Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mixed Emotions

My parents didn't go to prom together.

They were dating. It was the late 60's in a small Texas town. The town was untouched by the radical politics of the age. My father waited until two weeks before prom to ask my mother to be his date. I can imagine her frustration and confusion. I can hear her wondering, “Why isn't my own boyfriend asking me to prom?” But with it being the 60's in a small Texas town, it was still a more formal time. I know my mother. She never would've asked him. She's far too traditional. I can imagine my father, too. I can imagine him assuming that his girlfriend would never accept the invitation of another man. I can imagine him simply putting it off or having a bit of a commitment issue. I can imagine him making too many assumptions. Another man asked my mother to prom before my father got around to it, and she accepted his invitation out of fear. It was the late 60's in a small Texas town. No girl wants to miss her prom, and no girl like my mother in that time and that place could go alone. I am not my mother's daughter or my father's daughter; I am a strange mixture of both. I went to my prom alone. But I went alone in the 90's in a small Texas town after having been raised in a big Texas city, and I always was a rebel.

My father spent prom night in the parking lot with his best friend, the both of them getting drunk and lying on their backs looking up at the stars.

My parents have been married for 35 years. They are perfect for each other. They are perfect for each other, but they are not perfect. The first time I heard the story about prom, I felt very sad. How wonderful would it have been that these two people, together since high school, had shared one of those pivotal teenage moments. How romantic would that have been? But I actually like their story better. It illustrates the awkwardness of life, the unknowing. Sometimes we have an idea that if things are right they will go perfectly. If they do not go a certain way, they must not be right. I'm so very glad that my parents didn't give up on each other after having things go imperfectly.

I'm so very glad that they love each other.

My father's mother was engaged to another man before she met my grandfather. He died in a plane crash in World War II. I know very little about this story because it makes my father sad. In fact, my grandmother never told my father this story; she told my mother. She came from a time when you picked yourself up and moved on with your life. She came from a time when people understood that life was something that happened to all of us. I don't doubt that she loved my grandfather, but I believe she always thought of her first fiancée as her true love.

But I don't think she ever felt sorry for herself. I also think I could believe she thought of her first fiancee as her true love because it makes a more interesting story for me.

When I was 11, my father's mother died. My father adored his mother; he was a mamma's boy. Her death crushed him, and his response was to snap shut tight. He didn't want to talk about it. He doesn't believe in depression, and to admit the way he was feeling would be to admit that he was wrong. I have trouble with not knowing things as well. My mother took it personally. She thought that if he loved her, he would tell her everything. She believes that to love someone is to have them let you crawl underneath their skin and have every part of them. I get this from her. On good days this is why I am a poet. This used to be what I hated about her until I saw it in myself. It's harder to hate someone when you see that you are them. She started drinking more; every night a box of wine. I thought that they should get a divorce because it didn't look pretty. He was making her hate everyone because he was making her hate herself. That's how I saw it when I was 11. I tell this story as if I knew that his coldness was the result of his mother's death then. I didn't. I didn't know that until I was 16 or so. I'd spent years angry at him for things I didn't even try to understand.

But, then, isn't this always why we hate anything? Paying attention is an act of love, and any time we try to pay attention to something we grow to love it in some way. It is our ignorance that keeps us angry and unable to love.

My parents never got a divorce.

A couple of summers ago, one early evening in summer, my family and I were hanging out in my parents' pool. We were making fun of each other and laughing as we usually do. We were listening to music, and my father would randomly ask us, “Who sings this?” whenever a song he believed to be obscure would come on. Sometimes he'd add, “Nan, you're not allowed to answer,” if he figured it would be a cinch for me. Sometimes he'd say it to my brother Robert. He never said it to my mother; she never knows who sings anything, although she's very familiar with the work of The Grass Roots. My father was sitting on the side of the pool, and my mother was sitting on the top step near him. At some point I looked down and noticed that they were holding hands.

A friend of mine recently chided her sister for missing their dead father. She wondered whether or not her sister really missed their father or just the idea of him. She wondered if maybe time had changed her sister's memories; their father had not really been much of a father at all. He'd made plenty of mistakes. Her sister must've rewritten history to make missing him possible. I said that it was possible that she still fully recognized their father for who he had been and still missed him. We can love and miss a person even when they are imperfect.

If we couldn't, we couldn't love or miss anyone at all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Domination's the Name of the Game

I'm crate-training my dog.

I've had my dog Baby for seven years. She's not young, but she's not old. Truth is, I have no idea how young or old she really is at all. When I adopted her, I was told she was one. A few days later the veterinarian told me she was probably closer to seven. Other than the gray that has crept into her black coat, I have nothing to suggests she's very old. Of course, the gray suggests she's certainly not young.

