joreth: (feminism)
I remember expecting my mom to have dinner ready at night, and of Super Bowl parties where dad and the guests sat in the living room while Mom (and some of her friends more interested in friendship than sports) worked in the kitchen.

I remember my mom getting so angry that I didn't want what she cooked for dinner or that I whined about being hungry because food wasn't ready yet that she told me to make my own damn dinner. And I remember her getting upset when I started doing exactly that, because I was now eating at different times and not having our family meal together.

Because she was first unappreciated and then a failure for not keeping her family "together". And I didn't understand at the time the external and internalized pressures she had on her to do it all, to be it all, and how my separation from the dinner table played into all of that.

I don't live with my partners because I can't deal with exactly this kind of default separation of roles that *everyone* I have ever been with falls into, even if they happen to make some kind of exception somewhere (maybe he cooks, but I'm still the household manager, or something).

But even living separately, I still have to remind partners that I need to eat, I still have to *ask* for their help instead of them offering to help with anything that isn't a "manly" chore, I still have to remind them when we haven't spent time together or we haven't had "romantic" time together like dates, and I often have to plan the dates.

And forget "vacations" together - I am the travel agent every single time or nothing gets planned and I don't get to do things that I want to do because it doesn't occur to them to plan anything or ask for my input. I've had exactly one partner who did this - who asked me if he could plan something for me, to take some of the responsibility off of my shoulders, who asked for my parameters and then just ran with it.


I'm told that they're just so easy-going that they don't really care what we do, as long as we're together. And THAT'S PART OF THE PROBLEM. They can't see how the responsibility falls on their women partners by default, or that we might have different priorities so that we *need* them to start caring about what we do together.

That's great that you don't care. However, *I* might want to do something with the fact that we're in a town I've never been in and I'm spending a lot of money to be here, so seeing nothing but the inside of a hotel room kinda defeats the purpose of taking *this* trip to *this* place.

So maybe y'all can do the Googling to see what there is to do around here, and maybe y'all can suggest some activities that you think I might enjoy, and maybe y'all can pay attention to the clock instead of me having to wake up early enough to get y'all out of bed, fed, dressed, and out the door in time to do the activities when they start?

And, again, maybe some people don't do *all* of the things - really only one of my partners is actually less of a morning person than I am, but somehow I still have to get myself up in time to make sure that they aren't distracted by something else and we leave late when that's one of my own weakest areas and maybe I need someone else keeping *me* on track for a change?

Anyway, now I'm rambling. Point is, even among "enlightened", "feminist" men, this is still a problem.
I was a young girl when I realized there was a hierarchy in my home. Chores were designated by gender. Blue jobs for my brother, and pink jobs for me. Mom did the cleaning, cooking, and most everything needed to make our house a home. Dad mowed the lawn, fixed the cars, and played with my brother and I until he could barely keep his eyes open. An amazing Father.

It took me a long time to understand why my Mother scowled at my Dad when the three of us entered the house after an incredible summer night digging in the sandbox.

That realization came fast and furious once I had kids and a marriage of my own.

As latchkey kids raised in the seventies and eighties, my brother and I were expected to do our chores and start dinner before our parents got home from work. Every day it was the same. I spent my time tidying up the house, cleaning the kitchen, and starting dinner. Usually, spaghetti, because it was the easiest thing for me to cook without burning the house down. Okay, so this one time I almost burned the house down, everyone makes mistakes. Lesson learned.

While I domesticated myself, my brother would either mow the lawn, take out the garbage, or... come to think of it, there weren't a lot of blue jobs that needed daily attention. I noticed my workload was different, perhaps even harder at times, but I was the girl, and it was what was expected of me. There were multiple days I spent bickering with my brother because I was having trouble handling my workload. I still remember thinking, I just want his help. I felt like I was drowning and couldn't do it all on my own before our Mom got home. Why was this my responsibility just because I am the girl?

This same scenario played out in my marriage many years later.

It was in those moments I realized his chore list seemed a little heavier in physical weight but much lighter in actual duties.

Nevertheless, I didn't rebel. I didn't speak out, complain, or say anything. I didn't know it to be different, or wrong. But I did know without a doubt if I did complain I would be met with resistance. I might indeed be labelled, crazy. A nag. I had heard it all before. The word 'nagging-bitch' had no trouble spilling from my Grandfather's lips while my Grandmother waited on him hand and foot.

I had spent my whole life watching the women in my life carry the weight of the entire house on their backs while men sat back and watched them do it. It was normal, expected.

A Grey Cup party filled with food my Mother made became the norm, while the men sat in front of a football game expecting more. More beer, more food, more work. More take, more take, more take. No give.

My Mom was a goddess, and in my mind's eye, she could run the world. She was already running my world, beautifully.

Somehow, I knew at that young age, I wanted to be just like my Mom. She was spectacular to watch. She could do/and did everything to keep our house afloat. My Dad by her side, supporting her every step of the way, but mostly from the couch.

From my Father's spot on the sofa, tangled in his legs I would watch my Mother drudge over the dinner I'd half-prepared. Still dressed in her silk jumper, her purse barely placed on the kitchen table, she stood over a chocolate brown stove while the three of us indulged in the newest episode of M*A*S*H.

Every once in awhile I would notice her glance through the butler's window in our kitchen to catch a glimpse of her family. Sometimes she would yell, and I would wonder why she seemed so angry. Sometimes she would pour a glass of wine and drown us out. Sometimes she would smile so big her eyes would fill with tears stained by love. All the time. Every single damn time -- she made my entire family a sit down dinner fit for a King. Not a night went by that woman didn't feed our family whole real food. She is my super-hero.

I have an amazing Father. I do. He is strong, forgiving, loving, accepting, and, what has always stood out about my astounding Dad; is he speaks of equality, freedom, and humanity in almost every sentence that leaves his prophetic mouth. However, he was brought up in a generation filled with misogynistic values. Taught to be served by his wife. Doesn't that sound stupid -- "served by his wife". I am literally shaking my head as I am writing the words. He learned it from his Dad, my Grandpa.

It's no one's fault, except maybe the patriarchy, I grew up in a misogynist's world. Back in those days, things were different. My parents were instruments of their generations belief systems, and the belief systems of generations before them.

We can, and need to change this. The mentality of women "doing it all" is not only propagated by males, but females alike. Our belief systems insinuate that the Mom should endure the burden of household chores. This is wrong and unfair.

When I was growing up, both of my parents had full-time jobs. Careers, in fact. My Mother was a successful Bank Manager, yet when she arrived home she still cooked and plated my Father's meal. No one did that for her. She did it with love, she wanted to take care of him, but regularly she was exhausted. No less tired than any man in her position. Yet she was assumed to come home and feed her family. Expected to clean "her" house, only to be told she wasn't worthy of the title on the deed. Sometimes she wanted her husband to take care of her. To plate her meal, or fold her laundry. Most times she wanted to be respected and appreciated. This I know because I have lived my Mother's life. I have catered to the men I love. Not with regret, but often with repugnance.

I now know why my Mom grimaced at my Father when he spent "his" time playing in the dirt with us, especially after a hard days work in uncomfortable heels and constricting skirts. It was her time too. Perhaps she wanted to be the good guy. The "Dad" out in the yard getting dirty. Maybe, she didn't want to cook another meal. Instead, play catch with her babies on a soft summer evening. Maybe she didn't want to do anything at all but simply sit on the couch with her babies tangled in her legs.

I want to smash the patriarchy for allowing me, my mother, and all women to believe were not capable of doing it all, without being labelled. That we were and are crazy for resisting our overburdened and under appreciated workloads. When in fact we were and often still are, doing everything, to keep our houses afloat. Making homes.

We can change our world for the better if we allow our preconceived notions to change. Not just for women and men, families. Marriages. And, most importantly our children, and our children's children.

It is time men stop telling the women in their lives they are crazy. It's not crazy to be exhausted. It's not crazy to voice fatigue. It is not crazy to ask for help. It isn't nagging when a woman pleads with her husband to clean the toilet or help around the house. She shouldn't have had to beg him to clean his mess in the first place.

Women aren't crazy; they are tired. They are tired of picking up after everyone in their lives. Women are angry they have gone unappreciated for so long. Women aren't assholes because they are finally using their voice.


Stop calling women nags and bitches. Start doing your job as their partner so they don't have to complain about the shit you don't want to do. This isn't about men helping women to run the house, it's about men actually seeing that it isn't only a woman's job.

If I learned anything from my superhuman Mother, it is:

"I can do it all, but all of it is not mine to do.”

Darla Halyk
joreth: (frustration)
So, my father, who is basically a centrist but in this political climate would be considered a liberal Democrat because he believes in climate change and hates Hair Gropenfuhrer with a seething rage, still had to be schooled on what a Sanctuary City was.

I went for a visit last month, and Dad obsessively watched talking heads on TV just so he could get all worked up and rant about the Orangutan-in-Chief. I forget what we were actually talking about, something to do with immigration, probably, and he threw out something like "except I'm not in favor of Sanctuary Cities..."

So I cut him off and told him that I fully support them. He sort of snorted and started to defend his position when I cut him off again to say "all that a Sanctuary City means is that they won't turn them over to ICE if they're not actually in the process of committing a crime."

So my dad just kinda stopped and said "that's it?"

And I said "yep, that's it, it just means that we don't call immigration on people who aren't breaking the law."

And he said "oh, well, if that's all it means..."

I think that my dad might actually be a raging liberal, if he only had the issues explained to him factually, instead of with fearmongering propaganda. He was raised his whole life by a racist "nice man" - someone who took care of his employees and loved his family, but still refused to attend his son's wedding because his son was marrying a spic. He watches American news sources. Even the Democrats believe the propaganda that the Republicans have been spreading about Clinton for decades because nobody bothers to actually explain this shit.

Even the name "Sanctuary Cities" makes it sound like we're offering hiding and protection from people fleeing the authorities. When the only thing it really means is that the various branches of law enforcement and public service aren't going to do each other's jobs for them. The cops and emergency medical personnel are not immigration, and are not going to tip off immigration if they come across someone not doing something harmful to society.

This has been proven to show lowered rates of crime in POC neighborhoods, increased cooperation with law enforcement to help lower said crime, and increased use of social services like medical treatment early on when problems are manageable and affordable, rather than later when they get expensive.

Shocking, but apparently when people don't fear deportation (whether they're actually here "illegally" or not) from authorities, they're more willing to cooperate with authorities.

As a kid in school, if we got punished for "tattling", what possible motivation would we have for reporting trouble? When the bullies knew that we'd be in just as much trouble as them for telling on them, they were able to bully with impunity. When rapists know that women will face scrutiny, disbelief, and sex-shaming for reporting them, they feel safer in assaulting more women in more contexts and in more ways.

My dad, who watches CNN and other news outlets (that aren't Fox) about 8 hours a day (until "the game" comes on or his favorite house hunter show starts), didn't know this, and didn't really think too hard about what a "Sanctuary City" was. All he knew was something something illegals something crime something protection.

Which is why it's so important that we have those uncomfortable conversations with our family when we can, and keep talking about it publicly, and use whatever privileges we have (white, male, cis, straight, etc.) to talk to others in our peer groups on behalf of those who don't have a voice.

My dad was simply uninformed, and he was uninformed *from his not-conservative news sources*. He married a WOC, whose parents were immigrants and never did learn English. And yet he still had a problem with "Sanctuary Cities", because he didn't really understand what they were or how they affected people.

I just wish I had the same success when talking to my parents' best friends, the wife of whom is also a WOC and even still has her accent (my mom lost hers as a child), and yet they're so conservative that my father put a moratorium on anyone discussing politics with them at their anniversary party, because he wants to continue being friends with them and not have anyone fight at their special day.

When even the centrists in the room say "just don't bring up politics with THEM", you know they have to be pretty far Right.
joreth: (being wise)
So, I'm adopted. I was adopted as an infant. I've always known I was adopted. I met my birth mother more than a decade ago. My mom (the woman who raised me) has always been supportive of me meeting her, but without actually telling me about it, I could always see the insecurity behind her eyes.

So I've always treated this whole situation like "opening up" a monogamous relationship and my mom like an existing partner who is nervous about me hooking up with an old partner. I didn't slow down or put any artificial limits on building a relationship with my bio-mom, but I was considerate and reassuring to my mom about how much she meant to me and how appreciative I am of my upbringing.

In all of these conversations over my entire life, of my mom explaining to me that I am a child of mommy's heart, not her tummy, of my mom showing me the letter my bio-mom left for me when I turned 18, of our heartfelt conversations about whether or not I was curious about my bio-parents and would I like to find them, of mom's tentative conversations about what my bio-mom is like...

in all of these conversations, fathers were almost never present. My dad (the man who raised me) never talked to me about it, although he was occasionally physically in the room when the conversations happened. These are just "mom" kind of talks. My bio-father deliberately chose not to be located by me, which both I and the social worker responsible for finding them respected. He is actually back together with my bio-mom and still does not want direct contact with me, which I continue to respect.

My family had strong gender roles, so it's not like the fathers weren't supportive or were antagonistic or anything. It's that my dad's role wasn't to do emotional labor for the kids. And my bio-father has a long, traumatic history that I've spoken about before but I won't go into here, for which I feel comfortable not having any contact with him. It's like we're doing parallel poly and I'm OK with it.

A bunch of years ago, both mothers got on Facebook and of course I friended them both. A handful of years ago, my mom started asking me about direct contact with my bio-mom. Very tentatively, like, I could tell she was really very curious about her, but also still a little nervous, and also afraid of what contact with my bio-mom would mean to everyone else.

Mom was concerned about how I would feel about it, and also concerned about how my sister would feel. My sister is also adopted, and her bio-family story is not as happy as mine. So, to put it into poly terms, I had a "partner" (my mom) who wanted to meet my other partner, her metamour.

But she has another partner too (my sister) who tried "dating" outside of her, and it didn't go well, and this "partner" (my mom) did not have any contact with *her* other partner's partner.  So she was concerned for how getting along with one partner's other partner would feel to her other partner when she didn't get along with *that* metamour. Follow that?

See, this is why poly relationships are just not very difficult for me. It's all the same skills as any other complex social web of humans. Mom gets uncomfortable every time I say this, but I learned all my poly skills from my Christian, monoheteronormative family-of-origin.

She deeply cares about the effect she has on those around her, and that instilled in me a sense of concern and compassion for how I affect others, and how others affect others, and how we are all interconnected. If you pull on a string in a spiderweb, you tug on all the others. Some of those connections will survive, some won't. Families are webs.

Anyway, Mom started probing a possible direct connection with my bio-mom, which I enthusiastically endorsed. So she started out first by just "liking" some of her posts. When the "likes" were reciprocated, they friended each other (I think mom actually asked me first if I would mind). After a while, bio-mom started commenting on Mom's family posts about what a beautiful family my mom had. So Mom started commenting back.

I wouldn't say that they're *friends* in the more classical sense. But we do seem to have the beginnings of Kitchen Table poly happening here. They're pleasant and appreciative of each other and can speak directly to each other.

So, with all that exposition, I'm finding it hilarious and more than a bit surprising to find that my dad and my bio-mom seem to be bonding. Over what, you might ask?

My bio-mom is very outspoken about Hair Gropenfuhrer and almost all of her posts are political. Since his retirement, Dad has really gotten into leaving CNN on at the house, no matter what he's doing, so he can yell at the TV about the Orange Menace and his sycophants.

When I think about my adoption and my family web and the whole story, the women are the ones who play prominent characters. Because emotional labor is women's work, dontcha know?  But all of a sudden, every post I see on my bio-mom's feed is "liked" by my dad and often has some comment from him. Dad doesn't post much himself, or else I believe I'd see the commenting being reciprocated.

My parents (the ones who raised me) have never been particularly political. They're liberal, but they're liberal *Catholics*. They were more concerned with shielding me from whatever injustices they believed still existed in society than in smashing the injustices.

This is how I grew up to think that sexism and racism were mostly over and feminism was unnecessary, we just had a few odd holdouts here and there that needed to be dealt with, like a couple of rogue squads who refused to believe their side surrendered and were still committing acts of guerrilla warfare.

My activism has always confused and upset them. Mom never liked upsetting the apple cart or making waves or other similar cliches. My beliefs were always more liberal than theirs too, but it was never the difference in beliefs that upset them (other than the atheism thing, but that's a whole other thing), it was that I was driven to action because of them.

And here, suddenly, my bio-mom comes along who pulls no punches and is very politically outspoken (if there was ever an argument for nature over nurture, my bio-family would be it, btw), and coincidentally at the same time my senior, retired father happens to have nothing really better to do than putter about the garden and watch talking heads on TV so he develops strong political opinions seemingly out of nowhere...

and just like that, two "metamours" who didn't seem to express any interest in kitchen table poly become buddies over a shared hatred of the scourge currently destroying our nation.

If I can find any reason to have everyone meet in person, that family reunion is going to be ... interesting.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
I cannot stress enough just how important it is to plan your exit strategies with ANYONE you have any kind of legal connection or financial ties with - family, lovers, friends, strangers, exes, coworkers, anyone.  I don't know why this is such a difficult concept for people to accept, but you NEED to put down in writing how to split up with people when you're dealing with anything financial or legal.  And you need to do this when y'all still like each other.

If you get married, get a fucking pre-nup.  Like, seriously, get one.  It doesn't take the "romance" out of it, and it doesn't show a lack of trust.  It's a goddamn necessity.

If you are already married and didn't get a pre-nup, get a post-nup.  It's basically the same thing, but with all the verb tenses changed.  And the most recent post-nup supersedes any prior post-nup and any pre-nup, just automatically, so keep doing post-nups even if you did get a pre-nup, as your various assets and liabilities and debts change over time.

If you go into business together, don't just talk about how you're going to split the business while you're in it, talk about how to LEAVE the business.  PUT IT IN WRITING.  Discuss if one of you wants to leave the business to the other, how can you get out, and discuss if you both want to end the business, how you're going to split the assets and the debts.

Assume a worst case scenario.  Assume that the other person has been body-swapped with their double from the mirror universe and they are suddenly, without warning, totally evil.

No, seriously, have fun with this discussion - if one of you turns evil, how can you write an exit strategy to save the other one?  Then switch roles, is the exit strategy still fair now that the other person is evil?  Role play this out while y'all are on good terms and can laugh at the absurdity of the thought that one of you would try to screw over the other.

Because I guaran-fucking-tee that everyone who has been screwed over would have laughed at the absurdity of that thought at the beginning of their relationship too.

I have some friends who are going through a divorce.  OK, I know quite a few people going through divorces, so let's take a look at one hypothetical couple.  They're poly, they're "ethical", they totally agree with everything in More Than Two and everything I write about power imbalances, abuse, feminism, privilege, etc. They know a few things about a few things.

One of them is being blindsided by what appears to be the other one pulling a stunt like my abusive ex - after years of controlling behaviour that the first one never recognized, the second one is going around telling everyone else that the first one was abusing the second one all along. And they have all this legal crap to untangle.

One of our mutual buddies and I were talking the other day.  The mutual said to me, "I had a bad feeling about That One when I first met them. But I didn't say anything because This One was clearly smitten, and what do I know?  I had just met them.  But, do you think, maybe if I had said something back then, This One could have been warned that That One would do these things and maybe done something to protect themself?"

I had to say "no, I didn't think there is anything we could have said to protect This One, because some of us DID say something.  Over the course of their marriage, several of us, independently, did tell This One that we saw some red flags about That One, and a couple people actually argued with This One pretty strenuously, trying to make This One see.

But when anyone expressed concern about how deep This One was getting entangled, and how that was leaving them open for the potential for That One to do some fucked up shit, This One always said 'well that's just silly, That One would NEVER do something like that!  So I just won't worry about it.'

This One kept insisting, to everyone who brought up concerns, that none of us really knew That One like This One did.  Which is true, of course.  Nobody who said anything about the red flags we saw really got to know That One very well.  They were often absent from group events and did not reach out to most of This One's friends independently.  So we had to concede that point.  And This One felt confident that everyone coming to them with red flags was independently wrong for our own reasons, so there was nothing for This One to be concerned about."

All my friend could say after that conversation with me was "Huh. So there's nothing we could have done then?  Well, that's depressing.  I guess people just have to get bitten on the ass then."

No one who ever ended up on opposing tables in a bitter divorce court ever walked down the aisle and thought "y'know what? I bet, some day, this dearest angel, whom I love with every fiber of my being, will probably turn out to be the biggest asshole in the world!  But I love them so much, I'll just jump head-first anyway!"

Everyone who has ever found themselves at the point of a metaphorical sword held by a former lover thought that their lover was an OK person in the beginning, not likely to do anything horrible enough to financially ruin them or damage their standing with the law.

Take my aphorism about rules and look at it backwards here.  I often say that anyone who would follow the rules doesn't need them and anyone who wants to do the things against the rules, the rules won't stop them.

When it comes to legal and financial stuff, however, things are a little different.  You can't control another human being with rules without tromping on their agency, but you can protect yourself from *them* attempting to control or harm *you* using the leverage of money or business power with some contracts.  If they're truly good-hearted, compassionate people who care about your well-being, then they will WANT to protect you with documents, so things like pre-nups should not be offensive to them because if they really loved you, they would want to see you protected and cared for.

And since y'all are so confident that this is just hypothetical anyway because your love will never die and you are both the paragons of virtue you think of each other, then it doesn't matter if you have legal paperwork or not because you both know you'll never have to use it.  So might as well have it and not need it.  Just like any other insurance policy.

If they are one of these monsters in disguise who is managing to completely fool you, then you *need* that paperwork.

In addition, one of you will die before the other one.  That is almost guaranteed.  Part of these exit strategies can and should encompass how to handle assets and debts and property in the event of that kind of split as well.  Nobody likes talking about death, but too fucking bad. Put on the big kid pants and have the awkward conversation already. Like with most things in poly, or in any healthy relationship, if you want to adult with other people, you have to have awkward conversations, so roll up your sleeves and hitch up your britches and start talking.

And while you're playing at being grown ups with the conversation about death, you might as well go all the way and talk about splitting up too.  It's awkward and unsexy and you might learn something about your partner that you don't like as you hear them talk about how to divvy up property and cash, but if you can't handle that kind of conversation, you shouldn't be entangling yourself in finances or business or legal shit in the first place.

Treat your financial and legal presence as seriously as you treat your sexual presence - use some goddamn protection, and if you can't talk about it with each other, then you shouldn't be doing it with each other.

joreth: (polyamory)
More comments of mine that I want to turn into blog posts:

Q. I am a single mother and have more than one male partner. My religious family disapproves. Am I being a bad mother by being poly? How can I do this without messing them up or confusing them?

A. My sister is a monogamous single teen mother (well, she *was* a teen, now she's well into adulthood). Because of her circumstances, she raised her son with the help of me and our mono, hetero, Christian parents. That's 4 adults all living in the home raising one child.

For about a year or two, she moved to her babydaddy's town and lived with his parents, who were right across the street from my uncle, down the street from 2 cousins, and around the block from our grandfather, and a short drive away from 3 more aunts and uncles and a grandmother. That's 3 live-in adults, and about 10 more adults in the vicinity.

When she moved back with our parents, that was the 4 of us again, plus the new monogamous boyfriend (who eventually became her husband and father to her second child), and the kid's regular daycare provider so that she could finish her degree and get a good job. So now 6 adults helping to raise the child, plus a handful of neighbors and teachers and good friends who all played a peripheral role.

That kid grew up to be a decent student, an amazing athlete, and aspiring soldier, who loves his mother and all his other "parents". He's one of the most loving, considerate, compassionate people I've ever known. He became an assistant coach for the swim league that he grew up swimming for and he mentors young children. He also regularly stays with my parents (his grandparents) and does manual labor around the house now that my dad is getting too old to do it himself.

None of this has anything to do with polyamory.

The more loving, stable adults there are in a child's life, the better off that child is. My nephew could have become just one more statistic - a child of a teenage single mom. He could have been poor, he could have been "difficult" with his ADHD and not enough discipline, he could have gotten into trouble with too much unsupervised free time on his hands.

But instead, he had so many pairs of eyes looking in on him and so many people to support his mother emotionally and financially that she was able to finish high school, put herself through college, get a degree, and start a career while *still* being present in his life to coach his swim team when he was a kid and volunteer at his school and help him with his homework. She couldn't have done any of that without all the other loving parental figures around to help.

There was never any confusion about who the adults in his life are or how they are related to him. And he had so much love and support that he turned out to be a great young adult.

You mention being confused. This is something I have a personal beef about. My sister and I are also adopted. We were both born to teen moms who couldn't care for us and made the ultimate sacrifice to allow someone else to raise their children. Our adopted parents adopted us as babies and were the best possible choice we could have hoped for. They were always honest with us about being adopted. It was always clear that we were "born of mommy's heart, not her tummy". So I technically have 4 legitimate parents.

I have never once been "confused" as to who my parents are. I have 2 people who contributed genetic material and who loved me enough to let me go, and 2 people who dedicated their lives to seeing me healthy and happy and raised to adulthood.

Children need loving adults in their lives. They need some semblance of stability. They need security in order to develop healthy attachment styles of relating to other people. They need a reasonable amount of discipline to develop the skills necessary to survive as an adult. None of this has anything at all to do with the gender or relationship of the adults in the child's life.

This concern trolling "but what about the children?!?" for poly households just makes me so mad because I came from a wonderful home that has all the same elements of poly households but without any polyamory, and I benefited greatly from those elements, as did my sister and her children. I feel that we were given an edge over others, that we were *privileged* because of our family circumstances. And I wish more children had at least the same privileges that we did.

If you look at the actual reality of their concerns even a tiny bit, they fall apart completely. More adults who care about the children is better. Obviously they won't get "confused" any more than literally ANY child gets "confused" by their own families. More incomes is better. More resources is better. Turn it around and ask why they want to restrict access for children from more love and more resources?

If you want even more ammunition, pick up the book The Polyamorists Next Door by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff. It's about her longitudinal study on poly families with children - the longest running study on poly families ever. Her conclusions are basically the same as families with gay parents - if the parents are loving and attentive, then the kids turn out just fine and everything else the parents do is irrelevant.

Kids don't care who is sleeping with whom and usually don't even notice. Kids care how that adult is related *to the kid*. Is the adult there to buy them things? Is the adult there to play with them? Is the adult there to help them with homework? Is the adult there to drive them to their friends' houses? Is the adult there to keep them from messing up? It's all about "me", as far as kids are concerned. They don't know and don't care about their parents' genitals or what they do with them in private.

They care if they have a safe place to sleep at night, enough food to eat, and fun things to do (and they also care if their *parents* are happy, because that reflects on their own ability to find stability and happiness at home, so parents who are in alignment about how to raise the kids and who treat *each other* well are also important but whether or not they are having sex or even married or dating is irrelevant too).
joreth: (polyamory)
I just had an ah-ha moment - one of those things that I kinda already know but it somehow crystallized for me in a way that it hadn't before.

