Confessions of an Over-Sharer

A blog about how life unfolds during the process of writing a memoir

The Church of Crazy

The Church of Crazy

Dear readers

Today I am sharing something with you that I posted on my new blog,”Santa Claus and Circumcision.” After reading my comments below, please click on the link above.

I originally wrote a memoir in the traditional book format. However, I have since decided to share the chapters of that memoir in blog format instead. Santa Claus and Circumcision will be my place to do this. It will include chapters from my memoir and also shorter more blog-style posts that help me open up further dialogue about the subjects my memoir covers.

The content of this post diverges from the topics I typically tackle in this blog. But, I wanted to share it with you to let you know a little more about where I come from. I hope you will take the chance to visit my new blog as well. And, if you follow me here, please consider following me there too.

Confessions of an Over-Sharer will continue to focus on current relationships, life as part of a polyamorous couple, LGBT equality, gender roles and family life. Santa Claus and Circumcision will speak more to my past and to integrating one’s past into their present. It will also explore the larger issues of the reliability and limits of memory.

Warnings: As you already know I am rather long-winded. But, this post is exceptionally long because it is the first part of my memoir. I have split it into sections so you can read it in pieces if need be. Or, feel free to grab a cup of coffee or tea and find a comfy spot and read it all the way through.

http://santaclausandcircumcision.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading.

The Other Woman

I don’t think you are going to like this post. But, I am going to share it anyway.

I think there are some things that we hold in our collective morality to be black and white, right or wrong. And, when someone is faced with one of these predicaments that typical societal behavior dictates should go a certain way and they pause and consider choosing against what is supposed to be the “right” choice, we aren’t often sympathetic to the internal struggle they might be going through as they ponder their choice.

We encourage them to make the “right” choice or remind them that if they choose the “wrong” thing, they will be relegated to that group of  people who may be still our friends, our sibling, our leaders, our parents or even our partners, but whom we turn up our noses at or talk about in hushed tones. Those we relay our disappointment of through verbal and nonverbal commentary.

I am talking about the cheaters. The “other” women or “other” men of the world.

I have a wide range of friends and family all over on the political spectrum and all over on the faith spectrum and I can barely think of a handful of people who feel indifferent about the concept of cheating. It is a topic that brings about very strong emotions. And, I can understand why. Cheating can break up marriages, come between families . It goes hand in hand with the difficult emotions accompanying deception and betrayal. And, while some couples overcome cheating, the majority don’t. It’s a deal breaker for most. And, on top of the threat cheating makes on our individual relationships, it undermines monogamy. Something that, overall, as a society we value deeply.

By now, I think you can tell that I am someone who doesn’t believe subjects should be taboo. And the more set in our thinking we are about something, the more important I believe discourse is. So, I have been debating sharing something with you for a while because I was worried about what you would think. Writing is the best way I know for me to sort out my thoughts. Especially when I find myself conflicted. I have been avoiding taking my thoughts to paper, because I am afraid to even assert that what many people see as black and white, has been causing me many grey thoughts.

I have been faced with the opportunity (that seems the wrong word) to be the other woman. I haven’t taken this opportunity, but I have genuinely considered it. It has consumed a lot of my thought space. While I am fairly certain that being the “other woman ( a phrase I despise by the way-it almost seems to alleviate the guilt of the person who has cheated on their partner and put it on the person they have cheated with)” is not something that fits in my life, I find that assertion not as easy as I would have thought.

This post will explain to you my current situation and in it I will share with you the slew of thoughts (most of them conflicting each other) that have consumed my mind in the past few weeks.

Some of the thoughts aren’t pretty. Some of them are not mainstream and certainly some of them will be upsetting or unsettling to many people.  But, I am not ashamed of them. We all have thoughts. We all contemplate our beliefs and our morality on issues ( or at least we should).  I am happy that I have come to a place in my life where I am willing to assert my struggles and share not just the conclusion I have come to, but the process of thinking that got me there.

So, I am not looking for agreement on my thought process, but I am looking for the opportunity to express my process with you. But first, I want to make two very important points:

  1. I am not condemning monogamy in any way. I think two people committing to each other and loving each other is beautiful.  I think 3 or more people committing to each other and loving each other is beautiful too. I fully support people’s choice to be monogamous and I fully support those who choose to lead non-monogamous lives. I affirm however love between two consenting adults looks. I was recently told  by a long term friend that my poly relationship “spits in face of monogamy. “  That comment devastated me. I want to be clear, I have come to learn that monogamy in the form that we collectively understand it, doesn’t work for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it can work. I am still in a committed long-term relationship with my partner (almost 10 years) but we welcome other partners into that. That is what works for us, but I don’t think my relationship type is better or worse then monogamy. I have many friends and family members who are monogamous and have beautiful long-term relationships. I think it is an individual choice. And I support the ability to make choices.
  2. This blog post is not meant to condone cheating. It is an exploration of conflicting thoughts. An exploration of admitting to myself and others that what once was incredibly black and white to me is no longer so black and white. Having experienced being both the person cheated on and the person  who cheated, I have watched how much devastation cheating can leave in a relationship, if the relationship even survives. So do not mistake my thought process as endorsement of cheating.

I recently read an article that asserted that a higher percentage of people than ever report cheating as unacceptable.  The article suggested that this was because, in general, we have less of a problem with premarital sex. And, the theory goes that since people can have as much sex as they want before marriage and there isn’t as much pressure to settle down, that once we commit we better be all the way committed. It is an interesting trend. The article also suggested that people were becoming more liberal in several areas, including views on sexuality, except in the area of fidelity.

Here is the situation:

A partner that I have been seeing had been in a long-term relationship (7 years) before we met.  That relationship had ended a few months before we met. I was completely aware of this relationship and knew they were still talking. I knew that it was one of those relationships that the door wasn’t 100% closed. I was aware that at some point, they might try again. I was ok with that, as long as my partner kept me posted on where he was with his ex.

My partner doesn’t identify as “poly” and I am his first partner to have another partner.  His ex doesn’t know anything about me. I think that is fine and not really my decision. What a partner tells an ex is their decision, not mine. As long as  I feel my partner is being transparent with me and any other current partners, I think that is fine.

Well, here is where it gets complicated. A few weeks ago, my partner and his ex decided to give their relationship a try again. I was really sad, because I knew that meant he and I were done since I know his ex is not poly.  But, I understand what it is like to want to give something another shot, so we ended our relationship really abruptly. It was painful and it sucked, but I didn’t want to get in the way of what he was trying to build with her.  I am married. I have a child. He is younger than me and his partner is closer to his age and, like him, not married. He wants to get married and have children, and I can’t exactly offer him that, but he may be able to have that kind of future with her. So, I get why he wanted to try again with her.  Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t this beautiful amicable parting. It was painful and ugly and neither of us handled it well.

So, a week or two goes by and we don’t talk at all and I am just trying to integrate the idea that he isn’t one of my partners anymore. I texted him to tell him I missed him. I know- not the best choice. Well, he texted back that he missed me and wanted to know if we could get together to talk. I, being the type of person who constantly feels to need to have closure and to talk all things out, said “yes.” It didn’t really occur to me that seeing him and talking things out may make things more difficult for me.

When I first got to his house I was stand offish and avoided eye contact, totally something I do when I am hurt. Soon, we were hugging and talking everything out. We got to this great place of understanding with each other. I told him that I thought he was someone I probably would have fallen in love with if we had kept seeing each other. He said he felt the same way.  Hours later, after tons more talking, we looked at each other and both said, almost simultaneously, “I think I already do love you.” So, if we were avoiding complicated, that certainly wouldn’t be the way to do it.  He told me that he wanted to stay together and that he didn’t want us to be over. I asked if he was still trying to make it work with his girlfriend and if she knew about me. He said he was still trying to make it work and that she didn’t know. So, I told him the question was irrelevant. It didn’t matter if we loved each other or if we wanted to still be together, if he was trying to make it work with someone else then that was the answer. I asked him if he ever considered telling her that he loved her and wanted to make it work, but he also wanted to see other people. He didn’t think she would take that well. I can appreciate that.

So, he left it up to me.  She lives several states away, he is here going to school. He said he wanted to be with me and with her. I would have no problem with this, if she knew about it and was ok with it too. But, it doesn’t seem right (there is that word, “right”) that she wouldn’t know. Also, it didn’t seem fair to me that for all practical purposes I would do all the girlfriend duties, but on paper, she would be his girlfriend. He said that he totally understood if I couldn’t be with him. He didn’t pressure me at all, but it was still difficult. Eventually, I left, crying and said if you ever tell her, or if your situation ever changes, call me and we will see where we are at.

Before, I tell you what happened next, let me address something.  Anyone thinking at this point that this guy is a total scumbag and that I’m getting played? Totally possible.

I mean, essentially he is saying he is totally fine with cheating on his girlfriend and asking me to be in a relationship that goes against my value of transparency.  I’m not defending him. I think he is being an ass in a lot of ways. I would never want him as my primary partner, because I wouldn’t know if I could trust him. Arguably, you shouldn’t be with any partner you aren’t sure you can trust. But, he wasn’t lying to me about who he was sleeping with. I was aware of his other partners when we were together and it was a non issue for me.  This begs the question, do you need to trust your other partners in the same way that you trust your primary partner? I am not sure. I think it depends how much of your life you share with them. This partner has proven incredibly trustworthy in other areas and I love the way I feel when I spend time with him. I leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and I love that. He is horrific at being monogamous. From what I understand, he has cheated on almost everyone he has ever been with. He was really upfront about that with me right away. When I was single, if someone said something like that to me I would have stopped seeing them. Being married to me primary partner, there are some things that I let slide in secondary partners, because I am not building a life with them. The idea of expectations and standards in other partners is a blog all its own. But, arguably, even though I wasn’t concerned about him cheating on me, it could have been a red flag about his integrity.

Anyway, after I left his house that night, I started having some serious doubts that I made the best choice for me. I started to think, why not stay with him. Who would it really hurt? In the last few years, I have been trying to give myself the freedom to choice in the direction of happiness and to not always be so worried about what is the “right” choice. Several years ago a friend of mine said that very few things were right or wrong, most things were just choices. We have to live with the choices of our decisions, but most things were not intrinsically right or wrong. That blew my mind! I looked at her like she was nuts. I had never heard someone say something like that. It took several years before I ever entertained the idea that she was right.

I have since come to believe that a lot of morality is subjective. My governing idea is that I try not to make choices that infringe on the ability of choice for another person.  And, I look at the issue of consent a lot to guide me in my choices. If the people involved consent then is it wrong? If there is a party that isn’t consenting then that is a choice that makes sense to say no to. I think about intent a lot too. What is my intention in my action or in the choice I want to make. But, I no longer have this huge list of right and wrong. For the most part, I am happy that I look at things this way now. But sometimes, I miss the way the fear of hell made decisions very clear to me.

I began to wonder if it would really hurt anyone if we stayed together. My husband knew about it and we talked it out during the whole process. My husband, Adam, said he supported me in whatever choice I made. My main goal in being poly is to always be transparent with my husband. I think it is cheating if either of us do something behind the other person’s back. But, aside from that, who do I answer to? I expect my partners to be transparent with me and I guarantee them that I will be transparent with them. I hope that they are transparent with their other partners, but I have no way of policing that. But, where is it my responsibility to be sure my partners are being transparent with their other partners and where is it their responsibility. Am I only responsibly to my husband and my partner? If the three of us are in agreement is that enough.?

I don’t know his girlfriend, she doesn’t know me. She lives far away. What about that whole adage, “what they don’t know can’t hurt them.” As some one who perpetually tells on herself, I always thought that adage was such bullshit. But, this isn’t mine to tell. It would be the responsibility of my partner to tell his girlfriend. But, I know that he wouldn’t. So, that is a little different. I am armed with the information that, for sure, he will not tell her. That is certainly different then trusting someone to tell their partner.

