Dear (Possible) Future Husband

Every once in a while, I am awestruck by just how drastically different my life and mindset are from someone else’s. It’s very humbling, and very mind-opening, and it just happened again at lovedbyjam’s WordPress blog, with the post “dear (possible) future husband”, which was shared by a few of my Facebook friends.

I am going to attempt to re-write the post, now, but from my mindset. I highly suggest you read her post first. Ready? Go!

bighappyfunhouse.com

Dear (Possible) Future Husband,

I’m going to start of by saying #sorrynotsorry.

I’m not sorry for my past. For being generous with my heart. For forming perceptions based on experience. For learning to trust those who are trustworthy. For having high expectations of you. I’m not sorry for my present. For being “insatiable” as some lovers have called it. For constantly searching instead of being patient.  For not spending every waking thought on you. I’m not sorry for my future mistakes. For not submitting (except when there’s a safeword involved). For letting my emotions drive me at times. For occasionally trusting intuition over logic. For things beyond my control that stop me from keeping promises I damn well knew I could keep when I made them.

I’m not sorry for you. For the beautiful people you see every day, and the beautiful relationships you may have with them. For the girls who rightfully flirt with your sexy self. (I am sorry for the lie that “manhood” is being physically strong and not showing any emotions, but you and I both know that my anti- gender stereotypes game is strong!) I’m still not sorry for having high expectations of you, and don’t mind if you never meet them, as long as you always try. And just like I’m not sorry for my past, I’m also not sorry for yours, because mine made me who I am, and you love me, and yours made you who you are, and I love you.

So, #sorrynotsorry, but there’s more. I’m not scared.

I’m not scared of the bad times, because I know we’ll grow from them. Nor am I scared of not living up to your expectations, because I know you’ll let me know, and you’re worth figuring it out. I’m not scared of being a bad wife…because, um, hello, I’m awesome. And I’m not scared of being a bad mom, because how can I, if I have no intention of becoming one? I’m not scared of fighting, because make-up sex. And I’m not scared of possible financial stresses, because I know that ultimately that does not matter (even though it causes many divorces, so maybe it does matter, so really, I’m not scared because I’m pretty financially independent, thank you very much).

So, I’m #sorrynotsorry, #sorrynotscared, but you know what? I am excited.

I’m excited to meet you. I’m excited for you to experience my awkwardness. I’m excited for the mountains (and the oceans). For the jokes and laughs. For the happy tears. For our future children, if the Lord wills it. For serving the Lord together. For cooking dinners for two instead of one. For dancing and singing in the kitchen. For worship and fellowship in the family room. For the deep conversations. For working the mission field, whatever that may look like. I’m excited for the valleys (and the lakes!). For the trials that will shape our relationship. For the times that we can only get through because of our love for the Lord and His grace. For the times where all we can do is turn to His word because we are without words.

I’m #sorrynotsorry and #sorrynotscared and excited. You may be two months or fifty years away. Maybe our future will never happen. Maybe you and I are each destined to change other lives in other ways. I hope that, whatever the case, you are living your life in a way that makes you happy, just as I am living mine in a way that makes me happy, no matter how many temptations that means each of us gives in to. I hope that we are both leaders in our lives, but both know when it’s appropriate to follow. Most of all, I hope that you’re not wasting your time writing a letter like this to me, because there are more important things in life than sitting around waiting for another person to bring meaning into your life when you could be doing it yourself.

Love,
Your (possible) future wife.

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.

Progress and Patriarchy

Step 1: Print out manuscript

Check!

It took me over a year to do it, but yes, the manuscript of Love Times Infinity is finally printed and ready for my red pen. I have chosen to reward myself for completing this step by sharing two of my observations this week with you, because sharing feels good. I’m a sharing person, in case you couldn’t tell.

The first was something I stumbled upon while doing research for work. I’ll be teaching an outdoor education lesson on the Native American Lenape people in a week or two, and of course, I began my independent study on their history with everyone’s favorite free and readily available encyclopedia, Wikipedia. I couldn’t help but copy and paste this tidbit, even though at the time I wasn’t sure what I would do with it:

The Lenape kinship system was traditionally organized by clans determined by matrilineal descent. That is, children were considered to belong to the mother’s clan, where they gained their social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the boy children than was their father, who was of another clan.

