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new blog

I think most people that ever read this blog are probably already aware, but in case you’ve found your way here and are wondering:

I have a new blog up at emimakes.wordpress.com

Thanks, guys!

I’ve become the thing that I hate – the passive-aggressive over-sharing blogger. Trevor once said “I don’t care what you write, I understand sometimes you just need to vent” – and I took him at his word. But he’s had time (and many posts) over which to reconsider, and I don’t blame him for feeling differently now. We’re not always very good at talking to each other when there’s a problem, at just being direct – and I think that’s something we both recognize and have tried to improve on, but my blogging has given me an up-until-now safe space in which to express things I didn’t want to say directly to him. That has never been the point or the goal of my blog at all, but that is ultimately what it has become for me.

What I originally intended to do was to write about my personal experience of being married, specifically my experience of marriage as a woman and as a feminist. I meant to write generally then give specific examples from my own experience and also back up a lot of what I was writing with other feminist texts and resources. But I ended up skinny on the texts and resources and heavy on the personal experience, with not a lot of balance on the side of objectivity or distance from the subject, and with a healthy dose of occasional melodrama. This is not what I wanted, and I’m paying the price for it.

Through this blog, I have somewhat unintentionally invited people to make judgments about my and Trevor’s life together. It would be very naive of me to think people wouldn’t make any judgments. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t, to a certain extent, want people to make (some of) those judgments.

A lot of my writing has been about learning to live with and be married to Trevor, and a lot of it  has basically been venting, and I would expect that people reading what I’ve written might think or say “yea, she’s right, that was kind of an asshole-y thing of him to do” or whatever – one of the more self-serving points of having a blog is that you expect your audience to be full of a lot of people who generally agree with you about whatever you’ve written.

Hand in hand with that, I would also expect there are going to be people who disagree with me. What I didn’t expect was that I would resent them so much, or feel so much anger toward them. I resent their half-invited intrusion into my life, as ridiculous as that sounds. I put it up on the internet for all to see, yes, but I’ve since come to the conclusion that that was a mistake.

Almost every time I’ve posted something, I or Trevor have gotten some kind of “wow, that’s shitty of you/her to post that about Trevor/you” response. We can disagree all day long about whether or not I deserve that criticism – certainly I feel that I have deserved it on certain occasions, regarding posts in which I have been particularly vent-y or harsh – but it’s a moot point. Whether I deserve it or not, voicing it removes the focus from the content or point or even quality of my writing to something else entirely.

I know this is an internet thing. I mean, people read blogs and websites and miss the point A LOT. They don’t just miss the point, they intentionally, willfully miss the point. They make a comment about how big the woman’s breasts are in the picture accompanying the article about the objectification of women, or how fat that guy is in the picture accompanying the post about body-image issues. And then they read my blog and say “Wow, what a bitch. I can’t believe she put all that bad stuff about him online” while then completely blocking out ALL THAT BAD STUFF ABOUT HIM or the argument I was making for doing things differently.

I don’t want you to think I’m missing the point, too. I know a lot of the reason these people are mad at me or think I’m awful is not just because of what I said, but also because I said it on such an incredibly public forum. If I wrote about how much I love and appreciate my husband all the time, and never said anything bad about him, I don’t really think how public it is would be an issue – but somehow being truthful about my experience learning and growing in our relationship, and writing about the very real problems I’ve grappled with around integrating my marriage into my feminism and vice-versa, because these things necessarily include criticisms of my husband and of our relationship (and, I would note, myself), this makes me irresponsible or a bad person or cruel or pick-your-adjective.

In terms of what I feel is happening to me, the phrase “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” comes to mind, which isn’t so bad. But the phrase “sit down and shut up” comes to mind, too, and that’s pissing me off. I feel like this is ultimately because I’m not being “nice”. I’m saying not-so-nice truths, and I’m not really prettying them up in any way, and I think there’s the expectation that a good wife either wouldn’t say these things, or would at least shine ’em up a little – to be fair, there’s an expectation that any good partner of either gender would do these things for one another. I understand where this comes from, and do (of course) on some level agree, but on another level I feel like I’m being asked to censor myself, and as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I don’t much like censoring myself.

I can get pissed off at some of you for your opinions, but, again, whether or not you are or I am right or justified is a moot point. You know how people say, “get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat?”  I put Trevor and myself in this situation and I take full responsibility for that. But I don’t want to participate in this anymore, so I’m leaving. I’m getting out of the kitchen, although it’s not just the heat that’s bothering me.

One more phrase applies here, the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. I understand why I’m getting flack for writing “bad things” about Trevor, but ultimately that’s not the deciding factor in my stopping writing these things (although it did motivate me further). I guess this is all going to sound like I’m just pissed off that people think I’m a bad wife or bad partner, but this is about something much bigger, but also much simpler, than that: upon reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t want him writing stuff about me online like some of the stuff I’ve written about him either.

But I’ve really enjoyed this last year or so of writing, which has been more consistent for me than anything for many years previous (as inconsistent as it still was). And I don’t want to stop doing THAT. I may reformat this blog, which I’ve talked about doing before, but more likely I will just start a new one elsewhere, and when I do I will let you know. Suffice it to say, it might not be quite as personal, at least not in the same sense. Thanks to everyone who has been reading, I really appreciate it, and I hope you will continue to follow whatever else I end up doing from here on out in terms of my writing.

See you on the flip side!

expectations

My friend, Esther, and I have had this conversation many times about how just because our relationships aren’t “cookie-cutter” relationships, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. We do things differently with our partners, but different doesn’t equal wrong. I feel, essentially, that this is true, but every time we have this conversation I feel like we’re more trying to convince ourselves than each other or the wider world. What happens when the expectations you have for your relationship simply haven’t been met? Esther and I have so far tended moreso to deconstruct why we expect those things and put them into the context off all the bullshit rom-com conventions we were raised with, but after we’ve done that, I still feel unsatisfied. On some level, who cares HOW I got my expectations. If (it seems) everyone else in the world has no problem meeting these expectations why do our partners struggle so much with them?

If we’re not “cookie-cutter” than we must be progressive, right? We’re unafraid to do things differently, or so we tell ourselves. But is it truly progressive if the reason we’re doing things so differently still reflects a deference to our partners wishes, or simply to the way our partners are? How progressive can it be when we are still repressing our own desires in order to please others?

