Friday, June 8, 2012

Men and women and mirrors

Today begins a Godmamas weekend for Shanna. I feel bad admitting I’m looking forward to the quiet and the one on one time with Calli. It makes me feel ungrateful towards Shanna. I’m so glad she is in my life that it doesn’t feel nice that I want breaks so much. I figure that I spend significantly more time with my kids than the average American so I’m probably not evil for wanting a break. Not because other people care less about their kids—nothing of the sort. I’m just in the house with my kids 24/7. My “off time” is in the garage still listening to them scream. That’s why I wake up at 4:30 in the morning so I can find out what this mythical “quiet” sounds like.

It’s weird going back and forth between feeling trapped and feeling like I have more flexibility and freedom than almost anyone I know. I am in the wealthiest 1% of people throughout all of history. I’m not part of the “1%” in America. I’m not super-rich. Noah isn’t approaching $250k/year. Like half that. It feels obscene.

I spend a lot of time looking at our budget lately. is the best website ever. I’m glad I was told it existed. I check it just about every day. I register every freakin dollar spent. I want to reach financial goals. It would be so easy to not pay attention and slip. Between things like property taxes, home owners insurance, health insurance, mortgage, etc. we spend more than a full pay check every month on fixed expenses. We have just over half of a pay check for all of our other expenses. The amount we have flexibility with is more than I used to live on every month—but I wasn’t supporting four people. It isn’t four times what I lived on. It’s about twice what I lived on.

So far Shanna only seems interested in spending her allowance on flowers. Once a week she buys some from the farmers market. It’s really sweet. That is what she thinks will make her life better and happier. She has plenty of toys—that is what she told me. But she doesn’t have enough flowers. We are trying to grow more but that takes patience and time. She’s four. She wants her flowers today. I think at some point she will finally recognize that she can buy ice cream with her money and then things will change. I can’t wait to see how her priorities change over the years. She fascinates me endlessly.

Yesterday was long and hard. Shanna had a screaming fit in a grocery store for maybe the second time in her life. It was embarrassing until all the adults started laughing with me and rolling their eyes and loudly agreeing with what a mean mom I was. Then it felt more like a right of passage and ok. I’m glad that is how the employees reacted. It felt really nice. She was angry because I wouldn’t buy her candy after she refused to follow any of our in-store rules. What I told her was, “I need you to believe what I say. If I tell you I am putting the candy back if you continue to be rude and you continue to be rude then I have to put the candy back. Next time you will remember that I am serious.” By last night she was telling an elaborate story about how she won’t ever be rude again because she wants her damn candy. Great. Works for me.

I feel deeply conflicted about the fact that I truly have to enforce boundaries with my kids. If I don’t they will never learn them. I have no one else to blame. It’s quite comforting, really. I don’t get to give excuses about how they will learn a lesson later. No. They will learn it right now. No time like the present! I feel guilty for how hostile my tone of voice was yesterday. We talked about it. I told both kids that I shouldn’t have sounded so nasty. I wonder how many more times I can ask them to forgive me for that.

I’ve had a lot of anxiety for the past couple of days. My stomach is hurting terribly and I’m not sure why. I feel triggered but I don’t know why or by what. I hate this. I hate how little control I have over this. This is not factory standard. This is broken. I’m trying to just ride it out and bite my tongue. I’m glad that Shanna gets to go hang out with folks who have more patience for a few days. I don’t actually feel like I am being nasty over all, but it is nice for her to find out what it is like to be around people who aren’t as simmeringly hostile as I am.

Yesterday’s run was funny. I did the first mile and a half easy enough. Then I discovered that wolfing a cupcake right before you run is a bad idea. I won’t do that again no matter how tasty the cupcake is. Ugh. I had to do a lot of walking. I was thinking about how I feel more at ease with thinking about myself as a runner fairly suddenly. I went and did a race with people. People honest-to-dawg saw that I am a runner. I ran three fucking miles without pausing at all. That’s fucking cool. I did it with my friends. Women who were able to remind me that actually we started running together eight years ago. They know how long I have been talking about running a marathon. They were there. They listened. They remembered.

Ever since I have been trying to turn off the “looking for sex” part of my brain I have been latching on to my feelings of attachment towards women a lot harder again. It’s interesting how the switch goes for me. When I am looking for NSA sex I look for men. I just don’t scope women for that. Women are all complicated and emotional and shit. The only good way I’ve found for having one night stands with women is bicurious chicks on craigslist. They generally feel kind of ashamed and never call again and then I’m free. Woo.

I have different categories of attachment in my head. It’s dangerous and completely normal. I’m struggling with what the different layers mean to me at this point in my life. The reason I think about this is because I need to manage my expectations. When I was out running and I realized just how big a part of my life these women have been even though I don’t spend much time with them I started crying so hard I almost tripped and I had to stand still until the first wave past.

I can’t think about them being important. If I think about them being important then I want more contact. I want to feel more important to them. They have so many people in their lives who are more important and get their time and energy. I feel scared that my needs don’t matter. That I won’t get the support I need because the people I am emotionally closest to and with whom I have the most history with are not the people whom I feel I can ask anything of. 

