29 December, 2016

2016: The Year That Trumped Most of Them





What a year.

We have all seen what's happened in the wider world in 2016. For those of us who care about people on the margins, about peace, and about the planet, the year has been almost inexpressibly shitty, with much deeper shit ahead. The United States has seen fit to elect a cartoon villain. It might be survivable but for the supervillains he's surrounded himself with, starting with his fundycostal veep, Pence, who is just itching to bring about the Last Times. Then you've got
  • a labour secretary who has praised robots as the 'ideal workers';
  • the head of the Environmental Protection Agency who has spent his political career fighting the EPA at every turn;
  • a secretary of health determined to privatize Medicare;
  • a secretary of education who does not believe in public education;
  • a proud and unrepentant racist as attorney-general;
  • an energy secretary who has openly campaigned to eliminate the department he now heads;
...the list goes on. Get ready to see a gang of nihilists in charge. It'll be Reagan on steroids...and I guarantee you, the millions upon millions of people who voted for Donald Trump are going to be mighty pissed when things get worse instead of better for them. Some of them will take up arms. Book it.

Trumpism is spreading, too. You're about to see it erupt all over Europe in the coming year. Not pretty. I have never been so glad to live in Canada as I am right now.

But you didn't come here for the politics, did you? No, you didn't. And let's face it, neither did I. I haven't sworn off politics entirely this year, but I've found that life is ever so much easier if you can just...dim them. It's fitting. Most politicians ARE dim, after all.

The Grammys and Oscars may as well be one giant death montage this year. For me, the hardest hitting death has undoubtedly been Leonard Cohen's. His song You Want It Darker EPITOMIZES this past year. His mix of the profoundly religious and sacrilegious, of love both divine and carnal, all delivered in that inimitable world-weary rasping rumble, will be dearly missed. Go ahead and mourn your Bowies and your Michaels; for me it's Cohen that strikes the deepest chord. Then again, there are still two more days left in the year as I write this. Plenty of time for more death and despair.

_______________

Personally, well, this year has trumped most of them. 

When it started, we were just beginning to climb out of the cellar that 2015 had thrown us in. Eva had not yet returned to work; I was stuck on nights; financially we were still walking a greased tightrope on stilts, blindfolded.

Eva's had some ups and downs but is doing just fine, overall. This despite hitting two deer in the space of three months (or maybe it was the same deer with a deathwish). The first time it barely grazed the front bumper. The second time, it totalled our truck. She was fine both times--the second, only bruises and a scratch from the airbags deploying.

It really is amazing just how resilient Eva has proven herself, yet again, to be. She's the original Weeble: she wobbles, but she doesn't fall down. Such an amazing woman. I love her so much. There is nothing we can't face together; indeed, it seems as if we've faced most of it down already.


_______________


I'm on days, which is much better for my sanity. I was the meat department manager for three months almost to the day when I was hauled into the office, told that I had not been trained properly (no excrement, Holmes!) or "placed in a position to succeed" and so, rather than train me properly and put me in such a position, they made me department manager of Pets and Seasonal. Where not training someone isn't quite so critical, you understand. Welcome to Walmart. 

What this has meant in practice so far as stocking a whole lot of housewares and toys, with side excursions into health and beauty, stationery, and (yay!) frozen and dairy for a week after the full time F/D guy walked out in the middle of a shift. I've barely spent any time in my own departments until this past week. To be fair, neither has anyone else. The title "department manager" is largely a misnomer. You go where you're put and do what you're told. Welcome to Walmart.



I miss food.  I've spent sixteen years labouring in fridges and freezers; this side of the store has me POURING sweat every day. On the positive side, I'm learning more and more of the store and will probably be trained on cash in 2017. If their cash training is anything like the rest of their training, though, I'm going to be falling back on ancient 7-Eleven knowledge.

___________

I cut a friend out of my life early on this year, and regret doing so. She really was and is a wonderful person, but I couldn't overcome a vast gulf between us. It wasn't politics, although hers were radically different from mine: it was class. She moves in different circles and revelled in telling you about them. I repeatedly told her how uncomfortable that made me, and she repeatedly pooh-poohed me and said I was insecure.  She was right, of course, but it didn't lessen my antipathy towards hearing about her cotillion of wealthy friends every time I talked to her. Money in and of itself has never impressed me. Most of my friends don't have a lot of it and those who do don't make a point of flaunting it. 

I've been cut out of a family member's life myself this year, and, well, so it goes. I'm a part of his past, now, and perhaps that's as it should be. He has started a new life and I wish him every happiness in it.

Best to dwell on the friends and family who are still here. It makes for a lengthy, almost awe-inspiring list.

CRAIG. You still amaze me. You are a man who has learned to play the melody of life with passion and panache. I respect you. Admire you. Love you.