A lot of the time, I struggle to place Trevor and my’s relationship. Are we being progressive or are we just being lazy or selfish or set in our own respective ways? Just because something looks progressive from the outside, doesn’t mean that was the intent or the motivating factor. A lot of the reasons our relationship is the way it is have been dictated by Trevor (if unknowingly).

He doesn’t really get into celebrating birthdays and anniversaries because “it’s just another date, and what matters is we love each other, right?”, so we never really seem to celebrate them the way I would prefer.

We split everything down the middle, although I pay our water bill and laundry expenses and he pays our cable and electric bills. He used to buy groceries more often, but now it’s about even. We keep separate banking accounts and have no plans to combine them.

That’s probably the one thing about our relationship that I get the most “wah?”-type responses about from other women. At first it was just more traditional women who were giving me those responses, but since then I’ve really had the same response from all kinds of women, including those I consider quite progressive. The responses range from “but he’s supposed to pay for more” from the more traditional types when I’ve expressed a sense of guilt in the past that he was paying for more than I was, to “well, you guys should be paying proportionally equally in relation to your respective incomes” from more progressive types, including my mother.

I actually on some level agree with the last bit, but try telling someone they have to pay more than you (in terms of dollar amount) because they happen to make more than you do. It’s not their fault that they make more, or that you make less – and why should they have to pick up your slack? Why shouldn’t they enjoy their extra money how they see fit? Women I’ve talked to about it say “well, he has to pick up the slack because he’s your partner, and that’s what partners do for each other, just as you would for him”, but I think, were the tables turned and someone told me I had to pay more because I made more I would be pissed, too. It’s like when your taxes increase as you move up into different income brackets – on one level, you get it and it makes sense, but on another level you’re like “wtf, mate?” – why punish me for making more money, why do I have to pay more because others can’t?

But I think the progressiveness or lack thereof all comes down to intention. I don’t get the feeling that he’s trying to make a statement by not celebrating birthdays and anniversaries – I get the feeling that he doesn’t want to spend the money, doesn’t want more material crap, and doesn’t really think they’re fun to celebrate and so, doesn’t see the point. Same with the financial stuff, although I can at least understand that more. What’s in it for him if we open a joint account or start paying everything in proportion to what we make? Nothing, so he can see no logical reason why he would participate in a set-up like that.

I like to tell myself that if he had all this socio-political reasoning behind his decision not to celebrate anniversaries or share our money, that I would feel better about it. I think I would, but would I really? The end result would be the same, right? I think it’s just MORE frustrating to know there isn’t any good reason for it other than “I don’t wanna. Meh.”

My brother once really pissed me off by calling me selfish. I think it really pissed me off because it hit right at a sore spot – namely, that I do think I am kind of selfish sometimes, but that I try not to be, and for him to say I was just basically told me I was trying and failing. Anyway, I have a theory that some of the reason Trevor and I do (usually) work well is because we are both essentially selfish. We both need our alone time, and our respective space, and we both don’t want anyone judging how we spend our own money. Likewise, we both want to do things our way. Because I’m a woman, and because I’m me, I tend to be the one more likely to compromise of the two of us, or at least to compromise without grumbling about it, but we both have to do it.

I also think I have a quality he mostly lacks – the ability to do something I don’t really want to do and act as though I am just loving the shit out of it while I’m doing it. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad that he doesn’t have this quality, as having this quality basically just means that I can be really fake when I need to be. But it is frustrating on, say, anniversaries when he can’t even bother to pretend to be into it, even though I am SO into it.

It frustrates me on two levels, firstly that I never particularly enjoy these occasions because of his complete lack of joy-taking in them which contrasts so severely with my own feelings on the day, and secondly, I get frustrated because I always end up thinking to myself “does he not even love me enough to pretend to be into it for my sake?” But I try to remember that he just doesn’t have it in him to do that – he’s not made that way, or however you want to put it. If he’s not into it, he’s not into it, and nothing and no one is gonna make him pretend he is. On some level I admire this quality, his unflinching authenticity, but on quite another level I absolutely loathe it.

Don’t get me wrong, he’ll go out to dinner, he’ll even pay for dinner – but he’s not for one second gonna even pretend he’s enjoying it or that he wants to be there. I’m starting to feel like I should just go by myself next anniversary or perhaps plan a girls night so I can spend time with others who are as excited about my anniversary as I am, I’d probably have more fun.

Is anyone sensing a theme? I feel like I’m trying to write about two things at once right now, which are related but separate:

1.) Our relationship is different from many others in many ways, and some of those differences could on the surface look like intentional progressiveness on our part, but often actually is not.

2.) Yesterday was our anniversary and I took the day off work against my better judgment, and although we had a good lie-in together, that was about the end of it. I forced him to take me out to dinner, and he did pay which was nice, but we just stared in silence at each other as we always do on the two occasions a year he might actually take me out just the two of us. I wrote him a heartfelt card he had barely any response to, and in no way reciprocated. My anniversary totally blew and I’m super bitter about it.

The anniversary thing is like so many things about him or about our relationship that I feel torn about. I so want us to be genuine and authentic and true to who we are, both as a couple and as individuals, but I also would like to stop being the freakos that do everything totally weird. It’s not really because of others expectations, but rather because I was raised in this society, too, and I have my own set of expectations that so have not been met.

I expected a honeymoon.

I expect vacations together, not apart.

I expect anniversaries to be celebrated,  and I expect him to want to celebrate us.

I expect that birthdays are kind of a big deal.

I expect that Christmas means something to us and, yes, we’ll buy each other shit, too.

I expect that he’ll help keep our house clean, and that I shouldn’t have to wait 4 months or however long it’s been for him to clean our moldy bathroom ceiling.

I expect that he wants to spend time with me

That’s pretty much it. I guess now it’s time for that tried-and-true wife’s refrain: I’m not asking for much, it doesn’t seem like it should be all that hard for me to get it.

is marriage necessary?

