The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and, except where explicitly stated, do not represent those of any other person or corporate entity.

20 January, 2018

Rule 33

Rule 34: 'If it exists, there is porn of it'.
Rule 33: If it exists, I have overthought it.
Rule 33(b): 'If it does not exist, I have overthought it into existing'.


"My name is Ken B. and I'm an overthinker."
"Hi, Ken."

"Can I say just how nervous I am, here in this room with a group of strangers? I've never felt at ease in groups like this, because what are you all thinking about me?"
"We're not. Ken, we're not thinking of you at all. Oh, shit."
"Damn it, you mean you're not thinking about me AT ALL? I'M RIGHT HERE!"
"That's not what I meant, Ken, you know that. Calm down, deep breaths. You have our undivided attention in a non-threatening way. Why don't you tell us some of your background?"

Ugh, where do I begin. "I guess it started back in my pre-teens. I was a lonely kid, a bullied kid, a kid deeply uncomfortable in his own skin. It felt as if I was the only one of my kind on the planet. Other boys seemed to fit in so easily, and I -- round peg, square hole, you know? ''Take care of those you call your own, and keep good company'. Except I was my own company, and I wasn't very good for myself. At that age, the opinions of others form the basis of our own opinions about ourselves, and I internalized a lot of shitty opinions about myself. Worse, I couldn't understand them. Why did people hate me so much? I didn't mean anyone any threat. But the other kids my age were like aliens. Or maybe I was, it was easier to think that maybe I was the alien. I was in school to show off what I'd learned; they seem to be in school to show off. They were into violent movies, and later, violent videogames; I've always been into creation, not destruction. They got drunk and high to run away from their thoughts; I was always chasing mine.

"We were both into human women, but even there it was different. My whole goal was a full-fledged relationship (that, yes, included sex); their hole goal seemed to be sex. They were very successful in achieving their goals; me, not so much. I had the relationships--I've always had the relationships. But if I told you how many women said some variant of "I think of you like a brother", you probably wouldn't believe me. Don't get me wrong, that's a nice thing to hear if you're an only child, but at the time it just had me musing on incest taboos.

"So, yeah, I was turned inward very early on, and it was all to easy for me to imagine the worst, because the worst kept happening to me. And I found myself questioning....everything. Especially the good things, because I didn't deserve them. There had to be some ulterior motive. Or they were just softening me up for the inevitable bucket of pig's blood.

"This is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I didn't see that then. Adults told me the secret of fitting in was to act as if I did. These were the same adults who told me I should stand up to my bullies (POW! right in the kisser!) or tattle on them (which just made them blame me for whatever punishment was meted out). "Act like you fit in?" HOW?  I don't act, first of all. If I'm acting, I'm pretending to be someone else. So it's not me, I'm not the one fitting in. Second, if there's anything worse than a spazz nerd faggot quad mongo asswipe, it's a spazz nerd faggot quad mongo asswipe who thinks he can pass for normal by wearing the cool kids' threads. They crucify you for that. Without wood or nails.

"It got to the point where I was overthinking everything. I'd map out every social encounter like a chess match, putting maximal effort into the script beforehand and obsessing about tiny deviations from it.  And now I'm overthinking about overthinking."

rueful laughter

"Ken, you've been coming here for almost two years now. What first prompted you to come? And what have you learned?"

"I had a nasty bout with situational depression. Damn near overthought myself to death, actually. The love of my wife Eva, steadfast and solid and unwavering, pulled me out of it--that, and antidepressants. But of course I had to think about it, so that I could guard against it recurring.

"Then I met a bigger overthinker than I am. That always helps, you know. Kind of like a fitness buddy--we keep each other honest, or try to. But in her I recognized myself...not just jumping to conclusions but broad-jumping them entirely; continually making anthills into Alps; sometimes so convinced she hears what I don't say that an entire narrative comes into being out of thin air. Seeing that paralyzing her made me realize how much it paralyzes me. And when we both get overthinking something, the thoughts are reflex hammers pounding away on our knees and making us kick each other. Not pleasant. So I made -- am making -- an effort.

"What have I learned? A lot.

"I've learned that things are NEVER as bad as I think they are, or might be. Or as good, but we never seem to overthink about anything positive, do we?"

more sheepish laughter

"I've learned to shut down the awful thoughts until I have more, most, all of the information. I still think them, but they don't...embed themselves.

"I've learned not to take everything so gods-damned personally. You were right, earlier. Most people aren't actually thinking about you, and if you can navigate the narrow channel between not caring what they do think and not caring that they don't,  you'll spare yourself a shipwreck or ten.

"I've always known that most people live up or down to the level of trust you place in them. Tell everyone that you KNOW they're stealing things and some of them will. Berate your partner daily for the fictional affair he's having and soon it won't be fictional at all. What coming here has taught me is something obvious that I didn't even consider: to include "myself" in "most people". If I trust myself, I'll go further than if I allow myself to be  besieged by self-doubt.

"The Wiccan Rede: 'An it harm none, do what ye will'. 'An' means 'if', and 'none' includes yourself. I don't consider myself Wiccan, but I know wisdom when I hear it and Wicca is replete with wisdom.

