Content Warning: This post has some description of agressive, threating behaviour. Also it’s very personal and it got pretty long. If you decide to skip it, I totally understand.

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Oh, peeps, I feel like I owe you many apologies. First because it’s been so long since I’ve made time to blog here. Second because my last post was kind of moody in tone. Third because this one’s about rough times too.

Before I delve into what’s bugging me, I have to tell you that generally speaking life has been good. Things at school are going well. I’ve got a book in the works and other career plans that have me excited about the future. California continues to be a source of fun and family adventure. I want to write about all of those things. Time permitting I will, and soon, but today’s post is about something far less pleasant.

A couple of months ago, I was riding the subway (or BART as it’s known to locals) after school, when a man sat down beside me and proceeded to threaten me. I wrote about the incident on Facebook the night it happened, so I know some of you already know this. It’s difficult for me to recount the entire incident (I’ll explain why shortly), so I hope bullet points are okay for now:

  • I suspect this person was ill. They kept confusing me with other women in his life. They seemed to perceive me as a threat to both him and to “children”. They indicated repeatedly that his plan was to rape and kill me/these women in order to “stop” me from hurting people.
  • It was a rush hour train, very crowded, which made it very difficult for me to get up and move away from him.
  • They had a bag full of random items. I didn’t know if he had a weapon. At the time, I wasn’t very worried about being sexually assaulted but I was very afraid that if I inadvertently said  the wrong thing they would stab me, or pull out a gun on the train
  • I tried, without further agitating my seatmate, to enlist the help of the nearby passengers. I noticed some of them watching what was happening. I managed to make eye contact with a few people, but they turned away. Now it’s possible, even likely they just didn’t know what to do. It’s also possible that someone called for help after they left the train, or that someone I couldn’t see was monitoring the situation. But my perception was that I was left alone to fend for myself.
  • Ultimately, I made it off the train unharmed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been through something like this. I was definitely off-kilter for several days following the incident. I figured feeling feelings was productive. After a couple of weeks, I wasn’t exactly over it, but I felt a lot better. Life was good and I felt like I was moving past it.

Last week, I started getting weird. Not weird in my typical adorkable way. Not even weird in the way that my anxiety disorder makes me weird. My brain and my body started behaving in odd ways that I do not like at all. It’s still happening right now, which is why I’m feeling pretty desperate get some of this out of my head and into words.

The good news, is that I’m pretty sure I understand what’s going on with me. The cruddy news is that what’s going on with me is that I’m experiencing psychological trauma. Pbbbblt!

I’ve been given lots of great suggestions for how to cope, while my mind and body sort through the ickyness this experience has churned up for me. What I can’t do is make these feelings magically disappear. I know because when I Googled, “make these feelings magically disappear”, the results were, “No. In order to move past the crap, you must experience the crap.”

So, for the time being, I’m left with coping. I may not be able to change what I’m feeling, but understanding it definitely helps get me through the day. Between work and years of therapy, I had some good go-to resources to help me bone up on the symptoms of trauma. In many ways, what I’m feeling is typical. In some ways it isn’t. Which is also typical, because everyone who feels traumatized gets to experience it in their own way.

I’m gonna talk about some of what I’m feeling. Mostly because writing about this stuff kind of helps to clarify and organize my thoughts so they aren’t so overwhelming. I also thought it might be helpful if any of you are going through something similar. But remember this is totally #NormalNotNormal. If you relate, I hope this helps. But you may have felt or feel traumatized in ways that aren’t anything like what I’m feeling and that’s legit too.

Nightmares

I don’t have a lot of nightmares. Last week when I started having violent, dreams virtually every night, it raised a big, red flag. Interestingly, the dreams almost never have anything to do with what happened in real life. Often times, I’m not even in them – I’m just witnessing scary shit. I’m not quite sure what my subconscious is doing there, but I’m guessing it’s some sort of fear-processing mechanism.

What’s weird about these nightmares, is, as violent as they are, when I wake up, the cognitive part of my brain is completely unphased. I think, ‘That is not a thing I need to be afraid of in real life. I’m going to back to sleep’. Unfortunately, my body does not agree one bit. Physically, I can feel bricks of fear in my chest and stomach. Mentally and physically, I’m totally out of synch, which brings me to the other thing I’ve noticed.

Disconnect

Lately, there is a profound diffence between my thoughts and how my body feels. Mentally, I feel as rational as I ever have. Physically, I’m always afraid. Yesterday I went to an event in the city. I parked my car a block from the venue. I looked around, assessed the situation and I knew that the odds of anything dangerous happening were extremely low. In my mind, I was calm. But my body was frightened. My body had been frightened on the drive over. My body had been frightened when I got in the car. My body was frightened earlier that afternoon when I was sitting at my desk writing a book report. I feel scared even when there’s no reason for me to feel that way. It’s not overwhelming or debilitating. But it’s always there. My brain understands that I’m relatively safe. My body is like, “Whatevs, Brain! The playground at three in the afternoon is a scary-ass place to be and you’re not convincing me otherwise!”

 

Huh? What?

My brain is doing okay with the risk-assessing. Not so good with retaining information, organizing thoughts or concentrating on tasks. I’m a reasonably smart gal, but I am not on the ball. I’m constantly using the wrong words to describe things or calling folks by the wrong name. Reading is a challenge. Writing is a challenge. Getting this post together is slo-o-w-w-w going. Now, I’ve got to be real. I tend to be disorganized and a little distracted even at my best. But this is pretty bad, even for me. By all reports this is also typical of the traumatic process. Good to know, but it’s still the pits.

 

Out Of Order

At some point I will schedule a Skype session with my shrink in Ottawa. I haven’t done it yet, because I don’t want to tell her what happened. It’s really hard for me to talk about the actual incident. Not because of the emotions it triggers, but because the timeline of events is completely mixed up in my head. My memory of what happened, starts with a guy in a green shirt. He was standing in the aisle and we made eye contact, before he turned away. That happened maybe ten minutes after my seatmate started harassing me. It was neither the first, nor the most significant part of that incident. But that’s what I remember first and that’s what I remember most clearly.

