19 November, 2017

I May Never See "My" Poly Depicted...

...and that's okay.

Those of you who blink may have missed the theatrical release of PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN, a film billed as the first truly polyamory-friendly movie. It shows the triad composed of William Moulton Marston, creator of the fictional character Wonder Woman, and the two women who inspired that character: his wife Elizabeth, and their partner Olive Byrne.

Local polyamorous groups were given free passes and the praise was glowing. Finally, many said, a movie about a family that at least looks like ours. Review after review emphasized how tastefully the triad was presented. This is not the kind of movie that I would pay thirty bucks to see in a theatre (I tend to favour grand sweeping epics for that kind of money)...but I was very much looking forward to seeing it at home, en famille, as it were.

Until Franklin Veaux weighed in.  Now I'm not so sure I want to see this movie at all.

Franklin Veaux is the co-author of More Than Two, widely billed as "the poly bible". (There's a link to morethantwo.com in my sidebar, and it's the first place I send anyone who is interested in polyamory.)

I don't revere the man. There isn't a man alive I revere. But I have a deep respect for him. His hard-earned lessons on what works and what doesn't in polyamorous relationships jibe with my lived experience, and his two overarching rules for successful polyamory -- "the person in the relationship is more importan than the relationship" and "don't treat people like things" -- resonate strongly with me.

Veaux wrote a SCATHING review of this movie, basically saying it's an exercise in gaslighting and sexual grooming. It got me thinking. How can the same movie be almost universally praised by poly advocates for "getting it right", while one of the most influential of those advocates so strongly insists that it's wrong, wrong, and wrong again?

You'd think I'd have to see the movie to answer that. I don't, as it happens. Because  I have spent enough time in the polyamorous community, and participating in their never-ending debates, to recognize what's going on here.

One of the things you are guaranteed to hear starting out is that "there's no right way to be poly". You hear this because there seem to be as many different polyamorous arrangements as there are polyamorous people. The live-in triad is just as poly as the woman living alone, but with three partners who know about and accept each other, and that woman is just as poly as the blended two-couple family with six kids living in the old farmhouse. Polyamory is, quite simply, the practice or ability to practice multiple simultaneous loving relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved. That definition casts a wide, wide net.

To be sure, there are things that aren't poly. Quoting from the FAQ mentioned above:

If you are married, and you have a girlfriend that your wife doesn’t know about, or that your wife suspects but isn’t sure about, or that your wife knows about but isn’t happy with, you’re not poly, you’re cheating. Similarly, if you’re banging the milkman while your husband is out of town, you’re not poly, you’re cheating. Polyamory is defined by informed consent of all the participants. Without it, it ain’t poly. If you can’t invite your lover over to Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of your family because you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing, it probably ain’t poly.

The number of cheaters who seize on polyamory as a "get-out-of-jail-free" card is truly disheartening. The number of people who would rather cheat on a partner than be honest...also disheartening.

Then there are things that are technically poly, but which rub me vigorously the wrong way. Chief among those is the "one penis policy", or OPP. This is an arrangement in which a straight man gives his bisexual female partner permission to date other women, but not other men, because he feels threatened. There is so much wrong with this it's hard to know where to start. For one thing, it's sexist as hell: who says relationships between women can't be threatening? For another, the double standard disgusts me. The man gets all the women he can bed; the woman has to be satisfied with just the one man. The typical male in such a relationship will react harshly to "his" woman falling for another man. Within monogamy, this makes perfect sense; in polyamory, not so much.

I was on the verge of a relationship early on that was vetoed by a man practicing OPP. Had I followed Veaux's advice and communicated properly with that man ahead of time, I could have saved myself a year's worth of heartbreak. I know another couple that are explicitly looking for their unicorn. I haven't asked too closely, but this seems to suit the woman in the relationship. The cynic in me insists on adding: for now.

(I talked to the man in this arrangement a couple of years back--he didn't see the problem with his restrictions. "Both of us get all the pussy we could ever want!" he said, and isn't THAT attractive. I tried explaining to him that the "pussy" he craved was actually -- like holy shit! -- a fully fledged WOMAN with thoughts and desires of her own, and it was like we were speaking two different languages. I came away from that conversation needing a shower.)

Veaux says that unicorn hunting is the chief problem in PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN, and that makes me cringe. There is nothing I dislike more than seeing people treated like things: taken for granted, belittled, minimized, their feelings ignored. Time and time again I've had to restrain myself from speaking up on behalf of the doormat woman: none of my business.

I find it interesting that polyamory in the media almost always seems to involve one man with multiple women. In real life, there are at least as many women with multiple partners, probably more. But again, men are threatened by other men. I must have been born polyamorous, because I've never understood that. None of it. Cold biological imperatives suggest I'm supposed to be propagating my own genes at the expense of any other man's; the human penis is even designed to displace other men's semen in favour of our own. I, meanwhile, believe "my" child to be the one I help raise, the one I get to watch grow and become. It is not only unnecessary, but undesirable, that said child be "gifted" with my fucked up eyes and an increased possibility of cancer of the large toenail.

I don't feel sexual jealousy because (intensely personal bit here) I am acutely aware of my limitations in bed. Those things people do to spice up their bedrooms...role playing, BDSM, dominance...I'm utterly incapable of ANY of that. It's not me. If you have a hankering for that kind of thing, go find someone to indulge in it with you. I won't mind. I see it as a win-win-win situation, actually. You get the thing I can't give you; he gets you at your most creative and inventive...and not only do I not have to try to be fake, I also know that you are choosing to be with me despite the attractions of others.

Think about that for a moment. In any monogamous marriage, she could be choosing to be with you for any number of very unromantic reasons. "For the sake of the children" is a common one. Inertia is another. The stigma of divorce is a third. In polyamory, if someone chooses to be with you, in a veritable ocean of other compelling choices, it's probably because he's happy to be with you.

