Monday, October 29, 2012

About that movie...

I'm sorry about not mentioning the movie title. The title is Absent. If you do decide to watch it, there is a lot of information in it, skip the last twenty minutes. It turns into an infomercial. Which bugs me. Jesus and their Wildmen Group will fix alllllllll your problems. If you are a man. They were quite clear women are just fucked.

The older I get the more I believe that when people offer me two choices the right path is some yet unnamed third option. In grad school I wrote a very long winded snarky rant about the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken because anyone who obsesses that hard about trying to be in the minority is an idiot. No you are not a special fucking snowflake. Sometimes you walk the same god damn road as every one else--get over it. It was like Thoreau writing about self reliance. Mother fucker wouldn't have survived if the wives in his community had not taken pity on his sorry ass.

I'm tired of hearing men talk about the hard lonely road of manhood. Manhood is not harder than womanhood and I'm angry about that attitude and assumption. I feel angry about the gender essentialists acting like all aggression, all choice, all validation must come from a man. It's just not true. Studies routinely show that children raised by queer parents turn out "normal" or usually better than expected when compared to their peers.

The documentary had a number of very alarming statistics that show a strong correlation between fatherless households and all kinds of problems. The thing is--some kids come out of single mother households and do very well. Where is the gap? Why do some kids fail and others succeed? Yeah yeah resilience. Blah.

I actually think community involvement is key. It's why I begged, nearly on my knees, for my friends to pick my kids and make a family for them. So far Marcie and Kitten are the primary people to really seek out a relationship. Shanna will spout off, "I like staying with Marcie and Kitten. I like having two homes with two families to take care of me and love me. I know that if anything bad happens I have people who want me."

She asked me once why she "had" to go stay with them. She was less sure in the first few months. I told her that most kids are born into large extended families and they are protected if something happens to their parents. Unfortunately my kids don't get that. We have to make our family. That is why she has to spend time with M&K because they are becoming her family. Your family is made up of the people who show up and love you and care for you. That is what makes family.

Watching this documentary made me feel really bad. I don't like hearing my attitude and my words coming out of the mouths of a series of sex workers. "I just wanted someone to love me."

I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I think I got so fat while I was dating Tom because I felt a constant pressure to look more socially appealing so that I could be a trophy out in public. Fuck you. If you want me to be a skinny trophy then I'm going to get fatter. And fatter. HA. I think that is how I avoided ever becoming a sex worker. If I had been thinner I almost certainly would have done it. I thought about it.

I thought in great detail about how I wouldn't be able to handle the public humiliation of being a sexual object on the internet. Men are too fucking mean. I would feel bad because I am not the most common idea of pretty. Guys are vicious to women who have the audacity to want to be looked at while being ugly. And I'm not even ugly. I'm just not that gorgeous. They would tear me down. I would never be good enough.

I was just barely smart enough to know I didn't want that. Specifically I didn't want to feel like I was never good enough sexually.

When you wander around real life as a pretty-enough slutty girl you hunt with the shot gun method (send out a lot of shells and pray you hit something) and you keep low standards--you never have to feel not-good-enough. There is always someone for whom you are the best god damn thing ever.

Men gain status as they age. Older men have more money, more position, more respect. Women are the opposite. Our value lies in our reproductive-years-tied beauty. We peak at 19 and go downhill fast. By 23 guys were openly snubbing me at dance events to chase 16 year olds. I made god damn sure I was fat during my peak years. I wanted to make sure my peak wouldn't be high enough to get me in more trouble. I think my life would have been much worse if I had been thinner or prettier. Specifically because I think I have a fairly realistic assessment of my looks and relative status. I know who I can chase without getting in trouble. Now. After many years of trouble and errors.

What do I mean by that? I mean I am too good for the losers. I do have standards. What do I mean by loser? Ha! Not for this post.

The big concept from the documentary that I am going around in my head is this idea of a parent-by-choice. People feel entitled to their mothers. That isn't validating. They want to have someone else who loves them and spends time with them because they want to.

I think a lot about what parenting means. It is the process of teaching children how to become adults. In America for the last few generations most of that raising happens in schools. Don't get pissy with me, working parents. Really. We expect the schools to teach them how to balance a checkbook. We expect the school to teach them about our political system and how it was created. We expect the school to teach them about health and hygiene. We do parts of it--but we do those parts grudgingly and with hostility. Maybe I am projecting my attitude onto other people.

