Childfree

I’m going to go slightly off-topic today, both to have something to post, and to satisfy my own need to voice my thoughts.

Having kids is not the only challenging life choice.

There, I said it.

Living child-free is becoming a more common, more talked about, and dare I say it, a more accepted thing. Slowly but surely, people are getting used to the idea that some people might not want to raise children.

“According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the number of childless people age 40 to 44 is close to 20 percent — compared with 10 percent in 1979.” (cited)

I’ve often used the excuse “I’m selfish,” to avoid lengthy conversations about why I don’t want to have kids. I’m gonna open the honesty box here and say: that’s not true. I’m not especially selfish (like everyone, I can have my moments), and even if I were, that’s not the reason why I don’t want to have kids.

The Guardian has an article, The Choice to be Child-Free is Admirable, Not Selfish, which sums up my feelings on the topic pretty well. The conversation I want to have revolves, I think, around two points:

1.) Neither the choice to have nor the choice not to have kids is “better”, “smarter,” or “more right” than the other. Every person needs to decide what is best, smartest, or most right for themselves.

and then, once we can agree on that:

2.) Not having children is NOT the “easy” choice!

And that is not to suggest that having children is the easy choice; we all know that raising kids is HARD. (Those of us who don’t have kids have been told countless times that it’s even harder than we already think it is.) Just because raising kids is hard, though, doesn’t mean that not having kids is easy. Ignoring the social stigma that still lingers around being child-free, there is still a lot of pressure attached to this life choice.

Parents tell you that their kids are their world, their kids give their life purpose, their kids will carry the family legacy, etc. For those who have decided that child-rearing is not for them, the responsibility of giving life purpose falls entirely on themselves and whatever endeavors they come up with to fill the time they’re not spending changing diapers, chasing toddlers, or trying to decode teenagers. People seem to envision life without children as an easy life spent in hammocks with adult drinks in fancy glasses actually made of glass, and while that may be true some of the time, if that is ALL a person’s life is…well, alcoholism and depression can be just as tough to live with as children, with much fewer rewards.

Living child-free, REALLY living that life, is HARD. Filling each day of your life with meaning is a challenge. To be able to wake up each morning and feel that whatever you are doing that day has purpose is tough when you can’t say, “Well, I’m working this Monday-Friday, 9-5 job to feed my family, and then I’ll come home to that family, and on the weekend, I’ll spend some rejuvenating time with that family.”

When you don’t have children, you have no excuse to work a job that isn’t fulfilling, other than that currently the job market is awful and you have crushing student loan debt – hardly as rewarding a reason to work an unrewarding job. Having kids is much more motivating.

So, cut child-free people some slack, because they didn’t choose the easy way out. Neither did you. We’re all working hard to make our lives matter, and there’s no point in trying to step on each other to get it done.

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True Love, Self Love

I was recently sitting in a cabin full of my 16-year old female campers. As is usual with 16-year-olds, the topic was relationships.

The girls, most of whom I’d known and watched grow up at camp over the last six years, knew through stories I’d told them that I’d once had a boyfriend, that we’d been together seven years, and that though it was now over, I still regarded the relationship with happiness, and knew I’d been lucky to be a part of something so wonderful. This all blew their minds.

They were asking how it lasted so long (seven years is almost half their lifetimes), and how it came that something that seemed so right ended (people change over time). They also wanted to see a picture of him. I decided to let them see a couple; one of when we were teenagers, early in the relationship, and one of us later, closer to the end, closer to how we look today.

They oooh’ed and ahhh’ed: my ex was, and still is, a very attractive guy.

“How did you land that?!” They all wanted to know.

After explaining that he was certainly not a “that,” I told them the truth: I hardly “landed” that wonderful guy. We met at a birthday party. Most of the other kids there, all high schoolers like us, had dressed up a little for the party. Dresses, or nice, new jeans with button-down shirts or a fancy top. New, clean sneakers for boys and strappy sandals for girls.