I come from an immigrant family.  It's true that both of the parents who raised me are natural born citizens, but my grandparents on my mom's side were immigrants (and POC at that, who never really learned English), and my grandparents on my dad's side were from that sort of white Norwegian immigrant type family that embedded their immigration status into their family identity, regardless of how many generations ago the actual migration happened.  Like, y'know, Minnesotans who still maintain ties with their second cousins from "the old country" and who are still baking the same old family recipes at county fairs and stuff.

Intellectually, I know that not everyone has the same kind of family ties that I was raised with.  I have the kind of family who still gets offended if their great-niece doesn't send her annual holiday letter every year, and the first time I drove across the country, I was required to stop by and meet my dad's father's sister-in-law's brother (who is my great-uncle by marriage) who my mom hadn't even met yet.  It would have been mildly offensive for me to not introduce myself while I was in the neighborhood.  Keep in mind that I hadn't even known of his existence until I announced the trip, but I sure as hell had to stop and say "hi" or risk ruffling some feathers (and as a product of this family, I thought it was kinda neat to meet family I didn't know I had).

I *know* that not everyone has these kinds of family connections.  But I just put it together that this was related to immigration.

I have drawn parallels before between polyamory and "normal" monogamous extended families.  People often ask me about scheduling in a poly relationship, and I always say that it's no more complicated than trying to schedule an extended family event.  When people seem to get stuck on that concept, it's clear that they've obviously never tried to get 3 uncles, an aunt, about 12 cousins, two grandparents who are divorced and don't speak to each other, a great aunt, a cousin-once-removed, two god-siblings and a god-nephew to Las Vegas for a wedding anniversary party.

And people look at me like I've just grown a second head - of course they've never tried to do that, who would try to do that?!

When I tried to explain to Franklin about the wedding guest list and the need for a large enough venue, he kind of boggled at me rattling off my list of relatives.  Why did we have to invite everyone?  Because of the family politics of *not* inviting someone! (Not that he actually balked at inviting people, but it didn't actually occur to *him* to invite second cousins and great-aunts and it certainly didn't occur to him that any of his relatives might get offended for not getting an invitation).

Meanwhile, I had to check in with him after the wedding to see if his sister was even notified that he had just gotten married.  He *thought* someone had told her.  I have no concept for this in my head.  My bio-mom's step-daughter's (from an ex-husband) cousins all heard (directly from me) about us getting married.  I can't even fathom the idea that a *sister* might have been told by someone, maybe.

So, I know that not everyone does family the way I do, but it didn't occur to me that this is, at least in some part, due to immigration.

If you look at recently immigrated families, you'll see some trends.  Often you will see entire sections of town devoted to preserving their culture, like having a "Chinatown" or a "Jewish" district.  Sometimes that's imposed from the outside, to keep the POC safely contained, but a lot of it is also because recent immigrants to a new country can rely on others of their nationality for support.  They might have immigrated in the first place because they already had family here.  Certain foods might be unavailable anywhere other than their own grocery stores.  They can be guided on naturalization, on language classes, on jobs that will hire them.  The schools in the area are more likely to understand and connect with the children who may be bilingual (or not yet speak English) and have different customs and foods and clothing.

To come to a foreign country is intimidating and there are often a lot of obstacles in the way of settling in.  So people who have had similar experiences, both with the immigration process and with their cultural background, often band together to form large extended family-like neighborhoods and communities.  People whose families have been here long enough for the descendants to no longer identify as a hyphenated-American, but simply as belonging to the US, don't have this same pressure to build and maintain ties to people whose ancestors came from the same place.

Not that they *don't* do that - the Daughters of the Revolution, for instance, is a good example of a purely US extended family construct that has many of these kinds of traits - pulling together as a community, pride in lineage, common cultural mores and foods and clothing and thoughts and behaviours, etc.

But if a person doesn't have, as part of their *identity*, the struggle to fit into an alien culture and needing those like them, even if not directly related, for support, that person may have an easier time adopting a "rugged individualism" sort of identity and maintaining ties with smaller groups like a nuclear family, and perhaps even experience a freedom of social mobility to move through communities and even physical locations without a sense of culture shock and loss of identity.

I have been told by several people that white people like to think that they made up this poly thing, but if you look at black culture, you'll see that something like polyamory has been around for much longer than the '90s when some neo-pagans coined the term, and longer than the Free Love movement that inspired them.  Sure, even white people will talk about how some form of non-monogamy has always existed, but talk of historical non-monogamy tends to be mostly made up of other white examples. While my POC friends point out that they've been doing this *in parallel*, not in response to or influenced by whatever it is that white people think is polyamory.

So, while black cultures can seem to be coming almost from the opposite direction as immigrants, seeing as how they didn't "immigrate" while trying to hang onto an old culture but instead had their culture stolen from them when their ancestors were stolen, the response seems to be to come towards the same place as immigrants - which is to build interconnected, dynamic, extended support networks of families. When you have nothing else, you at least have each other and your shared experiences as an unwanted "outsider" in a hostile land that you call "home".

So, when I was pulling out my usual "polyamory isn't any different from monogamy with extended families", it occurred to me that if anyone needed to develop better tools regarding extended family interpersonal relationships (like therapists, for example), one could look at the research on recent immigrant subcultures and communities in the US.

Which then led me to consider, if immigrant families are so prone to this kind of interconnected family networks, could that be where I picked it up?  My mom is from a recently immigrated, Mexican family, so yeah, probably there.  But what about my dad?  Oh, dad's Norwegian whose parents moved here from Minnesota, who are also pretty notorious for their in-group communities.  No matter how many generations have lived in the US, they still act like recent-immigrant communities, kinda like Jewish people do.

So, now this is a connection I have in my head that I can use to explain polyamory better.  To someone like Franklin, the idea of not talking to a sibling for months or years, or even needing to cut a sibling out for "differences of opinion" is an option that's totally on the table.  But for someone who comes from a Mexican family like mine, or a Chinese family, or an Indian family, the idea that, when two people get married, and the new spouse has a problem with the sister-in-law, the idea that the married couple can just stop talking to the sister because the "marriage comes first" isn't even an option.  It's not even considered, unless one is willing to cut ties with the whole freaking family.

You simply Do Not just drop someone who has a conflict with a romantic partner.  You fucking work it out, one way or another.  And, in some cases, it's the romantic partner who gets dumped.

I'm not saying we should stray too far in this direction where toxic and abusive familial relationships are maintained because they're "family" to the detriment of healthy romantic relationships.  But I am saying that this is a model, a framework, where (some) people understand that a romantic relationship is not the pinnacle of all relationships, and that interpersonal dynamics are complex and strong, and good conflict resolution skills are prized because winnowing down to just "the couple" is not considered the healthy option.

In poly relationships, when we make "the family" more important than the people in it, we stray into coercive territory.  But that's not what I'm talking about here - that's a whole other rant (which I've made several times before).  So I'm not talking about making the family more important than the people.

But I *am* talking about making the family at least AS important, if not moreso, than "the couple".  THAT dynamic needs to go.  That's a lesson we can learn from recent-immigrant communities.  The people in the relationships need to be more important than the relationship, but once that is prioritized, the *networks* of interconnected people needs to be at least as important as any given dyadic romantic "couple".

Because polyamory is not something that "couples" do, it's something that people do.  Your metamours are not people you can just drop when you're having your own issues inside your dyad, in the same way that your mother-in-law is not someone you can just cut out of your lives forever when you decide it's time to have a baby, to focus on your own nuclear family, or when you're having a time of stress between you and your partner.  In fact, calling on your mother-in-law when you start having children, or maintaining your connections with your siblings when you're romantic relationship is going through a rough patch are excellent tools for helping people get through those challenging times.

Poly networks can be an incredible tool for the same things.  When someone dies in a recent-immigrant community, everyone bands together to take some of the responsibility off of the grieving widow, for example - it's a trope to bring food to a funeral because, when this practice became popular, making food was a seriously time- and effort-intensive process (still can be) and if the person who died was the "breadwinner", a community can come together and make sure that people who are grieving, and potentially now out of income or labor to support the family, can still get fed.

And when the entire community pitches in, nobody is overly burdened.  When my grandfather died, my grandmother was not able to care for herself, so she got shuttled around from one of her child's households to another, adding an extra amount of food and financial obligation and labor to that nuclear family.  At least she had several children to keep passing her around to.

But if she had a *community*, with someone who could have dropped off a casserole every other day, and someone else who could have come by to play bridge with, and someone else who could have interfaced with the lawyers, etc., etc., none of her children's nuclear families would have been taxed to the point that she was needed to be "passed off" to someone else (the reason she only had her kids and no extended community has to do with my grandfather being an abusive patriarch type, but that's another story).

Or, as many other elderly people who didn't come from the kind of community-based background as my grandmother and didn't have nearly a dozen children who believed it was their obligation to take her in no matter what have had to rely on nursing homes and the kind of kindness of strangers that money can buy.

When I went into my suicidal depression, I had several people I could turn to, all with different ways of helping - the one who could show me love and affection, the one who could help me navigate the complicated medical system while looking for a counselor, the one who could just listen, etc.  When I found a low-income clinic that accepted my application for the most amount of financial assistance they had to offer ($10 therapy visits), and the counselor they assigned to me learned of me being poly, the first thing he asked was if the stress of multiple relationships was contributing to my depression.

I explained to him that my poly network was the only thing that *wasn't* contributing to my depression and, in fact, was actively helping by being my support network.  I could tell that this possibility hadn't even occurred to him (not that he was familiar with poly in the first place, but naturally the first thing he thought of when he heard "multiple partners" was stressful love triangle, jealousy, competition, superficial connections, etc.).

But, to me, it seems obvious that more people to love means more people to support me.  I credit a lot of my ability to grasp polyamory with my adoptive background too.  My parents instilled in me a very strong sense of "family is more than who you're related to, it's who you're connected to through love, not blood".  But a lot of people see adoption as a last resort, and not even that because they want children "of their own", they don't want to raise "someone else's kids".  And it occurred to me that part of my parents' ability to see adoption as "god's plan" for them and their adopted children as "theirs" might be related to the whole immigrant thing too.

The church I went to in high school was predominantly Filipino, with some Mexicans.  I sang in the church youth choir.  All of us choir kids called each other's parents "mom and dad", because, in our church, they were all our "parents" and we were all their "kids".  Lots of people in this area had adopted or raised "someone else's children" - siblings or children who were unwed teen parents that couldn't raise their children so they did instead, young cousins or their own siblings who had some kind of problem at home and needed to escape, their own kids' school friends with similar problems, a relative's child who lived in an area with poor schools so they took in the child to give them an address that allowed them to attend a better school, stuff like that.

For recent-immigrant families, seeing everyone as part of one big family is how we survived.  I think it gave my parents the ability to provide me with probably the most idyllic adoption story possible short of a Daddy Warbucks story, and that sense of family and my positive adoption experience gave me the ability to foster a healthy outlook on polyamory, one that sees the destructiveness and toxicity of couple-centrism and couple-privilege.

In recent-immigrant families, you can't isolate yourself down to just "the couple".  That's where you are in the most danger.  You can't lock yourselves into a "couple" because that leaves no room for family, friends, god, and community, and without those things, you can't survive.

Obviously, within monogamy, a "couple" is still important - you wouldn't want someone to "come between" a romantic couple by having more romantic connections, so the analogy starts to break down at that point.  But, even there, we have some room.  There is some precedence for "the mistress" being part of the family, or at least maintaining connection to the community.  As we see in The Color Purple, black families have had some romantic interconnectedness going on there too.

These things have happened, they're just not talked about in the same way as modern polys talk openly about polyamory.  A lot of times, kids grow up never really understanding that "Aunt" Sarah isn't someone's sister or a friend of the family that moved in to have help raising her kids, but her kids might be Daddy's kids too.  And in certain sorts of communities, while this might not be the norm or widely accepted, it has happened, and people are not thrown out for being "black sheep", because they're *family* and family is supported and helped to the best of the community's ability.

So I think we can look to the complex nature of recent-immigrant communities for some guidance and modeling of large, complex, interconnected networks of family systems.  And maybe all these damn "couples" can learn a thing or two by emulating the healthier aspects of communities with rich cultural traditions of extended families.

Lots of time, the Argument From Antiquity is a logical fallacy - just because it's "old", or "we've always done it", it doesn't mean that it's true or healthy or good for you.  But sometimes things are "always done" because it's a system that works.  Sometimes, it *is* in our better interests to "listen to our elders" and keep certain traditions alive - like valuing the larger family and not prioritizing couplehood over complex family network connections.
joreth: (cool)
I think my parents are finally getting the hang of this whole poly thing.

Since we got married (at my parents' house), my parents finally remember and recognize Franklin as my partner.  Because he's always been long-distance to me, he isn't in a lot of my pictures that I post online and I don't have a lot of "we did this thing last weekend" stories about him, so it was easy for my parents to "forget" that I'm dating him.  But now he's a legal spouse, so that "counts" to them.

During the whole wedding extravaganza, they had a chance to meet Ben, who is our Squiggle Designated Extrovert and can charm the pants off of anyone (especially girlfriends' mothers).  Both of my parents just fell in love with Ben, who made himself indispensable during the wedding by filling in the gaps wherever someone was needed.  Ben has the same sort of "family" connection that I do, which is that family-of-origin of the partner is important so he makes friends with parents & siblings of partners that even outlast the romantic relationships.  I still send holiday cards to my high school boyfriends' parents.

So now they can't pick just one of my partners as the "real" one, because Franklin is the spouse and the person I've been with for 13 years and Ben left such an impression on them that they continue to text each other directly just to see how each are doing.

I had to actually reassure my parents that neither I nor Franklin would feel slighted if my parents developed a friendship with Ben because of his outgoing, friendly nature that makes him so easy to like.  They were concerned that we would feel that they were undermining or dismissing our married relationship by befriending Ben, so I got to have yet another poly talk with them about the independent nature of solo poly relationships and the solid self esteem of both of my partners who do not take things personally when people like or dislike the other one because it has nothing to do with them personally.

Now my parents actually tell me to pass along their hellos and well-wishes to both partners!

#polyamory #ItOnlyTook20YearsButTheyMightFinallyBeGettingIt #ParadigmShift
joreth: (anger)
"These people cut off contact with their own adult-child because they disapproved of them. They DIED never reconciling! Would you really ask someone to make their own parents give them up?!"

Well, since the parents CHOSE to die never having reconciled with their adult-child, then I'd say they deserved what they got.  The parents are not the ones deserving of sympathy in this story, and their feelings are not the ones I'm interested in protecting.

The adult-child, on the other hand, did not deserve to have such shitty parents, but it's also not their fault that the parents disowned them (also, can I point out the inherent issue with the phrase "disowned" involving familial relationships?  Parents are not the "owners" of children, they have their own autonomy, especially once they reach the age of majority and become legally autonomous).

There is no asking of a person to *make their parents* be shitty parents.  The parents are already shitty parents.  That the adult-child does something to trigger a really shitty response doesn't change the fact that the parents were shitty to begin with.  The adult-child's behaviour is the *trigger*, not the cause of the shittiness.

So this is a faulty question to begin with.  Nobody can ask or tell anyone else to *make* their parents do something that their parents are going to do.

For example, my grandfather refused to come to my parents' wedding because my mother is Mexican.  He was racist.  My mother could have asked my father not to marry her, to avoid pushing his father into boycotting the wedding.  Or my mother could have insisted that he marry her anyway, knowing that this would result in a rift between my father and his father.

But in reality, my parents loved each other and my grandfather was a shitty, racist parent.  If they had not gotten married, my grandfather would still have been a shitty, racist parent.  My parents getting married or not getting married didn't change that.  My mom wanting to marry my dad in spite of my grandfather not being there for him didn't MAKE my grandfather not be there for him. My grandfather did that all by himself. Because he was a shitty, racist parent.

And while no child deserves shitty parents, anyone who chooses to cut off contact with a relative deserves to not have that relative in their life anymore.

Sometimes that's a good thing - someone cutting off contact with an abusive relative deserves to have a life free of their abuse.  Sometimes it's a bad thing, but cutting off contact with a decent human being because you feel entitled to how they live their lives means that you fucking deserve to not have them in your life anymore.

So, yeah, if a parent is willing to cut off contact with an adult-child in the first place, particularly for something like the adult-child having the audacity of being their own person, then I am absolutely in favor of whatever anguish they feel at not having their adult-children in their lives anymore because they choose to do it.

There's a really simple way to avoid the pain of losing an adult-child in this particular way - don't be a shitty parent and cut off contact with your adult-children for being their own person or loving people you don't love.  That's not the fault of the adult-child, that's entirely the fault of the shitty parent.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I don't understand the question of how do poly people decide whose family to visit for holidays.

Or rather, I understand the question in the sense that I understand English, but the underlying premise that assumes that making holiday decisions is somehow *different* for poly people than everyone else is what I don't understand. Strike that. I "understand" even that premise, what I'm trying to say is that why *they* don't see that their question has this premise and why it's problematic is frustrating for me.

Every time someone asks that, I just think "did you really grow up with a mom and a dad who were still married to each other and literally no other family anywhere so that your family never had to answer this question at any point during your childhood? Do families like that actually exist? Because I know they're not the norm."

And I ask that as a child of two parents who got married to each other right out of high school and remain married to this day and who actually *do* live in a city with no other blood relatives in the same city. Because we still had family nearby, and we still made family-of-choice out of friends and neighbors, as most people do.

There was always a question in my home growing up - do we visit mom's sister an hour away, mom's adult nephew's family about half an hour away, dad's brother about 2 hours away, dad's sister, dad's mother or dad's father (who were divorced) - all about 7 hours away, mom & dad's best friends or mom & dad's other best friends (in our city), or the godparents a couple of neighborhoods over?

My parents solved that one by putting out hors d'oeuvres and having everyone else and the neighbors (literally) drop in at our house throughout the day if they could.

This isn't a poly problem but a people problem of any "nuclear family" growing up and starting families of their own which makes the whole concept of "family" into this giant branching tree with conflicting schedules and priorities. My dad grew up in a nuclear family but once he and his siblings became adults, there were 5 new "nuclear" families to consider.

My mom also grew up in a nuclear home, but when her generation became adults, that made 8 more nuclear families to visit. So when my mom and dad created their own nuclear family, they were still connected to their own nuclear-family-of-origin but being adults that meant 13 different households.

Since "who to visit for the holidays" isn't a poly problem, growing up we did what everyone else did - made decisions for each holiday based on a million different variables including time, money, distance, children's school schedules, who we saw last year, and then we try to pack as many of everyone who didn't get eliminated by conflicting schedules, finances, or priorities into one event.

I handle poly holidays the same way I handled holidays while monogamous - talk with everyone involved, see who wants to host and who wants to travel, balance time and money against preferences, and make decisions based on all of that information every time a question of "who to visit during the holidays" comes up. It's a different answer every time even one of those variables changes, and most years at least one of those variables is guaranteed to change.

With so many families scattered around the country and around the globe, usually the problem is pretty simply sorted out by who is even in physical proximity to visit in the first place. Most years, that doesn't leave us with more than 2 or 3 options, logistically speaking, and house-hopping is totally an option with so few choices to reasonably choose from.

But honestly? If I could make the whole country scale way back on how important these damn holidays are and just spend the time quietly at home, away from repetitive holiday music and obligatory gift exchanges, I'd rather do that. Or better yet, working.  My friends and I manage to find plenty of reasons to host large food-centered gatherings so if it's the food and the gathering part that I wanted, I don't need an over-commercialized holiday shoved down my throat to get it.

But, back to the point. Most of the questions I get about polyamory can quite easily be answered with "I dunno, how do YOU deal with it? Because it's probably pretty similar to how you do things."

Since the question isn't really the question. The *real* question is "but are you even people? How do you people if you're not people?"
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
It's that time again! The time of year when I start reminding people to create online wishlists for holiday gifting!

Gift giving is a complicated social custom with a lot of implicit expectations behind it, and people with different backgrounds often have different (and conflicting) expectations from each other. Some people feel obligated to give, some people feel obligated to accept, some people refuse to give, some people refuse to accept, some people are good at guessing, some people are terrible at guessing, some people feel bad about asking what someone wants, some people feel that it's rude to be asked for specific gift ideas, some people expect others to just magically know or to read hints, some people have monetary limitations, some people have very specific wants and are hard to shop for, some people are easy to shop for ... on and on!

I recommend that everyone creates an online wishlist of things that they want. Many services offer the ability to create multiple wishlists per account and/or "family" accounts so that multiple people in one group can all create (and share) their own wishlists under a single account. I think this is an excellent way for parents to keep an eye on their children's wishlists or to manage the wishlists for the ones too little to manage their own, and for individuals to set up different lists for themselves, such as a personal wishlist and a gift recommendation wishlist, or wishlists with items suitable for different people to view (parents vs. coworkers vs. spouses, for instance) or for different occasions.

This is especially helpful for long-distant relatives wanting to buy gifts for children and who may not know the children well enough to know what to buy or who don't know what the children already own. As a parent, you can create wishlists for your children and just leave them up for holidays and birthdays, periodically coming back to revise the list as the children's interests change over time or as they get things on the list that someone forgot to mark as "purchased".

Here's why I recommend that everyone have an online wishlist - it does several things that I believe help to navigate the complicated expectations behind gift giving:
  1. You can be as specific or as vague about the sorts of things that you want to make sure that you reduce the number of gifts you have to return or that you are not pleased with. With the right wishlist service you can even list non-material things like hugs or donations to charity in your name. I think online wishlists are especially important for people who really aren't into the whole gift exchange thing because they can keep the gifts down to a minimum with specific items or they can specify those non-material gifts I just mentioned.

  2. Nobody has to read your mind to get you the perfect gift in their budget.

  3. If you don't like telling people what you want because it feels too much like you're "asking" for gifts, you can make your wishlist into a "list of things that I want to have someday even if I buy them myself" list, and then other people can choose to look at your list and buy stuff from it or not. But you're not asking anyone for presents. Think of it more like a shopping list that other people can look at and buy from if they want to, rather than a request.

  4. If you have friends or family who are too embarrassed to ask what you want or don't feel comfortable asking for specific things, this relieves them of the burden. They can just look at your list without saying anything to you and buy something that they know you want if they so choose. And you know that whatever they get you will be something you want even if they refused to ask you what you wanted.

  5. You can use the wishlist yourself to remember where you saw that cute thing online that you wanted to buy but didn't want to buy it at the time and now it's several months later and you can't remember what it is! Or you can use your wishlist as a reminder of where you did buy that thing that one time and now you need another one but you can't remember where you originally got it. You can even use it as motivational goals - things you want to save up for.

  6. You don't have to worry about people buying the same item twice like you do when you send out an email to several different people because when something is purchased, it gets removed from the list and other visitors won't even see the item.
Gift Registries for weddings and baby showers are considered a normal, acceptable custom where some people want to buy one person a gift and the recipient gets to specify exactly what they want. Nobody is offended that the recipient lists specific items, nobody is offended that the givers want to know specific item suggestions, and nobody actually has to ask directly for gifts or ask directly what to buy. I think this should apply to all gift-giving events like holidays and birthdays, and even hard-luck times like job loss or illness or funerals, when it might help to have people give useful items to make it through a tough time, because it simplifies the exchange and removes or reduces the sense of obligation that some people feel regarding gift exchange events without removing the joy of gift exchange.

I recently lost my wishlist service and had to go hunting for another one. I had been using the same service since about 2002 and it had every feature in a wishlist that I could possibly have wanted. Now that website is down and has been for months. So I had to attempt to find another service that had all the features I wanted and recreate my wishlist from memory!

I never did find a wishlist service that had *all* of the features of my previous one (nor did I remember all the items on my old list). But I did find only one wishlist service that had *most* of the features I wanted - :
  • This service is not attached to any particular retailer and I can add items from literally anywhere. I can add items from online stores with a browser plugin button, and I can manually add items that are not online. It also offers the ability to accept cash donations.

  • This service allows me to have several wishlists, so I have a Clothing Wishlist, a Miscellaneous Wishlist, and a Gift Card Wishlist, to make it more manageable to navigate.

  • It also allows me to manually order the items in my list so that visitors see the items in the order that I want them to see them. Visitors can also reorder the list by price, store, and favorites as well as the site allowing the visitor to view items by category. I can create my own categories and assign the items to whatever categories I come up with.

  • This service shows the list of items with a thumbnail of each item, the price, ordering information like size and color, additional notes that I can enter if I want, and a link to the store where the visitor can view and purchase the item.

  • This service offers a browser plug-in and a smartphone app to make it very simple to add items to any of your lists, as well as managing the lists.

  • When visitors click to view or purchase the item, this service will open the store's website in another tab or window so that you do not lose the wishlist itself. It then gives you the option to go back to the wishlist and anonymously mark the item as "purchased" so that no one else will buy the same thing you did. Once I share my wishlist for Christmas, I do not look at my wishlist again until the holiday (and my birthday the next month) is over, so that I will be surprised by my gifts. That way visitors can safely mark items as purchased and still keep it a surprise.
There are two things that this service does not do that my old one did: one is to give me the option to tag my items. Tagging an item allows me to associate multiple tags to each item so that it can be cross-referenced and viewed under several different tags. So, I might have an item that is both a household item and an electronic item and I could tag it with both keywords and visitors who want to look just for household things as well as visitors who want to look just for electronic things would all see this item. The new service only gives me the option of putting items in a single category, so I have to choose - is this a household item or an electronic item?

The other is priority ranking. My old service allowed me to rank my items on a scale of 1-6 with one being "must have" and 6 being "don't buy for me, I'm just thinking about it", which I thought was a very useful feature. Visitors could sort the list by priority order and only look at those things you wanted the most.

But other than these features, this service does everything else that I was looking for. I was willing to give up the tagging because of the categories and I already manually order my list by priority because an extra step to view priority was just a touch too complicated for my parents. But I do miss these features and feel that they made the previous service more valuable to others who don't have my same limitations and made me even more enthusiastic about recommending it. I had to look at and try out more than a dozen different wishlist services before I found this one that even has all of these features! So I'm passing it on so that other people can take advantage of it.

And now, because several people have requested that I do so, I am including a link to my online wishlists for those who want to see them:
joreth: (Super Tech)
Me: ... I even know what song I'd dance to at my wedding.

Him: You don't even want to get married! Do all girls just naturally like planning weddings?

Me: No, you don't understand, I've had my wedding planned since high school because it was a *required class*! I've had the dress designed since then and even had a version of the dress made as my high school prom dress (which I still have in the closet, I'll show you later if you're interested). Obviously, if I really were to get married today, there would be some changes because I have some very different values since being a teenager (like not believing in marriage, for one thing, and being poly for another), but the reason why so many women have ideas for their weddings even before there is a prospective husband is because we're proactively coached in wedding planning.