Overthinking is harmful. It harms your senses of perception and proportion, your sense of self-worth, your confidence, and a whole whack of other things. It also harms anyone that's in the thought.

"Maybe the biggest thing I've learned is that I don't have to stop overthinking: I only need to change its focus. I was always searching for the approval of others, and feeling crushed without it. But the approval of others is a fickle thing, and besides, what if there are no others? Ultimately, I'm the one who has to live with myself. So now I try very hard to seek only my own approval.

"That doesn't mean I disregard the opinions of friends, family, lovers and colleagues! It means that I listen carefully to their input and weigh it against who I am and what I stand for. Couple that with that Rede, above--or consider the first words of the Hippocratic Oath, primum no nocere..."first, do no harm"...and I like to think I have struck a suitable balance.

"Am I reflecting the highest version of myself with this action/thought?

"What would Love do now?

"The first question demands a simple yes/no that doesn't spawn overthinking. The second is open-ended, but usually fairly obvious. Maybe add a third precept I've learned from coming here:

"I am not responsible for how clearly my message is received. Only for how clearly it is sent.

"Thank you for your time and attention."

applause




16 January, 2018

Aziz Ansari

I don't like hookup culture.

For those who do, and who are able to navigate its shoals and whirlpools without being humiliated and violated, I offer admiration tinged with puxzzlement. I feel very strongly that just trying to initiate sex outside the context of a committed relationship is incredibly risky. I feel like there's far too much of a chance of things going sideways.

I'm sure there's a protocol for no-strings-attached sex that somehow manages to avoid being objectifying, but I wouldn't pretend to even guess what it is, since for me, the whole idea of NSA sex is insanely objectifying. Sex without emotion just feels so empty to me. I've referred to it as a game of poles and holes, and without emotion to hold you to a person, that person becomes disposable. The thought that a person can be disposable disgusts me.

Enter Aziz Ansari, the latest "victim" of the #MeToo movement.

You're damn right "victim" is in quotes. Various columns have tried to paint Ansari as the victim in this sordid affair, when--to me at least--he behaved boorishly. Maybe what he did on his 'date' with 'Grace' wasn't a crime, exactly...but in the wake of all the other celebrities taken down by their own bad behaviour, you'd have to think Ansari must be one of the more ignorant specimens of man out there.

I'd expect the National Review to be all over this, blaming the real victim, and sure enough, they are; it surprised me and alarmed me to see the New York Times echoing.

Here's the story of their date. NSFW and you will cringe.

In point form:

  • she shows up at his apartment and rather than ask what she'd like to drink (she prefers red wine), he simply gives her what he apparently thinks she should be drinking (white wine)
  • they walk to an oyster bar, have dinner, and he's in a major hurry to leave,  Wine is still in both her glass and in the bottle he ordered. No word on the state of what's between his legs at this point, but I can sure guess.
  • Back to his apartment they go. She compliments his countertops. He invites her to have a seat on one; he kisses her, puts a hand on her breast, undresses first her and them himself. 
  • He tells her he's going to get a condom, whereupon she says "whoa, let's relax for a bit, let's chill".
  • in response to this, he resumes kissing her, briefly performs oral sex on her, and jams his fingers down her throat to wet them so he can penetrate her digitally. 
  • He continues to move her hand towards his penis, "five to seven times", after she repeatedly moves it away. She pulls back, again repeatedly, and he repeatedly moves forward. 
  • He keeps asking her "where do you want me to fuck you?" She answers "next time" and he asks her "if I pour you another glass of wine now, would it count as our second date"?
  • she refuses the wine, goes to the bathroom, splashes cold water on her face, emerges, and tells him how uncomfortable she is. 
  • He acknowledges, suggests they just "chill" on the couch. She agrees and sits next to him.
  • He points to his penis and asks her to go down on him. Shocked, she does, briefly.
  • He makes out with her, then tells her he has to show her something in another part of his apartment, brings her to a mirror, and again asks where she'd like him to fuck her, rubbing his penis against her butt cheeks. 
  • She clearly refuses his advances, he suggests they chill on the couch again, this time fully clothed, which they do, watching Seinfeld
  • Once again Ansari sticks his fingers in her mouth and moves to undo her pants, she withdraws and arranges an exit.
Ansari does not deny any of the foregoing, but insists it was fully consensual. This is some strange new usage of the word "consensual" that I was not previously aware of. The Times proclaims him guilty..."of not being a mind reader". 

BULLSHIT. FUCKING BULLSHIT.

Let me tell you how this date would have gone if Grace was dating Ken Breadner. To make this somewhat remotely plausible, we'll stipulate that this Ken Breadner has Aziz Ansari's body and his riches and fame ride shotgun.

First she shows up at my Manhattan digs. Being a rich and famous comedian, I have lots of different things she could drink, and rather than give her what I think she should be drinking, I tell her what I've got on hand. She likes red wine. Red wine it is. 