Then I began to think: Well, he will probably cheat on her with someone else anyway so why should I give up something that makes me happy to protect her?” Then I started to think about the negative things I knew about her and I thought about using those to justify staying with him.

Don’t worry,  I hear what I sound like.  Not super flattering, I know. I’m just being honest. Bear with me. Keep reading…

I don’t have any illusions about this man. I think his faults are pretty glaringly obvious. But, I still like him. Mostly, I like how I feel with him. He relaxes me. And, as someone who tends towards being highly stressed, that has been such a nice thing. He make me feel great and really rejuvenated when I return home. So, it isn’t just the idea of breaking up with him, but giving up those things that I was struggling with.

Then there is the whole, what could have been. I was enjoying seeing where our relationship was going, and I am bummed to have such an abrupt ending. I over analyze everything. With him, I was able to just be present and not obsess about things, and that was delightful and rare for me. So, yeah my reasons for wanting to stay with him are/were just as selfish as his motives for not wanting to tell his girlfriend. So it isn’t really an issue of me “being better than that,” because I don’t think I am better than this situation. I think given the right circumstances, most of us are capable of many things “good” or “bad” that we wouldn’t have thought we would be.

I examined my intent. My intent was to be happy, to be fully present in a situation in front of me and to get to know another person. My intent was not to hurt his girlfriend in any way.

I examined the issue of consent: Adam completely consented to me continuing my relationship with this partner if I wanted to and my partner consented to it. But, his girlfriend couldn’t consent because she didn’t know. She wasn’t given the choice to consent. So whose consent do I really need?

I considered the concept of infringing on another’s choice: Was I really infringing on her choice to be with him is she knew nothing about me. Did me being with him, several states away really change their relationship? Could the relationships really be separate? Or is he just an opportunist?

In addition to all of these conflicting thoughts, I kept thinking about my family and about the risks of staying with him. I thought about the fact that my family knew I had broken up with him. If I started spending time with him, I would either have to lie about who I was seeing, or I would have to say that he broke up with his girlfriend. I would have to lie, because I know they wouldn’t approve and I couldn’t live with their disapproval. I have been loosing family and friends left and right for a multitude of reasons and I couldn’t handle the disapproval of the people I have left. That would devastate me and it wouldn’t feel worth it. That being said, I couldn’t lie either. I mean, I could. But, I am really a tell the truth kind of girl. I tell the truth when it probably would be best to just shut up. So, I wouldn’t do well having to keep something a secret.

Last week this partner left for a week to visit his family back home. I was happy because it gave me some time to sort all of these emotions out: What part of this is social pressure? What part of this is selfishness? What part of this is philosophical versus actually plausible? What part of this decision, as a dear friend put it, am I making “above the tits,” What part of it am I making “below the tits?” Who am I answering to? Whom, do I owe a specific response to? Which decision makes me the most happy? Which makes me feel the most authentic? Are they the same.

I spent a week obsessing through all of these things and configuring them in every way I could. When he got back to town and I agreed to pick him up at the bus station, I wasn’t relieved to see him. I was sad. I wasn’t ready to make a choice. His trip had gone too fast.

So, at 8am in the morning in a creepy parking lot, my dog and I waited for him to get off the bus. I hugged him, but I felt like I didn’t know him anymore. Perhaps it was the emotional distance I put between us, knowing the choice I would make. Or perhaps it was that I know he visited his girlfriend and that made him feel foreign to me. I’m not sure. I asked how his trip was and I found myself increasingly jealous as he spoke. Knowing he spent time with his girlfriend. I wasn’t in touch with that altruistic part of me. I thought it sucked. And then, I just cried.  He touched my face and my hair and I pulled away.

“You know I can’t do this,” I say to him. He is sweet and he says he understands. His voice is soft and kind but also sad. I tell him not to be nice, “It makes it worse, “ I smile through crying.

“It’s just, I have given up so much fighting for my identity as a poly person. I have lost family and friends and had my parenting called into question. It has completely sucked and it has been devastating to me in many ways, but I believe in the poly lifestyle for Adam and I so much that I have given up all of that. And so much of what it means to be poly is to have mutual respect and transparency in all levels of our relationships, so how then can I be ok with this when it is so clearly not transparent?”

He just looks at me and says he completely understands my choice and that he wishes it were different. But he doesn’t say it in a pushy way. But rather in a matter of fact tone of voice. I appreciate that he doesn’t pressure me to stay together, but it irritates me that he acts as though he has no power to fix this situation.  I tell him he has the power to make it different, but since I don’t see that happening, that we can’t continue.

We talked for a while and he explained to me that his girlfriend doesn’t have any other family and that he has been it for her for years and that he couldn’t hurt her and that he believes telling her would really hurt her. Logically, I ask, “Isn’t being willing to cheat on her hurting her?” But, I also get what he is saying and somehow seeing how he cares for her makes this a little easier for me.

So, we hugged each other and I told him if his situation ever changes he can call me and we could see where we are both at.  I hugged him and told him that I had a lot of fun and I was glad I had met him. I tried to walk out of his house composed and strong looking.

I got back in my car and pulled out of the driveway. As soon as I hit the street I started sobbing. I cried all the way through town until I hit my exit to get on the highway and then I just stopped crying. I turned up my music, rolled down the windows and just sang at the top of my lungs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible

A few nights ago I spent the evening in the emergency room. I am totally fine. But, my new partner, we are calling him D, has a roommate who is not too brilliant. The roommate had an encounter with a grill  ( he tried to jump over it) that left him with a welt and cut that took up the majority of his leg.

The guy I am seeing is several years younger than me and his roommates are even younger. In some ways it feels fun to revisit my college days, but often I feel like a den mom. Let’s put it this way- I bring my own cup when I go and see him. I won’t even drink out of a “clean” cup ( if I can find one) in their house.

So, being the den mom I took this grill jumper to the emergency room. I had to help him fill out his intake paperwork because he had never done that before-I rarely feel old-but this definitely made me feel old.

D and I were on a date night when this unfortunate grill incident happened. So, he came with me to the emergency room and we had our date there. We just talked in the waiting room for hours and he put his arm around me.  It was really nice.

There was a significantly older woman working at the front desk. Anytime she had a free moment she would just stare at us, often glaring. I could not figure out what her problem was. And then it occurred to me: I am in an interracial relationship. My partner is African American and I am Caucasian.

I wondered if that was what her snicker was about. Part of me dismissed it as a ridiculous thing. Of course that couldn’t be it. But, the part of me that knows that unfortunately racism is still very prevalent wondered if just the site of our romantic interaction upset her. Maybe it was that he had his arm around me and we shared one-super-G-rated type kiss, or maybe it wasn’t about race but it was about the conversation we were having. I thought she was too far away to overhear us, but my voice travels. So, who knows.

Regardless of what caused her snickering, the experience really got to me. The idea that we live in 2013 and race is still a factor makes me mad and sad. When I got home, I told Adam about the woman. This isn’t the first time I have been in an interracial relationship. But, it is the first time that I had the level of  social awareness that I do. I told Adam that the experience had upset me. I knew I was in an interracial relationship but I hadn’t really thought about it. Maybe that is my white privilege that I didn’t consider it. I thought it was because I don’t really see race-but maybe it really is just white privilege.

Adam looked at me and said, “you already are in an interracial relationship-it just isn’t as visible.” It was one of those totally “duh” moments.  How had I not thought of that. Adam was totally right. Adam is Hispanic but only 50% and most people assume he is Caucasian.  Once again, being the Caucasian in the relationship-I hadn’t fully considered what that meant.

I know logically that I am in an interracial relationship with Adam. But, it doesn’t consume much of my thought time. I like that Aimee has various heritages to celebrate but, as strange and as bad as this sounds I forget that my husband is a different ethnicity.

I know that telemarketers call our house and instantly start speaking in Spanish because of our last name. And there have been two times I can recall where Adam was pulled over for speeding and the cops tone negatively changed after reading his driver’s license. Maybe that is racism maybe it was ageism and maybe those two cops just sucked-I am not sure. I know that my husband was called horribly derogatory names in middle and high school. But, I still forget.

We are an invisible interracial couple. I had never thought of it like that before. In some ways we are extended white privilege because of this invisibility. But, the invisibility isn’t a good thing. It is sad. We want to embrace our backgrounds and the backgrounds of all people. We don’t want our daughter to live in a world where assumptions are made based on what people see visibly. People look at her parents and they see a heterosexual, Caucasian and monogamous couple. None of those labels are correct. This realization made me start to think about the several areas of invisibility that are present in our life together.

Let me be clear, I am not complaining about my life. I, for the most part, absolutely adore my life, my family and my friends. But, I think it is important to acknowledge that invisibility exists in my life and in my marriage. Also, I am totally aware that invisibility is not something that is just occurring in my life. And I am certain other people suffer from invisibility on a larger scale than I do. But, I hope that by talking about the areas where invisibility intersects in my life I can bring awareness to the broader issues of invisibility.

 

Bi-invisibility

During pride weekend this year, a friend of mine on Facebook made a comment about the pride parade. She said she didn’t get it. She didn’t get why gay people needed a parade. She said something to the effect of I don’t have a parade about the way I love my husband. It pissed me off. Heterosexual privilege in action. Of course she doesn’t have to have a parade for it. She didn’t have to fight for her marriage to be recognized in a public arena. She didn’t have to endure discrimination at work, at home or in public because of her sexual orientation. When people look at her and her husband they most likely assume that they are a heterosexual couple and in their case, the assumption is right.

Because Adam and I are not a same-sex couple- the majority of people assume we are straight. We are not. Many people we know who are in same-sex couples ( not all of them) assume that we have it easier than they do. And, in some ways they are right. Because of the way we look, heterosexual privilege is extended to us in several areas. Most importantly, we were able to get legally married and share in all the benefits such a legal union extends. I know of a few heterosexual couples who refused to get legally married until their same-sex friends were offered the same rights. I love that act of solidarity. Adam and I have often talked about how we wish we had been one of those couples who waited. We didn’t wait until our same-sex coupled friends had the same rights, but we have tried to always be a voice for marriage equality and to fight alongside our friends and family. Marriage equality isn’t less important to us because we present as a male-female couple-it is vitally important. We need to live in solidarity with our friends.

I would be lying though, if I said that some of the privilege extended to us has made our lives easier-it certainly has. But it is a privilege that is difficult to be grateful for because we see how many people that privilege leaves behind-heterosexual privilege doesn’t necessarily leave Adam and I behind, but it does leave us invisible.

When I lost my job last year because I came out as bisexual, many people criticized me for coming out. The reaction of several people was that I should have shut my mouth. I was assumed heterosexual because I was married to a man. And, if I hadn’t corrected that, maybe I would still have my job. But, I wouldn’t feel like I had my integrity or authenticity. I don’t blame other people who don’t come out at work. Each person makes that decision for themselves. I think it is devastating that we live in a world where sexual orientation, or any protected class for that matter can factor into if someone gets or keeps their job. It makes me sick.

Yes, in this case I could have let people believe I am heterosexual and I wouldn’t have had to go through the pain of unemployment and the stress of financial uncertainty.  But, it took me until I was twenty-six-years-old to come out as bi-sexual, to assert this major part of who I was. And nothing, not even a job could push me back into the closet.  That is why I asserted who I was. Out of pride for who I was, out of the hope of creating a more accepting work environment and out of a strong sense of self.

In addition to feeling bi-invisibility, there are times when I feel separated from even my bisexual friends because Adam and I live a polyamorous lifestyle. We are sometimes afraid to share excitement about new partners with our friends and family of all sexual orientations that are not themselves poly, for fear that they will feel uncomfortable. I will not elaborate more on how our polyamorous lifestyle makes us feel invisible because I plan to share a series of posts on poly life over the next few weeks and I can address this more then.

