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Archive for the ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Marriage’ Category

OK. Now I have clean pants. But I did miss another day of NaBloPoMo. I could feel guilty about it or I could say, “oh, well, at least my kid is clean and fed and I paid my rent” and let it go. I choose the second.  I am posting more regularly now so that’s good.

Recently I had one of those conversations with Attic Man that sitcom couples have with each other about how I wanted more romance. Except it didn’t take a half an hour and I didn’t resort to all kinds of clever ruses to tell him. I just told him.

When he showed up at the door before heading off to study with a little box of very, very good fudge and two enormous truffles containing a shot of Bailey’s each (!) I (wiping the drool from my chin) started to think about the gendered aspects of ‘romance,’ how in some ways it’s a hollow compensation for the inherent inequality, historically, in heterosexual marriage. Clean my house and I will rub your back! Take care of my four children and I will take you to Maui for our 25th anniversary! I’m sorry you feel underappreciated. Here’s a little love note under your pillow.  I remember all of these little inserts in my family’s church bulletin about How to Keep the Love Alive in your marriage.  I remember learning that the man wants admiration and the woman wants romance.  The man wants s3x and the woman wants emotional intimacy.  The man needs the woman’s help to express emotions, and if he can’t figure it out he can rescue himself with a bouquet of flowers.  Because all women want flowers.

So I don’t know if I want this stuff because I want it or because I heard all my life that I should want it.  Is it a trained emotional response to feel your heart go all a-flutter when receiving a random love note in your sock drawer?  But I suppose what all people want is to be noticed, plain and simple, and to be told in as many ways as possible that they are loved.  People need other people to sacrifice their own time and resources for them.  My guys in the group home need it too–if I am tired and one of the guys wants me to sit in his room to keep him company for a few minutes before he nods off I do it anyway.  These guys don’t live in a traditional family setting.  They need love (obviously non-se3tual) just like everybody else, but they have to get it from paid staff.  I digress.  The point I’m trying to make is that I am trying to move from a gendered sense of romance to the idea that ALL people need love and attention and that wanting it is OK.  I can’t make myself not be happy with fudge and I can’t make Attic Man melt at the sight of roses.  But I can try hard to think of it as something he’s doing because I’m a nice person and he likes me rather than empty compensation for domestic work.  After all if that were the case I should be the one delivering fudge, as he spent all weekend caring for our child, shampooing carpets, doing laundry, cooking, and washing dishes.

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Before the Snapper was born Attic Man and I went to loads of concerts and festivals and we’ve really been missing it. So last night we went with the Snapper to see the Emmitt Nershi Band. I let him stay up as long as possible early in the day (kid didn’t get tired until 2 pm, when he stopped playing suddenly and burst into tears with no provocation) so he’d be more able to handle the late-evening show.

He loved it all–the band, the lights, the crazy hippie people dancing, and most especially the totting around the entire theatre before the band came on. He met a little boy and waved two programs around all night. In short, he was in heaven. The venue could not have been more perfect: non-smoking, undersold (bad for them, good for us), spotlessly clean, beer confined to one small area, plenty of safe places to explore. Little man finally fell asleep in my arms at around 10:30 (!) and stayed that way despite Obnoxious High-Pitched Whistler’s unwelcome contributions to the evening until we left shortly before midnight.

I highly recommend the band. The first set was straight-up, old-fashioned, Bill Monroe-style bluegrass and the second set was more of a fusion reminiscent of their respective former bands, Leftover Salmon and the String Cheese Incident. We were fortunate to hear some excellent renditions of songs from both bands, most notably (one of our little family’s theme songs) “Troubled Times” and to Attic Man’s delight, “Texas.” It was nice to hear live music again.

Public Service Announcement: A captain’s cap and basketball jersey worn together are not the height of fashion, most especially while sporting a meticulously trimmed beard and waist-length hair. I’m just sayin’.

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My kind of haunted house

OK, so I missed a day of NaMoPoBloMe. I had every intention of posting last night and then feel-like-crap-edness smacked me in the face and I went straight to bed. I’m feeling really squeezed these days.