Not everyone is forced to actually take a wedding class in high school. Some get it through their cotillion or sweet 16 parties or similar "coming out" parties that are really just mini-versions of today's weddings. Others just get it through their families. But I had sex ed every year from 6th grade through 12th grade, and eventually there's only so much biology to be taught on the subject. So they covered other related subjects.

One semester, our "sex ed" course was a self-defense class where I learned tae kwon do (not that I remember any of it, but I did flip a real assailant over my shoulder once, which was pretty cool). That class doubled as a P.E. credit. Another semester was a marriage and family planning course where we had to actually plan an entire wedding, down to calling venues to find out about how to reserve dates, developing color schemes, and making a budget. We were also randomly assigned various careers with certain incomes and had to plan a household budget with given criteria and limitations. The course ended the semester with one of those flour sack baby projects. And I also learned all the symbolism and significance to all those wedding traditions.

Did you know that the bride is supposed to have two bouquets? One of fresh flowers that she walks down the aisle with and then dries or freezes to keep stored forever and another fake bouquet to throw at the reception?

Him: What? You have to keep the bouquet?

Me: Yeah, along with the dress. That multi-thousand-dollar dress that you only wear once and then put in a box in the closet, never to see the light of day again. The flowers can get preserved and saved too. If you spent all that money on flowers, wouldn't you want to keep it too?

Him: I suppose. I just didn't know you were supposed to.

Me: So it's not a guy vs. girl nature thing, it's that I literally didn't have a choice. And even women who don't have a class to make them plan their weddings don't really have a choice. We're hounded by our family and friends, asked questions about our wedding plans that we have to answer, and when we're segregated into our respective gendered wedding parties, you guys are expected to go out and get rowdy while our "parties" are actually helping the bride prepare for the wedding. So even if I hadn't ever had that class, all I'd have to have is an invitation to a bridal shower or a close relative get married and I'd have been expected to help pick out dresses and florists and taste-test the cake and look at invitation fonts and discuss the hopes and dreams and expectations of the bride and her bridesmaids.

That bridal shower is pretty much all wedding planning and grooming. We give the bride wedding gifts that are supposed to help her with the wedding ceremony or the marriage after. The "games" we all play at these things are basically silly versions of wedding traditions that reinforce the cultural programming of weddings. Like dressing the bridesmaids up in toilet paper wedding dresses. That's dress designing reinforcement right there, even if it's silly.

Do you know the importance of choosing an invitation font? Or the seating chart at the reception? Or the consequences for having a more casual reception where there is no seating chart? How about the order of events? Do you know why, when you were a groomsman and you walked down the aisle with your bridesmaid, your linked arms were "wrong"? Do you know why that's important? And the cake, the topper for the cake is supposed to be saved too, frozen, and then eaten on your first anniversary together. Every little bit of the wedding and reception has to be planned out and it all means something.

Him: !!

Me: We are literally pulled into two different worlds and coached on different things. So, yeah, I have a wedding plan even though I'm ethically opposed to the government regulating my romantic life and philosophically opposed to most of the symbolism inherent in traditional marriage ceremonies (which, as I told Franklin, is subtly but significantly different from being "opposed to marriage" but it's too complicated to say all that so I summarize it as "opposed to marriage", but I'm not quite, not exactly). I have that plan because it's not really very likely to be socialized as "female" in this society without one. Even for us conscientious objectors or conscientious "modifiers", we can't be "conscientious" about it without looking into the whole concept of weddings and marriages and analyzing what we disagree with and why, both for our own introspection and also because we, as women, will be challenged on our objections so we have to really understand the subject in order to defend our position.

You guys just get to show up with a tux, or not. Even if you choose not to, you don't *have* to really examine why. You're guys. You could just be "a bachelor". But I have to defend my protest with reams of historical data, studies of sociological mores, piles of legal precedent or justification, and a degree in biology to counteract the false "evo-psych" bullshit that says I'm supposed to want to get married.

And even then, I'm still supposed to be able to describe the dress I would wear if I ever changed my mind.

Him: Huh. I didn't realize there was that much that goes into weddings.

Me: Yeah, it's not a "girl thing" in that we just like planning weddings. It's way more complicated than that. We don't really have much of a choice in whether or not we "like planning weddings".

In response to the inevitable "but I'm a girl and I didn't take any classes like that in school!" response:

I went to a private Catholic school, which held this class. But many public schools do have flour sack or egg baby projects so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they also have wedding planning mixed in there somewhere. Maybe in home economics class? I dunno, I'm told they don't have that class anymore, but they did when I was in high school, so it's not that archaic. Not yet anyway.

But, as I mentioned, we do have cotillions and bat mitzvahs and other religious or social practices where wedding planning sort of sneaks in there. Much of our "wedding training" is pretty subversive.  A lot of us go to religious or cultural classes in addition to our public school education. I went to Catechism as a Catholic (religious Sunday School), for instance. The Filipino Catholics had cotillion training that I only learned about after I joined a Filipino church and was invited to someone's cotillion, where I discovered it was basically a wedding reception where they dismissed the importance of the "groom" entirely except to be arm candy for the girl whose party this was. She held "court" and everything.

But many, as I said, just learned about wedding planning through attending the pre-wedding events like the bridal shower. It's sort of an informal tribal-school learning session, where the bride is the main attraction and the elder women all gather around to assist and then instruct the younger women and girls on doing the legwork. I can't tell you how many times I sat at someone's kitchen table with a sponge and a stack of invitations, stuffing envelopes and listening to the older ladies all talk about the wedding and the symbolism and the etiquette and fielding off demands from the grannies to know what *my* wedding will one day look like.

So even before high school, it's not like my mother quizzed me on wedding rituals, but I absorbed a lot of this knowledge just through cultural osmosis by being around other women going through their wedding preparations.  Which I was required to do as a "girl" as my mother, and then later myself personally, was invited to participate and celebrate in weddings, because the wedding activities were all segregated, with women attending bridal showers and pitching in to help and men attending bachelor parties and pretty much nothing else.  Really, sometimes my upbringing looked like a movie from the 1950s without the poodle skirts.

Plus, as I mentioned, even when women do opt-out of the cultural expectations, a lot of the time they still end up knowing about weddings precisely because they chose to opt-out.  Either they really looked into the subject and what they saw informed their opinions, or they started looking into the subject for their own weddings and got overwhelmed and just said "fuck it" and deliberately ignored the rituals.  Either way, the guys still mostly had the luxury of just showing up without really having to learn much about the process they were either participating in or eschewing.

It should also be noteworthy that people who follow me online are kind of a self-selected group, particularly a group of those who break gender norms, and when I speak of gendered social programming, I'm speaking of cultural trends where it should be obvious that some individuals (especially those who follow me) would be on the outsides of the bell curve.  Obviously I wasn't alone in going through these gendered normalization practices.  I grew up in one of the largest cities in the world and was raised in one of the most populous religions in the world.  While weird to my current friends and followers who follow me pretty much because we're all weirdos in these ways, my experiences growing up were still very common and are typical examples or illustrative of the sorts of experiences that shape the culture in which I live.


In the comments of someone else's share of my post, someone said they were glad they didn't grow up like me. I have a response to that which I think is kind of important. I'm noticing a lot of borderline horrified reactions, and I think that's kind of missing the point.

The point of my tale was not "poor me, I was forced to learn about weddings". The point was "poor men are excluded from this process and women are expected to pick up the slack so here is yet another example of culturally enforced gender discrepancy of emotional labor".

The learning of the wedding process wasn't the criticism. In fact, I believe I benefited from the learning process and that maybe classes like these should be taught more often - just without the gender role enforcement or heteronormative structure.  Imagine what kind of cultural awareness we could be teaching our youth in classes that examined popular cultural traditions like weddings in-depth and challenged the students to understand why those practices are used and why they might want to keep or reject any given practice by having them plan and explain their own hypothetical weddings!  Imagine how the entire wedding industry might have to change as a result of an entire generation of youth growing into marriagable ages where they have already examined and challenged the gender roles embedded in weddings and already examined the interconnected economic consequences for participating in the wedding industry!  Imagine the generation after the "millennials" seeing the economic disaster that their parents are currently facing and learning about how we got to that point and how it affects even day-to-day decisions and larger decisions like the structure of our relationships, and then applying that knowledge to their own creations of their own relationships and futures!

There are much worse things than expecting children to learn and understand the culture in which they are expected to participate as adults.

Here's my comment:

I am glad to have grown up as I did. I learned a lot about my own culture, so that when I choose a different path, I have a very in-depth understanding of what I am choosing, what I am rejecting, and the whys of it all. I have a deep understanding of our cultural history and all the connections made over time and across cultures as imperialism and trade created influences on our own culture.

Knowledge is a good thing and I was fortunate to have grown up with people who embraced knowledge. It wasn't enough for my family and teachers for me to just adopt, say, wedding practices without understanding them and it wasn't enough for them to let me get to the stage where I would have a wedding without learning all the work involved in putting one on. My schools and the elders in my life wanted us to be prepared for adult life. They didn't want us to build these giant, unrealistic dreams of fantasy weddings, they wanted us to know how much they cost and how much work goes into them. They didn't want us to go out into the real world without understanding how checkbooks and credit cards worked and how much of our pay would go to essentials like rent and utilities.

I was better prepared to enter life as an independent adult than most of my friends who went to schools that didn't offer such instruction and I had a better understanding of why we culturally did the things we did than those same peers. No, the sad part is not that I learned all the stuff that I learned, but that men don't also learn these things and aren't expected to shoulder any of the burden while women are expected to know and do all this on our own (whether the women were given instruction as I was or not). As I told the person in the original story, if I ever was to have a wedding, my future husband would be an equal partner in the wedding planning because he would be an equal partner in the marriage. But thanks to culturally enforced gender roles, if I want an equal partner in this, it'll be up to me to educate him to the point where he *can* be an equal partner, and that's the part that is the problem, not that I'm already schooled in how to put on a wedding.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

In a completely different context, I have been known to say to my coworkers:

"I can totally tell you're a straight dude, because you've *obviously* never dated another guy. Y'all think you're all rational and logical and shit, and that you're all about the sex and not the romantic stuff, but I know what y'all say to women when your dudebros aren't around. You whine about not 'connecting' and missing the romance and all the fucking talk, talk, talk. After a while, it's like 'do we have to talk about our relationship ONE MORE TIME? Can you please just shut up with all the relationship talking? Is it too much to ask to just come home, have some dinner, watch a little TV in quiet, have a little sex and go to bed? Jesus fuck, you guys with all the talking!' You sit there and complain about girls doing that but as soon as a girl doesn't WANT to do that, y'all turn into the whiny little bitches you complain about! And don't tell me it never happens, unless you've dated as many men as I have, I'm pretty sure I have more experience with how dudes behave in relationships than you do. You're getting the story your dudebros TELL you and the side they want you to THINK. You're not seeing them behind closed doors. I am. Y'all are just as whiny and emotional as any of the girls you complain about."

Now, keep in mind that, when I phrase it like this, I'm talking to dudebros. I'm talking to guys who are working in a masculine industry, talking to other guys, and doing that toxic masculinity bonding thing where they complain about how girly girls can be. But the story under the language is true - I have spent a lot of time in relationships throwing my hands up in the air, yelling in frustration, "what the fuck, dude, I don't want to talk about our relationship anymore!"

Before I started dating Franklin, about 13 years ago, just about every relationship I ever had ended in accusations of being a cold-hearted bitch. I've had a few since then too, but he sets a high bar and my tolerance for partners who can't even come close to meeting that bar is rapidly dropping as I age, so my other partners since dating Franklin have been a better ratio - with only a couple of outright abusive assholes using that accusation and the rest breaking up for other reasons. By the end of things with those who accused me of being a cold-hearted bitch, I was no longer interested in hearing about their day, in listening to them whine (because that's how I thought of it by the end) about how much they "missed" me, in making them dinner, in sitting with them to watch their favorite show, in, really, doing anything at all kind or compassionate for them. There would come a point in the relationship where I would just ... check out.

And I bought into this idea that I was some kind of borderline sociopathic monster (or, a dude in a girl's body, because the other common accusation is that I act like "the guy" in the relationship, which "forces" them to act like "the girl", because there always has to be one of each? Oh right, if *I'm* not performing the emotional labor, *someone* has to, and it's just not *fair* that it has to be the actual penis-holder!). So I would warn people up front that I'm "the guy" and this is what I do.

But, in the beginning of a relationship, I like performing some amount of emotional labor - I like hearing my partner's inner most feelings. I like baking for them. I like validating them. I am actually pretty schedule-oriented so I will keep the calendar and schedule events and remember (or get calendar notifications for) people's birthdays and anniversaries. I even like the cuddling and the sex, in the beginning. So they get used to me behaving in a way contrary to my warning words.

Then they start to feel entitled to that behaviour, and that turns me off. So then they're surprised when I start acting exactly like I said I would because they weren't hearing my words, they were seeing my actions which contradicted my words and they put a filter over their interactions with me that projected their own biases onto my actions and filtered out my words. Then they accused me of being "cold" and I would yell right back at them "what part of 'I'm a cold-hearted bitch' that I said in the beginning didn't you understand?"

The Five Love Languages theory claims that everyone has one primary Love Language that they use to express their love for people or that they feel love when expressed towards them. It claims that it's possible to learn the other languages just like it's possible to learn actual languages, but that there is always The One. I disagree. I think that there is no limit (upper or lower) to the number of languages any given person naturally "speaks". Some people have a single language and all the rest will always be a struggle for them. Others, like me, speak all five fluently and naturally. And most everyone else is somewhere in between.

Here's something I learned about the Five Love Languages - if a person has a particular Love Language, and that Love Language gets abused from an early age, and/or often, then that person will develop a strong aversion to the expression of that Love Language precisely because that Love Language is so important to them. It's like touching an exposed nerve almost. Maybe not quite, but touching something sensitive - if you do it exactly right, it will make them melt with pleasure, but if you do it wrong, it'll be a screaming, painful experience for them when the rest of us are all like "I don't get it, what's the problem? This doesn't hurt *me* that much!" (we see this very clearly in the "can't you take a joke?" defense where some people have no problem slinging insults around as signs of affection, but get confused when someone they love takes it "personally"). If that Love Language gets abused early enough, before the person is aware that this is a Super Important Way To Express Love, this person might believe that they are actually opposed to it completely, instead of it being extremely important to them. And then, because they are avoiding the expression of that Love Language out of self-defense, their "love tank" runs on empty for most of their life.

A "love tank" is often compared to a car's gas tank or a bank. It's this metaphorical space that gets "filled up" when you do things that makes the person happy. When the tank is "full", they have a reserve to fall back on when things are tough. When the love tank is full, and you have a fight, they are more likely to be charitable or compassionate during the fight and get over it afterwards because they have this extra cushion to fall on, this extra reserve to draw from, so they can afford to bend more, be more flexible, give more during a conflict. This is why conflict, anger, or arguments are not necessarily a sign of a bad relationship - all relationships have these. It's contempt that is the big warning sign. Contempt, and similar emotions, are what gets brought out when these love tanks are running low. Contempt and disgust lead to a lack of empathy, and that lack of empathy leads to "selfish" behaviour. If you can't empathize with someone's position, you prioritize your own safety or your own security or your own escape route.

These behaviours are labeled "selfish" because you are putting yourself ahead of them. I, personally, make a distinction between "selfish" and "self-interested". "Selfish", when I use it, means putting WANTS ahead of someone else's NEEDS, and doing so either knowing that your actions will harm another and not caring; or thinking of yourself to the exclusion of the other person so that it doesn't even occur to you that someone else might get harmed. When I say "self-interested", I mean that you are putting your NEEDS ahead of someone else's WANTS. I might include "putting your needs ahead of others' needs" as well because sometimes there are situations where two people have legitimate "needs" that are incompatible and someone might have to choose themselves over someone else. I don't consider that to be "selfish" so much as "self-interested". Often, the person putting their own needs ahead of someone's wants is aware that someone else might feel hurt by it, but they feel it is a regrettable necessity. They aren't lacking empathy, they are making a choice about priority.

I think this distinction is very important because the accusation "selfish" is a very powerful tool of abusers to maintain their victims. Being "selfish" is one of the worst things a person, especially a woman or someone coded as "female" or "feminine", can be. So it's easy to keep her in line by grooming her for her entire life to not be "selfish" and then drawing on that grooming whenever she acts self-interested.

Meanwhile, the actions of the abuser are, in fact, "selfish", by this definition. I think it's important to note these two similar but distinct actions and belief systems with their own labels. This is not a criticism of the original article's use of the term, but an explanation of my own position on the subject and how I normally use these terms. Regardless of which term is used, I completely agree with the posted article's position on this subject, which is why I'm sharing the article. It prompted me to take a look back on all the times I've been called "selfish" and "cold" in relationships and to be critical of those accusations.

So, back to the Five Love Languages - I apparently speak all 5 fluently and naturally. Which might sound awesome at first hearing, because there are so many ways that people can express their love for me and I can speak naturally to any of their individual ways so you'd think that I'd get along well with a whole bunch of different people. But, as I like to joke, it's actually more like there are so many *more* ways that people can fuck this shit up than those who only speak 1 language. Because there are *5 separate love tanks* that people have to keep filled, not one, if they want me to feel secure in our relationship.

So, I would start out in a relationship with the NRE filling the role of the "cushion" or "reserve" in the relationship. Kinda like how lactic acid works when there's an oxygen deprivation to keep you physically moving, only in reverse - I start *out* with the NRE giving me a boost just long enough for the new partner to start making emotional "deposits" that I will eventually start drawing on when the NRE wears off. So, the NRE makes me all physically affectionate, verbally validating, intensely interested in everything they have to say, interested in doing things for them, and even wanting to give tangible things to represent my feelings for them or to show them that I was thinking of them when they weren't around (in order, the Love Languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving).

But here's something that the Love Language theory doesn't cover. I propose that "entitlement" can actually draw *out* any saved reserves from love tanks. So, even if my partner is actually expressing love for me in ways that might otherwise fill up my love tanks, if he is acting *entitled* to any of these expressions of love from me, that entitlement will start to siphon off some of those reserves. So, he may be showing his love for me by wanting to spend Quality Time with me, but if he's also *demanding* that time of me because he feels that I owe it to him as part of our relationship bargain, that Quality Time now starts to act as a deficit instead of a deposit.

"Leaving aside the fact that it’s still her phone and she still gets to decide who gets to use it and for what–a very important fact that I’m only leaving aside because I’m writing about something else–our brother has a pattern of entitled, demanding behavior towards her. He treats her time, belongings, and energy as if they’re his to take. Unfortunately, that happens a lot to selfless and caring people.

Because of that pattern, my sister has stopped being as giving with our brother as she used to be. Often she angrily refuses to do even tiny favors for him, like letting him borrow her phone for a few minutes to take some photos. Occasionally he makes his requests in a more appropriate way, but sometimes she still reacts with knee-jerk irritation and, raising her voice, tells him no."

I have been quoted as saying that I have a long fuse, but a huge blast radius. This means that I seem to have these endless reserves of patience and caring and compassion and empathy ... until you reach the end and then I blow up in what appears to be a totally disproportional way. I have yet to find a way to fix this, because I actually have gotten very good at clearly stating my boundaries and warning people that I'm nearing the end of my rope. But that seems to make it worse for me, because then when they overstep my boundaries, they're doing it *knowingly*, from my perspective, and I take it now as a deliberate blow. But, there's something else that gets added on top, it's just that very few people ever get to see it these days because I've gotten more comfortable with the banhammer and burning bridges.

When I have finally lost my patience with someone on a particular thing, but for some reason I haven't decided to nuke the entire relationship, I never again build up any resources to deal with that particular thing. So, for example, my family. My family doesn't do anything so horrendous that I'm willing to cut ties with them. They're not abusive, they're not racist (at least not all of them, and the ones who are aren't overtly racist), and since I live 3,000 miles away I can enjoy their company in small doses of my own choosing. But when we were kids, my sister used to steal my stuff. My clothes, my cassette tapes, whatever I had, she would steal it whether she liked it or not. One day, I'd had enough and we got into a fight about something probably not even related, and I shoved her bedroom door through the connecting wall. I got grounded forever and I had to do the repair work on the wall when my parents got home. To this day, I am extremely short-tempered about my stuff going missing and I'm incredibly territorial about my stuff.

Another example is my parents not respecting my agency. In a million tiny ways almost too hard to describe, my parents have never respected my autonomy and my desire or ability to make my own decisions or be an independent person. It's hard to describe because any one example is minor enough that many people just don't get why it's a big deal. The big deal is the aggregate. It takes a lifetime of tiny little chips away at my autonomy before I finally blew up about it. I got into a huge fight with my mom and moved out (and into the arms of my first abusive fiance, but that's another story). My mom tried to physically restrain me from leaving the argument and, for the only time in my life, I pushed her back and into the hallway wall. My sister came running down the hall and broke up the fight and I left.

My mom and I have repaired things and I consider her a good friend in addition to being my mother now, but every time she does even the slightest thing to remind me of an infringement on my autonomy, I get red-faced, temperature-raising, pissed off. The most common example is that, every time I visit or they visit, mom asks me if I need her to wake me up in the morning to get to whatever we have to do that day on time. She doesn't believe that I can do it myself just because my sleep disorder showing up in my teen years took me some time to learn how to compensate for. No, I don't fucking need mom's help to wake up. I'm motherfucking middle-aged and I've been getting myself up for two-thirds of my entire life. Don't fucking wake me up before my goddamn alarm. I have a system that works for me, don't fucking do it. See? Totally unreasonable reaction if seen out of context and in isolation. But I have never been able to build up any extra reserves to my mother infringing on my autonomy, so it is *always* that exposed nerve, that empty tank.

"Once I realized that my partners thought that it was my job to do emotional labor for them, I started rapidly losing the desire to do it."

"Even now, even to myself, I sound selfish and cold. But so does my sister, out of context. Neither of us is selfish or cold. What we are is exhausted. What we are is tired of being unable to set any boundaries. What we are is totally done doing things for people who have never, ever asked us what we need."

"When someone’s reserves of compassion get drained like that, they start setting boundaries that are much stricter and tighter than what they would’ve been otherwise. No, you can’t borrow my phone for even a few minutes. No, I don’t want to listen to your feelings at all. No, I honestly don’t even have enough emotional energy to give you a compliment to make you feel better about yourself."

"Because others’ entitlement often shuts down our desire to help them, and when we’re constantly afraid that our boundaries will be ignored, one strategy that many of us feel compelled to use is to start loudly, bluntly stating and defending those boundaries, as if to remove any plausible deniability from the person who continually crosses them."

The author goes on to say that they're not very optimistic about salvaging a relationship after the point at which it has collapsed from one person just flat out giving up on doing any more emotional labor. I can relate there too. Once I "go cold" like that, once I'm just done giving a shit about their feelings in the matter - any matter - I really have no interest in trying to repair the relationship and I don't see it as being very likely that anyone else will have any success in their own relationships after someone reaches that point. I'm reading a book now that claims to be able to help people come back from that precipice, but I'll be honest, I have some reservations about it.

The book I'm reading is all about the scientific research being done about "trust" in interpersonal relationships, and it actually had me for about half of it. I was on board, I was nodding my head as I read, I was already trying to come up with ways to work some of its theories into my Love Languages and Breaking Up workshops. And I *still* think those parts have merit, so I may still reference them. But then I got to this one part where he lumped kink into "impersonal sex", which tells me that he has no fucking idea what kink is, which means that he really doesn't understand what's going on in the minds of people regarding trust at all.

He moved away from kink and went back to just talking about repairing trust and betrayal and I thought, well, OK, the 5 Love Languages is deeply problematic too, coming as it does from a heteronormative, couple-centric, deeply Christian perspective, but I managed to strip it of all that bullshit and find something usable to present to the poly community so perhaps I can pick and choose with this book too.

But I'm not entirely sure I agree with his premise for using his research on trust and betrayal to mend broken relationships. He seems, from my perspective as someone who has been thrust down the rabbit hole of abuse in poly relationships, to be fetishizing the couple and prioritizing the needs of the relationship over the needs of the individuals in the relationship - a core axiom of ethics violation in poly relationships.

We go through so much trouble to try and salvage relationships after things have gone sour. There is a point before which things are rocky but there are enough good parts to a relationship that things can be improved and bring value and joy to everyone involved, and there is a point after which I'm not so sure it's worth the effort even if it *can* be turned around and start bringing more joy than suffering again. And that's not a hard and fast point that I can just say "if X happens, it's not worth it anymore, for anyone, no matter what!" I think that's something only the people in the relationship can decide for themselves, and I think it's possible for it to be true for one / some of the people and simultaneously not true for the other(s).

But I think that point exists, and I think it's very important that we as a society acknowledge this. Relationships and love are abundant. We can find them all over the place. But we can't *see* them, or won't be open to receiving them, if all of our resources are tied up in Scotch-taping broken relationships back together. Sometimes, we might just be better off by using our resources more efficiently by giving up on a broken relationship and spending those resources in other places that aren't so broken.

In this book that I'm reading, the author talks about this point where someone in a relationship starts comparing what they have to what they could have elsewhere, either a real person / relationship that they know of or a fantasy in their head of something that might exist elsewhere if only they could go look. I really want to expose this researcher to healthy poly relationships where believing there is "someone else" out there who can do or be this other wonderful thing *isn't relevant* to whether or not we choose to stay with our current partners.

But there is a nugget of truth in there, that if we are too busy spending all of our resources on a sinking ship, we don't have any resources to maintain or repair all the other ships in our lives, whether it's other romantic partners, family, friends, hobbies, or jobs. This even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we keep dumping in resources after resources into an endless pit because we feel that we have to justify all the resources we have been dumping in so far. To cut our losses and run is to have "failed" and to invalidate all those spent resources. So we keep spending. And that contributes to people staying in abusive or toxic relationships (among other things).

I think we need to stop romanticizing the Forever After and accept that relationships, even successful ones, may not always last until Death Do We Part. I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing to reach this point of No More Fucks To Give and decide that, even if it's possible, it's not desirable to try to "fix" the relationship. I think that, not only is not a bad thing, but it's actively a good thing in many cases, and that it's also not a bad thing to decide it's not desirable *before* reaching that point in order to meet a different goal of maintaining a civil breakup and post-breakup relationship. Better to walk away still remembering the relationship fondly and perhaps even harboring some loving feelings, than to wait until the only feeling you have left for them is contempt, disgust, or anger. Assuming, of course, that you can choose when to walk away, but that's a different discussion.