We walk to the oyster bar -- well, Ken Breadner wouldn't take a first date or any date to an oyster bar, but there's no accounting for taste, so we'll go with this. We chat, just as they did, but Ken is in no hurry to leave and he waits for a signal from Grace that she is. If that signal is not forthcoming, say, fifteen or twenty minutes after all the food and drink has been consumed, I'll ask if Grace wants to go anywhere else. I might include, among other options, the choice of returning to my apartment, but I'd stress the choice is hers -- some, all, or none of the above.

If we do find ourselves back at my apartment, and she compliments my countertops, I will thank her for the compliment. I'll offer drinks, leaning toward non-alcoholic options because she's already had a few and drunkenness tends to blur coherence. If she insists on wine, she'll get it...but I won't. We'll watch Seinfeld or something we both choose (I'd choose anything but, sorry to Seinfeld fans, but I never could stand that show). 

AT NO POINT WOULD CLOTHING COME OFF. Hers or mine. Not happening. MUCH less anything else he did, thinking it was "consensual" (Jesus jumped-up Christ.)

There might be a kiss -- at the end of the date, as she's leaving. If I've really hit it off with her (and more importantly, she with me), it might even be one of those "promissory" kisses that suggests more will be in store on subsequent dates ... leave her something to think about. But that would be the extent of the 'sexual' contact--and even that is by no means guaranteed. 

Some of the media suggest that Grace should have extricated herself at several points, and certainly before she performed oral sex on him, however briefly.  I get why she did it. He was pushing a narrative she was not at all comfortable with. She's at his apartment, there are (obviously) no witnesses, and there's no telling what he might do should she outright refuse him. So she halfheartedly goes along, all the while dropping hints that some people seem to think are subtle. They sure as hell aren't subtle to me. Not one little bit. But then -- my partners can affirm this -- at the slightest sign of something I interpret as a negative...I'm done. Instantly. If I'm wrong, it will take a hell of a lot of coaxing to resume activities, too. 

Does this make me some kind of superman? NO! This makes me a man who is respectful of women. Which really ought to be the default state. No, check that, the only state. There are NUMEROUS places Ansari should have called a halt, and he didn't--the most he did was back up and try again from a different angle. Quite frankly, I find it  surprising he didn't out-and-out rape her; surely that possibility was going through her mind as that night went on. 

Is Grace "helpless" because she didn't withdraw? Maybe a little, but it has nothing to do with her being female and everything to do with the power dynamics of this encounter. Again, she's alone in his apartment. Some people are suggesting even that is something she should not have allowed to happen, because any self-respecting woman knows what men do to women who are alone in their apartme---

CUT THE BULLSHIT, okay? Ansari had recently won an Emmy while adorned with a #MeToo button -- he was supposedly one of the #NotAllMen, right? His reputation gave not the slightest hint he would try to violate a woman.  Besides, this is victim-blaming of the purest form. The fault isn't his for assaulting her, for forcing kisses, for repeatedly trying to  place her hand on his cock, for...every boorish move he made. No, the fault is HERS for going to his apartment. Riiiiigggghhhht. 

I will never understand people who try to go for sex on the first date. Much less those who believe they are ENTITLED to it. And yes, whatever happens to Aziz Ansari professionally in the wake of this, it won't be enough. 

Take down enough of these pigs and the rest of the men will -- I hope -- get the fucking message. 



12 January, 2018

"You Just Don't Get It"

There’s nothing “wrong” with anything. “Wrong” is a relative term, indicating the opposite of that which you call “right.” Yet, what is “right”? Can you be truly objective in these matters? Or are “right” and “wrong” simply descriptions overlaid on events and circumstances by you, out of your decision about them? And what, pray tell, forms the basis of your decision? Your own experience? No. In most cases, you’ve chosen to accept someone else’s decision. Someone who came before you and, presumably, knows better. Very few of your daily decisions about what is “right” and “wrong” are being made by you, based on your understanding. This is especially true on important matters. In fact, the more important the matter, the less you are likely to listen to your own experience, and the more ready you seem to be to make someone else’s ideas your own.

--Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God, Book 1

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

--Joseph Heller, Catch-22

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.

--George Bernard Shaw

___________________

Rarely do I begin a post with three, count 'em, three epigrams. Yes, folks, this one is important.

I read something on Facebook today, not for the first or last time, that...well, you might say it triggered me. It was this, from a Trump supporter: "YOU LOST, GET OVER IT".

That was his response to a criticism of Donald Trump. "You lost, get over it".

It's helpful, when reading enraging things like that, to take a few mental steps back and realize what's happening. This is a stonewalling technique -- what John Michael Greer calls a "thoughtstopper".  (See here for a very valuable lesson on thoughtstoppers).

They are everywhere just lately, thoughtstoppers. Politics is even more replete with them than usual, and they're cropping up elsewhere in my life, too. Another one would be the title of this blog.