I read a blog post today where a woman who identifies as queer, said that people look at her in disbelief when she talks about her ex who is a male and then in the same breath comments on how attractive a woman walking by is. I totally understand this. That is bi-invisibility. She also spoke of how she sometimes doesn’t feel like she fits in her predominantly gay circles or predominantly straight circles. I also understand that.

I am lucky to have many great accepting friends and family members. But, proportionately very few of them identify as bisexual.  There have been times when I have been at an event that was predominantly attended by my gay friends, people I absolutely adore, and even still I have felt out of place. The same goes with events that are attended predominantly by my straight friends. Sometimes I just feel…invisible.

 

The Invisible Illness

Depression is often called “the invisible illness.” Many times (not always) you look the same on the outside, you still get up and go to work. Maybe you even laugh at jokes and still have the ability to have fun. Then, some people think, you couldn’t be that depressed. Or they dismiss depression as a mood swing or something that will pass. Depression is often trivialized, leaving the person suffering from depression to feel smaller-invisible even.

Unless you have struggled with depression or loved someone who has, it is easy to think depression isn’t that bad or to judge someone and assume they could just get better if they tried harder. I almost ruined my relationship with Adam because I falsely believed that if he put in enough effort he would get better. It wasn’t until he was hospitalized for being suicidal that I woke up and realized how big and all consuming depression can be. For the one suffering from it and the ones they love.

I have also struggled with depression and Adam has always extended much more empathy to me than I was ever able to give to him. It is one of the reasons that I think he is such a great man.

Adam suffered from depression for almost 13 years before getting the help he needed. Adam has been on medication for depression almost two years now and his depression has been doing so much better.  But that doesn’t mean it is gone. I no longer have to make sure he takes his meds or ask him if he is suicidal-a blessing I am grateful for every single day. But, depression is still a part of our lives. For a long time, it consumed our lives, and it consumed our marriage.

Even though we know so many people who suffer from depression, there was never a time we felt more alone than when Adam was in the midst of his depression.  It was a mixture of our fear of reaching out and the fear other people had in talking to us about it that led to our feeling isolated. People don’t know how to talk to you when you say you were institutionalized. People don’t really know how to talk about depression, or mental illness in general. Our national dialogue on mental illness has come a long way, but mental illness is still stigmatized and often comes with a level of blame on the person that other types of illnesses do not.

I had never thought about mine and Adam’s experiences with depression as an area of invisibility, but now I so clearly see it that way.

 

Not Your Average Drag Queen

I don’t think invisible is a word many people often associate with drag queens. Most of the drag queens I know are anything but invisible.- I think that is part of the point of drag-to be out there and to entertain.

As many of my readers know, Adam is an occasional drag queen. This often meets with great surprise even from other queer identified people. Adam is a musician, singer and performer, so I don’t think it is that odd. But, many people think the concept of a bisexual man, with a female partner being a drag queen is strange. Drag certainly isn’t reserved for only gay men, but I think that is often the first image that comes to people’s minds.

We had a friend who the first time they saw Adam in drag  commented, “wow Adam sure makes a better looking man than a woman.” I know this person to have many friends who are drag queens-gay men who are drag queens. I am sure the comment was not meant with ill-intent-in fact I am positive it wasn’t-but it sort of illustrates a point that Adam’s reception in drag isn’t the same as his gay counterparts.

This mixed response to him in drag has causes him to pause dressing in drag for a while. In addition to the invisibility that he feels as a bi-man in drag ( we are sure there are other bi-men who dress in drag but we just don’t know them and our friends don’t seem to either) he struggles with body consciousness. Adam is neither a thin man nor a big man. For the most part he is average sized with the small beer belly that comes with college eating, late night snacking and trying to balance work and fatherhood.

When I asked him why he was pausing drag, I was surprised when he said that he felt there were not many drag queens his size.  I am sure there are some, but again we mostly know (and see on TV) either very fit drag queens or very voluptuous ones- he wasn’t sure where there was a place for an average size queen. I argued that this is exactly the reason he should keep doing it-to pave way for more average size drag queens. But, I don’t blame him for putting it on pause. It is hard when you don’t see people like yourself echoed in your community.

I thought about discussing the drag invisibility in the section on bi-invisibility, because in Adam’s case I think that part of his feeling invisible in the drag community is because he is a bisexual man married to a female partner. But, there is the bi-invisibility piece and the body size piece, so I thought it was an issue worthy of its own section.

 

Fat Invisibility

I despise the word fat. In fact, when Aimee called someone fat I was far more enraged and disappointed than I have ever been hearing her say the other F word. I go out of my way to never call anyone else or myself fat or oven obese. I am not a fan of the term “thick girls” either.  I try to avoid the topic of weight at all costs, but if I do have to talk about my weight, I call myself  “overweight.”

The negative media attention women get, and the pictures of larger women’s butts being passed around on Facebook as laughing material, would suggest that plus-size (one of the better terms) women are plenty visible. But, the visibility we are getting, when we get any is typically negative. Again, there are exceptions. There is a rise in belief in health at any size and in adipositivity.

But, as someone who has been overweight her entire life, I can say that it isn’t so much the bad looks or comments that I get that hurt ( though they do as well), it is the lack of looks all together and the lack of  good comments. I am lucky. I don’t like being overweight, but I have always managed to have decent self esteem. There is definitely room for improvement, but I genuinely think I am pretty (though until recently I would have only been ok with the term cute).  I still worry, though, that other people won’t think I am pretty or hot.  I think that concern previously stemmed from my own negative areas of self-esteem. But these days I think it stems  much more from my awareness of how we as a society treat overweight women.

Being overweight is another one of those areas where it is easier to blame the person than to try to understand them. Someone who is overweight is “lazy” or doesn’t care about themselves.

The other day I was at the gas station and I drove up to the pump. I took a minute to get out of the car because I was digging through my purse for my check card, answering a question my daughter asked from the back seat and finishing a text message. There wasn’t a wait behind me and then all of a sudden there was a truck behind me waiting for my pump. So I hurried out of the car and tried to fill up my tank so the driver behind me could have my spot. He revved his engine, drove past me glaring and then parked his car perpendicular to mine right in front of me so I couldn’t get out. From there, he proceeded to yell at me in front of my daughter.

“ What were you doing in your car? Don’t you care that other people are waiting you selfish b****!” He then proceeded. “ oh of course you don’t care-look at you-look at your body-it is obvious you don’t care for yourself, so how could you care for anyone else.”

I said nothing. I just looked at my feet. He drove away. I decided he wasn’t worth it. But, my daughter was in the car and I wondered if I should have stood up for myself. I told my daughter that that man was lying and that we shouldn’t treat each other that way. She smiled and said, “ I know mommy.”

I have had other instances of this kind of hate just because I am overweight. But, the majority of the hate comes in averted eyes, failure to notice me at all, intentional avoidance, or in my dating profile being overlooked because all someone can see is my weight and not me.

There is no area in my life that I have felt more invisible in. Because my struggle with my weight has been life long. Despite strides I have made in my own health, mental and physical, I am so cautious to talk to anyone about my weight.  I am worried that I won’t be met with empathy or understanding but rather with judgment.

So, like the story with the guy at the gas station, I say nothing. One year, for my birthday a group of my girlfriends bought me some really nice clothes. They bought me clothes in  sizes 1x and 2x. I was devastated that they knew my correct size without having to ask me. I had been shoving myself into large and xl clothes for years because my mom had taught me to go for the smallest pants size I could. But,  I found that when I put on the clothes they gave me that were in my correct size, I felt really pretty. Since then, I have tried really hard to always remember that experience and not get so hung up on label size.

Other than talking to Adam, I have only mentioned my weight in the occasional conversation. If I can pretend that I am not overweight and you don’t say anything about it than I can pretend that you avoidance isn’t your discomfort with my weight or with the subject area, but that you simply haven’t noticed that I am overweight. I realized that by being so afraid to acknowledge something that is factual, I am overweight, I have allowed isolation and invisibility to perpetuate in my life.

I have never told anyone, other than Adam that I am constantly aware of my posture and the clothes I am wearing because I am terrified someone will ask me if I am pregnant. Sometimes I ask Adam if I look pregnant before we go out somewhere. This fear was validated several years ago by a woman at a rummage sale who asked me when I was due. Unable to grasp for a witty remark I simple said, “not pregnant” and walked away.

To this day I catch myself walking with my purse in front of my stomach to avoid anyone noticing it. No one has ever said anything about this habit, or about how I always sit on the couch holding a pillow in front of me. Until, this past year, a man I know called me out on the fact that I always kept something in front of my stomach when I hung out with him. I was mortified that he noticed, but also relieved he noticed. He was very gentle about it and he made me feel seen and understood. He had noticed I was hiding and let me know that around him that wasn’t necessary. To be acknowledged in that way, even though there was an element of embarrassment in it really helped me evolve positively in the way I see myself.

I still resent that overweight men don’t have to worry about being mistakenly called pregnant. I think men who are overweight struggle with discrimination too, but I think our society finds it more unacceptable for a woman to be overweight and certainly there is far more commentary on women’s looks. Male privilege. I am not undermining that many men have struggles with weight, self esteem and eating disorders. I think those men are often invisible too. But, that does not negate the existence of male privilege in this area.

Yes, I have overweight friends and family. But, I often find myself in situations where I am the biggest person in the room or one of the biggest people. I, like my other friends who are overweight, try to compensate for it with my other qualities. I have gone through fazes of being extra nice,  promising unbelievable loyalty, pushing up my boobs to make them the first thing people notice and letting it be known that I am pretty easy to get into bed . I have done all of these as ways to compensate for my size. I still do all four of those things at times, but now it is because I want to not because I am using them to cover for a perceived deficit.

Several of my friends and family who are average or even thin have body image issues too, so I in no way think this problem is exclusive to me or even to people who present as overweight. My friends who are average size and struggle with self image struggle with a different type of invisibility-people may not know they are struggling because they look healthy on the outside.

I struggle with invisibility because people literally fail to look at me and often when they do, they don’t see me.  Or, they do see me and pity me. They think because I am overweight that I must be unhappy or have problems at home. Some people wonder how I can have sex or if I even do (I am actually a lot more flexible than several of my average size friends/partners FYI). Or, they assume that the partners I have  are “chubby chasers, ” a term I find incredibly demeaning all around. Still others wonder how I can keep up with my daughter or are surprised to hear that I swim laps most days of the week or that I love to dance.

There are moments when someone obviously adverts their eyes or says something like the asshole at the gas station and I want to be like “ Really? I am sleeping with two people- how much sex are you getting?” and just watch the look on their face.

Touché.

 

The Invisible Homeless Present in Many Ways 

I have been homeless three times in my life. Most people who know me don’t know that. Or, they do know but don’t think to consider the situations I have been in as “homelessness.” The first time I experienced homelessness I was twelve and my family lost their home and we had to live in a hotel. We lived in the hotel until the money ran out and then moved into the upstairs of my mom’s boss’s house. We were beyond lucky that we had shelter-but we only had transient housing for some time.

The second came when Adam lost his job because of mental health issues, our daughter was young and I was home with her, so I wasn’t working either. When he lost his job we had no income and had to give up our apartment. We were blessed because my aunt took us in.

The third time was this past year, after I lost my job. Despite the amazing amounts of financial help from my in-laws while I searched for a job, I still couldn’t find work soon enough for us to keep our apartment.  Again, we were blessed by family and my in-laws took us in. But, we had to give our home and move half way across the country in order to have shelter.

We have amazing family and friends. And it is because of that that most people were not aware of how much financial trouble we were in. We were still able to go to friends houses and even to events because friends and families would secretly pay for our tickets. Family members would help with our rent and our gas money.

Someone bought our Christmas tree for us and another friend gave us money for ornaments. We still had a car because we had help paying our car payment and insurance from my in-laws. Aimee still went to daycare because we got a scholarship. We kept our dog because my mom bought him for us and my in-laws gave us the money to keep him fed and healthy.