When we have someone who repeatedly violates our boundaries, or regularly draws upon our emotional reserves in the relationship without putting enough of their own back in to compensate, "selfish", or as I have termed it, "self-interested" behaviour is a valid response. If you're wondering why someone seems to have "checked out" or why they seemed to have lost all their compassion for you, it may be because you've been drawing on their "love tank" reserves instead of filling them up. If you're being accused of being "selfish" and you're wondering why you seem to be this heartless monster around this person in particular but you either remember not being that person or you aren't that monster around other people, it may be because this particular person is crossing your boundaries in small, almost unnoticeable ways or because they're acting entitled to your emotional labor or because they're withdrawing your love tank resources instead of depositing into them.

And if that is the case, it may be for everyone's benefit that you act a little more "selfish", or at least self-interested, and remove yourself from that relationship. If full removal isn't possible at this time, I'd recommend embracing the accusation of being "selfish" and/or looking into ways that you can get away with enforcing as many of your boundaries as possible and acting in your own self-interest in as many ways as possible, as often as you can.

If "reclaiming" the label of "selfish" gives you the strength you need to do what you have to do, go for it. If just reminding yourself that "selfish" and "self-interested" are two different things and that people who have a vested interest in keeping you under their control often use the "selfish" accusation when you're really being "self-interested" - if that reminder is enough make you feel better about taking care of yourself in the face of boundary-crossing and entitlement, then hold onto this until you can improve your circumstances and keep reminding yourself of it. It is not a bad thing to take care of yourself in the face of this kind of violation, even if that means you have to "shut down" something in order to cope.

joreth: (::headdesk::)
From Tumblr:

"here is an idea: normalize the idea that adopting kids is a valid option even for parents who could conceive a child themselves, and not just an inferior backup option for parents who can't." ~ monsterkissed

I've been trying to do this since I was a kid. I'm adopted. There is no difference between the love my parents have for me and the love people feel for their genetic offspring. I have maintained from the first time that anyone ever asked me about being a mommy that I would adopt if I were to have any children at all.

To me, it seemed the only thing to do. I was given a home when I might otherwise not have had one. The right thing to do was to pay it forward and give some other child a home who might not otherwise have one. There is nothing wrong with my reproductive cycle. I just believe that children already born should be given a chance at the same kind of decent life I had growing up.

I am ever thankful for the decisions of both my sets of parents that led me to the home I had. Adoption is a valid, noble option for anyone to choose. There are few things more selfless than to either choose another set of parents when you know you cannot give a child the best life it deserves or to choose another person's child to raise as your own.

Not everyone who was adopted had my good experience, of course, but that doesn't make adoption an inferior choice. Adoptive parents, like genetic parents, are a mixed bag. Some genetic offspring are far worse off for having been born or kept, but no one suggests that parenthood is anything other than a "miracle" or "noble" or "the best thing a person can do with their life". It's like monogamists blaming all of polyamory for a poly relationship failing but blaming the couple for a monogamous relationship failing.

The truth is that parenthood and families in general are incredibly complicated and nuanced no matter how those families are formed. So the point should be not that all adoptions are wonderful, but that adoption should be a valid option and if it WAS a valid option, it would have more cultural support than it currently does, which would make it a good option *more often*. Kinda like polyamory.

If adoption had the cultural (and governmental) support that such an incredibly important choice like this deserved, the negative stories would decrease because of the support given to ensure the safety of the child and to care for the emotional needs of the parents releasing their parental rights. More children would have the positive experiences that I had growing up, at least on par with biological parenthood and likely higher simply because adoption requires deliberate, thoughtful choice and planning and oversight and independent approval whereas the decision for biological parenthood can be made after the fact by pretty much anyone.

Kinda like polyamory - if it had the cultural support to be just one option among many, the intense introspection and thoughtfulness required to do it would likely result in higher satisfaction ratings among practitioners than other options if we removed the social pressures, stigmas, and cultural baggage that poly people have to unlearn in addition to learning the extra skills.

And P.S., if you adopt an older child, you are still a "real parent". That comes with its own set of challenges that ought to be acknowledged.

"In a world that embraces the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, why is it so difficult for people to understand my family and Simone’s family? Setting aside the idea that it isn’t anyone’s business for the moment, what makes adoption so confusing? It is not a rare occurrence. Since (at least) biblical times, when Moses’ mother floated him in a basket, babies have been raised by others who aren’t necessarily their biological parents. Each year in the United States, about 135,000 children are adopted."

"DNA was not the defining characteristic of our relationships."

"Ask yourself, what tethers you to your own parents or to your own children? Is it a shared recessive gene that caused you to both have green eyes? ... Rather, isn’t it the time your heart was shattered and your father hugged you tightly and let you cry on his shoulder? ... That is what makes us parents. What makes us sons and daughters. That is what makes us real."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Well, I suppose it's progress. Phone call with mom tonight included telling her about helping Richard move across the country, so she asked how I felt about him and I got to gush for a bit. Then she actually asked about Ben! To be fair, she did ask me if I was still seeing him, but she didn't automatically assume we weren't now that I'm also seeing Richard, and she even said to say hello to them for her!

I still had to remind her that I'm still dating [ profile] tacit, though, which irritates me because I've been with him for nearly 12 years now (which suitably impressed her when I pointed that out - mononormativity means longevity = success). But she hasn't met him yet so it's harder for her to remember. Couple privilege rears its ugly head in the damnedest places sometimes.

Society places a higher priority on relationships that have met the milestone of "meeting the parents", which is why I actually make a point of introducing my partners to my parents as early and as often as I can even though it's not a big deal *to me*. I recognize that "meeting the parents" legitimizes relationships in my parents' eyes and in the eyes of most other people. When attempting to communicate, more ground is gained when I can speak in the other person's language. So I will often do or say things that mean one thing to me but another thing to someone else, because that *meaning* is what I am trying to convey.

In this case, meeting the parents isn't really a big deal to me because they're across the country and I hardly see them. But when I'm trying to explain to them how important someone is to me, I know that "meeting the parents" expresses "this person is really important to me" in their language, so that's why I do it. It's also why I have started to teach myself how to get comfortable with the selfie and with taking silly "couple" photos when I'm with a partner. That's another thing that society uses as a marker for a "legitimate" relationship, and I have chosen to use that marker as another communication tool that my relationships are real and "serious".  It's important to me that my partners feel legitimate, important, and validated in their relationship with me, and part of that includes making sure everyone else understands that my partners are legitimate, important, and valid.

It seems to finally be bearing fruit. Mom remembers at least 2 of my partners and acknowledges them both as "serious" partners. She acknowledges the other one as a serious partner but still has to be reminded that he exists because A) she never met him and B) I rarely see him so I don't have a lot of goofy "couple" photos of us on FB.

Only 15 years after I came out as poly, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race!
joreth: (Misty in Box)

Sister: There are limited number of slots available for us to see my son graduate from boot camp. Why would she think she can go?

Mom: Well, she's his girlfriend.

Sister: Don't you think Joreth should take priority? She's family!

Mom: Well, yeah, of course!

Sister: Joreth, don't you want to go?

Me: Well, yeah, of course!

Sister: Then you wouldn't be willing to give up your spot for her, would you?

Me: Well, I can see why he would want her there, and his graduation is about him, not me.

Sister: But would you give up your spot?

Me: I dunno, maybe. I want to go, but I might be willing to give his girlfriend my spot because that's important to them. I just don't know.

Sister: Joreth, you're not on my team anymore.

Polyamory teaches me to be compassionate, to stop making things all about me, and to consider how important other people are to the ones I love. I may not be selfless enough, "enlightened" enough to actually give up my privilege, but I'm at least willing to consider it. And who knows, maybe I will.

I have 2 months to learn how to let go of my attachment. But I'm thinking of my nephew, and how this event is *his* day, not mine, and how I would feel if I couldn't have my own partners with me for something important like a graduation ceremony, or how I would feel if the family of one of my partners deemed me not "family" enough to be included on an important ceremony for my partner.

One of the things I worked really hard to do is to only visit my parents when I had the money to issue ultimatums in favor of my chosen family. I accept my parents' financial assistance and hospitality, but if it ever becomes possible to bring a partner or more along with me and my parents try to use their hospitality as leverage to apply conditions - such as not allowing me to share a guest room with a partner - I only want to visit when I have the money to say "well, Partner(s) is coming with me so if that's inconvenient for you, we will get a hotel nearby," or whatever would be necessary to remove those conditions. The validation of my partners and metamours is important enough to me to make that stand. I wanted to go ballroom dancing with my best friend on a night I was staying with my parents. I asked to borrow a car to get there, they said no, so I said I would rent one because I will not allow them to use their better finances to determine *my* choices. As soon as I said I would rent a car, they offered to loan me their extra car. It wasn't about the car, it was about who is entitled to my time.

I helped to raise my nephew. My sister was a teenage, single mother, so she lived at home for most of his life, where I was also still living until I moved to Florida. I was another parent through colic and a botched circumcision and many ear infections and learning to walk and learning to read and learning to swim. Not seeing him graduate if the military gives him enough family passes to include me would hurt. But attending wouldn't mean, to me, that those who didn't attend were somehow less important, not as much "family", as I am.

And I know that, even though he would love to have me there, he would *also* love to have his girlfriend there. As a poly person, I understand that wanting his girlfriend doesn't necessarily mean that he wants me there *less*. I have a different role in his life than his girlfriend, so it's not fair to ask him to rank which one of us is more "important". We have different roles, and different *types* of importance. I don't envy him the choice.

And he really won't be given the choice. He would never ask out loud for me to be passed over in favor of the girlfriend - his mother has trained him too well in her brand of etiquette, which is All Important in my family. My sister, his mother, will retain the power of final say in who goes because that's how my family operates - parents have ownership rights over their children. This is one of the many lessons I have rejected from my family even while I've kept many other lessons that have served me well in poly relationships.

But I do know the pain of externally imposed limitations, and the impossible task of choosing who "deserves" to be present when not everyone can be, and the tug of war that my family creates when they rank family of origin above family of choice. My sister has even said that, if they somehow got more spots available, his best friend should be the one to go before the girlfriend. I think that my nephew is the only legitimate authority on who "should" go, particularly when choosing among his peers. I've written before about my family's penchant for not recognizing the legitimacy of romantic relationships without a legal tie. If the girlfriend was the wife, there would be no question that she would go and she would "outrank" me, the aunt.

Meanwhile, all this is going on while my nephew is currently traveling *on the way* to boot camp. He has only been sworn in for a few hours and there is already a power struggle going on over his graduation two months from now, and two of the most important women in his life are fighting for dominance and validation. Which means that it might fall to me to put my poly money where my poly mouth is and cut through all the shit and remind everyone that none of this is about them - it's all about him and being there *for him*.

I already know that my sister and parents will not agree with me that this is something that is happening to my nephew. They are experiencing strong feelings, so of course it's about *them*, right? They don't understand the difference between something being about the individual it's happening to and feeling *affected* by something that's happening to that individual. Focusing on the thing happening to the individual doesn't mean that no one else is affected, or that being affected by it isn't also important. But, as a poly person, I've had to learn that there will *always* be conflicts between an individual's agency and their experience vs. the feelings and effects on those around them. I've had to learn that it is ultimately disempowering and dismissing, and therefore unethical, to give more priority to the feelings of the "affected" than to the needs and experiences of the person actually going through it. It is up to the person feeling affected to own those feelings and find a way to work through them so that the person who is actually having the experience doesn't also have to shoulder the burden of emotional management of other people.

I'm just not yet sure that I'm emotionally big enough to walk the walk that I talk. I don't want to give up my privilege of attending. I hope I will be able to do the right thing when the time comes. I'm not entirely sure what the "right thing" is because there are so many variables and so many emotions. I hope I will do what's best for my nephew that will respect him as an adult and a person and that I can evaluate the situation well enough to know what that is.

Of course, there might not even be enough spots for me and this whole thing might be moot.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Here's a poly lesson I learned from my monogamous family:

My parents are of the zero-sum mindset. Time spent with loved ones either "doesn't count" or "counts less" when there are other people they don't consider "family" present. Legal spouses "count", so my aunt could visit when she was single and it would be "quality time", and she could visit with her husband when she got married and it was "quality time", but if she invited her boyfriend (who was the guy she eventually ended up marrying), it would have been rude.

Once someone is a legal spouse, he is immediately part of the family with no reservations. My parents are actually really good about that. They taught me that someone is family because an existing family member brought them into the family, and that new person is family no matter what. Even if my parents didn't like him, he's family because the person they love considers him family.

But this only applies to legal spouses.

Sort of.

They're not hostile or antagonistic towards non-spouse partners. All of my extended relatives' boyfriends and girlfriends were welcomed, and I believe my parents grew to love those partners who stuck around long enough to turn into spouses even prior to the actual wedding date. So I haven't yet figured out that magical moment when someone becomes "family" as opposed to just "someone family is dating". I only know that once it's legal, it's cemented.

My parents have been very good about welcoming my boyfriends too. There's an obvious difference between the polite welcome they gave to the boyfriends they didn't like and the warm welcome they gave to the boyfriends they did like, but they welcomed them nonetheless. However, if there was some kind of milestone special moment, my parents wanted it to be "just family". And a boyfriend wasn't "family", but a spouse was (although they have since learned to make an exception for the father of my sister's kid - they're not married but the kid is a toddler and he's an active parent and my sister loves him, so they've been forced to rearrange their mindset on this one).

My parents were uncomfortable with me having boyfriends over for opening presents on Christmas morning, or sharing Thanksgiving dinner, and they were most definitely *not* happy about me doing those sorts of things with someone else's family instead of them.

And I have never been able to wrap my head around this. It has something to do with longevity, that much I can grasp. To my monogamous Christian parents, marriage was "for life" (even if they, personally, knew people who were divorced, like my dad's parents), so once they signed that paper, the spouse was now stuck with us "forever". But a non-spouse partner could be here today, gone tomorrow - you just never know. It's like my parents felt a degree of uncertainty without that legal document so strongly that I never felt and it affected our ability to see eye to eye on this subject.  It's kind of like that one episode of How I Met Your Mother where Lily gets pissed off at Ted for inviting a date to her birthday party and she brings out the photo album to show a lifetime of important family milestones with random women in the pictures who are not around anymore.  She feels that her birthday party is diminished by the presence of this woman whose name she won't even need to remember the following year.

It's true that my past partners were only partners for a handful of years - a small portion of my lifetime. But some of them remained family even after the breakup, while even more of them at least remained friends, or friendly. Two of those past partners whom I still consider "family" are friends with me here on FB - on my "real identity" account, as opposed to my family-friendly feed which is a heavily censored version of me. Notice that my parents are on the censored feed and my previous partners are on the "real me" feed.

As a teen and young adult when I was still living near enough to my parents for this to matter, every time my parents "suggested" that perhaps I ought not to invite my boyfriend to something because it's "just for family", I was heartbroken. Every negation of that relationship was a slice with a sharp blade into my soul. This was all before giving up monogamy or learning the word "polyamory". This was just a monogamous partner about whom I was made to feel "didn't count". Our relationship wasn't "real" or "serious" because he wasn't part of the "family" yet, and he wasn't part of the family yet because our relationship wasn't "real" or "serious". I had platonic friends who my parents saw as "family" but not boyfriends. Literally - I had a friend who was abused by her father and my parents put in to foster her when we finally got her out of that situation. My parents were "parents" to several of my friends, but not the guys I loved enough to think at the time that I might spend the rest of my life with.

Fast-forward to my post-poly discovery, and I learned that there are some people who see their metamours the same way that my parents see the non-spouse partners of our family. I am already wounded and building up scar tissue from having my relationships dismissed, negated, overlooked, and now I find out that even in polyamory, where the very *premise* of what we're doing is that we can love more than one, I can't escape this zero-sum mindset. That there are some people who, like my parents, think that time with me (or with their partners) would be lessened, tainted, or diminished simply because of the mere presence of another person - that other person, by the way, who the partner in question (me, in the example of my parents) happens to feel is very important to them.

It should be obvious, but I know from past internet arguments that it isn't, but I am not suggesting that alone-time with intimate people isn't important. I am not suggesting that it is *always* appropriate to have another person present or that there aren't *any* times when an intimate moment does, in fact, lose its intimacy because of the presence of someone else. I'm suggesting the opposite end of the spectrum - that there are people who consider any and *all* time shared with a third (or more) person is *inherently* diminished in some capacity.

My parents have already taught me the lesson that this idea damages the very relationship that the zero-sum person is trying to protect. Because my parents are resistant to "sharing" me with other people, I have, over the years, become more and more resistant to spending time with them even though I love them very much and consider my upbringing and my family to be good experiences in general. I want to spend time with all sorts of people who are important to me, and the people who make me choose are often the people who lose.

I almost kind of wish that poly people with zero-sum mindsets had the experience I had - that someone they loved refused to acknowledge the importance of a relationship they valued, so that they would know the pain and heartbreak and damage they cause to their relationships when they do it to them. I went *into* polyamory already understanding how important it is to validate and welcome my metamours because I already knew how hurtful it was to claim a level of superiority or priority and to dismiss the value and importance that someone else might have to someone I love.

Contrary to those who defend their couple privilege, I don't have this viewpoint because I'm somehow more "evolved" or "enlightened" or even because I'm more experienced at poly. I do not cotton to the "training wheel" theory of polyamory. I do not believe that we have to do things "wrong" in order to learn how to do them "right". I believe it is possible to start out as a young, inexperienced person with baggage and cultural programming and still practice the "right" ways from the start. I was young and inexperienced, and I still started out right from the beginning validating and valuing my metamours.

It wasn't always easy and I also made some mistakes that sprang out of internalized couple privilege, but I still *started* by practicing the skills that I hoped to one day "master", rather than practicing those bad habits that I would have to unlearn after some magical future moment when I was emotionally "mature" enough to do it "right" even though I had been practicing it "wrong" the whole time. I have yet to understand how anyone becomes an accomplished ice skater by practicing piano. If you want to learn how to be an ethical poly person and treat your partners and metamours with respect for their agency, you start out by practicing respect for their agency, not hamstringing their agency.  If you want to learn how to trust someone, you start out by trusting them and seeing what they do with that gift of your trust.  Nobody can "earn" trust if you don't give them any trust to prove that they're trustworthy.

Anyway, this lesson from my parents is particularly difficult for me because it's not consistent. That's not true, it actually is consistent if you look at it from the right angle. See, in my family, there are certain special milestones that are celebrated *as a family*, not privately. Anniversaries, for example. My parents never had a *private* anniversary celebration. Oh, I'm sure they did some "celebrating" in private, but I mean that they never went to an anniversary dinner without taking us kids (unless they got a babysitter prior to when my memories formed). Their big anniversaries were celebrated with as many family members as we could get to come. Anniversaries were group affairs, which is apparently a weird thing to some people and, if I think about it, I can see why. I mean, an anniversary is a celebration of a relationship between two people. So it kinda makes sense that two people might want to celebrate it privately between the two of them, since the *relationship* is something private between the two of them.

So this is actually another pro-poly lesson I learned from my parents. To me, lots of events are open to the extended family. Most of my relationship anniversaries are open to my metamours to celebrate with us because that's how my parents saw their marriage. But it seems inconsistent with their stance on discouraging non-spouse partners to "important" moments. It seems inconsistent if I view my non-spouse partners as "family", though, because "family" is supposed to be welcome at these events and my parents weren't welcoming them even while they welcomed other family.

But it's not inconsistent when I factor in the fact that they *rank* people. "Family" is welcome, but boyfriends are not "family" to my parents. I don't have the same ranking system for the people in my life. Is he important to you? OK then he's invited. But to people like my parents, it's not enough for someone just to be "important" to me (or my sister or my aunt or whoever). They have to be "legitimately important" - hence the automatic extension for spouses. So now we're back to bad poly lessons - or rather, lessons on the sorts of damage that bad relationship skills and personal insecurities can have on those and other relationships.

My monogamous parents support the "ranking" system that I see a lot of newbie polys support. Some people "count" more than others (and don't a single one of you derail the comments with talk about *priority* - if you haven't figured out my stance on power vs. priority by now, go away and read up on it elsewhere). In my very large and very involved extended but monogamous family-of-origin, I see a lot of parallels between them and my poly network. My parents and their kids were the nucleus of what was the "most important" to them in terms of priority, but cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, even great-aunts and great-uncles and second cousins and first cousins twice removed were all still *family* to them, and priority was reassigned based on circumstance.

So, for example, my father is now retired. His incredibly elderly aunt has cancer, is a widow, and her only son is mentally handicapped to a point that he can't completely care for himself let alone her. So when she went in the hospital, my dad dropped everything and went down to stay with her. This was 2 months ago and he's still there. If we were to nitpick about "priority", his wife & kids would still have priority over his aunt, but the situation calls for a reassessment of priority and everyone in the family, my mom included, support my father in taking care of my great-aunt, even though my mom technically "loses" my father to my great-aunt.

They would love it if I could visit my great-aunt too. I may never see her again. She's old and has an aggressive form of cancer that has already been taken advantage of by an opportunistic pneumonia infection. If I could afford it, everyone would be thrilled to see me visit her for would would most likely be the last time.

But if I invited a boyfriend to visit with me ... I hardly know the woman, although I did spend a lot of time with her as a kid. She's my dad's aunt, not mine, and I haven't seen her in, what, almost two decades? But she out-ranks a boyfriend, according to my family. Somehow, having a boyfriend present would diminish the amount of quality in our time together. And that's something I just never understood.

Because to someone with a zero-sum mindset, people are ranked, and that rank is built-in to their position in the family, not the actual connection between the people in the family, and that ranking bleeds over onto nearby ranks. Like if you mix a paint color with white paint - the color is "lessened" because the white lightens it. Before you point out that the white is also made "more than" by the addition of the color or that neither is "lessened" or "improved" but rather everything is changed into something new, that doesn't matter, because the color outranks the white, and it's the color that matters to a zero-sum mindset.

So my monogamous parents taught me how important it is for the health of my relationships to value the other people in my friends and partners' lives because I know first-hand how much it hurts to have those other relationships devalued by people you admire and love and desire to have approval of.

They taught me that extended family is important even when different relationships have different priorities.

They taught me that someone becomes family because they are connected to someone who is family and it is not within my power to deny them that welcome because it is not my connection that makes them family or not.

And they taught me that there is very little about polyamory that doesn't apply outside of polyamory so that I don't need to wait until the Relationship Skills Fairy magically endows me with Emotional Maturity and Poly Experience to start treating people with the sort of consideration that I hope to one day actually be good at. Because, chances are, I already do have some kind of experience to draw on that I can apply right now, and I will get better at it with practice. So I don't need to disrespect my partners or my metamours while I'm waiting to somehow learn how to respect them by practicing disrespect.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

Awesome article just got republished on Everyday Feminism​ by a terrific online blogger I discovered a year or two ago, Shea Emma Fett​:

"Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality."

"The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership."

"Gaslighting Doesn’t Always Involve Anger or Intimidation"

"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive."

I once knew someone who was abusing his partner, and I knew the partner as well, but I didn't see the abuse. Because I couldn't see the abuse, I unwittingly enabled it, for which I feel deeply ashamed and guilty to this day. That guilt is a good deal why I write about abuse so much more now - to prevent anyone else from unknowingly enabling abuse.

One of the ways in which I enabled the abuse is because of this principle. As a skeptic, I am fully aware of how fallible our memories are. This often leads me to demanding proof before believing something. When it comes to real-but-invisible things like abuse or oppression, that's a dangerous mindset to have.

This abuser that I knew also considered himself a skeptic. So, naturally, we shared an understanding in the fallibility of memory. In fact, his memory was so fallible, that if it didn't exist in pictures or a chat log, his brain would erase the memory all together.

So, when he said that his partner was remembering things wrong, I saw no reason to contradict him. Of course she was remembering things wrong - we all remember things wrong! Except in this case, he wasn't being scientifically pedantic about memory, he was using her natural fallibility to *rewrite history* and therefore erode her own sense of self.

I remember one time in particular when she even came to me and told me that he was doing this. I had been in full protect-my-sister-empathize-with-her-fully mode, but then she brought up the memory thing. I instantly backpedaled and tried to "explain" that he wasn't gaslighting her, he was just being a good skeptic by reminding her of the fallibility of memory.

If I could go back in time and smack myself upside the head when I said this, I would. This was the equivalent of "oh, he didn't mean anything by it! He's harmless! You shouldn't feel creeped out by him inappropriately touching you!" I'm still working on the balance between scientific accuracy of how memory works and supporting victims of abuse. I have not mastered this trick yet.

"Change should make you bigger. It should increase your tank of self-love. It should make you stronger, clearer, more directed, more differentiated, and more compassionate. The pain of growth is different than the pain of destruction. One will fill you with love and pride, even when it’s hard, and the other will fill you with shame and fear."

"It’s ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them."

"You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
You know what I find highly ironic? The people I knew as children - family, school friends, etc. - those people are, today, complaining about misbehaving teens and supporting police violence against kids and internet shaming their kids as suitable forms of punishment.

Those same adults, when we were kids, were those kids who played their music too loud, who jumped people's fences to illegally horse around in other people's backyards, who mouthed off to cops enforcing the city's curfew, who sat around basements with illegal drugs complaining about "pigs" busting up their good time, and who fantasized about calling the authorities on their own parents for "brutality" and "child abuse" when they were spanked or grounded or publicly humiliated by being yelled at when they misbehaved.

My own sister actually got a noise pollution citation for driving with a stereo turned up too loud (California had laws like that). I got bullied for NOT smoking pot and not getting drunk with the rest of the middle schoolers (yes, ages 12-15). Half of our collective music collection among my high school friends were tapes and CDs stolen from record stores (the other half was taped off the radio, which is still piracy). Our normal weekend activities included sneaking out of our parents' houses way after curfew and breaking into the backyards of people who were on vacation or the fenced-off school yards where it was illegal to be after school hours.

In fact, the thing we did most often was called Ice Blocking. We'd get a giant block of ice from the grocery store, then, about 2 in the morning, we'd scale the fence to a school yard that had a large hill in it somewhere, climb to the top of that hill, and either sit or stand on the block of ice and try to "surf" it down the hill while the rest of our group sat at the bottom getting stoned or drunk out of their minds. That's not even broaching the part where we were hired as lifeguards - literally being responsible for the lives of other people - and the entire staff spent as much time as possible hotboxing the office (closing off any form of ventilation and then smoking pot to fill it with smoke they could continue to inhale even when not then-currently taking a hit), so that their judgement was impaired while on duty.  People's LIVES depended on us!  But we did what we wanted to do, even at the expense of other people's lives.

Another thing that was very common in my circles was highway racing.  We didn't do "street racing" as most people think of it - where two cars start out at one end of an empty street and race to the other end.  We raced each other *in traffic*.  That's how I ended up rolling my car down a hill at age 16 - I was trying to beat someone's speed record on this particular road, I lost control of the car, but got back control only by moving into the left lane.  I lost control again because I had to swerve to miss oncoming traffic, and that's what spun me to the curb, which then tipped my car over and I rolled down the hill into someone's back yard.  There was absolutely no concern for the lives or the property of the other people we could have (or did) destroy.  And every single person I knew then (and many I know now) blamed the *cops* for writing them tickets when they were the ones breaking the law.  Everyone had some excuse why, when *they* did it, it was somehow justifiable, but those other assholes on the road were crazy assholes.