The event is like a puzzle. All the pieces are there, but they aren’t cohesive. Talking about what happened in chronological order is remarkably difficult, right now.  I might write the events, as I remember them on cue cards and then try to order the cards in the order I think everything happened. I’m not up for that task right now, but I think it could be helpful down the line.

Stranger Danger

I’ve never cottoned to the “don’t talk to strangers” approach to life. First of all, how am I supposed to make friends if I can’t talk to people I don’t know? Also, my experience of strangers is that most of them are pretty helpful if you’re in a jam. The reason I love urban environments is that there’s always someone around. I normally feel more comfortable surrounded by strangers than I feel being isolated and alone.

Now, I’m uncomfortable around strangers. Again, there’s a brain-body disconnect. I encounter someone new and I think, “Odds are you’re a decent person,” while my body is like, “This person might be dangerous.” I dropped off Twitter for almost a month after the incident. Now I’ll make the occasional appearance, but I don’t linger. There are strangers on Twitter.

Everything I’ve read confirms that this is a normal part of a traumatic process. But I find itdifficult to accept. I identify strongly as a people-person.The most rewarding aspect of my life are my relationships. Being with others is how I derive energy and inspiration. People, for the most part, are kind and interesting and helpful. But right now I’m really struggling to engage with folks. I’m mistrustful and I don’t like it, because I know I’m not being fair.

I’m not trying to beat myself up. I know I’m allowed to feel how I feel, but this just really sucks. I don’t like feeling timid. I don’t like avoiding eye contact with people. I don’t like going into situations with all of my defenses up. And the worst part is, avoiding strangers doesn’t make me feel safer. It makes me feel lonely. I really, really hope this is temporary, because keeping people at arm’s length is not my style.

Where Do I Go From Here?

It sounds weird, but on some level the fact that I’m having all these gross feelings is a good thing. Whether or not my perception of the events on the subway were accurate, I was legitimately afraid that my seatmate might harm me. It would have been nice if that fear had resolved itself as soon as the encounter was over, but that didn’t happen. I’m not enjoying these feelings, but if they’re here, I’m probably processing them, which means they’ll probably(mostly) go away in time.

  • Writing all of this down is helpful. Sharing it and getting support is helpful. The Man of Mans is, as always, doing a phenomenal job of listening, accepting and supporting me.
  • When it feels manageable, I go out and I try to talk to new people. Meeting folks who are nice, is a helpful reminder that people are nice.
  • I’m trying to exercise most days. A lot of times it’s just going for a walk or taking a yoga class, but sometimes I feel a bit better after.
  • I make a lot of jokes. Humour is one of my most trusted coping mechanisms. Plus laughing feels good.
  • I am avoiding some things. I used to love taking BART to get around, but I just can’t handle riding the subway alone right now. I’m driving more, which I don’t love, but it’s what I can handle right now.
  • I’m thinking about how I can get more rest and feed myself well. Obviously my body is pretty stressed. She could probably use some extra sleep and nutrition.
  • Finally, I’m thinking about ways to inject a little fun, relaxation and enjoyment into each day. Processing is important, but it’s probably also important to take a break from all of that and chill out for a bit. I don’t want to spend my last months in California being all tense and miserable. This is a rough time, but if I try, I can still find moments of happiness and pleasure.

 

That’s where I’m at. I’m hoping these feelings will pass by the end of this paragraph, but experience has taught me they may linger past my concluding statement. People have survived much worse and I will survive this. And the writing does help. It has helped. If you made it all the way through, thank you.

This too shall pass.

Being back in school is challenging. Academics are HARD, yo…at least for me! There’s a whole-lot of learnin’ to do and keeping on top of everything isn’t easy. Luckily the part where I love what I’m doing makes the study load feel a little lighter. It’s tough, but kind of in a good way because I feel I’m being pushed in the right direction.

I’m also being stretched emotionally, which is something I didn’t necessarily expect. Our professors don’t just give us factual information, they make us get all introspective and work on ourselves. Seriously! The faculty have this bizzarro philosophy that self-awareness will help us become better, more compassionate professionals. Whazzup with that?

Here’s an example. Sexuality educator and counsellor, Reece Malone (from Winnipeg! Canada represent!) led a seminar on gender variance and diversity. Before his workshop, I’d assumed that I was a super-cool, mega-enlightened kind of gal who didn’t have any trouble embracing the reality that not everyone’s gender is defined their genitals. But then Reece came along with his brilliant teaching that forced me to go beyond the rational, think-y part of my brain. He made me examine my emotions and gut reactions. And it became pretty obvious pretty fast that as much as I want to be the person who’s totally fine if her little boy decides he wants to be girl, I’m not quite there.

Below is an assignment our class was given. In bold are the prompts from Reece, followed by my answers. Doing this exercise forced me to face the reality, that I definitely have some prejudices around gender identity.

(Warning: This gets kind of long. Bear with me, okay?)

When I meet a person on the street whose gender is unclear to me, Iimmediately feel flustered. Despite my intellectual beliefs, I often find myself scrutinizing their face and body, looking for clues about their gender. I have to consciously remind myself that a stranger’s gender is none of my business, has no effect on my life and to stop staring.

If someone I’ve known for a long time told me that they used to be another gender, I…react differently depending on what they look like. If their body or presentation has characteristics of another gender, I might be less startled. I’ve had this experience with a few long-time acquaintances and my first thought was something like “Ohhhh…it all makes sense now.” But someone whose look is completely in line with my concept of what a person of that gender looks like, might surprise me with their confession.

What I do when I am talking to a student/client/person whose gender is unclear to me, isif I don’t need to know, I generally don’t ask and I try to avoid making any gender-specific references in our conversation. If I think gender will be relevant or it becomes relevant in the conversation, I usually share my preferred pronouns in the hopes that it will encourage them to do the same.