Well, this is sort of depressing (from a recent article in Newsweek titled “I Don’t: The Case Against Marriage” – emphasis all mine):

“The feminist argument against marriage has long been that it forces women to conform—as Gloria Steinem once put it, marriage is an arrangement “for one and a half people.” No woman we know would date a man who’d force her into the kitchen—and even Steinem eventually got hitched—but we’d be fools to think we’ve completely shed the roles associated with “husband” and “wife.” Men’s contributions to housework and child rearing may have doubled since the 1960s, yet even among dual-earning couples, women still do about two thirds of the housework. (One study even claims that the simple act of getting married creates seven hours more housework for women each week.) In the workplace, meanwhile, women who use their partner’s name are regarded as less intelligent, less competent, less ambitious, and thus less likely to be hired. We may date the most modern men in the world, but we’ve heard enough complaints to worry: if we tie the knot, does life suddenly become a maze of TV dinners, shoes up on the coffee table, and dirty dishes? “The bottom line is that men, not women, are much happier when they’re married,” says Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina who studies marriage and family.

And later in the same article:

“We’ve entered the age of last-minute tickets to Moscow, test-tube children, cross-continental cubicles and encouraged paternity leaves,” write the authors of The Choice Effect, about love in an age of too many options. The result, they say, is “a generation that loves choice and hates choosing.”

Which means that when we do tie the knot, we do it for love. Young people today don’t want their parents’ marriage, says Tara Parker-Pope, the author of For Betterthey want all-encompassing, head-over-heels fulfillment: a best friend, a business partner, somebody to share sex, love, and chores. In other words, a “soulmate”—which is what 94 percent of singles in their 20s describe what they look for in a partner. Yet the idea of a “soulmate” is still a pretty new concept in our romantic history—and one that’s hard to maintain. Measurements of brain activity have shown that 20 years into marriage, 90 percent of couples have lost the passion they originally felt. And while couples who marry for love are less “in love” with each passing year, one study found that those in arranged marriages grow steadily more in love as the years progress—because their expectations, say researchers, are a whole lot lower.”

I’ve thought about and written some about my own reasons for getting married – which are at best vague, hopeful, and naive in the extreme – and I’ve certainly read a lot of articles and books like this, too. Whenever I talk about my marriage in any depth I always frame it as basically a giant leap of faith – you have this little germinating love that you are hoping will grow into a nice, strong, healthy love that can stand the test of time (and all the other tests, too). To me, the only difference between marriage and long-term, committed, monogamy sans-marriage is that you’ve called out your bet. You’ve stood in front of all your friends and family and told everyone that this is gonna work, this is gonna last. You’ve told the state the same thing. You’ve legally bound yourself to another human being. The only difference between marriage and plain old monogamy is basically that you look like more of an ass if it doesn’t work out.

Well, I shouldn’t say that’s the only difference – I have a strong belief that, for many of us, marriage or the state of being married carries with it psychological and emotional implications that are absent in non-married relationships. There are more pressures, there are more stereotypes, there are more standards to meet or exceed or fall far short of – there’s an established blueprint that one feels one is supposed to follow. All these things affect the way we operate in our marriages, as well as the way we view our relationships and how they have changed through marriage.

I, like those described in this article, have grown up expecting a more egalitarian marriage than the ones our parents had before us. When, time and time again, our relationship does not live up to the egalitarian standards I had hoped for, I feel disappointed – in him, in me, in our lack of progress as individuals and as a society overall. Even before we were married, when we were just cohabitating, I fell into many of the typical “wife” roles naturally, more than that I went willingly, happily even, because I so enjoyed that I finally had someone to give these parts of myself to, to do these things for.

Now I guess you could say I’m sick of always giving these things, and rarely being given them – it doesn’t feel like a gift that I give freely anymore, it feels like an expectation he has of me based on the history of our relationship, and based on his own privileged, male point of view. Sometimes I find myself getting mad at Trevor not as Trevor but as some kind of representative for all males, or, rather, I get mad at male privilege and take it out on Trevor when his is showing.

But I guess it makes sense – how do you fight male privilege anyway? It’s got to be on an individual level, in our own daily lives. But fighting it on that level often makes it feel like fighting with your partner, which is something I generally try to avoid. I often feel that being a feminist and trying to fight a lot of these fights in my own day-to-day life often pits me against my husband. Everyone needs a wife, and if neither of us are willing to play that role than how do things get done? Ideally, we would both do an equal amount, and while that sounds lovely to me, it’s kind of a hard pill to swallow for someone for whom that will actually make MORE work, not less.

But just as I’m feeling pretty low about the state of marriage as an institution and the inequity of my own, I read the “I Do, Too” piece from the same special section on Newsweek:

“The truth is, neither of us had thought all that much about the question that both the priest and Bennett and Ellison were posing: why marriage? We knew we wanted to “be together,” of course. Forever. We are best friends, partners, yin and yang, and yang and yin. It’s impossible to imagine waking up or falling asleep without Dustin there. But why bother to formalize our relationship if we already know how strongly we feel? Why did I go to elaborate lengths to get down on one knee on a boat somewhere off the shores of Sweden, and why did Dustin choke back the tears to say yes? Why are we stressing about DJs and photographers? Why obsess over a technicality?

After mulling it over for the past few weeks—the wedding, after all, is fast approaching, and a guy should probably banish these questions from his brain before saying “I do”—I think have my answer. Dustin and I are not “getting anything” out of this deal. Or at least we’re not getting what previous generations of men and women were conditioned to expect. I’m not getting a cooking, cleaning, child-rearing machine. She’s not getting a bringer-home of the bacon. I clean. Both of us cook. Sometimes, Dustin earns more money than I do. Sometimes she doesn’t. We both go to work every day. We both have careers. And when we have children, we’ll both take turns staying home to raise them.

In other words, our roles within the relationship are not defined by gender. They’re defined by who we are as people.

And that’s the point. Stripping marriage of all its antiquated ancillary benefits—its grubby socioeconomic justifications—might make it “unnecessary,” strictly speaking. But it also makes it much more … well, romantic. (This logic applies to gay marriage as well.) Dustin doesn’t need marriage for financial security, or to ensure that I help raise our children. I don’t need a housewife. The tax breaks are irrelevant. All we’re “getting” is each other. In a world where the practical reasons for marriage no longer apply, the only reason left is love. And while cohabitation and monogamy are dandy—Dustin and I have practiced both for years—I’d rather express my affection by indulging in a defiant, irrational, outmoded act of pure symbolism than by simply maintaining the status quo. Doing what you don’t have to do is always more meaningful than doing what’s necessary.”

