A Glowing Bride – Scottish Steampunk with an Avatar Twist

A Glowing Bride – Scottish Steampunk with an Avatar Twist

The more that happens in my life worth writing about, the less time I have to write about it. I know I’ve been totally quiet on all the political stuff, lately, and frankly it’s because I’m disgusted with the whole thing. Instead I focused on personal stuff, which has kind of been necessary. You see, aside from getting involved with a new man last spring, we’ve got huge plans for ourselves and our relationship. Nothing other people aren’t doing, but enough that it keeps us really busy. I’ve already talked about the fertility thing, and how we’re going to a clinic. (Which, by the way, is going to cost us a fortune. Around $10,000 to $15,000 to harvest my eggs in a single batch. So, that’s on hold until we have that kind of money. Apparently it’s at least as expensive to do it in Canada, as it is in the US, if not more so.)

So, just to be different, my then-boyfriend-now-fiancé and I proposed to one another. We both got engagement rings, too. His is so big he’ll have to put it on his right hand when we get to the ‘I do’ part, and I may have to do the same since I’ve got short fingers. Two rings on the same finger looks weird on me. Still I love my ring so much. It was supposed to be my wedding ring, but it got here before the one that’s supposed to be my engagement ring, so we said to hell with it. We each have amethyst and silver in one of our rings, and rose gold and emerald in the other. I happen to be allergic to nickel, so I can’t wear white or yellow gold, but I’m fine with rose gold and pure metals. The emeralds have to do with the fact that we happened to be only a few blocks apart, down Emerald Street in Hamilton, when we met. Yet we had no idea we were even in the same country when we really started talking. Of course, it turned out we’d spoken long before then, because we’re part of the same political groups on Facebook.

Well, now the big stuff to deal with is a wedding day, hopefully on our anniversary, but the sad fact remains that we both have other entanglements to get out of, and my fiancé happens to be embroiled in something pretty nasty. I won’t discuss that publicly, since it wouldn’t be respectful of other people’s privacy, but suffice it to say it prevents us setting a firm date.

However, we do have plans. Big plans. We already think we know where we’re doing it. They’re heritage buildings that they rent out for arts and culture events. It’s really inexpensive to rent the place for almost two weeks, so we’re going to have something like an art festival in the days surrounding the wedding. I was originally thinking of doing a writing seminar only, but then I realized we could really make the whole thing a lot of fun for everyone. I mean, if people come in from the US and different parts of Canada, I wanted it to be worth it for them. When my fiancé said we should have a ceremony, he was mostly thinking of us writing our own vows, and didn’t realize that for me to have people at the wedding, they would have to be people from way out of town. I know very few local people. Four maybe, and that’s including my ex and his girlfriend.

From the possibility of a writing seminar, it expanded into various crafts and such. I was thinking a Victorian photo shoot would go along well with a portion of the theme of our wedding, since Steampunk is very much of the Victorian flavour. I also thought it would be good to do proper photo shoots for authors, who will need good headshots for their writing careers. I’ll probably hire a make-up artist and hair-stylist to make it all look great. I’ll have to have discussions with the various professionals to find out what they’ll charge for a day, or for individuals, especially since it will be a group deal, and then any member of the public can pay for either the seminar by itself, or the seminar with the photo shoot. I thought a mug-painting day would be good, too, where wedding guests can do two mugs – one for us as their wedding gift (instead of them trying to figure out what to give us, which is silly at our ages), and one for themselves. A painting class, flower arranging perhaps, where guests can do two arrangements if they like (one for the wedding, and one for themselves).

My dress is going to be very unique, though. I’ll say that much. I’m planning to have parts of it glow. My fiancé and I were/are planning to make our own top hats, but I’m debating on an elven circlet or something. At the moment I don’t have the time to deal with any of it, but I’m letting the ideas simmer. We’ll have LED lights and electroluminescent stuff. An arbour will likely be present, because who doesn’t want to get married under an archway??

We’re going to have a blast, whatever we do, and so I’ll be posting all about it here as we do it. You’ll get pictures, of course. And speaking of which, here’s our engagement ring shot!

Our Engagement

You can also partially see the lovely lightning bolt-shaped scar I have from my attempt to imitate Harry Potter. Okay, so I tripped and fell into a plate of eggs, the plate broke and severed a nerve, and then I had to have surgery on it to repair the nerve – yay me! Do I do good work or what?

I’m definitely happy to be having all this fun with wedding stuff, despite being too busy dealing with a dead laptop (a story for another time involving juice, that I’m just not ready to talk about yet), and trying to get a book written, while trying to get the podcast show back on track. The thing is, what really makes me happy is being so thoroughly loved, and being with someone I love just as thoroughly. We complement one another in so many ways. I’m ridiculously, madly, head-over-heels in love with him, and I have no doubt he feels exactly the same. It took until we hit our mid-life to find one another, but we finally did. None of this other stuff would matter without that, and I’m not at all stressed about dealing with that stuff either. It’s not stressful when you know it’s just something you’ll have a blast with.

So many people go through life looking for the wrong things. They want someone to rescue them, or someone who has money. In truth, what we need is to be with someone where it wouldn’t matter if we were living on the street. I know very well that I could sit snuggled up next to him on a sidewalk, and wouldn’t even care. I don’t have to have money or a house. I don’t need cars. I didn’t have to have fancy jewelry, though it’s nice we were able to give one other rings that we both liked and picked out for ourselves. I just needed to know I was accepted for exactly who I am, and that we could sit down and talk to one another for hours on end. The chemistry doesn’t hurt either! I’m just so blissfully content, and I have a hard time explaining how very right everything feels now.

Oh, and the Scottish part of all this? My baby wears a kilt in his family tartan…and he wears it very well! 😉

A Change of Life, Just Not That One

I’ll admit that I had become completely cynical about my chances of finding the right person to share my life with. I was considering getting back into the dating world, but I was also planning to wait until after the third book in my trilogy was published. After all, I didn’t feel like I had the time to spend on vetting all the candidates one tends to find on online dating sites. So, I hadn’t bothered to create a profile anywhere.