When someone says they are neither male nor female, I…become self-conscious about the language I use around gender. I begin to think very hard about certain phrases I tend to use like “opposite sex” or “boys and girls”. I try not express to that person how awkward I feel, because I feel that’s my issue, not theirs (but I worry that they pick on my awkwardness anyway). I also feel guilt. I wish I was as accepting emotionally as I am in my head.

What I think about the statement “people are neither men nor women” is…that isn’t true. I think ignores the identities of people both trans and cisgender who feel very strongly that they are men or they are women. I believe men and women are the genders that are validated and acknowledged in our society and I believe we need to create space for all the other gender identities that exist, but there are people who are men and women.

If a friend wanted to have genital surgery to present more as a woman I…would ask them how I could support them. I love my friends and I want them to be happy. I honestly don’t feel that surgery would bother me. I think I’d be most concerned that they felt loved and accepted and I’d want to make sure they knew that I cared for them.

My reaction to a trans person who does not “pass” as the gender they are presenting is…that it’s fine. I don’t have to prove that I’m a woman. They shouldn’t have to prove their gender either. It is likely I will slip and use the wrong pronouns, so I’ll be apologizing a lot!

If my parent told me they were going to start to present as the opposite gender than I had known, I…would be really surprised. I think my first impulse would be to tell them that I loved them. Knowing my parents, they’d be deeply hurt if they thought I no longer cared for them. I’d be afraid that they would experience rejection from other people in their life, so I certainly wouldn’t want them to feel any from me. That having been said, it’s hard to imagine my mom as a dad or my dad as a mom. I’m fairly certain I’d also be sad. I’ve known them both my whole life, so to watch such a significant part of who they’ve been for me change or disappear would be really tough.

My current thinking about the reasons some people are trans and some are not is…I’ve never thought about it. Being cisgender, I’m rarely challenged to think about why my gender is what it is. Now that I am thinking about it…I still don’t know. I’m not sure that I personally feel a great need to seek out a “reason”. I just feel it’s important that I learn to sincerely accept people as they truly are.

I think the relationship between being trans and mental health is…profound. I can only imagine the emotional pain of living with an identity that many people don’t understand, acknowledge or accept. I also guess that the continual threat of rejection, or worse, violence could cause severe stress. Because many in our society refuse to embrace gender diverse people, I can understand why they are at greater risk for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression and have a much higher rate of suicide. That is part of the reason I feel so strongly that I need to keep working on my own prejudices and to take part in whatever work needs to be done to create a trans-inclusive society. Everyone has a right to be who they truly are and to thrive with that identity.

The first time I met a trans individual I felt…ashamed. During the first few encounters, I thought they were a man who was coming on to me. I didn’t like the attention and kept my attitude cool and distant. Eventually she confessed that she was biologically male and transitioning to female. She had identified with me as another woman and was trying to reach out. The shame came from knowing that I had pulled away from someone who simply wanted friendship. Once I realize what was happening, I also felt a bit of pride that she wanted me as a friend. Despite my early behaviour we did eventually become pals.

When someone tells me they may be trans, I question…I don’t know that I question, but I’m curious as to what they are feeling. I sometimes ask, “How are you feeling?”

If my child tells me that his/her best friend may be trans, I think…That I need to speak with my son, find out what his understanding of trans is and help explain anything he’s confused or concerned about (assuming I have the answers). I would also tell my son that he should ask his friend what name/pronoun they like, to use that name and model the behaviour by doing the same thing myself.

I think people who…react violently towards transpeople, refuse to use a person’s preferred name/pronoun, who ask questions about a person’s genitals or how they have sex, who claim that gender identity is inappropriate to discuss with children, who ask “are you a girl or a boy?”, who make disparaging comments about trans identities, who refuse to work with or hire trans people, who insist that trans people conceal their true identities…are transphobic

When I was younger I thought trans people were…women who were born men and had penises. The first depiction of a trans person I ever saw was in The Crying Game and for a long time, that was my only point of reference. I assumed there were also men who were born women and had vulvas, though I had never heard of or seen any. I don’t think I knew surgery was an option, beyond maybe breast implants for women.

If my child came out to me as a trans woman/man, I would initially feel…excited. I love my son and I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but before he was born I always dreamed of having a daughter. So I think my very first thought would be, “Yay! I have a little girl!” But I would very quickly start to worry. I would worry about how best to supporting her and helping her navigate her new identity. I’d be terrified about the bigotry she could face and how it would affect her self-worth. And when she was older, I would worry a lot about her facing violence when she was out in the world.

If my partner came out to me as a trans woman/man I would initially feel…concerned. My partner is the most important person in my life. I know how much he loves me and I know how frightening it would be for him to reveal something he thought might end our relationship or worse, drive me away. I know he’d need support. I think my first impulse would be to reach out as his best friend. But with time I would probably be angry. I might feel like I had been cheated out of a husband. And I think I would be profoundly sad. I love my partner the way he is now. If he came out as trans, I’d feel like I’d lost him even though internally she was the same person. Finally, I think I’d feel guilty. Because with any other person in my life, I think sooner or later I’d be able to accept the change and love them all the same…but I’m not sure that I could do that for my partner.

If my brother/sister came out to me as a trans woman/man, I would initially feel…I don’t have siblings, so I honestly don’t know. I’m thinking about how I would feel if it were my best friend, who’s been in my life for thirty years. I think I’d be surprised but of all the people that are close to me, I suspect that would be the easiest coming out for me to accept. But with time I would…probably feel a lot of responsibility towards them. I might become a little overzealous in my attempts to be supportive. I could totally see us having a conversation where I’d start asking about their transition, their feelings about their transition, what I could do to help their transition and they’d turn to me and say, “Shut up! What Not To Wear is on!”

Yeaaaaah. I doubt I’ll be winning the Nobel Prize for gender acceptance any time soon. But at least now I know where some of my prejudices are and I can think more clearly about how they might affect other people and how I can work to change my attitude. Hopefully that will make me a better educator and maybe a nicer person.

I invite you to consider some of the Reece’s prompts – they’re great food for thought. And if any of you are so inclined, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments.

 

This is me.

 

This is The Man of Mans. I love him a whole lot.

