Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I am Tired

Somehow I didn't think that I would get tired of not having kids. Oh, boo-hoo. I know. Poor me. I deliberately chose a child-free lifestyle and now I'm struggling.

But let me explain why: I am not struggling because I feel I made the wrong decision and now with me being 38 and Mr. J. turning 40 next month, suddenly I'm having doubts. Oh, no. I rarely have doubts and if I have anything even remotely resembling doubts all I have to do is go to Target for 20 minutes and I'm fine.

I'm tired of feeling like a freak. And then some.

Back when I first met Mr. J., I knew he was the one (for sure!) when he confessed that he felt he was falling in love with me but wanted to be fair before the relationship progressed any more: He did NOT want children. Ever. And if that was something I wanted, then he wanted me to have exactly what I wanted in life so I needed to move on, because, well - it just wouldn't happen with him.

Not only was I grateful for his honesty, I was thrilled. Because personally? I never really knew where I stood on the whole motherhood thing. It was something I would do, maybe, someday in the future. Far off in the future. Right after I stopped being overwhelmed, appalled and grossed-out by tasks that seemed to be part and parcel of motherhood.

My friends who have children often said, "It's different when it's your own." Probably, I suppose. But being up to your elbows in poop still seemed like it was just being up to your elbows in poop regardless of the owner of aforementioned poop and your relationship to the owner of that poop.

And even if I could get past all the bodily fluids - the puking, the pooping, the drooling and the snotty noses, I wasn't sure I could get past the rest of it. What if any child I had someday asked me the meaning of life? I would probably say, "How the hell do I know?" and that would not be good. The majority of my friends have children and it is interesting for me to watch; all of the children are at varying life stages so I get to see everything from Mean Girls-esque adolescent drama and angst to driving lessons to college tours to clarinet lessons to mastitis from breast feeding to croup and thrush (it's a yeast infection in the mouth that some infants get. And if I'm not mistaken adults with weakened immune systems can get it also) and night terrors and homework struggles and sweet holy Moses, the time, energy and money involved. Ultimately, I'm just really, really lazy and parenting has always looked like too much work. There. I said it. Hate me yet?

Finally, very few people seemed to be able to give me a good reason to reproduce except, "It's what we're supposed to do" and yes, I guess that's right. Continuing the human species is a biological imperative. I get it. But whenever I asked my mother why she had children, she just said, "It's what we thought we were supposed to do." Sorry. Not good enough.

Most of the men I've dated wanted children and when I pressed for a reason why, they usually just said something ridiculously patriarchal like, "To carry on the family name". Good reason to bring another human being into the world, loser. And by the way? Yeah, it would be a damn shame if "Anderson" died out. There's a huge possibility of that happening. And if it did? Wow. What a tragedy that would be.

After Mr. J. and I got engaged, but before we got married, I wanted to be 100% completely and totally sure that I was okay with this choice. We were taking rather, uh, permanent measures to make sure we never conceived and the thing about permanent measures is that they can seem so, well, permanent. I did the only thing I could think of to do: I read books. I went to our local library and found as many books as I could find on living "child-free". More than a few of the books were basically a collection of essays written by women who ended up without children because of . . . life. Many of them never announced at 18 or 21 or some magic age, "I'm opting out of motherhood". Life happened . . . some thought they'd have children "eventually" and "eventually" just never arrived. But one of the books was entitled Why Don't You Have Kids and I remember thinking, "Hey - this doesn't sound so bad. I get it, I can do this. I'm ready."

But sometimes you don't know what you don't know. Or you ask yourself, "How bad can it be?" and then you found out you have no idea. I imagine there are a lot of things that work that way - parenthood, in particular. Childbirth. Maybe cancer.

I walked/ran a marathon and thought the same thing during all the months of training until I was in the marathon, at about mile 20, in the pouring rain, feeling two of my toenails lift up off their native toes and cursing myself out loud saying something like, "Wow. You are really, really REALLY damn ignorant. A marathon can be insanely bad. What the hell were you thinking?"