I’ve read about a culture similar to this before: the Musuo in China, where at a certain age girls get their own room where there is a door that men they invite over can come discreetly through, and when the girls get pregnant, their brothers help raise the children. The fathers of the children are responsible for their sisters’ children, not the ones they father themselves. Like the Lenape, the Musuo are matrilineal. Unlike the Lenape, Musuo children may not know who their biological father is.

This got me thinking about how some have noted that “no matriarchal societies exist”, and how others have countered that perhaps it seems that way, because we expect matriarchy to look like patriarchy, except with women in all the roles of power instead of men. These people argue that matriarchies may actually exist, but we call them “egalitarian”, because when women are given equal power, well, things are more…equal. Thus, matriarchy = egalitarian. (I have more reading to do on this, here.)

So there my head was, swimming in matriarchal, patriarchal, and egalitarian thoughts, when, while out and about one night being an adult with fellow adults, a friend uttered the following phrase:

“Girls who claim to want it hard are cancer.”

We had been having a conversation about sex, and the different ways people like their sex, and at least two of us in the group had voiced our approval of women who are comfortable saying that they like their sex “hard.”

Then, that happened. *sigh*

Unfortunately, because we had been out and about adulting so hard that it was futile to begin an argument with that friend (I doubt he remembers even making the comment, now) I had to spare myself the frustration of calling him out and being the mood-killer by explaining why I was doing it. The feeling followed me until the end of the night, though, where I made sure to jot down a few feelings before I went to sleep.

Patriarchy hurts everyone. Men come of age in a society which cultivates an assumption that the “right girl” will be one who fits into the submissive role for women the patriarchy has established. For some men, society wasn’t needed to foster attraction to submissive women, and that’s fine. But many other men likely miss out on the great women they really want; the forward, bold, aggressive women who say what they want and say it proudly. Those women are sexy, too, but as my friend’s comment revealed, those women are also still seen by some as only sexy, and not…here it is again…”relationship material.”

And all of this, of course, hasn’t even touched what it does to non-normative relationships and trans* people.

There’s still work to do, people. Be you, be proud, and be happy.

 

Jada Smith on Relationships

Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should “behave”? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions, and underlying threats of “you better act right or else” keep one honest and true? Do we believe that we can have meaningful relationships with people who have not defined nor live by the integrity of his or her higher self? What of unconditional love? Or does love look like, feel like, and operate as enslavement? Do we believe that the more control we put on someone the safer we are? What of TRUST and LOVE?

Should we be married to individuals who can not be responsible for themselves and their families within their freedom? Should we be in relationships with individuals who we can not entrust to their own values, integrity, and LOVE…for us???

Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.

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So said Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith, on her Facebook yesterday at 6:17pm.

I’m not normally one for celebrity gossip; in fact I saw this post by Jada only because a friend of mine shared it on her wall. I decided to do some research to find out if the profile actually did belong to the actual Jada Smith, and that the post was, indeed, written by her. I was immediately annoyed by the first article Google News pulled up, which was on philly.com:

“Jada Pinkett Smith wants to make it crystal clear to everyone (or at least her Facebook followers): She is in a mutually-exclusive, committed relationship with her Philly-raised, triple threat of a husband, Will Smith.”

*headdesk*

In what part of the above statement by Jada was the term “mutually-exclusive” used? She asked questions about whether relationships should be relate-able to ownership and slavery, asked whether we should be married to irresponsible, untrustworthy people, and then stated that she and Will can do whatever they want. A “grown relationship” could be a relationship in which the people involved are mature enough to do the things they want to do without hurting their marriage or families; in a marriage where one or both partners isn’t bothered by their spouse being involved in some way with other partners, that could include non-exclusivity.

But none of this matters, because everybody is taking this statement to mean that Jada and Will are, indeed, in a “closed,” “exclusive” relationship. perezhilton.com, E! Online, and US Weekly are all breathing internet sighs of relief and using phrases like “committed relationship” to clarify the type of relationship the Smiths’ have. What does that even mean? I’ve already talked about my feelings on what commitment means in this blog post from long, long (a year) ago. It ain’t so clear-cut, folks.