When I find out how much someone has absorbed of me, when I see myself in their mirror I feel better about myself. I start to be able to understand why they want to know me. It is a wonderful feeling. It is so hard for me to feel like a worthwhile human being. I desperately want to stand close to mirrors that show me good things as much as I can. I start wanting and expecting and then I feel disappointed. It’s hard to hold this need in check.

When I stop chasing truly casual sex I look around and suddenly feel a massive upsurge in interest in being close to women. Women are far safer when sex isn’t on the table.  I haven’t felt safe having a really intimate sexual relationship with a woman since J. It wasn’t her fault.

Men never see as much of me. Men, in general, are kept out at arms-length. A big part of this is because I am attracted to men who are confident and certain and cocky. That means they are usually assholes. I get tired of dealing with assholes.  I just don’t bother to talk to them as much. If I am prepared for a hostile argument in my head I won’t bother to open my mouth a large chunk of the time. I am not always willing to outshout a man. They will all emphatically tell me that such a thing is neither necessary nor required, I should have a civilized conversation. It’s lying bullshit. If I don’t want to be stomped on verbally I have to shout them the fuck down. Often I just don’t open my mouth. I half-heartedly smile and nod and pretend to listen.

I can’t do that with women. Women are different. Women are more perceptive. My experience while going through life is that men who were severely abused are as perceptive as the slightly more perceptive than average woman. But lots of women are head and shoulders more perceptive than that. I just can’t hide things from women in the same way. I don’t have the same nooks and crannies of my brain to hide in. Women are hard. So if I’m not looking for easy sex I don’t look for men. I desperately want to be with people. Gulp

It’s weird because I have very intense male friendships. It’s different. I have to explain more. Maybe I just expect women to get things I shouldn’t expect them to get? I give them the chance to understand things I won’t bother to explain to men. I’m fucking sick of men trying to control what I say and how I say it. I have a hard time with how much I hate men as a group sometimes. It doesn’t feel productive. I do have men I cull from the herd and exclude from my loathing, but they are in the minority. That doesn’t feel healthy. I figure I have as much use for them as they have for me. And as much contempt.

That is part of my problem. I assume that men have contempt for me. They talk down to me. They treat me like I am barely smarter than a dog. If I don’t have their god damn technical specialty memorized then obviously I’m on the low end of the IQ scale and I have to have basic every day things explained to me in insulting ways.  Telling them, “I’ve got it” doesn’t slow down the lecture. They have to show off how smart they are, don’t you know.

I don’t feel like many men talk to me as if I have worth. (Taylor for the love of Christ I don’t mean you. You are fine.) I think that is what makes it so intense when they do talk to me as if they think I am an intelligent, reasonable human being. I am on the intensely emotional end even for a woman. It’s easy for men to be dismissive. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they stop and actually look at me. It feels like a gift. It feels like an honor. It happens so rarely. I am so grateful.

That is a lot of the difference between men and women for me. I expect that women won’t bother having anything to do with me unless they are honest-to-dawg getting something from the experience. I know what men want to get. Either I’m willing to offer it or I don’t have much to say to them. With women I don’t understand their motivation. What could they possibly be getting from the experience? When I’m willing to offer sex I treat like the only thing I have to give. When I’m not I have to retrench and deal with how bad I feel about myself because I don’t feel like I have anything else of value to give.

Who would want me? Noah. I know what he wants from me, kind of. Sex is high on the list but it really isn’t why he married me. I see him and I invite him to look at me in a way that makes other people uncomfortable. He wants this intensity too. He wants to be my mirror. Noah wants to feel as important as I make him feel. It’s really nice. I have the hero worship thing down. Usually you only get the kind of hero worship I offer from people who are fairly dumb. Smart people generally don’t want to humble themselves before someone else in quite this way. I act like a low status person who gets to be with a high status person. I’m grateful. I do a lot for Noah. Things he doesn’t even have to acknowledge exist. It’s a good life. That’s still not why he wanted me so much.

I told my girlfriends on facebook that in two years we should run a half marathon together in Portland, where one of them lives. I’m not going to start beating the drum yet. But I think that is going to hit my personal checklist of things to do. After ten years of running together we will accomplish something big. It means my friend who lives here will have to up her training a lot. Maybe I can help with that.

I’m glad my friends go about their lives not worrying about whether I approve of every decision. I’m aware that I don’t have to live any one else’s life and they don’t have to live mine. You do what you can live with. I’m glad they don’t avoid me because I have instantly strong reactions to things. My reactions are about what I can live with. Feel free to live with whatever you can live with. I’m trying to figure out where is the line between being able to talk about things without shouting vs. just keeping my mouth shut. It’s different with women. It’s harder. It’s harder because I am willing to try at all. Unless a man goes very far out of his way to prove otherwise I am going to assume he isn’t worth the effort. That sucks.