I'd like to think it was then I learned never to ask the question, "How bad can it be?" but I did it anyway.

So I'm reading the book by Leslie Lafayette, way back in January of 2003 and although it (and many of the other books I read) gave me pause, I determined that ultimately I was okay with my decision. It also helped tremendously when I read, "People who choose not to have children often spend more time and give more thought and effort to that decision than people who do have children." Of course this makes sense - again, reproduction is our biological imperative as humans, so following through on a biological imperative? What is there to think about, really? Doing the opposite of what we're (supposedly) hard-wired to do - I guess you do need to think about that.

But the past two weeks have been filled with announcements of pregnancy, and new babies and infertility struggles and yes, in a way that only I can, I have made it about me: What is WRONG with me? (Please don't answer that. If at least a dozen therapists and hundreds of self-help books haven't helped me come to any conclusion, I doubt you can.)

So I did what I typically do when I'm confused (well, I did drink but that's not what I did first) - I went to the library and looked up my old pal Leslie Lafayette and there was her book, right where I remembered: Why Don't You Have Kids.

Reading it now, I am getting the answer to "How bad can it be, really?" even though I had the exact same information available to me 6+ years ago. I imagine it's like reading or hearing about, say, childbirth, nodding, thinking you get it and then reading the same book or having the same conversation after you've gone through it yourself. Then - and only then - do you realize the earlier you had absolutely no freakin' clue.

Take, for example, my new favorite chapter called "Living Childfree Isn't for Sissies!" I'm guessing that parenting is the sport that really isn't for sissies and if I'm barking up the wrong tree, it's okay with me if you stop reading now. Here is a quote I still remember reading 6+ years ago and now I can read it and think, "And how, sister!" I almost said, "I wish someone had told me this earlier" - but someone - the author had and it didn't matter. But I digress. The quote:

"Understandably, there is a strong emotional reaction to something as basic, as visceral as choosing not to have children. Even if you did not originally choose not to have children, the very fact that you are living happily without them is threatening to many around you. Childfrees can expect strong responses from those to whom such a lifestyle is, frankly, unacceptable. . . It seems to be everyone's business to investigate the reasons you have not had kids . . . What are you going to tell these people? Are you truly prepared for the never-ending, ongoing onslaught that life is about to hand you?" (pp. 25-26).

And also from a section entitled, "Don't Expect Anyone to Think You're a Hero":

"Suffice it for now to say that few decisions you make will be as unpopular as choosing to live childfree. If being out of step with the majority of your fellows really bothers you, you may want to think this lifestyle through again!" (p.35).

And all these years I thought I was immune to peer pressure. Let me clarify: I do not want to run out and have a child because I'm tired of feeling like "everyone else is doing it" and I'm the only girl at the party drinking milk and not keg beer out of a plastic cup. I do not want to run out and have a child, period.

The peer pressure I am feeling is the "What, exactly, is wrong with you that you don't want children?" pressure. I get those vibes, I feel that look and I know on some level, I'm supposed to hang my head and apologize and explain what is wrong with me for not wanting children.

And what is the answer? What am I supposed to think and/or what am I supposed to say to other people? Here are a few answers I've come up with - haven't yet said any out loud, although I'm tempted. And yes, I'm kind of joking, but only kind of.
  • I'm selfish (And yes, I've had people from virtual strangers to my hairdresser tell me that upon learning about my decision)
  • I'm too lazy (well, that one is true - I've already admitted to that)
  • I'm heartless and cold
  • I have no soul
  • There's a laptop and a hedge fund where my uterus should be
  • I prefer to die alone with no one to take care of me and just several hundred cats left to eat out my eyeballs after my death which will probably go undiscovered for several weeks
  • There is nothing in my personality, history or genetic makeup that is worth passing on to anyone
  • I'm too afraid that any child of mine would get my original nose
  • I hate holidays and creating pleasant memories for others
  • I think it's critical to miss out on one of life's most important human experiences (in response to those who say, "But you're really missing out!")
  • I don't enjoy giving of myself tirelessly, sacrificing or doing without so someone else can have a better life (Also been told this - see first bullet - i.e., "I'm selfish")
  • At this time I don't have enough cash stashed away to get the "Mommy Makeover" plastic surgery tummy tuck/breast lift combo
  • Elmo's voice makes me want to rip off my own arm so I have something with which I can beat the television
  • Kids are stupid
  • I want to make sure I make one really big mistake that I will regret for the rest of my life and I decided this would be a big one (To answer the question - no - really the gasp/statement/pearl clutching combo of, "OMG! You're going to regret it!")