SUE.  In all my life, I have never been in awe of a human being as much as I am in awe of you. You should know this: I was talking with Eva back in the summer, admiring the strength that is in her (and there is, as I wrote above, a hell of a lot of it). "I don't hold a candle to Sue", she said, and while the immediate urge as a devoted husband is to categorically deny a statement like that...neither of us could. Or can. You, too, are respected, admired, and loved.

GLITCH. He threw me a birthday party in February, and while I haven't seen anywhere near enough of the guy, I know we've got a friendship than can withstand long periods apart. He's a phenomenal father to his son, a fiercely intelligent and well-rounded personality, and...yeah. Respect. Admiration. Love.

Speaking of long periods apart, JASON.  My room-mate, twice, in university. We were each other's best man, and he's still one of the best men I've ever had the privilege to meet, let alone (is this getting old yet?) respect, admire, and love.

NICOLE. It seems like the really good friends just kind of happen. You just kind of happened, and I'm glad you did. A more caring and genuine person would be tough to find. Thank you for everything this year and every year.

ASHLEA. Yet another woman -- I keep seeming to find them -- who is stronger than she thinks she is. Life has thrown a lot at you, Ashlea...you are rising above it.  Keep being the light: you dispel darkness not just in yourself, but in all those around you. You are loved. By many more than just me. Never forget that.

MELANIE. You're going to be missed. I hope you know that. Thank you for being such a good friend over the past five years. I hope that distance doesn't get in the way of the next five.

AMY. Finally heard your voice this year, and so glad I did. We may never meet (although I sure hope I'm proven wrong, there), but I love you anyway, no less for being so far away.You are strength, you are grace, you are perseverance, and I love you.

SARAH. There are some people who can change your life in a matter of hours. You've done that, for me. I am astounded at your eloquence, your drive, and your generosity of spirit. You have reframed my perception of myself and made so much possible. Thank you. Thank you so much. And please stop putting yourself down. You have no need to. None.

CAROLINE. Again with the inner strength that you don't always see and I never miss. You're so easy to talk to and so quietly supportive. I am glad to count you among my friends.

I could go on (and on, and on) and I don't want to give anyone the impression that we've now reached, how do I say this, the "lesser lights". Nothing could be further from the truth -- see here if you don't believe me. Some of you are in the outer ring of my life  -- Scotti, Brinn, Laurel, Chris, Mandy,  Rachel and Rachael, just to name seven of many -- but you're no less loved for so being.

__________________________


Eva and I have lived happily with my metamour, Mark, since May.  I was prepared for any number of rough edges to have to be sanded down; to my surprise, everything has gone almost frictionlessly. There hasn't even been much strife over housemate things.
Eva has damned good taste in partners, but that shouldn't come as any sort of shock: she married me, after all. Mark has been a more than welcome addition to this house and to (both of) our lives.

Security comes first from inside of you. Then, if you are very lucky, you will be in a position to find other people who also possess that same sort of security, and build some sort of family or community as a team.
--Anthony D. Ravenscroft

As far as I am concerned, we are family.

I have been quiet about that last point. Maybe a little too quiet. I'm not about to start screaming it from the rooftops. But it's a conviction of mine and I do hope that, moving forward, people will make an effort to respect it, even if they don't understand it. It bothers me when Mark is excluded.

_________

...she stood before him just as she was made to be, no lies, no judgment, no fake smile. She showed him the storm that raged within her, the strength of her heart, the stubbornness of her will and the soul that burned like fire and he,,,,, He took all she had to offer….. saw the beauty amongst the chaos… stared every flaw, every doubt and every fear in the face. He saw her spirit and ran free with it….he showed her the fire that ran wild within his own soul and together…. despite the storms of life….. together they set each other ablaze and danced in the flames.
--Mary Huber




I have found new love myself this year.

I'm sorry for the cliché, but it really did hit like lightning from the blue. Or the purple, in this case. It struck fast, hard, and deep. There is so much I could write here. The problem is that the English language is not designed for this spin on this topic.
I can say I've never loved anyone this way, which is true, and most people will then discount my saying that I've never loved anyone the way I love Eva, either, which is also and equally true.
No matter what I write, you're going to have the urge to compare, and somebody is going to come up short in the comparing. Probably Eva, because it's taken as read that new love must displace existing love.

No.

There is no better and no worse. There is different, which can be undeniably delicious, and there is the known--and pace the common saying, familiarity breeds contentment, not contempt.  There is a tapestry of different colours, each colour indispensable, contributing to the whole.  There are new ways of seeing, new things to learn, new things to teach...all of which have come from both my partners.


Just as I have been with Mark, Eva has been nothing but supportive of Kathy and I. Unwaveringly so. Just as between Mark and I, it is clear there is mutual respect between them. It has been truly wonderful, beyond my dreams, to be a part of such abundance. I'd say I couldn't be happier, but 2016 has found ways of proving that wrong repeatedly. I can't wait to see what next year holds in store for all of us.