So apparently, the fact that we’re married just makes Trevor and I MORE romantic, if anything. The getting-him-to-clean-the-shower type stuff, we can keep working on. I’m sure he’d like me to work on the getting-her-to-pay-the-cable-bill type stuff, too, so I guess we both have something to work towards. At least we love each other enough to try.

Continuing my apparent theme of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” – I just totally nerded out for the last hour and a half on various Modnation forums, trying to figure out why Trevor and our friends and I can’t get the online play function to work properly for us with this game.

I joined two forums I may never actually use again, the official Playstation Modnation Racers forum & Modnation Online, just so I could post some questions and make some replies, and try to get to the bottom of all this.

After discovering that this was a common problem/complaint and there is no fix for it yet, I then also proceeded to fill out a feedback form for the official feedback thread on the Playstation forum – because, according to a bunch of other people on there, that’s what you’re supposed to do if you actually want to see change.

I feel strangely accomplished right now…even if all Trevor did when I told him all this was tell me JP had already told him, and then dismiss me, pointing to his earpiece  and arching his brow to indicate he was in the middle of something.

This morning at work, I was still in a bad mood from an unresolved incident between Trevor and me last night – and I was trying to tell one of my sympathetic coworkers about it when another coworker walked in and caught just the tail end. He spun around and said, “you got in a fight with your husband over a video game?!” He had missed all the context, so I just blew him off, but when I thought about it later, I was kind of like, “well, yea, I kind of did. I mean, we kind of do that a lot”.

I mean, it’s not like I go around judging his gaming choices or anything. It’s not like our fights center around “why the hell are you playing Hard Rain? It’s dumb”. But I feel like I can trace a lot the arguments we’ve had during our relationship to not only his relationship with gaming, but to my relationship with gaming, and, more specifically, my relationship with his gaming.

Mostly I just feel left out, I think. I’m not skilled enough to play the games he likes the most, and the games I like the most are not usually games that can hold his attention for very long. And then, often, the games he likes that I might find interesting and might want to try regardless of my skill level, are single-player, so we can’t truly play together anyway. On the rare occasion when we both like a game that is multiplayer, I still don’t usually get to play it very often because it’s his console, his sanctuary of an office/game room, and his time with his friends that I have to interrupt and intrude upon in order to play, and I do feel like an intruder when I do this. Usually playing with me means online play is out, too, which just cuts him off more from the reason he’s there in the first place – to play games with his friends.

I think it’s funny when Trevor and his friends complain about how their significant others aren’t into gaming, though. Funny, and kind of ironic, because why would we be interested when instead of being something that brings us together, as it surely has the potential to be, it’s really more something that pushes us apart, that gets between us? Sometimes I feel like they just put it into this realm of “this is not something I do with you, except when it’s convenient for me, and only when it’s completely on my terms” – and that’s just not always going to work for me, and it’s certainly not likely to be the most effective way to get me excited about it.

Trevor bought me an Xbox 360 last year, and I’m really happy to have one of my own, but as it sits collecting dust inbetween my fevered bouts of Guitar Hero play, next to my seldom-used Wii, I begin to think he really misses the point a lot when it comes to me and him and gaming. There are some games I like on my own, for my own sake (the aforementioned Guitar Hero being one in a very short list which includes Rayman’s Raving Rabbids and House of the Dead and Rock Band and a few others). But mostly I want to know more about gaming, I want to play more only because I want to spend more time with him and understand something that he is so very invested in and enjoys so much, and see if I can find things to enjoy about it, too.

For example, with model-building, it’s not like I have no interest of my own, it’s just that my own vague curiosity was never strong enough to overcome the intimidation and fear I felt in the face of all those beautiful scale replicas – so I never went out and tried it on my own. But when my curiosity is combined with the fact that it’s an activity he loves and that he does well and can help me with, that makes trying it out an obvious choice. It’s very much the same with video games – I liked them before, but I want to like them more now that I’m with someone who loves them so much and plays them so often.

It’s also all part of an effort to get him to just let me in. But I get tired of trying sometimes. And sometimes I think he doesn’t want to let me in, not to this. Which is fine, he should have those things, things of his own – I just wish he had chosen something he doesn’t want to do all the time, or that, if he’s going to choose gaming to be that thing, he wouldn’t do it all the time. One or the other, that’s all I’m asking.

Oh, and some help with my model, please. And maybe some help learning how to walk forward and shoot at the same time while playing first-person shooters wouldn’t hurt either.

…join them.

I’m gonna try to put together my very own model! I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Whenever I have been to Bridgetown Hobbies and Games (which is an extremely cool place, btw) I have always been the only female in the place (except when my mom and I go together, but then we’re the only two). Today when I went with Trevor was no exception. While I was looking at games, I was privy to a conversation between one of the store employees and a customer he was explaining a game to. They were lamenting their wives’ lack of interest in games, but it quickly became clear from both sides of the conversation that their wives did have games they liked to play, they just weren’t usually the same games their husbands liked to play, and they didn’t usually want to play them quite as often or for quite as long. This is exactly what goes on between Trevor and I, however listening to their own stories about their respective wives, I started to feel a little better. After all, sure, Trevor could have done better. He could’ve found a Felicia Day gamer-girl extraordinaire (although how many of those actually exist is in doubt).  But he also could have done a lot worse – at least I love board games and card games, and I’ll try almost any new game at least once.

In the middle of these two guys’ conversation, I shouted across the room to Trevor about a game we were looking for that I couldn’t find, and he made another comment back to me about a different game he thought I’d like. They both stopped talking and looked at me in amazement. They seemed briefly mystified by me, and I got the distinct feeling that, though their wives play with them sometimes, they certainly aren’t going to the store with them and pointing out different games they’d like to try. And so I feel a little better now about Trevor and my’s varying degrees of interest in gaming. Yes, any video game where I’m expected to master walking forward and looking around/aiming simultaneously is going to mystify me. But, I’ll try your crazy Call of Cthulu board game with nine million game pieces and cards and thingamajigs, and hey, I just found a model of a B-25 I want to try to build if you will help me.

