Is Marriage Bullshit?

What is marriage?

I realize what a loaded question this is.  And on this, my third wedding anniversary, I coincidentally happened on a Penn and Teller: Bullshit episode on “Family Values.”  If you’re not familiar with Bullshit, it was a popular Showtime program running from 2003 to 2010, aimed at debunking pseudoscientific ideas, popular beliefs, and misconceptions.  Penn and Teller host the show, typically take an abrasively libertarian point of view, and there are usually people interviewed for the show from both sides of a given topic.

In the “Family Values” episode, the idea/institute of marriage comes under fire as impractical, restrictive and, according to one arguably misogynistic radio personality, entrapping to men, as he remarks, “[We] are paying for use of a vagina.”

One professor of History and Family Studies claims, “There is no such thing as a traditional family… the idea one man one woman, nuclear family […] that’s a pretty rare family form in history.”

Also mentioned is the fact that marriage historically was rarely about romantic love, but rather protecting family interests and assets.  Arranged marriages were common, as was the existence of lovers other than one’s spouse.

While it can (and has) been pointed out that Bullshit is usually fairly one-sided, with Penn voicing over interviews rather than allowing for actual back and forth debate with said interviewees, I found enough valid points to sort of dishearten me with the idea that romantic marriage is a fairly new (and often unsuccessful) endeavor.

I’ve always considered myself a romantic at heart, and although I try to be pragmatic, I want to believe in love.  That’s not to say that I think there is only one soul mate out there for any given person.  Were that the case, given the size of the world and the number of people in it, it would be highly improbable that so-called “true” soul mates would find one another in their lifetime.  Still, if you can find even one person you can trust, confide in, lean on, have fun with, and love, you are a lucky person.

So, considering my cognitively conflicting ideas of pragmatism and romance, I thought it over…very briefly…and decided to rephrase the question to myself.

What is marriage…to me?

In short, it doesn’t matter what the statistics say, what marriage has  historically meant, what other couples are doing, what “biology” says, or even what religions say about marriage.  At least not to me.  The only thing that matters to me are the values I’ve internalized, the values my husband and I agreed upon when we discussed what marriage meant to us, and what we want out of our relationship.  In my husband I have a friend and someone who knows my heart (and my body) well.  And hopefully we can pass along our values and ideas of love on to our daughter.

So…Nya!

Pffffttttttthhhh!

Saying Goodbye

I just called the University of Maryland hospital to speak to my grandmother for what will likely be the last time.  She was not awake.  I don’t know if she heard me or not, but I had to try.

Approximately two years ago, as I lay in the hospital in labor with my child, she lay in a hospital 12 hours away, after having passed out and fallen in her bathroom the night before and having lain there all night.  Despite our concerns, she largely recovered from that episode.  She even eventually went back to her own home, despite my family’s concerns for her being alone.  Then last week or so,  she fell again and hit her head.  Come to find out she had something wrong with her carotid that when she turned her head a certain way, she would pass out.  While she was in the hospital this time as the family and doctors decided what course of action to take, her health began to decline.  She has gone from lucid, although understandably depressed, to what basically amounts to comatose.  She has a cyst and fluid on her brain.  Now she is having difficulty breathing.  She will likely not live out the weekend.

And I really have no feasible way to get there to see her.  Even if my mother bought me a plane ticket (because my husband and I can certainly not afford one much less two right now,) the last experience I had taking my toddler through airport security without the benefit of my husband’s help was harrowing and stressful enough that I swore I’d never do it again.  The thought of it makes my stomach feel icky.  Nevertheless, my mother really wants me and the baby there for the funeral…needs us there.  She is emotionally incapable of handling the impending  loss of her mother.  Even if my grandmom lived to be 100 and died peacefully in her sleep, I think my mom would be incapable of handling it.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the people I have known and loved, the “old days,” when I was a child.  As a child, I suffered from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, so I was almost never completely carefree, but those days were probably the closest to carefree I’ll likely ever be.  And when I think about those old days and how they are over for good, it’s something I am not completely at peace with.  Everything changes.  That’s life.  Nothing can stay the same.  It’s just the way of things, and the old adage “youth is wasted on the young” is fairly accurate, in that children generally do not have the emotional or mental maturity to be fully present, “in the moment” so to speak, as they grow and experience life.  I mean, they definitely live life in the moment in many regards, but do they stop while they run, while they play, or even while they sit bored in church, to appreciate the moment and realize how fleeting it is?  I doubt it.  That was something I myself first discovered around the age of twelve, and my anxiety over the passage of time and the retrospect way we experience life in general has been a source of anxiety for me ever since.

Well, I feel I have digressed from the original subject.  But then again, maybe not.  This is all related in one way or another, and as I got off the phone with the nurse who held the phone to my grandmother’s ear, and the tears pricked at the back of my throat, I just felt like I had to write.  And there is so much more I could write.  Like how my grandma will never get to see my daughter, her great-granddaughter, again.  Like how my mom’s health is not good either or how my cat is dying.  About my cousin who died tragically six years ago or my uncle who we lost in ’99, and how it’s still hard to believe he’s gone sometimes.