________________

Song of the year is dedicated to both Eva and Kathy.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 be full of love, laughter and joy for every one of my readers.

The Commitments

I know I said that barring something catastrophic, there would only be one more post for 2016.

I lied.

That post is still being written and rewritten. In the meantime, I'm off today, I stumbled across an article that by turns intrigued and offended me, and I feel like writing.

Article here: "Why Some People Just Won't Commit".

It's a short article, and it barely even offers a stab at the question its title poses. It got me thinking about commitment, though, and how I view it. It also coins the term "ambivalationship", and then offers a definition of that term I am uncomfortable with. It's a great word: I have a better meaning for it which I think describes more than a few relationships I have seen and even been in.

Before I get to that article, permit me to ramble.

When I first outed myself -- accidentally -- as polyamorous, I was subjected to a barrage of invective that would have knocked me flat if I hadn't steeled myself against it. "Why did you get married if you were just going to fuck around?" was the first response and it went downhill from there.

"Why did you get married if you were just going to fuck around?"

I didn't hear the proper comeback to that for more than two years. The proper comeback is, of course, "why did you buy a house if you're just going to visit other houses?"

I've explained several different rationales for polyamory in my musings since, and I'm not about to repeat any of that here. But I want to talk about the wrongness, for me, in "just fucking around".

The "for me" is important. There are many marriages and long-term partnerships in which "fucking around" is an accepted part of the order of things. Many of them. There is nothing wrong with "just fucking around" if it is conducted ethically, i.e. with the knowledge and consent of all involved. 

But "just" fucking around is not for me. And I think the reason why can be traced to being largely friendless for most of my formative years. Simply put: I don't like to let people go.

This isn't to say I won't. If someone makes it clear to me that their relationship with me no longer serves their highest purpose in life, I would be some kind of monster to insist the relationship continue. But on my end: I commit. 

I committed to Eva in 1999 and formalized that commitment the next year. The commitment was one of the easiest decisions I ever made: having lived without her for 27 years, I simply couldn't imagine living without her again. The marriage? For me, it had several important functions.

  • It was a very public announcement of the commitment we had made to each other. That appealed to me. It still does. It is a strong statement, made in full view of anyone who cared enough to see it, that this relationship matters
  • Our vows concluded with "I marry you, and bind my life to yours". The word "bind" was deliberately chosen to symbolize not just the commitment, but the strength of it. 
  • I am a child of divorce; my wife is a product of a family with several long term marriages. We got married in the same church her parents had. I saw a lot of mistakes made growing up. I couldn't guarantee I wouldn't make some of them myself, but I sure didn't (and don't) want to.
  • Marriage confers certain legal benefits. This was far, far, far from top of mind for me, but it did register.
Eva is not the only commitment I've made in my life. Far from it. She's the only one I have formalized. As of right now, concurrent commitments can not be formalized to the same degree (although I just discovered it is possible for a person in Canada to be simultaneously legally married and in one or more common-law relationships, which is really cool). 

There is also handfasting. This is a Pagan and Wiccan tradition, dating back to the ancient Celts. It was originally a betrothal period, a sort of "trial marriage",  lasting a year and a day. (Aside: not a bad idea, that. Many marriages dissolve in the first year, after all.)  Now, handfasting  is an element of a commitment ceremony: not legally binding in and of itself, but symbolically binding "for as long as love shall last". 

I like that. I like the public declaration of it. I like what, as the link says, is the "focused intent". ("Focused intent" is merely another way to say "magic".) I would not be averse at all to a ceremony of commitment, to whatever degree suited. with another partner. I would joyfully attend my partner's ceremony of commitment to another. And that's because commitment means a great deal to me. A great deal.

So when I see an article titled "Why Some People Just Won't Commit", it interests me in the same way an alien species would prove interesting to a scientist. 

Unfortunately, this article doesn't have much meat to it, and it is more than a little normative in its definition of "commitment". Marriage is the only commitment worth making, it seems to say, which is certainly not my experience of life. 

Those who refuse to "commit"

tend to be people whose past romantic relationships have ranged from disappointing to disastrous; therefore, they are reluctant to arrange the next possible "failure." Sometimes they are people for whom life, in general, has been a series of unresolved issues and existential confusion and so they may not be able to commit to anything, let alone a romantic partner.

I think the first commitment you must make is to yourself: determine what it is you wish to experience in life. Follow that, and don't waver from it (much less allow someone to pull you off your chosen path), unless or until you choose again.  The second commitment you must make is also to yourself, in a way: it's to those people (and yes, that's very deliberately plural) who best embody the next greatest version of the grandest vision ever you had about Who You Are. Those who do not contribute to that vision must be allowed to walk their own paths.