There are many aspects of the polyamory I practice that are too personal to detail. I am (surprise, surprise) the "out" one in our polycule--the others are truthful if confronted but otherwise taciturn, as is their right. It's also one's ironclad right to hide polyamory from one's family and friends if safety is in doubt (though if you're hiding polyamory from other partners, it ain't poly, it's cheating).

My polyamory as it stands now: I live in an MFM vee, which means Eva is the "hinge" partner, sharing Mark and I. It's unusual, but not unheard of, for MFM vees to live together. It works well for us...better, in truth, than I thought it would. There are several women I love, one of whom I consider to be a partner, and another way in which my poly is somewhat unusual is that I try to be as egalitarian as humanly possible. There are untold numbers of polyamorous people who practice hierarchy, valuing one relationship over another. That's not me. All my relationships are equally important to me, and everyone involved knows it.

Hierarchy bothers me, too, in case you're wondering. When married people decide to open their relationships, a common security valve is to insist on a rule that says "our relationship takes primacy over all others". Nice thought, but "the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship". Rules like this also deprive your new partner(s) of autonomy; they're forced to accept their "lesser" status, irrespective of any feelings or events which may develop.

Yes, polyamory is risky. Partners can and do displace other partners (note: I said DISplace, not REplace.) I know a couple of quads who have rearranged themselves: AB and CD evolve into AD and BC tolerably often. Which doesn't mean that AB and CD no longer love each other.

So. MFM, cohabiting, non-hierarchical vee. Another descriptor of my polyamory that doesn't match those of many others: I practice "kitchen table" poly, not "parallel" poly. Kitchen table polyamory is just what it sounds like: my entire polycule has sat down to a meal a few times, and since I live with my metamour, the three of us have shared meals quite often. Parallel poly is "I know you have other partners and I'm okay with that, but we don't interact". I'd rather not get involved in that kind of polyamory, myself--the potential to unwitting step over someone's undisclosed boundary is just too high.

The level of commitment I have to my relationships is a tad daunting for some, I think. I don't place any obligation on you beyond acting ethically, but I do share one thing with the most staunch monogamist: if I commit to you, I take that commitment seriously. There's a song from Evita that comes to mind here:

I'm not talking of a hurried night
A frantic tumble, then a shy goodbye
Creeping home before it gets too light
That's not the reason that I caught your eye
Which has to imply
I'd be good for you
I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You...

I'm not in the habit of abandoning friends, let alone loves. If it happens, it's because you've clearly shown me our relationship no longer serves your higher purposes. That won't stop me from loving you, incidentally.

It's hard enough for people to grok sharing each other. Doing it with an absolute minimum of rules (really, we only have one: the rings stay on)--that really confounds people. Without rules, how do you know your relationship will survive? To which I would reply:

 Honest answer: I don't...and neither do you. All the rules in the world won't prevent your partner from straying if he wants to. In fact, rules might encourage it, if they're too stifling. Rules go where trust should be. 

Polyamory as I practice it has no place on television or the movies. There's no drama in it. Very little conflict, and what conflict exists is talked out and solved before it can fester. Who wants to watch that? They'd be bored to tears. Happy lives are no fun for voyeurs.

18 November, 2017

Social Justice Warrior

NOTE: In this blog, which I have been mulling over for months, I'm going to use some terms that may not be familiar to some of my readers.

CISGENDER, often abbreviated "cis", is the opposite of transgender. If you are cisgendered, your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth.

GENDER NON-BINARY is an umbrella term that denotes any gender that is not explicitly male or explicitly female. There are lots and lots of categories that are non-binary, and each person who identifies this way tends to have a personal set of descriptors for themselves, which usually include pronouns that aren't "he" or "she".

This may be gibberish to you: while many people have heard the word "transgender", it's a word that is -- for whatever reason -- deemed threatening, and so many don't investigate it.  (Incidentally, I've never understood how anyone's identity could be threatening. The presence of a gay man won't turn you gay; my polyamory is mine, not yours;  the existence of any number of words between "male" and female" on a spectrum does not invalidate either end of the spectrum.


________________




R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me...
--Otis Redding, made popular by Aretha Franklin


We live in an era where the President of the United States seeks to normalize

  • misogyny
  • sexual assault
  • racism
  • homophobia
  • transphobia
  • ableism
and that's just off the top of my head. What he wants to do, in short, is turn the clock back to about 1950  He and his acolytes say this is "Making America Great Again" -- and the colossal irony is that circa 1950, America was only great if you were a straight white cisgendered male. For pretty much everyone else, America sucked, and for some classes of people it sucked pretty goddamned hard. The vast majority of people who AREN'T  straight, white, cisgendered males have precisely zero interest in reviving an era where niggers were lynched for sport, fags were beaten, and broads "knew their place". And so these people are seeking -- quite reasonably, you might think -- to shut this shit down by virtually any means at their disposal.

Aside: I  deliberately used some words in the preceding paragraph which are very to extremely offensive. These words and many, many others like them were so common in 1950s America as to be utterly unremarkable. Which just goes to illustrate that moralities and the words we use to enforce or flaunt them DO change over time. A couple of further examples of this: the most offensive word you can call a woman -- a word so vile it's often abbreviated to "the c word" by people who have no trouble whatsoever reeling off strings of profanities -- was once the common and accepted term for female genitalia, a word no worse, and probably more wholesome, than 'pussy' is today.  Another: "idiot" comes from the same root as idiom and  idiosyncratic. It originally was used to describe a private person with no interest in public affairs. This was a grave sin in ancient Greece, and you can see how its current meaning derives from that. But an 'idiot' at one point wasn't stupid, per se.

We live in an accelerated and constantly accelerating culture. "Cunt" took centuries to gain its nasty status. "Slut", which used to be a perfectly acceptable word meaning "scullery maid", also took centuries to (d)evolve into its current derogatory meaning of sexually promiscuous woman. Meanwhile, "nigger" took decades to become a taboo word and "fag" took even less time to go from normal to offensive.