I remember the day I got her. My family and I had been at the State Fair of Texas all day. It was six in the evening, and we sat at a picnic table to rest for a moment. My sister and I wandered over to the SPCA booth. I'd been wanting a dog. The moment I saw her--the little poodle mutt falling asleep sitting up in the cage--I knew it would be her. I remember thinking, "She looks like she's nodding off on Valium! That's my dog!" I was drunk. So was my mother. Half-an-hour later, my mother and I had cleaned out the SPCA booth, adopting three of the four dogs they had left at the end of the day. We probably would've taken the fourth if he wasn't already in the process of being adopted.

I picked my dog because she appeared as if she were on drugs. That tells you a lot about me.

In preparation for crate-training an older dog, I did some research. You see, I'm not an all-around great dog mom. Oh, my dog thinks I'm a great dog mom, but that's because my dog gets to do pretty much whatever she wants. Everyone who knows my dog says she's spoiled. I've tried crating her before, but she's never taken to the crate. This is because I'm terrible at the training part. I mostly just put her in the crate a few times and, when she didn't like it, stopped putting her in the crate.

Thank goodness I'm not planning on ever having children.

The biggest problem with training my dog is that we don't have an alpha/beta relationship. We live side-by-side almost as equals. She recognizes in certain situations that she's better off if she defers to me. When I walk her without a leash, she stays close to me and comes when she's called. But she does this for her own safety, not because she sees me as being in charge. I know this because she enjoys alone time under the couch, and she will never come out when called unless she's good and ready.

And I allow this.

The problem with all of this is that, in order for her to be trained to do anything, she needs to see me as the boss. I have a very tenuous relationship with being the boss.

Last night my boyfriend and I had a conversation about who we consider the dominant one in our relationship. He said that he feels he's the dominant one. He supported this with the evidence that I often let him make a lot of our decisions. It's mundane stuff, really--what time we should get together to hang out, what we should eat for dinner, what movie we're going to watch. He always seems to make decisions that work for me, so why assert myself? I have nothing to assert. He asked me what I thought, and I said that I do prefer to defer to him on a lot of things.

He's never given me a reason not to.

The truth is that I see the two of us as wholly independent beings with complete freedom over our own actions. We choose to defer to each other to varying degrees at different times because that is how our partnership works. But I don't know that I'd call this dominance and submission. No one dominates me. I choose to defer. I tend to defer more often partially because I just really don't care that much about what I eat. I also tend to defer more often for the same reason that Baby stays close and comes when she's out in the wide open without the security of a leash.

He seems to choose to be conscientious when making decisions. I feel safe deferring to him. Neither of us are making a power play.

The question of who in the relationship is dominant and who is submissive is a question of power. In deferring, I don't give away my power. I still have it, and I have the right to exercise it at any point. But what I will not do is try to dominate when I exercise it. I will exercise it over myself. In reality, I'm always exercising it in recognizing that deferring is my choice. But suppose he were to do something that I found unacceptable? Suppose I wanted or needed something from him that he did not offer? I would exercise my power not by trying to dominate him into submission. I would make a request, offer a choice, and then make my own choices according to his response. I always recognize myself first and foremost as an independent, free being.

No one is the boss of me. (But that game can be fun sometimes.)

People make power plays when they are insecure. They seek to dominate out of a need for control over that which they fear losing, or they pretend to abdicate their freedom for the same reason. I don't like the idea of dominating someone I love. I may appear to get what I want, but I've destroyed something I wanted even more in the process.

I've destroyed the ability of the person I love to be the person I love.

I remember a time when I was very aggressive. Bossy. Pushy. Mean. It sprung from an anger that had grown out of a very strange idea. Somewhere along the way I'd come to believe that lots of other people were being given whatever they wanted by the people around them. The fact that I wasn't being given whatever I wanted (I cannot even fathom this thought process now, so it's hard for me to describe it in any intricate detail) proved that the people around me didn't love me. They didn't remember me. They didn't think about me. I saw myself at the mercy of other people's actions. So I was going to make them. Essentially I became a bully. I reaped a bully's rewards. People did what I wanted, but I felt even more disconnected from them than I had before.

When I recognize myself as having choice, I am free to allow others to be free. No power play is required--or even possible.

So then why am I crate training the dog?

Because that's right where the analogy falls apart. I can't give the dog a choice to stop having accidents in the house because she lacks critical thinking skills and doesn't understand English. As my boyfriend responded when I told him I wanted her to be free to experience the full expression of herself, he said, "She's expressed herself...all over your carpets!"

Besides, we're about to move in I'm deferring to him on this one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What Do You Call The Flap of Skin Around a Vagina?

I like porn.

I still remember the afternoon I discovered YouPorn. All this porn (some of it, admittedly, terrible), free and at my fingertips. I somehow lost track of three hours that day, much the same way I lost track of two hours the day I bought my vibrator.

That's right. Hours.

I just finished reading a blog post at about threesomes. It wasn't anything particularly earth-shattering. What stood out to me was the same thing that always stands out to me in anything I read in Bitch: It's all cultures fault we're oppressed. This statement makes two assumptions. One, we're still "oppressed," and, two, it's all porn's fault.