Enter the "ambivalationship". The writer defines this as a state in which both people in a relationship


...want the relationship, and even seem to want it to be permanent. They act and feel like half of a typical marital relationship, and yet they resist the conventional route that long-term couples generally travel, i.e., marriage.

Oh, hello there, relationship escalator.

Marriage was an important declaration FOR ME. It isn't for everyone. It is certainly not necessary for a fulfilling life. Nor it is a necessary component of fulfilling relationships--and come on, this is not rocket surgery: we all have friends we're not married to, after all.
I know people who did go through a disastrous marriage (or even two) and vow never again...only to meet someone who isn't disastrous and eventually marry them. I know others who have been through those disasters, vowed never again...and kept their vow. And I know still others who never married at all, had the full range of relationships from disastrous up to transcendent and all of these choices are valid. Further, there is nothing ambivalent about them. They are conscious choices freely made.

Ambivalationship. Great word. Shitty definition.

What if an ambivalationship is defined as a relationship in which one party is pulling towards a greater degree of formalization of commitment and another is not?  The article even details one such relationship, and laments the lack of communication.

"I feel like I'm not in control of my life...she is."

I heard this recently and immediately called bullshit. Probably a little too hastily.

I mean, in one sense, you're always in control of your own life: to cede control, to cede agency, to another person is to give up your freedom. Even in bondage and discipline, the sub willingly gives up their freedom to the Master, within parameters set and agreed to, and is much more in control of the relationship than may be apparent. If you are unwillingly giving up autonomy, there are two possibilities. Either your partner is a sociopath, or you're weak and dependant.

But there's that damned relationship escalator to consider. How many people take the next step on that fucker because it's the expected thing to do? Because parents, siblings, and society in general demand it? How many people sacrifice their own long term happiness to the gaping maw of societal approval?

If you and your partner(s) agree to move up the escalator, by all means do so. If you don't, you're in an ambivalationship...and resentment is building somewhere. It's best not to proceed, let alone formalize, in that situation...the more you unwillingly invest, the more your partner will view it as a willing investment.

Define yourself. Define your life. Define your commitment(s). And don't be ambivalent about any of it.




24 December, 2016

So This Is Christmas...

With some (very) welcome exceptions, once again it doesn't feel much like Christmas 'round the Breadbin.

I'm working, of course, just as I was last year. Just like last year, I work Boxing Day, too. Unlike last year, I'm working days both days: 7-3:30 on Christmas Day, and 6-2:30 on Boxing Day. A lark I may be, but four in the morning is going to make me feel like boxing somebody. 
I worked 9:30-6 today, Christmas Eve, which at least afforded me the opportunity to sleep in a little. I needed it. It's been more than a little hectic.
For just this week, I...almost...wish I were back on night shift. Nights is easier, simply by virtue of the fact there are no customers. Don't get me wrong, customer service is my favourite part of the job, but at this time of year my store could easily employ three or four wandering ambassadors to serve customers full time. I can't bring a customer to a product without three others interrupting.  And the questions they ask!
I'm in Pets and Seasonal now, which, this being Walmart, doesn't preclude people from asking me fashion questions better directed to someone on the other end of the store a couple of hundred meters away from me. Or toys, which abuts my departments. Dear god, toys. We have eight aisles of toys and you may as well just toss them like a giant salad every day. Ask me if we sell something in toys and I have to pull out my phone, navigate to Walmart.ca, search the website for your toy, bring it up, type in the eight digit Walmart item number, and tell you it's out of stock.
Like the gift tags. I haven't had any for a week now. In typical Walmart fashion, I have no opportunity to find out WHY I don't have any, much less, oh, I dunno, ORDER them. Not a good thing to be out of. Everybody needs gift tags, right?
So help me, I had people asking for trees today. We actually have five left, but they all look like Charlie Brown's tree.
It was an absolute zoo in there for the last five days. I'd come in each morning and it would look like a bunch of hurricanes had an orgy in my department. God forbid ANYONE ever puts something back where they found it.

Set all this to seven different arrangements of Last Christmas and you have a fair approximation of hell.  
I don't hate that carol quite as much as I did before I decided to put a poly spin on it, but SEVEN different arrangements? Why, dear Jesus who couldn't POSSIBLY have been born at this time of year because shepherds don't watch their flocks by night in the winter, WHY? There are nearly eighty thousand unique carols. Why must I only hear ten?
We have this year's Timmy Turkey (so called because he's too small to be a tom) ready to go for dinner tomorrow, so that's Christmassy.  And I do have time off coming. It can't get here soon enough.

Barring some major development, this will be the second last blog of 2016.  I want to wish all my readers a merry Christmas if you celebrate it; substitute a happy December 25th if you don't. Oh, and since nobody ever wishes you a happy Boxing Day, I'll wish you that, too. May your holiday be filled with love, laughter and good cheer. 