The speed of change can catch even well-meaning people off guard. "Gay" is a good example. It originally meant "happy", "carefree", or "bright and showy"; that latter meaning gave rise to its adoption by homosexual men to describe themselves. Rampant homophobia lent "gay" a whole bunch of ugly prescriptive meanings: in any schoolyard or locker room you would often hear "that's so gay!" meaning "that's stupid". This, too (and thankfully, from my point of view) is on its way out.

You might not think the word "gay" is such of a much. I'll be honest: even after I lost my homophobia (by meeting gay people, not to mention finding out that people I knew and loved were gay)...I simply didn't notice how often people use "gay" to describe ugly, stupid things.

Just goes to show you the blinding effect of privilege. Privilege renders oppression invisible. Privilege is suggesting that since you haven't personally been affected by something, it either doesn't exist or can't be important. It's been almost thirty years since I was routinely called every gay slur in the book; I'd forgotten how much that hurt.

Open your ears and pay attention to  how often "gay" is used as a synonym for "stupid". I like to call that out: why did you use that particular word? People will hem and haw (and probably call me gay) before admitting, sometimes sheepishly and sometimes defiantly, that gay people are, BY DEFINITION, lesser.  The sheepish people have learned something. The defiant ones get cut out of my life.


"Gay", "nigger", "slut", "tranny", and on and on and on -- you could fill a dictionary -- are just words. It's when those words get arranged into sentences, paragraphs, and presentations that things can get REALLY threatening.

Students at a university learn that a prominent right-wing TV personality, or newspaper columnist, is slated to speak at their school. They mobilize. They issue threats of violence; if the speaker is undeterred and shows up anyway, they mob him or her and act so unruly that the speech is either cancelled or goes unheard. The speaker then announces that she has been "silenced" by a bunch of "liberal snowflakes" who are "too fragile" to "accept reality". Her audience eats this up: she becomes a martyr. 

There may actually be some "snowflake" students who really can't stand to hear an opposing idea. Most of these people, though, I suspect, simply choose not to allow hatred to be given a platform. They know EXACTLY what sorts of things will be said on these occasions. They've been hearing those things all their lives, and always, always it's about making them less than human. 

Does that sound harsh? Probably, if you're, again, a straight white cisgendered male.The only even remotely relatable experience you might have had is being bullied in the schoolyard. I was bullied in the schoolyard; about the only consolation I ever took from it was that I would eventually grow up, leave the schoolyard, and be free.

Imagine if you can't ever be free. Imagine if the bullying never ends. If, for example, everywhere you go, every strange man you meet, you have to be hyper-aware of both his actions and your own, because at any moment, he might jump you. Oh, he was only catcalling you? How to respond to that? Smile and you're encouraging him; walk faster away from him and you're provoking him. 

Imagine you're a Muslim and the President of your country has mused about rounding up and deporting all the people like you. Or putting them in camps. Officially sanctioned talk like that has emboldened some people to firebomb mosques and randomly attack people who look just like you. Do you really think the people that mean you harm should be allowed to whip up support?

Imagine you're non gender binary and a bunch of Republican politicians have decided you (a) can't serve in the military; (b) can't go into the bathroom that matches your gender identity; (c) you can't even be addressed by the term you wish to be addressed by. 

If you identify as male or female, you may not comprehend this whole business of "personal pronouns". You may insist that everyone around you be a "he" or a "she". Except what you don't understand is that some people are neither "he" nor "she", and demanding they be one or the other is not-so-subtly questioning their very existence. "Zie" and "Zir", or any number of alternatives including "they" singular, undeniably take some getting used to. So get used to them. The people who use these terms have have had to get used to much more trying circumstances than you being asked to use a word you may never have heard before.

__________

The dichotomy between 'conservative' and 'liberal' is ever-present today and seems to be ever widening. There are many reliable indicators of one's conservative or liberal leanings. I'm about to put forward one you may not have considered: RESPECT.

Respect, says the conservative, is earned.
Respect, says the liberal, is deserved.

Liberals usually believe that any human being, by virtue of being human, should be accorded a basic level of respect.

Conservatives don't like this view: they tend to believe the only people entitled to respect are those in authority.

Caveat: both sides are increasing basing their respect for an individual on that individual's "purity" -- by which I mean strict adherence to liberal or conservative dogma. This is a non-trivial problem, but it's not new: politics is religion by another name, and religion has ALWAYS divided people into us and them, the faithful and the heathens, the saved and the lost.

Liberals would define "political correctness" as "treating other people with respect".  Conservatives would define "political correctness" rather differently. Here's Philip Atkinson:

"(Political Correctness is) the communal tyranny that erupted in the 1980s. It was a spontaneous declaration that particular ideas, expressions and behavior, which were then legal, should be forbidden by law, and people who transgressed should be punished. (see Newspeak) It started with a few voices but grew in popularity until it became unwritten and written law within the community. With those who were publicly declared as being not politically correct becoming the object of persecution by the mob, if not prosecution by the state."

This takes for granted a bedrock conservative principle that morality is unchanging and absolute. Like several conservative principles,  this one is demonstrably false -- or do you believe, as the Aztecs did, that human sacrifice is both beneficial and a great honour? Do you think slavery is a Good Idea (tm)?  How about polygamy? Hey, it's all over the Bible. 

The amount of free-flowing hatred out there is daunting, to say the least. And this is the culture the social justice warriors want to change. Their thought -- it's a pretty valid thought, in my opinion -- is that you can't change the culture if you keep giving agents of the old culture a chance to perpetuate it.