The essential argument in the Bitch blog is that porn presents what are supposedly men's sexual ideals, and this does three. One, it causes men to see women as sex objects. Two, it makes it seem okay for men to ask for stuff that is not okay. And three, it makes women feel pressured to be a certain way in order to gain the acceptance they so desperately seek. I'm totally inferring all of that, but read the argument. That's the only way one could assume porn makes things go down in the blog author's opinion. Feminists have been arguing forever about how porn contributes to the sexual oppression of women, but I think the argument hinges on some ideas that are rather anti-feminist.

First of all, men see women as sex objects! I've done a lot of reading on the subject and polled my male friends, and it's true--every time a man looks at a woman, he thinks about sex. He may not think about it for more than a second or two, he may not act on it but .9% of the time, and he may quickly move on to other thoughts after realizing the woman they were just looking at is, um, not that cute, but he's wired this way. I don't bring this up to say that it's therefore okay for a man to dehumanize a woman, but the fact remains that no matter how much he enjoys the deep, intellectual conversations he has with a woman, he's probably sneaking peeks at her tits every chance he gets. I hate to creep anyone out, but if you're a woman, odds are good many men who only saw you for a few passing moments at the post office have probably later jacked off while thinking about you.

Secondly, men can ask for whatever they damn well please. Who cares? If my man asked me right now for a threesome, I'd say, "Um...nope. What else might you like to do tonight?" Don't get me wrong--I enjoy watching threesomes in porn. But I know myself enough to know I'm just not interested in getting involved in one myself. It once almost happened in college when my best friend and I found ourselves playing strip poker with a guy I had previously dated, and we all stopped when it just started feeling...weird. If a man asks a woman to do something he saw in a porn and she's not comfortable with doing whatever it is (dressing up like his mother, for instance), she is a grown-ass adult who can say no.

Which brings me to the thirdly--and the real seat of the problem. Several people commented on the blog in question saying that it wasn't alright that porn made men think they should be able to expect threesomes out of their partners. Threesomes in porn apparently make women "feel bad" about being straight, and they also make them feel like they won't be able to please their partners if they can't get kinky. WOW. Porn doesn't ever make me feel bad unless I stumble across one of those porns that seems to involve a less-than-willing woman with a vacant, drugged-out expression. If I think the actress is not okay with what is going on (which is different than a willing actress involved consensually in a BDSM scenario), I will feel icky. But I will not feel bad about my sexual practices because of anything some stupid porn presents or something some stupid guy said. If I don't want to do something, I'm not going to do it. If my man wants to call me a prude, whine or leave, let him. If we don't see relatively eye-to-eye on these kinds of things, I think we're just a bad match. Happens all the time. But I'm not going to feel like it's some kind of relationship handicap that I can't fulfill every man's fantasy.

As previously stated, I can have a pretty good relationship with myself if push comes to shove.

Since when is it porn's fault that women need men to approve of their choices? If you take that need out of the equation--if women actually say, "I don't care what you think, buddy--you're not sticking that thing in my ass!"--then porn can't affect a woman's self-esteem on any level. Hell, porn kind of helps my self-esteem. Have you seen all the different shapes/sizes men are into? Whatever it is I've got, odds are good there's someone out there who'd be more than willing to get into it. I find it liberating. And just because it's out there doesn't mean everybody's into it, either. If you just listen to the referenced blog's argument, you'd assume that all men are hot to have a threesome. But I'm fairly certain based on a number of conversations about sex practices that my boyfriend isn't just not into them; he's against them. At least in the context of our relationship. This argument that porn puts pressure on women to perform a certain way in order to get the love they seek assumes that men are all a bunch of idiots who are that easily influenced by media and women are a bunch of insecure, dependent, needy girls who are...well, that easily influenced by media.

I think media works the other way around. As stated before, there's a porn out there for everybody. I believe that there are many different people out there with many different tastes (giving facials to girls who wear glasses has a whole series) making those porns. The porn comes from the people. It wasn't created by some porn god and dropped onto earth as some sort of moral test or manna from heaven. We made it. Therefore, if it is bad, then we are bad. Stop blaming poor porn; it didn't do anything.

But beyond that, when are feminists going to stop sitting down and crying about what it is the big bad man is doing to us and realize just how much power we actually have? As my friend Kyle used to say, "Women rule the world! They have half the money and all the pussy!" Sure, we don't want to be seen as just pussies--but, then, why are we acting like a bunch of them? Porn--and men--can only oppress me as much as I let them. Some men I've met clearly have what I would call "anti-woman tendencies." Guess what? They've had essentially zero effect on the path my life has taken. So how oppressed am I, really?

I can tell you this: I'd be really oppressed if I gave a shit what they thought. But in that instance, I'd be my own oppressor.