Funnily enough it turned out that I’d already met the man of my dreams, and it was more than a year ago now. We had political interests in common, so we were both members of a certain Facebook group. We’re also both actual members of the Green Party, so that was a weird kind of synchronicity, among other things. With all our commonalities, however, we were more than a little surprised to find out we not only lived in the same city, but we were only a few blocks apart. Go figure.

Just when you think life isn’t going to give you the one thing you’ve always looked really hard for, it can suddenly seem like it’s throwing you a surprise party with all the perfect gifts.

When I was awake and aware I never felt lonely, but I knew that some part of me was. I used to have these dreams where I would be held by a specific man, who made me feel truly loved. I’d wake up feeling so ridiculously content, and I would close my eyes at different points throughout the day to hold onto that feeling, picturing it in my mind. Nearly four months ago I finally discovered what that felt like in real life. All previous relationships paled in comparison, and I realized that if I’d truly know what this felt like, I would never have settled for what I had before. I would have known the real deal.

Nobody is perfect, but sometimes you find someone who is absolutely perfect for who you are. They fit with you somehow. All the things that you’re insecure about, and that you’ve been told are fatal flaws, suddenly they’re things that are cherished by another person. Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t all sunshine and roses about who we were, pretending to be something different. We were both almost brutally honest about ourselves. I was pretty enthusiastic about telling him I swore like a drunken sailor, cracked every joint in my body, and the only thing domestic about my habits is the fact that I’m potty-trained.

For his part, when we started private messaging, he bluntly asked me if I was single, and said he needed to know because he was certainly happy to be friends with me, but he would be sitting there wondering the whole time if I was available. It made me smile, I can tell ya. And it was a first for me. After all, we met on Facebook rather than a dating site. On a dating site you’re assuming the person you’re talking to is single (though there are plenty who are trolling for a side piece, too). I’d never had a guy have the courage to be so blunt about his interest in me on there. Of course, he was pretty blunt about a lot of other things, too, like wanting to talk to me, see me, kiss me, you name it. And he had the confidence and courage to follow through on it. He still does, and it’s something I find endlessly fascinating and attractive about him. Especially since a lot of guys seem pretty intimidated by me.

Of course, explosive chemistry helps. I’m not giving details, but I will say that time stands still when he kisses me. There’s a Zen-like calm that comes over me when we’re together. I’ve only been truly mad at him once, and from what I can tell I was being stupid. However, all he had to do was touch me and I was lost (as was the anger, though I tried to fight that). There’s a magic in it, and I’ve never felt it before. Any time in the past when I’ve been mad at a guy, they’ve been mad at me, too, and so the last thing they were interested in was making me feel better. Yet, my boyfriend has got to be the most selfless person I’ve ever known. He can (and does) feel empathy even toward a person who should be his most bitter enemy. I’ve seen examples of it time and time again. Honestly, we need more people like him in the world. He just truly cares about people. He talks to them on the street, homeless or otherwise, he buys strange kids a meal, he stops to help people who have been involved in car accidents, he’s politically involved, and he stands up for women online when men start acting like misogynistic jerks.

He’s also the best father I’ve ever seen. He’s been involved in his child’s life from the moment of birth, and even against adversity he’s made sure he remained a major part of his child’s life. It makes me wish I was ten years younger so I could easily have a couple of kids with him. Not that it’s impossible even now, of course, but the odds are against it.

We’ve both had our share of bad luck and bad choices when it came to past relationships, so you would think we’d be a lot more leery of moving forward with things, but we were pretty much living together within a week or two of starting to date. People thought we didn’t know each other, even though we did. In truth I’ve never known anyone so well in my life. My own experiences kept my eyes open, and not just for suspicious behaviour, but also for the evidence that backed up everything I was being told. Fate stepped in, over and over, to show me that he was everything he said he was. My one instance of anger with him was all the more stupid because I’ve been given constant proof of his character. Yeah, I felt like an idiot…and well I should.

Have we talked about taking things to the next level? Well, in an oblique sort of way. Neither of us are against the idea of getting married. I just have one caveat there. It’s gotta be a ‘hell, yeah’ kind of thing on his part. I mean, it would definitely be a ‘hell, yeah’ for me, but I won’t do it if he doesn’t feel like that, too. After all, I was told in a previous relationship that I’d dragged the guy into it (despite him being the one to propose). It was a month after the wedding, and that was the end of our marriage in that very moment. For me, anyway. I never felt the same way after that, even though I tried to keep going. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I couldn’t even bring myself to care enough to fight with him after that. I became rigidly logical and cold-hearted whenever he tried to fight with me. It was painful enough for me then, but if I had to go through that with my current guy I don’t know if I’d survive that kind of heartbreak. He isn’t the kind of guy who would say something like that, but without the ‘hell, yeah’ part of the deal, he might as well be feeling it.

Still, he feels more like a husband to me than any man from my past, with or without the marriage certificate. When I talk about him, or even think about him, I have to actively stop myself from calling him that. I’d have to say it’s because we work so well together in everything we do. You know those things you try to do with someone that usually lead to fighting? Like hanging wallpaper, fixing things, etc. Well, we can do those things and just be happy to be together. We have fun with it, because we always have fun together, and we genuinely like each other. We enjoy talking about pretty much anything – though he’s admittedly a bit attention-deficit, so I find myself repeating things, but then I have to ask people to do the same with my hearing being so crappy.

Probably the funniest part of all of this is how we started out being so logical about love. We both agreed that it took about two years to really get to know someone, and until then you couldn’t truly say you loved them. Then I told him on our first date that he was going to fall madly in love with me. Go figure. Of course, my barometer for knowing if I love someone is a pretty morbid one. I try to imagine how I would feel if they died, and whether or not it would devastate me. Within the week I told him he’d smashed my barometer. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

So, you see, there’s a reason I’ve gotten so far behind on blog posts and other writing projects. I don’t blame him, of course. He’s perfectly willing to give me the space I need to get my writing done. I just haven’t been able to tear myself away from him. A first for me. I’ve always managed to work and do what was necessary before. Thankfully I’d already published book two of my trilogy when we started getting all crazy in love. I had a bit of breathing space. Or should I be calling it ‘breathless’ space, because that’s how he leaves me.