But here's where I'm torn. Shutting the hate down before it's spewed doesn't seem to be working. If anything, it's backfiring. Instead of confining themselves to hating minorities, it's getting more and more common for the bigots to ALSO hate those who advocate for minorities -- "social justice warriors", which is usually intoned with a sneer. How "social justice" ever became a bad thing is a mystery for the ages.

___________________


It's a truism that liberals are tolerant of anything but intolerance. It's also a truism that conservatives demand the right to be intolerant--because of that unchanging, absolute morality they force themselves to believe in.  I'm not sure there's a solution to this, a road towards unification. Either one side has to agree to be less than human or the other has to agree to give up calling people less than human, and I don't see either side budging any time soon. Put me down on the side of social justice, though.  I am, proudly, a social justice warrior.


















12 November, 2017

Anti-bucket list

Apologies for the paucity of posts here. There are two reasons for that. One is just life. I've been busy living life, and haven't made time to write. Two is a common problem of mine: I'm blocked. I don't know what to write about.

You sure don't need to hear about the mundane stresses and frustrations of my workaday existence. Yesterday, for instance, I worked very hard all day only to have every last bit of my work undone with half an hour left in the shift. I came home in a foul, foul mood, went right to bed, woke up to watch the hockey game (another Leaf win, yay) and then went back to sleep. This is my weekend, now: probably the last one before I flip to nights again until Christmas. And now you've heard about that which you surely didn't want to hear about.

I'm happy, I'm stable, I'm feeling eminently normal, and normality makes for boring reading. So--I could talk about the political situation, but my god, nobody ever seems to shut up about politics right now, because they're broken probably beyond repair, and that's just depressing.

I could write about the ongoing takedown of numerous male predators, and how happy it makes me to see it happen. There, I just did.

I have a post on transgenderism percolating. That's not ripe yet--I'm waiting for the hook to hang it on, and said hook is stubbornly absent.

I could write a spirituality post -- out thrifting with Sue the other day I discovered a Neale Donald Walsch book I didn't already own for the princely sum of $2.00. As always with Neale, every page drips with material for numerous posts--absolutely none of which you need to read.

I owe my father a hockey blog, but there again, I'm not sure what exactly to write about. "My" team is fourth overall in the league and playing well, especially last night. It's too early in the season yet for me to be paying much attention to the rest of the NHL, although Las Vegas is a nice feel-good story.

Even polyamory is a black hole right now.  Oh, there's a ton I COULD write there. But I've tightened up the privacy a few notches, and so personal details are out; I've already covered the broader strokes...probably too many times. When the thing you're most passionate about offers no incentive to write...you are well and truly plugged.

At times like this, I have a bunch of sites I consult looking for inspiration. Reddit, of course; also the National Review (because I disagree vehemently with almost everything there, and the vehemence tends to translate into better writing on my part). I'll cruise around Facebook, I'll check the sites in my sidebar, a newspaper (on dead tree if necessary), and a book of quips by Spider Robinson that I keep handy.

And until just now I would have told you all those places were devoid of anything piquing my pen. Kind of like how TV used to be, right? Three hundred channels and "there's nothing on"?

Behold, courtesy of a Facebook friend who just posted this: The Anti-Bucket List. (I posted a bucket list blog about a year ago, but these are things people DON'T want to do before they die. And it's perfect, because although this blog is bound to be a scattershot affair, it should at least prime the pump a little.

Oddly enough, more than a few of these things turn up on bucket lists. Travel to another country? Are there really people who DON'T want to do that? I pity those people... Trains, planes, motorcycles--all of which I have been on? Pretty common things that people want to try.  Many people want to learn another language, and I don't know many folks who have never been to any kind of concert. And so on...wait a minute. "Go To A Bar". Wow. I may be one of the few human beings who has never done that. I've been in dozens of restaurants with bars in them, I've very occasionally even sat at a bar--but I didn't "go to a bar" to drink.

 I mean, it's all too easy to come up with a list of things people don't want to do, such as, oh, I don't know, almost drown in a septic tank or undergo a police interrogation (even if they were just rent-a-cops). And "be buried alive"? I defy you not to check that. But some of the things on here boggle my mind. 

Public speaking, for instance. It's the number one fear in the world. Number two is death. Go figure...that means there are people who would rather die than talk to other human beings. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, now that next to nobody uses a phone for its original purpose, but still.

I'm good at public speaking. It's just talking, after all--what's so hard about talking? I get that many people are afraid of being stared at. I might be, too, if I allowed that thought -- everybody's LOOKING AT ME OHGODOHGODOHGOD -- to cross my mind. I don't. I become my words: I'm up here to be listened to, not to be looked at. Incidentally,  that's how I am as an audience member, too. I don't know how many ways my eccentricity about outward appearances manifests, but there's another.

I do find, as I age, that I'm developing vertigo. I love roller coasters to pieces but it's been years since I've been on one; I'd doubtless find them a little scarier now than I used to. Likewise the hot air balloon ride -- very romantic -- but I might have to pass on it lest I vomit over the side. Nobody needs that raining down from on high.  (The helicopter is even more vomit-inducing; those fuckers bounce all over the sky. It's exhilarating riding in one, so long as you don't look down too much.)

There's something on this list I'm actually ashamed I haven't done: donate blood. Embarrassing revelation: I don't even know my blood type. I really should know this. Going to set this up ASAP. 

Get a tattoo? Done, twice over. At least two more coming, eventually: a monkey and a stylized jaguar with purple eyes. Both intensely personal, just like my infinity heart and my blue spruce. Haunted house? Try me. Maybe this is foolhardy of me, but I've always been interested in the paranormal, and outside of one house in Ailsa Craig I have no real experience with it.

Geez, skinny dipping? Nah, I don't skinny dip. I chunky-dunk. If you haven't had the pleasure, a pleasure it is. There's something about being naked, you know...it's freeing. Once again, if you can get past the notion that people are looking at you, I mean.