 

The Man of Mans is a good and awesome dude, who treats me with heaps of kindness, respect, and affection. And while I am the sole recipient of his good husband lovin’, like many people (including myself), The MoMs sometimes finds himself attracted to other people. But I like to think of myself as a chill individual who isn’t prone to jealousy and can take it all in stride

I like to think of myself that way. But the reality is a little different.

In truth, I do get jealous.  I wish I was one of those super-confident people who can be all, “My person is having sexy feelings about some super-fine other lady. Whatevs. I KNOW my milkshake brings all the folks of my preferred gender to the yard, so I’m cool.”  Meanwhile, my reaction is usually something along the lines of “The MoMs is having sexy feelings about some super-fine other lady…

BUH!”

 

Intellectually, I understand that those mean, green feelings don’t do me a lot of good. However, the emotional part of my brain doesn’t always agree with what I think. While my rational side is saying, “No big deal. It’s totally normal to feel sexually attracted to multiple people,” my feelings are screaming “ME! ME! ME! DON’T LIKE OTHER PEOPLE! PAY ATTENTION TO ME! LOVE MEEEEEE!”

Fortunately, my rational side is (usually) loud enough to be heard through above the internal tantrum. In my moment of meltdown, it reminds me that indulging those feelings is a good way put cracks in the foundation of my most cherished relationship. And while I’m rarely able to rationalize my jealous feelings away, I find the following techniques can help to keep those icky feelings in check

 

Friendly Reminders

As I said, The MoMs has always been a wonderful partner. He loves me a great deal. In the seventeen years we’ve been together, he’s demonstrated that love in virtually every conceivable way. And I know this is hackneyed, but we are straight-up, legit best friends.

If The MoMs says to me, “So and so is really cute,” and I feel that little stabby pang in my stomach, I try to remind myself that he and are pals. Pals talk about stuff like this. What’s more, admiring the cuteness of another person doesn’t negate all the loving awesomeness The MoMs feels for me. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with me. or our relationship or anything except the fact that humans sometimes notice when other humans are cute.

 

 Check The Source

‘Hey, girl. What’s going on with you?’

That’s one of the first questions I try to ask myself when the green-eyed monster rears her ugly head. When I do a little digging, I usually find that knee-jerk jealousy happens because some deep-seeded insecurity has been triggered.

For example, I always have a micro-moment of panic when The MoMs tells me he has sexy feelings for a blonde. I grew up during a time when television showed us that California girls with sun-kissed locks were the undisputed queens of beauty and sex appeal. Then came sixth grade, also known as The Year I Read Sweet Valley everything. The Wakefield Twins and all of their fair-haired media cohorts left an indelible impression on my developing ideas about sex appeal – namely, that I didn’t have any since I am about as un-blonde as they come.

 

I’ve since learned that while blondes are very beautiful, they don’t have the monopoly on good looks. Still I spent my youth assuming that only people who could possibly see me as beautiful were my parents – and that was only because they had to. That’s a rough idea to live with when you’re girl living in a world that places so much importance on how women look.

 

When a blonde draws The MoMs admiration, the wounded twelve-year-old in me immediate feels threatened and sad, because how the hell are we going to compete with that. Fortunately the (slightly) more mature 37-year-old can remind her that there is no competition. Yes that blonde may be beautiful, but I can rest assured that The MoMs thinks that I am too.

 Make A Friend

Strange as it may, being friends or at least friendly with my husband’s crushes is one of the best ways I’ve found of getting past jealous feelings. I think it’s that whole thing where the unknown is usually way scarier than the reality. If The MoMs mentions having a crush on someone and I don’t know her,  I tend to imagine an Olympic-level snowboarder who speaks six languages and never farts.

But when I have had occasion to hang with The MoMs crushes, I almost always discover women who are outgoing, funny, kind of dorky and who like board games. Women that I almost always like, probably because we have stuff in common. Which I guess makes sense. Like many people, The MoMs has a “type” that he’s attracted to. And it always helps me feel better to realize that he doesn’t like these women because they aren’t like me, but rather, because they are.

 

Honesty IS The Best Policy

I keep describing scenarios wherein The MoMs tells me that he’s attracted to someone and then I feel jealous. You might be wondering, ‘Whassup with that? Why does he keep talking about other women to his wife?’

He does it because that’s what I want. I’ve been in a relationship where I’d chastise my partner if he mentioned another women or pout petulantly when I caught him gazing after someone as we walked down the street. We played the game where I insisted that he behave as though I were the only woman on earth and he indulged, albeit sometimes in a playful, patronizing way.

We played that game for our entire relationship. It was exhausting. And you know what? It didn’t make me feel better. In fact it made me feel worse. Because I knew he was lying to me and even though I’d explicitly asked for it, the dishonesty still eroded my trust. I also think that on some level I realized that it’s futile trying “keep” someone in that way.  I want a partner who wants to be with me. I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who’s there because I’ve effectively eliminated all other options so I become the choice by default.

So there’s that. And there’s also the part where keeping the crush stuff out in the open makes me feel better because if The MoMs is telling me about it, I know it’s no big deal. It also means that we can chat about the true nature of his feelings, which are generally pretty low-key and non-threatening.

Keeping crushes on the down-low definitely fuels my insecurity. But knowledge has the power to tame that green-eyed beast

 

Trust And Let Go

Jealousy and possessiveness tend to go together. Which makes sense. Jealousy – at least the OMG SEXUAL COMPETITION type – is basically fear that we’re going to lose our partner. That fear can compel us to hold on a little tighter.

Seeking reassurance from The MoMs can be really helpful in jealous times. The aforementioned talking, plus extra cuddles, kisses and “I love yous” go a long way towards calming my anxious heart, when a new subject of attraction enters the mix. That having been said, I try to avoid telling my husband who he can spend time with.

The MoMs and I are married, but I don’t feel that gives either of us the right to dictate who the other associates with. The MoMs and I have a set of mutually agreeable boundaries about which interactions are exclusive to our relationship. Beyond that, I really don’t like to impose sanctions on how my partner interacts with other people. After nearly a decade and half, we have a great deal of trust in each other. For me, that trust is too valuable to discard over the occasional jealous moment.