It took me until I was 44 years old to find the man that was right for me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, and not just with my choices. I’ve also made mistakes with my behaviour within those choices. I know very well that I had my share of the blame to shoulder, and I needed to learn from all that in order to be where I am right now. It’s tempting to wish we could have met ten or twenty years ago, where we could have saved ourselves the heartache we’ve both been through, but that might have been a disaster for us. We needed to be who we are right now, in order for things to work as well as they do. I needed a certain maturation. Our experiences form us, and there’s no regretting those experiences when they brought us to this point. We each have offspring we might never have had, and we would never have wanted to miss out on them.

I guess the point is this. No matter how crappy things can seem, they can change in a heartbeat. I learned that lesson a long time ago, and it’s something I keep trying to share with people who are going through hard times. I almost gave up on finding someone I could be happy with. I’d thought about dating, but I had no faith I’d find anyone who would put up with my foibles, much less someone I was willing to tolerate. And I certainly held no hope I’d find the exact person who was everything I ever needed and wanted. He feels the same. I can only hope he keeps feeling that way, and hope is no longer in short supply for me. Of course, it helped that my ferrets were all over him like he was wearing a meat suit, and he likes doing dishes.

The best part? I feel more free with him than I ever felt when I was single.

Stopping the Insidious Craving for Obsessive Love, Stalking and Domestic Violence

The massive popularity of 50 Shades of Grey is more than a little bit alarming. I have nothing against a little role playing, or even BDSM if that’s what you’re into in the bedroom. Two consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want. The problem I have is when it gets romanticized as a way of life. When a man tells a woman, “I will find you,” that’s the sign of someone who is seriously mentally disturbed. It’s not sexy – it’s very, very scary.

I come from a place of personal experience here. I’ve been raped, I’ve been stalked, and I’ve been held against my will. It was far from being a turn-on, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s called self-preservation and survival. When you’re in a seriously dangerous situation with someone who is unstable, it’s pretty damn stupid to want to jump their bones.

So why do people get off on this kind of thing? Because it’s a fantasy. Fantasy is fine, and frankly it’s a whole lot of fun. Fantasy with another person can be even more fun and sexy. What it requires, however, is a very deep level of trust. So many people are paying to read 50 Shades, and then they’re traipsing off to the theatre to see it. Far too many people are thinking it’s just opening up people’s minds to BDSM. It’s not. BDSM needs to remain in the bedroom. When one person in a relationship is being subjugated constantly and it becomes a way of life, eventually that person is going to want to do something their ‘master’ doesn’t want them to do. When that happens the reaction can be terrifying.

What we need to figure out is why this is still such a prevalent fantasy for women. If you’re one of those women, it’s extremely important. In fact, it can be life-and-death important. There are women in domestic violence situations who cannot break away because they’ve been conditioned to believe a man should have control over them. They believe that physical strength in men is to be desired, rather than mental strength. When it comes time to press charges they don’t want to, no matter how badly they may have been hurt. Men are constantly forgiven for abuses against the person they’re supposed to love and cherish above all others, society passing it off as a private issue.

I’m not one of those people, and I’ve personally boycotted any celebrities I’m aware of that have engaged in that sort of behaviour (once it’s been proven, of course). I’ll never pay for a Mel Gibson movie again in my life, or a Mötley Crüe CD or song as long as Tommy Lee is involved with the project. I don’t care if they’ve gone to jail and ‘paid’ for their crimes. I don’t think the criminal justice system takes it seriously enough, and that’s especially true of celebrities with lots of money to spend on high-priced lawyers. Real men do not lay hands on women in anger. They have no need to ‘prove’ their control over another person. Any man who does this is inherently weak, and is looking for ways to compensate.

This is what needs to be stressed to both women and men in order to avoid tragedies in the future, such as domestic violence and murder. The perception that a man is strong because he is physically capable of pushing someone around, and that it makes him sexy when he shows how ‘manly’ he is, is a very big part of the problem. Truly strong people have no need to do this. If more women understood this, they would be much less impressed by physically violent men. Controlling a woman doesn’t make a man strong – having no need to control anyone is the true indicator of strength. That’s called self-esteem. It’s only the men who feel insecure that attempt to control others, in part because they have no control over themselves or their own lives. The more insecure a person is, the more of a control-freak they usually are.

When you really stop and think about that – I mean sit down and actually concentrate on it – it’s not hard to start feeling contempt toward people who behave that way, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or woman exhibiting the behaviour. When you truly realize that only someone who feels weak will pick on others and bully them, we start to lose respect for them. We can see that they must have serious problems of their own that are triggering the behaviour, and it’s less and less likely that we will allow them that control over us. It doesn’t apply only to domestic violence, either.

When it comes to role-playing, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with it. As long as there’s a clear delineation between reality and fantasy. Some people enjoy subjugation, but when you take a mental trip and imagine your entire life spent in bending to the will of another, how many people truly want that as a part of their lives? What happens when you come home from a job you love, and your partner tells you that you have to quit so you can serve them? What happens when you’re not allowed to see friends and family members that you love? What happens when you start having to explain the bruises to other people? Are you going to start lying and covering up? If your response to a query is simply a smirk and a fond memory of the night before, that’s fine. If your response is along the lines of fearing what will happen if others find out, maybe you need to do some serious thinking about where you want your relationship to go, or if you want it going anywhere.

What’s in a Name? Kin, Labels, Etymology and More!

The seemingly simple topic of names is actually chock full of complexities that nobody fully understands. There are so many layers and levels to it, that it boggles the mind. Every one of those areas has differing schools of thought, too, and all cultures are different. When you’re talking about something so personal as a name, people can’t even agree on whether or not it is personal. For instance, there are those who think it’s nothing but a label, and we should do without labels entirely. I have to say, this would be a very confusing world if we had to say, “Hey you!” in order to get someone’s attention. The artist-formerly-known-as-Prince-and-was-subsequently-known-as-Prince-anyway is probably the best illustration of what happens when someone doesn’t have a name (or label if you will). Most of us would agree that we prefer to have a name rather than a serial number, and find even social security (US) or social insurance (Canada) numbers to be dehumanizing. Besides, names are easier to say. Usually.

