I don’t think it’s bipolar … I think it’s just the time of year. Mom’s birthday and deathiversary and whatnot. Also, my circadian rhythms seem to be all out of whack.

I’m a natural night owl, so I stay up late, but I also tend to wake up every morning at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. If I’m lucky, I get a mid-morning nap in. Otherwise, I’m usually draggin’ and kind of antisocial feeling until mid-afternoon, and then I’m usually vibrating with energy and wanting to go do something — a walk, a motorcycle ride, a visit with friends, whatever. But with the summer heat and John’s post-shift exhaustion and Kidling’s friends coming over, I usually just end up staying inside and playing video games despite feeling tense and irritable due to the unspent high energy levels.

We did go on a long motorcycle ride as a family the other day. People maybe don’t realize this, but riding a motorcycle in 88*F is actually super uncomfortable. There’s totally this assumption that motorcycles are great to ride on a summer’s day, and they are … but it is also meltingly hot. We were dripping with sweat. Kidling was whiny and frustrated, but I didn’t let it bother me. See, I had a surprise planned.

We rode out on this lovely, tree-lined and wood-shaded road that curved and twisted through sun and shadow until we arrived at an out-of-the-way creek. John likes to look for agates there, and Kidling and I love wading and splashing in the icy current. We’ve gone out there twice this summer with the dogs, but both times it was packed with people and their pets.

This time it was empty. Gloriously isolated and empty, and it was just the three of us. Over th last winter, the path of the stream had shifted, and now there was a deep water hole to jump into. Kidling and I splashed right in, gasping and shrieking at the unexpected iciness of the swift current after the long, hot ride. Within short order, we were soaked through from top to bottom — dripping jeans, shirts, and hair.

John shook his head in quiet disbelief at his insane wife and child, neatly rolled up the hem of his jeans, and waded in ankle-deep water looking for agates.

After an hour or so, Kidling and I were chilled to the bone and shivering. We finally convinced John to come into the deeper water, and the three of us goofed off a bit with splashing and dunking. We took a couple pictures for a family album I’m putting together, and then we got back on the motorcycles and headed home.

The combined wind of the ride and warmth of the afternoon sun soon dried our sopped clothing to a clingy dampness — the perfect air-conditioning solution for a motorcycle ride. Kidling enjoyed the second half of the ride much more than the first, and begged to know when we could repeat the experience. It was great.

Soon enough, he’ll be in school again. I’m looking forward to it. He starts 7th grade next Wednesday. His fall soccer practice started tonight, and he’ll be turning in athletic forms at the school, too. He’s also taking his first robotics course — the subject he plans to major in, eventually. With the demands that his academics and extracurricular activities will place on him, I should have plenty of time for creative writing and/ or studying for my LSATs. Just a few more days.

13 years

happy couple 2001

John and I were married thirteen years ago today. Some interesting facts about our engagement and wedding day:

The Proposal: In a nutshell, John and I met back when we were LDS. We started dating, and then started knocking boots, and for mormons that pretty much means get married or repent, stat. With the limited options being to get married and keep doing it, or stop doing it, we started talking marriage. We went and looked at rings and everything, but I was kind of freaking out a bit because I’ve always been sort of a commitment-phobe. I mean, I loved John — but I couldn’t help but wonder if I loved him, like til-death-do-us-part/ time-and-all-eternity “love.” I had the sinking suspicion that eternal life with anyone would get wearing after a while. So I kind of started lashing out, falling back into some bad habits and hanging around with friends who I knew John wouldn’t like.

For about two weeks, John and I went back and forth, talking marriage and looking at rings, and then fighting about me being distant and non-communicative and smelling of tobacco and pot. Then one day he tells me we need to talk, and we drove out to Tumwater Falls. The entire drive, he was very serious and stone-faced — later, he told me it was nerves, but at the time I didn’t realize that he was just preoccupied. I thought he was pissed, and as the silent drive continued with him not responding to any of my conversational ventures, I thought, “Oh my god, he’s breaking up with me. I’ve screwed up so bad.