So, in short, if you want to have a threesome, have one. Don't? Don't. Don't watch porn if it offends thee. The other day I ran across a porn that was upsetting. Soon after it began I realized I couldn't tell if the girl was acting as if she wasn't into it or really wasn't into it, but from the look on her face I'd say it was the latter. She looked miserable. And that kind of porn is horrible because it really does dehumanize somebody. But a porn portraying any number of consenting adults doing something they enjoy isn't dehumanizing anybody.

And it's not going to make me feel bad for not having threesomes, either.

Oh, and the punch-line to the title? A woman!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Every Rose Has It's Thorn

A recession was bound to happen.

Pretty much everything I've ever really needed to know I learned in elementary school. Everything else has simply contributed to my thinking too hard about what turn out to be really simple problems. In elementary school we learned about ecosystems. An ecosystem is basically all the stuff in an environment that functions together as a unit. All the individual living and non-living things in a habitat (the environment in which these living and non-living things exist) have relationships with one another to varying degrees. Those are the basics.

I hope I didn't insult anyone's intelligence with the elementary school science recap.

As part of the lesson on ecosystems, we learned about the deer example. There is a population of deer. The deer eat plants. The deer are eaten by predators. All these things keep each other in check. Now, say something happens to the predators. The deer will continue to multiply unchecked. Eventually there will be more deer than available plant food supply. The deer will eat all the plants, and, barring any intervention on the part of the predator, the deer will begin to die from starvation. Once starved down to a dwindling number, the plants will begin to repopulate the area. Once the food supply is back, the deer will begin to multiply once again. But this is why the predator is an integral part of the ecosystem. No one likes the idea of deer being eaten, but that's because humans are insanely silly creatures with no sense.

Better a few be eaten than a whole mess of them slowly starve to death.

I should probably state up front that I got a D in economics. But logic would dictate that, just as is the case with the deer, the economy is bound to go into recession from time to time. A lot of people honestly seem to believe that the economy should always be growing or, at the very least, stabilized in such a way that they can buy stuff and be comfortable. The minute there's trouble they think, "Hey, this must be somebody's fault! We have to get to the bottom of this and make that bastard pay! Also, someone should fix this situation! Why isn't anyone fixing this situation? Someone should come up with a plan, put the plan in place, and we'll all be back to stocking up on iPhones and new cars in no time! 6 months, tops!" This is because humans are insanely silly creatures with no sense.

I may have gotten a D in economics, but it was mostly from skipping class--not a lack of critical thinking skills.

In an effort to draw the connection between the deer population situation and the economics thing, I copied this from Wikipedia's page on economics:

Thomas Robert Malthus used the idea of diminishing returns to explain low living standards. Population, he argued, tended to increase geometrically, outstripping the production of food, which increased arithmetically. The force of a rapidly growing population against a limited amount of land meant diminishing returns to labor. The result, he claimed, was chronically low wages, which prevented the standard of living for most of the population from rising above the subsistence level.

So, basically, a recession is inevitable when the human population grows beyond available resources. Since we're largely unchecked by predators (whether the predator be a wild animal or common sense), we were bound to start starving to death eventually.

Since this whole thing is an analogy, I'll stop fucking up the lessons and just get to the point.

The point here is that people have funny ideas about what should happen in life. Oh, sure, everyone will say that they understand that life can't always be perfect. But if there's anything I know to be true, it's that people's behavior always tells you more than what they say about what they really think. And all these people who say they understand that life cannot be perfect all the time promptly start looking for somebody to hang as soon as the shit hits the fan. Instead of trying to figure out what they can do as individuals to try to make the situation better and/or survive it intact, most people just start acting as if this horrible situation was somehow a surprise and a crime.

They act like victims.

Whenever I start in on this argument, I'm told that it sounds like I think people shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. But before I hold anyone else accountable for his or her actions, I have to hold myself accountable for my own. People love to live high on the hog and then act shocked when the well runs dry. I know I'm mixing my metaphors there, but the fact remains that we don't get to just take and take from the ecosystem or the economy without putting anything back in.

And this brings me to the real point of this whole thing.

A recession was bound to happen. And I'm not talking about ecosystems or economics at all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Maybe the Sun Will Shine Today

I have a 4% chance of getting divorced in the next 5 years.

I found out today that two friends recently broke up. The news hit me kind of hard, as these were two friends I really thought were going to be together forever. They made it through so much, and they just seemed made for each other. I know “together forever” sounds kind of naïve, and if anyone is the first to question the viability of a match, it's me. Still, I wanted to believe it for these two. I have no idea why they broke up; I found out through Facebook when one of said friends changed her status from “in a relationship” to “single.” But the whys and wherefore's are inconsequential for the purposes of this essay. When I saw the news, it hit me in my gut. If these two are breaking up, what the hell chance do the rest of us have?

So I calculated my chance for divorce at Being unmarried, I entered information as if I were just married today. I sure hope the fact that I did this doesn't freak out my boyfriend. It's research. And it looks like the odds of my fictitious marriage making it for the long haul are pretty good. That's a relief, too, because I've always sworn I'd only do it the once.