I had dressed up, too. But I was (and still am, I sometimes think) an odd bird. My dressed up meant wearing my new black and blue Reebok basketball shoes, blue cargo shorts, and a neon green fuzzy spaghetti strap shirt. And my hair…oh god, my hair. My hair was in about 50 little pony tails, sticking out at every angle from my head, held together by multi-colored rubberbands, like Coolio with Skittles stuck in his hair. There was also a dogtag necklace, probably, and maybe  a dog collar…I’ll have to check the pictures.

Yes, there are pictures.

Point being, I told my girls, I was certainly not trying to do anything but be myself that night and have fun…and that was exactly what I was doing, dancing by myself on the edge of the empty dance floor, when “that” guy walked up to me and asked to dance.

Genuinely.

And we danced, and it was good. We danced, just the two of us on the floor at first, prompting other people to join. We talked while we danced. Our friends later exchanged our numbers for us, and we talked and talked and talked…and so began one of the best experiences of my life.

The 16-year-olds were flabbergasted. I looked at them as I realized something I’d honestly never, ever thought of before. Something I’d always known was true, but I didn’t know why I knew it was true; I just knew.

You really do have to just be yourself, love yourself, and live a life you love. The rest will come. That night, if “that” guy hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have been any worse for wear – I was doing me, I was being me, and I was loving it, like I had been doing and like I continued to do after that night.

I might be crazy…it’s possible. People might balk at my self-identification as a polyamorist and a slut. But I’m happy. And if someone comes along that wants to join this happiness party, kudos to them. Come over here and get on the friggin’ dance floor.

If not; that’s cool. I’mma be over here, dancin’.

Thought of the Day

thoughtI’ve been thinking about “isms”. Specifically, “isms” that relate to discrimination. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, ableism, etc.

I know that some types of discrimination don’t necessarily have “isms”. It’s “discrimination based on sexual orientation” to act on “homophobic” prejudices, for example. According to Wikipedia,“[t]wenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sixteen states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”

That’s cool. I mean, I of course would like to see discrimination of that sort outlawed in all states, but that’s just me. I am grateful that many states have legally recognized and outlawed this type of discrimination, though.

What I’m thinking about now is Dan Savage’s claim that polyamory is not a sexual orientation, and the resulting backfire from polyamorous folk insisting that it is. I agree with all those arguing in favor of identifying polyamory as an “orientation,” but I can’t bring myself to call it a “sexual orientation,” because, as one person pointed out, “polyamory is not sexual.”

Discrimination based on relationship style, lovestyle, romantic preferences, etc. exists, but there is no name for it that I know of. People have had their kids removed from their custody for being polyamorous. Potential adoptive parents hide polyamory to avoid being refused the opportunity to adopt. Polyamorous people can still only legally marry one person. Polyamorous people are not protected under laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, because it is not recognized as a sexual orientation, and I can kind of see why…but…

Is being an ethical slut a sexual orientation? Is identifying as sexually nonmonogamous a sexual orientation? It’s most certainly based on sex, and there’s definitely well-documented, historic levels of discrimination happening to promiscuous people. Can identified sexually nonmonogamous people be protected under the laws that protect others with “alternative” sexual orientations? Would it make a difference in the day-to-day slut shaming that occurs? Would it make a difference to polyamorists?

I’m currently reading a paper, “Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” published in 2010 by Ann E. Tweedy. I cheated and skipped to the conclusion:

“Because polyamory appears to be at least moderately embedded as an identity, because polyamorists face considerable discrimination, and because non-monogamy is an organizing principle of inequality in American culture, anti-discrimination protections for polyamorists are warranted. Moreover, polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation. On the other hand, however, some of our culture’s cherished myths about sexual orientation, especially in its unchangeableness, would have to be given up to make such a change.”

What kind of discrimination is it when we discriminate against someone for being nonmonogamous? Promiscuous? Slutty? Polyamorous? Asexual? Any other number of “identities” on the sexual spectrum that aren’t based in what gender you are and what gender you are attracted to? Can we fight this discrimination?