I wanted to cry, I was so scared I’d lost the best boyfriend I’d ever had. We reached the Falls, and John parked the truck, got out, and made a beeline for the park. He usually opened my door for me, so that was weird, and I read it as another sign that he was breaking up with me. I hopped out of the truck and trotted after him — he realized that I was lagging behind and stopped to wait for me. As we walked toward the little brown wooden walking bridge, John started talking, saying something like, “These past few weeks we’ve been talking a lot about the future of our relationship.” It was worded in such a way that it honestly sounded neutral, and I really thought he was leading up to, “And I’ve realized we have different visions for the future, so I think we should break up.”

But instead he said, “So I was wondering …” and then he dropped to one knee and opened a ring box as he asked, “Will you marry me?”

And I yelled and hit him in the shoulder and said, “I thought you were breaking up with me! Yes, yes!”

The Gown: My mom was supposed to sew my wedding gown. It was an a-line, fitted-waist dress with a boatneck and a lace overlay. I was going to wear a Spanish veil. In the end, my mom was unable to complete the gown due to illness. I wore the pictured dress and headpiece, borrowed from my sister’s sister in law. The previous owner was much more ample in the bosom than I, so my mom and sister tried to stuff the bodice with toilet paper to make me look bustier. I tossed out the toilet paper, and John stared down my dress for most of the ceremony. 🙂

The Bouquet: John was working for a plant nursery at the time, and was given quite a deal on wholesale flowers. My mom didn’t initially realize the flowers would not arrive pre-arranged, and then when she did realize she just assumed that my extremely talented and creative fiance would take care of it. Somehow, she neglected to tell John or me about her expectations until the morning of the wedding, so that was a surprise. John (of course) rose to the challenge and crafted the beautiful bouquet I am holding in the picture, as well as the boutonnieres and corsages of the wedding party.

I’ve been joking all month that since John and I knew each other for about a year before we got married (yes, the whole frenemies to friendship to dating to engaged to married happened in the span of a year) that we should call this our 14th anniversary and skip “unlucky” 13 altogether. But the truth is, neither John nor I believe in that sort of superstitious bullshit, and I’m really proud at how far we’ve come together.

My husband and I have been married 13 years, and that’s pretty cool. I’m really happy to have such an amazing, creative, talented, driven, funny, and kind man in my life. He’s a wonderful husband and a great dad, and he strives to do his best to show his love for us each and every day. We’ve hit our bumps in the road, like any couple, and we will probably hit more bumps in the future — but I know we’ll hit them as a team, just like we always have.

Oh, and yes — it turns out I am in love-love with John, the for the rest of our lives/ til-death-do-us-part kind of love. The kind where if I believed in eternity, I’d be happy to have an eternity with John. We got pretty lucky!

I’m feeling tired and headachey and frustrated. I don’t think I’m getting enough sleep, with the new puppy and John’s schedule changes and taking 20 credits. My Saturday class starting at 9 am isn’t exactly helping this whole shebang.

I’m supposed to be working on a 3-4 page paper that summarizes the, “the main variations and changes in American family life from colonial times to the late 19th century, including some consideration of the patterns, causes or implications of the changes and paying attention to variations by class and race.” I’m not really sure where to start.

I mean, in class we’ve looked at the familial structures of European immigrants, African immigrants, and Native Americans in the 16th century. We’ve examined how colonial legislations were enacted to extend indentured servitude contracts and to require the children of black indentured women to also be subject to the contract, until this racialized system of working class control that we now know as slavery was created.

We’ve also looked at the role of community in the family, and how over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, marriage transitioned from a concept of community, familial, and godly duty to a partnership that would ideally be based in affection.

Like, when I say community/ familial/ godly, it’s almost foreign how completely different the mindset and attitude was. For example, it was totally cool for someone to spy into your house, into your bedroom even, and tattle on you if you were cheating on your spouse. Like absolutely no-one would respond to that situation by saying, “Uh, what were you doing looking into their house, you creepy peeping Tom?”