 

So that’s more or less how I deal. What about you? Do you jealous have moments? Have you found effective strategies for coping with those  lousy, green feelings?

Aaaand…we’re back!

As I mentioned earlier, The MoMs, The Green Bean and I took a quick trip down to San Francisco.  Spending time in the Bay Area is always a pleasure, but we also had much business to take care of, namely scoping out neighbourhoods, looking at homes and meeting the locals.

By now, many of you know (and the rest of you have probably guessed) that come June, the family and I will be leaving Ottawa and moving to San Francisco!

Actually, it looks like we’ll be moving to Berkeley, where a slightly less expensive rental market will afford us an extra bedroom for guests. It’s a pretty happening city in its own right and a short BART ride away from its sister across the Bay. We spent the bulk of our time Berkeley this week and the friendly people, bountiful markets and vibrant night life were seductive indeed.

Why the move?

I decided several months ago that I wanted to continue my career as a sexuality educator. To do so, I knew I’d have to further my education. After a lot of research, discussion with colleagues, discussion with mentors and discussion with my family, I decided to I would apply to begin graduate studies in Human Sexuality this fall. The program that best suited my needs was the The Insititute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, located smack dab in the middle of San Francisco.

The family I and briefly considered the distance option, which would have meant travelling from Ottawa to San Francisco for two to three weeks at a time, every four months. It was doable, but the more The MoMs and I thought about it, the more we realized that that much time apart was going to heap a ton of extra stress and work onto both of our shoulders – something that neither of us wanted.

What we wanted was to spend more time with each other and with The Bean. We wanted a break from some of the obligations that have us both a bit bogged down. The MoMs’ brother and his family recently made a big move to Australia. It was a risk leaving their very established life behind, but the fresh start has done them a world of good. The MoMs and I began to wonder if a new beginning might do us good too. Both of us love San Francisco. Nice weather and the opportunity to be outside in sunshine year-round would undoubtedly be good for the Bean. The MoMs could work there. I’d have access to some of the best sexuality resources and experts in the world. The more we thought about it, the more we realized heading out to California was a no-brainer. So we’re going.

The plan as it stands now is to go for a least a year. I have very strong attachments to Ottawa – especially the family of friends I’ve made in the almost fifteen years I’ve lived here. I also see that there’s a real need for sex positive resources in our city. Eventually I’d love to come back and continue working as a sexuality educator here in the capital. We’ll see what life has in store.

So that’s the jam. There’s a triple-long list of to-dos to get done before we pull up stakes. While part of me is champing at the bit to start this new adventure, I know the next few months are going to race by and I know I’m going to miss the shit out of Ottawa once we go. So I will enjoy the time I have left here, while I look forward to a new set of experiences and the chance to cross item number 8 of my 40 Before 40 off the list!

I’ve had a few questions recently about how to help a partner who’s struggling with body image issues and what to do if those issues affect their desire for sex.

I decided give my fingers a break from typing and do a video response instead. Remember viewers, I’m not a therapist or a counsellor – just a gal with some opinions and a video camera.

I’m also a gal who should tidy her bedroom. Hello, wayward sock in the background!

All right, enough with the disclaimers. Time for the video. Roll it!

 

 

Trigger Warning: This post contains some discussion of sexual harassment and assault. Please exercise self-care and skip this post if you need to.

The other night, The Man of Mans were walking downtown after a fun night out with friends. The January deep freeze was on in full force and from the moment I felt the arctic air on my face, I had only one goal – getting to the nearby parking garage and our car as fast as possible. I was quick-stepping along the sidewalk urging The MoMs to keep pace. We were a few blocks away from the parking garage, when I spotted a man and woman who seemed to be engaged in some major public display of affection.

As we got closer, the majority of my brain was still occupied with matters of Warmth. Car. Now! But as glanced at the couple out of the corner of my eye, I became concerned. I don’t want to go into too much detail about another person’s experience – that part of the story isn’t mine to reveal. But as we passed the couple I heard and saw something that made me question whether she wanted what was happening.

Maybe I should stop,’ I thought. Then, almost instantly I began doubting myself, ‘What if you’re wrong? What if you make a scene? What if she doesn’t want you butting your nose into her affairs? She didn’t ask for your help. She’s not screaming or anything. The MoMs hasn’t said anything – he clearly doesn’t think it’s weird. No one else on the street is doing anything. It’s really, really cold and maybe this is nothing. Maybe it’s just your imagination.’

I glanced back one more time. Then, I kept walking.

I second later, another pedestrian who was clearly even more susceptible to cold than I am,  scurried past us. He was moving quickly with determination but he did pause for a moment to talk to us. Gesturing towards the other couple he said  “So, um…something pretty weird’s happening back there, ” and took off.

“Yeah,” The MoMs whispered to me,  “I was thinking the same thing.”

They had seen it too! This wasn’t my imagination.  I made my way back to the couple. “Excuse me,” I said, addressing the woman, “Are you okay?” Again, I’ll spare the details but as it turned out things were not entirely okay. After a brief exchange, the woman assured us she would be fine, thanked us and hurried away.

The man stared at The MoMs and I momentarily. “Oh wow,” he said ruefully, “I guess that was really bad.” He trotted away. The MoMs offered me his hand and we quietly finished our cold nighttime walk and climbed into welcoming warmth of our car.

I wish this were a different story. I wish I’d thought to ask that woman if she wanted company when she turned to walk away. I wish I’d acted immediately when my gut first told me something was off.  But the truth is while I eventually did something, it was that other guy, the one who told us that “something weird” was happening back there, who deserves some major props.

Cliff of the Pervocracy once wrote this awesome blog post about how, when you spot weirdness, telling someone in the vicinity can be a great strategy. To quote Cliff:

Next time you see something that seems wrong, but “oh my gosh maybe not really maybe I shouldn’t say anything I don’t know,” you don’t have to go right to the cops or the boss or run into the situation with your fists up.  What you do have to do–this is a goddamn order–is tell someone about it.  Someone as confused and powerless as you are.  Just check in.  “This seemed off to me, does it seem off to you?”