Four things I've never done and have no urge to, all in a row. Boxing...yeah, um, ritualized violence has less than zero appeal to me. I think I may have been on horseback at some point, but I don't remember it, and I don't see it being in my future. Mountain climbing? I'll fall off. Or into a crevasse. And kayaking seems like a synonym for "drowning" to me.

Gambling in Vegas. Eva's been, I haven't. I'd love to go to Vegas, but I doubt I'd spend much time gambling there. I've been to two casinos. I think they're largely the same beasts the world over: overflowing with ways to deplete you of your hard-earned money. Casinos are like beaches, or shopping centers: you've seen one, you've seen a mall.

Almost as shameful as not having donated blood: I haven't volunteered. I know, I know, this makes me an ugly human being. I just can't shake the "used" feeling out of volunteering: you're labouring for...the intrinsic satisfaction of a job well done? That should be enough, right? Well, no, actually, it shouldn't. See: "paid internship". The idea that any entity ought to be able to exploit my labour without compensation is not something I think ought to be encouraged.

Skiing. I've done -- and enjoyed -- cross country skiing. I will never downhill ski. Look above where it says "mountain climbing". I'll fall off. That actually seems to be the POINT of skiing. Nope, sorry, no deathwish here.

Dear god, "reading"'s on this list. That's a sad commentary on the human condition circa 2017.

Haha, "get married". Done. The only way I'll marry again is if polyamory becomes legally recognized...which is something I'm fighting for. As it stands, I would be more than open to a commitment ceremony. Which isn't legally binding (yet), but which I consider to have every bit the heft and significance of a wedding.

Have children--okay, so here's the thing. For me, the appeal in having kids was in helping them become the next grander versions of the greatest vision they have of themselves, over and over again. That's also the appeal in ANY relationship, for me. I try to leave everyone I meet a little better off for having met me. I won't have kids, but I have touched and will continue to touch the lives of children and teenagers. They're the future. The future is unknowable to me, but the thought that I can maybe live on in the memories of those whose lives I shape, even if in only a tiny way...that's one of the ways I derive meaning in my life.

From here on, only the things that fit the anti-bucket theme, i.e. things I DON'T want to do.

Skydiving. Fuck no. No fucking way. Fuck. Not enough profanity there to express the absofuckinglute imfuckingpossiblity of that ever happening to me.

I will never smoke. Ever. The merest hint of tobacco smoke has me wanting to retch my lungs out, and anything more exotic will have to come to me in the form of an edible.

A former colleague of mine runs marathons...often. Once again, this is not a Ken thing. I will run if something is chasing me, and at no other time.

I will never pierce my tongue. I draw the line at ears--the rest of me will remain unpunctured, so far as I can help it.

And I will never join a gang...not unless that gang is devoted to senseless acts of kindness.


Ugh. No flow to this, but it's words on a page, and maybe you learned something about me. More coherence tomorrow.







31 October, 2017

Party Pooper

My friend Sue called me a party pooper last night because I told her I wasn't doing anything for Hallowe'en.

I haven't done anything for Hallowe'en since I was eleven, and I thought I was much too old THEN. That year I went out as Carol Burnett, complete with heels (the only time in my life I ever wore them, and it instilled a lifelong hatred of them). Carol Burnett, incidentally, was my mom's idea. All I could have told you then is about all I could tell you now: she hosted a TV show that I've (still) never seen.

Can you say sheltered kid?

Don't get me wrong, the candy was nice. Well, the chocolate bars were. They'd be gone about as fast as I could two-hand them into my mouth, and most of the rest of the candy would end up in the trash.  But the rest of the festival was emphatically not for little Kenny. Even before I 'outgrew' it.

Anyone who really knows me as an adult can probably guess what irked me most about Hallowe'en... Costumes.

I disliked them then and I dislike them now. In any form. I don't even like wearing uniforms, especially the mandated male office uniform complete with choke chain tie. If you see me in a tie, I love you very much, put it that way.  But you take any costume, from simple to elaborate, and...I'm still me underneath it. I don't know how to be anyone else, and so I guess I never really saw the point. It just felt (and still feels, if I'm being honest) like a huge waste of time and effort to pretend to be something I'm not, when everybody knows it's really just me.

This is one of the big clues that I'm not really human, because it seems like to be a human being, you have to enjoy pretending. While I have a very vivid imagination and always have had, it's almost always imaginated things happening TO me. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with this.

Now, I'm honestly baffled by the way Hallowe'en has morphed into an adult holiday. Pretending always seemed childish to me, and I was in a right hurry to get away from being belittled and called a child. But now adults do it, and they spend BILLIONS.

We haven't even handed out candy in several years, but that, at least, has a couple of non-Ken-centered explanations. Tux and Peach were indoor dogs and it would have drove both of them batty to have the doorbell ringing so often...but then again, the doorbell rang less and less often as fewer and fewer children came trick-or-treating, despite the fact we live across the street from an elementary school. Probably for the same reason so few kids walk to that elementary school (whatever that is).
I'm not being facetious here. Parents act as if there are pedophiles lurking behind every bush. I know, I know, it only takes one, but --

Well, even when I was a kid, you banded together to trick-or-treat. And I had nobody to band together WITH. No family close by, and all my friends lived in books. It sounds pitiful, but you only realize how pitiful it is in hindsight, you know?

All that said....

The underlying, ahem, spirit of Hallowe'en is something I really like. Fear. Never mind the silly costumes--a costume alone isn't frightening unless it's being used to conceal the face of a serial killer or something. Being safely frightened satisfied my need (I did have one) for adventure, while also satisfying my much greater need for security. So I like scary movies (the atmospheric ones, not the torture porn). The scariest ones I know are

  • The House On Haunted Hill (1999)
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  • Alien (1979)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • The Thing (1982)
And I LOVE scary books. Stephen King heads my list for sheer terror. My top three frightfests of his (not everything he writes is frightening, in fact some of his best work is dramatic, not terrifying)
  • The Shining
  • IT
  • and his short story anthologies, particularly NIGHT SHIFT and SKELETON CREW
outside of Stephen King, the scariest books I have read are
  • DUST, by Charles Pellegrino
  • CARRION COMFORT, Dan Simmons
  • THEY THIRST, Robert R. McCammon
  • HOUSE OF LEAVES, Mark Z. Danielewski
  • THE TERROR, Dan Simmons

Scary music: I'm only featuring one track here. I just discovered this. It is, hands down, the most frightening thing I have ever heard.