Instead, the eyewitness evidence would be entered into the record all bland and factual — “Mistress Jones did observe Prentice Smith with her hand inside Jonathan Miller’s codpiece, and did Jonathan Miller kiss Prentice Smith in her nether regions, though he knew her to be married,” type deal.

What’s even more fascinating is that back then, their concept of sin was completely different. It kind of related to how they fit into society as a whole — they had this whole concept that basically everything had a place ordained by god, and if you were born a peasant that sucked, but that was god’s role for you in the machinery that is life. And their concept of sin was basically that man was debased and sin was the default — that our earthly lives were striving to escape the muck of sin, so if you caught someone, say, masturbating in the churchyard (actual example in our books), it wasn’t necessarily a reflection of their character or failings as an individual — it was much more, “Well, what are you gonna do. We’re all debased beings here, amirite? Flog ’em and fine ’em.”

Then, after they repented/ paid their dues through the flogging and fining, it was done, and they were reintegrated back into society. In fact, the masturbating churchyard guy? According to primary documents of the time, he was caught sinning a few more times (same sex acts, an orgy, etc.), and he was fined and punished and whatnot … but he also became a city Alderman, which is a pretty respectable position.

Nowadays, of course, we see “sin” as a personal, individual moral failing — no politician today could jack off in the parking lot of a church and later have an orgy, then have those events become public record and still ascend to a respected public office.

And their concept of family was just … wow. I mean, nowdays if a parent doesn’t like the person their child is dating or married to, it’s like, well tough luck. But back then, if a parent didn’t approve of a potential suitor for their son or daughter, they could reject them. I guess the best way to illustrate it is Romeo & Juliet. In modern times, we read this play as a love story between two teens who were willing to give up everything to be together. Their families are read as hard-hearted and selfishly materialistic.

A more accurate 16th century reading of this play, apparently, would view the kids as selfish for putting their own desires above that which would benefit their family — and the priest is dangerously ungodly, a rogue element who undermines the community by undermining the family decrees.

It’s not until several generations later, approaching the Revolutionary War, that this colonial ideal of duty-based family-centric communities begins to be overtaken by a more modern shift toward affection-based nuclear families isolated from the community.

And it’s interesting, because the enslaved community held similar transitioning ideals — from a marriages of necessity to marriages based in affection — despite the fact that their owners had the ability to break apart their family at any point through the use of the auction block. In fact, one of our books says the affection and kinship ties formed by Black Americans during American slavery was one of the most effective tools at a Plantation owners disposal, because tearing apart families was more psychologically scarring than any whipping.

Even Native Americans eventually transitioned their attitudes and experiences of family and marriage to better fit the colonizing notions that prevailed and became normative. For instance, the Iroqious used to have a more matriarchal lineage, with female chiefs and the husband’s moving into the mother-in-law’s home, a practice they stopped several generations after Euro colonization in order to basically fit in better and not be completely annihiliated by these strangely murderous invaders.

Many tribes also had ideas like gender roles within the household/ community, but biological sex was not necessarily associated with those roles — for example, a woman could marry a man, and she would perform her typical gender role of keeping the house while the man performed his typical gender role of hunting. But the woman could also marry a woman, or a man a man, so long as they each performed one of the necessary gender roles for a household or community to run smoothly. It wasn’t so much about what the people did in the bedroom as it was how they interacted in the community — as long as the hunt was getting tracked/ killed by one spouse and skinned/ cooked by the other, nobody really cared what the biological sex of the parties involved or their bedroom activities were.

It’s fascinating and awesome, but I just don’t know where to begin the paper. And I don’t know when/ how to write it, with all the scheduling changes and someone always being home. Just now, when I was writing that bit up there (which I’ll probably cut and paste into Word and expand into my paper) I got distracted by our dog Sirius blowing up at our cat Dmitri and knocking over the baby gate, and then all four cats running in here with the puppy on their tails, followed by Kidling running in to try and capture his puppy.