Failing at Forever Isn’t Failing; A Revisit

Walk it OffThere was more to be said on the topic that an ended relationship isn’t necessarily a failed relationship, and I think I’m ready to say it.

People go into a relationship expecting that it will last forever. They visualize that, over time, the relationship will move through “levels,” ultimately ending in marriage (or some kind of life-long commitment) – the epitome of relationship “success.” If for some reason, the relationship gets stuck on a level and isn’t moving forward, it is seen as something worth ditching and giving up on, rather than being enjoyed for what it is at the moment.

“The percentage of the [American] population ever married has declined some in the past decades, but it is still 80%. That’s just about everyone. . . .In surveys, teens and young adults consistently say they view marriage as a very important life goal,” according to Kay Hymowitz at Forbes.

We equate marriage with success. We think that someone who is capable of having a “successful” marriage must be capable of being successful in other things. We think good spouses make good people. When we are told that someone is “successful” in life, we often imagine them as married, and if not, then they are successful in their professional life at the cost of being “unfulfilled” in their personal life.

Success makes us happy, and because success = marriage in our minds, we all assume that marriage makes us happy. However, “quite a few investigations have persuasively shown that it is happiness that leads to marriage, as opposed to the reverse.” (Psychology Today) That’s right, folks. Expecting marriage to make you happy is putting the cart before the horse. Get happy first, be happy with who you are and what relationship status you are in, and then you are more likely to get married. (That means you have to figure out how to be happy while unmarried. Unthinkable!)

neweyes.atlblogs.comI keep writing about marriage, even though the original topic was about relationships in general. Why? We model our relationships after the “ideal” romantic relationship (marriage) as much as possible. Where do you think promise rings came from? Even if a person doesn’t think “marriage is for them,” they often are interested in some sort of life partnership, co-habitating indefinitely, or some kind of promise along the lines of “til death do us part.”

I worry that some of this is laziness, a thought process of, “if I can find just the right person/people to make me feel fulfilled, I can enter a life-long contract with him/her/them and be fulfilled forever, and never have to search for fulfillment ever again.” That’s a really scary mindset, and also a really sad one because, seriously, do you know what it feels like to fall in love? Not the landing part, not the being in love, but that part where you feel that you are falling? What a great feeling! Why are people so determined to cut off the possibility of feeling that in favor of laboring over a life-long commitment? There’s value in that hard work, but there’s also value in letting love flourish where, when, and how it wants.

If your love for someone leads to you committing your life to them, that’s wonderful, but if not, that’s wonderful as well. Let the relationship be what it is meant to be. If you can be a part of a relationship, however short or long, that allows love to flourish, you, my friend, have been a part of a successful relationship. Be respectful, be honest, be happy, be you, and if/when it ends, know that it hasn’t failed.

The ending of a successful project is not seen as a failure, so why should the ending of a great relationship be seen as one? Like a finished project, you can admire the finished relationship, smile at the memories, be grateful for the lessons learned, and, if you are lucky, cherish the friendships that evolved while it was being built.

Thoughts On Slut Shaming: Respect, Infidelity, Logic, Gender Equality, and So Much More!

thoughtfulNow that my fear of slut shaming has been covered, I’d like to tiptoe a little deeper into the topic and share some thoughts I’ve had about slut shaming since I discovered the term.

My current theory: the slut shaming of women is related to the old “wife as property” idea of marriage. If a man is married and sleeps with someone other than his wife, well, what can she do? She’s his property – she has no real say. He has a mistress; that’s the way it goes sometimes, even if it’s not very admirable. In some cultures, men even take on additional wives.

But, if a married woman (the property) sleeps with another man…well, it’s a bit different. One man’s property is being used by another man, without any kind of compensation. I don’t even know of a word for the male equivalent of “mistress.” There is nothing but shame for the husband who has been “duped;” he’s a cuckold.  In Puerto Rico, it’s a common insult to call a man a “cabron”: a man who’s woman sleeps with other men. Are there equivalent words for women whose husbands cheat on them?