We still hosted dinner parties because I am really good at finding the best food at the food shelf and because we had food stamps. Most people didn’t know or realize that this was how we could have people over for dinner or provide dessert when we hosted cards. We didn’t want them to know. Like most people struggling financially, we wanted to keep our lives as close to normal as we could, we wanted to live with what dignity we could and we acknowledged that there was a stigma surrounding poverty.

It was extremely hard to go to friends houses who were financially stable. We wanted to celebrate people’s promotions and enjoy events at their great homes. We were beyond grateful for the invitations and the friendships. But, there were moments when Adam and I would stand in the homes of our friends and just feel so invisible-realizing that this was so far from our own reality.

We would smile at parties and enjoy great conversation and on the way home cry because we weren’t sure how we would get more toilet paper.

I am not trying to tell a sob story. We have struggled but I am aware how lucky I am. For one, I acknowledge that we live in a country where we have opportunities for advancement that people in other countries may not.. Secondly, I acknowledge that we live in a family that would never allow us to live out on the street. And third, I acknowledge the blessing it is that I have never gone without health insurance and neither has Adam or Aimee. I know that is not true for so many people.  I am so aware that many people do not have the opportunities we do. And, I try to remain focused on gratitude for those things.

When I worked as a caseworker for people in poverty, every time I looked at my clients who lived on the streets I absolutely thought “but for the grace of god go I (that isn’t exactly what I thought- my thoughts on “the grace of god” are for another time-but it is the closest phrase to the sentiment I felt). But for as many clients as I had that lived on the streets, I had clients who were one paycheck away from losing their home, who had enough money for rent but not for food, or who couch hopped to stay off the streets. Their poverty was invisible to most people. They still had cars and the clothes they wore before they lost their jobs-just like Adam and I did.

There are tons of people who do not present as homeless but may be or may be just a step away from homelessness. That kind of financial stress is ostracizing. I am not ignoring the reality here. There are thousands of people who live on the streets.

The city I was raised in has a huge problem with invisible homelessness. People squat in old buildings or under bridges and they are not as visible as in some other cities- where homeless people are actually seen on the streets-but poverty and homelessness is still a huge problem in my hometown-in part because it is so invisible that people fail to acknowledge its existence. And, when there is a failure to acknowledge a problem steps cannot be made for change.

 

Prejudice and Invisibility

As I said before, there are people who deal with invisibility in much bigger ways than Adam and I do. I acknowledge this and I assert gratitude for the network of people and opportunities in my life. But, I have learned that the fact that other people may have different or deeper instances of invisibility does not negate that it is alive and well in our personal lives.

Invisibility is not only at work in mine and Adam’s life, it is pervasive in our culture. I believe that invisibility and prejudice go hand in hand. I think it is so important to exam our biases and educate one another to eliminate these prejudices. This is crucial if we wish to create a world for our children and ourselves where we feel celebrated and visible.

If anything, looking at the areas of invisibility in my life has made we aware of a solidarity I feel with the other people who are invisible. Not just in the areas that I am, but in all areas. Perhaps this is where empathy stems from-from our own areas of invisibility. I know that in my life it is where activism stems from.

I am incredibly passionate about bisexual visibility, finding an end to racism, body positivity, ending homelessness and poverty, suicide prevention and alternative treatments for depression. It hasn’t occurred to me to look at it through this lens before. I am now totally aware that my areas of invisibility have caused me to stand up for the visibility of others in those areas.

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Dear readers: Can you relate to any of these areas of invisibility? Have you ever failed to recognized an area of invisibility in someone else’s life or an area of privilege in your own ( I know I have)? What are the areas of invisibility in your own life? What are the areas of privilege? Have you considered the concepts of invisibility and privilege? What are your thoughts. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to share in the comments section. And, as always, thank you for reading.

BALANCING LIFE WITH A HUSBAND AND A BOYFRIEND

I have been seeing someone new.

I really didn’t expect him, or the realizations I would have from meeting him.

A few months ago my husband (Adam), daughter and I moved to a new state.  Adam and I decided that we would put dating on hold for a while until we settled in. We agreed that if anyone came into our life unexpectedly then it would be fine to pursue it, but we decided to take a break from actively seeking out new partners.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend of mine and I met his roommate and right away we hit it off.

I really like him.

Adam and I have been polyamorous for about a year and a half now and we have met some really great people and some people that, well, would make for some very good stories.

For the most part, we have either been interested in the same partners or only entered into very casual short-term relationships. It has just worked out that way so far.

So, when I met this guy I thought he was great fun, but I thought it would be a one night-casual sort of thing.

I was wrong.

We have been seeing a lot of each other.  We have been having a great time, but this brings up lots of questions.  For example, the question of how I split my time. I am a wife and a  mother and I am making a career switch. So where does a new interest fit into that? And how can I balance my time to make it fair to everyone? Another question is the inevitable “what are we/ where is this going?” talk that I will have to have with the new guy.

We usually date people who identify as polyamorous as well, and often people involved in a couple. It helps when all parties are coming from a similar perspective. But, this guy is single and doesn’t identify as poly. So, in addition to figuring out how Adam and I should navigate this, I realized that this may be quite difficult for the him to navigate too.

I know the hurdles that I have to go through as a married woman dating someone else, but I hadn’t considered the hurdles he encounters dating a woman who is married. If “dating” is even the right word-that is where the inevitable “where is this going” conversation comes in.

Well, we started “the talk” last night, but before I get to that, let’s back up to dinner.

Normally, Adam and I meet the person the other is interested in before anything happens. There are a few exceptions and in this case a text message of approval from Adam was enough for me to proceed. But, no relationship is going to go that far if the person isn’t willing to meet Adam, or in his case, me.

I am surprised at how many people are willing to meet us right away. I give these people a lot of credit. That takes confidence and it never ceases to impress me.  I am not sure if it was reversed and I was single if I would go over to someone’s house that I was interested in to meet their spouse.

Adam and I are getting pretty good at the awkward first dinners. Because, as I said several people haven’t made it too far past the first dinner. So there have been a few…

But, the timing with this guy worked out different and  we actually saw each other a few times before Adam got to meet him. So, I was a little nervous to pitch the idea of the two of them meeting to the new guy. He gets major brownie points with Adam and I, because not only did he have dinner with us, he came to our home for dinner.

And of course the first few minutes were horrible awkward.

“uhhhh what do you want to drink? Water? Oh Adam likes water too.” Awkward silence. Adam tugs at the collar of his shirt.

Thankfully, someone starts in on the conversation of music and movies and the tone of the conversation relaxes from there. At the end of the night the new guy ( let’s call him D so he isn’t stuck as the new guy) said he was surprised how much more comfortable it was. Adam and I try really hard to make it as comfortable as possible, but it isn’t the easiest of situations.

But there is more to consider for the dinner than awkward conversations. Who do I sit by? If D wants to hug me or kiss me is that fine? Do I kiss them  both? When we watch a movie later in the evening who puts their arm around me? Do I welcome this D into my bed at home or is that bed only for Adam and I?

The answer: there is no right answer. It is whatever all three people feel is most comfortable.  So there is a lot of feeling things out throughout the night. For us, we feel most comfortable allowing the guest to be affectionate, so they feel welcome and not like a third wheel. But, let’s face it, if you are not polyamorous, even if you have been told it is fine, there is something scary about putting your arm around or kissing someone else’s wife in front of them.

But, overall the dinner was a great success.

So, with Adam’s blessing we kept ummm “dating”.  But, as things progress Adam and I had to have the conversation about time. How often can I see D and be fair to everyone involved? Adam and I need guidelines to help us figure things like this out, but most of them are rules of thumb, there are not a lot of hard lines because relationships evolve and so do we. So, we decided that I should see D at least once a week, but not usually more than twice unless it was a specific set of circumstances, like I saw D when Adam was at work and it didn’t cut into our marriage time. For Adam, one or two times sounded good, but three felt like an imposition into our time together which we both want to protect. So, that is how we came up with our rule of thumb, we tried a number of times and felt it out. We have a tradition now. When I am on my way home from D’s house, no matter what time of night, I call Adam and we talk all the way home. I tell him everything about the night and he has the opportunity to ask me anything about it that he wants. That way, when we see each other when I get home we can hold each other really tight, reaffirm our love for each other and feel confident about the level of transparency between us.

I realized yesterday that seeing D makes me a better wife and a better mom. It may seem counterintuitive, but when I go out with him, I am taking time for me, to explore a different part of my being, so when I come home to Adam and my daughter I am ready to be present for them. In fact, I feel better than I have felt most of the year. Losing my job last year hit me really hard, especially in the area of self confidence, an area that I usually feel strong in. So, to have a new affirming relationship in my life on top of the already great affirming relationships in my life, feels really great.  Being able to date D make me so proud to be in the marriage that I am in and makes me feel incredibly grateful towards Adam, which in turn shows in my actions towards him. And, as for my daughter. I have spent so much time at home this year because of my employment situation that, while I love her immensely, I just need time away. So, when I get back from a night where I am not required to have mom duties, I feel refreshed and better able to be attentive to her.

I have no doubt that being poly makes me a better version of myself. I know it makes Adam a better husband, and I really believe it makes me a better wife and mom. I am glad all the time that Adam and I chose this life. It certainly isn’t always easy and it comes with its share of awkwardness, risks and heartaches. But, for us, it is totally worth it.

Since D and I are in the midst of our “where is this going” talk, I will save that for another time. I plan to be sharing more with you about poly life soon. I think this relationship is bringing up some really great questions that I think poly people should consider and I would love to share my process with you as Adam and  I work through those questions.

As always thanks for reading. Please feel free to share any dating stories you have in the comments section. Or, if you have a specific question related to poly dating please feel free and ask and I can tell you my take on it. I guarantee the answer will be different for other couples and individuals since poly life is so unique to each couple, but I would love to share my answer.

RAWR!!!!!!!!

I am certainly not immune to the occasional ( or frequent) parenting fopaux. But, I have been sitting on a truly stellar parenting moment for a few months now wondering if I should share it with all of you.

Let me set the scene: A few months ago a dear friend of mine, her three-year-old daughter, my four-year-old daughter and I went to Disney world. There were many moments of great fun, but we took a three and a four-year-old so of course there were some not so great moments. Among them was my daughter running away from me at Epcot and hiding in the bushes ( lucky for me she stormed off  so loudly that I could follow her screams). I crouched down and tried to talk to her only to realize that from the perspective of people walking by my daughter wasn’t visible. So on our last night at Disney, I became the crazy woman outside the park talking to the bushes- the person that other parents pulled their kids in closer to keep away from.

Wanting to make the most of our trip, we decided to extend the vacation to visit my mom. We stayed with her a few days before and after the Disney trip. By the time we got back to my mom’s I was beyond exhausted. I rarely give my daughter sugar and the Disney trip reminded me why. Sharing a bed and two plane rides with her were not among my favorite moments of the trip.  Before the trip she had been experiencing some behavior issues. We never really had the terrible 2s with her, but we were definitely experiencing what our doctor has dubbed “ the fuckin 4s. “

Anyone who knows me knows I would not be classified as a patient person. I really only like noise when I am making it and I get sensory overload really easily. So, the first night back from the trip I spent some time with friends in the area to regroup and let my mom and daughter hang out.  When I got back, she still wasn’t sleeping. I was just going to leave it alone. I was going to crash on the couch. But, my mom insisted I share the bed with my daughter.  Aimee wasn’t in the mood for sharing the bed either. I really can’t blame her. But, I was too tired to argue so I asked her to scoot over and share the bed. Well, apparently it is incredibly insulting to her to be asked to sleep on the inside of the bed- who knew. She began kicking and screaming. A more rested more composed version of myself would have asked her to correct her behavior and left the room.

This is the route I went instead:

I looked at her and I said, “If you don’t stop that behavior right now I am going to growl at you!