And ever since that happened, one of the cats (I can’t tell which one) has been yowling sadly outside my door, but when I went to open the door and let the noisy little fucker in, whichever one it is ran off. Is it Dmitri? Is he injured? Don’t know. Can’t find him. Is it Eragon or Flufflepuff, howling for their trapped brother? Arwen, wanting to come in and cuddle? I can’t tell. And now it’s Kidling’s bedtime, and John will be home soon.

adventures in bisexual erasure

I read this post a few weeks back called Why Gays Don’t Support Bisexuals. I thought it was pretty interesting, and sparked some thoughts based on my own relationships with bisexual men. The bi-erasure I’ve run into as a cis-woman when in a relationship with a bisexual man is usually one of two branches, both of which either invalidate our relationship or his identity:

  1. There’s no such thing as a bisexual male, so he’s actually gay and in denial/ in the process of coming out.
  2. No, he’s with a woman, so he can’t be bisexual. He’s straight.

Janeway expresses so many feels.

See, my general thing is to assume people know themselves pretty well — so if someone says they’re bisexual, they probably have a pretty solid reason for identifying as such (personally, I tend assume everyone is kinda bisexual, but for some people their bisexual inclinations are so minimal that it’s easier or even a non-issue for them to present/ identify as monosexual). Me, I’m straight-identified, which is actually part of how I came to this conclusion. I mean, I could see maybe being in a relationship with a girl should a very specific set of (and honestly, quite unlikely) circumstances occur.

A VERY specific set of circumstances.

It’s not that being with a girl is repellent to me, it’s that it just doesn’t matter to me. I’m neutral/ ambivalent about the idea. I’ve had girl friends who I am quite close to, and have kissed or felt the urge to kiss women in the past … but then again, kissing is fun, and I’ve never been interested or invested in pursuing it past that urge.

In short, I feel like I could have a happy romantic relationship with a girl should some “Y: The Last Man,” situation ever call for it, but I don’t particularly care to test-run that theory.

If you don’t get that reference, I feel bad for you. You need to go read this.

My bisexual friends do not hold this level of disinterest toward the idea of a relationship with either gender. They say, “I could go either way. I’m more interested in a great personality, and sex is sex– fun!”

This seems to generally sum up their attitude toward romantic relationships: Cool people are cool regardless of gender, and sex is fun– so why limit the possibility of romance?

On the other hand, when I speak with gay or straight-identified people about bisexuality, there seem to be two reactions to the idea of sleeping with both genders:

  1. Detached disinterest in sleeping with the opposite of whatever sex they’re attracted to.
  2. Vehemently expressed disgust.

I’ve begun to refer to such vehement disgust/ biphobia as the “team mentality” of sexuality. The “team mentality,” is when someone who identifies as straight or gay dislikes bisexuals because they (the monosexual-identified person) have so deeply invested their identity being perceived as 100% straight or gay, for whatever reason, that they don’t want to back away from their “team.”

The analogy, obviously, is from die-hard sports fans who get all weird and disturbing about their singular focus on a sports team.

Image from Deadspin.com: Why Your Team Sucks

Much like homophobia, I think biphobia comes about in part because the person does not want to look at/ acknowledge a part of themselves that would cause them to re-assess their identity and public persona.

In the case of biphobic gay people, this kind of makes sense. A lot of gay people have had to identify politically and socially as “gay” in order to fight for the rights to have their same-sex relationships recognized and legally validated. I would imagine the psychological effect is a bit like a hazing, or bootcamp, or running a gauntlet. It’s this traumatic event that tears down the existing world and relationships, puts life and psychological well-being in danger, and creates a sense of community forged through shared hardship.