"You just don't get it". Well, then, why don't you explain it to me? "You'd never understand". And bingo-bango-bongo, an entire topic is closed, walled up (with stone, naturally) and left to die. What's really infuriating about this technique is that people on both sides of an issue use it on each other AT THE SAME TIME. The "coastal elites" just don't get the concerns of Americans in flyover states and vice versa. The harried father will never understand his wayward teenage son--but nor will that son make the slightest attempt to understand what his father is trying to tell him. And so communication breaks down, issues fester...eventually war breaks out, in one form or another. All because neither side would make any effort to engage the other on the other's own terms.

WHY won't I ever get it? One reason often cited is that I'm not American/not a parent. Does that, in and of itself, disqualify me from stating an opinion on America or parenting? I hope not. A high school dropout can have very good ideas on how to run education, believe it or not. Maybe if her ideas had been implemented when she was in school, she would not have dropped out! I'm not American, but being just one country up, I kind of have a vested interest in what the fuck is going on down there. And I'm not a parent, but it's not for lack of trying--and the social worker who ultimately quashed our dreams of BEING parents first made a big, big deal of how "sound" our philosophy of parenting was.  Your house doesn't feel like a house with kids in it...that was the most effective thoughtstopper ever used on me. I couldn't formulate a reply to that for days.

"But her emails"....

I heard that one countless times, too, from Trump supporters. As a defence of anything Trump does, it's beyond laughable: um, can we stay on topic here? But the thing is: it's not meant to be a defence. It's meant to be a thoughtstopper. Changing the subject stops thought for both parties in a discussion. Often, this is done with maximum venom. The venom itself adds a layer to the thoughtstopper, because now, not only has the topic changed, but you have to calm somebody down. And, subconsciously or even consciously, that person is hoping by the time you've expended energy to calm him down, you will have forgotten the original topic entirely.

"My" side engages in thoughtstoppers, too, of course. Saying Donald Trump is "literally Hitler" is rather disingenuous. Hitler had a political philosophy behind him, as odious as it was. Trump is an opportunist who will adopt pretty much ANY position wholesale if it will get him the approval he craves. (That's probably one good reason the man has not been and will never be impeached: he signs anything put in front of him, and is therefore an exceedingly useful idiot.)

"Literally Hitler" is an exaggeration--seriously. There are no concentration camps in the United States and until I see them being built, I'm going to dismiss "literally Hitler" out of hand. It's hard enough to discuss the meanness, pettiness and general ineptitude of Donald Trump...we don't need to exaggerate it.
But we live in an exaggerated world now, don't we? The people on both sides of any argument, be it political or personal,  are not just WRONG, they are STUPID and they are EVIL. And of course, being stupid means "they'll never understand"; being evil means you don't want them to.

Let's take a step back, and let's for a moment pretend that the person who is "WRONG" is NOT stupid or evil. Let's just talk about wrong.

There is no such thing as right or wrong, you know. They are wholly arbitrary value judgments, and they change, often dramatically, over time and space. Does this mean "anything goes"? OF COURSE NOT.

There is no "right" and no "wrong", but there is "what works" and "what doesn't work", given what you're trying to do. To adapt the example used in Conversations with God, if I set out from Waterloo with the intent to go to Toronto, and I go west...well, you know, given world enough and time, I will get to Toronto eventually. It's probably not the best use of my life--but hey, maybe I wanted to take a trip around the world. To be less extreme, I could go north or south before I go east--and I might have compelling reasons to. Maybe I don't like the 401. Maybe there's a huge accident around Milton. Maybe I want to stop at Flapjack's (no maybe about that, I want to go back there badly). It's out of my way, but often out of my way is precisely the way I want to go.

What's happening in the United States right now is tragic not because there are two opposing sides, but because both sides are so obsessed with calling each other WRONG, STUPID and EVIL that they have forgotten the rules of the "game"...and in many cases, the very concept of the "game". They are, in fact, just out to get each other, to score purely political points.  So let's dispense with "wrong" for a moment, too, and ask ourselves

What are we trying to do?

Politically, this is a very involved question. Entire books can be written on one tiny piece of it. Do we want a society in which gun deaths are minimized? We can debate different approaches to that end goal, but the status quo IS NOT WORKING.  Shutting down debate by saying things like "you just want to confiscate all the guns!!!" OR "you gun-toting yahoos are a bunch of redneck murderers!!!"? Thoughtstopper.

Personally, this can be every bit as involved. What do I want to do with my life? What do my children want to do with theirs? (You don't, as a parent, get to make those two things the same question with the same answer; sorry, but you don't.) Is what's happening now working? Yes? No? If not, why not? And let's do try to avoid anything that might stop thought.

I'm terrible for that--I let ill-defined fears stop me in my tracks every time. Fear of rejection, which I equate with wasted effort plus ritual humiliation. Oh, fuck, THAT'S appealing....and thus is my thought --and motivation -- stopped dead in its tracks. If I strip all emotion out of it (usually an advisable thing to do), I can intellectually grasp that rejection letters aren't published all over the world and that rejection doesn't mean I fall behind, it only means I don't get ahead in that direction. Maybe I need to go EAST... Yeah, I get it. And then the emotion floods in whenever I even think of -- never mind, the thought stopped.