I proceeded to explain to her that I read this in a parenting magazine somewhere. I have since decided that I did not read it in a parenting magazine but that I, in fact, read it in a pet magazine that was explaining how to let your dog know who is dominant. But, at 3 in the morning, that article and a paper I had read once about throwing a tantrum they way your kid does to show them how silly they look, turned into a threat to growl.

You can see where this is going right?

Of course she acted up again and in the interest of wanting to be consistent with my parenting, I growled.

But, let’s be honest, I didn’t just growl. I went for it. I put my hands up in the air like you do when you pretend to be a bear and I ROARED!

She looked at me with giant eyes and started crying “mommy I peed!”

Yep. I roared at my daughter and scared her so bad she peed in the bed. Awesome.

I instantly felt horrible and held her and helped her get new clothes on ( just saying, if I had just been growled at I wouldn’t let the growler hold me right away but that’s just me…). To make matters worse, my mom heard it all from the other room.

You know the mom I have written about before, the one that I don’t often see eye to eye with? Yeah she heard my shining star parenting moment. So, of course, she intervened. She sat on the end of the bed and looked at Aimee and I. Again, I should have told her it wasn’t her place but I was too tired and defeated.

“I think there is something I should tell you,” she says solemnly as she looks at me.

“What?” I say balancing my devastation of scaring my daughter and the annoyance I feel towards my mom’s intrusion.

“I think Aimee thinks you are going to turn into a bear,” she says in front of Aimee.

“What?” I say totally confused.

She looks at Aimee. “Honey do you think mommy is going to turn into a bear?” she asks in a soft and completely serious voice.

Aimee emphatically nods her head yes.

I mean my performance was pretty convincing (I was in drama club in high school) but I was more than confused as to why she actually thought I was going to turn into a bear.

“I think you need to tell her you aren’t going to become a bear,” my mom chides.

“Why do I need to tell her that- of course people can’t be bears !” I snap.

So, instead of explaining it to me, she looks at Aimee. “Honey don’t worry mommy’s can’t be bears, or grandmas, or grandpas or aunties. People can’t turn into bears. People can’t turn into bears,” my mom repeats several times.

I raise my eyebrow at her for an explanation.

“ We rented the movie Brave the other night when she was over and it really scared her. SPOILER ALERT: The mom turns into a bear. Aimee spent the rest of the night asking us if that could happen. We tried to reassure her that it couldn’t. And now you growled at her…”

Here is what is going on in my head after this little insight from my mother:

1. WTF

2. WTF???????!!!!!

3. No wonder I believed so many crazy things growing up-repeating that people can not become bears over and over is certainly not the best way to convince a child of that fact. If Aimee didn’t think I was going to be a bear before this, my mom’s pep talk certainly moved her in that direction.

4.Why didn’t you tell me that Aimee got scared during a movie?

5. Why the hell didn’t you just turn off the movie?

and

6. Shit that is inconvenient timing

I had the distinct feeling that this unnecessarily prolonged discussion would continue if I didn’t say something. So, despite my better judgment, I reached out to Aimee, cupped her face and as sincerely as possible said, “I promise I will never turn into a bear.”

Apparently this satisfied my mother and she headed to bed. I crawled into bed with Aimee and I said I was sorry. I told her that sometimes parents get super stressed out and don’t make the best decisions. I asked her if she actually believed I was going to be a bear and she looked at me and said,”No. I just cried because I didn’t like your hot smelly breath.”

Given that it was the middle of the night and I had roared directly in her face, I thought that was reasonable. I smiled (because even when she sucks, my kid is pretty awesome) and waited until she fell asleep.

As soon as Aimee fell asleep I got up to call Adam. I woke him up in the middle of the night ( he wasn’t on the trip with us) and as soon as he picked up the phone I started sobbing, “I roared at her!”

He tried to be empathetic with what little information I gave him. “you roared at who sweetie?” he asked gently, “It’s ok. I’m sure you didn’t mean to ( he said with a dangling question mark after it)?” I sob harder and eventually calm down enough to tell Adam the whole story.

Adam had been really bummed he missed the trip. Yet, after that conversation, he seemed to be ok that he wasn’t able to come.

Nothing ever came from this whole bear scenario. I did not become one (that would have been a cool ironic ending to this post though-right?) and neither did anyone else in the family. The only thing that came from it was the heaping guilt I felt about it for weeks.

But, unlike my mother, I did not want to reassure Aimee insistently that I wasn’t a bear. So, I had to hope that the rest of my good parenting made more of an impression than the one-time-nighttime roar.

She seems to have come out of the experience rather unscathed. I do, however, occasionally catch her lifting her hands like claws and growling at the cats when she wants them to listen. We might have to talk about that…

Neigh

I know the conventional wisdom: You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do even if it is a good thing and, an even lesser favorite, Life’s not fair. I get that. I really do. But, I still think that advice sucks. Those two adages that are far easier doled out then received. I guess I am not as zen as I would have hoped.

I found myself sitting in front of my computer screen tonight watching the Facebook messager waiting for a response or at least a confirmation that he had seen my message. I knew he was on. The green light by his name said so. Not sure why I sat there and waited. As I typed my message I looked over at my husband and said “ You know he isn’t going to write back.”

So, why do I do this time and time again. I put myself in these situations where I reach out to people who are, for whatever reason or series of reasons, not in the same place I am. I want to catch up with them or find resolution ( you know I love me some resolution). I am not sure what they want. They’re not talking. Apparently I am not good with non verbal cues.  I am not great at letting things go. And, I like to control situations, so you-know- those are great qualities. Those qualities lead me to sending messages that I should know from experience will not get a response. (Ahh an opportunity for another obnoxiously accurate adage: Fool me once…)The ex that I can’t seem to apologize to enough, that random friend who I really only knew for a few months but I felt a great connection with until she just stopped talking, and the one that really gets me: my cousin.

That is who I was waiting for tonight. He had been my best friend once. I called him, “Neigh”. We were less than a year a part and as children I wanted to be wherever he was. My favorite childhood picture is of the two of us staring out the window. I can’t remember what had caught our curiosity, but that picture reminds me of all the wonder we shared. When his little brother came along a few years after us, the three of us had many adventures. When I was in middle school, they moved to another state and I remember feeling like my heart was breaking. They were the only cousins I had on my mom’s side of the family. I had cousin’s on my dad’s side, but only saw them a few times a year.  Through a series of family dramas the family divided and geography became only one type of distance between us. Our parents chose sides and we were young enough that our sides were chosen for us.

Other than at the funerals of our grandparents, just a few years later, I haven’t seen them. Every couple of years I would look them up in the white pages or google them to see what they were up to. I wrote a letter once, dialed a few numbers, and once made it through. I heard my aunt call me “peanut” as she always did when I was a child and heard my younger cousin’s now manly voice. I thought it meant we would stay in each other’s lives but it didn’t work out that way. That was in college, I haven’t heard any of their voices since.  The last time I remember talking to Neigh was to try and comfort him at our grandfather’s funeral.  We must have talked at my grandmother’s funeral- but I don’t’ recall. My grandfather’s funeral was the first time I ever saw Neigh cry that wasn’t from rough housing too hard or falling from grandma and grandpa’s tree.

I wanted to be just like him as a child and have always wondered what kind of an adult he has become. I have never stopped wondering about my two cousins. I always wondered what version of the family story they got, if they missed me, if they thought of me. I wondered what their lives were like. I grew up and made new friends and made a life for myself, but I was bonded to them in a way that you don’t just forget.

When I finally gave in to Facebook this past year I thought I would look them up. My mom’s brother was not on- in fact he seems to have fallen off the grid. From what I hear my aunt and uncle divorced years ago. I reached out to my aunt but no response. I looked for both my cousins but only found Neigh. Oddly enough my cousin’s aren’t even friends with each other. This only led to more questions- do my cousins not speak to each other? They are brothers. I would find a deep sadness in that. When I sent Neigh a friend request, I wasn’t sure what I would get. I was surprised and delighted to see him accept my friend request.

If you have ever read this blog before, it will come as no surprise that I wasted no time bombarding him with questions. I was worried he wouldn’t give me the chance to talk to him, so I just laid out all my crazy in one big Facebook message. I told him everything I was taught to believe on my side of the family divide and the way my views have changed. I gave him my whole life story. I asked him if he remembered our grandparent’s as I did. I was hoping to rely on him to clarify several hazy childhood memories. I just barged into his life in my over sharing style filled with excitement at the potential for reunion and for catharsis that I had been waiting for.

I am not sure what I had expected to happen. No, that’s not true. I had dreamed of the moment we reunited- where the three of us would sit down and talk. We would admire with pride the adult the other had become. I always imagined  our reunion in a living room on a giant couch- actually the couch of their childhood home- sharing about our lives for hours- crying and hugging.

It is hard for me to key in to the rational adult side of my brain and consider the many flaws in my plan. Most especially that my plan involved two other adults and that perhaps their aim was not reunion or catharsis. I saw that he viewed my message and I waited for months for a response.

Then our aunt got sick. I felt like it was my responsibility to tell him. So, I turned to my good ol friend Facebook messaging and left this graceful message:

 “I know you didn’t respond to my last message, but I want you to know that I got a call today that aunt Nancy has only 48 hours to live-I have the telephone number if you want it- I haven’t really talked to her in a long time..I wanted you to know”

I always want all the information all the time, so I make the false assumption that other people do too. There is not a hint of malice in my intent but yet it occurs to me (after sending the message) that perhaps my cousin does not want to find out about our ill aunt from an online message. Perhaps, he doesn’t want to know at all. That notion, however, does not stop me from sending the following message the next day:

“She just died- thought you should know



”

Then nothing.

That was in August.

Today, I was online and I saw that little green light tempting me so I decided to step in the direction of hope even though I was armed with evidence to the contrary. I thought I would give it once last try. After all, he didn’t unfriend me after all of that. So I messaged him. Instead of something so heavy I went with “Hi.” I waited… no response and then the green light was gone.

So, assuming he got offline to avoid me (self-centered or true? You decide), I decided to  unfriend him. Seems counterproductive, I admit. But, I am a self admitted control freak and at least unfriending him was doing something-  I was taking some kind of action. I do not know how to sit idly by ( there is room for a nod to yet another adage here but I am getting adage-ed out). I guess in some ways I seem to do better with finality than the unknown. But, the truth is, at least on some level I am never going to stop dreaming of that conversation on that big comfy couch where the three of us catch up on our lives. That is why I didn’t just unfriend him, I explained why I was unfriending him. I do this sometimes. I call it the “soft unfriend” that is like a “soft no” in which there is room for possibility. That went something like this:

“Ok. Not trying to bug you. Saw that you were on and thought I would try again to reach out. Not sure why you are my FB friend if you ignore my messages. But, I get that you don’t really know me anymore. I just hope you are well and I welcome an opportunity to talk to you should you ever want it. My email is _____ and I hope that at some point you will want to talk with me. Sorry if I have intruded on your life after all these years. I have so many questions and just genuinely care that you are well. But, I need to realize that that may not be where you are at. So, I am going to unfriend you now. You can friend me again on here anytime if you want to reach out or email me at the above address. Be well.”

I read these things after I write them and think: who is the woman who writes these messages? She really puts her crazy out there. Well, that might be true. But, I am ok with it. Because no one can ever say that I didn’t try. I make my life messier than it needs to be at times, that is true. Certainly messier than a lot of people would choose- but I am in it. I am honest and authentic to the best of my ability and I am down in the nitty gritty of my life and I am owning it- mess and all. Besides there is a lot at stake here.

This is bigger than just a bond from childhood. This is our family’s story. It is hard to write a memoir when so many of the voices are missing.

I know a memoir is primarily from my perspective, but I think the best memoirists do research outside of themselves. There are so many questions and gaps that I can’t answer or even speak to- parts of the puzzle that the perspective I was raised in do not address. There are old photos to be shared and memories of our grandparents to write down and compare.