Henry Cowell -- The Banshee (1925)


Happy Hallowe'en, everyone. 




16 October, 2017

"Me, too"

The last time a a hashtag went viral on this topic, I was there with a blog. I'm here this time, too.


This triggered an AVALANCHE. And that's just the women who chose to come forward. I know MANY others who have not, yet who have confided in me about sexual assault in their history. As a man, I find this infuriating and deeply, deeply saddening.
I have tried very hard through my adult life to be a safe space, particularly for women. I was chatting with one woman last year, a long-distance friend whom I have yet to meet, and she let slip that she was surprised I hadn't sent her a dick pic yet. Or requested a salacious photo of her.  (None of our talk has EVER been even remotely sexual.) I reacted the way you'd expect me to react: flabbergasted. "I've never sent an unsolicited dirty picture," I said, "and I never will."
"It's funny," she replied. "You've treated me so well, I'd probably oblige if you asked for one."

That was over a year ago and I still haven't. Nor will I. There is a place for that kind of thing--within a relationship, and consented to ahead of time. But many men don't seem to grasp this.

Do dick-pics work? Better or worse than website ads? I've never clicked a website ad in my life and neither has anyone I know, but somebody must or they wouldn't be there. Are there really women who survey all the dicks on offer looking for the best one to ride? Somehow I doubt it.  But it sure doesn't stop men from sending them.

Warning: whatever your gender, don't read this if you want to keep your blood pressure down.

According to this article that was actually published in the National Review,

  • yes, men see women as sex objects
  • no, this is not misogynistic (!)
  • feminism is to blame for denying this "basic reality", that "just about every woman and man who ever lived prior to the 1960s" knew. 
  • this is tied to leftism because "leftists" like to deny reality--they say, for example, that 'Islam' means 'peace' when in reality it means 'submit'; they say that human nature is fundamentally good when in reality it is of course fundamentally evil. And so on. 
I'm not going to touch those last points just yet. I'd first like to goggle at the first three points.

They go so far as to 'prove' it's not misogyny by suggesting that homosexual men see MEN as sex objects, are they man-haters? (Ken would say: emphatically YES. If you reduce another human being to a set of genitalia, you are dehumanizing that person.) Or lingerie. What purpose does it serve besides turning a woman into a sex object? (Ken: a woman wearing lingerie is still a WOMAN, not a hole.)

Men are profoundly visual, we are told, and somehow that excuses men seeing women as their personal fuck-toys. Guess what? A third of women watch porn.

We learn that "Every normal heterosexual man who sees a woman as a sexual object can also completely respect her mind, her character, and everything else non-sexual about her. Men do this all the time. "

Oh, really? A sexual object is something that a man feels entitled to. A man is NOT entitled to a woman, whatever his thoughts on the matter are. To the extent you see a woman as a sexual object, that's the extent to which you do not respect her as a fully fledged, autonomous human being. A sex object exists for your gratification. A PERSON....does not. If you need a sexual object that badly, try your hand. May I suggest you sit on it for a while first? That way it goes numb, and you can pretend the hand belongs to someone else. Until you shed this need for sexual objects, that's about as close as you should get to real, live women.

Let's go back in the mists of prehistory...before the 1960s. Back in those halcyon days, marital rape was legal. So was domestic abuse, to a point. Wives could not apply for credit without their husband's consent. Women were NOT equal partners in the vast majority of their relationships. This is the 'reality' some conservatives want us to return to, "when a man was a man and a woman knew her place".

Fuck that, says I. Fuck it sideways.

If I didn't hold the liberal belief, supposedly opposed to reality, that human nature is fundamentally good...I wouldn't bother with this. There'd be no point: if people are fundamentally bad, then we should just accept rape culture: "boys will be boys". No. People have the ability to learn. We've learned quite a lot just in the past century. Gay people are people. Black people are people. Women are people. Hell, we're starting to think maybe trans people might be people too. (Hint: they are.) Notice the common thread here? People are people and should be respected as such. This is not rocket surgery. The fact we have progressed as far as we have suggests that people CAN learn, notwithstanding the people who choose not to.

I'm going to tackle this in more detail later. It boggles the mind, the differences between the liberal and conservative mindsets that are laid bare in articles like this. We really are different species of human at this point, with vastly different perceptions of reality. But in the meantime, I have a suggestion for other men.

Other men: for one week, pretend every woman you interact with at work and out on the street...pretend that each of those women is in fact a man. Pretend HARD. Notice all the things you suddenly don't do. You likely don't feel the urge to talk down to another man. You certainly don't tell him he has a nice cock. I doubt you automatically think that the 'man' over there wants you to fuck him, and I'd imagine you wouldn't say anything to that effect. In short, you don't see men as sex objects. Stop seeing women that way.

And women: This man accepts his share of the blame for not doing enough, for not calling out every instance of rape culture he's run across (and there have been many). He resolves to do better. He understands that when you say "#YesAllMen", you don't mean him--but you could, if you don't know him, and that's the point. He promises to stand for, and with, you, and to respect your autonomy and agency utterly.