What makes discourse difficult verging on impossible nowadays is yet another thoughtstopper, to wit: confusing the judgment of an action ("does this work, given what I'm trying to do?") with judgment of a PERSON ("you're wrong, stupid, and oh, yeah, evil"). Any criticism, no matter how gently couched, is thus perceived as a personal attack, and THIS MEANS WAR!

I see this playing out on a large scale in America today. Things have become so hyper-emotional, so tribal, that actual honest dialogue has been weaponized and attempts to actually engage are greeted with suspicion...often outright hostility.

No. No, no, a thousand times no. Smart people can do ... disadvantageous ... things. It doesn't make them stupid people. It doesn't even make them "wrong", necessarily. There may be, and often are, compelling (or seemingly compelling) reasons to drive west instead of east.  Fear is a big one, the very fear that generates all the thoughtstoppers. A desire to keep the peace is another big one; that's what causes good people to remain silent too often in the face of actual evil.

Don't judge people. Just don't. We're all trying to do the best we can with the tools we have. Complicating things: not too many of us get all the tools, and in the manner of all things missing, we don't even know what tools  we don't have Judge actions if you must, but always from a baseline of love, and bearing in mind that sometimes, we don't even know what it is we're trying to do.

We may not know what we want, but usually we can quote you chapter and verse on what we DON'T want. In which case, we can still ask the question: is what I'm doing perpetuating the state of affairs I claim not to want?

Maybe the answer is scary. Maybe you've elected a President who is clinically insane. Maybe you feel like you wasted your life to this point. That's its own thoughtstopper, and a potent one--I call it the Poor Me Derailment. What's past has passed. Trump is in the White House and your life is what it is. Instead of lamenting, why not focus on "what do I do now?"

"Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right now...it's not the end." --Fernando Sabino, often misattributed to anyone from John Lennon to Oscar Wilde by way of Paolo Coelho









10 January, 2018

Those Things Moms Say

My ear is plugged.

Again.

Same ear (the left) as last time, which was about a year and a half ago. Coming up on a week now. I have a doctor's appointment for Monday in case the home treatments persist in not working. So far, nada. Murine, lovingly administered by Eva, followed up with what seems like half a hundred turkey basters-full of warm water. Bloosh. Occasionally I'll fill like it's working...for a minute or two.

No pain, but holy shitballs is it annoying. I'm almost completely deaf in my left ear.

It got me thinking, because I'm pretty good about keeping my ears clean. (Apparently NOT, you waxy horror, you...shut up, peanut gallery.) I've always used a Q-Tip like everybody else--

What's that, you say? "Never stick anything in your ear that's smaller than your elbow"?

Thanks, Mom.

My mom used to say that. It was one of her stock admonitions. I'm sure your mom had a bunch of them...I think there's some class they all take....Lesson one: Lamaze; lesson two: "What your child shouldn't do".

That particular instruction, though? Never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear? It invites two questions in response:

  • what in the hell are Q-Tips for, then?
  • how in the hell am I supposed to clean my ears? 
Answers were either not forthcoming or were so ridiculous I ignored them.  Probably the latter.

Nothing against my mother -- I loved her dearly -- but boy, did she ace lesson two. . And most of lesson two, again no offence to Mom, is  pure and utter bullshit.

For instance, there is no reason whatsoever to wait 30 minutes after eating to go swimming.  And if you swallow chewing gum, it won't kill you, or stay in your gut for seven years (the Mom-wisdom varied on the potential consequences, but as it turns out, there aren't any. You just poop it out. 

Imagine Mom's horror if she could see me right this instant. I'm sitting about 18 inches away from a monitor that's bigger than the console TV screen she used to give me hell for sitting three feet away from. "Don't sit so close to the TV, Kenny, you'll go blind," she said. Little Kenny couldn't articulate what was wrong with that demand, because little Kenny hadn't yet gone to school and learned about cause and effect and how Moms of the world can sometimes reverse the two. Uh, Mom? he would have said if he could. You've got that precisely backwards...I sit so close to the TV BECAUSE I'm (mostly) blind. (And don't understand much of what I see on TV, for the same reason.) Here's Scientific American stating what I just did.

What else would make me go blind? Playing with myself. That was also supposed to grow hair on my palms. I played with myself a lot hoping for those telltale hairs to appear and enhance the sensation, but, alas, they never did. Nor am I any more blind. Another piece of parental advice debunked. 

Chocolate doesn't cause acne, either. Acne is caused by an excess of sebum. Sugar can trigger a process that eventually can lead to acne, but no guarantees. 

It's a myth that "80% of your heat loss is through your head". Again, if I'd been thinking straight, I never would have fallen for this--the comeback is obvious. "So why do I wear a hat in high summer, then?" Take it from a guy who spends his working life in fridges and freezers, usually clad in a T-shirt: if you're cold, there are two sure-fire solutions. Work harder (usually works for me, unless I've just been sitting for an hour)...or don more clothing. If the cold is extreme, shun the hat and go for a balaclava: you'll be ugly, but you'll be ugly and warm. But cover the rest of yourself too: the heat doesn't disproportionally escape out your ears. 

And likewise -- this is a big one -- BEING COLD WILL NOT MAKE YOU SICK.