These people doing the complaining about "no respect" and "gotta teach them a lesson" are the same people who tailgate and speed when they're late, because it's somehow "different" when they do it. These are the same people who have a hard drive full of pirated movies and music. These are the same people who go to Google Images and download and repost copyrighted images and who then get all pissy when called on it because they somehow deserve the "right" to use intellectual property that they don't own.

The key ingredient threading all of this together is entitlement. As kids, we felt entitled to use other people's property and to break laws that didn't suit us. As adults, now it's *our* property that people are using without permission, so it's somehow fair, now, to treat those kids exactly the same way that we felt was "abusive" (yes, that accusation was slung out a lot towards parents, teachers, and cops, when I was a kid, when those adults weren't even doing anything remotely as serious as the news articles I see passing around these days) back when we were kids and it was directed at us.

I don't think people remember being kids.  They remember getting smacked when they misbehaved and, as adults, they wish kids would behave, so they think that getting smacked is what made them value social etiquette.  I don't think it is, because I see them doing all sorts of bullshit as adults (many of which I named above, like speeding and piracy).  I don't think they really remember the shame or the humiliation or the anger that these kinds of punishments bred in them as kids.  Because they definitely don't recognize that same anger or defensiveness at authority that they continue to have as adults.  They only admire and respect authority when it suits them, when they're the recipient of the benefits of that authority.  It's all "yay, cops!" now, but still "fuck TSA!" and "fuck Metallica for suing their fans who illegally downloaded their music!"  I wish irony actually burned. Maybe then my generation would understand the hypocrisy they're espousing and learn to have some fucking empathy to teach children right from wrong without resorting to the same bullshit that made us resent authority when we were kids.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I see a lot of people complaining that someone who blocked them just "couldn't handle a difference of opinion". That's not why people get blocked. Ever. Everyone has friends and family who have different opinions from themselves, and they get along with them fine, or at least put up with them.

The reason why people get blocked online is not for their differences of opinion. It's for their attitude or personality regarding those opinions. Every single time, I guarantee you, it's not the opinion, it's because they think you're being a jerk about it. It doesn't even matter if you don't think you're being a jerk - they do, that's why they blocked you, and the opinion that matters when someone is being a jerk is the person who is the recipient of the offending behaviour. Most often it's because you wouldn't drop it when they asked. Respecting consent is important in all social interactions, not just sex (but disrespecting non-sexual consent is a good indicator of that person's attitude towards sexual consent, which is why those of us heavy with the banhammer use it as often as we do).

And I say this as someone who gets blocked. I know when I'm being mean to people. Most of the time, I'm doing it intentionally because that person was a jackass in some way and I'm either trying to teach him what it feels like or I just no longer care about hurting his feelings because I've deemed him not worth my empathy or the cost in spoons for being such a fucktard. But that means that *I'm being an asshole*. Doesn't matter if it's in response to something they did, if they block me, it's not because I'm an atheist or poly or feminist or hold those views, it's because *they don't like me as a person* or they don't like my approach. When I'm being an asshole, that's kind of the point.

I've had plenty of "discussions" with anti-vaxxers, for example, where I thought I was being totally reasonable, calm, rational, in explaining why they're wrong.  And I stand by my belief that they're wrong.  They are, empirically, factually, wrong.  But I wasn't blocked because I am pro-vaccination.  I was pro-vaccination from the beginning when they friended me in the first place.  I was blocked because they didn't like my approach.  *They* thought I was being arrogant and condescending, even if I didn't (and still don't) think so, and they didn't like it.  So, sure, even if there was some way to prove, without a doubt and with completely objective metrics, that I absolutely was not being condescending and they were wrong to think so, the point is that they still did not block me because of my argument; they blocked me because they did not like how I said it.

Maybe it's true that there is absolutely no way to express that opinion in a way that the other person will find acceptable.  That is my position on many of my opinions - I believe that there is no way to express atheism (a personal lack of belief in a deity) that won't offend some people, for example.  There is no magic phrase, no amount of kowtowing or humbling that will make my personal lack of belief acceptable to be spoken about in public.  "I don't care if they're gay, but do they have to rub it in our faces?"  There are times when I believe it is justified to continue to press an opinion even when a listener doesn't like the approach.  This PSA is not a position on whether it is appropriate or not (or when it is or not) to hold or voice a controversial opinion.  This PSA is an EXPLANATION of why people get blocked, regardless of the rightness or moral standing or reasonableness of the action.  It's not the opinion that got you blocked, it was your attitude, your personality, or your approach that got you blocked.

So drop all this self-righteous blathering about how people just can't handle "the truth". What they can't handle is your arrogant, entitled, posturing. Your opinions are not nearly as offensive as you as a person are when you spouted them which resulted in you getting blocked.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I have a lot of issues surrounding cultural obligations of gift giving. A lot of it is internalized so it's not necessarily that any specific individual is making me feel obligated. But those feelings are there nonetheless.

Many years ago, I made a personal pact not to exchange holiday gifts with anyone except my parents (who still buy me lots of stuff, making my life considerably easier, which is a huge relief to someone living below the poverty line) and my nephews (because they're kids). It has always been my extended family's practice to stop buying gifts for family members when they turn 18, so I had some precedence to mitigate the social pressure to give gifts.

But as I dated, that pressure to exchange gifts grew, the more people I dated. It was always there in monogamy, because it's part of the social expectations wrapped up in being in a relationship and in being female (I just could not get it through my male partners' heads that I did not want them to buy me flowers or jewelry because they could not let go of the cultural trope that women like flowers and jewelry even when one of them says she doesn't). But as I started dating poly people, people who are already deliberately bucking the social conventions, that pressure didn't lessen.

As I said, it wasn't necessarily direct pressure from individuals. Because of my difficulty with gift-giving, I tried to date people who had similar issues, so that I could escape that pressure within my relationships. But when I started building large, multi-adult poly families, certain traditions were held by some people with a ferocity that brought all those social obligations roaring back, whether they intended it or not.

When there would be a holiday party, inevitably someone would bring someone a gift. I get it, it's a wonderful feeling to see someone's face light up with pleasure at something you did for them. I enjoy giving people gifts. But I'm dirt poor and I just can't afford it. So at these poly family and extended poly social gatherings, someone would be really into gift-giving. They might say "I just like giving gifts, no one has to get me anything" and they might even mean it. But some people would feel obligated to return the gesture. And others would likewise enjoy giving things. And sooner or later, we'd have a poly holiday gathering where everyone but me was exchanging gifts, and yet I would still be receiving them.

So I could continue to just accept gifts. Or I could make a fuss and reject all the gifts on principle. Or I could bow to the (usually unintended) pressure to return the gestures. Between socialization as a woman not to make waves, to go along with the crowd, "when in Rome", be polite, etc., and the genuine desire to do nice things for the people I love, as well as feeling left out that can be such a danger in polyamory in general, eventually that pressure builds, regardless of the well-meaning intentions of everyone else.

And forget giving gifts to just some people and not others. In a family where "honey, what's for dinner" can lead to a week of relationship triage emails and a panicky group IM chat, deliberately leaving someone out of what is supposed to be a beloved tradition expressing love and happiness is a social minefield.

So now, although I still have a poly family and I still have core partners (my replacement word for "primary" because I refuse the hierarchical power structure but still have emotionally intimate connections and long-term commitments), being a solo poly, I am missing that sense of obligation with regards to gift giving. I feel a huge relief as I look at my meager checking account and tally up all the bills and eye my empty work calendar and I realize that I don't have a dozen other people to buy gifts for in the next two weeks and I don't have to deal with the crazy, hectic consumerist shopping trauma that my life always entails because I'm always too busy with work in the months leading up to December so I only have a couple of weeks before the holidays to even start thinking of gifts. And I know I could make gifts that would be cheaper, but then I have that whole time issue thing.

So, I'm thankful that I can build deep, intimate, loving connections with my partners, and even to create our own traditions, but can also have the kind of structure that makes it *look* like I'm a single person, which allows me to discard certain other traditions that don't work for me without hurting people's feelings or raising too many eyebrows.

I deal enough with poly education of my monogamous circles, that sometimes it's a relief to do something that I don't have to explain or justify, even if they accept it for the wrong reasons. They all think it's totally reasonable that I wouldn't have anyone to buy gifts for because I'm "just dating around" or "single", but when I have a partner that passes for an escalator relationship partner, and I talk about how stressful gift-giving is, that's one more battle I have to fight to make people understand alternative relationship options.

There are a lot of obligations and expectations that I feel free of by identifying as a solo poly. There are other things I struggle with, other downsides, other expectations. But this is one I am happy to be free of. And it doesn't mean that I dislike receiving gifts, or giving them for that matter. It just means that I feel some relief of this particular pressure to give, that really comes from several places and is a very complex issue for me.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Apparently, today's theme on Facebook is "FUCKING READ SNOPES BEFORE YOU POST, BITCHES!"  After the 4th post in a row where I was compelled to respond by posting a Snopes URL, I posted the following to my own timeline - feel free to copy & paste (or edit & personalize) on your own social networking sites or in response to emails:

Before you post a link, or worse, a picture with a sob story attached, about evil corporations trying to screw us over, mad scientists trying to poison our food supply, evil strangers trying kill babies or rape women or steal money, hidden needles in food or gas pumps, dead rodents or insects in famous restaurant chains, or strangely generous famous people willing to pay you money for forwarding pictures to all your friends, check it out on Snopes:

If you don't like Snopes, use Both link to the original sources where they get their information so you can verify their conclusions.

If the story does not give VERIFIABLE information - first & last name, city/state/country, date, etc. - then it's probably fake. If the story does give that information, Google it first to make sure those people actually exist and the incident actually happened in the place and on the date the story claims.

More often than not, Michigan University never had a professor named Dr. Miles Pendergrast, so he certainly could not have bioengineered a potent virus that the government bought to implant in our water supply, little Lisa Snodgrass doesn't exist and doesn't have cancer or stayed at the non-existent Our Lady Of Perpetual Fraud hospital, and that scary chemical, dihydrogen monoxide, that kills millions of people every year and is in our FDA-approved food really does exist but it's not what you think it is (hint: dihydrogen monoxide is water).

*The title comes from a TV commercial currently playing on local television stations:

If you don't want to watch the video, the premise is that a girl makes a wild claim to a guy she knows.  He asked where she heard it, and she says "the internet".  She then says the the line in the title.  He asks where she heard *that* and they both say together "the internet", the guy clearly thinking "I should have known!"  Then an unkempt guy approaches and she says something along the lines of "excuse me, I have to go, my date is here.  I met him on the internet.  He's a French model!"  The unkempt guy glares at the guy and says, in an obviously American accent with no attempt to hide his lack of familiarity with the French language, "Bonjour!" and smiles contemptuously and lecherously at the pretty, dumb, girl he snookered while she looks back at the first guy with a sickeningly trusting & triumphant smile and walks off with the jackass.  The line that I used for the title has recently come, among one of my circles, to be shorthand for the brand of naivete that results in being taken advantage of by unscrupulous hoaxers and simple internet urban legends and is frequently trotted out to reference both this commercial and this phenomenon.

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
My dad is kind of a laconic man. We never spent hours discussing philosophy or religion or deep thoughts. He wasn't cold, by any means, he just didn't have all that much to say. Most of my memories of my father involve sitting in front of the television watching Cheers or Three Amigos, and sitting silently in a fishing boat trying not to spook the fish, and quietly freezing to death in the bottom of a duck blind waiting for a decent flock of mallards to fly overheard in range of the shotgun. It's probably safe to say that I was the talkative half of this duo.

But I learned some things about life from my dad. One of them happened during one of those hunting or fishing trips. See, I also learned how to drive from my dad. But the lesson extended deeper than simply operating a motor vehicle.

When I was roughly 10-ish, my dad started teaching me how to drive his giant, old, Toyota Landcruiser. It's what SUVs dream of growing up to become. It's not quite as big as a Suburban, but it's in that class from back when trucks were trucks, not overgrown minivans with a Napolean complex.

Anyway, I was too small to see over the steering wheel, however old that was. So Dad started by having me steer while sitting on his lap, as most kids who learn how to drive as kids & not teens did. From there we moved to me shifting gears while sitting in the passenger seat as he steered and operated the pedals. When I got tall enough to see over the wheel, he finally taught me how to operate the pedals and I was driving on my own by age 12.

This truck was a manual transmission and a four-wheel drive, so I had to learn both how to operate a giant-ass truck with manual transmission and no power steering, but also how to tell when the truck needed to be switched from two-wheel drive to four (and in the backwoods where the lakes and duck blinds were located, I certainly had plenty of opportunity to switch back and forth between two- and four-wheel drive).

So, this lesson takes place on the day that my dad taught me how to operate the stick shift from the passenger seat. Since Dad was operating the pedals, I put my hand on the gear shift and he yelled "shift!" when it was time to shift. Now, I'm a pretty regimented sort of person. I know my parents would never believe me, based on the state my bedroom was always in, but I love boxes and categories and organization. I like for things to fit. But even though the gear shift had a diagram of the gear pattern on the handle, Dad was trying to tell me to not worry so much about it - just remember the gears go in the shape of an H and feel the gear shift move because it will naturally want to go in the next highest slot.

I was just starting to get a handle on this whole "don't worry about the diagram" thing and just "feel" the gear shift, because it really did seem to want to go in the right spot with just a little bit of a push. So, now that I had mastered that particular skill, I began to anticipate the next level - operating the pedals.

I asked my dad how he knew when to shift. He tried to explain something about listening to the engine, but that wasn't working for me. I wanted to know which miles-per-hour-tick-mark the needle was supposed to hit that would signal the next gear change. Dad said that it didn't work like that. He tried explaining again about the engine, but I insisted that I wanted to know ... was it at 20 miles per hour? 25? Every 5 or every 10?

Dad eventually sighed and capitulated and told me some miles per hour that I could use as a rule of thumb to shift. But, he said, really, you listen to the engine and you feel the car. The car will tell you what's going on with it, you just have to listen. Driving is more than moving levers and gears. Driving is about feeling the car as if it were an extension of yourself. You have to pay attention to it, and it will communicate to you what it needs. Get to know the physical space that the car takes up as well as you know how much space you take up. Feel the road under the tires, feel the vibration of the engine, listen to the roar and the whine and the growl and the hum. The car will tell you. You'll know when to shift by how the car sounds and how the car feels.

Naturally, I didn't really understand this lesson at the time. I knew how to ride a horse, and how to communicate using very subtle body language, but this was a machine - how was I supposed to "listen to" and "feel" a car the way I could listen to and feel a horse?  As I got older, I eventually learned what the rpm gauge was for, and I learned that most people didn't shift based on mph, but by rpms. So I shifted my mental scale of when to shift from every 10 mph (or whatever I thought it was) to when the rpms reached a certain level. But then I started driving on my own.

When I turned 16 and got my license, I started driving my own car (a manual transmission, naturally). And I discovered that my rule of thumb for shifting didn't apply in my little Mitsubishi commuter car the same way it worked for my dad's big, old Landcruiser. I readjusted my rule of thumb for my new car, but I had to adjust it again for every car. And then I learned that what rpms you decide to shift at depends on what you want the car to do. I had to choose a different set of rpms based on whether I was trying to save gas or racing or if I wanted to be first off the line, or even if I was downshifting!

Nothing made sense! Where was my nice set of rules? What happened to the categories, the boxes, the regiment?! That's when I finally groked my dad's lesson from all those years ago. I had to feel the car, to listen to her. She would tell me what she needed. She would tell me when she wanted to shift, and she would tell me when her needs weren't getting met, like oil and gas. All I had to do was listen, and to feel.

I learned that relationships were a lot like that too, and, in fact, life in general was a lot like that. I can make all the nice, neat little boxes and categories and rules of thumb that I want, but when it comes right down to it, if I want to really be a driver, instead of just an operator, I have to listen, and I have to feel. I will be told what I need to do if I just listen to what I'm being told and if I feel the world around me as if it's an extension of myself.

I don't always succeed. I often try to muscle my relationships and the world around me into being operated by me according to rules and boxes and categories. And, y'know, that can work an awful lot of the time, for some definition of "work". But when I do that, I'm merely operating a machine. I'm not getting the best fuel efficiency, or I'm not getting the best performance. I need to feel the car as if it's an extension of myself and I need to listen to what it's telling me. When I do that, we work together and I drive.

Thanks Dad, not only for helping me to become a much more proficient driver than many of my friends, or for instilling in me such a wonderful passion as driving, but for giving me the universe through a way of looking at things that adds such depth and connection that I think very few are privileged to experience.
joreth: (Default)
Today was the sentencing for the woman who killed my godmother.  My mom and sister were in attendance.  My mom was worried because the judge was starting to sound like he wanted to let her go free with time served already (it's been about a year).  Fortunately, that didn't happen.

Today, family, friends, and a psychologist got to speak on behalf of Rodriguez, the woman who killed my godmother.  The DA apparently ripped into the psychologist.  The psychologist kept calling her an "exemplary mother", so the DA got him to admit that 1) he had only spent a total of 3 hours with her; 2) most of that time was not spent in conversation, but watching her fill in bubbles on a questionnaire; 3) the social anxiety "fog" she was supposedly in at the time was probably not actually social anxiety but caused by the liquor-store's worth of booze in her system giving her a blood-alcohol content of twice the legal limit; 4) that an "exemplary mother" probably didn't take her kids with her to an all-night drinking party where she didn't know anyone at the party, then proceed to get hammered, and THEN leave her kids in the house full of strangers after a full night of partying to drive home some party guests, whom she also did not know.  

"But the kids were in a closed room so she could check on them regularly!" "But would an 'exemplary mother' have brought them to the party in the first place? Would an 'exemplary mother' get that drunk in front of her kids? Would an 'exemplary mother' take them to a party that lasted all night?" "Uh, well, probably not".  That was my mom's summary of that bit of cross examination.  When I related the bit about not knowing anyone at the party to [ profile] datan0de tonight, the first words out of his mouth were "so she left her kids in a housefull of STRANGERS?!"  I don't know if that was mentioned in court today, but yeah, not examples of "exemplary motherhood".

I thought she was a terrible person before.  Every time one of my family learns something new about her and passes it on to me, she becomes even more despicable.  Also, after she crashed her car for the third time and she ran on foot away from the third crime scene, she managed to knock on a neighbor's door, asking to use the phone, claiming that she had just been the victim of a hit-and-run.  Fortunately, the neighbor didn't believe her and didn't let her in, which is when, I assume, the witnesses trying to chase her down caught up to her.  My mom didn't actually say anything about her capture today, but I was told last time that witnesses had chased her down, including the first guy she hit (who stopped to check on my godmother before he was urged to continue the chase), so I surmised that.

Oh, and for some reason, she also managed to get married during this past year while she was incarcerated.

Finally the judge passed sentence.  There were, from what I understand, 4 options: time served, 4 years and 8 months in prison, 6 years and 8 months in prison, or 10 years and 8 months in prison.  The judge said that if she had not plead guilty and the case went to trial, he was certain she would have gotten the maximum sentence.  But because she plead guilty, her sentenced was reduced to 6 years and 8 months in prison.  The DA thinks she will probably do about 85% of that time, and also will subtract the 1-ish year she has already served while awaiting sentencing.  That brings it to roughly 4 and a half years total in jail.

I'm pissed, but my godmother's daughters are just glad the whole thing is over and that she didn't get away with time served.  Apparently one of them said today that all she wanted was a real apology - to know that Rodriguez was really remorseful - and since she did apologize today in court, it's all good.  Since it's their mother who was killed, I'm glad they can find some sort of peace in this, but as for me ... fuck that.  There is no way to make up for taking Diana's life and nothing she can do to make me feel better about it.  Time will make it less painful, but she can't make it any better because she can't bring Diana back.  

But I do want her to feel remorse, and I want her to feel that remorse every day for the rest of her life.  Because a person should feel bad in proportion to the amount of bad decisions one makes - and I'm hard-pressed to think of any worse decisions she could have made that night without coming up with deliberate malice, or of any more bad decisions she could have possibly made in one night/morning.  When people don't feel bad about their shitty decisions, especially those that harm other people, that leads them to repeating them.  

Stupidity is not fatal to the stupid person often enough, and far too often is it fatal to those around them.  If the stupid people can't take themselves out of the gene pool when they ought to, or be removed from society before they hurt others, then the least that can happen is that they have a serious enough consequence that they feel like shit about it forever to make them not be stupid anymore.  Unfortunately, I know enough arrogantly stupid people to know that this doesn't happen often enough either.

Oh, and the court declared that she owed my godmother's estate/family $172,710.  The DA says that the family won't see any of that money - if she pays anything back, it'll go to court fees and insurance before the family gets their share.  And she'll never make enough to reach the limit where the family would get their share.  

Apparently, if I understood my mom correctly, prisoners have the option of working a job while in prison - it's not mandatory.  Of course, they make pennies on the dollar for wages.  Mom says it's just enough to occasionally buy things like candy.  But in her case, should she choose to work while incarcerated, every cent she makes will go to her restitution.  That's something, I guess.
joreth: (polyamory)
Cunning Minx recently did an episode called What Would Monogamists Do? and I have coined the phrase "it's not a poly problem, it's a people problem". The basic premise is that being polyamorous is really not very different from being monogamous. We have to deal with all the same issues that monogamous people do and very, very few issues that they don't.

For instance, "what about the children?" How do you handle nosy school employees and multiple parental figures? Well, the same way my single-mother sister handled multiple parental figures and her kids' schools. I've told this story before - my sister is raising her two kids while living with our parents. Her two kids have two different fathers. So, right there, the oldest kid had 3 adults on his Approved For Pickup & Emergency Contact lists (his father was not in the picture & not allowed to pick him up) and the youngest kid had 4 adults on his lists (his dad is an involved dad).

Then each kid had daycare, so add +1 for each of them. Then I lived at home while the oldest kid was a toddler, so add +1 to his count for me to pick him up. Then my sister's best friend was practically another mother to the kids, especially when she had her own kids and they were sort of a psuedo-lesbian-without-the-lesbian-sex family. So that makes another +1 for both of them. Then there was the other single mother-friend that my sister lived with for a while, to combine incomes and share resources, so that was +1 for the oldest kid, but they "broke up" in a pretty ugly, dramatic manner, so she had to be removed from the lists after about a year. Then there were the 2 or so years my sister lived with her oldest son's grandparents (the father's parents) in another town, who was across the street from our 2 cousins and down the street from another cousin and 2 blocks over from an aunt & uncle and around the corner from our grandfather, so add +8 for him while subtracting all the previous pluses.

So, let's see, that makes 6 adults on the kids' Approved Adults Lists for school, 1 person who was on there only briefly, and 8 adults who were on the oldest kid's list for about 2 years while the other 6 taken off and then switched again when she moved back. Wait, are we talking about poly families again?

My sister is monogamous. The kid-school problem was simple. She just told her schools that these people were allowed to pick her children up and could be called in an emergency. If they insisted on listing a relationship to the children, we were all either listed as family friend, babysitter, or some family name like "aunt" or "grandmother", whether it was true or not. For example, all of our cousins (my sister's and mine) are listed as "aunt" to my nephews, even though they're actually second cousins to the kids. My sister's best friends are also called "aunt" by the boys. I, as the only actual aunt, am called Auntie, to distinguish that there is a different lineage happening. But I also live the farthest away & the boys have more contact with their "aunts" than their "auntie" (although I am my oldest nephew's primary source of tech support).

People like to ask "how will the kids know who their 'real' parents are?" Well, how do my sister's kids know who their "real" parents are, or their real aunts, for that matter? It's pretty simple ... she tells them. The oldest kid knows he has a different father than his brother, and he knows that I am his mom's sister and all his other aunts are actually his mom's cousins or best friends. The younger kid will learn that after he actually masters whole sentences.

My sister and I were both adopted, and we knew who are "real" parents were - they were the two people who raised us and sat up with us when we were sick and helped us with our homework and disciplined us when we acted up. My sister and I both knew that there were some other people out there somewhere who had actually put together our genetic material, and we knew that the two people whose DNA I had were not the same 2 people whose DNA she had. It wasn't confusing at all. In 3rd grade, I actually got in trouble because a kid was teasing me for being adopted and my retort was "at least I wasn't an accident - my parents wanted me!" So yeah, I knew and I understood. It really wasn't that hard. Even after meeting my bio-mom & siblings, I'm pretty well able to keep it straight in my head who is who. Even bonobos can tell each other apart in spite of living all communal-like.

Which brings us to today. I get a lot of questions like "who do you spend holidays with" and "it must be expensive trying to give that many people holiday gifts" and other things that imply that the person asking the question can't fathom how to juggle schedules and finances when there is more than one person who might be the recipient of important celebrations.

Ever since my extended family, the neophytes, got on Facebook, I have started a tradition of posting an old photo of them on their walls related to whatever holiday it is. For example, on their birthdays, I post an embarassing baby photo. On their annversaries, I post an old wedding photo. On Mother's & Father's Days, I post an old photo of them being mothers & fathers. I thought this was a sweet tradition ... until more and more of my family got online. Now I'm faced with three problems - 1) I'm running out of old pictures; 2) I wasn't around or didn't know some of my family long enough to have the appropriate pictures; 3) I have so many people in my family that if I did this for everyone in order to not make anyone feel left out, I'd spend days uploading pictures for each holiday!

I was raised in a monogamous, Christian, non-divided home. If I narrow the criteria to just my most immediate family, I can hopefully escape the jealous "why didn't you post a mother's day wish on MY wall?" from all the cousins and aunts and family friends and old school friends on my Facebook. But that still leaves 2 mothers and 3 sisters. Then, off Facebook, I still have to call 2 grandmothers! And that's only this year, since I recently lost my godmother and my third grandmother (I have a fourth grandmother, somewhere, but she denies my existence so she doesn't get my holiday wishes either).

So who do I spend holidays with and how do I handle gifts for so many people? First, I evaluate who is actually in my vicinity/budget to spend physical time with. Then I narrow down the list to those I have a first-degree relationship with in order to cut down on time & financial expenses. That leaves me with 7 people to do *something* special to acknowledge on this special day.

I'm talking about my monogamous, Christian, bio/adopted family, not my poly family.

Fortunately for me, none of my partners have kids (and they're male) so I never have to wish any of them a happy parent's day, and only one of my partners' other partners (my immediate metamours) has kids, so I actually do not have this problem as a poly person. For me, this whole scheduling around holidays & managing the gifts thing is pretty much exclusively a non-poly issue!