Right now we’re battling our latest rodent visitor. She’s getting bold, nibbling on the crumbs Sam leaves on the dining room floor in plain sight. The dogs are having a ball hunting her down (trying, anyway–they’re kind of stupid, so we’ll see the mouse’s tail under a sweatshirt while they sniff vigorously at the spot she was five minutes before) but I suspect it’s less that they’re born hunters and more that she’s competition for the most coveted resource in the house, the droppings from the Snapper’s high chair. Lenny and Heidi are not allowed to be in the room while the Snap dines and will crouch like loaded springs on the threshold waiting for the moment they hear the harness snap open so they can finish off the Cheerios he leaves in the corners of his chair. The mouse is clearly dipping into their stash.

The other day Attic Man said to me, rather innocently, “we really need to catch up on the laundry. I’m out of everything.” I felt my hackles rise and went into defense mode when he reminded me that he had said WE. Aha. It is OUR laundry. If it isn’t done it’s OUR fault and WE have to fix it. So much to unlearn.

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The new digs, as it were, are a cosmetic way of saying that it’s time to shove aside the pile of crap that I’ve been living under for about two months and start living again.  It was inevitable–a new job, a new hectic schedule, planning for next year–but it’s enough already.  I have a therapist, an incredibly gentle and understanding husband, my favorite weather of all (cool, moody), and a table-top dishwasher procured by aforementioned husband.*  There no reason in the world I shouldn’t be able to start writing again, both here and on the diss.  One hopes, anyway.  The goal is to make this semi-permanent, with room for the ebb and flow of energy, instead of merely cyclical.

At any rate, pursuant to YOU, I want my readers back.  I don’t know what I’ll be writing about exactly–maybe more on adoption (and how much I’m looking forward to expanding our family, though we’ll have to wait a few more years), maybe a little about the group home (or maybe not, as I’m trying to respect their privacy)–but I want you guys back.  I like the writing but I like the community the best.

Meanwhile, please go over and support Kohana for her brave and intelligent posts of late.

See you soon.

*I’m undergoing a bit of a personal feminist revolution and I’m wondering if I should abandon the term “wife” and go with “partner” or something of the like.  Problems: “partner” is the preferred term of gays and lesbians, and why should I use that when I can LEGALLY be actually and truly and in the sight of the law married to the person of my choice?;  and really, I AM a wife–why should I pretend that there aren’t real structural issues with the fact that I am saddled (quite happily) to a man?  On the other hand, might it help me to start seeing myself as a partner so that I can let go of all of my latent, and let’s face it, manifest sexism (against women, yes!)?  So.

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on email:

“I finished my application letter to X.  I’m proud of it. It’s good.  Once advisor looks it over and I make the necessary revisions I’m applying the heck out of that job.”

“Do that shit, mama.”

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August 3, 2007, the last time the kitchen floor was safe for sucking on

I’m feeling conflicted about blogging right now so I’m just going to write for a few minutes and hope I can re-connect with a few of you.

1. Real vs. Ideal: The schedule I posted below is all well and good except when it isn’t, which is just about every day.  Here’s how it really works: I am so worn out from my mega-shifts and the fact that sometimes the guys at work don’t go to bed at a reasonable hour, and when they do I still have a couple hours of paperwork and cleaning/laundry to do even when they do, that the first couple of days home I am loving my bed way too much to give up the Snapper’s first nap to any kind of housework, which means that I end up having a very rushed shower before I take him to daycare and am generally more frazzled by the time I hit the books (see post below for discussion of generalized dissertation disorder).  This also means I am not exercising, which is making my overall energy and productivity plummet and my diet go in the toilet, too.  I have decided not to try to lose any more weight until things are more stable, which is OK because I am at pre-pregnancy, and though it’s not my ideal healthy weight I have almost no body image problem for the first time in my life (weird.  why did this happen?), so the issue is exercise more than anything for how I feel.  Anyway, all this means that the house is filthy. At this point my poor understimulated son is only getting to play in one room in the house because the others are either too dirty or too cluttered to be safe–I am not an overly protective mother so this is saying an awful lot–and he is a very adventurous little monster.  We need some solutions for housework and cooking that can accommodate a law school workload, a dissertation, a physically demanding full-time job and an active baby.  This is where I tell you that I am open to any and all advice you may have.  The good news is that we’re not fighting over it (miracle of all miracles!).  The bad news is that it’s still not getting done.

2. I am missing this adoption conference in my former home city and am incredibly bummed especially to miss meeting some of you IRL who will be there.  Did I mention how disappointed I am?  Is it becoming obvious how disconnected I still feel in this new place?

3.  Hello, Richard! I am so sorry I keep not emailing you.  You leave nice comments on my blog and even did my meme.  I am a bad friend.  I have no excuse but for fatal personality flaws that I am trying to overcome.