17 December, 2016

What Matters

Over in the sidebar, you'll find this blog's purpose: "Presenting pixellated portions of personal philosophy, polyamory, and occasional political poppycock for your perusal".
The political has largely been supplanted by the personal over time, and the poly is (mostly) new. I don't write many political posts anymore because people don't tend to read them. However, every once in a while something comes along that I feel compelled to write about, and here it is.

Ryan Hudson, a former Marine and now former Michigan firefighter, was, ahem, fired because of a Facebook post.

On Facebook, Hudson and a woman named Tarvenia got into a heated conversation about race. Tarvenia told Hudson that 'Black Lives Matter'. And Hudson had this to say in response:

Fuck Black Lives Matter. You are the epitome of a nigger. All lives matter. And if you think it’s just black lives, kiss my ass bitch and go back to the fields that us in the north fought to free you from.

I find this darkly amusing, actually, and I'll tell you why. I've run across two common ways to frame "Black Lives Matter". And one of them involves firefighting.

click to embiggen

Officially, Hudson was fired because he couldn't be trusted to do his job. Would he save a black person in a fire?  That may sound like hyperbole to you, but people who held views just like Hudson's burned black people alive for sport. Read any history text  on the Southern U.S. in the 1950s and 60s, or even something fictional like Greg Iles' Natchez Burning trilogy (a hell of a read, that one) and the matter-of fact, casual, brutal and blatant racism will shock you. Even if you know people were racist back then, having your face shoved in just how racist is sobering, to say the least.

That racism, I probably need not remind you, has not gone away. Witness the apoplectic reaction to "Black Lives Matter", which is INCLUSIVE, not EXCLUSIVE. Nobody who says "Black Lives Matter" is suggesting that somehow White Lives Don't Matter. Everybody knows White Lives Matter. They always have mattered more than anyone else's. That's called white privilege, and if you don't think it exists, Google "criming while white". Or, alternatively, ask yourself whether Obama would have been elected in 2008 if he had borne children by three different women and went around bragging about grabbing them by the pussy.

Hudson is only the latest in a long line of people who have been fired for expressing hateful views, or what certain individuals on the rightward end of the spectrum (and the redward end of the necktrum) insist is exercising their right to free speech. (More on this foolishness later.) Before him, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, a director of a West Virginia nonprofit, was suspended after using social media to call First Lady Michelle Obama "an ape in heels". Taylor now has her job back,  apparently because West Virginia. 

There have been many other people who have been fired and/or suffered serious consequences because of hateful stupidity on social media. Here are some famous cases; and here are some Canadian incidents. Let's talk about "free speech" for a moment here, because many people seem to have this idea that it means they can say whatever they want without consequence. It means no such thing, and never did. 

In the United States, there are a large number of restrictions written into the First Amendment.  There are differences both subtle and profound in Canadian jurisprudence. But in both countries,  your speech is only deemed free from government consequence. Private entities can choose to assert their own consquences for your utterances. So can society at large. I choose not to associate with bigots, misogynists, and homophobes, for example.

As I wrote above, there once was a time when respected figures of society - judges, doctors, police officers -- routinely beat up, raped, even murdered black people for fun, and openly bragged about it. In other words, the goalposts have moved... a lot. Sixty years ago, being black (or gay, or trans, or, or, or...) was the problem. Now, hating blacks (or gays, or trans people, or, or, or...) is the problem. And people lamenting the loss of their free speech are really just pissed that somebody moved their goalposts. 

I used to unthinkingly say a variant of #AllLivesMatter. Violence against anyone -- man, woman, child, animal -- has always really bothered me, and I used to think that anti-violence-against-women campaigns were well-meaning but narrowminded: we should be against all violence, I would commonly argue.

And maybe we should, but as "mutilated memories" says:

Men get sexually assaulted, men get abused, men have toxic gender stereotypes that they are expected to live up to. This is a problem, and I am more than willing to have discussions about this, and talk about what can/should be done to change these things etc, if you bring it up as its own topic. 

 HOWEVER, if you bring these things up as an attempt to override discussions about women, I will not listen to you. If you really cared about men’s issues you’d bring it up at other times, not only when we’re discussing women. That’s not you caring about men’s issues, that’s you not wanting to talk about women’s issues because you want everything to be about men.

I often hear those same Rob Ford/Stephen Harper/Donald Trump supporters disparaging how "complicated" all this is. It's not complicated.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS NOT COMPLICATED AT ALL.

I've posted this before, and find I must again:

click to embiggen




11 December, 2016

Apologies in Advance To Those Whom I am About to Offend

I'm as mild-mannered and easygoing a man as you're likely to meet. I'm always trying to bring people to the center, be that of an issue or of a group.