So, let’s all pretend to agree that we need names. On to the next step. You have a kid, you stick a name on it, you register the birth and name with the government – I assume that all depends on what country you live in, too, but I’m going with what I know. In Canada you can’t even leave the hospital without register a name for your kid, and in the US you used to be able to wait a while before settling on a name if my understanding of the system is correct. I don’t personally understand that approach, but at the same time I’m also reading the Game of Thrones books (no I have not seen the TV series – I’m debating whether or not I even want to – it is TV after all), and there are customs in there where people don’t name their kids until they’re about two years old because it’s considered unlucky and too many kids die before that age. Hmmm. I’d think you’d want a name just in case they do die, so there’s something to stick on a headstone, but I suppose the idea is to not get too attached to them. Good luck with that.

Now anyone I’ve ever known who has had a kid, myself included, has sweated the choices. Most of us realize that it’s a bad idea to name your kid something they’re going to be picked on for, but then there are those who don’t want their kid to be like everyone else. Being one of the ones who was picked on, I would advise prospective parents to think twice about weird names. In fact, if you have a weird last name, it might even be time to bite the bullet and make some legal alterations to it, so future generations don’t grimace whenever they speak it aloud, or get pissy when they constantly have to correct people who misspell it. My last name is the perfect example of that. Everyone assumes there’s an R in it. There is not, and the last time it had an R in it was probably centuries ago. Just because there’s another group of people out there who chose to leave the R in their name, does not make it true of my own family. In my case I no longer have to worry about spreading my name about. My daughter doesn’t share it, and I’m beyond the point of having more children.

On the flipside there are those who have had family pride instilled in them, so that their name makes them stand a little straighter and throw their shoulders back. More power to ya. In my case I had some decent relatives, and then there were the ones with the yellow buck teeth – first cousins who tried to get me into bed. Yes, I know. Ick. Both the teeth and the cousin part. First cousins might be legal in some places, but I wasn’t going there voluntarily. Those teeth were a good reminder of why first cousins are a bad idea, in fact. Not only inbreeding, but inbreeding with visible flaws.

So at one point I seriously considered legally changing my last name. I can’t remember what it was that caught my attention, but at that time I realized something. My name would be what I would make of it. After all, it’s not a very common last name, so there are no massively famous people (for their celebrity or for their infamy) that I had to live in the shadow of, or overcome their reputation. I’m not a Lincoln or a Sheen, or even a Smith, which is so common no one would assume any relationship these days anyway. Not being in touch with any of my family members makes this easy as well. I will make my name what I want it to be, and so it doesn’t matter at all what it meant in my home town. This apple fell very far from the whole orchard.

Beyond what’s common, popular, known or there’s a built-in reputation that comes with it, there’s the meaning of the names themselves. Now, looking at my last name you would think it means land of sticks. It doesn’t. It translates from another word altogether and means land beside the hill. Weird huh? Of course, last names are like that. First name are usually the big conundrum for new parents. Boy names, girl names and gender-neutral names. I like the latter idea. If I’d had another child, Alex would have been a seriously-considered option. My daughter ended up with a name that was so common she usually had several other girls in her class with the same name. It wasn’t like that when I named her, or I’d have chosen something different. Something not weird, but not overly common either. Instead she got buried unwillingly in the popular.

Baby naming books or websites will always be needed. We want to know we’re not naming our kid something that means ‘pile of dung’ or something. Kids are cruel, and if they discover this, your kid is doomed. Yes, doomed. That will stick with them in every possible permutation for the rest of their lives. I was briefly nicknamed Spike in junior high (an 80s hair thing). People remembered. People almost got punched for remembering, but they remembered. I was okay with it in grade 8 – not so much in high school and later years. If I were faced with naming a kid now, I’d also be doing a Google search on the name, including middle and last, varying what I entered. You just never know. Maybe you haven’t heard the latest news about that serial killer in California, or the politician who just got caught doing the nasty with a chicken. With the internet now, kids will find out about those things. Sometimes people are bored and Google a person’s name at random. It’s not possible to completely avoid that kind of thing, but do your kid a favour and at least make an effort to do so.

Finally there’s equality. Woman got sick and tired of losing their last names, for one thing. For another, when you have a career and have built up a reputation, changing your last name can do a lot of damage. There’s no way to properly format a resume to state that at one place your name was one way, but then at another it was a different way. It might be alright if we all married once and stayed married. We just don’t now. Or very rarely. Sure, you can use the antiquated “nee” with your former last name after it, but seriously? Let’s be realistic about corporate life. Women who do that are looked at more than a little contemptuously. It tells everyone there that you gave up your identity for a man. If you’re willing to do that, the assumption may be that you will not take your career as seriously as a man would. Then starts that whole, “Women don’t belong in the workforce. They just can’t be relied on to stick with it.” They also tend to assume you will be taking time off to raise a family, and they will not make that same assumption with a husband. They don’t have a clue what you and your partner have decided to do about a family. They simply assume, and it’s not a career boost.

Beyond getting married and women not always changing their last names, or at least hyphenating them, babies come along to challenge your equality ideas yet again. After all, it’s no longer written in stone that children automatically take their father’s last name. Women are starting to say, “What? My last name isn’t good enough? My family is less important than your family? I don’t think so!” In fact, this isn’t such a new phenomenon as we might generally think. Royal families intermarried – one country’s prince to another country’s princess, and that sort of thing. These high-level marriages did not completely subjugate the family names of the brides, simply because that would have been an insult to an entire country. If the idea behind the marriage was to bond two countries, that sort of insult would nullify any benefits achieved by the marriage. Even among the lesser peerage, especially when the woman’s family was considered a station or two above the family of the man, women often retained their own titles of some sort. I’m foggy on specifics, but I remember seeing it on many occasions when I was doing research. Titles would be handed down to the children at any rate.