I’ll just say one more thing.  Right after Christmas, only days after my daughter and I returned, my husband’s grandmother succumbed to a stroke brought on by hip surgery she had right before Christmas.  I am very thankful that I made it a point to take the baby to see her on the night before her surgery.  That was the last time I saw her as well.  My husband and I could not make it back to Maryland in time for her funeral either.

Both his grandmother and mine were (are) wonderful ladies who were, in many ways, the heart of the family.  In the case of my mother’s side of the family, my grandmom is likely one of the only things still keeping a strained family together.

But like I said before, resistance to change is futile and will only end in anxiety and fear.

I don’t know what beliefs I subscribe to at this point in my life.  That’s been another source of confusion and anxiety for me for a long time.  But I do hope that peace will somehow find my grandmother and the rest of my family during this difficult time…and maybe there will be some peace left over for me.

Quick, cover your eyes! Boobs!

Unless you’re living under a rock (and the way the world is going down the shitter, believe me, I’d understand if you were,) then you’ve probably at least glimpsed the ‘controversial’ Time Magazine cover of the mother breastfeeding her toddler.  The impression I get is that America is pretty much the only place where this seems to really piss some people off.  One reason may be that most of America seems to elevate breasts’ sexual function above their biological one.  In other parts of the world, not only is nursing normal, but so called “attachment parenting” is a way of life.

I nursed my daughter for 20 months (for you mathematically challenged folks, she was almost two) and believe it or not, I heard some pressure to “switch her to formula,” etc, etc.  When I nursed around others, I often covered up as much for their comfort as for my own modesty.  That said, that was a personal choice.  All of those things were personal choices, based on mine and my child’s needs, from the decision to nurse, to when and how to do it, and when to stop.  If you don’t like or agree with someone else’s style of parenting, the cool thing about living in this country is, hey, you don’t have to do it!

I really don’t understand why people in this country feel the need to beat others about the head with their own morals, social mores, and opinions.  I read comments regarding that magazine cover to the effect that the child would later on be scarred and embarrassed when their friends inevitably saw the cover.  Really?  Scarred?  Because I see and even know some people who ignore their kids, emotionally batter them, belittle them, overfeed them, smoke around them in enclosed spaces, get drunk around them, foist them off on others, have ugly fights with their spouses around them, and use them as ammunition in their spousal fights…   If the worst thing that happens to that kid is an embarrassing photo, then he’ll be okay, I think.   I’d worry more about the airbrushed tits and ass the kid has to see on every other magazine cover, billboard, and advertisement every day, all the time.

And for you people that think that the photo or the practice of extended nursing is perverse… grow up.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  Consider therapy even, if ‘boobies’ embarrass you so badly.   

I could say a lot of things about this cover, these ideas, but they’d probably all be things you have read before in one form or another.  So I’ll content myself with reiterating a theme you may have noticed courses through a lot of my articles.  People need to mind their own damn business.  Stop trying to make decisions for other people.

Additionally, some brilliant soul came up with this version of the Time cover that really hits me on an emotional level.  ~sniff~

BE The Mom; loving yourself

I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past couple of days, and what better day to stop thinking and write it all down than Mother’s Day?

I have been pretty hard on myself, especially lately.  I’m sure there are a few reasons for that, but for this purpose I guess they are pretty irrelevant.  What is important is my stomach is too fat, my nose is too big.  I’m not pretty enough, I’m not a good enough mother.  I spend too much time on the computer.  I don’t keep the house clean enough.  I’m a naggy wife.  I’m not successful enough.  I screw things up.

And as I looked at my poochy belly the other day and once more thought to myself “that’s just disgusting,” I realized something important;

I love my daughter more than anything, and I want her to grow up loving herself and knowing she is special.  I would love her even if her nose was too big or she had a pudgy belly…and SHE loves me no matter what I look like (or clean like or what I screw up.) 

How can I expect her to love herself, though, when I am not setting that example for her by loving myself?  When she gets a little older and comes to me and says, “Mommy, I don’t like my nose,” or “Mommy, am I fat?” (and it may happen considering all the pressure put on girls and women to be beautiful,) how can I tell her she is beautiful no matter what when I don’t believe that for myself?

So, for her sake, if not for my own, I am going to make an effort to be kinder to myself, and see in me all the good that I see and want for her.

I love you, baby. You’re beautiful.

photo ©Cynthia Gemmill and alienredqueen

Being a Mom has Turned Me into a Total Wimp!

I was not born to be a mother.  I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a princess in a castle and marrying a prince.  I didn’t spend a lot of time cradling babydolls, and I didn’t play house all that often.  I had Barbies for awhile, but they were oversexed weirdos.  In fact, by the time I was about ten years old, my make believe games often had aspects that were distinctly weird.  When my cousin and I would hang out, we’d pretend we were a bickering old vagrant couple and we’d speak continuously in cockney English accents (it used to really flip my mother out). Continue reading