I suppose I should be used to this by now; after all, I certainly heard these things enough the first year we were married and to be fair, I've gone a long time without feeling like my decision makes me a selfish, self-absorbed freak of humanity. And I'm sure I'll get over my own little pity party sooner than later. (And to be fair, I don't need to throw my own pity party because it's easy for me to see that lots of people pity me - esp. those who blurt, "Oh, but think what you're missing out on!" But for today, I'm just tired of being the weirdo in the cube down the hall who was born without a heart and without a soul and something clearly, clearly wrong with her.

Tomorrow will be better. Don't cry for me, Argentina!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

If You're Doing These Things, I Have a Message for You: Knock it the "eff" Off!

As I have mentioned, I have a lot less rage than I did when I was in a college classroom. But I'm still surrounded by your average idiot and the thoughtless (and often senseless) behavior of idiots never ceases to amaze me and it (occasionally) enrages me.

Observe: As I sit this morning on the freeway - "sit" and not "drive" being the operative word, the driver behind me appears to be tailing me a little closely and as we go five feet. stop 10 seconds. go five feet. stop 10 seconds, he seems preoccupied and a bit slow with the reaction time. It's a clear morning and I've got a fairly decent view of him and it would seem he's smoking the world's longest cigarette. I mean we're talking Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tifanny's cigarette holder long. It's very white and thin and occasionally he removes it from his mouth and then wait . . . he's frothing at the mouth. This can't be good. A person operating a moving vehicle should - ideally - not be frothing.

I'm confused. Is he chewing tobacco and somehow swirling it around with this long white stick? (Can you tell how bad traffic was? Lots of time to observe and solve the mystery). But. Wait. The froth is . . . blue. Now I'm scared. Is he having a seizure? Should I dial 911 from my cell and say, what? I'm on the northbound middle lane of I-27 and there's a driver behind me . . . foaming blue at the mouth? And that's bad, right? Send paramedics, okay? 'Cause I don't think that's really supposed to be happening. Not good for him and certainly not good for any of us here on the road with him.

And then I see him . . . spit. Into the passenger seat. (I'm guessing there was some kind of spit receptacle in the seat. At least I hope for the sake of any future passengers there was a spit receptacle!) I can't decide who is the bigger idiot: Him, for brushing his teeth while navigating rush hour traffic or me, for taking a good 5 minutes to figure out he was brushing his teeth while navigating rush hour traffic. Please - don't answer that.

While we're on the subject of idiotic people doing mystifying things, here's another for you: Women who bring their cell phones into public restrooms and have conversations. This happens to me on average (at work, not at home - thank heaven for small favors!) at least once a day. I'm trying to be all annoyingly healthy and drink my 8+, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. My skin looks nicer than ever, but I'm sure my co-workers think I have a bladder infection or some kind of kidney condition. The point is - I visit the ladies' room a lot. So I have a lot of experience with this. And it is just . . . bizarre.