There is another generation now. The generation above us is still divided, but all the more reason for us not to be. Why fight our parent’s fight. Our grandparent’s are dead and our aunt is dead. That only leaves my mom and aunt who raised me and I know their perspective well but my cousin’s do not, and my aunt and uncle who hold stories and perspectives that I know nothing of, but wish to.

We are all that is left. If my cousin’s don’t have children our family name dies with them. We are a tiny family now and a broken one as well but there are still so many stories to be told. As a writer, as a lover of archives, as a mother and as a member of this family it crushes me to know how many stories died with our grandparents and our aunt and; how many family heirlooms got thrown to the wayside and their meanings and their meanings along with them.

From what I have been able to gather, Neigh seems really Intelligent. A little snarky and sarcastic maybe. A bit of dark humor and a skeptical eye. All things I can appreciate. It seems he might be a writer too- and thus, I assumed that he would have a similar love for history and story as I do. Maybe he does. The problem is, I just don’t know, and I don’t need a stale adage to remind me that that sucks.

Rose Petals

Do you ever have one of those moments where a certain thing or smell hits you and you are instantly transported to a specific memory?

That happened to me twice today. I walked into the craft store and there was an overwhelming smell of rose petals (the artificial smell). It stopped me for a moment. I found myself emotional, almost teary eyed. I remembered my first baby doll that my Aunt gave me for Christmas. It was so scented with rose petals that you could smell it through the wrapping paper. It took years for the smell to fade and even when I was “too old for dolls” I would sometimes sniff the baby’s head and smell the faint aroma of roses. It was oddly comforting. The baby looked so lifelike that I used to freak people out with the way I carried it. It was one of my favorite childhood toys and to be able to remember it unexpectedly was beautiful for me.

Then, at the checkout I saw these suckers called Twinkly suckers. They have this really long plastic stem and when they sit together they look like a bouquet. I couldn’t help but smile. Instantly, I was a sophomore in high school spending the best Valentine’s Day of my life. A friend and I went to Door County, this sweet little touristy area on Lake Michigan to spend Valentine’s Day. I don’t remember why we went but I remember the whole day. We weren’t dating and that actually made it better, more relaxed. It remains my favorite platonic date I have ever been on. We took a horse and carriage ride and bundled up under blankets with corn filled hand warmers. We went to dinner and sat by the window looking out at the water. After our carriage ride we started walking by all of the shops and stopped in at a candy store. That is where I had my first twinkle sucker. The suckers were ridiculous and the stems were unnecessary, so we had to get them. We just walked down the snow covered streets talking about who knows what with suckers in our hands. We ended up at a play Jesus Christ Super Star which a friend was in. And, on our way home we stopped at the grocery store and got our own pints of ice cream and ate them on the drive home. Mine was strawberry cheesecake. Why I remember that specific detail I am not sure. I haven’t thought of that night in years. I remember feeling completely enchanted by the experience-I remember feeling my first glimpses of autonomy that day. We haven’t seen much of each other since high school but seeing the sucker today made me stop and think about my friend. I wonder how he is doing, what he is doing.

It’s strange how sensory our memory can be. How one moment we are totally in the present or maybe day dreaming about the future and then we smell, see, hear, taste or touch something and we are instantly elsewhere.

Readers:  Have you had a moment like that where a sensory encounter reminds you of something you haven’t thought of in years? What was it? What was the experience like? Was it positive or negative? As always, I welcome your thoughts and your stories.

A Year In Review And Happy New Year To You

Well, my dear friends it is officially the New Year. I know I haven’t written in a while. I have been focusing on school and the job hunt and I spent the last week being around friends and family and putting all work and writing on hold. But, alas, we begin again. I am more than ready to bid adieu to 2012, but not before acknowledging all that is was in its difficulty, growth and strength. And in particular, after writing this post, it became clear to me that if I had to sum up this year in one word it would be: friendship.  The things that are so difficult about the year scream out so glaringly to me that it took writing out the synopsis of this year for me to see just how filled with love and friendship if truly was.

I begin with my Facebook status message from today (if you already read it on FB then scroll down past the three paragraphs in italics).

2012 was a year unlike any other. It was a difficult year. A growth year. I have never learned more about who I am and who I want to continue to become than I did this year. I began that process in the year before, but it was only in 2012 that I began to articulate myself. I can literally say that in this year my world view has changed tremendously, from a view of the world motivated by fear and shame to a view of the world motivated by openness. This year has proved very difficult in many ways, but also very beautiful. In particular when I look at the level of love I am surrounded by, I am humbled. I feel honored to have beautiful, loving and incredible family and friends. There have been losses, struggles, torn relationships and unrealized dreams but there has also been tremendous growth, a move across the country and reunited relationships.

In the year 2012, the thing I am the most proud of is Adam and I making it through the “dark night of the soul” as a friend’s recent blog called it. We made it through that dark period where we had to reevaluate where we stood in each other’s lives, where we stood in our own lives and if we could overcome our past and move towards a shared future. We made it through some bad places together and came out of it better for it, stronger and together. I most especially have gratitude for the friends and family who held us up through that. From the friends who lived far away but called and Facebook messaged to check in on us to the new VT friends who were just starting to get to know us and stepped up to be there for us offering tea, a listening ear and time with friends to Adam’s parents who went above and beyond in every way they could to our closest friends who literally helped to hold us up when we were convinced we would fall apart and who have become our family to my mom who put aside our laundry-list of differences to be a listening ear while Adam and I struggled through.

So, 2012 ended on a gratitude note, and that gratitude will carry over into 2013. But, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t totally excited for a new year, a fresh start. I am more than ready for it. My heart is open 2013. I believe you will be a year of great love, friendship, family, prosperity and opportunity. I am ready for you and I am more than ready to say goodbye to 2012.

Before I officially say goodbye to 2012 I wanted to look back at the year. I found myself wanting to have this deep cry at midnight last night, a sort of farewell cry to the labyrinth of emotions that the year was. I have always wanted to do one of those newsletters in my Christmas cards that give the highlights and major events of the year. I know sometimes people hate being sent those newsletters but I love them. I love reading about people’s lives. Well, this year we didn’t send out any Christmas cards. But, I wanted the opportunity, if for no other reason than to reflect on and synthesize the events myself, to recap my year.

2012

January

2012 began in an interesting place. It began on the heels of a lot of recent self-discovery. I had begun the practice of transformational breathing and it highly impacted the way I saw myself and my world. Through it, I experienced God as a female presence (which I had never really allowed myself to do) I found immense joy, found a place of forgiveness for my father and saw myself in the light of love. The year began on rocky ground for my mother and I, as I had just told her that my religious and faith views had changed and that I had many questions for that which used to be so certain for me. I had just graduated from an entrepreneurial program in December of 2011 and Adam and I had recently started a small business celebrating Health and Wellness, Creativity and a fusion of eastern and western spiritual themes, a few months before the New Year. I found myself spending a lot of time at my favorite coffee shop in town, in my favorite red chair. It was my safe place, my place to write and to meet up with friends. I had been developing a friendship with two incredible women whom I would meet at the coffee shop frequently. Both women helped me become more myself and both women inspired me. I had never had a friend like either of them. My friend Mary mentored me and taught me about holistic wellness and inspired me to claim who I was and follow my happiness. Her own story inspired me. Kim and I started a friendship over writing. We would share our newest work and provide feedback and soon we met regularly not just to share our writing, but to share stories about our lives, especially to share our stories of parenting. Both women were there for me as I worked through the emotional process of writing my memoir.  We knew we had been considering moving to Vermont by this time and we had also considered moving to Madison, WI. We had an offer on the table to consider buying a yoga studio turned health and wellness center in Madison. We knew we weren’t in a place where we could take something like that on, and so in January we said Namaste to the current owner and declined. But, it set into motion many conversations about where it was we were headed if it wasn’t there. Adam opened an art show at a local gallery and I turned 26. Running with the emotion I had after writing a chapter about him, I sent an email to my first love (whom I had rekindled a friendship with) and told him that our friendship no longer had a place in my life. That was certainly not my first unilateral decision made out of emotion and I can’t even say it was the last one made in 2012.

February

February was a peaceful month. I began teaching classes to small groups on writing, health and wellness and eastern and western religion. I realized how much I loved to teach. This was the first month that I allowed for the possibility that my singing voice was not as awful as I had believed and I began recording music with Adam (though I still haven’t let anyone else hear it).

March

In March the first round of edits on my book were done. It would need more edits, but I had officially written Santa Claus And Circumcision And Other Things That Keep Me Up At Night.

We made the decision to move to Vermont, believing that we could be the best versions of ourselves there.

April

Perhaps it was that we were leaving the state in a month, but an odd boldness took over Adam and I and we finally stopped talking about being polyamorous and started acting on it. We had been talking about being polyamorous for over a year but we had never pursued any partners. In that month, we had experiences with our first partners. We learned a great deal about ourselves and about what we were looking for in our romantic life and in life in general.

April was also the month that I lost my relationship with my friend of 24 years (though it will always be my hope that we will reconcile) and gained an incredible friendship with a new unexpected friend.

By April, I had spent months having snippets of conversations with the man on the other side of the counter at my favorite coffee shop. I had become a regular there. Somewhere over random conversations and me sitting there for hours at a time working on my book, Brandon became my friend. Through Brandon, I met his wife, Heather, who also became a great friend. There was sadness in realizing I had just made great new friends only to have to move away shortly after. I had spent the last two years not really meeting many people or making many friends. Then, as we were leaving the state, here were these two great like-minded people that had been right under our noses. We continued our friendship across the distance. Brandon has become one of the people that I care about most. He has amazed me in his ability to be there for me; they both have. He is one of those friends who you can talk to about anything, who will sit and analyze things with you and make you see the world differently and calls you on your shit but loves you through it. In particular, later in the year when Adam and I went through a difficult time, Brandon and Heather were two of the people who supported me and checked in on me most.

May

May 1st was our first full day in our home in Vermont. We spent our first night with two of the people I love most in the world, our friends John and Michael. They have become our family. Vermont felt like home right away because they were here.  John and I grew up together and had not lived in the same city since high school. We had all kept in touch and even over distance maintained our great friendship. The year ahead would be a tough one, but the four of us would do better leaning on each other. John had been pushing me to get Facebook for years and I always refused. But, moving across the country sounded like a good reason to join Facebook. I figured it would be a great way to stay in touch with my loved ones in the Midwest. I went from someone who never used social media to a person who realized social media could be a platform. It was in my first month in Vermont that I used Facebook to come out as bisexual and as polyamorous. I also used the distance and my new found perspective on life as an opportunity to see if there was a chance to reunite with my father. And, on May 15th, my dad responded to my email. He talked to his granddaughter for the first time later that year and we began to rebuild our relationship.

June

In June I began this blog and started trying to write more regularly. I had tried to stay with a blog before. But, this time I wasn’t so afraid. Being one who always wants acceptance and approval from others and is a bit of a control freak, maintaining a blog, especially one that can be so intimate at times, has been a challenge. But, it has been totally worth it. I also joined an LGBTQ social organization that John and Michael introduced me to and began to make incredible new friends. I soon joined their steering committee and have been enjoying working with them since. It has been an incredible way to meet amazing new people in VT. In June we also made some unlikely friends. I met a traveling hippy couple in town and in our new found spirit of openness; I invited them to our house for food and showers. They ended up staying with us on and off over the next few months and we grew into fast friends. They had openness to the world and a capacity for love that I have rarely encountered. They had lived a way of life that was new to me. Their stories challenged me and pushed me to grow. They were incredibly kind to us and to Aimee. They treated us like family. They had this incredible connection to others and to the earth and their ability to live outside of conventional means fascinated me. And, a few months later, just as unexpectedly as they had entered our life, they left our life. Perhaps our paths will meet again, perhaps not. But, never- the- less, their friendship changed Adam and I both for the better.

During this month my mom and my aunt came to visit. It was particularly meaningful to me that my mom, with whom I had been struggling, came to visit so quickly. It did my heart good.