I've been hearing this one not just from moms, but from a sizeable percentage of people I meet who have moms. In reality, staying OUTSIDE in winter will probably keep you healthier. People get sicker in winter because they cocoon inside together and the viruses high-five each other...we may as well go ahead and call them Wayne and Garth... and say "party on!" This, too, is rather obvious, and yet people will INSIST with all their might that I'm going to "catch my death of cold". 


My mom taught me a lot. I was much more inclined to listen to her when she spoke from personal experience, rather than passing on myths by rote. Those, well, I just tended to jam my elbows in my ears. 

She had questions as well as statements, did my mom. The questions she asked were, in hindsight, even funnier. 

  • do you want a spanking?
Hell, yeah, mom. Are they on sale? I'll take a few.
  • what do you think you're doing?
Mom, I KNOW what I'm doing. The proper question here is, what do YOU think I'm doing?

Or this one. I'd be all dressed in my pajamas (this was back before I figured out that sleeping without them was SO much more comfortable). Teeth brushed, bladder tapped, and I'm downstairs. "Good night, Mom," I'd say, to which she would unfailingly ask
  • are you going to bed?
Naw, I'm going out to paint the town fuschia. 

My favourite Mom-story concerned one of the last times I procrastinated on a school project. Mom was French-Canadian, born and bred in Val Caron outside Sudbury. She had to learn English. She lost all of her French save a few songs; she even lost her accent. Except when she was angry. Then it would come back full force and she'd start putting the emPHAsis on the wrong syllAble..."if something is due on a certain due-DATE, it will be handed in on that due-DATE!" she yelled, and it was all I could do not to bray laughter everywhere. That would have ended badly for me, I'm sure, had so much as a chuckle escaped. 

Mom, I love you. You know that, right? Of course you do. That was a stupid question. 




07 January, 2018

Guest Post: Eva on Resilience

My wife is one of the most resilient people I know.

She's bloody well had to be. The amount of bullshit that's been dealt to her is by turns maddening, saddening, and occasionally darkly amusing. I joke sometimes that Murphy -- he of the Law -- was an optimist. Even things that can't go wrong seem to go wrong, and Eva picks herself up, dusts herself off, and carries on carrying on. She would echo the words of many other resilient women I count among my closest friends -- "what choice do I have?" -- but the way in which she resists and persists is, quite frankly, inspiring. Without further ado, here she is: 

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My husband Ken is a brilliant writer. When he suggested I guest-write a blog, I was a little intimidated. I can’t do as well as he does it.

He thought I would be able to comment on the topic of resilience. I guess you can say I am pretty okay at rolling with the punches. I’m not sure I can offer any advice. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

 I love my parents. They taught me to be strong. Dad taught me to be physically strong...he endured unending pain for decades. Shortly before he died, I witnessed the strongest man I have ever and will ever know beg for someone, anyone, to put a bullet in his brain.  Cancer. Lung cancer. That gave me the strength to quit smoking. And it will haunt me to my own dying day, and keep me from picking up another cigarette.

 My mother is equally as strong. I think of some of the things she has been through and know where my intelligence, logical mind set and problem solving abilities come from. 

My brother is very much like my dad. Private. A little old fashioned. Very much a family man. Dedicated father and husband. He forgets that he has other family that loves and cares for him but he is a good man. Strong, silent, in constant pain. Yes, just like dad. We all have our pains and our burdens and it was encouraged, usually demanded, that we bear them without complaint.


I’ve been told I’m smart. I’ve run businesses, graduated nursing assistant school, and can put a big bunch of letters behind my name that only mean something to insurance geeks. I’ve been fat and strong, I've been medium-sized and weak. I could go on, but I think it’s a bit boring really.

My point being that I have had to learn to enjoy learning and experiencing new things. So what do I do when those things don’t always work in my favour?  One of the things I do is give myself permission to feel like shit. Out loud. And, most importantly, I put a time frame on it. I’ve often said to Ken, ok I’m going to feel sorry for myself for a couple of days, and then figure out what to do.


Some things that happen are unfortunate, unfair, and monstrously one sided. Some aren’t. The ones that are, well. I’ve been to therapy, multiple times. Dealing with being a fertile couple unable to bring pregnancies to fruition, being rejected trying to adopt children, an early hysterectomy,. They all took medication and therapy. And the strength to ask for both. Having a chemical imbalance, and the tendency to get every side effect from medication, surgery, and illness....I try to  remember that other people have been there and done that. And I don’t bitch about it. 

 I do complain. A lot. In my head. I get embarrassed when I let a moan of pain escape, or a hitch in my breath, or am limping because I have severe osteoarthritis and a bakers cyst roughly the size of a tennis ball in my knee. In case you didn't quite get that, I have something the size of a tennis ball IN MY KNEE.

I'm not saying this for pity. I don’t like the sympathetic looks. When I want attention I generally make it known, like most people. The experiences I’ve been through, from being fired (who hasn’t ) to moving across country (people do it every day), well that’s life, right? The sheer fact that I’m as freaking old as I am, means I’ve experienced more than a bunch of other people. My fun, scary, unique experiences, well...