As a woman, if you have extramarital sex, you shame your husband, and you shame yourself, because you are his property. Perhaps this is part of the reason why slut shaming women is so much more popular than slut shaming men.

Or is it?

sad man

Slut shaming today does not only target women. I once began seeing a guy and was “warned” by a concerned friend that he slept around a lot. Because of that, this concerned friend thought that he wouldn’t be “relationship material.”

I was annoyed, not just because this friend assumed I was looking for a relationship, and not just because they assumed they knew what “relationship material” meant to me, but because this person was making a judgment of someone based on irrelevant information. The guy’s promiscuity should be viewed as just that: promiscuity. It should not be viewed as an indication of any other aspect of his character. It should not be assumed that it affects his relationship material-ness, which is vastly different for different people.

The definition and example of slut shaming posted on Urban Dictionary suggests that it is only bad because it means people will have less sex. It’s more than that, though. It’s an attack on character. For some reason, people associate what someone does with their sex life as relevant to the kind of person they are in other aspects of their life. It’s a cheap logical fallacy which is unfortunately used by educated people all the time. Be better than educated, people; be intelligent.

I think that one of the reasons why some may think slut shaming is only ever aimed at women is because it is more widely and vehemently done so. I haven’t conducted any studies or anything, but I feel that while there are probably plenty of well-intentioned people out there slut shaming men, telling them that they’re missing out on experiencing “true love,” informing/warning potential lovers away from them, and encouraging them to “be more respectful of women,” those people are labeled “cock-blocks” by popular culture. On the other hand, it’s much more acceptable for icons like Taylor Swift and even one of my favorite artists, Pink, to insist that self-respecting women certainly know better than to have sex. Apparently, being respectful of women, and women respecting themselves, means leaving their vaginas alone. What…err…cunt-bunters? Twat swatters?

People just need to respect people, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of how frequently they have sex. Part of ethical nonmonogamy and sluttery is that people are supposed to be considerate of one another’s feelings. Manipulating a person’s emotions to get them to have sex with you, or purposefully hurting their feelings afterward, is still unethical and disrespectful. Making it clear that you have no intention of being monogamous, being honest about who you are and what you feel or don’t feel, and finding someone who wants to sleep with you with that knowledge, is not disrespectful or wrong. It’s beautiful. Even if it happens 10 times in one week.

Slut shaming shouldn’t be perpetuated against anyone, but maybe it’s the way we interpret it and the way it is supported/unsupported depending on who it is aimed at that contributes to the sense of inequality we notice when it comes to slut shaming.

Not All Which Ends, Has Failed

Walk it OffSome cogs have clicked together recently in the slow and constant grind of gears in my head, and two converse ideas have formed:

Not all relationships which end, have failed.

Not all relationships which have failed, end.

To be honest, at first, I was only focused on the first idea. I wanted to write a post about how the ending of a relationship does not signal that it has failed. That some  (probably many, even most) relationships are not meant to last forever. That our irrational obsession with ensuring the longevity of a relationship despite massive sacrifices of happiness only exists because of the relationship-centered culture we are influenced by and the assurance that being in a long-term relationship is happiness, not that you should seek happiness from within yourself and hope to find someone awesome enough to appreciate that happiness as you do theirs.

Quite a mouthful, I agree. Which is why I hesitate to even get into the second point: that not all relationships which have failed, end. That is truly unfortunate. How many failed relationships do you know of that still exist? How do you know it has failed? If a couple is staying together because they appreciate the status that comes with being together, or staying together for the kids, has the relationship failed, or have they found a common point strong enough to validate the relationship?

More questions than answers appear. For the sake of brevity, I am going to set aside the second point for now, and focus on my original idea:

Not all relationships which end, have failed. This also means that when you see an end coming, that it doesn’t mean you are failing, or that the other person(s) has/have failed. Sometimes, a relationship has simply run its course, and that’s okay. Sometimes, a relationship evolves into a different type of relationship, and that’s okay, too.