Maybe I have issues. I embrace that. Perhaps I was potty-trained too early (or too late as the legend goes). Yes, I could be stuck in some Freudian stage and that is why I'm all messed up. Or maybe even I was once traumatized by the sudden and unexpected flushing of one of those toilets with the automated laser/flushing thing. Fill in my sick issue of your choice here:

But. When I am in a public restroom - and yes, ladies, you are not in your own home in your own bathroom and you're not in someone else's home, so that makes work bathrooms "public", whether you like it or not - there is nothing more disconcerting than hearing a woman crash into the bathroom talking loudly about something inane, THEN hearing her sit in the stall next to mine (when I'm the only one in there and there are EIGHT OTHER EMPTY STALLS BUT I DIGRESS!), plunk herself on the toilet, begin urinating and telling her husband what's she making for dinner ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

You know what? My urethra shrieks in shame and everything stops. And suddenly I have what they call "stage fright" and now I can't do a damn thing until you've finished your conversation and who knows how long that's going to take?? Because while you don't care that your husband hears YOU going to the bathroom, I care that he can hear me. I'm sure he's perfectly nice and a very understanding, supportive man but I don't know him and I don't like the idea of the sound of my peeing being transmitted over the cellular airwaves. Really, ladies - you're taking multi-tasking much too far. One or the other. Not both. Please.

I apologize for the potentially graphic and offensive nature of this post. Believe it or not, even after teaching the kids about sex and all kinds of things most adults don't mention in pleasant conversation, I prefer not to engage in long discussions about my bodily functions. But, anonymous cell-phone-in-the-ladies'-room-users, today was the last straw!!! You pushed me too far. Please don't make me do it again. And if you can't do it for me, think of the children.

(I have no idea what that means, but as Kathy Griffin says, it seems to get people to pay more attention.)


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Reasons why this post will suck

Uh, one: I should not be blogging.

I just spent the last 5 minutes trying to figure out what day it is. "It's Wednesday. No, not quite. Is it Monday? Maybe. Could be. Wait . . . Yes, it's TUESDAY."

Who doesn't know what day it is . . . for FIVE minutes!? Although, when I was pondering that particular question of the day, I was amazingly calm.

Okay, next reason: I attended a conference today. I drank:
  1. 3 cups of coffee

  2. 1 giant Diet Mountain Dew (which I've never had before, but they had already run out of Diet Pepsi)

  3. Another giant cup of coffee, and . . .

  4. No water.

I am thirsty and dehydrated to distraction (and probably more than a little wired up) and although I've sucked down almost an entire pitcher of Brita water, I am still having trouble removing my tongue from the roof of my mouth. Fascinating, yes?

And perhaps because of the conference and/or the dehydration situation, that's about all I got. Told ya - this post sucks. I'm trying to be okay with that because not even two years ago, I (vaguely) remember posting about some book title like No One Cares What You Had for Lunch - How to Write Fascinating Blog Entries - and I ripped on people who would need a book like that. I think I may have made comments in the realm of, "I ALWAYS have something to say. Who is SO boring that they have to blog about what they had for lunch? PLEASE. I could post 100 times a day about all kinds of fascinating, compelling issues and look at me go with my snarky bloggy self."

And now . . . well, witness the carnage. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I'm not even interesting enough to tell you what I had for lunch (It was a chicken salad sandwich on ciabatta bread, if you're wondering) - I've stooped so low that I'm discussing beverages!!!!! Oh, the humanity!

Oh - and my eyes are crossing and I'm not even doing the most basic proof-reading which would have made my head spin not so long ago and now . . . eh. Not so much.

Now I will attempt to distract you with a picture of Minnie . . . in a dress. (This was NOT my idea, nor was this dress purchased by myself or Mr. J. In fact, Minnie was photographed wearing this dress because Mr. J. LOST A BET AT WORK. I think someone should call the ASPCA.)


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The "F" Word - Again!

Liberal Banana is back in the Blogosphere! Hooray!!!!!!

I figured if she could do it, I still probably couldn't do it, but I'm willing to entertain the idea.

Now. Let's get down to business.

No - not that "f" word. I have no problem (probably a sad thing for my mother) with the f word.

I have written about this before but I'm much too lazy to find it in my archives.

It's "feminist". The reaction to this word has always surprised me. If you were a regular reader you may remember that my female students often included a phrase like this in their writings, "Not that I'm a feminist or anything, but I don't think that women should . . . " be forced to wear burqas, experience genital mutilation, be date-raped, slipped the date-rape drug, get beaten by their husbands . . . choose one of the above or insert your own.