What I’ve been seeing as some of the latest trends are girls being given their mothers’ last names, and boys getting their last name from their fathers, or even the reverse. Sometimes the couple each retain their own last names with no hyphenation, but the kids get the hyphenated name and the boys & girls have the same last names. Again, there’s very old precedent in a way. Think of Nordic last names. The son of Odin was Odinson (like Thor Odinson). His daughter’s would have been Odinsdotter or Odinsdatter. They’re called patronymic names when they’re named after the father, but there were matronymic names, too, apparently. Laws changed and in some cases this practice was forbidden, but then laws changed again so people could go back to doing it.

I guess in a world where English-language people (like myself) are so openly egocentric that they assume the world revolves around their own basic culture, there were many who got confused by the ‘alternative’ practices. Then again, there’s a large portion of the world that places the family name first, and the given name second. So, in those countries the custom would be for me to be called Stickland Rain. I know that it’s like that in China, as well as in Hungary (or was anyway). Certain Chinese celebrities have swapped their names back and forth, confusing the masses of movie-goers, but if those movie-goers are too lazy to learn about other cultures I feel no empathy for them. Having worked in payroll and human resources, it was my job to know this stuff. In one place we had a large number of Chinese employees who were permanent residents, and I needed to know which name was the family name. As far as I was concerned, I needed to be respectful of the differences.

This brings up other issues with regard to this topic, doesn’t it? The whole thing about being an immigrant. See what I mean? A seemingly innocuous topic has turned into something fraught with meaning on every possible level. There are many who feel that if you come into a country then you should adopt your new country’s ways. Sure, legally I can see that. You obey the laws already in place, because by crossing that border it’s tacit agreement that you will abide by them. That does not mean your culture needs to be tossed out the door or disrespected. I know in Canada it’s always a struggle to accommodate certain religious beliefs, particularly in employment situations where there’s a uniform involved. When it comes to names, though, there are many who sneer at foreign names. I see it more in the US, but I see it in Canada as well. Racism is nowhere near dead, folks.

I have a friend whose last name is technically pronounced differently, but in high school he chose to anglicize it for ease of use. He refers back to the ‘when in Rome’ analogy. His family members were adamant that it should be pronounced the original way. I pronounce it the way he wants it pronounced, but my ex’s family is from the same country and he was taken aback by the way I said it. My only response was, “If that’s what he uses, that’s what I’m calling him. It’s his damn name.”

In the end that’s really what it should be as far as I’m concerned. My daughter is debating on changing her name. She does not like its popularity. She’s considering a variety of options, and some of them I think she would later regret. However, it’s her life, and I really don’t blame her for not being happy with what she has. Maybe George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones are closer to the truth on this one, though we certainly need to be able to call our kids something other than, “Come here you little…” when they’ve drawn on the walls in Crayon for the umpteenth time. The thing is, do we even know what to call ourselves as time goes on? Do we pick a name that sounds cool later in life, but then realize ten years down the road that it wasn’t exactly our best idea?

Thankfully it’s not horrendously expensive to change your name these days. I think it’s only about $170 in Canada, for a full, legal name change. Less than the price of a DIY divorce at any rate, and probably a lot less confusing. Having gone through umpteen dozen name changes myself – two marriages where I actually changed my last name, and the rest were from childhood and were not by my choice – I can tell you, it takes people a while to get used to the new name, yourself included. By the time I got married for the third time (and no, that one didn’t stick either), I was really sick of changing my name. My ex didn’t like it, but by then the most I was willing to concede was a hyphenation. We didn’t last long enough for me to make the change, which at least saved me from having to change it back.

Would a rose still smell as sweet by any other name? You betcha. It would just have to hear it a few times before it would answer to it.

Stalkers and Obsessions in Romance and Young Adult Fiction

Recently I succumbed to the urge to read a certain popular series. Pretty much everyone on the planet will know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention the Twilight ‘saga’ from Stephanie Meyer. Not only were the four main novels in the series wildly popular, but they’ve all been made into movies as well. I also read two books complementary to the four main ones, and I have to say they really scare me.

No, I don’t mean scared in the sense of lying awake at night, afraid a vampire was going to come out of my closet. What scared me was the fact that these novels didn’t seem to get a lot of flak from parents. Sure, the storyline itself is entertaining. The problem is the fact that the two main characters have serious mental health issues.

The four main books are written in the first person, which I always find annoying anyway. I prefer third person omniscient, myself, but that’s purely an aesthetic and personal viewpoint. The perspective is that of a teenage girl who becomes completely obsessed with what looks like a teenage boy, but is in fact a man who’s closer to a hundred years old. If we saw a 100-year-old man walking down the street with a 17-year-old on his arm, in most responsible people that would bring on a large measure of disgust for the dirty old man and his perverted proclivities.

In addition to that, the male love interest leaves her because he thinks it will be safer for her not to be exposed to him and his vampire ‘family’ any longer. When this happens she basically loses her mind. She becomes nearly catatonic in her grief, and when she comes out of that she’s still living life in such a robotic fashion that she’s startled to realize she’s more like a zombie than a human being. Now that’s what we call an obsession.

Even after she realizes what she’s doing, and starts to live her life again, she starts taking risks with her life because she starts hearing his voice in her head whenever she does anything that might kill her. At first I thought maybe there was a psychic thing going on in the stories, but it turns out she was really hearing voices – well, one voice anyway – and the voice wasn’t actually there. So, now she’s obsessed and schizophrenic. She’s having auditory hallucinations brought on by adrenaline spikes.

Eventually her obsession comes back to her, and suddenly she’s alive again. However, she can’t stand to spend even an hour or two away from him without feeling like there’s a big hole in her chest where her heart used to be.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that he spends a fair bit of time stalking her before they’re even together. He went through her house, he was in her room while she was sleeping and watched her pretty much every night. He looked through her things, including her books and music. When they do finally become an official couple, he sneaks into her room to stay with her every single night. At least by then she knows about it and is actually asking him to stay with her. In fact, she’s not actually asking. It’s more like pleading.

I was teenager once myself, and I remember the volatility that comes along with that. I think we’re all a little unbalanced when it comes to first loves. I had a couple of them. My relationships when I was a teenager were monogamous ones that lasted at least a year each. The entire year I was fourteen I was with one guy and he actually asked me to marry him – he was nineteen, so looking back that seems a little off-kilter to me. I had my first major obsession when I was fifteen and sixteen. It was a tumultuous relationship with a Roman Catholic whose mother didn’t approve. I did my share of stupid things, but the heartbreak was over a couple of weeks after he dumped me. I’m not one to hang on. It probably has something to do with having a healthy (or sinful) measure of pride. There was no way I was going to prostrate myself before someone who didn’t want me.