Everyone, please calm down. It’s not the end of the world; it’s the end (or the evolution) of a relationship. Not every relationship is meant to last forever.

This doesn’t change the fact that breaking up is hard. I’ve been through it. It sucks. You cry. You rage. You self-evaluate. You doubt. You pick the relationship apart in an effort to pinpoint the exact moment it went wrong. Often, it’s impossible. Always, it’s hard. The difficulty of breaking up is likely what most people are trying to avoid when they look into “making it last.” They want to avoid the pain of breakup, and perhaps even the judgement of those who would believe they “failed.”

Why are we so obsessed with longevity equaling relationship “success”, when variety might serve us just as well? I can understand the mindset of loving someone so much that you want them around as long as possible, and you want them as happy as possible. What I don’t understand is the desire to accomplish this at all costs, sometimes even your own happiness. Do the person who loves you a favor: do what makes you happy. Because, if they love you, they want you happy, and they’d rather have you happy without them than miserable with them. If they don’t feel that way, they probably don’t actually love you, or love you in that scary dependent way that necessitates a step in the other direction anyway.

Above all, remember, that it is okay. We fear change, and yet change is inevitable and constant. The more you accept that in your day-to-day life, perhaps the better you’ll get at breaking up. That sounds awful, but if you have the emotional strength to handle a breakup better than you currently do (not well; few people handle a breakup well, I think), is that really such a bad thing? If you can minimize your angst and streamline the road to happiness, I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.

Mourn the death of your relationship, sure, but just as we remember the happy memories we shared with someone who has passed away, remember the happy relationship memories and be grateful that you’re still around to experience that again, even if it seems at the moment that you never will.

This Doesn’t Count Towards My Word Count, But…

Six days left of NaNoWriMo. I am on track, though I have four heavy days of work coming up, and I probably will fall a little behind during that time. Thankfully, I have the 30th off, so at worst, that’ll be my mad dash to the finish.

It’s getting difficult to continue writing. The topic cuts a little deep for me, and, as I expected, has me debating which of my values are my own, and which are shaped by the way I was raised and the way people talk to and treat both me and other people. That was the point though, after all. A little demon-facing never hurt anyone…I hope.

In an attempt to stay true to the intent of this blog, I’d like to recommend that everyone who thinks about love and it’s many forms, and the perceived limitations we sometimes assign it, take on a creative writing project. Make it a hypothetical world, even if the people in it are based on yourself and/or people you know. Then, break some rules. Do something different in the story. Have people act in unpredictable ways, and then, here’s where it gets really crazy…

let the characters explain themselves. Try to see if you can find a way to understand those characters, and get possible readers to understand them, too. Why are they breaking rules? Do they think it’s okay? Can a relationship or relationships work with that rule being broken?

I’ve had fun exploring love that way; maybe you will, too.

I have been contemplating my creative writing goals for after NaNoWriMo this year. I would like to continue working on them, rather than completely stopping like I did last year. I would also like to edit last year’s novel, which was kind of the whole driving point of creating this very blog in the first place. I’ve been thinking of a write-a-short-story-every-other-day challenge.  I may have to start a new blog for that, and that would take away from this blog. Then again, I don’t exactly post here often, so perhaps it really is worth thinking about.

Live and love, everyone, and do it like you mean it!

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

Other than that, I’ve been connecting some points on human matriarchal societies, and perhaps the reason why we don’t know of any on our planet is because they look like egalitarian societies, and collecting evidence to support that…theory?

Will report when I get around to it. In the meantime, slut on!

Hierarchies

In a lot of the advice columns and relationship articles I read about opening up a relationship, one of the major points is always to “keep the primary relationship at the forefront.”

I do think that it’s important, when pursuing an interest in someone you’re not already in a relationship with, to try to keep a good head on your shoulders and avoid neglecting the existing relationship for the new one. Not everyone is capable of that, to be honest, which is why I don’t recommend everyone run out and give nonmonogamy a try.