And, no, my fictitious marriage was not coerced by a fake pregnancy. I'm not that kind of girl.

I will never forget my high school psychology teacher getting on his soap box and informing the class that the reason so many people get divorced is because they get married for all the wrong reasons. I believe the way he put it was that people date for 6 months, figure that they're in love, and get married. These people, he told us, are idiots. And I agreed. I thought people who dated in high school were idiots, and I went to high school in a small town where most of my classmates planned on marrying each other. According to the divorce calculator, if I had dated someone in high school and married the guy, my chances of divorce in the next five years would be 25%.

Thank God I waited. Um, still waiting. Or am in a fictitious marriage—which, by the way, is not the same as a sham of a marriage.

This breakup got me thinking about the whole “together forever” proposition. I've always sworn marriage is something I will only do once. I believe that I should take my time in making this decision. I believe that marriage has to be about more than being “in love”--it has to be about wanting to create a family. Not necessarily a family in the sense of father, mother and kids, but a family in the sense that these people choose to live together and stand by each other no matter what. To that end, if I get married, that's what I'm looking for and working towards. Of course, I also once swore that I would never live with a lover until said lover and I were married, and it would appear I've changed my mind. At the tender age of 30, I'm planning on moving in with my boyfriend.

I was rather hurt when I told my friends a few months ago that my boyfriend had asked me if I wanted to live together. Me, the cynic, the girl who has been known to say things like, “This is why fuck buddies are better than boyfriends!”, is finally ready to take a chance on something as insane as living together. I thought for sure my friends would all be thrilled. No such luck. I was met with a chorus of, “Don't do it!” from the mouth of virtually everyone I knew. Of course, most of these people's experience with living together consists of moving in with their significant other a mere month after the beginning of the relationship because one or the other's lease was up. I don't want to sound like an asshole, but that's something I've never done and would never do.

You know, unless I was 83 and my possibility of death calculator said 98%. At that point, what the hell?

What changed my mind? I'm willing to move in with this man because we just seem to work. I'll spare you the sappy details. There's no internet calculator for the odds of our “making it.” For a girl like myself (always willing to enter into a completely doomed union because at least I know what's going to happen, never a bride), I suppose that should be unsettling. So imagine my dismay when another couple I consider to “just work” hit the skids. Am I on a fool's errand?

And what does all this living together talk have to do with marriage? I'm sure my boyfriend would really like it if I answered that question right about now. In all honesty, I think it's simply because my generation has so successfully blurred the line between the two. So many people opt out of marriage and simply live together as if married that it's hard to tell the difference. Also, many members of my generation and generations hence say stupid shit like, "You gotta live together first so you can find out if you and the other person are compatible. You don't wanna marry the guy and then find out he doesn't put the toilet seat down or something, do you?" The whole point of marriage is to make a promise to a person and then stick with it so you can grow spiritually and emotionally, making the effort to work through that kind of petty stuff. If you're living with someone to find out whether or not he or she is a perfect specimen for marriage, you're being silly. In my mind, living together and marriage are different, but they're both to be taken extremely seriously. If I'm willing to move in with somebody, I need to be willing to try to remember every day what loving somebody really means. It means I need to be willing to try to see beyond myself, petty annoyances and PMS to remember why I committed to this thing in the first place. Hopefully part of the reason was that I wanted to try to make that person's life better than it would've been in my absence. If I'm only in it for the sharing of bills and the regular sex or until the gas runs out on the butterflies in my stomach, perhaps it's time I rethink the proposition.

But even with all my calculating of odds and hedging bets, there's always an element of chance. The element of chance doesn't negate the need for me to consciously work toward being a responsible partner in my relationship. It's not an excuse to run willy-nilly into a situation before thinking about the possible outcomes and weighing the options. Still, the element of chance means that even with all my big thinking, I may end up where I've always sworn I'd never be: sleeping on the couch in the same apartment with the person who just dumped me/got dumped by me. I know that it would be a huge “growth opportunity,” but why even set myself up for the growing in the first place?

Because I may just end up with plenty of opportunities to grow closer to this person who I think is awesome and past myself, petty annoyances and PMS by staying in this relationship. Oh, yeah. And my vanity. We all have our things we need to work on.

Besides, I may know a couple who seemed to have it all and broke up anyway, but I also know couples who've been married for years and still post really nauseating crap about how much they love each other every day on Facebook.

There may be no odds calculator for which couple we'll turn out to be, but I love him so much I'll take that chance. Besides, if it all falls apart, I still have my imaginary husband.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don't Hate the Player

When I was in high school, I declared to my mother that I would not be getting married or having children.