July

July was quite the month. I was fired from The Salvation Army and during the week that followed and the media interviews and the petition I started, my mother-in-law visited. Her visit couldn’t have come at a better time. She was there for us during this unexpected experience and helped be a calming force. While she was here, she got to see her son in drag for the first time and see the people we were here and why we wanted to move to Vermont. Aimee began preschool this month and Adam and I had to pause for a moment and realize how big our little girl had become. I also joined the Pride committee. It was an incredible way to give back to a community that had been giving me so much. It was also a great way to make new friends and to plan an incredible event.

August

In august, my mom’s sister, my aunt Nancy died. We had been estranged for many years, and only the year before had we begun to reunite. As is the case with the death of loved ones, her death came with realizations about the frailty of life and the frailty of relationships. Through her death, my mom and I began to start mending our relationship.

September

September was a challenging month for us. Adam quit his job for mental health reasons and we found ourselves without either of our incomes. Adam and I hit an ugly place in our relationship and decided to file for divorce. We had been talking for almost two years about getting a Great Pyrenees. And, in the middle of all of this chaos, our beautiful dog Max came unexpectedly into our lives. His timing was oddly perfect. He provided a calming force in our home and proved to be an incredible companion for us. Adam left for Minnesota to seek help at the end of the month and Max helped Aimee and I cope. Before Adam left, we celebrated the Pride festival together as a family. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by many amazing people and a beautiful event. We knew after that weekend that we would always be a family; we just didn’t know how that looked anymore. Shortly after meeting them on a committee, my new friend Claire and my new friend Meg and I planned a women’s event together that we hosted at the end of September. The day of the event also happened to be the day that Adam and I officially announced our separation. Claire and Meg and Cori ( Claire’s wife whom I had only briefly met before that day), all stopped in the middle of setting up the event and reached out to me. They could have walked the other way and not dealt with my relationship troubles and I wouldn’t have blamed them; I was a new friend. But, instead those three women showed me incredible friendship over the next few months and all reached out to me and checked in on me.

October

Adam came back from Minnesota in October. We originally thought the distance made the most sense for us, but soon found that we didn’t want to be without each other. Even though we were separated, we wanted to live close to each other for us and for Aimee. During this month Adam and I had to really look at one of the major factors that was leading to our stress and our divorce: money. And so, after much thought and conversation, we decided to file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy put our divorce on hold, which proved to be an incredible blessing because it bought us some time to decide if divorce was really what we wanted. We shared an awesome Halloween together with our new friends Claire and Cori. It was the first year Aimee picked our costume theme. We went as Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Aimee was Mr. Popper (the book version not the movie version) and Adam, Max and I were her penguins. Also in October, I joined another amazing committee for an incredible local LGBTQ organization working on development projects and community events and again met great new people and got to know some new friends even more.

November

The presidential election this past year was the first time I ever voted the way I wanted to. In previous elections I had always voted the way I felt pressured to by my family or by religion. Or, I didn’t vote because I was afraid to upset people with my vote. Casting my vote this year was a big step for me in autonomy. This was also the month that I realized just how much I love doing development work and event planning for Nonprofits. I began to reexamine my career goals and to look at my previous career experiences through this lens. On our way to pick up Aimee from school one night in November, we got into a car accident.  I had to go to the ER, and as I was getting lifted into the ambulance with Adam watching, I realized that I wanted to work our relationship out. That our relationship had been through so much that it deserved another chance. We ended up being totally physically fine, but emotionally, it was a heart changing experience. Our friend, Heather also came from the Midwest to visit us in November. It was our first visit from a Midwest friend in Vermont and it was so wonderful for us to get to have her meet some of our friends here and to see some of the reasons we love Vermont, especially the farmer’s market.

December

December was a very difficult month financially, but it was filled with celebration and family and friends and with us learning our new normal. I took the LSAT this month as one of the possible paths I am exploring in my career and education life. Aimee had become this incredibly big girl over the course of this year and all of a sudden, she was this great conversationalist and one day in December she wrote her name, my name and Adam’s name. Adam and I, knowing that we want a polyamorous life, began online dating as a way to make new friends and potential poly partners. Claire and Cori took us tree hunting for our Christmas tree, which was touching for us. We had gone to the same tree cutting place every year since Aimee was born. They helped us start a new tradition. Then, they hosted us for Christmas Eve and in addition to nourishing our hearts with their friendship and with how great they are with Aimee, they nourished our stomachs with awesome southern food. Before they left for the holidays we were able to have a Vermont family Christmas with John and Michael. It was a beautiful time for just the five of us. We have always considered them family but I looked around that room and realized how incredibly important my little Vermont family had become for me. December was a month of friendship. Knowing that we were not able to go home for the holidays, our friends Randy and John took us in for Christmas Day dinner at their home. Their gesture really filled us with holiday joy. Right before the end of the month I had the opportunity to really reconnect with an old friend. We have talked a few times since we moved out to Vermont, but I haven’t seen my friend Mark in almost six years.  We have talked on the phone on occasion over the years, but, thanks to Facebook ( I never thought I would thank Facebook for anything, but John was right it is great), we have the opportunity to sit up and chat. Other than Adam, Mark was by far the most influential person in my college experience and one of the dearest friends I have ever known. It was wonderful to end my year with rejuvenating our friendship.

Last Night

My New Year’s Eve was a simple one. We had planned to go to a small gathering with friends, but first we went to pick up John and Michael from the airport as they had just flown back home. By the time we got them home, we were all beat (especially Miss Aimee). But, it was perfect for me to be around my Vermont family on the last day of 2012. We were all in agreement that 2012 could go. I looked at the four of them and I knew that they were my people. They had helped me get through 2012 and some of the most beautiful and hideous moments of the year had been spent with them by my side. This morning when we woke up, Adam, Aimee and I opened the door and said good bye to 2012 and breathed in the new 2013 air. We stood by the door with Max and in unison said “welcome in 2013.”

FAQs

The more public we get about our open relationship, the more my husband and I encounter similar questions. Most of the questions we encounter aren’t actually malicious but a combination of curiosity and concern. I recently read two excellent blog posts, one about navigating the holidays at your family of origin when you are part of a poly relationship and the other about how one couple makes their open relationship work. It was encouraging to read posts by people who had similar lives to ours and it made me want to write my own post. So, today’s post is a response to our most frequently asked questions.

The questions we get most frequently are: Why? Are you polyamorous to cover up a deeper problem in your marriage? Are there rules? Do you get jealous? That question is usually followed by either “I could never do it!” or “I’d be way too jealous!” What if you fall in love with someone else? Are you greedy? And, because we have a child, we get: What about your daughter? And, of course we get the logistical questions: how do you meet someone, go on a date, Etc.

Why?

Well, we are delving further into a polyamorous lifestyle because we believe it is part of our most authentic selves. It began as a way to explore areas of our sex lives that we hadn’t been ready to explore before our marriage, but now it has grown into a larger part of our lives. We have come to realize that there are incredible benefits to sharing our lives with other people, and not limiting that just to friendship or a sexual relationship, but also to romance and relationship.

Are you polyamorous to cover up a deeper problem in your marriage?

Especially because we have had a lot of difficulties in our marriage over the years, we encounter this question a lot. And, I think it is a fair one. I am sure, that at times, people do reach for an open marriage when they are trying to avoid divorce or deal with issues in the bedroom. We were absolutely certain this wasn’t us, but when we recently looked at getting divorced, we had to re-examine our motivations for being in an open marriage and see if they were because of sexual or other incompatibilities. For a while, we wondered if our issues had unconsciously led us to choosing an open marriage. But, actually I think it was the other way around. Despite our issues, we still managed to both grow in the same direction and realize that our desire for polyamory is authentic to who we are. It isn’t a last stitch effort to stay together sort of thing.

Actually, our recent break up and reconciliation wasn’t at all motivated by our recent relationships with other people. That part, while it provided us with a lot to talk about and work through, was actually going well. Like many other couples we had a lot of things bearing down on us like stress and money that ultimately made us separate. It wasn’t the jealousy and it wasn’t that the other person didn’t please us or make us happy anymore. Though, I have come to learn that it can be debilitating to expect one person to completely fulfill you and meet all of your needs and interests (for both parties). And, I have learned that when a person can’t meet you in one of those areas it doesn’t make them an unsuitable partner. We both still want to have sex with each other and we learn to grow in this area constantly. But, we also want sexual experiences with other people. We both still want to romance each other; we also want to experience new romances. We still love to grow and learn and share our interests with each other; we want to share our interests with us too. When we faced divorce, we realized that we had let ourselves slide in our communication, in our sex life and in sharing our interests. We had to look at how we could revitalize those things. The stability of our relationship still comes first to us. It is something that we constantly have to keep tabs on.

Are there rules?

There are most definitely rules. We actually sat down and typed up our rules together. We used to keep a copy of them in the car and have even given them to partners. I think we are easing up on the giving them to partners thing- a long list of rules can be intimidating and off-putting. We have realized some things are not as important as we thought. On the other hand, we have learned that some things affect us more than we expected. For example, I learned the hard way that I cannot be in the house when he has a partner in our room (unless we are all together). Physically seeing him behind a closed door with someone else does something to me, and I find it upsetting. He learned that he can’t be in the room when I am texting someone back and forth. In both of those instances we have learned that we don’t like the feeling of being out of the loop. We don’t mind our partner engaging in those activities, we just don’t want to be in the room for them. There are definitely rules that make it onto the list after an experience doesn’t go as planned or as we learn ourselves better. But, in general they go a little something like this:

1. Kissing and “feeling someone up” (for lack of a better term) do not require a prior discussion. They are free reign and should be done as the person deems appropriate. They just require you tell the other person after the fact.

2. Any other form of sex requires a discussion in advance. Each partner retains the right to say no to a potential partner for the other person.

3. In most circumstances the other person must meet the partner in advance of sex or anything serious. There are cases where this doesn’t apply. But, if someone is a potential longer term relationship, then everyone must meet.

4. We must disclose to the new partner that we are married. If they are with someone too, all parties must be on the same page.

5. Oral sex seems to be a point of contention, mostly from an STD standpoint. So, the rules are actually a little stricter on oral sex than they are on intercourse. So, this one remains on a case by case basis.

6. Safe sex at all times is a requirement.

7. There are a few very specific things that we never do with any other partner, and we both know that doing them in the context of another relationship would constitute cheating.

8. You never have to do anything you don’t want to. Either party can say they need a break from seeing other people in general or that they aren’t comfortable with a particular partner. If we are in a group situation and either of us says we aren’t comfortable it ends immediately for both of us (obviously if the partner(s) says they are uncomfortable it ends too).Constant communication is the most important. Since there are no secrets between us, our new partners have to know in advance that we will be telling our spouse what happens. We do this so that new partners can decide if they are comfortable with that disclosure or not.

Do you get jealous?

Yes. I think people who say they never get jealous are lying. We have learned that it is usually weird things that make us jealous. Not often the things you would expect. Sometimes it is little things shared with another partner that get to us. I got jealous once because he held someone’s hand under a blanket in front of me. It was just because it felt secret, had it been in the open I wouldn’t have cared. It’s odd what you find gets to you. The rule on jealousy is that we talk about it right away so that it can’t get bigger or get between us. Jealous is often such a dirty word, that we were both sort of afraid to admit jealousy at first. But, we have learned that it can have a healthy and honest place within a relationship. We spend a lot of time looking at why a certain thing makes us jealous and often we learn a lot about ourselves, each other and our limitations. It is not a possessive jealousy, we understand that our reasons for wanting the open relationship are greater than the reasons for jealousy, but we still allow ourselves our emotions. We have learned that allowing and owning your emotions is key. We need to name our emotions. We have learned that we have to admit our emotions even when we are surprised by them ourselves. Honestly, sometimes it isn’t pretty. There has definitely been crying. There will be crying again. You try to learn what gets to the other person (our jealousy triggers are definitely different), so you can avoid hurting them. But, balancing an attempt not to hurt your partner and staying authentic in all your relationships can be tricky.