Progress!

Are you fonder of me because of my internet absence? I really need to get better about this whole blogging thing. Thank god it’s not for profit, I would be awful at that.

Anyway.

Trevor just got back from a visit to his hometown of Fresno, CA yesterday. He had been gone since last Sunday. I always think when my husband is gone I will miss him terribly the whole time, and then I’m shocked when that first day or two are actually kind of pleasant without him. Then the novelty completely wears off very quickly, and it turns out I do miss him terribly after all, such that by the time he actually gets back, I’m desperate to see him.

The thing about those first two days is that they’re quieter. I didn’t realize until he left just how much I miss the quiet of a house sans video games or tv. Reading was a whole new experience. I sat in the living room and there was no incessant background noise, it was just quiet and still and peaceful. That’s how I experienced it in the beginning, as a novel kind of relief from the usual routine. But, nearing the end of the week it started to seem too quiet. And I felt so alone.

My constant complaint to Trevor is that I didn’t get married, or get into a relationship, so that I could be alone all the time. I want to do more with him, do more together. We do a lot of stuff near each other, but not with each other, and I’ve always held that it’s just that difference which often makes me feel so lonely or isolated, even though we spend so much time in the same apartment together. But when he wasn’t here, and I was truly alone in the apartment, I realized that just being near him is, after all, a lot. Perhaps more importantly, it’s enough.

By the end of his vacation, I could no longer sleep through the night the way I could the first day or two. I missed having him near me, and I tossed and turned without his familiar, comforting presence there in the bed with me. Now that he’s back, the apartment is once again filled with the sounds of gunfire and grenade explosions that come from his various video games. I won’t go so far as to say I’m pleased by that, but perversely I did miss it in a way and it’s oddly comforting to have it back. Our apartment sounds like it’s supposed to again.

And once again I’m reminded of how much the small things in life are what make everything worth it. A bubble bath, a cup of tea, a good book, and, yes, the background noise that results from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – sometimes you don’t even realize you miss these things until you’ve gone too long without them.

making plans

I suggest playing this while reading this post:

I have plans. I was about to write “big plans”, but actually, on the whole, I think they’re pretty small. But by small I just mean simple, and relatively easy to accomplish.

I’ve been thinking about this kind of stuff a lot lately because I just started school, again. But I don’t even feel like it’s really a case of again because it is so different this time around. Elementary school, middle school, and especially high school – these are all requirements, things you have to do, places you have to go for set amounts of time during the day, for a set number of years. By the time I was done with high school the thought of spending yet another 4 years in school just was almost sickening. But I went anyway.

I will never regret my time at college. I learned a lot and grew a lot, but a majority of that learning and growing happened outside of the classroom. I left with a strange potpourri of various bits and pieces of knowledge – I’ve read Foucault, sure, but I really can’t recall much of it and I’m not sure I knew what any of it meant at the time anyway. I am, however, somewhat of an expert on movie musicals and some aspects of ethnography and anthropology. In short, you probably want me on your trivia team and I am the go-to person at work for “what was that one movie with that one guy called?”-type questions, but I walked away from my college experience with very little (it could be argued no) practical or marketable skills to speak of.

I’m going to cosmetology school right now, studying hair design. Going to a trade school and going to a liberal arts college could not be two more disparate experiences, especially considering the college I went to (Bennington shout out, woot!). There’s some book work and route learning (which, first of all, was largely absent from my college education), but most of my schoolwork now consists of practical application – you are shown how to do it, and then you do it. I’m so much more invested in being in school now, which is surely in part because I am older, a little bit more mature, and paying my own way this time around, plus I chose the path without any outside pressure, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s actually a light at the end of this particular tunnel. I know that when I’m done with school I will have a skill, a trade, with which to establish myself in the larger world – a real, honest-to-goodness, thing I can do. That I couldn’t do before I went to school! Imagine that!

So I’m excited. But it’s all part of my plan. The main goal of my plan is to reach a point where I am truly financially secure, financially independent, and able to enjoy what I do and, in turn, enjoy my life a bit more. I really kind of hate that everything and everyone needs money. It’d be so much simpler if we just didn’t. People always say that money can’t buy happiness, but I would argue that it can, or, that, at the very least, not having money can hinder happiness. Less money = less options = less happiness, in my opinion. Simplified completely, I am out to have more options and, unfortunately, I’m pretty sure more money is what’s gonna get me there.

OMG, I have a “five year plan”! I think. It basically goes like this:

1.) Go to school for two years. During these two years, life will just have to pretty much continue as it has been for awhile and I’m just kind of planning on learning to be okay with things the way they are and extract what joy I can from the situation while I wait it all out.

2.) Once out of school, I will start really aggressively paying down my debt, something I am unable to do right now, and which will be greatly aided by the tips I will receive (no matter how paltry they may be as I’m just starting out with no client base whatsoever). All of this is also aided by the simple fact that, even if I pay only the minimum payments on my credit cards the whole time I’m in school, that’s still gonna be at least $1600 of each credit card balance paid down by the time I’m out of school anyway. So I’ll have started before I’ve even begun, in a sense. I’m hoping to be completely out of credit card debt within five years from now, but even if I’ve just substantially diminished it by that point I will be satisfied.

3.) Also, in about five years from now I will have made my last car payment, which will also wipe out that particular debt. Once my credit card debt is paid down/gone and once my car payment is gone, even if i was making the exact same money I am now (but I’ll be making more because of tips, and also because I assume I’ll get at least one more raise during this five year period), I would pretty much be on easy street. A lot of what is making everything feel so unbearable right now financially is because I have so much debt. Once freed from all that, I would have much more money with which to truly gain financial independence, and with which I could just plain do more of what I like.

4.) Ramit Sethi’s book “I Will Teach You to be Rich” is a favorite of mine – despite the dumb, kind of misleading title. It’s actually just a great book with really sound financial advice and information for newbies like me, not a manual for some kind of pyramid scheme. Anyway, he says to create savings accounts (high-interest savings and IRAs or 401-Ks) and to just save whatever you can, whenever you can, even if you don’t make very much. So, I already have a savings account, and until I took on the car payment, I had a small monthly transfer going into it. But now I have nothing at all, because I just can’t afford it. Maybe I can afford $5. Maybe I’ll literally do $5 a month right now. Anyway, the point of all this is that as soon as I’ve freed up all this money by paying off all or most of my debt, the trick will be to live almost the same lifestyle I do now and use the additional money not only to gain financial independence but also to start really aggressively ramping up my savings.