It's a rather bold (and typical) statement for a 16-year-old to make. Sixteen is an age at which we're each figuring out who we are (or, at least, beginning to assert our independence—it's a process that goes on every day of our lives afterward), and making such hyperbolic statements is normal. At 30 I can safely say I have no idea whether or not this statement still holds true, although I can tell you that I'm still the kind of girl who isn't necessarily chomping at the bit to get in the family way. But when I told my mother this, she had what I thought was a very strange reaction; she burst into tears and declared that I'd basically just told her that I thought her life was meaningless. Because I didn't want to get married and have children—the two things she considered the most important things she'd done with her life—I obviously thought anyone who made such a choice was an idiot. I was dumbfounded. It seemed like a rather ludicrous leap in logic to me. What I'd said had nothing to do with her in my mind. But it's a fairly common leap in logic to make. Most people do it.

Most people think that other people are judging them all of the time. And most people would be right. The question, though, is why do we care?

I was discussing this phenomenon with a friend the other night. It never ceases to amaze me just how much people feel the need to justify their choices when most choices don't need justification. The best illustration of this that I've ever encountered is the whole monogamy “debate.” I put “debate” in quotations there (although I'm not really sure why I did it the second time) because I think it's debatable as to whether or not there's really a debate over monogamy. People who don't want to be in monogamous relationships always seem to feel the need to have a highbrow intellectual argument to support their slutty horndog ways. “Mankind just isn't inherently monogamous,” they declare, as if this somehow proves that their choice is more right. But who are they proving it to? I've been in monogamous relationships; I've also fooled around with three different people in one week. I don't think I need to have an argument to justify either choice. Why? Because I choose which way I'm going to run my business, and my only responsibility is to make sure the people (or person) I'm sleeping with and I are on the same page. If I've promised monogamy, I need to be monogamous. If I haven't promised anything, then I get to get off however and with whomever I please. Neither requires that I go around telling everyone why I think it's somehow better that I've made whichever choice it is I'm making at that moment. I don't need to recruit people into being on “my side”--although, if I'm sleeping around, I guess I do need to recruit people into being on their backs. When people give me some reason for their whoring ways that incorporates man's essential nature, all I want to say is, “Who cares?” The existence of monogamous couples isn't an indictment of your lifestyle.

So why the argument? I think people feel uncomfortable with the existence of “the other side,” even if the other side is mostly an illusion. I'm currently happily monogamous, but I don't see all the sluts of this world as being on another team out to destroy the very fiber of my beliefs. I just see them as dogs out to get a bone, ya know? As long as they're not sleeping with my partner, I have no opinion on their existence whatever. They don't make me question my choice in exactly the same way that happily monogamous couples don't make me feel like a dirty whore when I'm free to sleep with whomever I choose (man, this is making me sound way sluttier than I've ever really been known to be). Basically, I don't care what anyone thinks of me when I'm getting laid on a regular basis. But, really, the monogamy argument is a symptom of a larger problem; insecurity. When it comes to religion and politics (politics especially), I believe that there's more than one way to skin a cat. I believe that more than one solution may be right depending on the specific details of the situation, and sometimes there is no real solution at all. Rarely is there one single solution—one right belief, one right action.
But (and here's the shit that's really gonna blow your mind), I think all these arguments are silly because not only is there more than one solution to this living problem we all seem to have, but there's no problem at all.

Now, I know what you're thinking. “No problem? Man, I've got problems.” I hear about people's problems all the time. “My boyfriend won't get a job.” “I'm in thousands of dollars of debt.” “I don't have six-pack abs.” “I have six-pack abs, and my diet is making me a raving lunatic bitch!” People have problems all over the place. But all of these problems are problems in perception. My mother burst into tears over her 16-year-old know-it-all daughter's declaration because she perceived it as an insult. Actually, she burst into tears because she's kind of mentally unbalanced, but she's mentally unbalanced because she perceives herself as the center of the universe. See? A problem in perception!

The bottom line is this: if you have a problem with the way someone is living his or her life and those choices don't impact you directly, you have a problem with yourself. Whenever I'm perceiving an “Us vs. Them” scenario, what I'm saying is that I feel that someone else's choices call my own into question. If I know where I stand on my personal life, what difference does it make where you stand on yours? We're all basically on the same team: a bunch of people trying not to starve to death and maybe have a good time every once in a while. All this defensiveness is either insecurity or a desperate need to kill time.

And I'm not above a desperate need to kill time. I routinely get annoyed by the tweets of people I don't even know. That's irritainment!

The Sad Reality

I've been having a strange experience lately. As a waitress and a person who frequents coffee shops alone (in other words, as a person who has occasion to overhear conversations in which I am not involved at least 75% of the time I'm awake), I've begun to notice that at least 70% of all randomly overheard conversations sound like complete nonsense. I'm not talking about not being able to get a handle on what is being discussed because I'm only hearing snippets of conversations between people I know nothing about. I'm talking about hearing a full 20 minutes of a conversation and thinking to myself, “This sounds like gobbledy gook! Are these people talking in circles? Was that last statement even a sentence, or was it just a string of words spoken with inflection?” It's a lot like the scene in Some Kind of Monster when somebody says that the band should come up with a mission statement. “Mission statement?” someone asks as if he's never heard the term before. “Mission statement,” replies whomever made the suggestion. “Mission statement?” asks the other person again (it was hard to tell who in the room full of Metallica and hangers-on was asking), still stumped. “Mission statement,” comes the reply, amazingly unfased and unfrustrated. At some point this exchange just becomes like the drone of white noise.