Stranded on an island at 15, for six days. Starring in a rock video on MuchMusic (you've never heard of the group).  The man named LaVerne who answered my ad for a room-mate, by which he meant sex toy, and how I had to threaten to gut him like a fish to get him to leave my place. Running a group home for troubled (VERY troubled) teens, only a year older than most of my charges, teaching them survival skills in Algonquin Park and having to counter every scam, every manipulative tactic, every threatening behaviour. Making my way in the world, trying to be as loving and mindful as I can.


Mindful. I think is the key for me. My job is quite fascinating, and maybe here is another key to me, extremely important. Some of my colleagues call themselves data entry monkeys. True I suppose. My hands ache and my head hurts after a hard day of pounding on the keyboard, the lights can cause a migraine, and hey, let's be honest, wouldn't you rather be at home?

My private life is pretty plain.  While I'm open on the fact that I am in multiple open committed relationships, the details of  my everyday life are very much like everyone else's.  We clean, cook, argue, laugh and have fun like any other family.  Having two men in my life, Ken and Mark, has kept me sane in so many ways.  Ken has gone through so many of the things I've mentioned here with me.  He is a rock.  He is calm.  He is there for me no matter what.  Never have I felt more comfortable with a human being, from the moment we met.  I know that I would not be in the place I am in my life without you love.   The good place.

Mark became a spiritual rock for me during my break from real life.  He also calmed my tremors, knots and muscle cramps with his knowledge of anatomy.  He's a retired massage therapist.  I count my blessings every day to have him in my life in so many ways.  Both of them are an oasis to come home to, a caring well of thoughtfulness, love and support.  While I love my job, it's hard to leave the oasis every day.

But, I play a small part in helping people stay safe in their jobs. (Ken intrudes: Eva works for a company that performs drug tests on people who work in safety-sensitive positions).
There is no doubt in my mind that I have had a hand in saving at least one life. So, I consider it a privilege to be there. I care. I’m doing something for you and you and your family. You know nothing about what I'm doing and that’s just how I like it.

 My surgery, the gastric bypass. As I mentioned, I have an imbalance. I know it's an imbalance...I can tell the difference between situational depression and the never ending anxiety that claws out both my brain and my guts day and night, the kind of thing that only medication and time do anything to cut it down to manageable levels. We discussed my imbalance before the surgery, my surgery team talked to my doctor and viceversa. They decided that because I had been stable for a number of years, that I would be good afterwards. And I was. For a long long time.


My luck is such that I have resistance to everything. I’ve known all my adult life that I need more than the normal dose of anything for it to affect me. When I was taking insulin, it was hundreds of units per day. I’m not exaggerating for effect; I rarely do. 300 units of insulin per day. For context, an average person may take 30, on a bad day. Given this, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was taking the maximum doses of medication for depression and anxiety. When you take that much of those types of meds, you sometimes need a third one to keep the other ones from doing a complete 180 and making you a raging psychotic.

About a year after my surgery I began to lose it. The following six months were a fast, uncontrollable slide down a rabbit hole with no apparent end. I’ll spare you the details but severe serotonin toxicity is a bitch. I was taking medication that almost killed me because it stopped being effective for my depression and anxiety and instead overwhelmed my body. I fought being hospitalized for months. It took several more months to find medication that would work with my new stomach and not harm my very, very delicate mental health. I couldn’t work, or even drive. I had to wear sunglasses all the time. Even at night.

But I’m better now.

 Back to normal, but it took almost two years and losing some of that hard fought battle with my nemesis (my weight). Not all of it. I lost 150 pounds total, and while not the most thrilled with the total, I no longer take insulin at all. Those two things were worth going through the pain and surgical side effects which were plenty. I lay claim to all the side effects, remember? Right down to split nails for an entire year due to the anesthesia. So yeah, I’ve experienced the consequences of having this surgery. And I laugh, because, I get tired of saying it...all of them. My teeth broke, I have ulcers, I can’t keep iron or vitamin d in my body, my hair is falling out...Blah, blah blah.


I pride myself for being able to look at things as a puzzle, or chart, or data I need to collate to find the pattern. In trying to get started writing this, I thought of all the cliches about making the best of it. How do I get through when it feels like I’m being picked on? I love helping people. My experiences give me perspective. Time has polished me. You can’t faze me. And very few things shock me. That all makes me pretty cool , even if just in my own mind. If something I’ve gone through helps you in any way, it was worth it to me to help you find an answer. A masochist? Nope. Not one little bit. A realistic person, yes. I don’t know how to end other than to say thank you for reading. I love you. If you need me, I’m here.

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We love you too, Eva.


03 January, 2018

Transparency, Normality, Legality

Administrivia: You may have noticed the blog redesign, which is ongoing. Simply put, it was time for a change. I've fiddled with backgrounds and such in the past, but never gone beyond that. I'm still working out the kinks--trying to get an archive up that is (a) visible and (b) works--and I'm interested in feedback. Improvement? Put it back? Please comment.