I’d also like to start a joint savings account with Trevor at this point so that we can start saving for things we might want as a couple, whether that be buying our first home or going on a vacation.

5.) Assuming it’s going to take me at least 5 years from now to pay off all my debt and get on better financial footing, let’s also assume that within this five years things may steadily be improving, but they aren’t going to be vastly different from things as they are now. I think we can safely say that until these 5 years are up I probably won’t be having children, or moving into a house – which are two goals of mine. Well, one of them is a maybe-goal, but the house is a definite goal.

I think most stereotypical five year plans include either a corner office, a husband, a baby, a house, or all four. So, in the end, it’s kind of funny because my five year plan really is just a plan to get to the point where I can make a five year plan. haha.

In some ways, five years is not long, especially given how time has seemed to speed up for me with each passing year. So having this clear end point, once again this light at the end of the tunnel, is such a comforting thing for me.

But, on the other hand, I’m, “five years?!?”

But then I think, “in five years I will have been married to my husband for six years!” And that’s pretty exciting to me all on its own.


catharsis

You may have noticed that the question of having children has recently taken on a new urgency for me. I’ve wanted to write about the reason why for a long time, but I haven’t felt up to it until now.

I got pregnant and got an abortion near the end of last year. I haven’t written about it yet, a.) because the audience for this blog includes potential grandparents, and b.) because the emotional processing for me has been ongoing and I’ve been unsure of what I wanted to say about it. But, since you all know me, you’ll know I’ll have been wanting to say something.

Where I might, left to my own devices, go into a lot more detail – my life, and especially this instance of it, is intricately tied up in Trevor’s now, and a respect for his own privacy prevents me from delving too deeply into the specifics of the situation. For a long time, I also felt that I should never write about it on my blog because of this same issue. However, I’ve come to the conclusion, that while respect for my husband’s privacy and feelings in the matter is important, I feel it is equally important for me to share my story.

Now, I know there aren’t millions of people reading the blog, and my story isn’t really unique or inspiring in any way. But I want to share my story for two reasons: 1.) because I think abortion should be talked about, not swept under the rug, or hidden away…it should never be a shameful thing, and to refuse to acknowledge it is to make it shameful and invisible, and 2.) catharsis: I need to do this, it’ll make me feel better.

I’m not a very private person. This isn’t a story that no one has heard. My coworkers have heard it, one of my best friends has heard it, my mother has heard it. It’s not so much that I haven’t told my story, just moreso that I haven’t written it. I’m sure most of you can appreciate the difference, but for those of you who maybe can’t: writing for me is, in fact, more cathartic than talking in most instances. As a way to process something that has happened or is happening to me, writing is very effective for me – I think mostly because it is so introspective and internal. I have been a life-long journaler for this very reason. So, while many people have heard this story, I haven’t written it until now, except within the pages of my private journal, where there is one short entry dated a few days before the abortion took place, concerning my ambivalence over the whole thing.

And, boy, was I ambivalent. When the idea that I could be pregnant first entered my head, my first thought was that I probably wasn’t actually pregnant. That has been my first thought during previous scares, and has always been proven correct up until this last time. When I did the period-math and discovered I was actually over a week late, I started to get nervous. When I get nervous I just jump into overdrive – I have probably wasted hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests over the years, not because I am really that careless or had actual cause for alarm in most cases, but because I am so prone to nervous overreaction. So, even as I peed on my little stick, I thought to myself, “it will be the same this time, you’re overreacting, and of course the test will be negative like it always is”. A tiny, nagging voice in some other part of my brain said, “but you’re over a week late”, but I just tried to push that aside and focus on the more attractive explanation: that I had miscalculated, and in reality was not that late or maybe not late at all.

I wouldn’t exactly say I was surprised a few minutes later when the test showed positive, but I was shocked. You know how expectant moms will sometimes say things like “I just knew that it had worked this time, I knew we were pregnant before I even took the test” – I would say I had a similar experience in that something just felt different this time. The whole thing felt doomed from the beginning – all my mental wrangling, excuses of bad math, looking to all the times in the past when the test came back negative – it all felt like a very feeble attempt to deny the inevitable this time around. It was like, on some level, I knew. I think mostly though, that came not from some cosmic sense I have as a woman and potential mother, but from the fact that I know I’m not that bad at counting, and I couldn’t possibly be far enough off to account for being this late. When I mentioned earlier that all the pregnancy tests I have previously taken could be chalked up to nervous overreaction, I was not exaggerating or lying. This might have been the first pregnancy test I took when I was more than one or two days late, and I’m sure that, too, contributed to my feeling that this was the real deal.

They tell you to take the pregnancy test in the morning, at first pee, so to speak, because that pee will have the highest concentration of HCG (sometimes called “the pregnancy hormone”), which will make it easier to detect. Because I am impatient when nervous, it didn’t occur to me to maybe wait for a day I didn’t have to go to work. So, after I found out I was pregnant, I first texted my friend and co-worker, Esther, to tell her the results, then I took a long, hot shower, got ready, and went into work. The nice thing about working with one of your best friends is that, when something like this happens and you have to go into work anyway, your best friend is there to talk to you about it all day. Because Trevor had already gone to work, and because I didn’t really feel like texting him something like this was very responsible or appropriate, my best friend knew about my pregnancy before my husband did.

Even in my overreaction to all things big and small, I am a very thorough person. So, even though my doctor’s office cheerfully told me I was probably pregnant if the test said I was and didn’t really need to confirm it with a blood test, I went in that evening and had them draw blood anyway. This all happened on a Thursday. On Friday morning, the doctor’s office called and told me the blood test had also come back positive and I was, indeed, pregnant. I told Trevor that night when he came to bed. I had been trying to find an in, a way to start the conversation, all evening, but in my cowardice I had shirked away from disrupting his blissful ignorance to basically ruin his night and make him feel as anxious as I did. I was already in bed, but not yet asleep (how could I sleep?) when he came to bed, and in the quiet, darkened room I told him my news.