Coming out as “bi” just as gay-ness is beginning to gain mainstream acceptance would be willingly subjecting themselves to a level of discrimination and erasure that the gay community is only just beginning to be able to move past. Furthermore, since bisexuality is so often cast as a “phase” it seems (at first blush) to counter arguments for gay rights– after all, if being bisexual is not “merely” a transition period, then that leads one to think that a self-identified gay person could, perhaps, find love and happiness in a heteronormative relationship.

And maybe they could– I’m sure there are plenty people who currently identify as gay that could possibly find heteronormative love, just as I think there are many people in heretonormative relationship that could find happiness in same-sex relationships.

Of course, that’s not the point — the point is that there is absolutely no moral or logical reason to prevent consenting adults who wish to engage in a relationship and build a family/ life together with whomever they choose from doing so. It is that simple, or should be.

Marriage for all! Dance party!

But it isn’t. There is unfortunately a large (but shrinking!) and noisy population of people who truly believe they “know,” for whatever reason, that gay marriage is a horrible thing. They are utterly convinced of their correctness, and have spewed their divisive vitriol into the public debate and into the private home lives of people they’re utterly unrelated to.

Why, how did this wikimedia image of Orson Scott Card end up here?

The children (and possibly grandchildren) of those bigots are raised in a culture of hatred and fear, and some of those kids have same sex attraction.

Now, imagine a kid is being raised in a family that believes same sex attraction is wrong and evil, and that kid realizes they have some same sex attractions. The kid is essentially faced with two socially-constructed options, no middle ground. Those options are to be gay or straight. So they pick a team. They draw a line in the sand and choose to identify as one or the other. Generally speaking, this results in an outcome that falls under one of four broad categories:

  1. Person chooses to ignore homosexual feelings of attraction and live as a straight person. If they get married, all their family will probably come to the wedding. No state, city, or federal agency will prevent them from having or adopting children. If they get divorced, they will not lose any claim to visitation or custody over their children. If their spouse ends up in the hospital, they will be able to visit them and sit by their bed. As a married couple, their marriage will be recognized on both state and federal levels, and they will benefit from all the legal benefits and protections such an official relationship bestows.
  2. Person chooses to ignore heterosexual feelings of attraction and live as gay person. They come out to their family and friends, and risk ostracization and discrimination. If they get married, some or all of their family/ friends may boycott the wedding. If they want to build a family, they will find people actively campaigning to prevent them from doing so. If they manage to become parents (as a stepparent, through surrogacy, through adoption, etc.), they may lose any right to see or visit their child should the adult relationship cease. If they get married, the legality of their relationship will not be recognized by all states/ countries. They will not benefit from all the legal protections and benefits the civil institution of marriage should offer to all citizens.
  3. Choice 1, but person does not find happiness or fulfillment in this lifestyle and re-assesses their identity. This becomes part of their coming-out saga, and they move on identifying as homosexual.
  4. Either of the first two choices, but person continually finds themselves slipping/ experimenting (either during or in between relationships). They always term these to be curiosity/ boredom/ loneliness/ desperation, and continue to present as their chosen identity. 

Basically, repression of sexual desires does not actually mean erasure of said desires — it means denying, for a lifespan, a key and essential aspect of how they relate to and interact with other people.

I really do believe most people are on a sort of broad spectrum of sexuality, similar to the Kinsey Scale. Research has long pointed to a genetic link, with recent research showing that epigenetic markers may be the deciding factor.

This HuffPost editorial by Christopher Rudolph, titled, Ender’s Game And Philosophy,’ New Book, Asks: ‘How Queer Is Ender?‘ gives a brief overview of Queer Theory and in the process, describes my view pretty well:

“Some people are biologically predisposed to being interested in the same sex and some the opposite sex, but there would also be many people in between—not just bisexual people, but people who mostly prefer men or mostly prefer women. In our society, we’re terrified to think that many of us are born somewhere on the middle of this spectrum, because we’ve been taught to hate and fear same-sex relationships, so we cannot even think about it!”