Sometimes it isn’t even about how the other person reacts.  Sometimes it’s just about putting it into words.  You hear yourself describe the situation and you realize what you’re describing.

Sometimes it’s just about taking a step, even if it isn’t the perfectly right step, that makes you realize you are allowed to act on this; now that you’ve done something you can do more.

And sometimes they look back at you and say “yeah, that was fucked up. I was thinking the same thing but didn’t want to say anything.  You think we should go tell someone about it?”

And that, two people realizing they’re not the only one in the universe who has a problem with what’s happening, much more often than any spectacular act of lone-hero courage, is how evil gets dragged into the light.

I saw someone I thought might have been in trouble. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I failed to follow Cliff’s order. Fortunately, that fast-walkin’ dude was on the ball. Props to him because if I hadn’t said anything, I probably wouldn’t have stopped. It was only once I knew that someone else had what I had seen, that I was compelled to take action.

As for the man we interrupted? I was only once he saw his behaviour through the eyes of random strangers that he stopped to  reconsider his actions. Will our 90 second encounter influence what he does from now on? Who know?  It will definitely influence me.

Sometimes it’s easy to rationalize harassment or assault. If the act isn’t overtly violent, if there’s a pre-existing relationship, if everyone around you starts rationalizing it too. But it’s a lot harder to rationalize these things when someone calls it out. Someone spoke and I could no longer justify walking away. I spoke up and – at least in that moment – that dude could not justify his behaviour. The next time I see something and the red flags go up, I won’t search for an excuse to ignore my instincts. I will say something to someone and hope that it triggers a chain of change.

 

 

 

 

 

Opposites attract.  A somewhat hackneyed generalization, but in my case the adage is apt. The Man of Mans is my greatest love but we experience  the world through contrasting perspectives.  I’m an artist. He’s an empiricist. I’m an emotionally-driven, dreamer, running madly off in all directions. The MoMs is quite literally math genius, brilliant, rational and unfailingly reliable. Seriously, y’all, dude NEVER loses his keys.

I used to swear up and down that I would never get married. It’s ironic that a mathematician changed my mind on the matter.  My youthful disdain for marriage was rivaled only by my deep dislike of concrete sciences.

I took the requisite math and science courses in high school, primarily to appease my well-intentioned parents. They wanted me to go to univeristy and study Marine Biology. That way if my plans to work as a stage actor fell through, I’d always have oceanography as a fall back career.

High school science was le suck. In my opinion it was the forced memorization of random facts, with absolutely no room for experimentation or exploration.  There was no creative potential. In the beginning I did ask a lot of questions. But most of the time, my quest for deeper understanding – or any understanding – were met with the same answer,

“It’s just a fact.”

So I shut up.  And I shut down. And a quiet, but very deep resentment of science and all the subjects that seemed predicated on explanation “it’s just a fact” began to develop along. Horrifying marks in chemistry and biology developed as well. I was summoned to the guidance department. The conversation went something like this:

ME: “I don’t know.  I just don’t get it,”

GUIDANCE COUNSELLOR: I think you should consider dropping your sciences.  You’re clearly not a concrete thinker.”

I was more than happy to take her advice.  I said good-bye to science and wrote it off forever. So I wasn’t a concrete thinker. So? Who wanted a head full of hard, gray heavy glop anyway?  I had big plans to set the Canadian stage on fire. Leave the concrete to the engineers and math nerds.

I graduated high school and went on to study at The University of Waterloo – a school renowned for its world class engineering and math faculties.  The MoMs and I met my first day there.  After a few false starts, we began hanging out and soon we grew to be great friends.  He was unusual and kind. Smart and truly passionate…about math! I found his zeal for calculation utterly disarming.  Passion was a quality of artists – musicians, painters, performers!  People like me!  Mathematicians were just scientists with numbers. They didn’t have passion.  They had cold, hard fact and Internet porn!

The Man of Mans was and remains to this day, the most open-minded person I know. I, on the other hand can be immovably obstinate and rigid in my world view. Opposites.  It was The MoMs who gently opened my mind the idea that empiricism isn’t bound by the rigid parameters set for me in high school.  I wanted to cling to my adolescent viewpoint.  But when I let myself look at the world through my partner’s eyes, I see things differently.  Engineers and their creations.  Scientists consumed by exploration.  Mathematicians with great passion.

One of my favourite things about my partnership with The MoMs are our distinct points of view. Even our shared experiences hold the potential for great conversation, because we tend to see things differently.  And yet, we seem to understand each other.  When I am moved by a work of art, The MoMs knows what that is.  And he can analyze that very same piece of theatre in concrete terms, highlighting themes/patterns I wouldn’t notice on my own.

It turns out that art and science are not really about opposites. They’re both forms of expression borne of a human need to analyze, describe and make some sense of this crazy world around us. Concrete and creative thinking aren’t mutually exclusive and artist and the scientist need not be rivals. Sometimes they fall in love. As I learned in physics, opposites attract…and that is a very good thing!

Aaand…we’re back!

Life took my best laid plans to scale back my blogging and turned them into a full scale hiatus. On the bleak side, I was plagued by a brutal flu, followed by a less intense but super-icky cold. Worst of all was the sudden death of a beloved family member just a couple of days before Christmas.

But the holiday hasn’t all been sickness and sad. The MoMs and I managed to pull together a pretty swank Christmas dinner, complete with prime rib roast and a successful first attempt at Yorkshire puddings. We went for our first family snowshoe through Gatineau park. I’ve also got some pretty exciting plans for the new year in the works…but that’s a subject for another post!