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Mark listens from upstairs. He can't make out much if any of the chatter he hears, but he can hear the laughter, frequent and  unrestrained, as Eva and I engage in our morning banter. It makes him smile. All is right with the world.

We're all sitting down to Eva's fantastic meatloaf. More banter around the table, and a sense of cozy togetherness, of simple domesticity, reigns: the polycule is all together, and all is right with the world.

Challenges come and are overcome through sharing and the axiom that four heads are better than one. Emotional support is sought and received and all is made right with the world.

THIS is polyamory. Why does it frighten people so much?

There is this pervasive misconception that, since polyamory requires the informed consent of all involved, our lives are open books. Nothing could be further from the truth. No matter how closely you read this blog, your assumptions about the dynamics of the relationships here are likely wrong several ways, by design.

"The thing to do with a nosy question," said Heinlein, "is to fail to hear it". I live by that; questions about who sleeps where, and who does what with whom before going to sleep, are and will always be met with stony silence. As Eva puts it, "95% of what happens here is normal family life. The other five percent is none of anybody's f--ing business." (I'd question her percentages; surely it's closer to 99%...)

Writing about it is tricky, I won't lie. I lean towards being open while respecting the privacy of others. I feel no shame and have not the least idea why I ought to be encouraged to; hiding things can be construed as being ashamed of them, I suppose, but: are you ashamed of your sex life? No? Then tell me all about it and spare no detail.

See where I'm going here?

I am, I will admit, more than a little defiant when people say "live how you want, but don't shove it in my face". This is who I am, and who I have been since long, long before we welcomed additional partners into our lives. More importantly, this is who they are. Our partners are not toys. They are not disposable. They are, in fact, every bit as important to us as we are to each other. My metamour is important to me. Eva's metamour is important to her. Nobody is trying to undermine relationships here...in fact, as I have always said, "there is no they, only a bigger us".

This year, I'm going to be formally lending my voice and support to the cause of polyamorous marriage.

As with gay marriage, poly marriage does not affect 'conventional' marriages in any way. Nor is it required; there are many, many poly people who have nothing but disdain for the institution, for any number of reasons.  But for those who either wish to formalize a commitment, or may wish to in the future, the option is imperative.

Marriage grants certain legal rights. The ones that most concern me revolve around access within the health care system. That's the biggest reason I want to see alternative relationships legally recognized: it is monstrously cruel to deny access to one life partner because of the existence of another.

I was and am a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage. You may recall that when that was moving through the courts, there was an awful uproar over terminology. Many conservative people said things like, "well, they can commit to each other all they want, but don't call it a marriage". I always found this spurious, not to mention historically inept; same-sex marriages have been celebrated and legally recognized in many places and times, long before its sweep across the (Western) world in recent years.

So have group marriages of various configurations. Often, but not always, these things have been patriarchal and tremendously limiting to women. Today's polyamory is often MUCH more feminist in spirit (this is a really interesting article, if I do say so myself, with a link to an even more interesting TV clip).

The TV interviewers seek to up the drama in subtle ways. And it's true that one of Jaiya's  relationships needs more TLC than she's giving it, something the commenters seized on while predictably calling the whole thing selfish and immature. I still get a rueful chuckle out of that--how quick people are to hold polyamory itself responsible for less-than-optimal polyamorous relationships, while never once blaming monogamy when their monogamous marriage implodes. And don't get me going again on "selfish", grrrr.

For what it's worth, none of that obtains here. What few problems do arise are more likely to be housemate-centered than poly-centered, and all of it is  ironed out with calm communication.  Which leads to:

"For Jaiya, none of this is strange".  

This right here.

From the get-go, this felt normal for me. I am, occasionally, either aware or MADE aware of how strange it appears to the outside world, and beyond dispelling the ridiculous assumptions people come up with (no, this isn't a cult, no, I don't engage in wild orgies), my response to that is pretty much whatever. I remain convinced that time will soften people's opinions and hopefully bring them closer to acceptance. In the meantime, I plan on fighting for legal acceptance. (For a legal writeup, see here.)

Basically, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled that section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which casts an unbelievably wide net when it comes to criminalizing relationships, is unconstitutional as regards unformalized  polyamorous relationships. Polygamy of the sort associate with Mormons is still (rightfully, in my view) illegal. This is an important distinction; one of the fundamental principles of legal marriage is consent, and coerced arrangements such as seem to proliferate in fundamentalist Mormon society do not meet that legal standard.

But polyamory is all about consent. So this is a critical first step. A second, also critical step, has been taken with children in polyamorous households--Canadian courts have recognized that where possible, a child needs access to all parental figures, not just "biological" parents. (See this article, which features a local polyamorist and Facebook friend of mine.)

But more needs to be done. So long as consent can be proven, it should be a simple matter to amend the relevant laws to allow any number of spouses, and I see no compelling reason why this should not take place. Polyamory is, as has been noted in numerous places, on the rise. It's time the law caught up.





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Our Belated Anniversary Excursion

Yeah, okay, I'm not strong enough to stay away from this place. So sue me. I'm in another lull at work before all hell breaks loose ...