Personally, my suspicion has always been that hormone release (by both baby and mother) during gestation is what determines later sexual orientation. I figure it’s like a bit like baking — if I make a cake and don’t add enough sugar, or maybe I cook it at too high a temperature, then it won’t be the cake I thought I’d have.

Ingredients and timing matter, even in biology. Maybe the hormone release is dictated by the epigenetic changes, who knows.

Anyway, I do think there is a very, very small percentage of the population that is actually 100% hetero or homosexual. I just think that, given social pressures, if a person can fit in as straight, and they’re not overly interested in a homosexual relationship, why would they risk their safety and social privileges to come out about the possibility they may want to have a same-sex relationship some day? They may not be averse to the idea, may even have some curiosity about it — but why risk all for an urge they can dismiss as mild curiosity?

And if a person has identified as gay, and has given up relationships with their family or friends to live as a homosexual, and they have built a new support system within the gay community — well, then, why deal with the repercussions and sense of betrayal within the community just to announce that they maybe, possibly, might someday be interested in a straight-apppearing relationship, especially when such urges can be dismissed as a longing to fit in and be accepted?

As an analogy, imagine that you’re hungry and you want a snack. You have the option of ice cream or pie. But you’ve set up an arbitrary restriction for yourself, so you can have only one or the other — you want both, but you have decided you can only have one. You like both options, but you choose one over the other. Which do you choose? Why? Whichever you chose, you probably chose because you prefer it. You may like ice cream, but you prefer the texture and warmth of pie. Or maybe you enjoy pie, but it’s just not the same without ice cream, so you’d rather just have ice cream alone. You like both, but have a preference. It’s like 90% of you chose the pie, but 10% of you could go with ice cream. That’s how I kind of view most mono-presenting bisexuals. I figure they prefer one snack over the other, but there’s a little and easily repressed interest in the discarded snack.

Taking that percentages idea further, the less equivalent someone’s interest in both sexes is (say, 90/10 or 80/20), the more likely I think they are to identify as monosexual. But if someone has a 60/40 or 50/50 interest in both genders, then it’s going to be really hard to pretend to be monosexual. Your sexuality– no matter how much some people try to claim it isn’t an identity– is a huge part of how you view the world and interact with people around you.

But people still don’t like to identify as bisexual, either because they think bisexuals don’t exist, or they think it’s betraying their community, or they’re just scared to admit to same-sex attraction in any form.

Having a community, an identity — it makes a difference in your emotional and psychological health. Knowing there are people who “get” you.

On top of that, there are so many negative stereotypes and myths about bisexual people. People say bisexuals are cheaters, indecisive, attention whores, just in transition, in denial of their homosexuality. More than once, I’ve been told bisexual men are incapable of monogamy. In a nice little piece of hypocrisy (and, to my mind, one of those weird moments when people spout biological differences between the sexes like we’re literally different species), I’ve been firmly informed that while it is well-known that women are sexually fluid, men are incapable of this kind of fluidity.

One very angry man, with utter conviction and no small amount of spittle, spent a good 45 minutes reiterating this point to me; and insisted that any man I had been with sexually who had also been with a guy had either been a) faking it with the guy and was raped, or b) was faking it with me and in the process of coming out. It was inconceivable to this individual that any adult male could actually choose– and enjoy– sexual relations with both men and women.

What do you say to intransigent idiocy?

I guess there’s just no convincing some people.

Everlasting friends ignore you?

been said

Variations of this keep popping up on my feed. I think I responded to one in irritation a few months back, but this idiotic meme just won’t die. In case you can’t tell, I disagree. I think this is a cop-out, to justify the lack of work people put into relationships.

The movies show us romantic relationships and life-long friendships that overlook a serious lack of communication and pick up again without a hitch.

I haven’t seen you in months how ARE YOU?!?

They make it look like True Friendship is like True Love. It’s something that’s effortless and easy, and the only speedhumps are lack of trust and/or other people trying to interfere.

Let’s all be honest for a minute — Romeo and Juliet would not have lasted.