Potty training Shanna was hard. Potty training Calli was easy. It isn't that every part of parenting works that way. It's that the reason that I had a hard time doing it with Shanna was because I had a hard time learning the routine. I struggled with it internally. I always felt hostile about having to pay that much attention to her body. I did it--you can't EC a kid from three months old without paying a lot of attention. I did it and I smiled while I did it. But I begrudged it.

By the time Calli came along helping her transition to the potty was easier because I was frustrated and ready to explode because of laundry. All of a sudden modeling potty use was intuitive and constant. And effective. I think I gave Shanna a lot of mixed messages because when I was in a bad mood and feeling angry about her frequent potty-breaks-with-no-pottying I would stick her back in a diaper because I didn't want to yell at her or shake her and I was getting angry. With the diaper I relaxed. By Calli I didn't relax when she had a diaper on. Ha.

I did one of my periodic yelling-at-Noah things last night. Yelling is a strong word. We were in bed and the whole conversation wasn't much louder than a stage whisper because the kids were asleep.

I'm sure that part of the reason that I'm thinking about this is the documentary. Tay--you'd be surprised. The documentary explicitly goes into "emotionally absent but physically present". I think you would understand some of your fears about parenting more.

I don't actually think it is so amazing everyone must go watch it. But yet it kind of is. My friends are breeding. How we treat our kids matters. Ignore the infomercial ending. You don't need God to be a parent but you do need to be very patient and think about what skills you want your kids to have.

Your kids should be prepared to go live in the world. They need to know how to shop and budget. They need to know how to cook and clean and do laundry. If you really want to have your kids interested in electronics and math, you should probably figure out age appropriate ways to bring that into their life as much as possible. Even if your kid doesn't become a geek they will still have a firm footing in your culture. Your kid is more likely to grow up attached to geek culture--that's still a win in this valley. Y'all need support people.

Wouldn't Shanna make a great project manager? ha.

Think about the world outside of school. We want our kids to live in it. We want them to have skills and abilities that the school system doesn't teach. How do we get these things across? What are the most important things? I'm not sure. One of the hardest parts of homeschooling is having to be present with my own ignorance. I have to be constantly expanding what I know. When I get an internal indication that "That's all there is to know about that!" because I have made up my mind... even though I'm shaking and can't really hear what is being said in the moment I store it. I think about it later. I do sometimes become more rigid--not always. The not always is important, I think.

I think that teaching children takes a lot of time. I feel weird about the way in which I am treating this twenty year block as "not about me". I am trying to learn what it means to stay in one place. I don't have any scope for being in one place and watching the slow passing of time. It feels like I am not doing anything. My scenery isn't changing. I'm stagnant. I'm doing a lot of things that are hard and uncomfortable. If Noah and I didn't have kids I'm not sure I would still be here. I wouldn't have asked for monogamy without kids. I don't think I would have stayed for poly.

I look ahead in my life to when my children are older. At some point they will probably figure out how promiscuous I was. How do I want to present that message. "Yeah --it was great! You should try it!" or "It was terrible. Don't be like me."

I need a middle path. I was given this parenting book: Raising the Perfect Child through Guilt and Manipulation. I have a perverse habit of reading only what I want in books. Mostly her message about trying to force kids to be Catholic so they feel guilty doesn't work for me. She is also a big sports fan. Not so much.

But she's funny and her concepts are not terrible. I'm just not her culture. Anyway. What she is essentially explaining is: pick a definite culture. Indoctrinate the shit out of your kids. Do it in large ways and small ways. Mention your culture and your values as often as possible because your kids will be getting a lot of conflicting messages out in the world. Make sure yours is the loudest. You are the voice inside your child's head. What do you want them to hear for the rest of their life? And cook a lot of good food so they always want to come home for dinner because being with you is better than being with anyone else. That's her message in a nutshell.

Given that I don't want to adopt the cultures she suggests (it's not that they are bad they just aren't for me) that means I kind of have to figure out what my culture is.

Long time readers, chorus with me now: I am ____________. I'm not going to say it. You have to comment. Ha.

But is it? I'm not sure.


  1. I don't know about you, but I am enlightened white trash.

    That's my culture and I'm sticking to it till the bumper stickers fade.

  2. I love your summary of Frost and Thoreau, BTW.