I was also a parent to a teenager. My daughter had her own mild obsession, and eventually her feelings were no longer ‘unrequited,’ but they grew apart and it was over. Basically she had a lot of interest in what he was doing, and in his life in general, but stalking is not something that was ever in her character – even less so than it was in mine. In fact, when I was a teenager I longed desperately to fall in love, get married, and make lots of babies with a man who adored me. My daughter has little interest in that, though she does want a kid one day. She’s not a lesbian, so it isn’t about her orientation. She just doesn’t like the idea of spending that much time with another person, which the exception of her own child. Thankfully she hasn’t made me a grandmother yet, because I’m just not ready for that. I’m still vaguely within the age of being able to have kids myself, so it just seems too weird to me.

Now my daughter is almost halfway through her twenties, and completely skipped out on any mental health problems associated with teenage crushes. I’m in my early forties. The funny thing is, I personally feel the danger of books like the Twilight series. Romance novels are often the same, too. There’s still an envy there for me. At my age the statistics aren’t good when it comes to me finding anyone I can give my whole heart to. I’ve had moments where I thought I’d be able to, but the feelings weren’t reciprocated so I shut my own feelings down right away. It’s not that I don’t have them; I just don’t let my brain run off with my heart.

Still, there’s a sadness and envy invoked by obsessive love stories, even for me. I think we’re all somewhat conditioned to think of that as the only real love there is. Even when we know better logically, a part of us still wants that unquestioning devotion and adoration. Beneath the tough exterior beats the heart of a marshmallow, I guess. I know better than to ever put myself in that position with anyone, because I’ve seen where those situations usually lead. Besides, I’m not really that mentally unhealthy anyway, that I absolutely can’t live without someone. The proof is in the pudding in my case, seeing as I’ve been separated for a long time. There was an interruption of less than four months, where I was seeing someone, but it never got to the ‘I love you’ stage.

After I was done reading the Twilight books I felt sad. I didn’t want the stories to end, because a very dangerous and insidious part of myself wanted to live vicariously through an obsessive love story. As an adult woman with a better understanding of mental health, however, I can deal with those feeling in a positive manner. Teenagers, on the other hand, do not have the life experience to see the books for what they really are. They’re unrealistic, and they’re very dangerous. Showing teenagers a happy ending within such an unhealthy context can breed an unhealthy real-life situation. Even with a parent telling them that the relationship in the series is not a good one, and explaining why, no teenager is going to believe it unless they’ve already been given a very good background in what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Considering the statistics on divorce and domestic violence, however, those teachings are very limited.

Speaking from a bizarre personal perspective, I was lucky in one way. I had a terrible childhood, being raised by terrible grandparents, yet it was my physically abusive grandmother who gave me my foothold on reality and feminism. She wore the pants in that house, and she’s the one who told me (the first time she saw me reading a romance), that reality was not anything like its portrayal in romance novels. For many years, historical romances were my very favourite books. Eventually, after years of personal experience that was contrary to the happy endings I was reading about, I realized she was right about that one thing. It was also because of her that I never felt I was anything less worthy than any man, because I was raised in a home where a woman was deferred to in all things.

Teenagers, especially those who come from broken homes, are looking desperately for role models for every aspect of their lives. If their parents don’t have a successful relationship, they look for people who do – even if they happen to be fictional, dangerous, and unrealistic. With few real human relationships to look up to, they look to movies, books, music, and any other form of entertainment. The Twilight series gives them characters with a happy ending, but if either of those people were living in the real world (vampire lore aside), the ending would probably be very different. Obsession is not love. Obsession often becomes possession. Even within the books, right from the beginning they claim ownership of one another, and grant ownership to each other.

The very real need some people have to ‘belong’ to someone else stems from emptiness within. There is a hole inside them, desperately wanting to be filled – just like the movie Jerry Maguire, with the whole, “You complete me,” thing. Nobody completes anyone else. We’re all individual human beings. My former mother-in-law used to tell me that if I’d wanted to accomplish my own things in life, I probably shouldn’t have gotten married. Um, what? I wasn’t allowed aspirations and goals because I was married??? Her son was allowed those dreams, though. Right. That makes total sense. Never mind the fact that I was the breadwinner in the family at the time, and he was disabled. Reaching for goals was my way of looking to be a better provider, but that wasn’t allowed because I was supposed to be nothing but a wife. Of course, this advice was coming from a divorced woman who had been nothing but a wife to her husband, yet he left her anyway. I always felt like saying, “So how did that work out for you?”

My view on the subject, and something that came up during a discussing about one of the guests we had on the show recently, is that people shouldn’t even get into a relationship until the hole inside them is filled and they’re a whole person. Until then you don’t know who you are or what will be best for you. You’re still striving and your core personality is still forming. The guest on the show was saying all women want men to take charge, which is completely overstating what women want. I’m certainly not one of those women who want a man taking charge. If there’s a decisions to be made that will affect me, then I want to be a part of making the decision. I don’t want anyone arbitrarily making choices for me.

Thankfully that notion brings to heel any thought of having a man swoop in and rescue me from my own life, which is what a lot of romance novels are about. The man comes along and everything that was wrong in a woman’s life is miraculously fixed by him. It doesn’t work that way, especially if you’re a woman who’s the least bit independent. Men seem to feel as if they have to fix everything, even when a woman has a problem and she wants to vent about it. Men will try to tell her how to fix it, rather than just listening and letting her vent.

Often the ‘fixing’ comes in the form of advice, but sometimes it involves actually doing what the woman should be capable of doing herself. Some women do like that, but there’s a trade-off that I would personally never be willing to make. When you allow someone to ‘fix’ your life, you’re also allowing them to take over decision-making, which renders a woman useless and redundant to her own life. Suddenly the man is taking charge of her, rather than simply her problems – and mostly because there’s now the unspoken agreement between them that she can’t handle the herculean chore of running her own life without his help.