By the time the winter holiday season comes around, and all 6 of us who live within driving distance of each other want to spend the day all together and there are only 2 parents of the group who also live within driving distance, this whole holiday scheduling/gift-giving thing is pretty effortless! Sometimes things can get a little complicated, but any time the complication ratchets up as a poly person, it's really no more complicated than what I had to deal with as a mono person with mono relatives. It's the exact same set of complication and the exact same skill set to deal with it.

"But I'm not having sex with my siblings!" Of course not, but nothing we're talking about here has anything to do with sex. I don't have to be having some incestuous relationship with my sisters to make one feel jealous or left out if I give the others more attention or a better gift than her. I don't have to be sleeping with my mothers to want to tread carefully and be compassionate when doing stuff for the other mother so that each doesn't feel abandoned or excluded or usurped. I'm talking about people's feelings and maintaining loving relationships. Sex is not required to make either someone feel a special connection to you or to make them feel hurt by you. And to manage everyone's feelings and expectations in a reasonable & compassionate manner, those are skills that I learned from interacting with my parents, siblings, cousins, and family friends.

If you think there is some novel and exclusive set of relationship skills for managing poly relationships, I think you are making things way more difficult than they need to be and you are just trying to reinvent the wheel. Take the issue of sex out of the equation and just think, "how can I be compassionate and considerate to this other person without neglecting my own emotional or physical health? How can I be compassionate and considerate to these several other people without neglecting either my or everyone else's emotional or physical health? What kinds of compromises can we find to solve the conflict that will either meet everyone's needs, or at least distribute among those involved the amount of sacrifice & compromise that needs to be made in order to have a resolution?  How can I do this without imposing limits on other people's behaviour or devaluing one relationship in favor of another?"

I can't upload photos for every single mother I know on Mother's Day. I don't have the time, nor do I have the photos. It is reasonable for me to limit my largest efforts to those I have the closest and most direct relationship to - my own mothers & sisters with children - and my extended relatives will not feel slighted because of the nature of those relationships (and not because I told them "hey, you knew the deal when you signed up to be a cousin - you are less important than these other people here" - a cousin is still a person & sometimes it will be necessary to prioritize the cousin if I want to maintain that relationship.  My sister, for example, is very close to our cousins, close enough that she treats them as sisters, but I moved away a long time ago & our cousin relationship just didn't grow in that direction.  The "closeness" is about emotional connection, not about them being "cousins" & therefore relegated to a lesser status).

Because those close relationships are ones that I value, I make it a priority to extend the effort to all of them even though there are still several people left after narrowing the criteria. I get to express my love for them, they feel loved, everyone's happy. Yes, it took more time out of my day than if I only said "happy mother's day" to my own mom and no one else. Even if I only said it to both mothers. That's an exchange I'm willing to make because I value those relationships. Notice that I didn't say "a price I'm willing to pay".

Oh, but wait, was I supposed to be talking about poly relationships? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. And I think that's one of the keys to having successful poly relationships. 
joreth: (Default)
Some of you may remember that, last year, my godmother was murdered by a drunk driver.  Yes, I use the term "murdered". At roughly 9 AM on a Sunday morning, a woman driving with nearly twice the legal blood alcohol content and a suspended license hit a car, fled the scene at high speed, turned a corner, lost control of her vehicle, jumped over the curb and slammed her SUV into my godmother, pinning her between the car and the house and taking out the entire wall of the house.  Then she backed out, took off again into the neighborhood, where she slammed into yet another car, missing the owner by inches as he had just finished washing it, where her car finally stopped running.  THEN she got out of the car and ran on foot.  She was apprehended by the neighbors, who had chased her down from my godmother's house and held her and her companions until the police arrived.

This completely irresponsible woman is playing the sympathy card.  She has 4 children, and instead of this fact making her actions even more reprehensible, she collected 20 letters saying what a good mother she was so she can't go to jail, so please can she have the minimum sentence, in spite of pleading guilty to all charges, in spite of having double the legal alcohol limit, in spite of driving double the speed limit when she hit my godmother, AND in spite of having 4 PRIOR CHARGES in 4 other states for traffic & DUI-related incidences (my mistake - I thought my godmother's daughter told me about having 4 prior charges in other states that she found when Googling her, but the DA says Martinez does not).

My godmother had 3 children too, and was helping to raise her severely mentally disabled grandson since her husband has died and her daughter (the grandson's mother) is physically disabled.  Her goodness is really not relevant because the horrific actions of the woman are equally horrific if she had hit an elderly charity volunteer, a child, a miserly Scrooge, or a thug, but the injustice of someone who would drive drunk and flee from 3 crime scenes, one of which involved a fatality, being painted as a "good mother" while an actual good mother lost her life is just too much.

The DA is asking for letters, even if you didn't know my godmother.  Here is the letter her daughter just sent to me tonight:
I just got a call from the District Attorneys office this morning and she told me that the date for sentencing in Moms case is set for sentencing on May 14th 2012 at 1:30 P.M. They had a court date yesterday and the Probation Department gave a recommendation of the shortest sentence possible with all charges running concurrently. Ms. Martinez got 20 people to write in recommending that she get a light sentence since she is such a wonderful person and great Mother.

What Cody Jones the Assistant District Attorney needs from our side is as many letters as possible from people stating that Leticia Daisy Martinez showed total disregard for human life and public safety on May 1st 2011 when she made the conscious decisions to run from the scene of the first accident,who's diriver was injured, drive erratically through traffic, hit and killed Diana Pundsack where she did extensive property damage to a home, ran from that crime, and hit another car before she was finally forced to stop. It is their recommendation that Leticia Daisy Martinez be sentenced to the maximum sentence available in this case. She needs to learn the lesson that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated and will be met with a stiff punishment.
Could you get as many people as you can to write a letter to this effect. The courts do not need to know if they knew my mother or not,. At this point it is all about the numbers. We can't let this woman get away with this. I will try to get as many people as I can on this end too.

The Letter (2copies) should be received ASAP but definately no later that April 30th 2012. The mail address is:

County of Santa Clara
Office of the District Attorney
County Government Center West Wing
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, CA 95110
ATTN: Cody Jones -ADA
People vs. Leticia Daisy Martinez  110510239
So, please, this is a personal case for me.  If you have a few moments and $0.45 for a stamp and an envelope, please write on behalf of my godmother and our family to insist that Leticia Daisy Martinez be punished to the full extent of the law for crimes she has already admitted to.  These are not the actions of a good mother, and as someone who is adopted, I fully stand behind the idea that children do not need their blood mother to raise them, and sometimes they are better off without them.  Children should not have a woman like this responsible for their welfare.  What happens the NEXT time she gets drunk?  What if her kids are in the car with her next time?  What if YOUR kids are in the next yard she drives into?

My Letter )

joreth: (polyamory)
This reminds me a lot of an argument in high school with very smart teenagers who like to argue philosophy and semantics as if their intelligence gives them insight into the world that the adults who came before them never grasped. Yes, I was one of those teenagers. The argument was on selfishness and whether there was any act anywhere that didn't ultimately boil down to selfishness. The argument goes that even altruism is a selfish act because people who perform acts of altruism do so because they feel good or otherwise get something out of it, ergo there is no such thing as an unselfish act.

Except, as I didn't realize at the time, the definition of selfishness requires that the person being selfish put himself at the top of the priority list *even when it harms other people*. Altruism, by definition, is not selfish. But, being smart and yet very young and arrogant, we were missing a fundamental part of the definition of the word that rendered all those hours debating this topic completely moot*.

Anyway, that's what this stance reminded me of. If you circled around and squinted your eyes, you could eventually reach the conclusion that you are given the title of "metamour" by the person you are dating whether you wanted it or not, that it's the choice of the "person in center" entirely. And I disagree.  You can continue to insist that the glass is half empty if you wish and it might be technically true if you ignore or are unaware of a particular necessary element, but I prefer to say that it's exactly 50% full of water and 50% full of air and therefore completely full.

I used the analogy that a person is given the title "fiance" when that person accepts a proposal of marriage, so the title comes along with the relationship. Afterwards, I think I have a better analogy. It's more like being given the title of sister-in-law or son-in-law when you get married. Technically, you are given that title whether you want to be someone's son-in-law or not. But there are 2 things that make being a metamour not exclusively the choice of someone other than you.

First is that, by agreeing to get into the relationship in the first place, you are *also* agreeing to be someone's metamour, or son-in-law. That just goes along with the romantic relationship - they're a package deal. You might not like the other person you are now tied to, but if you didn't want to be their in-law or their metamour, you don't have to be in a relationship with someone that includes that person.

You know that old saying, when you marry someone, you marry their whole family? Well, you do. You get whatever kind of relationship with your spouse's family that your spouse has with them. No, it's not the exact same relationship, but if you marry a mama's boy, you're gonna get the mother along with the son. If you marry someone who never sees her family, then you won't have much of a relationship with them either. Whoever your partner is attached to comes along, in some form or another, when they get involved with you, and your relationship to those other people is, in part, determined by the relationship between them and your partner who brought them along. If he's a hermit, then I guess you're off the hook.

Now some people manage to convince their partners to drop some family member or friend once the romantic relationship "gets serious". We all know the stereotype of a group of guys losing one of their best buddies because he got married and his wife doesn't like their weekly poker nights or football games. But I'd say that is more of an exception than the rule, because even if a lot of people manage to get their spouses to dump one friend or family member, the spouse still comes along with all their other friends, family, and co-workers.

We are a social species, we have attachments and alliances, and when we get involved with someone, we get all those attachments and alliances too, just as they get ours. That's part of the deal, and it's not like it's some big secret. As a matter of fact, "marriage" was initially all ABOUT those connections and alliances and love had nothing to do with it. The whole freaking point was to connect yourself to all these other people. So I don't think you can say that you just get this title assigned to you whether you like it or not. It's part of the deal that you agreed to.

Second, is that a metamour relationship *is* a relationship. The definition explains how you are connected, but it is a relationship all on its own. Just like being a daughter-in-law isn't only about "sharing" someone in the middle, it also explains what your relationship is to this other person. Also, just like being a daughter-in-law, there is a very wide variety in how that relationship can be expressed. Maybe you have no direct line of communication and you avoid each other, or maybe you're best friends, but the metamour connection *is* its own relationship.

Or, to put it in the original person's terms, "metamour" describes not only X with A and B but ALSO AB, the exact opposite of his claim that it describes "a and b but not ab".

Now, I'd wager that most of us don't have a sit-down with our fiance's brother to work out the boundaries and relationship details and how we're going to split our fiance/brother's time between us. Mostly, we just kind of meet the brother, see how we get along, and the in-law relationship develops on its own. If our fiance is very close with his brother, then before meeting him, we might have some idea of how our relationship with him ought to go, and we might try to direct the course of the relationship by intentionally trying to become his friend on the grounds that, if he's going to be around a lot, we ought to strike up some kind of alliance rather than be at odds.

And metamours are the same thing, just with more talking and usually more structure. Some of us have an idea in our heads before meeting the metamour of what kind of relationship we want to have with them, and we might try to steer our metamour relationship in that general direction. Some of us just wait until we meet the metamour to decide how we get along and how this will work into our lives. And still some of us have decided ahead of time exactly what kind of metamour relationship we will have and demand that it will work this way or not at all. Anyone who has ever had a pushy mother-in-law try to arrange your marriage for you knows that this is usually a bad idea, fosters resentment, and generally pisses people off. But some metamours try to do it anyway.

So, the point is that there are 2 ways in which the metamour relationship is a choice of all parties involved, and not some title bestowed upon you, whether you are willing to be one or not. As I said in my response to him, that since polyamory requires consent of all involved, that means, by default and definition, that you consent to be someone's metamour, and if you don't, it's cheating.

By agreeing to be in a romantic relationship with someone who has or will have another partner, you are, de facto, agreeing to be someone's metamour, just the way that agreeing to marry someone implies that you are agreeing to be someone's in-law (or, as I said in my original analogy, agreeing to marry someone makes you a fiance whether you want the "title" or not - the title comes along with the relationship). You cannot get just the person without everyone he or she is attached to (or will be attached to, if you are agreeing to open up a preexisting monogamous relationship). That is not polyamory, that is some other form of non-monogamy that doesn't include consent or ethics.

In addition, being someone's metamour, while defined by its connections, is not *solely* about the path of connections. Like all other genealogical connections, the metamour connection is *also* a relationship of its own. The reason why its definition is restricted to the connections is because, also like all other genealogical connections, there is no single way to be someone's metamour.  My cousin might be my dad's sister's child, but he's also *my cousin* - the boy I grew up playing soccer and climbing trees and sneaking through the space between the fence in my back yard and the fence in my neighbor's yard pretending we were hunting for buried treasure.

We *cannot* define these familial relationships by their content because the only thing they have in common is the connections of relationship that put them there. There is no constant of behaviour or emotional content that applies to all people in any given familial connection, as much as we might like to think there is, or as much as the media would like us to believe there is an ideal (or stereotypical) form of them. The stepmother is not always wicked, the father is not always distant but providing, the big brother is not always a bully, and the metamour is not always a rival.

>What is always constant is how a person was given that title in the first place - by the connection (and even then there are multiple paths to any given title). You are someone's metamour because your partner has another partner. But you had to take on that title voluntarily by agreeing to a romantic relationship that includes metamours, and the "title" describes an independent relationship all on its own.

Which should serve to remind everyone that metamours are not something you have to put up with or tolerate, or even something you can dismiss and ignore. You agreed to be a metamour, and you have a relationship with that other person. Polyamory is not something you are forced to do - if you are forced into it, it's not polyamory. This is why people should never be grudgingly dragged into polyamory. Everyone has to agree and accept, because it's no longer about you and your spouse. It's about all these other people *and your relationship to them*.

Your metamours are *YOUR* metamours. Yes, they are your partner's other partner, but they are also connected to YOU. Polyamory doesn't require that all metamours be BFFs, just like family doesn't require that all daughter-in-laws hate their mother-in-laws or all fathers and sons have male bonding moments over the exposed engine of a car. But it does require that you recognize that your metamour is a person and not some nebulous "other" floating out there on the far side of your "shared" partner, that this person is connected to YOU, and that you agreed to that relationship.

If any of those qualifications don't apply, it's not polyamory, and I'd suggest that it's also not healthy and you probably ought not to be there.

*For the record, I was on the side of "altruism is not selfish", but if I had known that about the definition, I could have won the debate from the start, instead of having to argue for, literally, hours about it with others who are also very smart but didn't know this was a fundamental part of the definition.
joreth: (polyamory)
Along the same lines as the last post but totally independent of each other, I had a conversation with my mom (my adopted mom) the other day. See, my adopted sister is *also* adopted. Like me, she was adopted at birth, so other than the lack of shared genes, we are every bit the definition of "sisters". In fact, I even got to name my little sister (well, her middle name, but it's the name we called her for years, and the name I still call her, even though she goes by her first name to everyone outside the family). The reason I located my bio-mom in the first place is because my sister made it her life's quest to locate her own bio-parents, and when her bio-mom was found, the social worker offered to locate mine. I agreed on a whim.

My sister's story did not have the happy ending that mine did, although I believe it had the *better* ending for her. My sister's bio-mom is a mess. The day my sister first saw her bio-mom in person was at her bio-mom's parole hearing. My sister tried to begin a relationship of some sort with her bio-mom, but discovered that she was most important to her bio-mom as someone with a steady job who could bring her the groceries that she couldn't buy for herself due to her drug problem. So after doing so a couple of times, my sister just dropped out of touch with her bio-mom entirely, knowing that she couldn't help her but would break herself trying, and she consoles herself by praying for her bio-mom.

The reason I believe this is the better ending for my sister is because my sister and I have very different views on our adoptions. I knew from the beginning that my bio-parents were teenagers and that's why I was given up for adoption. I knew from the beginning that being put up for adoption was the smarter choice. I knew from the beginning that I was very, very fortunate to have been raised with a stable, middle-class couple who desperately wanted children and who loved me every bit as much as any parent could love their children. I knew from the beginning that being given up for adoption was not a rejection, but the ultimate sacrifice of true love to give one's children a better life than one could provide oneself. I had nothing more than idle curiosity about my bio-parents - who did I look like, who did I take after, who gave me the genes for loving sci-fi books and pets?

But my sister never saw her adoption as the wiser choice. She always saw her adoption as being "given up" by her bio-mom. She always felt rejected and unwanted, no matter how much love and attention our parents showered on us. She sought her bio-parents with desperation from the time she discovered the internet as a teenager. For my sister, life was always a "grass is greener on the other side" sort of situation.

So when she found her bio-mom and discovered the kind of life she could have had, especially when she learned of the fates of her half-sisters who were not fortunate enough to have been adopted out, it gave my sister a newfound respect and admiration for our adopted parents. My sister is much more content now, much more aware of her privileges, and of the love our parents have for her. I think she is finally done seeking some unattainable thing and she is finally making her life really her own life now. That's why I say it was the better ending for her - I think it taught her a lesson she really needed to learn and her life is better because of it.

So all of that is to put into context the following poly analogue story.

My adopted mom and my bio-mom have never met, have never spoken, have never exchanged words except for one letter that my bio-mom wrote as a teenager, basically thanking my adopted mom for taking me. Both have expressed interest in meeting the other, but both have done so in a very passive way, to avoid intruding on the other. On my adopted mom's side, her hesitation was always out of concern for my sister.

My sister's story played out from beginning to end all before I located my bio-mom. So my adopted mom was always afraid that reaching out to my bio-mom would sort of rub it in my sister's face that her story didn't end as happily. Not that any of us *intended* to do so, but that it might unintentionally hurt my sister to be reminded that she was the one who wanted so bad to find her bio-mom, and I didn't much care one way or the other, yet it was I who had the feel-good reunion story of the year and not her.

My adopted mom was so concerned about making my sister feel left out or somehow "less" that my adopted mom did not open herself up to exploring a relationship with my bio-mom. My adopted mom was afraid that my sister's insecurities about who she was and how loved she was would be triggered if my adopted mom developed a relationship with her other daughter's bio-mom, since my bio-mom was so much "better" than my sister's bio-mom. My adopted mom was afraid that contact with my bio-mom would be a constant reminder to my sister of how much her own bio-mom sucked, and that would reflect on my sister as a person. Keep in mind that my sister never once asked my adopted mom to refrain from contacting my bio-mom. My adopted mom is self-refraining out of concern for my sister's feelings.

I realize this is convoluted, but it's a classic poly/mono story. One partner is insecure, so the other partner places limits on himself about the types of relationships he can explore out of concern for the insecure partner. As I continually explain when people ask about the whole jealousy thing - monogamy never solved the jealousy issue as far as I could tell. The only thing that solves jealousy is communication and a desire to rid oneself of the jealousy that puts one in uncomfortable, but personal-growth situations.

I'm not sure how it came up, but very recently, my adopted mom and my sister talked about this very problem. My sister has had some years to heal and to look at her situation from other perspectives now. My sister believes that she will not have any issues if my adopted mom and my bio-mom contact each other. And I think my adopted mom would very much like to do so, but I think she has been burying that desire as deeply as she can. I believe my adopted mom has felt a drive to thank my bio-mom in much the same way that I did when I met her.

So even in my ultra-monogamous, slightly religious, insecure-and-often-prefers-to-remain-that-way family, we had to learn to deal with jealousy, with placing limits on behaviour to protect someone else's insecurities, and to go through emotionally difficult situations in order to come out the other side with a better understanding of ourselves and the security in ourselves and our relationships to allow our loved ones the freedom to pursue other relationships.

It's not a poly problem, it's a people problem. Shying away from these situations, insisting on holding onto the rules and the insecurities under the blanket of "there is no One Right Way, so stop critiquing my methods", not only does not help your poly relationships, but it hinders your other relationships as well. As is often repeated in poly circles, the skills learned in polyamory are not unique to polyamory, but all relationships everywhere can benefit from them.

My sister is much healthier now; my sister's relationship with my adopted mom is healthier now; my adopted mom is now free to reach out to someone whom she has always wanted to reach out to; our entire family dynamic is in a much better place, with more security and more freedom. Funny how freedom and security often go together. When freedom is curtailed under the banner of "security", it usually doesn't make people any more secure, it just takes away their freedom. This is not a poly problem, it's a people problem.
joreth: (polyamory)
I discovered something today. I was making a newbie poly mistake with my monogamous bio-family.

Most of what I learned about polyamory, I actually learned from my monogamous family. For instance, I've written before about how being adopted was a poly analogue - that being adopted taught me the importance of intentional family. My adopted parents did a very good job of teaching me that love and acceptance into a family had nothing to do with who contributed what genes, and that a strong family was one that chose to be a family.

But today, I learned another lesson that applies in both the poly and monogamous worlds. It wasn't quite as profound - it was an etiquette question - but I am constantly reminding people who have questions about polyamory that, most of the time, it's not a poly problem ... it's a people problem. Here is yet one more example of just such a problem.

I was raised from birth by my adopted family, so to me, they're my family. When I say "my mom", I am referring to the woman who raised me. A handful of years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet the woman who gave birth to me, and all of my living biological family on her side. Because I have spent the better part of 30 years telling people "my adopted mom IS my mom", I was hesitant to call her "mom" when I met her. So, for the past several years, I have been calling my birth mother by her first name.

In the beginning, it was mostly because I attached a certain significance to the word "mom" and the role it went with, whereas this woman was a stranger to me and did not fit the role of "mom", even though she gave birth to me and seemed like a perfectly nice lady. Over time, however, as I got to know her, I continued the naming convention out of concern for my adopted mom.

From the very beginning of the search for my bio-mom, I have been concerned about how my adopted mom would feel about me connecting to my bio-mom. I wanted my adopted mom to know, I mean really know how much I loved her and appreciated her, and that my bio-mom would never, in any way, shape, or form, take her place. Sound familiar?

My adopted mom would always be my mom. She would always be the woman who tried for years, unsuccessfully, to have me; who waited and faced disappointment after disappointment until finally an adoption came through; who picked me up from school when I was sick; who helped me with my homework; who worked in a dead-end job for years because it had good pay and good benefits, to support her family; and who taught me inumerable lessons. No one else can ever take that history away and no one else could ever take her place. When I met my bio-mom, the first thing I said to her was "thank you" for making the decision to put me up for adoption and for choosing my parents. I told my adopted mom, when she asked me if I ever wanted to find my bio-mom, that the only reason I wanted to meet my bio-mom, was to tell her that. And I did.

So I reserved the title "mom" for my adopted mom as a symbol of her specialness in my life and, even when my relationship with my bio-mom turned into an actual friendship and not just some arbitrary "link" due to shared genes, I continued to hold that term in reserve for my adopted mom.

I think I noticed I was doing this somewhere in the back of my mind, but I mostly ignored it until today.

Today, I had a mini-crisis over what to call my bio-grandfather, and it brought out all this silliness to the forefront.

At first, I couldn't remember my bio-grandfather's first name, so I panicked a little about how to refer to him now that I'm about to go visit him again at the end of the year. Before I could embarrass myself by asking "uh, what's my grandfather's name again?", my bio-mom sent me an email in which she referred to him as "Papa".

So then I started to worry, if I call him by a familial title like "Papa", but I don't call her "mom", will she get her feelings hurt? Should I call him by his first name to make it less offensive that I still call her by her first name? OMG what am I going to call these people!

I sent a slightly hysterical SMS to one of my partners freaking out about what to do. Then I noticed the irony of Miss Poly Manners having an etiquette crisis. Then I noticed the parallel between this and polyamory.

This situation is the same thing as a pre-existing couple beginning to open their relationship, and one of the spouses getting a new partner, but saving certain nicknames only for the spouse. As in: "You must never call your girlfriend Bunnylips - that word is for me as your wife, and me alone."

I have long been of the opinion that reserving a symbol of your specialness that exists outside of yourself is a recipe for disaster because, if you are special due to something outside of you, then that something can always be taken away from you. In other words, if you wear a wedding ring, and that ring is special because it represents your special relationship, then that's fine. But if you refuse to allow your partner to give a ring to anyone else because it is the ring that makes you special, then your specialness can always be taken away from you. If being called "honey" makes you feel loved, terrific. But if the word "honey" is only special because you are the only one to be called "honey", then any other use of the term makes you less special.

Since I know I am special just for being me, it is absolutely impossible for any of my specialness to be taken away from me just because my partner does or says something with someone other than me that he also happens to do or say with me. Calling me "mi amo" is a sign that I am a special person in his life, but it is because I am me that I have that special place, not because he calls me that term. So that he calls his wife "mi amo" also doesn't detract from either of us being special to him. Do you see what I'm saying here? The symbol is representative of our specialness, the symbol does not GIVE us a specialness. We are not special because we have that symbol, that symbol is special because it represents us, and that cannot be reproduced or duplicated, even if someone else gets the same symbol.

So, back to my family. As a kid, all us cousins and friends and neighborhood kids used to call the parents of our friends "mom & dad". We called most adults by their first names, but our especially-close friends' parents were also given the honorifics of "mom & dad". None of the parents ever seemed to feel slighted when their kids called some other kid's parents "mom & dad" because those parents were being called "mom & dad" by those other kids too.

Then, in all the families I knew growing up, anyone who married into a family called everyone in the in-law family by whatever title their spouse called them. In other words, my mom always called my dad's parents "mom & dad" and vice versa. So there was a whole lot of throwing around of the terms "mom & dad" and other familial nicknames.

Which means that, if you combine my whole rant on specialness with the historical precedent, I was being exceedingly silly in worrying about what names to call my bio-mom and bio-grandfather. My adopted mom is still my mom, even if I call my bio-mom "mom", or my hypothetical mother-in-law "mom", or my best friend's mother "mom". And my bio-grandfather isn't taking anything away from my godfather by being addressed by the same name of "Papa", nor is he taking my dad's place just because my nephews call my dad "Papa".

My parents are special because of who they are, and they are given those special names because those names symbolize how special they are as people. They are not special *because* they have those names - those *names* are special because of who holds them. My mom is not special because I call her mom. The word "mom" is special because it refers to people who fill a special role. My mom has a lot of names. She is "mom", she is "mother" when I'm being a snotty teen, she is her first name, she is Mrs., she is Nani. She is not special because she has those names. All those names are special because they represent her as a unique person, and that unique person is unchanged, no matter what you call her and no matter who else gets called by the same name.

So, rather than continuing to draw arbitrary lines around certain terms, rather than boxing off nicknames as being the connoters of the specialness instead of representative of the recipients' inherent specialness, and rather than stressing myself out about this whole matter, I'm letting go of the habit of reserving generic nicknames. I'm going to call people by their actual titles or nicknames because that's who they are, and expend my energy reminding them of their specialness in ways that actually matter. But I'll still use unique identifiers like real names to third parties, so there isn't any confusion about which "mom" I'm talking about.
Some links to building personal security:
joreth: (polyamory)
How To Share:

One of the biggest concerns/complaints that I hear from poly newbies (or, rather, from monogamous partners of poly newbies who are only reluctantly poly) is the division of time. If I work 8 hours a day, spend 1 hour a day in commute traffic, and sleep 8 hours a day, that gives me only 6 hours a day with my spouse. If some of that time is spent doing chores & eating dinner, that really only leaves the weekends. How can you ask me to give up any of the only 48-hours left to someone else?

