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, 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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