I haven't thought about it in a long time and then today I walked past a colleague's office. She was lunching with her assistant and I heard her call my name: "Hey! Teacher Lady" I stuck my head in to say hello and she said, "Let me know if I'm crossing inappropriate boundaries," (wait - are you going to tell me you have Herpes? No, different job). How do you feel about Sarah Palin?"

My response: "She's basically a conservative white dude with an NRA membership card who happens to have a pesky little thing called a uterus."

Colleague looked at assistant smugly: I told you she wouldn't like her!
Assistant looked at me, confused: But I told you, TL's a feminist.
Colleague shook her head, "The feminists don't like her."

I was thanked for my time and then I wandered off to my meeting and proceeded to be pretty useless because I couldn't keep myself from wondering what "feminist" meant.

I was extra confused b/c colleague is a very successful 40-year-old who is married but kept her own last name (apparently that's a BIG tip-off to all the other feminist hunters out there) and would seem to be very assertive in her marriage (at least the way she tells it).

Assistant is the primary bread-winner in her household while the spouse stays home with 3 children under the age of 5.

Mr. J. pays all the bills and manages our finances to the point where I'm embarrassed to admit it because I'm pretty much as ignorant about money as the average 1950s housewife.

But I'm the feminist?

What does that mean? To my knowledge, I've never been recruited. I don't own a message tee that reads, "This is what a feminist looks like" (although I don't care if someone else wants to wear one).

I don't have a membership card, I haven't paid any dues since, oh, I was born and if there are weekly meetings, I've never been invited.

And let's say I were to be recruited - where might this happen as I'm going about my day? In the dressing room at Nordstrom's while I'm trying to wrestle myself into size 6 jeans? (Yes, I know - I'm quite the dreamer!) Suddenly, I hear - "Psst - you don't have to take this anymore" and I see an unmanicured hand slip a business card under the divider. The card reads, "Feminists. World Domination is Just One Bra-Burning Away." On the reverse side is an address to a Tarot Card parlor which serves as the "front" for the operation.

This has never happened to me (and I'm pretty grateful actually because no one likes to see strange hands appearing from underneath dividers of any sort, especially if they're in politics) and I think if it ever did I'd probably have some sort of fit that would involve me soiling myself.

I don't know where I'm going with this (oh, blogosphere - you are kind and understanding because I suck right now) but ultimately: What did I do, say, wear, carry, mention, sing, eat or _______ (something, right!?!) to announce to my colleagues that I am a "feminist".

And again - would someone please tell me what that means, exactly? Was it Gloria Steinem who said, "A feminist is anyone who distinguishes herself from a doormat"? I like that definition. Too bad it never really caught on because then world domination WOULD be just one bra-burning away!


Monday, June 02, 2008

Why I Will Never Reproduce

Because I do really dumb things.

The end.

Epilogue: This is what happens when you give a dog a bath and then take her outside immediately because it is sunny and warm and you think, "She'll dry off faster." And then, she runs into the front yard, where your husband has spent the morning spreading topsoil so you might actually have a yard with real grass some day and she does that dog scoot around on the ear/head area to get water out of said dog ears thing except she does it in the dirt and not on your pillowcase which is actually what you were trying to avoid in the first place.

Okay - now it's "The End."

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Twice in One Day? Stop the Madness!!!

Way back when, dear Flossie tagged me for a meme.

It is interesting and thought-provoking and seems (deceptively) simple. Ready?

Here are the instructions: 1. Write your own six-word memoir 2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like 3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere 4. Tag five more blogs with links 5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

I am excluding myself from #5 because tagging someone when you haven't blogged in months or visited their blogs is like calling someone you haven't seen in 10 years and asking them for money.

Career: Will I Get It Right?

Image from Retro Housewife.


Still in Denial

I haven't posted in nearly two months. (If you can read, you're thinking, "No shit, dumb-ass.") I know why I haven't posted. But I don't know why I can't bring myself to officially bid y'all "adieu" and retire my blog to the great blogosphere rest-home in the sky.