However, I feel the need to, once again, point out that different relationships are different. Try all you want to “keep the primary relationship at the forefront;” when it comes down to it, sometimes your primary is in another country, or works 12-hour days, or is pursuing a new relationship of their own. It doesn’t make you any less in love. It doesn’t mean you are “doomed” or “failing.” It doesn’t mean that one relationship is “leveling up” over the other. It simply means that this relationship is one way, and your other relationship might be another way, and it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings for each person honestly, without designating one over the other as “primary”. It means that your relationships with different people are different, not necessarily better or worse, and really, would we want it any other way?

You need to trust that your partner will be honest with you, and you can’t do that if your partner feels pressured to reassure you that you are their #1 or “one and only”. If you make a deal where you say, okay, we’re open, but no falling in love with other people, guess what? You can’t turn emotions off. If your partner does start to fall for someone, they either won’t tell you out of fear, or they will, and you will likely want to make them stop seeing the person if they tell you. And let’s be honest…love stops for no one.

If you open a relationship, you also need to open your mind. Realize that we are human, and that opening a relationship is absolutely scary, because we tend to fear change. If you’re opening a relationship, it’s probably because you’ve grown comfortable and confident enough with the person you’re with to take this less-beaten path. There is no guarantee that you’ll both want to be each other’s “primary” two months from now, but, hey, there was no guarantee of that when you were monogamous, either. There needs to be trust.

It takes a LOT of trust, honesty, and communication to take this path. Natural hierarchies will develop based on the length of time you’ve been with someone and the strength of the relationship in that moment, regardless of how weak or strong it’s been in the past. Those natural hierarchies shift as people come into and move out of our immediate lives, and that’s something that needs to be accepted. If you try to force yourself to the top of the hierarchy, you chance forcing the person you love into going against their heart, and that is what is truly a recipe for disaster.

Tread carefully, and intelligently, my friends.

Jealousy

“Are you really okay with that?”

With someone I love being happy, of course I am! Am I immune to jealousy? Hell, no!

The little green monster bites me, too.

There are some people out there who say that they lack the capacity to feel jealous. I am not one of them. I get that sinking feeling when I see someone who I enjoy making happy being made happy by someone else. Does this other person make them happier than I do? Am I at risk of losing someone I care about to someone else? I can’t pretend that these feelings don’t pass through me.

At the same time, though, I simultaneously feel the urge to smile. After all, someone I care about is smiling, and more often than not, I am welcome to join in the moment. For me, it is most often the case that the happiness I feel at others’ happiness overwhelms the jealousy that is present.

And, as quickly as I cause happiness, the jealousy passes, and I am reassured that I am not losing someone; rather, we are including someone in our joy, and that person is including us in theirs.

So much for "three's a crowd".

People in the polyamory communities I’ve interacted with call this feeling of being happy at seeing someone you love be made happy by someone else “compersion.” Some call it the “opposite of jealousy.” It’s strange feeling jealousy and it’s opposite at the same time, but it’s not like the human race isn’t used to that experience. How many of us have both loved and hated someone? How many of us have been sad to leave a place, but happy at what lay ahead? How many of us have been angry at the actions of a child, and yet amused by the situation?

Jealousy is a negative emotion. We’re always talking about how to handle our negative emotions like anger, hate, and grief. Yet, we allow people to experience levels of jealousy without considering whether that emotion should be managed rather than given free reign.

How do you manage jealousy in a relationship? Often, the same way you manage anger, resentment, or sadness: COMMUNICATE. This is no news flash. I’ve had many a long discussion about my jealousies with people I care about, and the result has always been me receiving more than enough reassurance to see that my jealousy was coming from my own insecurities. Over time, I’ve managed to kill off a number of those insecurities, and have become exponentially less jealous. I still have some that I don’t think I’ll ever get over – some things are buried too deep to dig up without simply inflicting more damage – and that is why I talk with the people in my life about what I need to keep feeling happy for their happiness.

No one’s had a problem with it yet.