Once in a while I reflect on the fact that this attitude mostly only extends to white men. If I find out a white man has advanced degrees I’m generally ready to turn and walk away without even saying hello. He’s probably an asshole and full of himself. That’s not a good approach to life. I haven’t ever had a black man pursue a friendship with me. Or a Hispanic man. I don’t live my life standing near very many men of other races. My casual public interactions with men of other races are significantly more civil and polite than my casual public interactions with men of my race. Sometimes I feel weird about that. Are men of other races being more polite to me as a reflection of my perceived status because of my skin color? I can’t know. Men of my race feel free to let me know they think I am low status. It’s all relative.

I think about this because I feel like I shouldn’t just pass on my biases to my kids. It’s probably not a good idea to pass on the idea that 95%+ of white men are pieces of shit and you shouldn’t waste your time talking to them. After a lifetime of being discounted and dismissed and lectured and condescended to… I’m pretty hostile. You learn to hate people who look like your oppressors. Thing is, anyone who is under about 35 has not had a chance to oppress me. They should be value neutral in my mind. They aren’t. They are a potential threat.

I feel like I go through my life waiting for pitchforks. If I am willing to fuck lots of random men I feel safe because guys will protect their source of sex. True fact. If I am not willing to have sex I have to depend on the safety of blending into the herd of women. That is so scary. I don’t blend well. I have to depend on them accepting me and tolerating me. That is so scary. I get ousted pretty regularly. And I have to nod and accept it and move on. I need to have no expectations that people will actually consistently continue to be my friends as the years pass by. I need to be glad of it if it happens and not look for it. If I look for it too hard I will be crushed if it doesn’t happen. I’m the only one worrying about my feelings on this topic. I’m the only one who can. Every one else is busy worrying about their own priorities. I can’t expect to be a priority to anyone, ever. The days of that being a possibility are over. I will always be a peripheral friend from here on out. That has to be enough. There isn’t any more. I still drown in this need. It doesn’t go away. I don’t know how to fill it.

I feel like I move through my life looking for mirrors. I want to know people who can look at me without flinching. Who know who and what I am and don’t despise me. I don’t trust men at all. Either they flinch or they judge or they lecture me on what I should have done. If you have not walked a mile in my shoes you do not know what I should have done.

For the past few days for no explicable reason I keep chanting in my head, “I prosecuted.” Despite all the times I didn’t have the courage to prosecute (fuck you Dan, and you too Paul) as an adult I had the courage when I was a teenager. I had the courage to pull the whole house of cards down. To effectively end my family. That was harder than anything else I will ever do in my life. Even divorcing my family last year wasn’t really as hard. I can bear it.

I’m glad I didn’t have a son in some way. I’m glad I don’t have to work through my loathing of white men while living with a little white boy. It’s a roll of the dice and I think I got lucky. It’s funny because my brother told me flat out he can’t live with a little girl and that is why God only gave him boys. But what do I want to teach my girls?

I suppose one of the main lessons will be, “Sometimes Mommy gets ranty. Mostly you can ignore that. It’s not about you.” Hopefully I will back this up with being fully supportive of her doing what she needs to do and not making everything about me. It’s not. I know that. I know that other people have different life experiences and they can bear different things.

I was talking to a mom at the home school group on Tuesday. I mentioned that I was kind of counting down the years until my kids are adults. I have just about fifteen years left. She said she couldn’t imagine thinking about it that way. That’s how much longer I have until I can really take a deep breath. That is when I will know if I have broken the cycle or not. That is when I will turn my kids loose on the world and how they do is up to them. What I have taught them will be more or less settled. I don’t believe I have a guarantee of any control or even a relationship once they hit that age. I have to earn it. I have fifteen years to earn it. Now that fifteen years is half of my lifetime it doesn’t feel very long. I can certainly tread water that long and longer. I waited longer than that to prosecute. I prosecuted fourteen years ago.

Another mother was talking about how there is a Vietnamese custom of celebrating death anniversaries. You get together to talk about the people who have gone. They still matter. In seventeen days Tommy will have been dead for fourteen years. I don’t have anyone to talk to who knew him. I know that his suicide wasn’t really my fault. I still feel guilty. I don’t know if it will ever go away. Jimmy’s birthday is in two days. He will turn 38.

I’m glad that Shanna is going to go spend the weekend with people who love and adore her and want to shower attention on her. I’m going to spend the next day or so licking my wounds. Right now they feel like they are festering. Maybe if I lick them for a while they will feel better.


  1. "If I find out a white man has advanced degrees I’m generally ready to turn and walk away without even saying hello. He’s probably an asshole and full of himself."

    Hey now, I'm standing right here! :)

    1. Would you rather I tell you the truth or blow smoke up your skirt? :)

    2. On the flip side most of the people I have slept with have degrees so there you go.

    3. Yup. But it's her journal ;-)

  2. Advanced degrees aren't that advanced. You get no special knowledge that you didn't have as an undergrad:

  3. I read your book on Joe Decker's recommendation (thanks Joe) and I've been catching up on your blog. For me it has been sort of like watching an extended train wreck scene in a big-budget action movie. Everything hangs in the balance for way way too long; but in the end the good guys prevail through the super human efforts of the protagonist. You are that superhuman protagonist in this story and I am rooting for you to prevail. I am an asshole and I am full of myself, but I have no lectures for you because you are way out of my class in the human insight department. Thanks for writing.