But I hold views some people would find offensive. VERY offensive, even.

I don't often broadcast those views. Confronted with people who believe the opposite, I will gently attempt some kind of centering, and then almost certainly give up. There are some topics on which people's opinions are utterly entrenched, and no amount of argument will move them.

One of those topics came up this morning. And rather than feel my usual inclination to center, I found myself out on the fringe and pulling hard.

A dear friend of mine messaged me to tell me her mother had posted something celebrating the banning of late-term abortions in Ohio. My friend said it bothered her more than it should have (debatable, in my view) and she posted a retaliatory articleshowing the incidence (low) and reasons (almost always severe health risks to the baby or mother) of late term abortions.

Before I get to my offensive view, I'm going to state a conciliatory view on this. The other extreme bothers me, too. You always hear the "pro-choice" position phrased as "women's reproductive rights"--which neatly sidesteps the developing baby. The same people who are pro-choice usually recoil in horror when the issue of eugenics comes up...let alone sex selection. (What do you think the first-order consequence of China's erstwhile one-child policy was? A whole lot of aborted girls, that's what it was).

You will notice that I put "pro-life" in quotes. That's for two reasons. One, I object to the implied suggestion that those who would permit abortion are "pro-death". Very, very few people treat abortion in such a cavalier manner.  More fundamentally, I believe there is only ONE position on this issue, and that is pro-choice. You can be as pro-life as you want: that's a choice, your choice. You do not have the right to inflict that choice on others.

And let's face it, that's exactly what "pro-life" people want to do. My friend's mom called the ban on late term abortions "a step in the right direction". The idea is to ban all abortion, as if banning it will somehow stop it. All banning abortion does is drive it underground...back alleys and coat hangers, with attendant and dire health risks.

Full disclosure of my own experience. I lost my first child to a self-inflicted abortion. I was only told of this after the fact, so I don't have definitive proof of it, but I can't think of a reason someone would lie about such a thing, and it fits with what I recall of the time--my girlfriend locked herself in our bathroom, absolutely forbade me to call for help, was in pain for a week afterwards, and refused to tell me until a year later, in the middle of a vicious break-up, what that was about. She had dismissed it as really bad menstrual cramps, and relied on what she knew was my then-horror of all things menstrual to  ensure I wouldn't question her.

That was the only other time in my life -- other than that incident when I knocked a bully unconscious, I mean -- that a red haze descended over my vision. I was enraged. That was because she had done this without even telling me she had been pregnant. The lack of trust in me was stunning, especially a year removed. I'd suspected for some time that the relationship wasn't, um, optimal, but to find out just how much she'd known so...

Had she just COME to me, we would have talked about it. Had she suggested abortion, I'd have likely acceded to her wishes...but it would have been done safely, under medical supervision. That she would inflict that on herself rather than tell me about it...

Has this shaped my view? You bet it has. I used to feel that, as a man in a permanent state of uteruslessness -- I just love an excuse to say that word out loud -- I wasn't ENTITLED to an opinion on abortion. Now I believe that everyone is entitled to an opnion...and if you don't want an abortion, don't have one.

My real problem is with the zealots. To many (not all) pro-life types, a ban on late-term abortions is but a tiny first step towards the banning of all abortions, because ABORTION IS MURDER.

And here's where I'm going to say something offensive. Fair warning. This is addressed ONLY to the zealots...the people who think ALL abortion MUST be illegal, mother's health be damned, rape and incest be damned.

Here it comes.

*********************************

YOU PEOPLE DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE BABY. WHAT REALLY GRINDS YOUR GEARS is RECREATIONAL SEX.

*********************************

Proof that you don't actually care about the baby? Since when do you "pro-life" fanatics ever mention the circumstances your precious baby is born into? How many unwanted children have you raised, from birth until college, no excuses for crushing poverty, no excuses for the father having abandoned you, no excuses, period? Put up or shut up. You jerks are not "pro-life". What you are is PRO-BIRTH.

Yes, there is adoption, isn't there? We've been through that process, Eva and I. There isn't a single person we have met who has dared to suggest we would have been anything other than great parents--EXCEPT for the social worker who denied us children on the grounds we weren't actually parents already. Thousands and thousands of unwanted kids, drifting from foster home to foster home, and they reject potential parents like us.  That's the fate you'd consign to your precious "life". You know what? FUCK YOU.

Or rather, don't. Because that's your REAL problem, the thought that people are out there being immoral, FORNICATING without consequence. Sex is supposed to lead to babies, that's how (your) god intended it. Hence, in Utah, for example, any woman having or seeking an abortion is a criminal. Hell, many MISCARRIAGES are considered acts of criminal homicide.

You really ought to admit it, you "pro-life" zealots. You ought to admit that you don't care about life, just birth, and that your real issue is women having sex without getting punished for it. It would demonstrate conclusively what century you're living in, and free up the adult discussion we ought to be having about abortion for the adults.