Some reasons for my lack of posting:

I now look at a computer screen for at least 40 hours a week. I sit in a windowless cube. When I come home, the last thing I want to do is spend more time looking at a computer screen. I want to sit outside (weather permitting, of course) and read a book. Not that I don't love and miss many, many wonderful blogs, but I want paper pages. I'm so giddy and greedy with the concept of reading only for pleasure (it's been a year, and I still can't get over it - like a lottery winner who can't believe her good fortune), I'm inhaling several books at once. Wait - that sounds insane.

I don't know why, but when I eat a meal, I always start one thing and finish it before I move onto the next. I never thought this was weird until college and then people started pointing it out left and right. People (okay, servers, mostly in restaurants) will ask me, "Do you not like your sandwich?" when 15 minutes after my plate has been delivered, I'm still playing with the mashed potatoes or chips or fries or whatever. I'll get to my sandwich eventually. Just not until I've finished the "whatever."

That's how I used to read books. I might bring home a pile of 10 from the library, pick one and start it. And no matter how painful or tedious or boring the book, I couldn't start a new one. I had to finish the one I was currently reading. The first time I started another book without finishing my current book, I felt like I was cheating on someone. "Listen," I wanted to say to my new book, "Don't tell Eat, Pray, Love that we're doing this, okay? She thinks she's the only one in my life right now."

I eventually got over it, although the guilt lingered for years. But not this year. This year I am a reckless slut with my books, starting one and then another and then another and being SO crazy that sometimes I've even been reading four books at once! (Can you believe the promiscuity? And the craziness? So crazy with the craziness around here!)

So. Me and books have gotten back together - probably since last May - and I really feel like I need to devote all my attention to that particular relationship, since we'd broken up way back in 2004 when I started grad school.

I am also no longer filled with rage. Oh - don't get me wrong - I still have my rage. Just not enough to fill a blog post a week even - let alone a day.

But the other thing is that I am going through something right now that has got me feeling very sad and helpless. I do believe that we can manage our feelings if not "choose" them, but not this. And in between being sad and feeling helpless, I'm obsessing to anyone who will listen IRL. In fact, I'm basically out of other conversational topics once I've exhausted what books I'm reading and "The Issue" as it shall be known henceforth. Or is it "whereto"? I should have paid more attention in my Shakespeare Tragedies class in undergrad. I should have paid more attention in ALL of my classes, but that's for another blog.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The Issue. I'm pretty much surprised that anyone still picks up the phone when they see me calling because I'm sure they know there's only one subject about which I will be in the mood to discuss and that is - of course - The Issue.

Things are so bad I've started scrapbooking. This is bad because I don't take pictures, really - except for home improvement ones. And I'm not doing a home improvement scrapbook. I'm creating beautiful (well, at least I think they are) scrapbook pages with NO PICTURES. I'm experimenting with things I once openly scoffed, like "fibers" and "found objects" and "metal charms" and colored staples. If Michael's stock has soared in the past two months, I am personally responsible for it. On one particularly bad day, I became convinced I needed a "Crop-o-diler" and ran out and bought it without even looking at the price tag or considering the fact that people need air, water, food, shelter and that's about it. I'm sure people who have lost loved ones in the recent tragedies in China and Myanmar would gladly have me killed for thinking I "need" anything other than those things I already mentioned and oh, I don't know, family and friends.

I think my blog would be the perfect place to work out all my angst with The Issue, except the person about whom I am most worried - around who The Issue revolves - reads this blog. Or, at least he read it. He probably stopped reading when I stopped posting, just like everybody else. So I continue to blather on to bored friends and spend money on crap for scrapbooking that was probably made by poor exploited child laborers somewhere and I am spending my way to hell with every purchase.

Which brings me to my point. I can't remember what it was, exactly, but I do know I had one or I wouldn't have started this post. Something to do with, "Am I going to shut this sucker down for once and for all or just keep lying to myself that some day, some day very soon I will pick it up again and start blogging religiously?"