There are tropes a bit like this with family relationships, too: Family first, blood is thicker than water, friends will come and go but family will always be there.

SoA/ Hamlet — Jax/Hamlet is going to sacrifice the family he chose for the family he was born into (and that treats him like shit). Dumb choice, Jax/Hamlet. Don’t be stupid.

All of these rely on the same essential idea: A relationship, if it is truly valuable, does not require work. This is false. If a relationship is valuable, you work at it, and you have every right to expect they will work at it, too.

If you are friends with someone, you work at that friendship.

Maybe you help out with babysitting even though you’re not fond of kids, because they’ve been there for you and they helped you out, and that’s what friends do.

Babies, monkeys . . . same thing, right?

Maybe you set up coffee dates and you keep them because you know you have to make time for your friends — that if you don’t, life will get in the way and months will go by, and you won’t even know what’s up in their life. Maybe you don’t feel like leaving the house, but you promised your friend you’d meet up with her and you cancelled the last two times, so you go even though you don’t want to.

You do that because your friendship is important. You show common courtesies like responding to texts, phone calls, and IM messages, even if just to say, “Sorry I couldn’t chat, super busy. I’ll ping you later.”

See, that’s what “life is busy,” means. It means that, yeah, we all have other commitments — but it’s not like you could say to your SO or your boss or your family, “Life is just really busy right now, so I’m not going to talk to you for 6 months. That’s just how it gets sometimes.

So when you expect a friend to accept that you’re just “too busy” to even respond to texts or phone calls, or that you don’t have time for a goddamn coffee once a month, or to even try and schedule it, you’re basically saying, “Yeah, you don’t bring enough concrete value to my life for me to actually make time and work on this friendship. I mean, I care about you — but you’re not having sex with me/ paying me/ didn’t give birth to me . . . so I’m gonna let you slide for a bit. See you when it’s convenient to me.”

A “friend” is not someone who disappears for months and years and shows up every now and again to catch up. That’s a fond acquaintance, or someone you were once friends with in high school and occasionally keep up with. That’s not a friend in the sense of the word that this person is there for you and knows what’s going on in your life. A friend is there with you, slogging through the hard times because you’ve slogged through the hard times with them — and because the good times are awesome.

Pictured: Awesome.

And this is true not just of friendship, but of romantic relationships and family as well. You put in the work of building communication and being present and showing respect and lending a helping hand, and they do to. And if they don’t — if they expect you to shoulder the load and blame you when you stumble, well then. They’re not really a friend/ lover/ family member. They’re an asshole who’s taking advantage of you.

So don’t fall for this bullshit. Friends are there through thick and thin. They invest the time and effort in maintaining the friendship, and they do this because they care, because they are friendsThat’s what true friendship is.

Friendship is being there even when you’re not really sure how to be there.

Not this bullshit about oh, we haven’t talked for months/ years/ whatever and I don’t even know your kids name (let alone that you have kids) but we picked up the phone and had a conversation like it was yesterday so we must be bffs forever!

No.

*** Disclaimers ***

  • There’s nothing wrong with being acquaintances, btw. It’s okay for friendships to wax and wane. You can’t expect a close friendship to develop out of whole cloth overnight, so acquaintanceship is a necessary step in the process of becoming friends. In addition, many friendships will eventually peter off into a fond acquaintanceship based more on past memories than current interactions, and that is okay. It’s a natural, normal part of relationships, and that’s fine. We generally term these two types of people “friends” in our societal nomenclature, and perhaps it’s my definition of friendship that is amiss, but I define a “friend” as someone I can rely on for good times and bad, and who can rely on me.
  • Long-distance friendships obviously get a little more leeway — but the fact that a friendship is only as strong as the effort you invest remains true. If you aren’t making the time and effort to contact or return the contact attempts of a long-distance friend (or they aren’t making the time and effort to contact or return your contact attempts), well, then, there’s probably a reason for that. You’re more like fond acquaintances than close friends. Nothing wrong with that.