Offended? Good, I hope so.





06 December, 2016

"There's a fine line between love and hate"...

I was talking to Mark this evening about emotions.

My metamour is a fascinating man. In some ways, he and I are very similar; in others, we could not be more different. We both have very large hearts, and we're both quite spiritual, he moreso than I. We're both deep thinkers with a gift for simplifying our deep thoughts.

One way in which we differ enormously is our attitude towards authority. I come from a background in which questioning authority was not encouraged, and I've come to learn, through such oft-cited role models as George Carlin, Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson, that authority must be questioned if evolution is to occur.

Mark's instinctive attitude towards authority could best be termed as intensely distrustful, and he will not just question it but outright defy it if he sees a higher purpose in doing so.

Thanks to a very submissive nature on my part, I question the way I do virtually everything: gently. I have a knack for making waves without rocking boats.

Don't get me wrong: Mark is a very gentle man. But within him is the soul of a warrior, and extremely strong reactions, particularly to injustice, are never far from his surface. I think of him as a modern day incarnation of a Shaolin monk. He has risen to overcome his anger...but has always kept it in reserve, to tap for a higher purpose. I admire that. Often I wish I were like that myself.

I'm not, as a matter of course. As I wrote a couple of posts ago, I will fight viciously in defence of those I love, but it goes against my nature and it takes a toll, both emotional and physical, on me to do it.

We were talking about love, and Mark said something I have heard many times before: "there's a fine, fine line between love and hate".

I've heard it many times before. I've never agreed with it. My disagreement has always been instant and total and unshakeable. Despite my being wary whenever my mind can't be moved--I start checking for hidden blind spots in that case--it still can't be moved on this. Saying "there's a fine line between love and hate" is like saying there's a fine line between hot and cold, or black and white. No, even more absolute: if you hate someone even the tiniest bit, to me that means you not only don't love them, but can't.

I will hastily suggest it is more than possible to hate something that someone has done, or the way in which they have done it, without hating the person themselves.

 I will then, even more hastily, suggest that it is not kosher to hate an expression of one's identity while claiming to still love the person. Usually, this "love the sinner, hate the 'sin'" dictum is applied to homosexuality. "I love gay people, but I hate when they do gay things" is kind of like saying "I love women, but I hate when they menstruate/lactate/give birth": deeply offensive...and patently ridiculous.

Mark gave it the ol' college try, he did, trying to get me to see how love and hate are not at all far removed from each other. "Love," he said, "is an obsessive emotion. So is hate."

"I will grant you that," I said, thinking of how when you first fall in love, you tend to go a little bonkers.

"So," he continued, "bang! You're in love. You do everything together, you learn each other inside and out...and down the road, maybe you grow apart."

Still with you, I thought.

"Love can flip very easily into hate, then."

stop

"No", I said. "You grow apart means you grow apart. Where does the hate come from?"

And he shrugged his shoulders as if to say it just does and I shook my head to say it just doesn't and he called me a highly evolved and extremely mature being.

Oh, Mark, you have worlds left to learn about your metamour. Mature? Moi? Surely you jest.

"No," he insisted. "Your love is not passionate --"

"--oh, yes, it is," I interjected.

"Okay, well, yes, of course that's there, but in your case it's tempered by, and here I'm going to sound a bit daft, but I believe this to be true... something divine in you."

People keep SAYING this about me. It's a good thing I see divinity in everyone, or I'd have a pretty fuckin' big head by now.

I do, you know. See divinity in everyone. I stated eight years ago that we are all special, but no one is more special than anyone else, and if anything that conviction has hardened over time. Heinlein said it before me: "thou art God." And Jesus of Nazareth said it long before him: "Whatsoever you do to the least of these My children, you do to me". (That's one place where it pays to take your Bible literally...)

Another reason it is suggested that love and hate are close cousins is because both involve a great deal of care. If you hate someone, you care about them a lot, just in a negative way. Within this paradigm, the opposite of love is indifference.

That does make sense to me, and it very much true for me: if I love you, I love you without reservation and eternally. I may be capable of maintaining hatred. To be honest, I've never bothered to find out. It takes a lot of energy to even express hatred, and if I'm going to expend that much energy, I'd prefer it to have a positive outcome.

Further: yes, I'm indifferent towards people to whom I don't have a personal connection. That indifference can strike people as cold. Again, it's a matter of conservation of energy, or at least I have always framed it that way: there are a limited number of people I can genuinely care for. That number is regrettably small.

I'm working on this, and I have found my circle of caring has expanded by leaps and bounds over the past year. I have deepened existing connections, created new, highly important ones (including one of the deepest connections I've ever forged), and even I am sometimes surprised by my capacity for love. I'm starting to truly believe that Heinlein was right when he said

“The more you love, the more you can love--and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.”