Well, as Franklin continues to point out, it's not a zero-sum game if you can learn to value all your time with your partner as quality time, even if there are other people present. This doesn't mean that alone-time is totally worthless, just that shared-time *also* isn't totally worthless. In fact, it could very well turn out to be some of your most important relationship-building time ever!

This is something that my parents taught me.

For example, by definition, the entire time I've known my parents, they've had kids. This means that they almost never got any "alone time". Babysitters are expensive. Usually, anytime my parents wanted to do something special with each other, they had to take us kids along. But instead of begrudging our presence, my parents valued "family time". Their relationship to each other was redefined once us kids came along and it was no longer just about the two of them, it was about the four of us. Sure, they did still hire babysitters and, once, they even had my grandmother come stay with us for a week so they could go to Hawaii. But they were not a "couple", they were a family of four.

In my family, my parents anniversaries were never a private matter. Their smallest celebrations always included us kids - usually dinner at a nice restaurant. But for their special milestones, they had big gatherings. My parents viewed celebrations of their relationship as things to be celebrated with others. Just like their wedding was an honoring of their commitment to each other by including their family and friends, other celebrations of their relationship, such as anniversaries, were also considered to be honoring their commitment by including their friends.

In other words, my parents' anniversaries and special celebrations that were all about the two of them were considered to be more honored and more special by including their family and friends in the celebration of my parents.

There's something special about sharing your relationship with others, about having those you care about most gather together to help you honor the relationship that you have with someone else. It's why we have big wedding ceremonies and big receptions afterwards. If relationships and relationship commitments were considered "private", there would be no wedding industry. We'd all stand before the officiate of our choice with a couple of witnesses for legal purposes and then have private "celebrations" after the legal work is done. Sure, some people do, but it's certainly not how our society thinks such things ought to be done.

In monogamous society, we already have a template for sharing our relationships with others. We already have a precedent for making a relationship between two people even more special by including others in a celebration of that relationship. In polyamory, it's no different in concept. It's only different in scale.

My relationship with my partners are each strengthened and honored when we share our love for each other with those closest family and friends. When my metamours can be present to witness how much my partner and I love each other, when they can participate by celebrating with us, our relationship to each other is made more intimate, at the same time that it deepens each of our respective relationships with them for having honored ours. When I can witness and celebrate their relationships and their love for each other, their relationships are made better for my honoring of their relationships, and my relationship with both my partner and my metamour is also strengthened by allowing me to participate in some part of their relationship together.

Just as, to me, a wedding without my sister there as my maid of honor, or a milestone wedding anniversary that my parents couldn't wish me happiness at, would be diminished for the lack of their presence, my relationships with my sweeties would be less without the presence of their loved ones and my other loved ones to help us celebrate. My parents celebrate their anniversaries with their children, and sometimes their extended relatives, because, to them, that is what their relationship with each other was all about - the foundation for building a family.

And that's what polyamory is all about to me too - building a family. The very idea of my time with any of my partners being diminished or lacking in quality just because a metamour is present is like saying my parents' anniversary celebrations are somehow diminished because us kids were there for it. Time spent alone with a single partner is *different* than time spent in a group, and sometimes we do need to prioritize alone-time over group time. But the idea of it not being *quality* time just doesn't compute to me. My parents wanted grown-up time without us kids, and we kids certainly wanted kid-time without them, but having the kids around was not a lack of quality time with each other. If anything, it was a greater quality because we were a family, and having us kids be there only reinforced that we were a family.

Having my partners and metamours present does not take away from the quality of my time with each of my partners. If anything, it's a greater quality to have everyone present because we're a family. Sure, I still want alone-time with each of my partners, and that alone-time provides a certain type of intimacy that the group-time doesn't. But it's not just me and him. Just like my parents are not a couple - they're a couple with a family, my partners and I are not a couple - we're couples with a family. And I learned that lesson from my monogamous, fidelitous, Christian parents. These are the "family values" I can support.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I'm reading a book right now and there's a recurring theme that's pissing me off. The reason it's pissing me off is because I see this same theme in society around me, and it happens to be an extremely personal issue. The issue is adoption.

We have an incredibly fucked up idea of family and parentage in our society. People are really, strongly, obsessively invested in who has whose genes. And I don't mean the biological drive to procreate. I get that we have this drive to make sure we have progeny to ensure the continuation of our genes. But we have lots of ways of making sure that we continue on, and our genes do just fine on their own without our interference. For instance, it turns out that homosexuality actually *helps* procreation. Let's say that Sam and Suzy have 2 children, Bobby and Betty. Bobby is gay and Betty is straight. Betty gets married and Bobby doesn't, because he's gay. That leaves Bobby available to assist Betty and her husband Johnny raise their little tykes, with babysitting duties, gifts, maybe even more substantial contributions to the household. Bobby is Sam and Suzy's insurance policy to make sure that Betty's kids (Sam and Suzy's grandkids) have an edge and therefore out-compete the kids growing up next door, who don't have the benefit of an extra uncle to dote on them.

That's an oversimplification of course, the point is that we have a variety of ways to ensure the propagation of genes, and some of those ways might not seem, on the surface, to be beneficial, but they are.

So, what does that have to do with adoption? Well, my position is that this obsession with whose kids are whose goes far beyond what can be explained with genes. It has to do with memes. Social memes. Those nasty little mind-worms that infect societies and dig in deeper than some biological viruses. Somewhere along the line, we collectively decided it was appropriate, desired, and necessary for men to guard the vaginas to make sure that nothing went in and nothing came out that didn't "belong" to the men guarding them. This idea gained traction quickly and took root deeply to the point where we are now looking for biological justifications to excuse the brutality of men against women and against other men (but mostly against women).

And this meme works going the other direction too - children who are socialized with this kind of bullshit are terrified at the thought that mommy or daddy might not be their "real" mommy or daddy. Even adult children are terrified about this. The worst insult a man can be given is that he doesn't know who supplied half of his genes (bastard). Even as adults, the mere thought that one's parents might not be one's "real" parents is enough to make grown adults resort to violence.

I am adopted. I have always known that I was adopted. Although I did not meet my biological mother until I was 30, and I have never met my biological father, I grew up knowing the story of my birth and my biological lineage. I knew that my bio-parents were teenagers when I was born, and that was the reason I was given up for adoption. I knew that I had European ancestry on my mother's side and Latin American ancestry on my father's side. I knew that my birth-mother was given a choice as to who my adopted parents would be and she chose the couple who raised me, although they never met. I knew all of this from the moment I was able to understand it. And I was always OK with it.

My adopted mom (whom I always call "mom") has always made it very clear to me that I may not have come from her stomach, but I did come from her heart. My adopted parents raised me from the time I was 15 days old. They stayed up with me at night when I was sick, they helped me with my homework, they dried my tears when I was so panicked at the thought of spending another day with the school bullies that I made myself sick. My adopted parents have always been parents in every sense that matters.

My birth mother (whom I usually refer to as "mother") was also held in high esteem. Something else that my adopted parents made sure to instill in me was a deep and profound respect for the woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in my adoption. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to have carried a baby to term, given birth, and then given that infant to someone else, knowing that she would never see her baby again. She never did see me. She asked not to, afraid she would change her mind if she did. This woman, this girl, didn't abandon me. She made the best decision possible - to allow someone else to raise her child so that her child had the best possible chance for survival, because she was not the best possible choice.

In the book that I'm reading, the main character was raised by his father in a small village. His mother died before he had any real memory of her. The main character doesn't look anything like his father, and in fact, doesn't look anything like anyone in the village. He stands out like a Norseman raised in the south of Spain. But as he travels through the story, he learns hints that he may not be genetically related to his father. He learns that his father left the village for a couple of years and returned home with a baby. His father told him that he had been born in that village, so he vehemently denies this rumor. Every time it is suggested that he may have been a foundling, he shouts his name and that he is the son of his father.

And every time he does that I want to reach through the pages of the book, grab him by the throat, and throttle some sense into him. Of COURSE that's his name; having different genetic donors doesn't change that! Your name is what people call you, and having some other ancestry doesn't change what people call you, or what they have always called you in the past. Of COURSE that's his father; having some stranger impregnate some other stranger doesn't erase the last 20 years of the man he thinks of as his father, as he taught him to read, taught him to farm, taught him to fire a bow and arrow. That his genes come from people he's never met DOES NOT CHANGE WHO HE IS OR WHO HIS FATHER IS. It *might* explain some things about himself that don't make sense without that information, such as his coloring. But it does not change history and it does not erase those relationships with people he currently has.

And this book keeps pissing me off because I see people going through this same situation all the time. I see people panic at the thought that the people they love, who raised them, might have a genetic code that is 3% different from theirs, instead of 2.9% different. And the reason why that reaction pisses me off is because it is a direct accusation to people like me, people who were raised by someone other than their genetic donors. Every time I say I don't want children, and people ask what happens if I change my mind, and I say that I'll adopt, every time they say "but what if you want children of your own someday?" Fuck you. Any child I adopt WOULD be my own goddamn child. I think it's frighteningly telling that these people actually believe that someone could possibly deliberately raise a child and not love it as one's "own".

It's so terrible, so awful, this idea that we might not be blood-related to our parents. Someone who really thinks that is so busy freaking out over that thought, that he doesn't usually stop to consider that, if it's so awful that he is not related to his parents, then it must be just as awful for me to not be related to my parents. And I am deeply resentful of the idea that my parents are not my "real" parents.

My parents are every bit my "real" parents. Not giving birth to me did not make their sacrifices for me any less, or diminish their love even a single iota. There was never even a single moment of "she's not my REAL daughter, so I only love her a little bit". I, and my adopted sister, were the children my parents always wanted. We gave them every bit as much love, and as much grief, as any "natural" child ever gave her parents.

This idea of "natural" offspring is, I think, one of the most harmful, destructive memes we have the misfortune of propagating. It causes men to turn violent, to destroy women's bodies, to kill. It causes women to doubt their very humanity when they can't have children "of their own". It causes relationships to be destroyed at even the suspicion of other genetic material in the vicinity. It causes children to doubt their very identities because we do not encourage people to develop identities on their own merits and personalities, but on their relationships to other people. Who is this strange child if it's not "mine"? Who am I if I'm not related to my parents?

That child is the same child he has always been, and I am always me, no matter who my parents are. Regardless of where my DNA came from, my parents raised me and shaped the person I am now. I am the culmination of biological matter, values instilled by the people who raised me, exposure to ideas from society around me, and my own accomplishments. I am Joreth. Adult human individual and daughter of my parents. All four of them.
joreth: (anger)
I've been extremely busy lately, with work & prepping for various trips & attending conferences.  My latest trip was out to CA to see my younger sister graduate college.  This was only a month after learning of my godmother's murder, who lives in the same town.  While there, I visited my godsister (my godmother's daughter) & drove by the house where my godmother was killed.  I learned some more information about the event while there that I wanted to document before I forget it.

The woman who killed my godmother was named Leticia Daisy Martinez.  She was 28 years old, had 4 young children, and had a blood alcohol level of almost double the legal limit at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning.  She had a suspended drivers license and she was driving an SUV with 3 passengers.

The full story and my ramblings and rantings about it )
Driving is a privilege, not a right.  Driving is operating a dangerous piece of machinery that requires quick reflexes and a basic understanding of physics.  Most people who drive do not have those quick reflexes or that basic understanding of physics.  And then they go and impair their reflexes further, by drinking before driving, by driving while tired, by driving too close to other vehicles to see obstacles, by talking on the phone, by texting, by putting on makeup, by eating, by messing with the radio, and by doing a dozen other things.  I've been known to do a few of these things too - everyone has their moments of selfishness where they think their privilege trumps the safety of other people.

But, while we're never going to stop people from talking on the phone while driving or eating a Big Mac while running late, there are a few things that are more likely than others to have a high probability of resulting in a serious accident.  Don't drive while tired.  Don't drive while texting.  Don't tailgate.  And don't drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (illegal, prescription, or over the counter).  I don't care how well you THINK you can function, I guarantee that you do not function as well as you think you do.  By definition, your abilities are impaired, so you are not able to judge your own functionality while under the influence.  YOU DO NOT DRIVE AS WELL AS YOU THINK YOU DO, even sober.  So don't do it while drunk.

There is no excuse for drunk driving.
joreth: (sleep)
It was a bright and clear morning - cool but not too cold. A tall, elderly woman went into her front yard to do some gardening. She sent her grandson back into the house to fetch something for her. From inside the house, her daughter and grandson heard one of the most terrifying sounds they would ever hear. Out front, a car careened around the corner, over the curb, and into the yard where the woman was gardening. The car hit the woman, killed her, smashed the front of the house, backed out of the yard, continued down the street, hit another person in their front yard, and kept going until the driver was caught some ways down the road.

The elderly woman in this story was my godmother. The bright and clear morning was today.

When my parents were first married, they traveled from my mother's home state to California to start their lives together. Shortly after relocating, they met John and Diana, a couple who were seeking renters for some of their rental properties. My parents were seeking a home to rent. Over the years, John and Diana became friends, mentors, confidents, and family. They became second parents to my mom and dad. They were there when my parents brought me home from the hospital. They babysat me while my parents went to the hospital to bring my sister home. They were there for every major milestone and many minor events.

I remember being a very young child and looking forward to Friday nights when John and Diana would come over to sit around my parents' kitchen table while my mom made giant bowls of popcorn and melted butter on the stove for everyone and I got to sit at the grown-up table and talk to grown-ups who cared what I had to say. Diana would tell my mother that I had piano fingers and she encouraged me when I wanted to learn to play. She would tell anyone who would listen about how I taught myself how to read at age 3, repeating the story of going to a local store with me where I would spell out the name of the store from the big neon sign over the door. Everything I wanted to do, Diana supported me wholeheartedly, unreservedly, proud and positive that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, including the time I announced that I would be trekking across the country in an old converted school bus to a state I had never visited, with no job and no place to live waiting for me. She was my biggest supporter.

When her grandson was born and it was clear that he was developmentally challenged, Diana helped her daughter to raise her grandson, sitting up with him at night when he was sick, tirelessly working with him on his unique challenges, relentlessly offering her love and support to assist him in becoming the best person he could be. When her daughter had her own medical issues, Diana took up the slack to assist her daughter in addition to her assistance in raising her grandson. When her husband had a stroke, she nursed him, first from his bedside, and then from his chairside, until he was able to move around on his own again. When he eventually died, she continued caring for her family and managing their home and properties.

Diana was a singularly amazing woman. She loved unconditionally and without reservation. She gave of herself with seeming bottomless reserves. She helped the homeless, she cared for her family, she even helped her neighbor's children manage the estate when the neighbor passed away. And in one morning, all that was taken away by a single, careless decision. All that she gave the world is forever gone by a senseless, preventable action.

It's hard enough to lose a loved one to illness. Long and lingering or quick and unexpected, death from illness is painful and tragic. But it is nothing compared to losing a loved one due to another's stupidity.

When my sister called me today to tell me about Diana, she got my voicemail at first because I had poor cell reception when she called. I listened to my sister's flat voice tell me that she had bad news about Diana. I knew by that tone, the same one that notified me about John's death, and both of my grandfathers' deaths, and my aunt's death, that the bad news would be fatal. But Diana was a senior, whose husband had already died. She was not so ill that I was expecting her death, but she was also not so hale and hearty that the idea was a complete shock either. I felt sad, but I prepared myself to hear how she had a heart attack or a stroke or something of that nature. I railed against death claiming another loved one, but in a resigned sort of can't-escape-it way.

Then my sister called me again and this time the call got through. I walked outside of the restaurant where I was spending the afternoon with friends, to hear better. She began to tell the story much the way I started the story above. I braced myself to hear "and while she was gardening, she clutched her chest and fell over". Instead, what I heard was "a drunk driver hit her in the front yard."

I stood stock still and blinked several times, as if I had misheard and had to rewind and replay that last sentence in my mind. I think I gasped and then held my breath. But I'm not entirely sure. The idea of my godmother's body giving out on her is a horrible, saddening idea. But the knowledge that her life was taken from her was so much worse. Even the idea of having an accident, like slipping and falling, that's tragic but still pales in comparison to the reality of her murder.

Yes, I said murder. The sweetest, most caring, most supportive woman I've ever known was killed in cold blood for no better reason than some fucking bitch was drunk on a Sunday morning and thought she could operate a motor vehicle. There is no "good" reason for someone's death. But there are some reasons that are more senseless than others.

That ... woman ... made a choice. She chose to drink alcohol. She chose to get behind the wheel of a car. She believed that she had enough control of her faculties to safely drive. Alcohol impairs our ability to function at peak efficiency. Part of that impairment is the inability to accurately assess just how impaired our senses are. No one who has ever killed someone from drunk driving ever got behind the wheel and said "I'm really too drunk to drive and I'm likely to kill someone, but I'm going to do it anyway." Everyone who has ever taken the life of another person because they were too impaired to prevent it believed that they had better control than they did.

Anyone who has ever driven while under the influence of alcohol ... fuck you. Anyone who has ever said "Yes, I've been drinking, but I'm fine, I can drive" ... fuck you. How DARE those people treat the lives of others so callously. How DARE they put their own convenience ahead of someone else's life. Next time you choose to drink alcohol, I want you to think about this story. I want you to picture Diana, a tall, thin woman with short grey hair, who volunteers for her church and who donates food to the local homeless shelter and who cares for everyone she ever came in contact with. I want you to picture her daughters and her grandchildren who rely on her care and support. And I want you to feel overwhelming guilt. I don't want to hear "but I would never drive THAT impaired! I know my limits and I can tell." Bullshit. That's what that bitch who killed my godmother thought.

And that woman is damned lucky I live 3,000 miles away. Because if I ever meet her, I will beat her unconscious, then stand over her until she regains consciousness, and then beat the shit out of her again. I hope she's wracked with guilt for the rest of her life, and I hope she suffers. She can't possibly suffer enough to make up for what she did. The world is a darker place without Diana's light shining in it.

UPDATE - that bitch's mug shot - article about the murder
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I've always called my cat, Misty, a grey tabby, because she's mostly grey with faint grey stripes & spots, and because I didn't know what else to call her. She wasn't one of the obvious, well-known breeds, like a Siamese or Persian. She just looked a little like a monochrome Garfield.  In fact, her full name is Small Tiger In The Mist because of the grey on grey coloring.

But as I flipped through an issue of Cat Fancy while waiting in the vet office the other day, as Misty was getting her vitamin B shots*, I came across an article about the Egyptian Mau. The description fits Misty exactly - every single trait. Sure, some of the traits, especially the personality traits, could fit other breeds, and especially individual cats regardless of breed trend, and personality traits are tricky things - much like horoscopes, people tend to think that description fits them no matter what it says. But every single trait including those distinctive of the breed matches Misty. I wouldn't doubt that she's a mix, but I'm about as sure as I can get without DNA results that she is, indeed, at least partly an Egyptian Mau.

Egyptian Mau (


For instance, "Maus often possess very musical voices. They are known to chirp, chortle and emit other distinctly unusual vocalizations when stimulated". Misty has a wide range of vocalizations, but her trademark sound is a chirruping chitter sound. In fact, years ago, she got nicknamed "chitter" because of the sound she made. When she was a kitten, I called her "squeak" because she didn't meow so much as squeak at me. Of course, when she's stressed, she doesn't sound nearly as adorable. No, she has an ear-piercing, rich, tonal meow that can drive me to want to jam something sharp into my ears just so I won't have to hear it anymore.

"Another behavior, quite common in happy Maus, has been described as 'wiggle-tail.'" This has been sometimes described as "dog-like" in the wiggle since happy tail-wiggles are not a typical cat behaviour, which Misty also does.

"their legs are slightly shorter in the front than in the back".  Misty's legs are noticeably different lengths.

""The Egyptian Mau is the fastest of the domestic cats, with its longer hind legs, and unique flap of skin extending from the flank to the back knee, provides for greater agility and length of stride. Maus have been clocked running over 36 mph". "The longer hind legs are another reason for the breed's startling speed. The Mau also has a loose flap of skin on the lower abdomen, similar to the cheetah, which allows a longer stride while running". They are sometimes called the greyhound of cats, for their speed & agility and have been known to jump as high as 6 feet. Misty also has that extra flap and has always been a jumper. I measured her at about 5 feet straight up, and that wasn't her highest ever. Her big hind feet earned her the nickname "Bunny Feet" by a former boyfriend.  The unusually large feet tend to make them look like they're on tiptoe when they stand up, especially when combined with their shortened forelegs, and, of course, Misty does look like she's on tiptoe.

Maus are known to bond strongly with their owners. "Such owners typically report their Maus eagerly greet them at the door at the end of a long day at work". I have always described Misty as my shadow, since she has to be at least in the same room I am in all the time. She often prefers to walk either between my feet or just behind me, and hates to leave the room unless I accompany her.  Since getting sick, she's even more clingy, and being within sight isn't enough - she has to be within touching range, preferably on my lap, hanging over my forearms so that I can't type.  "The typical Mau is not social with strangers of any species, other cats in particular." I have also joked that Misty is Monogamous Kitty. In addition to being clingy, she jealously guards my time, inserting herself between me & whatever friend or lover is spending time with me, choosing the spot on the bed closest to my head & warning off my other cat, Onyx, from encroaching.

Maus also, apparently, have very sensitive immune systems.  They prefer warm temperatures, are sensitive to medicines & anesthesia, and are prone to asthma.  Misty has had asthma her entire life, but it was worse when she was overweight.

"Eye color is a light green described as gooseberry green ... The forehead is marked with the characteristic tabby M and frown marks, forming lines between the ears that continue down the back of the neck, ideally breaking into elongated spots along the spine. The tail is heavily banded and has a dark tip." Yep, yep, and yep. Misty's eyes are a distinctive shade of green, so much so that when looking up options for memorials of pets, I found one of those places that uses the carbon from pet's ashes or fur to make diamonds, & decided that if I ever have enough money to get one, I'm getting the green diamond to match her eyes. They are often described as having a "worried expression" or "expressive eyes" because of their roundness. She has the forehead M and a heavily banded tail.

"Its lustrous, dense coat can be silver, bronze, or smoke, and is distinguished by a marvelous mixture of striping and spotting," which Misty does, indeed, have. But the clincher is this: "They are the only naturally spotted breed of domesticated cat. The spots on an Egyptian Mau are not only on the coat; a shaved Mau has spots on its skin." ("natural" means that they acquired their spots on their own, with no human intervention to breed the trait into them - they came to us spotted). Misty has spots on her skin exactly where her spots on her fur are. I knew this about her, but she was recently shaved for a procedure and it was quite obvious that her spots are on her skin.

Misty exhibits all the classic personality traits of being loyal, closely bonded, and jealous, and all the physical traits including rounded "gooseberry green eyes", a "worried expression" because of the eye shape, wide-spaced, delicate ears, a rounded face with no harsh planes, an evenly-wide nose, asthma, forehead M stripe, mascara stripe, cheek stripes, banded tail, extra stomach flap, unusually large hind feet, shorter forelegs, excellent jumper, happy tail-wag, a combination of stripes & spots, and spotted skin - the latter of which is a distinctly Egyptian Mau trait.  Her markings are not as distinct as purebred Maus, and she has a white bib & socks, so she is most likely a mix, and I'm pretty sure there's some orange tabby in her history somewhere.  But it's nice to know the breed, and especially pleasing to hear the specifics of her breed.

For a bit of history about the breed: "Ranked as one of the oldest domesticated breeds, the Egyptian Mau is thought to be related to a spotted subspecies of the African Wild Cat. Held in high esteem, this breed was worshipped as deities, protected by laws, and mummified upon death in ancient Egypt. The matriarch of this breed was silver spotted female named Baba. According to historical records, a female Egyptian Mau kitten was scheduled to accompany exiled Russian princess Nathalie Troubetskoy from Rome to the United States. However, they missed getting on a huge luxury ship, the ill-fated Andrea Dorian that sank after being rammed a Swedish liner. In 1956, the princess successfully arrived in the United States and brought the first Mau to this country. Today, the Egyptian Van is ranked 20th in popularity among the breeds listed by the Cat Fanciers Association, which granted it championship status in 1977." (  

If the Egyptian Mau really does come from the cats depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork that they resemble, the Mau is probably the oldest domestic cat, the first breed to choose to align its fate to humans.  The species is endangered, with less than 7,000 Maus officially registered.  A combination of outcrossing & inbreeding saved the species from complete extinction, due to war in Europe, in 1953 when Nathalie Troubetskoy brought 3 Egyptian Maus to the US (Baba, her son Jojo, & an unrelated female named Liza), founded the Fatima Egyptian Mau cattery, bred them, and then enhanced the bloodline with Maus imported from Egypt to strengthen the breed.  Without the Russian princess' efforts, this breed might now be extinct, or so diluted as to be unrecognizable as a distinct breed.  It is estimated that most of the Egyptian Maus today can trace their bloodline back to Baba.

Misty's loyalty, charm, and bonding, that are so characteristic of her possible breed, have given me an incredibly valuable relationship for the last almost-11 years.  Her distinctive physical traits have always stimulated the photographer/artist in me and inspired me to pursue animal photography, which has resulted in a stock photo business involving mostly animals.  She is my joy and delight.

*For those who are who don't follow me on Twitter, or are otherwise unaware, Misty sick, but all tests keep coming up inconclusive.  The most likely culprit is cancer, in which case, I can't afford chemo so the next option is to give her vitamin B shots & steroid pills to slow the deterioration by a few months, or the second possible cause is inflammatory bowl disease, in which case the vitamin B shots & steroid pills are actually the cure. The vet gives her 3-4 months with the vitamin B & steroids if it's cancer (which she believes it is), so we're taking this one day at a time. I'm monitoring her weight, waste, and activity level, and hoping that the end will come suddenly once the pills run out their effectiveness, and preferably not during the weekend I'll be in CA (which is right smack in the expected time limit range). If I can avoid watching her waste away to nothing, and I can be there when she goes, I'll be profoundly grateful.

joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
 So, it's the holidays, and being a member of several minority groups, everyone wants to know how I handle the traditional holiday season as a non-traditional person.  I was interviewed for a UK magazine about how polys spend the holidays, because apparently the idea that we spend them pretty much the same way monogamous people do is an unusual concept.  I'm also reading The Atheist's Guide To Christmas, a book I have been curious about for some time.  I know it's difficult to imagine, but atheists, and polys, are actually made up of more than one person, and sometimes we actually have different thoughts, ideas, wants, likes, and dislikes!  Shocking, but true.  So that means that there isn't a single way to exist during the holiday season, for either polys or atheists.  But with everyone reminding me that I'm "different", it got me to thinking ... how does a skeptical polyamorous atheist deal with a holiday that is more or less seen as a religious family holiday?  Apparently, people want to know.