Not being able to run your own life, and having someone do it for you, puts you in the category of being a child. It’s not just women who are placed there, but on average it’s almost always the female in a relationship. There are women to this day who work, but allow their husbands to interfere with problems they face in the workplace. Husbands who feel their wives aren’t treated well, or properly (as in sexual harassment cases), will come charging in to confront the supposedly guilty party. Now consider how this woman will be treated in the workplace from now on. Sure, maybe the original problem never rears its head again, but then she’ll never be respected again either. She will be known as someone who can’t handle real responsibility. If she wasn’t in a position of authority, she will never be promoted to one. If she was already in a position of authority, her authority will not be respected and she will not gain additional authority.

This is also the danger in reporting sexual harassment if it’s done in a place that doesn’t really respect legislation. Suddenly she’s a woman who ‘can’t handle a joke’ or simply can’t enforce her own authority. Speaking personally on that, I’ve always just given as good as I’ve gotten when the harassment was directed toward me. No man ever dared to step over the line with me either, but then I have the sort of personality that makes it very clear I would never tolerate it. People just know that I have indelible lines that can’t be crossed. On the other hand, when I saw other women being harassed I did report it, in writing, so that there was no way the company could get away with not doing something about it. Reporting someone else being harassed doesn’t have the same connotation of being a whiner who can’t handle things. I was also in a position of authority within the company, and it was my duty to do something about it.

The tiny part of me that would want a man to swoop in and be my dream-come-true/knight-in-shining-armour, is the part of me that’s tired, I think. I’ve spent my life fighting to keep my head above water, against some rather interesting odds. I’ve had many challenges, and I think it might be nice to one day not have to be the one who does all the struggling, so therein lies the answer to my wishful thinking. The few times I think like that, I remind myself of the price to be paid for wallowing in that fantasy. I’ve made the mistake of going there on occasion in my romantic history, and after a few decades of being slapped for it I’m now fully conscious of that price. I always have much less of a fight to keep my head above water when I count only on myself to keep me afloat.

What I really need, if I ever have another serious relationship, is someone who is capable of running their own life, and someone who has my back that I can fully trust to be there for me emotionally, but not someone who tries to take over the running of my life. Decisions can be made mutually, compromises are perfectly fine, and acceptance of who I really am is mandatory. That last thing is so vital, though, and very few people are actually capable of acceptance when it comes to their life partner. Especially when their life partner has some unusual quirks.

Speaking from personal experience, there are very few people in the world who accept the fact that I sleep during the day, and that has always been my natural pattern. Never mind the fact that I crack every joint in my body, and swear like the proverbial sailor. I can be harsh, too. I’m not unforgiving, but there are people I’ve removed from my life because I also don’t forget. My mother and step-father are good examples. I may have forgiven the fact that my mother left me when I was four years old, and knowingly left me in the care of monsters – her parents. I could never forget it, though. I could never forget the fact that she suspected my grandfather of molesting me, and still left me there. Two deep betrayals that made it impossible for me to ever trust her, or allow myself to love her. The childish yearnings for motherly love disappeared within me forever. I do not want any kind of mother in my life. My step-father turned out to be a faithless jerk who fooled around on my mother, and that shows me a character flaw so important to me that I could never trust him either.

So, I can forgive, but when a person shows their colours you can’t simply forget about them. You have to factor those flaws into the big picture. In some cases a person’s flaws make them more human and lovable. There’s a quote from the movie Hellboy that says, “You like someone for their qualities, but you love them for their flaws,” and I think that’s very true. Perfect people aren’t even very likeable, never mind lovable. There is too much envy involved when another person is ‘perfect,’ along with self-consciousness because we know we aren’t perfect. Of course, no one is actually perfect, but sometimes a person views another unrealistically as being being perfect.

Maybe my imperfections will be lovable to someone some day. I hope so. For the most part I’m content with my life, and I could probably be content to be alone for the remainder of it. It’s not really what I want if I’m being honest with myself. If I wanted to be alone, I wouldn’t feel sad after reading books like Twilight. I wouldn’t have registered with an online dating site a year ago – a profile that I deleted when I started dating someone exclusively. I haven’t done a new profile yet because I’m just not ready to start up with a stranger again, and it takes a long time to really get to know someone enough to love them – either on the basis of friendship, or on romantic love. Attraction comes instantly, as does infatuation, but the kind of love where you would notice someone was missing from your life if they weren’t there…that takes time. Starting a brand new relationship with a stranger is not something I’ve got the time or energy for right now.

I was talking to a friend about how holding hands with someone can feel weird, and he said that if I was madly in love with them then I would probably want to. He’s right. I would. I would feel the need for physical closeness. I’m actually very affectionate that way when I love someone, or even when I’m in a romantic relationship where I really like them. It’s the only kind of relationship where I can be really touchy-feely. I can hug my daughter, but neither of us likes hugging very much so it only happens on occasions like birthdays, or when there’s a death of one of our pets. When I lost Stimpy (my first ferret), I think my daughter was afraid to hug me, because I was already falling to pieces. Getting comfort when you’re like that can sometimes be just enough to break you. The stiff upper lip starts to quiver, and then you’re a blubbering mess.

Back to the topic at hand, however. Obsessive love and stalking are so prevalent in all forms of media that it has become absorbed almost to our cores. I think almost everyone I know has that little piece inside them that wishes they could have that. I’m sure I’m not alone there, or how would the writers of romantic fiction ever make any money? Rom-coms wouldn’t make a penny at the box office, either. Men are told to be persistent, despite the fact that it’s actually harassment to keep going after a woman who says no. It’s part of the rape culture. Men are rewarded for persistence by eventually getting their rocks off, even if it’s not consensual – often because the woman gets tired of being harassed and gives in to what she starts thinking is inevitable.