And that's the thing: this strange experience I've been having reminds me a lot of what it's like when I watch reality TV.

Most people I know with similar intellectual interests to my own are generally in one of two camps when it comes to television: they refuse to get cable because watching TV is a waste of time, or they watch critically-acclaimed, artsy-fartsy smarty-pants TV shows on DVD even if they have cable. They wouldn't want to chance a run-in with some sundry common sit-com or reality rif-raf while clicking through the channels to watch The Wire. Me? I am a firm believer in television programming's right to be crap. I can watch an entire season of America's Next Top Model over the course of a lazy Sunday, and the smartest thing I watch with any regularity is Law & Order if left to my own devices. My current favorite television shows are The Real Housewives of (Insert Location Here), Millionaire Matchmaker, and whatever win-the-love-of-semi-famous-has-been show is currently running on VH1. I love reality TV. What I find so funny is that so many people make the argument that reality television is terrible because it's nothing like reality. Whenever I hear this argument, my initial reaction is that it is true—reality television is not reality. But I don't think this has any bearing on whether or not reality TV is good or bad. I love sitting on the couch watching a movie and snuggling with my boyfriend on a Tuesday night, but I doubt this very real scenario makes for riveting television. Even less riveting would be me doing my laundry or reading for an hour at the local coffeeshop (where I don't really read—I just pretend to read while listening to other people have conversations that make no sense to me). The argument that we shouldn't watch reality TV because people would never act like themselves in front of a television camera holds no weight because that is exactly why it's in any way interesting. The first 4 seasons of The Real World showed 7 20-something strangers getting real; in the fifth season we saw the 7 cast members forced to work together to create a business as well. Why? Because everyone knows that the episode in season 3 when Cory went job-hunting for a whole day—and we were forced to watch her fill out applications and talk to managers—was booooo-ring. It's something we all really do at different points in our very real lives, and we all really hate it. We don't want to be reminded of it while watching television.

My recent experiences have led me to believe, though, that there may be another reason for society's love/hate relationship with reality TV. Maybe it's not so much that reality TV is nothing like reality; maybe it's that reality TV is a little too much like reality.

I can completely understand why we don't want to admit that we spend 82% of our time over-analyzing every subtle nuance of our personal lives out loud to other people, all the while doing it in a language that loses it's meaning the longer we speak it. I mean, when did everyone start saying, “You know?” at the end of every other sentence? This has to be a sign that none of us are 100% sure we're making sense.

While watching the season finale of Tough Love, a reality show about 8 women who have serious problems with men who move into a house together and work out their issues with the help of a matchmaker (Sex and the City meets the therapist's couch), it dawned on me just how similar everyone's lives are. Two of the most disparate women in the house became best friends, crying and saying things like, “Oh, I've learned so much from you!” after initially hating each others guts (been there). One of the women had to choose between the affections of two different men (I don't want to brag, but...done that). Another woman quit the show when the matchmaker wouldn't stop getting in her face about being such a slut. I've never had that exact experience (mostly because I've never been on a reality television show centering on 8 women with serious relationship problems), but, trust me—I can relate. I think what makes us so uncomfortable with reality television is that we're really afraid that these are the days of our lives. Someone may not be able to relate to the situations on Tough Love in a direct sense, but when we listen to the conversations these women have about what's going on in their dramatized lives, we can't help but relate on some level. When our conversations are repeated by a bunch of people we don't know on television, they tend to seem much more ridiculous and meaningless than when we had them in a real life scenario with our friends or ourselves.

We're left asking ourselves, “Are we really this stupid?”

Sure, most of us would like to believe that our personal dramas are deeper than that. We'd like to believe that these intensely personal experiences aren't being replicated in anyone else's life, let alone played out on television. We'd like to believe that our lives are more ground-breaking than the basic 5 possible plots. When we're watching those plots play out on a scripted sit-com or drama, it's easy to believe that our lives are more complex and less ridiculous—that stuff is fiction! But reality TV hits a little too close to home. When I found myself relating to the ladies of Tough Love, it made me realize just how comforting it is to know that all the stuff about me that I think is so fucked up is fucked up in other people, too—which, in the end, makes it seem a lot less fucked up.

So, I guess, yes—we really are this stupid! The good news is that we're pretty much all this stupid! Trust me; I've been eavesdropping on everyone, and we all sound like nonsense.

Especially whoever it was in Some Kind of Monster who didn't understand the concept of a mission statement. That guy's an idiot.

And I can relate.