I have to put in a word here about how bad I feel for anyone in the situation of being told this news when it is unwanted news. Do you acknowledge that it is unwanted? But what if she wants it and then you have gone ahead and said you don’t? Like most smart men, Trevor countered my news with a question: “what do you want to do?” and the rest of our conversation flowed from there.

We decided to terminate the pregnancy based mostly on two things: the impracticality of continuing it given our financial situation was the foremost concern, but the fact that we had only ever talked about having children in the abstract also informed our decision. When Trevor and I met, he said he did not want to have children. Shortly before we married, we had a series of conversations that can basically be summed up by “maybe someday far in the future, but not anytime soon.” By the time we found out I was pregnant, Trevor had been intimating for some time that he may never want children after all, and I had already begun the process of reconciling this with my own barely-formed, or even as-yet-formed, wants and desires. Finding out I was pregnant put an immediate, intense strain on our relationship, and that period of our marriage was the most difficult yet. Although we emerged intact and, I would argue, all the stronger for it, this is not a course I would recommend.

The course I recommend is having a frank, honest, open discussion with each other early in the relationship – perhaps before marriage is even mentioned, but certainly after it has been – about whether or not you want to have children, and whether or not either of you are likely to change your mind. We did only half the work. We had the conversation, many conversations actually, about whether or not we wanted to have children, in which Trevor stated he didn’t and I stated I hadn’t decided yet, but we never really had any concrete conversations about whether or not any of this was set in stone. Then we had more conversations which confused the issue entirely, as one or the other of us would waffle back and forth between “yes, I want them” and “no, I don’t”.

Furthermore, once you’ve had this discussion you have to be willing to make a decision and you have to be willing to walk away if necessary (if either of you feels that strongly one way or another). Neither of us were willing to do that, even though we saw a potential conflict down the road -“down the road” was a long way away, and we would deal with it when it came. I’m actually kind of relieved it happened so early in our marriage, because can you imagine how much worse it might be later on? The potential for disaster increases with each passing year spent together, with each bond formed. As your intimacy becomes deeper and deeper, and the two of you become more and more of a family unit, the hurt and pain caused by any fracture or separation becomes that much more severe. So, again, I’m glad it happened pretty early in our relationship, because we had to reckon with it early and have come away stronger because of that.

I was the first one to say the word “abortion” and I often feel, to this day, that I gave him an out by doing that. I’m sure many women have felt the same – you do not want to force your partner to be the one to say this. In my case, saying it was initially easy. It was the most logical course of action open to us given our financial situation; the fact that we were still newlyweds living in an apartment and had not had a whole lot of time to ourselves; and given that we had never expected to be in the position to have to make this commitment so soon. But I found myself quickly regretting that I had said it, as Trevor agreed so wholeheartedly and with such fervor that it almost broke my heart. It certainly punctured my little bubble of hopeful, ignorant assumptions: namely, the assumption that, when the time came, he would want it, too, he would change his mind and embrace having a child. Is it incredibly naive to say that I still hope that might happen, that as he ages his priorities will shift in the “right” direction? While being faced with the very real predicament of my pregnancy clarified and intensified Trevor’s own feelings on the issue of whether or not to have children, forcing him to come to the conclusion that he really does not want them, it also clarified and intensified my own feelings that I might, which of course is problematic.

I still can’t say whether or not I want children, for sure. I have struggled with this question ever since all this happened, because it challenged an assumption I had about myself. I always assumed that, even if I might have wanted children at some future date, not having them would be fine, too. But being so close to having a child, and then not having one, triggered in me a much more acute desire to, in fact, have one, and an awareness that this could be a much bigger stumbling block in our relationship than I had previously thought. I used to just think, if I wanted them and didn’t have them or couldn’t have them, I would just get over it and move on, no big deal. But I see now that, should that become a conflict in our marriage, “getting over it” will not be an easy or pleasant thing to have to do. However, because I don’t want to be having a baby this August, and because the experience of making the decision to abort so clarified both of our own feelings and positions on the issue of having children, I don’t have any regrets about my abortion at all.

I won’t go into details about the procedure, but I will say that having Trevor with me was absolutely invaluable. It was hard to go through, regardless, but having Trevor there made if infinitely more comfortable and made it seem a little less like an out-of-body experience, as surreal as it all was. The actual procedure was mostly painless except for one, short, very intense pain that actually made me cry out. They had to remind me to keep breathing in the laughing gas, since I had stopped when I was so shocked by the pain, and then it got better again. Trevor stood by me and held my hand the entire time (which is to say, the entire few minutes, since the actual procedure is very quick), and let me squeeze his hand as hard as I wanted to. He looked as in pain as I felt, which is really sort of sweet, I think (does that sound totally fucked up? You know what I mean).

There’s a little recovery room where they let you lay down and give you candy, and usually men aren’t allowed there because there are other women recovering from the procedure in the room, too. But because there was no one else in there at the time, Trevor got to stay with me for awhile, until someone else did need to come in. I was crying, kind of residually from the pain, and then also just because the whole experience was so intense and surreal and I didn’t really know how I felt about it yet. And he just held my hand and stroked my face and few times and picked out candies for me from the little basket. If it weren’t for the whole abortion thing, it might have been one of the most tender, intimate moments in our relationship.

In sum, my ambivalence toward having children, and the newfound urgency with which I’ve been pondering the question, stems almost directly from this experience. Over the last three or four months, I’ve thought a lot about Trevor and my’s relationship and how much it means to me. It seems the height of stupidity to even ponder losing him so that I can have children, probably especially now, when I’m not even sure I want them. But, at the same time, it also seems the height of stupidity to ignore the situation, the potential conflict, and just wait until some unspecified, future date to deal with it again, or to have it thrust upon us once more. The thing that is so frustrating about it is that Trevor is, mostly, a known quantity, whereas having children is not. If I could just know what I’d be gaining and losing by having or not having them, I’d feel so much more equipped to make a more permanent decision. But there’s no list of pros and cons in the world that could make this kind of decision for you, and, as I’ve stated before, why do I need the permanence? Why can’t how I feel about it today just be enough for me, enough for now?