And the answer is, I don't know. But if you're reading this, thanks for checking in even when I've given you absolutely no reason to do so. I guess time will tell. Or I will be voted off the blogosphere in which case I will pack my things and leave immediately.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Better Late than Never, Right? Right!?!?!?

No excuses for my lame-ass response to this article - I'd apologize but that would sound more than a bit insincere. Let's just get down to it.

WARNING: Nonsensical ramblings to come. Do not expect logic, sense, or even remotely sub-standard writing. You will not find that here. Teacher Lady tries to become "Philosopher Lady" and fails miserably.

I think the reason that article really resonated with me is because that if I had met Mr. J. before I had met my crazy first husband - or, if I had never met my crazy first husband, I would have written him (Mr. J.) off.

I am in no way saying that I "settled" with Mr. J. - far from it. But my experience with my first husband was so life-changing. Once, when I was living with my parents (oh, the humiliation) after I had left Lt. Loser in Hawaii but hadn't yet got my emotional or financial footing back, my mom said something about how if I had my life to do over again, I would just erase that entire chapter. From a mother's perspective, I understood as much as someone who's never been a mother could understand. She had to be worried. She had to be scared. I can only imagine how terrifying some of my phone calls must have been. I was living with an abusive, narcissistic crazy bully who had no problem using violence to demonstrate his anger. (I've said this here before and I'll say it again - our "therapist" who failed me in countless ways I think but that's for another time said to me as I announced I just couldn't take another minute and was leaving the nut-job, "Well, if you were going to stay with him, that was really the equivalent of deciding to spend much of your life in the hospital and no woman should have to make that decision." (Then it sounded brilliant - now all I can think is, "Well, duh!") I lived in fear of him every day and my parents lived thousands of miles away - they were helpless to do anything.)

What was my point? Oh, yeah. So while from my mom's perspective, my marriage to LL (Lt. Loser) should have been completely eradicated from my life if I ever had a "do-over", I'm not so sure I feel the same way. There MUST be easier ways to learn such lessons, but I guess I was rather thick-skulled and had to sit through the very time-compressed yet intensive version of "What Really Matters in Marriage, 101."

You see, if you take the craziness out of the equation (which is difficult, but obviously the man had some good qualities or I never would have married him), LL made a great boyfriend. And by that I mean, he was charming and gregarious and no one who knew him on a strictly social level could have imagined what he was capable of doing. He was clearly intelligent (in some ways) because he once said to me, "All I'm doing is what we do in the Navy. We have to break down the new recruits to nothing so we can build them back up into officers who know and do things our way. I'm just breaking you down so I can build you back up into a good wife." Why was that intelligent? Because he knew damn well not to explain his "philosophy of marriage" to anyone else, including our marriage counselor. Maybe intelligent is giving him too much credit - maybe he just wasn't completely stupid.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Good things about the ex. So LL was up for anything, meaning if someone up the street called and said they were having an impromptu 70s costume party, we were off and running to the Good Will, finding the perfect costumes, complete with accessories. He was all about entertaining and being social and he had lots of interests from snowboarding to surfing to sailing and would try anything once: Fashion show? Okay, why not? Hawaiian church service, totally in Hawaiian language? Let's give it a whirl. That may not sound like much, but when I was in my 20s, I had just come out of a very long, very boring, very serious relationship and this was such a refreshing change I couldn't believe my luck (yeah, the word "rebound relationship" occurred to me, too.)

But you know what? Mr.-Lots-of-Interests and up-for-anything was a financial disaster. Who needs to eat when there's a full drum set for sale in the paper for only $1,000 that we don't really have? And we don't have any place to put it? Oh, well let's rent a studio for $100 a month to house these drums that you don't really know how to play in the first place.