The Dirty-Talking Truth

A friend of mine recently sent her boyfriend a sext. A sext is a sexually oriented text. It can consist of either words or pictures (in this specific instance, it was a dirty talking sext), and it's probably more popular than actual phone sex these days. After all, we live in a society that's all about convenience, and you can't very well have phone sex while out to dinner with your parents.

So she sent the sext. And she got absolutely no response.

Now, I'm a huge fan of sexting. Not that I've sexted a lot of people. Okay, I guess “huge fan” is a bit of an overstatement. It's not how I wish everyone on my list a Merry Christmas. But in certain situations, nothing beats sending your boyfriend a picture of your tits. Those first few sexts with whomever it is you happen to be sexting at the moment can be emotionally precarious, though. Sure, he totally digs it when you say, “I love it when you fuck me so hard!” in bed, but perhaps a random picture of your vagina is over the line. Or maybe a text message saying, “I'd really love it if you fucked me in the ass later,” will make him think you're a freak—even if he'd absolutely love to fuck you in the ass later. When a girl sends a sext, she'll feel more than a little exposed, vulnerable.

She frantically sent me an instant message (kids these days—doesn't anybody talk on the phone anymore?) telling me how upset she was that he hadn't sent back even a one-word response to her dirty-talking sext. I'd once received a, “Wow,” in response to a picture of my nude torso, and I'd found that to be a rather vague response. I'd figured my boyfriend was just in a hurry. At least he'd made the effort and let me know he'd gotten my sext. Her boyfriend didn't send even a single syllable. We began discussing sexting etiquette, and we both agreed that no response whatsoever was an obvious faux pas. In fact, I was so taken aback by his silence that I thought about sending him an e-mail asking if he was an idiot. She began throwing around phrases like “emotionally unavailable,” and it was all downhill from there. By the end of that instant messaging session you'd have thought the guy had shot her puppy.

Personal preferences being what they are, I'm sure there are millions of ways one could mess up in a sexting situation. Most of them would not be obvious. I once dated someone who was inexplicably and overwhelmingly grossed out by the word “moist.” You can imagine the problems this could cause in a sexting situation if I were unaware of the aversion. But if there's one thing that should be obvious, it's that you should always respond to someone's sext (unless, of course, you have absolutely no interest in that person or you've filed a restraining order). When someone sends you a picture of their boobs, ass, cock, or pussy, or if they tell you they're thinking about your boobs/ass while playing with their cock/pussy, the least you can do is say, “Awesome,” or, “Me, too,” or, “I think you've got the wrong person, but I appreciated it anyway.” The reason this should be so obvious is the same reason the dreaded “emotionally unavailable” was mentioned.

Much like it is with sex itself, sexting is never really only about sexting. When someone gets naked in front of someone else, whether physically, emotionally or virtually, it's personal. It's meant to be an intimate moment, even if that intimate moment is a fleeting one shared between two people on Adult Friend Finder. If I show someone my boobs, on some level it's as if I just decided to tell them a story I don't tell anyone else. Or at the very least a story I don't tell everyone else. And by that token it's even more important that I be seen and heard. It's even more important that I be acknowledged. Intimacy requires the involvement of more than one person. If I ask someone the time and they ignore me, I'm not going to care nearly as much as I will if I send someone a sext saying, “Remember that time you sat on my chest and I titty fucked you while licking the tip of your cock? That was so hot!” and he never says a word.

When someone with whom I'm having a relationship exposes himself to me, I feel a responsibility to make sure that he knows he's been seen and heard. If he sends me a sext, I'm going to at least say, “That was so nice of you to think of me.” If he tells me some really embarrassing story about his childhood, I'm going to refrain from making fun of him (even if the really embarrassing event totally deserves to be made fun of.) Actually, that last statement was a lie, although I will definitely not make fun if retelling the story still makes him cry. The reason my friend tagged her boyfriend as “emotionally unavailable” when he didn't respond to her sext is because he'd obviously not thought about the fact that she was so exposed. Either he hadn't thought about it or he had actively wanted to avoid getting involved in the intimate act on any level, even if that involvement had required a response reading, “I appreciate the thought, but this was a little too much for me.” Sharing an intimate moment with another person isn't about the type of response you have to whatever it is that he or she has done; it's about being willing to have a response and to share that response, whatever it may be, in a way that is respectful and supportive of his or her (I can't believe I'm about to use this word in this context) personhood.

Some of the most intimate moments I've ever had with another human being have involved me telling that human being, “I didn't so much like it when you did that,” in a calm tone of voice.

So, for god's sake, respond to your significant other's sexts. And if that significant other happens to be your girlfriend, and she sends you a picture of her tits, just know that the right response is something along the lines of, “Jesus, baby, those are the most amazing tits I've ever seen! I'll never be able to look at another woman ever again! They're inspiring a religious experience! You're amazing!”

Or I've found a nice, “Wow,” can be quite effective in a pinch.