4. I am frightened for Burma and wishing that it would become a national priority.  It’s #4 on my own list, for pete’s sake.  It’s not okay to kill anyone of any social status, but when we start killing monks we have ignored warning signs for far too long.  Yes, I said we!  Now’s a good time to watch Romero, or to re-watch it if you haven’t in a while.  Get fired up for peace–people are dying.

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As someone who is constantly struggling to manage her time, and who also is hyper-aware of the gender politics of her own family, I’m fascinated with how other people schedule their days and divide household responsibilities. Unless I’m missing a whole swath of blogdom, which is possible, I don’t know that people blog about that sort of thing. I suppose it’s because most people would find it excruciatingly boring. But it’s interesting to me because it’s been a delicate and ongoing negotiation at our house.

I have a blog project for the three or four of you who still read here, a meme of sorts. I’ll start with my own household as a template.

What does a typical day look like at your house?

6-Wake. I nurse, out and feed the dogs, give the Snapper breakfast, and do any stray dishes. Attic Man gets ready for school.

8:30-10:30-The Snapper naps. I shower and get ready for the day, check email, do light housework if ambitious. Some days I nap, too.

11-3-Snapper at daycare, me at home dissertating.

3:30-5-Hopefully the Snapper naps again and I prep dinner.

5-5:30-Attic Man goes on the clock with the baby and I finish dinner.

5:30-Family dinner.

after dinner-I bathe the baby while Attic Man does the dinner dishes. Attic Man takes over parenting until the Snapper’s bedtime at 7 or 8. He can usually get some reading done while the Snap tots around and bangs objects together. I out and feed the dogs and pick up the day’s poo from the yard.

Evening-This is our time together to watch DVDs of Dexter, eat ice cream, and catch up. I suspect as the year progresses more and more of it will turn into work time.

On the weekends I work two 18-hour shifts, so Attic Man takes over the entire care of the kid, dogs, and house through Sunday morning.

How do you divide up household responsibilities?

Me: Childcare; decisions about nutrition; cooking Mon-Thurs; cleaning bathroom, kitchen, my office, and baby’s room; finances; dog care; errands and appointment-making.

Attic Man: Childcare; taking out the garbage and recycling; cleaning dining room, living room, bedroom, and his office; computer stuff; lawn care; weekend cooking, dog care.

the Snapper: drooling, crawling toward dangerous objects.

How do your ideals inform your choices? How do your choices fall short of them?

When I was pregnant we talked a lot about how Attic Man was not going to ‘help’ or babysit, but parent. I am pleased that our schedule allows him pretty near to 50% parenting, and I think he’s happy about it too. We also try to be even about the housework, too, in hopes of having an equal marriage. I’m hyper-sensitive to the fact that for a long time we were not equal economically and admittedly things were more tense about housework. It took us a long, long time to work out what equal really meant, especially because in real life it’s near impossible to achieve: not everyone has equal needs, energy reserves, time, or talents, and external economic and social pressures always make their ways into the home (someone earns most or all of the money; the woman, in heterosexual relationships, is the only one capable of carrying and nursing babies; both partners may have more sexist models from childhood to work with, and even if these can be overcome ideologically, we still have to deal with the fact that I don’t know how to mow the lawn and Attic Man had to learn the proper way to do dishes). I think we’re more successful at living our ideals than we used to be but it took a lot of hard work and a whole lot of, ahem, ‘discussion.’

Do you have a secret weapon? If so, what is it?

The best marriage advice I ever saw (over on Shannon’s site) said, simply, “queen-sized mattress, king-sized sheets.” I can’t beat that, but we do have the family meeting. We meet once a week, rain or shine, and we take minutes just like at a real meeting. We go over the weekly schedule, air grievances (we are not allowed to nit-pick during the rest of the week), make decisions about the baby’s care, go over finances, and decide on menus. The thing I hate most about marriage is that on the ground level, it is an economic relationship with power dynamics and as such a constant negotiation over resources and responsibilities. The family meeting boxes off a lot of that stuff so that we can feel free to enjoy our friendship and romance at other times. I realize that romance is partly the lie that can blind us to the realities of the inequities of marriage, but I still like it and I suspect so does Attic Man, so this is our way of preserving it.

And now, to reward you for all that mundanity, something disturbingly familiar:

If you read this, you’re tagged!  Gay, straight, or something else, I want to hear from you.

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