13 October, 2017

17 years




Eva was in the shower this morning -- our favourite talking grounds -- and I was musing aloud about what I could possibly write after all this time to commemorate our anniversary. "Tell them about the annoyances," she said, and I thought two things: well, isn't THAT romantic and also awfully short blog.
Oh, they're there, all right, for both of us. Ken can't seem to remember to put the lid on things, or (less of a problem lately) clean the outsides of things. (He just wrote "less of a problem lately" only to be confronted with a dirty pan, argh).  He's occasionally ignorant of his surroundings (perhaps "occasionally" is the wrong word; perhaps "often" would be a better way to put it). There are plenty others on my side, I'm sure.

Eva will create a little garbage pile within reach of the garbage can rather than use it. And...

...and that's it. There is no other quotidian habit of my wife's that annoys the ever-loving piss out of me.  In fact, there's only one other thing at all that frustrates me in this house on a regular basis:


  • Ken does something wrong
  • Ken is informed he did something wrong
  • Ken tries to fix the thing he did wrong
  • "well it's too late now, don't bother"
And that's my failure, not hers. In seventeen years, I haven't gotten it through my dense head which wrong things can be fixed and which should just be left, despite Eva's complaint. It leaves me nonplussed and chagrined, already feeling stupid and called out for the wrong thing, but unable to make it right. Grrrrrrr.

I have to say, if sustained and serious thought concerning "what drives you batshit about your spouse" yields just two entries, there's a lot going right in your marriage.

________________

We've done a LOT of living in the seventeen years since my dad led a conga line into the bathrooms and out on to the street on our wedding night. I've lost meaningful contact with two of the people who stood on my side at that wedding, and so has Eva with two people on her side. We have experienced delirious ups (the Disney trip for our tenth being the uppest of them so far) and more than a few crashing downs as well (navigating Eva's mental and physical well-being post-bariatric surgery has been challenging, to say the least, and she found my bout with depression difficult as well)
 We've been comfortably well off and so financially tight that there was no breathing room whatsoever. 

Through it all, there have been sustaining qualities. Looking back, the character of our marriage was set early on. We honeymooned at the Bonnie View Inn on Lake Kashagawigamog (I love saying that out loud) near Haliburton. One night from  that honeymoon stands out all this time later: she on the couch, me on the floor, playing Mad Gab and watching some really scary horror flick about an abandoned mental asylum. 

If you haven't played Mad Gab, the idea is to figure out what "Ice Bank Mice Elf" actually says. Or--the one that still provokes cackles all these years later,

"Nose Hole Is Sitting"

Something about those four words in that order struck us funny, and our shared laughter fed on itself until both of us were practically crying, shouting at each other "your nose hole is sitting!" Neither of us could figure out what the real phrase was ("No Soliciting"), probably because we were laughing so hard we couldn't breathe, and to this day, whenever we see a "no soliciting" sign, it must be said: "Nose Hole Is Sitting!"

The in-jokes like that are thick thick thick on the ground. Sources for them include our shared favourite authors (Spider Robinson, Robert Heinlein, Stephen King); shared favourite TV shows (primarily The Simpsons and the Seth MacFarlane universe); and what seems like dozens of different comedians who have filled our lives with laughter. Seemingly neutral phrases like "every once in a while" will cause grins every time. Each day is chock-full of excuses to smile. 

We don't fight often at all. 

At this point, there's not much to fight about, really. We know each other well enough to accurately forecast reactions to a wide range of stressors, and we're always there for each other to share pain and joy.  We have achieved equilibrium....peace...balance. We are good for and to each other. That's what keeps us going. 

You're waiting for me to bring up others. So was she. In the shower this morning, after I'd poo-pooed the idea of writing about petty annoyances, she suggested I take as a theme "what keeps us together after all this time". I said, "well, that's pretty simple...I've got all I could ever want here." And Eva, always so quick to minimize herself, thought I was referring to our open relationship. 

I wasn't.

Other relationships are, as I believe I just said and have said all along, their own things, to be celebrated in their own time and space (and cherished every day, just as this one is).  In this marriage, we give and receive unconditional love, support, and acceptance. We have enriched each other's lives beyond measure, and I'd marry Eva all over again given half a chance.

Happy sweet seventeen, love. I love you.



 



11 October, 2017

Comparison Is The Thief of Joy







"Think of some miraculous thing. Any wonderful object, okay? The moment there are two of them, one is second-rate. Once there are three, one is mediocre and one is the worst. Comparison sometimes kills wonder..." 
--Spider Robinson


All our lives, we are conditioned to compare.

We live in a consumer society. Now, as Spider Robinson ALSO says, there is a term for people who do not consume, and that term is "dead". But our world has increasingly defined us as consumers first and human beings second, and that's one of about ten million ways this world is seriously out of whack.

Walk down a grocery dairy aisle. Note the yogurt. In most stores in this province there are four major yogurt suppliers; in larger stores there may be three or four minor players on top of that, not counting the store's own brand, which is manufactured by one of the Big Four (and that last fact is often hidden by nondisclosure agreements; companies are loth to inform us that they produce the 'cheap knockoff', ESPECIALLY when the 'cheap knockoff' is IDENTICAL in every way to their own branded product).

It's a good bet that a yogurt aisle will have upwards of 200 different products in it. Our customers have one of two reactions to this. They either ignore it completely and fixate on their one preferred kind of yogurt, or they freeze and get flustered. The latter is generally the reaction of the elderly, in my experience, but it happens to everyone (including me)  twice a year when the entire counter gets mixmastered around, with new products added and some deleted.

Comparison is everywhere. Price, "savings", health claims, the presence or absence of various ingredients, the flavour assortment, the type of probiotic, blah blah blah...and that's just yogurt.

We compare everything else. Which is fine. But we also compare people, and that can be problematic.

Social media is particularly bad for this. People tend to curate their timelines on Facebook very carefully, for two reasons: To present the best possible picture of themselves; and because airing dirty laundry is just gauche. And so, as the saying goes, we're comparing our blooper reel to others' highlight reels. It's one reason among many that I don't fully trust exclusively online relationships. Give me the person, not the pixels.