Right now I’m just glad to be back writing in the adorkable realm. And since this will be my final post of 2012, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at my ten most popular posts from this past year, before taking the plunge into 2013!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

1. My Favourite Things: Elvgren Pin Up Girls

2. It’s Not You, It’s Me. Well Actually, It’s Them

3. My Favourite Things: The Lelo Smart Wand (Video Review)

4. Plight of the Topless Woman

5. My Book Report On 50 Shades Of Gray

6. Why I Don’t Oppose Sex Selective Abortion

7. My Favourite Things: 50 Shades Of Snark

8. My Favourite Things: Dr. NerdLove

9. Sorry, But…

10. Princesses Are People Too. Why Kate Middleton Had Every Right To Be Topless.

 

 

It’s been a rough week parenting-wise. I’ve reached new heights of frustration and hit uncharted I-have-NO-idea-what-I’m-doing lows.

I’m just a woman who loves her child. Some days, like today, that doesn’t feel like enough.  I’m reposting this entry to remind myself that it is.

I love my child.  I loved him the first time I held him and every moment since.  This is not the confession. It’s a fundamental fact of who I am.  I will love my child until the day I die.

Motherhood is hard.  That’s an accepted fact.  But what I find difficult – more than the actual work of raising my child – are the conventions and expectations that exist around being a mother.   I don’t have many “Mom” friends. By which I mean,  I have friends who are moms but motherhood isn’t the basis of our friendship.

When The Bean was a baby, I attended a few play groups. I found they were difficult for me.  First of all, all of the adults were women. That’s not surprising  ut for whatever reason I’m often uncomfortable in gender-segregated groups.  I also found had a strong need to focus on something other than my much adored baby.  At the play groups, the conversation revolved almost exclusively around the babies and the work of parenting.  Again, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  That was our common bond.  And parenting is hard.  I understood the need to compare notes on feeding, sleep schedules, vaccinations etc…but I didn’t want to.  I wanted to talk about anything else.  I wanted to be distracted from minutia of baby care, not immersed in it. But I didn’t know how to say that.  Not without disparaging the needs of the other women.  And not without sounding like a bad mother.

Once I took the still infant Bean to the playground in the suburb where we used to live.  Another woman, also with her baby, remarked that she had often seen me out and about in the community by myself.   She commented on my apparent comfort in leaving my baby with The Man of Mans (who at the time worked from home 4 days a week, to facilitate a more equitable parenting arrangement).  I assured her that The MoMs was as capable and loving a parent as anyone could be.  She chuckled and said something along the lines of fathers and their bumbling good intentions being inferior to mothers and their precision parenting.  It was clear from her tone, that I was expected to laugh in agreement because hahaha, men are SO clueless! They can’t take of babies or change toilet paper!

But I didn’t laugh.  It wasn’t funny and it wasn’t true.  Instead, I replied, “I wouldn’t have had a baby with my husband if I didn’t trust him to take care of it.”   My playground companion was thrown.  She thought for a moment, then said, “Hmmm. Maybe you’re just not as attached to your baby.”  It was clear from her tone that she hadn’t intended to be cutting…but what she said eviscerated me.  I was devastated. I was furious.   I loved my son.  I had never worked so hard or committed myself to anything or anyone with such devotion.  But because I was the mother, interests and activities outside of that role were cause to call my love into question?

I wanted to scream.    I felt nauseous, cold and I could feel hot tears of rage stinging behind my eyes.  When she saw my reaction, my playground critic did some frantic backpeddling, explaining it was self-criticism, an admission of her own overprotective nature.  I was angry enough that I felt I might hit her.  “Don’t talk to me,” I told her.  I took my child and went back home.

I’ve been wondering lately if my reluctance to speak honestly about mothering with other mothers stems from that one bad experience.  The “Mom script” , which is how I think of it, demands so much.  It hard…hard in different way from the “Dad script” which seems to imply that men are naturally inept at parenting and thus praised effusively for any involvement.  Interestingly, I find I often related more easily to other father. My personality is similar to my dad’s. So is my parenting style.

The truth is, The Mans of Mans is a much more detail-oriented parent than I am. He also more of a planner and more organized.  Meanwhile, I tend to wing it a little more.  I don’t totally buy into the notion that being a mom is something I can do “right”.  I know I’m smart.  I’m reasonably sensible.  I’m loving. I have  financial and personal resources at my disposal should I need them.  Many a decent person  has been raised with a lot less than my son has.   So while marketing copy tells me that as a mom I should work in constant pursuit of smiley, sunshine-y parental perfection, it’s too exhausting and so very not-me. I have to cross my fingers and hope my standards of “good enough” suffice.

I admit I didn’t breast feed.  Those who understand the circumstances generally accept my decision not to do so.  But, I have to confess, even if it had been possible…I still might not have chosen do it.  It’s not meant as an indictment of any person who does.   Formula feeding with its lesser antibodies and admittedly cumbersome preparation meant The MoMs was an equal feeding partner.  My son got to bond with both his parents and we each got eight hours of uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis.  I’m a restless soul.  Having the physical freedom to leave my baby, kept me happy and energized during those arduous early months.  My son —  and perhaps this is just a stroke of tremendous luck — has a pretty sturdy immune system nonetheless.

I don’t deny the claims of breast milk is best. I just don’t parent like that.  I’m so familiar with the notion of  mothers who give endlessly of themselves for the sake of their children.  I’m not that mom.  Mothering has effected me in some soul-altering ways, but it didn’t change my fundamentally selfish nature.   I will never deny my son anything he needs from me…but I won’t deny myself if I don’t feel it’s necessary.

I work. I go running and I go dancing.  I go to the theatre. I cram a lot of fun into my life, even if that means I have to stay up very late to do it.  I see my friends as often as possible.  I send my son to pre-school, to his grandparents, I hire babysitters.  I’m very comfortable exposing my child to a community of caregivers.  I feel great taking time for myself.