Everyone seems to be celebrating the reveal that the Smith marriage is monogamous, but is it? The answer doesn’t really matter; what does is the fact that if the general population would quit jumping to conclusions, putting words in Jada’s mouth, and instead think about the questions she put forth, it could do a lot of lovers a lot of good, and perhaps help a lot of lovers be better understood.

Polyamorous Family on “Wife Swap”

A friend forwarded this to me (I love my friends!) and I just finished watching it and have a couple of things I’d like to note.

Firstly – the kids from both families get an A+ in my book for being complete rock stars. Despite being from two very obviously different families, they all seemed to really encompass some of the values I think those of us in education have really been trying to instill in their generation, particularly respect. They met moms very different than their own, and when time came for the moms to call the shots, the kids pretty much rolled with it. Love it. Gives me lots of hope for the future.

And then, secondly. There’s a moment at about 16:20 where the oldest child of the polyamorous family, Brooke, is answering the religious and political family mother, Gina’s, questions about how she feels about her family. The conversation goes like this:

Gina: How do you feel about having a family that’s kinda different? A dad, kinda two moms?

Brooke: It’s good to be different.

Gina: So what do you think about my different way?

Brooke: It’s fine.

(Cut away to Gina, alone, being interviewed separately.)

Gina: Brooke has had a lot of challenges in her life, and I just hate that she has to live in that defensive shell.

(Cut back to Gina and Brooke sitting together.)

Gina: Do you give your biological mom kind of, like, a little closer? Do you give her like, a special place, over Ashley?

Brooke: No, they’re both the same.

Gina: Interesting.

I literally gave a little cheer when Brooke said, “It’s good to be different.” I mean, again, I work in education, and that is exactly the kind of thing we try to help our students realize: differences are okay; celebrate them, accept them, respect them. Brooke voiced it, and the other kids showed that they could do it. And then, as if to drive the point home, when Gina asks about her own “different way,” referring to her religious, political, conservative family, Brooke tells her the truth: “It’s fine.” Yes, it’s fine! No, it’s not that my family is right and yours is wrong, or the other way around, it’s that our families are different,  and that’s absolutely fine! hashtag-winning

I don’t know if the cutaway was taken out of context; there’s no way to know. For the producers of the show, though, to have an adult voice cut in right after such a great statement from Brooke, to say that those kinds of things represent a “defensive shell” …ugh. I hate that such a wonderful revelation of intelligence in a young person was so quickly dismissed. And if she was being defensive at some point during the exchange – I’m not surprised! Gina’s plastic smile puts up my defenses, and I’m looking at it through a computer screen!

As with these shows, we all know they’re extremely edited and never a true representation. Even without considering that, no one polyamorous or conservative family should be seen as a representative for all families of that kind. And yet, though you and I, dear reader, may know these things, I often worry about the average viewer, who does not, and the impression given them of both sides.

At least the kids were awesome.

NaNoWriMo 2012

I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year, even though I have hardly touched last year’s manuscript to edit it. I understand why some people would rather I edit last year’s novel than start a new one, but from my perspective, if my heart is set on writing something, and not on editing, shouldn’t I do what’s going to make me and my heart happy?

I think so. Especially since I have notes on this book idea dating back three years. THREE YEARS! I think it’s high-time I get to putting that idea down on paper (or screen).

It’s going to be Literary Fiction, once again, and I’m still working out the details, but it will center around the thoughts and various neuroses of a girl who’s father isn’t doing such a great job of being a father. I’m hoping to have the story switch between the past and present, showing the correlation between how her father treated her growing up and the decisions she makes and emotions she feels as she grows into a young woman attempting to make sense of her relationships with men.

For those who know me well, it’s obvious that this idea is very personal to me, given my own experiences. It’ll be a harder book to write, in that regard, because it will probably hit home and cut a little deep once in a while. At the moment, I’m remembering days when I wondered to myself if what I called “polyamory” was simply my own hackneyed attempt at making sense of my fragmented perception of self-worth in the eyes of men.

That worry has passed, though, and I think I’m ready. If not, it’s sure to be a hell of a learning experience.

Wish me luck!

Levels and Labels

No two relationships are alike; I think most people will agree with me there.

People like to know what “level” a relationship is on, and they tend to use labels to accomplish the task. This is my friend. This is my best friend. This is my boyfriend/girlfriend. This is my friend with benefits. This is my fuck buddy. This is my wife/husband. This is my brother/sister, even though we’re not actually blood related.