Comparison in relationships is not just problematic, it's potentially lethal. And poly people, who have less reason to compare than monogamous people, are guilty of it more often, it seems. We get insecure about our metamours. What has he got that I don't? I can't make him growl like that, how does she do it? 

Thoughts like this are daunting. Some people would undoubtedly say that if you have a thought like that, you're not cut out for polyamory at all. This is, of course, nonsense. Nearly all of us have experienced the rather self-demeaning sensation that "they're better than I am". The defining factor, though, is the NEXT thought. Mine -- now -- tends to be "so what?"

I know I have qualities that I bring to the relationship table which few others possess, just as I know others bring qualities to the table that I don't have and never will. Likewise, my loves, though they have much in common, also have different qualities and they're each cherished for who they are.

One of the categories of queries that polyamorous people most often field involves comparison, to wit: "who do you love more?" All my life, I have found that to be a nonsensical question. How do you quantify love? Are there really people who say things like "I love you, but only a little bit?"

The people whom I love--be they lovers or friends or family--I love fully and completely. The love manifests in different ways, according to a bunch of factors, but there are commonalities. If I've told you I love you, it means, at a minimum, that I pledge to be emotionally available to you to the absolute best of my ability, now and forever. It means your happiness is essential to my own, to borrow Heinlein's definition. It means I am a safe space for you to be unabashedly yourself in. To me, it seems not just arbitrary but downright cruel to reserve this suite of emotions for just one person.

It ought to go without saying, but must be said anyway: Whether or not there is any physical component to that love is entirely up to you.

Now, there is a very common argument for polyamory -- I've used it myself, many times -- that states that one person can't possibly be another's everything, and further that it is unfair to place that burden on a single soul. I stand by that, while also suggesting that other polyamorous people may see things differently. (The beauty of polyamory, for me, is that it allows you to build your own relationships, using whatever rules and boundaries work for you and your partner(s). 

This from 'ThingsUndone', posted on Reddit here:

"I'll be honest, I've never actually understood the "Can't be everything" opinion espoused so often here. Regardless of how many people I'm seeing, my partners are all "everything" to me. They're not in competition with each other, and they all fulfill me perfectly. There's not one person I would ever date who I wouldn't feel at least mostly fulfilled with in a monogamous context."

This actually IS my poly in theory, in the abstract. Not one soul mate, but soul leaves on the soul tree in the soul forest. In practice, though, respecting differences means appreciating them, and I have found that different people fulfill me in different ways, each very important, the total sum of each person thus just as important as another.

I often say that we don't fall in love with people, we fall in love with sets of qualities. I say this because I have found it to be very true, at least for me. But those qualities are slippery. My big four are, in order:

EMPATHY
INTELLIGENCE
RESILIENCE
HUMOUR

Manifest those four qualities around me and it's a safe bet I will love you. Notice, though, how elastic the latter three are. Empathy is empathy, it's either there or it's not, but the other three show up in all sorts of different ways. Intelligence need not be 'book larnin'. There are, after all, so many different intelligences. Ignorance is no sin to me. WILFUL ignorance very much is.
Resilience? We're all damaged. Well, most of us. The will to overcome that damage, to  become the next greatest version of the greatest vision you ever had about who you are...that's attractive.
Humour, likewise, comes in different forms, most of which I appreciate. About the only so-called "humour" I can't stand is based on, or intended to inflict, pain.

You can perhaps see now how my set of qualities can apply to many, many different people--many more than I have time and energy for. "Love is infinite; time is not."  Those third circle people are important to me.  Even if I've only met you once -- or we've yet to meet -- if I have said 'I love you' to you, it means the same as it does if I say it to someone at my center, or in the second circle. It's at least possible that, given time and circumstance, you and I could be partners someday. If we never reach that state, however, it does not lessen my love one iota, for you or anyone else.

I said all that to say this.


We DO compare. Of course we do. We're human. The trick is to learn to compare with DISCERNMENT rather than JUDGMENT.

You may think the two terms synonymous. They are not. JUDGMENT is “an opinion or estimate, criticism or censure, power of comparing or deciding”. When you judge something, you tend to use strong, inflexible language: "good, bad", "right, wrong". The word has a sense of finality about it, pending appeals ("but...but...I'm not evil!" --"shut up, I judged you evil and evil you are.")

DISCERNMENT is seeing someone or something clearly. And that tends to mean shades of grey, because let's face it, very few people are wholly evil (or wholly good) and "right" and "wrong" are rather subjective in almost all instances. I like to paraphrase Neale Donald Walsch here: "there is no right or wrong, there is only what works and what doesn't, given what you're trying to achieve."

Trivial example: whenever we go to my father's, we take the back way up through Orangeville. This adds probably 45 minutes to what is already a longish drive, and if the idea were to get up there lickety-split, that would be the 'wrong' way to go.  But if you have other considerations that outweigh speed (to you), the route we take, or something like it, is very much 'right'.

 More serious example: You're not going to stress your way to a peaceful existence, by, say, taking the 401 through Toronto rush hour when there's a more scenic route up through Orangeville. So in that sense, stress is "wrong". It's why we're told not to sweat the petty stuff (but by all means go ahead and pet the sweaty stuff...mmmmm...)

But stress serves a purpose, or we wouldn't have it in our emotional arsenal. There are times it is good and proper to stress your face off.

Discernment is recognizing that certain people are better than others (for you, right now) at certain things. Note all the qualifiers there. Were I judging, I would say something like: "you are better than he is at _____, which makes you a better person."

Discernment is personal: it's what speaks to you. Judgment applies a set of external, often rigid standards, usually with no room for extenuating circumstances.

So yes, go ahead and compare your loves. You may even go ahead and say "he is better than she is at_______". Just so long as you don't go for the blanket statements. Because that kind of comparison really is the thief of joy.