What if you fall in love with someone else?

This is a completely real concern. The number one answer is: be honest about it. It is not easy to hear that your partner is in love with someone else, but we have agreed to always tell. When we first thought about an open relationship, we saw it more as sex. So, we thought we would just put up safe guards not to fall in love with other people, never letting ourselves get to close. That has changed. The more we look into living a polyamorous lifestyle and talk about living with other partners, the more there is a realization that love is a possibility.  The word “love” sucks. It is too vague. There are so many types of love. I find it hard to believe that I will ever be in love with someone the way I am with my husband. We have a love that has made a daughter; a love that has brought us through all kinds of things. So, in terms of loving someone like I love him, I don’t think that is likely. He has echoed similar statements. But, I also know myself well enough to know that on more than one occasion I have been convinced I was in love, some of those during our marriage. It has never been the same as how I feel about him, and maybe it isn’t even being “in love.” I think there are levels to love. I think that it is likely that at times we will love our partners; in fact, I know that to be true. We love our friends, so it stands to reason that we will love the partners that grow into a deeper friendship than just a casual fling. I am not totally sure I can articulate what separates our love from the love I have for other partners. I can say there is a difference. I would have previously said that my husband is the only one that I wanted to settle down and build a life with, but now that isn’t even an appropriate definition of our love as we leave room for the possibility of making a life with one or more other partners. So, maybe our love exists in that place that defies language in a place that we can feel is different, but we can’t explain to other people. I used to think that a marriage could recover from someone being unfaithful but not from one of the partners falling in love with someone else. I think, if anything, a relationship may not be able to recover if you fall out of love with your partner. But, falling in love with someone else does not mean you are not still in love with your partner. So, I am open to a world where there is room to love more than one person. Relationships are unique and so is the love that forms in them. The answer then to all of these questions is basically the same: honesty and transparency. If it happens, you have to talk about it.

Are you greedy?

I hate this question. I especially hate it when we get it for being out as bisexual (which is an orientation not a choice). But, I do not like it in terms of our lifestyle choice to be polyamorous (that is a choice). Anyone who knows us knows that this isn’t why we live this way. We don’t do it to get as many partners as we can or have our cake and eat it too (a phrase I have always despised- because if someone gives you a piece of cake why the hell wouldn’t you eat it?). It actually can be the opposite of greedy (I don’t want to say selfless because that isn’t accurate), you are sharing your most beloved person with someone else. So, no we are not greedy people.

What about your daughter?

I have spoken to this in a previous blog. After which several people unfriended (is that a word?) (is that a word?) me on Facebook and some even told me I was a bad mother. First of all, whether you have one partner or ten, no one has sex in front of their kids. Everyone tries to be discreet about these things with their children. When we have partners over, it isn’t any different to Aimee than when we have our friends over. When she is older she may have questions, but like everything else we will answer them candidly. Obviously, if/when we choose to live in community with other people our daughter will be a factor. We would only enter such a living arrangement with someone else if it was an enhancement for everyone involved, and only if they loved our child. There are polyamorous families who have children. It can be done, everyone agrees to pitch in with the child(ren) and everyone loves them and looks out for them. We would be adding love to her world. And, yes there is the possibility of being ridiculed at school for having parents who live in community, but I think that has a lot to do with the messages parents give their children. So, we would attempt to make sure we surrounded her world with open minded adults and their children. Obviously, we would want to protect her from ridicule or confusions, but if it came up, we would handle it like everything else, we would talk about it. Our understanding of love will not hurt our daughter. I think it “hurts” (read: offends) adults who don’t understand it, and then they use our child as a way to attack our life choices. I assure you that we will do our best to grow our daughter into a beautiful, loving, and well-rounded adult. We will do that no matter who is in our bedroom, whom we love, how we love or how many people we love.

How do you meet someone, go on a date, etc?

Ah, A logistical question. I like the logistical questions. They seem less morally heavy and totally worth asking, since frankly, there is a little navigating to this whole process. So, we are interested in a couple of things. Ultimately, we want to find a couple or two (or an individual) who are a great fit for both of us. Ideally, they would be bi-sexual so that there would be freedom in terms of pairing up sexually. We would want to sort of date them. We want a couple or person to go out with and try new restaurants and go to shows. We also want someone who wants to stay in and watch movies and snuggle up all together on the couch, someone to talk with and share with. We are really looking for a relationship, not just sex. However, we know that such a couple or individual isn’t necessarily that easy to find. And, in the pursuit of such a couple or person, we don’t want to miss other great people. There is a reality that sometimes one of us makes a connection to a person and the other one does not. So, we leave room for that possibility. That is where the individual dating comes in.

So far we have fallen into our relationships with other people. There are friends and acquaintances that over time you realize have similar views on relationships, sex and openness. Figuring out if things could happen between you is still never a graceful conversation (at least not yet). I have tried the bold approach, “my husband says I can sleep with you,” and the subtle trying to figure out where someone stands by asking leading questions. And, like the awkward moments of monogamous dating, you do the “accidental” brush of your hand on someone else’s….hand. But, it gets easier once people know you are in an open relationship. Of course, you do run the risk that your friends wonder if you just want to be friends with them to get with them. The majority of our friends are platonic and we are more than fine with that. It is important for us to have friends that are just friends. And, frankly it is a point of anxiety for us when we wonder if our friends are nervous around us trying to figure out if we are trying to sleep with them. It changes our individual relationships too. When you are someone’s married monogamous friend, it is clear where the boundary is. Married non-monogamous friend, less clear.

We have spent the last six months on somewhat of a break from this lifestyle as we settle in to our new area and as we worked through our own relationship things. But, as of recently we are (slowly) hitting the dating world. We put out an ad in the paper (yep-we did that): Polyamorous couple seeks polyamorous couple. Filling the questioner out for one of those things is a bit daunting. More daunting still, is the online dating profile. We both joined an online dating site. That has been, interesting.

Online dating certainly welcomes all types of people. You definitely encounter your share of creeps that hover online waiting for anyone with a pulse to chat with ( I have seen some “pulse optional” types), those who are into things with acronyms that I don’t even want to or pretend understand and those who expect you to have supermodel looks never mind their photoshopped picture. But, you get the occasional bread maker who lives off the land and loves everyone, or the guy who still has a soft spot for punk rock; these people welcome further conversation.

On the site we joined you can see how many people view your profile. This is a feature I do not like. You have to have a thick skin basically, because unlike real life encounters where you may not know if someone is interested or not, a view of the profile and no message means “no thanks.” There are inevitably more “no thanks” than there are messages. Yet, the pressure is lessened because we are already together. So, we are at a “take us as we are or leave us” kind of place in our lives. We aren’t searching for our “one”, so in a lot of ways we feel freer to be ourselves in our profiles and less obligated to continue talking to people who aren’t a good fit. Especially because we have a child we do not go out that much, so this helps us make sure that we meet more people and go out with the ones that are the best fit. I am still a little leery of meeting someone in person that I met online, but having a spouse who either comes with you or at least knows where you are going and with whom is really nice. The reality is this. There are far more straight men on the site we are on than there are straight women or anyone in the LGBTQ community, that dynamic affects our dynamic. Almost by default then, I have more messages. There haven’t been a lot of people yet who are interested in dating us as a couple, or people who are interested in couples in general. Mostly, we have found people who are just interested in us as individuals, people who are ok with the fact that we are married, but just want to get to know one of us. We have discussed it and are open to this form of dating. But, we approach it with more caution and stress communication even more because it is a new world to navigate and it has the potential to leave one of us feeling left out.

Some of the people we have encountered would make really great friends, and so we have been using the site to meet like-minded people in that way as well. We have yet to meet anyone off of the site, so I really can’t say how navigating that all goes. But, I think the plan is to approach it like dating: one date at a time. It has been great fun for us as we read the compatibility questions and learn even more about each other. It is fun to see who the other is attracted to. This is especially nice given that we both like people of all genders. It’s fun to help each other get ready for dates and to dish about it afterwards. It is a bonding experience for us and ultimately builds intensity and understanding between us.

Since becoming polyamorous we have become better mates to each other. We are not commitment -phobic, greedy people. Our new partners are not chosen instead of our spouse. They are chosen in addition to our spouse. We are not cheating (though cheating can exist inside an open marriage if you go outside the established rules), we are enhancing our relationship. We recognize that for many couples this would not be an enhancement of their marriage. We acknowledge and respect all marriages and understand that each marriage is unique. We do not think we are more enlightened than other people. We think we are more enlightened versions of ourselves than we had previously been, but we never apply that to other people’s relationships. Some people use the argument for open marriage that it is natural and that monogamy is unnatural; that nature proves it. I don’t know what I think about it. I am not sure that I would even argue for open marriage except to the extent that it should be respected as a choice. I think it is much too individual of a choice to tell others what to do, but then so is monogamy. I have learned more about myself and what I am looking for in a partner(s) than in almost any other process. It has made me redefine the idea of soul mate, marriage and even love (for myself). So, the only thing I am willing to say is that I am an advocate of open marriages and polyamory if it works for the people involved. I am an advocate of it in my own relationship. This is the way we currently make our open relationship work, and I suspect that logistics of that will change over time too.

So, dear readers a few questions for you: Does this post affect how you see open marriages and polyamory? What other questions do you have about this world? What thoughts, emotions or questions does this discussion stir up for you? As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

Thank You for taking time to read this post.

An Unexpected Thanksgiving Discussion: Where American History and 4-Year-Olds Collide

My 4-year-old keeps saying: “We learned about Americans in preschool and they wear dresses on their heads!” I am slightly worried about what they are teaching her about early American history. I am going with: she is learning about Native American’s and headdresses (I think).

It sounds kind of cute and innocent when she says it, but I am oddly sensitive about how children are taught about Native Americans. I feel like there is an over simplification of the image we present to children as “Native American.” I worry that there are certain images that children are given to explain Native Americans, like pictures of headdresses. That bothers me. There are so many customs that are tribe specific and so much more to this history than ceremonial clothing. I don’t pretend to know nearly as much as I should about history, but I do know that the images from my childhood of Native Americans were exactly those expected stereotypical shots. I was a lot older before I began to have a broader picture of early American History and more specifically, of Native Americans.

I remember feeling disillusionment at the idea that the history I was being taught in school was often times biased and told from a specific racial perspective, namely a white perspective. I remember the moment I realized that there were versions of history. I remember looking at pictures of Native Americans taken by Edward Curtis and learning that he staged many of them, and even removed some modern items to make things seem more primitive. I remember reading that he would carry around a trunk of ceremonial clothing and have those he photographed put on the items- at times garments that were not even from the same tribe.

I get that Aimee is 4 and that on some level it is adorable that she understands Americans to be people who wear dresses on their heads, but I worry what she is learning. Of course, she only reports certain parts of the story, so it is hard to say what they are all teaching. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to make sure my little girl has a well-rounded understanding of history- I cannot just rely on what she is taught at school ( though it is also my responsibility to know what they are teaching). I want her to have an understanding of history where culturally diverse perspectives are honored. I want her to love and engage with history in a way that I was never given the opportunity to.

Dear friends I think this is a particularly fitting discussion given that Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I hope you will engage in the discussion with me. I am interested in your perspective:

What do you think? Did you have a moment where you realized there were different “versions” of history? Do you know the work of Edward Curtis? On one hand he gave visibility to Native Americans through photography, on the other hand, he created images that were not culturally authentic- images that shaped our understanding of Native Americans. What is your perspective on this? How can we be sure that each generation has a better understanding of history and a greater reverence for cultures? Parents, have you ever run into a similar situation where you questioned what was being taught at your child’s school? What did you do? Do you have any book suggestions for my daughter’s age range that are historically accurate and culturally sensitive that begin the discussion about the lives of Native Americans?

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