I'm all over the place here (apologies - my blog muscle is very rusty), but one thing my Nana always said was "Pay yourself first." She was all about the IRA and the 401k and anything else you could do to save money. I heard that my whole life and I knew what that meant. One day, LL came home with one of his newest toys - something ridiculous that we didn't have space for and couldn't afford - that was about $400. He said proudly, "I know we haven't paid our bills yet this month, but you know what they say: You have to pay yourself first." Yeah, I don't think that's what that saying actually means, but you didn't correct LL unless you wanted to instigate a huge fight, so I just bit my tongue. (I did that a lot in those days. I'm surprised it never fell off.)

He also didn't understand that spending every minute of every weekend with his semi-retired parents wasn't my favorite thing to do. Don't get me wrong - I loved my mother-in-law (which a close friend said was the sign of a doomed marriage. She thought it sick and perverse that I actually considered my MIL one of my closest friends) - but if you have in-laws, I think you know what I'm talking about when I say that I couldn't exactly be 100% myself around them. I couldn't have a bad mood, or a quiet mood where I didn't feel like talking and there was certainly no wandering off and curling up with a good book. The in-law thing became an important lesson for me - and maybe it's only me - but I discovered that spouses have to be on the same page where in-laws are concerned.

But LL was good "boyfriend" material. Maybe not even "boyfriend" - he was good dating or friend material and I confused that with good husband material. (How could I be so silly?)

Mr. J. is so opposite of LL it boggles the mind. Mr. J. is extremely introverted. (This is an understatement.) He will never be the life of the party because he will probably never go to the party. And had I never met LL, I would have written off Mr. J. immediately as boring. I wanted a gregarious, entertaining guy who would not just be the life of the party but would be hosting the party. Now? So. Highly. Overrated.

Lt. Loser was a Navy pilot. This was an exciting job. Being the shallow nitwit I was in my 20s, for some reason, I thought it was important for my husband to have an interesting job. (Dear gob, could I have BEEN more immature? What exactly was wrong with me?) Mr. J. does something with computers. Or networks. Or something. And, oh yeah - project management. Can't forget the project management. Lots of project management. You hear words like "scope creep" around our house all the time. He gets magazines like, "Project Management Professional" - which, by the way, is mind-numbingly boring. Just in case you were wondering.

Lt. Loser's parents had been married to each other and only each other for about 30+ years. I also thought this was important. It said something that LL came from a "good family". (Oh, I could not have been more wrong. I mistook marital longevity for love, stability and commitment. And as I mentioned, my ex-MIL left my ex-father-in-law after 37 years of marriage; I was long gone by then.) Mr. J.'s mother was deceased, but she had been married and divorced 3 times in her life. Mr. J.'s parents had gotten divorced when he was 3. His siblings were all what I would call "the working poor", except for his younger sister who somehow managed not to work and (not surprisingly) was incredibly poor.

If you read that article and thought it was silly, then my hunch is you are or were incredibly mature in your 20s and had good sense. I made a choice during my 20s based on passion and fun and what I thought was "love" and it was an unmitigated disaster. And had I met Mr. J. in my 20s, I wouldn't have married him and thought I was "settling" - I would have written him off entirely. Not my type for about a million reasons.

And I would have so, so SO missed out on the best possible person for me. I don't like to think about it. So that's why I wouldn't necessarily delete the Lt. Loser chapter from my life: because I think I would have continued to have this immature, practically stupid and incredibly naive idea of what matters in marriage. (At least to me. I know everyone has their own individual criteria and "deal breakers".) And if I had met Mr. J. in my 20s and I had given him a second glance, and let's say I had married him at that time in my life I would have thought I was "settling" big time. My experiences (and that article) make me wonder: How many women out there are dating/living with and/or married to a great guy and yet think they're "settling"? Someone who shall remain nameless recently flipped out because her fiance asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her reasoning: He just should have known. He shouldn't have to ask. The perfect present is out there for her somewhere and he failed her by not finding it. This is someone who, I fear, will believe she is "settling" for less than she deserves when in fact she is incredibly lucky to be with someone who is so devoted and loyal and loves her so completely.

I'm going to stop typing now. I never knew where this entry was going and I still don't, but thank you (if you're still there) for reading what is basically the swirling miasma of my brain put into words.

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