I take a little issue with this practice. Say we use the term “boyfriend” to describe someone we’ve dated, and then that relationship ends. Now a new guy comes along, you start dating, and even though you re-use the term “boyfriend,” the relationship is likely different from that of you and your first boyfriend.

These terms have generally accepted definitions that help other people, and perhaps yourselves, understand where the relationship is at; but have you ever considered how limited they are? Has everybody who is dating said “I love you” to each other? Has one person said it and the other hasn’t? (gasp!) Have all dating couples slept together yet? Do all “dating” couples call each other “boyfriend” and/or “girlfriend”, or can they be “just dating”? Is there a label for the person you are “just dating”? (“This is Bob, my…um…person I’m just dating.”)

What bothers me most, though, is how much these labels limit our ability to see the different levels in between and even in the overlapping of these relationships. A husband or wife can also be a best friend. A best friend can also be a friend with benefits. We can love someone who is “just a friend.” Our desire to keep things strictly away from grey areas and within bold, clear boundaries inhibits so much of each of our limitless (dare I say, infinite) love and friendship possibilities. We often force ourselves to fit the labels, rather than making the labels work for us.

Use labels, don’t let them use you.

I’m not trying to tear down the excitement of the moment that you and someone you are interested in look at one another and say, “So, shall we change our Facebook statuses?” What I’m offering you is the chance to realize something much more exciting: the status does no justice to the uniqueness of your relationship. Make sure to embrace, talk about, and celebrate the uniqueness of every relationship (friendship, romantic, familial, or otherwise) in your life.

And once you recognize just how many people you already love, you may start to understand why some people fall “in love” with more than one person at a time.

I’m (Re)Writing a Novel!

Love Times Infinity, a Novel:

A young man longs for an exclusive relationship in a society of communal love.

*     *     *

I have officially started the re-write of “Love Times Infinity;” woohoo!

And, all of the reasons why I had been putting it off for so long, are now clear. Uugghh rewriting is hard! (*whine*)

First off, it doesn’t help that my lazy behind started off my NaNoWriMo novel with, and I quote:

“[Introduce Setting]”

…and then I jumped right into the story. This means that, today, rather than being able to tell you, “Hey everyone! I rewrote page 1!” I instead get to say “Hey guys! I rewrote the first line!”

To be fair, “[Introduce Setting]” is now 997 words, and will probably be more, now that I’ve discovered the second issue with writing a novel with polyamorous tones:

There are SO MANY FREAKIN’ CHARACTERS!

In 997 words, I’ve introduced the two main characters, Mikhail and Ria (though I haven’t gotten into appearances yet), mentioned their two best childhood friends, Vernon and Olivia, mentioned Ria’s two boyfriends, Axel and Jethro, and properly introduced Mikhail’s four parents, Toby, Duane, Giselle, and Rhonda.

Oh, yeah, and I mentioned the dog, Loki. A Basenji who likes to eat underwear.

Definitely saving descriptions of the friends and boyfriends for later, as the story opened up in Mikhail’s house on a Sunday when the whole family is home. (Oh yeah, I did also mention Mikhail’s two younger brothers, though I didn’t mention names. His older brother, Roland, got a name-drop, though.) Clearly, I am going to need a character map. Or, maybe I’ll just turn this into a mass murder mystery and start killing people off so I don’t have to keep track of them all…hmm…

I am genuinely worried that I’ll have too many characters for my readers to keep track of, even if I can. To be fair, Mikhail and Ria are the major focus here, and I’ll probably spend most of the novel in Mikhail’s head, but, dangit, I don’t have the option of letting Vernon, Olivia, and Ria’s other boyfriends be flat. They’re too important.

This is going to be a long first novel.

On a positive note, I think starting in Mikhail’s household was a good move, even though it just happened without me planning it. I was in Mikhail’s head at the start of the book, and then I found out that Mikhail’s head was attached to his body – which was in his kitchen with his family on a Sunday morning, just after breakfast. Getting that “four parent thing” out of the way that early was a great way to set the scene without, you know, just saying “Well, in this lovely community, some (most) families have more than two parents.”

Done for now; I have, you know, the bank and post office to go to, and All-You-Can-Eat wings for $11.95 to eat this afternoon. Life beckons.