I confess I’m relatively lax on the application of sunscreen and the educational merits of his toys.  We spend a lot of time outside, but I have no issue parking him in front of the TV with an age-appropriate show when I need to get shit done.   I’m happy when he eats nutritionally balanced meals, but I’m not terribly concerned when he doesn’t.  I confess to losing my cool.  I confess to losing my temper.  I feel bad, but at the same time I expect it of myself.   I almost never read parenting books or websites. They generally serve to undermine my faith in my own instincts.   I encourage The Bean to take risks, run freely around playgrounds, cut vegetables alongside me.  I draw the line at life-threating/altering risk but I want him to do things that can and do result in falls, scares, bumps, cuts and other unpleasantness.  Life is shitty sometimes. I want him to learn how to deal.

While I sometimes feel nostalgic for his baby days, I’m thrilled at his growing independence.  I’m certainly not wishing his childhood away, but every step he takes away from me and towards self-reliance feels like an affirmation.  Someday, he won’t need me at all.  My dad once told me that the day I moved away from home, he was very sad, but tremendously relieved.  “Once I knew you could take care of yourself, my biggest responsibility as a parent was over.   I could relax and enjoy watching you live your own life.”  Now that I’m a parent, I totally relate.

Sometimes, I’m afraid to talk to other mothers.  I’m afraid of being judged as inferior, uncaring.  I’m afraid of asking questions that might seem judgmental or intrusive.  It’s a sensitive subject.  In that way, I’m as typical as any mom I’ve met.  Maybe one day I won’t be.  Maybe one day, I’ll be able to trade notes with the great moms at the playground, secure in the knowledge that a pretty good mom is the best I can be…and that’s totally okay.

Originally posted December 14th, 2010

Originally posted March 11, 2010

photo by trec_lit

I’ve had a variety of unremarkable day jobs: government work, standard retail…that sort of thing.  Then, through a series of flukes and coincidences I’ve wound up with a whole other career…in sex.  There’s much to love about working in this sphere.  It is, by nature, a sexy field to work in.  I get free and/or discounted condoms, toys and other paraphernalia. My work has helped me sort out some of my own issues related to sex and body image.

I also see a lot of boobies.

I love what I do.  That having been said, there are quirks of the trade.  Here, for your education and amusement are 10 occupational hazards of working in sexuality.

10.  All Talk. Less Action.

I talk about sex all the time. Which leads some people to assume that I have sex all the time.  The truth is that Man of Mans and I live jam-packed lives as working parents to a young child.  If you invite us to a party, you may catch us sneaking off to a seclude corner somewhere but it’s just as likely to be for a power-nap as for make-outs.  Add to that the high probability that I’ve spilled something sticky on my shirt  and really it’s miraculous that I get any action at all.

9.  Condom Surplus

Condoms, condoms everywhere.  A box in my spare room.  Leftovers from presentations.  Standard swag at conferences.  I come across random rubbers in my purses, my pockets…once stuck to the bottom of my shoe.  Need some latex?  Come see me. I have enough to sheath every member of our fair city.

8. Jumping To Conclusions

Once some friends came over to hang out and one of them brought a video. I immediately wondered why they had brought porn and if they wanted us to watch a group and would that be super-awkward?  It absolutely would have been, except for the part where the movie was The Big Lebowski.  I sometimes forget that when most people say  “I brought a video” or “come round the back” or “I could eat some sushi” they’re being literal. Life is not one continuous double-enterdre

7. Buyer’s Remorse

Access to deeply discounted toys and other hot paraphernalia is awesomehats.  But like with anything else, I’m susceptible to the seduction of sale prices, regardless of what the item is.  As such, I’ve come home with a few items that far exceed my sexual ambitions and/or flexibility.  When I look at an item and think “where does this GO?”, that’s probably  a clue that it’s not the toy for me.

6. Impropriety Is The Spice Of Life

Due to the nature of our work, conversation around the office water cooler tend to be about the current season of Lost…and clitorises. Oscar fashion…and clitorises.  The latest federal budget…and…you know.  I can and will bring any conversation back to the clitoris.  It’s a deeply ingrained instinct.  Great for work and nights out with certain friends.  Less wonderful at wedding receptions or playground chat with my fellow parents.

5. Blurting!

This one’s related to number 6.  Recently, I was at dog training class when the instructor asked us, “what is something you really, really wouldn’t want your dog to have in his mouth?”  No one answered.  The instructor prodded futher, “Really?  Nothing?  Nothing you wouldn’t want your dog to grab…perhaps trot out in front of guests?”  “Um…your vibrator?” I ventured.  Everyone in the class looked at me like I’d eaten a kitten. “I meant something like shoes,” the instructor corrected, “Dumbass.” She didn’t say that last part but it was strongly implied in her tone/withering glare.

4. Spoiler Alert!

One of my many guilty pleasures used to be pulp fiction novels.  Sadly, I can no longer enjoy them.  Or soap operas.  Or romantic movies.   I can’t be in the same room as a sex scene, without critiquing all the titillation out of it.  Because of my professional lens (or “smartypants-itis”, as I like to call it), I ruin pop culture sex for myself and I wreck it for other people too!   One friend has already stated emphatically that she will never watch Y Tu Mama Tambien with me.

3.  Not Pimpin’

Dear Random Strangers Who Approach Me In All Sorts Of Random Situations,

I work as a sex educator. That’s not the same thing as doing sex work. I support it, I just don’t do it. If you want information on safer sex practices or how to locate the G-spot, I’m your gal.  If you want access to a sexually experienced kink-specific, instantly available play partner, I’m afraid you’ll have to ask elsewhere.

2. Family Bonding

My parents are very supportive of the work I do.  *Very* supportive.  Perhaps too supportive.  Like when my mom (Hi, mom!)  came to the fellatio workshop I was giving and sat in the front row.  Then she enlisted my help in selecting a vibrator.  It was only a minor stroke, but one that I feel is responsible for at least 50% of my typos.

1. Rashes

Blisters. Sores. Pustules. Warts.  The most casual of acquaintance will describe dermatological afflictions of their genitals in graphic detail.  Not that anyone should ever feel shamed into silence by a potential STI.  But I’m not a doctor or anything close to a qualified diagnostician (though I can point you in the direction of someone who is).  Also?  People tend to initiate the rash conversation when I’m eating.  Let me finish eating my yoghurt, then we’ll talk about your discharge.