Even though love and hate have intensity in common, I'm still not convinced that they are close kin, emotionally. Rather, I see love, hate and indifference as vertices A, B and C on an equilateral triangle. (Dear god, he's slipping into math.)  I think that both hate and indifference could be labelled as opposites to love.

And once I have experienced love for someone, I can't even manage indifference, much less hatred. The best I can do is take that love and put it behind a locked door...to which I let it be known they still possess the key.

Don't get me wrong... sometimes, in the interest of love, it is necessary to walk away from someone, either because your presence no longer serves their highest good, or because their presence no longer serves yours. This is called 'divergence', and I can't for the life of me understand why so many people lapse into hatred at this point. It's life. It happens. Why keep someone in a relationship that no longer serves their highest good?  Love is freedom, not possessiveness.

This last strikes many as a cavalier attitude. He's just going to up and leave her when he decides she's no longer of value to him.

NO.

No, no, a thousand times no. I don't leave people's lives unless it's made crystal clear to me that this is what is desired. The relationship may well change form, but such a change would be mutually agreed upon, not unilateral at all. That is what is meant by "the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship".

I believe that love and hate, just like love and indifference, are mutually exclusive states. Ideally, we should come at everything and everyone from a perspective of love; there aren't all that many people who have managed to live up to that ideal in the whole of human history. I'm certainly not one of them, not by a long shot. But I'm trying. And I get a little better at it with every passing year.


03 December, 2016

Why Aren't There Christmas Cards for Metamours?

(Newbies: if you don't know what a metamour is, go here and read this: I wrote it shortly before meeting mine for the first time. And if this is your first exposure to a whole new world, I can think of no better atlas of that world than you'll find right here.)

Metamours are important relationships in polyamory. I make the point repeatedly that it is not necessary to be best friends with your metamour(s), but it is critical that their presence be acknowledged and respected. That's what separates polyamory -- the practice of engaging in multiple committed relationships with the knowledge and consent of all involved--from cheating.

If you don't like the term "metamour", often abbreviated "meta",  there are lots of others you can use. It's hard to misconstrue "my partner's wife" or "my boyfriend's husband" (although you're sure to cause a few double-takes if you casually drop that into conversation). I kind of like "lover-in-law".  "POSO" is used by some; that's "Partner's Other Significant Other". Hell, "co-conspirator" might work in certain contexts.

Particularly close metamours might call themselves "sister wives", which is a term that makes me queasy because of its polygamist origin...and here I find I must digress and define some terms.

Polygamy: the practice of multiple marriage, which is usually

Polygny: one man having multiple wives

but can also be

Polyandry: one woman having multiple husbands.

In the same way polyamory is often misinterpreted as some weird sex fetish thing, polygamy is almost always imagined as one man with a harem of (often) much younger 'wives', most or all of whom have been coerced into their position and none of whom are permitted partners of their own. It's not always this way, of course, but it is often this way, and at the first sign of coercion, I am deeply uncomfortable.

I got into a discussion with a Muslim on a polyamory forum the other day. He insisted that Islam was fully on board with polyamory because one man can have up to four wives. He bristled when I replied that since the wives couldn't have partners of their own, it wasn't poly as far as I was concerned.

Semantically, of course, I'm wrong.  Morally, I believe I'm right. I am extremely offended when people place limits on the behaviour of others but don't subject themselves to those same limits. It's why I react so harshly to the one penis policy.

At any rate. Metas. You may live with one (or more); he may be an occasional guest; you may not have actually met her (sometimes it's impractical, as may be the case with "comets"--rarely seen partners who connect with your partner every once in a blue moon). Regardless, it's at the very least a nice gesture to acknowledge people who are that important to your partner.

Polyamory and other forms of ethical non-monogamy are growing in popularity. Surely it's only a matter of time before Hallmark recognizes an untapped market. Maybe it'll happen around the same time Google's spell check no longer flags "metamour" (or "compersion" or "polycule" or any number of other common poly terms).

I am the strangest mix of incurable romantic and almost cold realist, and this dichotomy shows up no more clearly than with greeting cards. I will keep the first card you give me forever, and pull it out and look at it every once in a while and experience the same rush of feeling I did the first time I saw it. Subsequent cards will likely be read, appreciated...and in the recycling bin before the day is out. If you choose not to give me a card at all, I won't miss it; your presence is more of a message than any card. And I'm much more likely to write my own message to you, which may or may not include poetry, than to buy you some canned verse on a piece of cardboard.

But that's me. In case you haven't noticed, I'm a wee bit...weird. Most other people give cards: Christmas is the one time of year the postal service gets used for anything besides junk. So yes, I think there should be cards for metamours. Cards that encapsulate this...because this is simply beautiful.