I can only answer for myself.  Everyone else will have a different story, just like every monogamist and every religious person will have a different story.  Because, and here's another shock, they're not all the same person either!

How do Polys spend the Holidays? )

Shouldn't I be out in the trenches, fighting the War On Christmas? )

So, Happy Holidays everyone, whichever holiday you celebrate!  And if you refuse to accept my wishes for a good holiday because I didn't specify *your* holiday, then you don't deserve my wishes for a good holiday anyway.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
December, 2010

This was another packed year! I made another gingerbread house for the holidays last year. It was a scale model of the Haunted Mansion at Disney Paris, complete with lighting behind the sugar-glass windows. I took it to a New Year’s Eve party to be devoured. I have the whole story on my website. I will do another one this year, but I haven’t decided what yet.

For my birthday, I went to see my one of my favorite musicians, Jonathan Coulton, and I also went with a group of friends to Rebounderz, a building lined with trampolines, including the walls! A good time was had by all.

This summer saw the opening of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park. It is probably my favorite park anywhere. Islands of Adventure has all my favorite rides anyway, but WWOHP went out if its way in immersive realism. The same guy who designed and built all the movie sets built the theme park too, so it really feels like you walked right into Hogsmeade Village. More pictures are on the website.

As usual, the FLAN (Florida Local Area Network branch of the Squiggle - my romantic network) all went to Dragon*Con again, but no new costumes this time. I wore Laurie Jupiter again, since I put so much effort into making her, and I wore a bunch of t-shirts from one of my online t-shirt stores (I have three now) as advertising.  [ profile] datan0de  and I celebrated one of our first anniversaries (we have several anniversary dates) together by riding a giant slingshot at a local carnival to symbolize falling, since it was the day we told each other we were "falling in love". Pictures and the video of our slingshot ride are up on my website.  [ profile] tacit  and I had to celebrate our 6th year together online again, now that he lives in Oregon and couldn’t make it to Dragon*Con.

For Halloween, I had 4 parties to attend and had to turn down 2 more. One was a Dexter/serial-killer themed party, so I modified my old Mad Scientist costume since it had a butcher’s apron and added lots of knives. Another was western/Firefly/steampunk themed, so I just pulled out my old boots, hat, Wranglers, & denim duster for that. The other two were on the same night, so I dressed again in Laurie Jupiter for both of those. I even got to swing dance with one of the party guests.

In October, [ profile] datan0de[ profile] femetal  and I went to the Bahamas since I had such a good time last time. We went shopping, sat around on the beach, watched the sunset over the Caribbean Sea, and went snorkeling with a barracuda. I got some great underwater pictures, and several underwater videos!

Work this year has been really slow, much slower than anticipated. But I’m still working behind the scenes for live events, still operating a camera, and staying afloat. Onyx’s flea problem is almost completely cleared up and she has put on a lot of healthy weight. Misty, however, is not doing as well. She has lost a lot of weight but the vet can’t find anything wrong with her. She just doesn’t want to eat. She’s also really cranky, so I’m worried about her.

In December, I was interviewed for a UK magazine about how polyamorous people spend the holidays, and I expect to receive my copy of the magazine any day now. The answer, for me, is that I will be spending the holidays with [ profile] datan0de[ profile] femetal[ profile] zensidhe , and [ profile] redheadlass , just like last year, sleeping under the Christmas tree in the living room. I also plan to watch my nephews open their presents over Skype, just like last year.

More pictures and videos of my adventures throughout the year are on my website at (in the Imagery section).  Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season!


joreth: (polyamory)
 There is often a clamor for polyamorous-themed jewelry, and there are some good poly jewelry makers out there ( is the one I recommend most often).  But tastes in jewelry are quite varied, and sometimes people don't like the heart/infinity combo that is the most popular poly-specific design, or they want something that looks more polished than some of the hand-crafted style jewelry that's out there.  Sometimes, they just want something that looks "mainstream" without actually symbolizing "mainstream" (poly rings, especially wedding rings, are notoriously hard to find and most people just design their own).

But I've found that "mom" jewelry is a great way to find pre-made and "mainstream" looking jewelry that still accommodates the idea of multiple loves.  "Mom" jewelry is that stuff designed to show a parent's love for children, and since there are so often more than one child, it really lends itself well to the idea of poly love, providing it doesn't actually say or symbolize motherhood on it.  Birthstone jewelry is the most common example, where you can take any style of ring or pendent, and simply add the birthstones of all the people you want to represent.  I've done that with my earrings lately - I took a straight pin and threaded it through the birthstones of my partners, and attached a fish hook earring to the top and voila! a poly earring that is unrecognizable as "poly" to anyone who doesn't already know what it means.

When I see some kind of jewelry that I think lends itself well to poly relationships, I tweet about them, but I found several today whose links were not working on twitter.  Apparently, clicking on them resulted in a "can't find this item" message, but copy & pasting the url worked.  The combination of requiring several tweets to include all the urls I found, plus the hassle of copy/pasting the urls has given me motivation to post them as a LiveJournal post.  Plus, the urls will be there for future reference for anyone who wants them. I'll make these posts periodically under the tags "polyamory" and "recommendations". This one is exclusively "women's" jewelry. Apparently fathers don't care about wearing jewelry that expresses their love for their children, or something. Sorry guys & "masculine" jewelry-wearers. I do occasionally run across masculine poly-appropriate jewelry, so keep checking back for posts that include them.

Most of these are around $119 (a few are $99 or $149). Some have sayings engraved on the back so read the descriptions, but I took care to not post anything that explicitly said "mother" or "child" on it. Anything with engraved sayings should be rather neutral and just be about "family" that can be interpreted however you want.  If the links don't work, try copy & pasting them into another browser window or tab.

So, with that long preamble, onto the jewelry!
Previous posts on poly jewelry, gifts, and accessories: - there's really only 1 poly item in this post
And, of course, there are always Poly Tees!
joreth: (boxed in)
 Very recently, I flew off the handle with little provocation because someone managed to hit 2 of my buttons at once and, when I said they were sore spots, kept pushing his position.  I recognize that I'm unusually touchy about these issues, so it's really better just to let the matter lie if you have nothing invested in the outcome (like a stranger on the internet).  He has since blocked me so I can't even tell him about this post or that I'm sorry for my overreaction (although I do stand firm on my position - I didn't need to get so bitchy about it, I could have let the subject drop).  Not only were these 2 issues I'm particularly sensitive about that got pushed at the exact same time, they came about when I was already pissed about something else, AND when I had to deal with these exact same issues with other people in unrelated disagreements in the very recent past and was still sore about THOSE encounters.

And the reason I'm making this post is actually because both of these issues are communication problems that I see happening around me all the time, with all sorts of people.  Namely, that there are 2 kinds of people - those who do this thing that's annoying to others, and those who have to deal with the people doing this thing that's annoying to others.  

As one of the people who does those things that are annoying to others that I'm about to mention, I thought it might be beneficial to address those people who do those things that are annoying to others to explain why it's annoying and what you (we) can do on your (our) part to avoid these kinds of conflicts with your loved ones in the future.  Even as the person writing this post, I am certainly not exempt from making these same mistakes myself, so I think it bears mentioning.

As I said, there are 2 issues that are unrelated, they just happened to crop up in the same disagreement, although they do have a common element.  They are "people who have embraced a particular product/service and want the rest of the world to benefit as they have" and "people who want to help others and therefore try to fix things when others are struggling".  Both issues are people trying to be helpful, but who are not getting the message that they are not being helpful.

One at a time...

The Fanboys )

So, by all means, share with your friends and family your wisdom and expertise, but if your position has been rejected, and if you value your relationship with that person, just let it go.

This is, of course, not applicable to people who are actually harming themselves.  I'm in favor of continued attempts to get people to stop smoking or to visit a doctor instead of a homeopath, but you do have to accept that continued pushing on these kinds of subjects carries with it a high risk of damaging the relationship - one which I assume means something to you or you wouldn't keep trying to convince the other person of something you think is good for them.

Now, for the other category.  Yes, I realize this post is already long and no, I'm not done yet.  

The Fixers )

If someone did not explicitly ask for your opinion or advice on how to fix whatever their problem is, get in the habit of asking them first if they would welcome your suggestion.  If you forget and offer anyway, then when they get pissed off, even if they're being unreasonable or disproportionately angry, apologize for offering the help - don't keep insisting that your advice ought to be taken.  Again, the same tactic as above applies here.  Offer it once, and if they don't want to hear it, then let it go.  If they're being particularly unreasonable, walk away and find your own person to complain to who will listen to what you have to say about that horrible bitch who jumped down your throat for no reason at all when you were just trying to be helpful, and you can then explain to *that* person why you don't need advice on how to manage your relationships, you just wanted to vent a little.
joreth: (Super Tech)
So, my nephew is attending the same junior high school that I did 20 years ago, and I discovered some of my old teachers are still teaching!  That's very surreal, since they weren't fresh out of college back when I was a student.  But, even more importantly, I'm way more fired up about science and education than I was as a 12-year-old.

I had the opportunity to introduce my nephew to a few neat things and concepts while he was out here for the holidays, including things like "just because it's in print, doesn't mean it's true - the media is out to sell copies and doesn't always fact-check (or outright lies), so don't believe everything you hear just because Someone Said So".

There was so much more I wanted to introduce to him, but we just didn't have the time.  If I was still living at home, I'd do things like, be "caught" watching some awesome program or listening to some cool podcast or song, that I could turn him onto just because his "cool auntie" likes it (that's how I got him hooked on Firefly).  But since I can't do that, I'm doing the next best thing, and that's writing to his school's science department to recommend some science resources that are hopefully attractive to kids.  

I plan to cc his parents & grandparents in on this too, in order to enlist their aid.  He has also been allowed to get his own email address this year (FINALLY!), so I also have plans to forward him YouTube links with cool stuff (he LOVES YouTube, but had to be introduced to it by friends since his mom & grandparents wouldn't let him get on the internet until his other grandparents bought him his own netbook and now they *have* to let him, but with major parental supervision).

So, anyway, here's the letter I'm planning to send, with all the identifying information stripped.  Feel free to use it yourself, either in full or as inspiration, and if anyone has any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.

Hi there, I am an alumnus and I am very interested in the future of science education. My nephew is now attending your school, 20 years after me, and I would like to make some recommendations for possible science-based materials to be used, either in the classroom or as recommendations for the students to follow up on their own time. Please take a look through the following resources and consider adding them to the curriculum:

~ Brian Dunning's In Fact (
~ Brian Dunning's Here Be Dragons (
~ NASA's Twitter feed (
~ Anything by Neil deGrasse Tyson ( or as a guest speaker
~ Anything by Phil Plait ( or as a guest speaker
~ 13 episodes of Cosmos free on Hulu (
~ cool science videos on YouTube ( to start with)
~ Mr. Wizard's teachers DVDs (
~ Anything by Bill Nye, but the music videos are great (

I wouldn't doubt if you already know some or all of these sources, but just in case, I'd like to bring them to your attention if you don't.

~An Interested Adult Family Member Passionate About Science Education
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I have trouble remembering things, and I especially have trouble remembering things in temporal order, so it helps me to do a year in review every year. And since my extended family likes it when I send them a holiday letter telling them about my life in exotic Florida, it's convenient to write one in time for Christmas. I try to keep it to a single printed page, since my mother not-so-subtly hinted that she thinks it's inconsiderate to burden people with multiple pages of information about my life that people might not care about (and people online wonder why I don't give a lot of personal anecdotes in the forums!) in spite of the fact that all my relatives tell me they enjoy my letter. Mom thinks they're just being polite - I'd like to think people just wouldn't say anything at all about the letter if they're too "polite" to tell me they don't like it, rather than lie about it. Anyway, now I'm starting to rant. Here's this year's letter:

This year was quite a busy year for me! Last year I sat in on a timeshare lecture because they promised us free stuff. What I didn’t expect was for that free stuff to be a free trip to the Bahamas. So, for my birthday this year in January, I cashed in my trip and set sail for the islands. I had a great time, and the hotel and the island were just beautiful. I am planning to go back again next year. All the pictures and the story of my trip can be found on my website at

Work is slow, but I am still working, so things could be a lot worse on that front. My biggest client of this year has already confirmed me for next year, and I hear that the industry expects to improve after the New Year, so things aren’t too bad there.

Last December, [ profile] zen_shooter and I broke up only days before Christmas, and after I sent out last year’s letter. But [ profile] tacit and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary this October, and this summer saw the beginning of a new relationship with a very good friend of mine, whom I have known for as long as I’ve known [ profile] tacit. [ profile] datan0de and I met at the same poly meeting where I met [ profile] tacit, and is actually very good friends with him. So we’ve had some time to build up a solid friendship, and so far things are going wonderfully. In September, many in the network went to our annual sci-fi convention, Dragoncon, and I got to spend some quality time with [ profile] datan0de, [ profile] tacit, & many of the metamours.

I also have a new costume for Dragoncon! Meet Laurie Jupiter aka Silk Spectre II from the movie Watchmen. Once again, I decided to work with liquid latex, and this was my most ambitious project so far, having 4 separate layers & being true to the movie. I also completed the chain mail skirt for my Fire Elf costume, making that one now complete. I have several more costumes in the pipeline for next year.

The cats are doing well, & Onyx finally has her cone off. She’s still scratching herself, but the worst of it is under control. Misty is still just Misty, a big ball of grey fluff who is inquiring at this moment why I am sitting here playing with the big clacky thing & not paying attention to her.

This year I got a holiday treat - my parents and nephew came for Thanksgiving! We had quite the full week, visiting Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Disney’s Hollywood Studios & Epcot, and Kennedy Space Center. We took lots of great pictures and had a wonderful time. It was nice being able to show my family where I live. I will have all the pictures up on my website when the data from the hard drive that crashed while my family was in town gets recovered.

This year I will be spending the holidays with [ profile] datan0de and his wife [ profile] femetal and making my usual Skype video chat calls to everyone who is too far to visit.

As usual, I have more pictures up at

Happy Holidays everyone!
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
So there are all sorts of wacky expectations and obligations around this time of year that really make things like holiday gift exchange a terribly complicated and incomprehensible tradition for me.

You're supposed to exchange gifts, but you're not supposed to give away the surprise, but you're supposed to get the "right gift", but you're not supposed to ask what the "right gift" is, and you're supposed to buy for some people and not others, but you're not supposed to discuss beforehand if any individual you know is one of those you're supposed to buy for or not buy for ... my head hurts just writing this post.

It starts to sound an awful lot like "I shouldn't have to say what I like, if he loved me, he'd just know" - no, all I know when someone says that is that I have a high probability of screwing it up and doing something wrong because you can't be clear about your needs and expectations and all my years reading Tarot cards and palms and studying horoscopes and wishful thinking STILL hasn't given me the ability to read your mind. It's not selfish to be clear on the things you want in life, it's selfish to try and get them to the detriment of others, and this is clearly not what we're talking about when someone asks "what do you want for Christmas?"

So, I'd like to make a request that I make every year on behalf of all the people who have trouble wandering the maze of holiday expectations, that everyone who reads this and takes pity on the rest of us make a post about what they want for the holidays.

This can be a link to an online wishlist (please, if you have an online wishlist, post it!), this can be a desire for holiday activities, this can be a charity you want people to donate in your name, this can be a set of guidelines for how to shop for you, this can be a request to be left alone and drop all the damn holiday requests already! Although I would like to add that, if you list a charity to donate to as your holiday wish, please offer a non-charity alternative for those who, either disagree with that charity or really want to give *you* something.

A nice mix of cheap/free options, actions, and easy-to-find consumer products really help a variety of people find something they can do for you that still makes *them* feel as though they're doing something that adequately conveys their feelings for you (read The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman - different people have different ways of expressing their love and even if *you* aren't all hung up on the Capitalist Regime, some people best express their feelings by giving gifts, while others feel best performing a service - remember, even though posting a holiday wishlist is for other people to do stuff for you, my request that you post it is supposed to be something nice that YOU can do for US, so help us to feel as though we're doing something nice for you by actually telling us what we can do).

I only ask that everyone make it clear what it is they want in a sort of public manner (a locked, friends-list post suffices, since it's the friends who are most likely to want to do something for you for the holidays) so that no one else has to go through the awkward "what do you want for xmas - oh, you don't have to get me anything - I know I don't HAVE to, but I want to - it's the thought that counts - yes, but my thought is to get you something you would like" conversation or the even-worse underlying "I actually do want these things, but I'm afraid to sound greedy by admitting to anyone that I want stuff even if they ask me outright" feelings of guilt.

So, please post your holiday wishlist, whether it's an online link, things you want to do, general guidelines, or what-have-you, not because you're being greedy and selfish, but because you genuinely want to help your loved ones who genuinely want to do something nice for you, some of whom have a little difficulty with hints and reading cues.

I'll start. My wishes for the holidays are to spend time with my loved ones, if not in person, then by Skype; to have more people in marginalized social categories stand up and be counted; to give money or time to science- and evidence-based educational programs, even if it's not "in my name", such as JREF, CFI, and even Planned Parenthood; and a whole shitload of "toys" and gadgets, most of which are completely unreasonable for someone else to purchase for me, (although you must have your own account in order for me to give you Guest Access to my adult wishlist - the only way I could keep my adult toys from showing up on a keyword search of my wishlist when non-Guests, i.e. my parents, read it). I like being surprised and don't want to know about my gift until it's offered to me. I don't particularly care if it's wrapped up prettily or not - if you like making a presentation of the gift, then I appreciate it the work you put into it, but if you can't wrap for shit, that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the process in the slightest.

The posting of this link in no way assumes that anyone reading this will want to buy something for me, but it is made available in case someone *does*. I do not expect gifts, I do not require gifts, and I'm pretty sure that no one here is even considering getting me a gift, which is totally OK with me, even if you are someone for whom I happen to buy a gift. No, really, when I say something is OK, I actually mean it!

But I have hinted and asked outright for what other people want, only to go through that conversation I paraphrased above, and I've been in some situations where I wasn't sure if I had the kind of relationship with someone that warranted a gift or felt awkward about asking, so it would have been a HUGE help if everyone just accepted that sometimes people want to give gifts to other people and to make it simple to figure out what kind of gift to give. And it stops sounding like a nice gesture when you blurt out "goddamn it, I know you want to be seen as a nice and unselfish person and all, but I have money and/or time and/or skills to spend and I enjoy spending it/them on you but I want to make sure I spend it well so will you stop fucking whining about how it's the thought that counts and tell me what the fuck you'd like already?"

Some people like actual gifts, some people are very picky, some people already have a bunch of stuff so it's hard to guess what they don't have, some people prefer homemade to consumer products, some people like surprise better than the content of the surprise, some people prefer actions instead of objects, some people want to actively avoid exchanging gifts entirely and prefer just to spend time with loved ones ... and it's a damn maze trying to figure everyone out when you add in all this other holiday game playing.

So, for everyone else's sake, please do your loved ones a favor and don't think of it as being greedy or setting up the expectation that people should get you stuff. Think of it as not complicating or inhibiting something that is supposed to be a nice gesture from someone who loves you. Think of it as a grown-up version of a letter to Santa Claus. He actively wants to bring you something nice for the holidays so you write him a letter to help him out, but, in reality, it's your parents, and maybe your grandparents, who are reading it so they know what the heck to get you because the joy when you open a gift that you truly like means something to the ones who gave you the gift.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)

I'm starting to get the usual requests for what I want for xmas gifts, so that must mean it's time to make my Public Service Announcement about The Things I Want.

And no, this isn't a shameless plug for gifts.  I'm talking about the online wishlist.  Most people I know have an Amazon wishlist, but a few people also have a Best Buy wishlist or a DVD wislist, or a paper wishlist, or even no real wishlist at all.  The Things I Want is a service that allows you to compile into one convenient location, anything you might want from anywhere - even if you can't find it on the web at all, like hugs and backrubs or someone to do the dishes.

Rather than attempting to maintain multiple wishlists at Amazon and X-Treme Geek and NewEgg and Blockbuster and Barnes & Nobles and the dozens of online clothing and shoe stores that I shop at, The Things I Want uses a little browser plugin that gathers the data of items I want into a single online wishlist.  I can then choose to make it public, or private, separate them into several lists like my General Wishlist and my Adult Wishlist (which is private to avoid my parents accidentally seeing the porn or vibrator type items - if you want to see it, you have to create an account and request "guest access" from me), or even password protect my lists.  Some people I know have family accounts, with a separate wishlist for each of the adults and each of the kids.

Plus, The Things I Want lets me put in items that aren't available for purchase on the internet, and I can prioritize from "I Must Have" all the way down to "Don't Buy This For Me" and request several of the same item, such as multiple packs of rechargable batteries.  When people purchase something from my list, they have the option to enter into the list that the item has been purchased, either anonymously or by signing their name.  This way, much like a wedding gift registry, no one else will buy the same item.

I use this list year-round to keep track of things that I might purchase for myself when I get a spare bit of cash.  I don't have to bookmark dozens of websites, or try to remember where I saw that thing last month that looked cool but now I can't remember where I saw it.  I can also attach tags to the items, so I or my guests can look only at movies, or clothing or computer parts that I want. 

When other people I know create their own account, I can give them "guest access", which allows them to see any private lists I might make, and it lists their wishlists in my Friends sidebar, so I can refer to their lists easily without bookmarking or trying to remember profile names.

I'm a big fan of the wishlist, even for adults.  I always hated receiving gifts from family whom I knew meant well, but who didn't seem to know me very well, and I had to pretend I loved it while surreptitiously trying to find out where they bought it so I could return it.  I also don't like asking outright what someone wants as a gift because very few people will actually tell me.  It's considered rude, or something, to just honestly admit that you are desiring this particular item and hope someone buys it for you, even when someone is asking because he actively desires to buy you something.  So we get into this annoying little "oh, you don't have to buy me anything" game.  Now, when someone really does not want me to buy them something, that's one thing, but the whole gift-giving-obligation thing means that, when my family buys me a holiday gift, I'm expected to get them one in return.

I'm not going to get into the whole obligation issue here, or whether or not I (or anyone) should buy or refuse to buy holiday gifts.  That's another rant.  Suffice to say that there are times when everyone really does want to buy a gift for someone else and there are times when everyone sees or hears about a product and desires to have one for themselves.  The Things I Want is a pretty good service for keeping track of items that I want to own someday and telling me what other people want to own someday.  And if someone just happens to want to buy me something, they have a way to get me exactly what I want.  And if I just happen to want to buy a gift for someone else, I can turn to a list and get exactly what they want.
joreth: (::headdesk::)

First of all, read [ profile] zen_shooter's latest post about the outright lies being told by the McCain campaign.  Go on, I'll wait.

Next up is something I received in my inbox late last night by a family member.

A guy named Philip Berg has filed a lawsuit, A FREAKIN' LAWSUIT, challenging Obama's claim that he is a natural-born citizen.  The claim is that Obama had 30 days to produce the documents Berg demanded and that Obama did not produce those documents and is hence, defaulted on a lawsuit, making him ineligible to be President.

To be fair, not very many average citizens understand the very complex legal processes, so without this background, one might not have the tools to discimenate the claim.

The problem is that legal proceedings are not this simple.  But the bottom line is that Obama has NOT been found guilty of "defaulting" on a lawsuit at this time.  Besides the fact that Obama HAS produced the necessary documents to prove his birth to the satisfaction of the committee that decides these things.

And my response to this obviously bullshit lawsuit )

If you receive any notice about this lawsuit, please help to stem the tide and point people in the direction of Truth. is a great resource because it takes each and every claim made and evaluates it based on available evidence and nothing else.  Unfortunately, it's can be a little bulky and tough to grasp, as taking apart claims and evaluating for the truth so often is.  As someone once said, a lie will make it halfway around the world before the truth has even had time to get its shoes on.

I know a lot of us prefer to simply ignore our relatives when they send out emails that we disagree with (and for some of you out there, your family is so far gone that I totally understand your decision and the following doesn't apply to you), but this election is too important and the race is too close to let ignorance go unchallenged.  Even by family members we wish to remain civil with and ignoring them is less trouble than pointing out the flaws in their arguments.

Oh, and something I forgot to put in the email, but Berg has also filed lawsuits against Bush and Cheney, alleging that they plotted 9/11 and demanding that they be arrested and tried for treason and war crimes.  This guy is a loon.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
Many (I'm willing to bet most) of you who read my journal do not need these instructions and can probably even list out the more common (and more efficient) ways for spammers to get your email address. 

This is not for you. 

This is for those few who do not know this very simple message and for the more knowledgeable among you to steal as a template to send to those less-knowledgeable friends and family you have (I know you have them!) if it strikes your fancy.  

I get emails all the time with hoaxes, urban legends, chain letters and glurge (which are bad enough in their own right) that have 5 pages of headers on them listing every email address known to man as my family blissfully forwards out yet another story about a young child dying of cancer and how Microsoft will donate $5 for every name signed down below or how this really cool thing will pop up on your screen if you just send it to 500 people (seriously, it works, I just did it and you HAVE to see it!). 

And it drives me nuts.  Not just for the bullshit that gets passed around as "fact".  But this isn't about the content of those emails, it's about not using the very simple BCC field to hide the email addresses to those dozens of family members that absolutely have to know that you can't tell the difference between an internet hoax and a real issue. 

Send these instructions to those who desperately need it:


Dec. 22nd, 2007 02:15 am
joreth: (Default)
This one will have lots of personal details about my own history and probably not of much interest to a lot of people, so I'm putting it all under a cut.

The story )
joreth: (Misty in Box)
Most of my family hasn't figured out that I'm atheist. Never mind that I freely give out my various websites and profile URLs. Never mind that I link directly to my LJ from my website and that I even mention it in my holiday letter every year. My family is not overtly religious, so it's not noticeable that I refrain from mentioning God and that I don't go to church. Mostly, the subject is ignored in my family ... except in emails.

My family is notorious for sending out Glurge, particularly religious Glurge. Even my bio-family, who I just met a little less than 2 years ago - everyone wants to send me these sickeningly-sweet pro-Christian values to my inbox. Usually I delete it as soon as I see the multi-colored text and the several heading tags that preceed the message. This one, however, I actually read:

joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
[Considering on whether to give a kidney to his father, his mother tries to talk him out of it by asking what he will do if his one remaining kidney goes bad]

"I got four spare kidneys sleeping upstairs right now!  What?  What's the use of having kids if you can't use them for spare parts?" 
joreth: (Bad Computer!)

Really long rant about family.  Something about the friggin holidays that makes so many of us miserable thinking of our "families".

Rant )

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