Even though I don’t want to be having a baby this year, and I’m glad I aborted last December, I often think about how far along I would be on a given date. Today I would have been approximately 18 weeks along, which is about 4 1/2 months. I guess it’s kind of masochistic in a way, but I like to be aware of that. It’s sobering to me, and it actually helps me to remember why we terminated it in the first place.

I’m starting cosmetology school later this month, and I wouldn’t have been able to go to school if we were looking forward to having a young child to raise. I may not have even been able to work, once it came along. I may not know yet whether or not I want to have children, but I do know that I want to have a life first. I want to learn to do something I’ll enjoy, I want to make better money, and I, just generally, want to do more before I have children.

After the abortion I told Trevor that I didn’t think I could ever go through that again. Now that I’ve gotten some distance from it, I have to amend that. I think I could do it again, if I had to, although of course my preference is not to have to at all. Having actually exercised my right to a safe, legal abortion has made me that much more staunchly pro-choice, and has really personalized all of the recent debates over the issue in regards to health care overhaul, too. So, although I don’t ever want to get an abortion again, I, more than ever, want to be sure that I can get one if I want or need one – that anyone can get one if they want or need one.

A new goal of mine, that I had hitherto not really outlined within my own personal fight for abortion rights, is to make abortion more affordable. Luckily, my health insurance covered a portion of my abortion, but I still had to come up with $275 that I really didn’t have. If I didn’t have a partner who was willing and able to help me cover not only the costs of the actual procedure, but also some of the bills I couldn’t pay because I had to shell out for it, I would’ve really been in an untenable situation. No one should have to choose between gas money or food or paying an important bill and paying for their abortion. And the current assistance that is available through some clinics is meager at best and, while it is a great asset to lower-income women and families, middle-class women are often left stuck in-between a rock and a hard place – making too much money to get any assistance, and too little money to just be able to pay for it on their own.

Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now, I just thought it was interesting how in this case that phrase “the personal is political” really applies. Thanks for reading about my experience, I’m happy I shared it with you all.

Two is Enough?

I have been thinking about children a lot lately. I thought about them yesterday because there was one exceptionally bad specimen carousing around the shop while her mother got her hair done. This morning, one of my favorite kid clients of ours came in with his dad and was as polite and adorable as ever. But beyond my daily exposure to the children who walk through our shop doors, I’m bound to think about it regardless. I’m married, although I’m really too young to get those constant questions and that overwhelming sense of pressure from other people around the “when are you two gonna have kids” question. And although I’ve thought about what I will from here on out refer to as “the children question” in some permutation many times throughout my life  (since I was old enough to play with a baby doll, at least), it becomes more urgent with each passing year.

I feel like I am a game show contestant and there are x number of doors to choose from and choosing door 1, or door 2, or door 3 – each one leads you on a different path, and each one is mutually exclusive: if you pick one, you can never pick the other. And I feel that I’m being asked to make this decision NOW. I hear you guffaw-ing – I am under no illusion that my fertile years are over (although 18-25 is supposed to be the peak age range, people), that I, for biological reasons, need to make this decision any time soon, but it feels urgent nonetheless. I’m trying to make plans, ya know? I want to know, to a degree, what my life will look like 5, 10, 15 years from now. But I can’t really explain where the pressure comes from – surely it is to some degree driven by social constructs, and to some degree self-inflicted, but I don’t really understand why or even how.

I’m trying to learn how to go with the flow. It’s very much in my nature to have a plan, an outline, even just a rough sketch. And I feel the children question gnawing at me precisely because deciding to have children is such a fundamentally life-altering decision and if I decide not-to-decide right now then I can’t see my future at all clearly – I have no plan. And being unprepared, not planning -well, any planner will tell you, that just strikes fear into our O.C.D. little hearts. I don’t ask for omniscience, just shapes in the fog – but postponing this decision just makes everything formless.

I just started reading a book called “Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice” by Laura S. Scott, and I’ve already learned a lot, just within the first 10 or 20 pages. There is a little subset of the childfree who are basically postponers. They didn’t make a decision, they let nature take its course (or didn’t, as it were), and then they just kind of became childfree. Often, they postponed having children out of uncertainty, but over time came to the decision that, after all, its perfect that they never became parents because they like life just as it is. Sometimes, they postponed having children until it’s too late (until it becomes biologically impossible, or at least, improbable) – and then the decision has been made for them, although they may still embrace it as their choice. What I am afraid of is being the postponer who comes to the point where I can’t have children anymore and finds myself regretful, ultimately childfree by circumstance rather than choice. I am a big-time procrastinator and I don’t want to procrastinate my way into the worse decision I ever didn’t-make in my life.

Also according to “Two is Enough”, there is a subset of the childfree known as “acquiescers”. They come to be childfree in deference to a partner’s wishes. This isn’t always as awful as it may sound – it isn’t always as much a sacrifice as simply a compromise, and it’s not as though this decision is usually made lightly or without full awareness of the consequences. An acquiescer is usually someone who has made peace with their choice to remain childfree, even though that choice may have been a more difficult one for them than it was for their partner.

It’s likely that, if I remain childfree, I will sort of be a postponer/acquiescer. Trevor is probably about 95% sure that he does not want to have children. It’s not so much that I do, but rather that I just always assumed I would. And I’m now at the point where I’m trying to separate out all the noise and concentrate on what I really want, and what is going to be best for us. What are the consequences of having children? Of not having children? Do I really want to raise a child or do I just want a cute baby to coo over? Am I actually attached to the idea of having children or am I just attached to the idea that I should, or that I was going to, or that I’m supposed to? It’s hard to separate out all my myriad motivations both for desiring and not desiring to have children, and to come to any consensus over what it all means and what I really want. And, in the meantime while I try to decide, the weeks and months and years will just continue to fly by.

But I do hope that, in all things, I will be able to teach myself to simply not decide, to be spontaneous and fluid and mutable. I think there’s a certain freedom in that. It eliminates that game show feeling – the door 1, door 2, door 3 – and opens up all the doors, all the possibilities, all at once. After all, ignorance is bliss, right? If you don’t know which path you’re on, you can’t ever get lost, can’t ever really get off it. That is just so comforting to me.