Romance novels used to be called ‘bodice rippers’ for a good reason. Almost every book involved rape in some form or another – usually a man was ‘pushed beyond reason’ into ‘giving her what she really wants.’ Apparently forcing a woman into sex solved all relationship problems – yes, that was sarcasm. This was only twenty years ago, and despite the fact that publishers are telling would-be authors that they don’t want that kind of book, they’re still publishing books about very unhealthy relationships. I actually wrote a historical romance many years ago. It sits (completed) in a box somewhere. It will never be published under my own name, because I will never allow myself to be pigeon-holed as a romance writer. Once that happens you’re rarely seen as any other kind of writer.

A good example is Nora Roberts. Under her own name she writes romances. Under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb she writes what’s called the ‘in death’ series. All but one title uses the words ‘in death,’ such as, “Naked in Death” and “Glory in Death.” The books’ main character is a female kick-ass cop in the future. For a long time, because it was known to be a pseudonym of Nora Roberts, those books were always put in the romance section of every book store I went into. There are romantic relationships within the series, but the books are mainly about the main character being a homicide cop. They’re murder-mysteries, and yet they were labeled as romance. Now when I go in the book store, though, they’re finally filed under the main fiction section. I haven’t seen them in the romance section for quite a while, but it still took a long time for the series to be recognized for what it really was.

Another reason I don’t think I’ll submit my romance novel for publication is that I’m rather ashamed of it. I’m just as guilty of writing anti-feminist crap as any other romance writer. I would have to cut and slash the novel to ribbons in order to fix the problem. I don’t want to be another Stephanie Meyer, creating mentally ill characters for people (particularly teenagers) to emulate. I would prefer to be responsible with my writing and portray women as something other than helpless victims to their own ineptitude. So, despite my (not-so-secret-now) wishing that I might have that sort of unhealthy connection with a man, I know better than to fall for it. I can only hope that most teenagers will outgrow their interest in the series.

Maybe there’s an antidote. Maybe one day I’ll write about the kind of relationship that’s real and healthy. Two people dedicated and devoted to one another, without having to give up who they are. People who don’t orient themselves to their partners to the exclusion of all else in their lives. Now that would be a relationship worth emulating. They say, “Write what you know,” though, and I have no personal experience from which to draw.

Cohabitation Conundrums and Pet Peeves

Okay, so you’ve been seeing someone for a while, presumably happily. Then one of you gets a bright idea. Possibly you both think it’s one of those lightbulb moments, and that it’s brilliant in its simplicity. Perhaps it doesn’t even pop up as an idea per se, but rather a talking point in a conversation, and somehow you wander off the beaten path into “Destination: Insanity,” where no one in the relationship has ventured before. Maybe one of you thinks the other needs a frontal lobotomy, and vows to run away at the first opportunity.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume both parties in a relationship are happy enough together that they actually want to share living space, and that when the idea floats into the nearby airspace no one is swatting at it like a pesky mosquito. That being established, now what? Do you scout the apartment listings and hire a moving company?

Well, first things first. Determining whether or not it actually is a good idea is probably an idea destined for induction into the Brainiac Hall of Fame. There are a few question that need to be asked here:

  • How well do you know each other? It isn’t necessarily about how long you’ve known one another, but how well. Some people can be dating for a year and barely know one another – for three reasons. One, they hardly spend any time talking, or in each other’s company. Two, they don’t talk about anything in-depth that will allow any mutual knowledge. Three, they’ve never had to face any difficulties as a couple and have no idea how their partner processes those situations. Screaming fits might not be desired.

In other words, do you have any idea what it’s going to be like to be around this person all the time, and are you absolutely certain you’re not going to end up in jail for killing them at some point down the road?

  • Are your goals for the future compatible? Let’s face it. Many people romanticize relationships and picture a moment of church bells and stale cake to be smooshed into one another’s respective faces. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you both want. If only one of you is cherishing those dreams, you’re more likely to be smooshing dog crap into the upholstery of their cherished La-Z-Boy.

You need to talk about every single deal-breaking dream you’ve got, whether those dreams involve an infestation of rugrats, ball-and-chain ceremonies, or trips around the world to look at that exact spot where Ghandi went on a hunger strike. When I say deal-breaking, I really mean that. We all have them. We each have many dreams, but not all of them are things that we absolutely must have in our lives before we die. Sometimes there are compromises, but quite often there aren’t.

  • Are you spiritually compatible? Spirituality is often only an issue if you’re planning on having the aforementioned ankle-biter invasion. If one of you is a Catholic and the other is Hindu, or even if one of you is an atheist, you could experience a few “Holy crap!” moments once the short humans with the overly large heads arrive on the scene.

Discussing how you intend to raise your children, and what portions of your faith you wish those children to adhere to, could save you major arguments in the future – not to mention a divorce and court hearings. If you’re not willing to compromise on the faith of your children, you absolutely must choose someone who is either of the same faith, or who honestly does not care what faith is chosen for their offspring. Do not assume because someone is an atheist that they don’t care if your kids practice Judaism. They may be dead-set against it.

  • Are your daily habits compatible? If you’re even considering cohabitation, you’re probably not against pre-marital sex, so let’s assume for now that you’ve managed to get some nooky during the whirlwind that is known as courtship. Leaving aside sexual compatibility for the moment, which is a book in and of itself (but I’m willing to tackle it in a paragraph a little further down anyway), we need to figure out if Person A puts the cap on Exhibit T, and Person B puts the seat down on Exhibit L. If you’re doing the hunka-chunka, and are considering sharing a residence so that you can presumably do the hunka-chunka on a more regular basis, you’ve probably spent a night or two together. If one of you is running off ten minutes after knocking boots, it does not bode well for the success of your future cohabitation.

Toothpaste tubes and lavatory lids aside, maybe your schedules conflict in such a way that would make regular bed-sharing difficult, or one of you is a neat-freak who gags at the site of slovenly socks. Is your partner a sports nut that screams so loudly at the television that the neighbour’s rugrats have gone deaf? Maybe you bring your work home with you all the time, and your partner acts more like a frat boy who has to smoke a bowl with his bros.

  • If you already have your own children, do they get along with your partner and any children they have? Do you get along with your partner’s kids? This one is a biggie. You can’t take your potential future step-child to the pound if there are incompatibilities here, much as you might think it would do them a world of good. Plus, they may go so far as to bite you if you try.

Kids really make things complicated when they aren’t shared offspring. You have to deal with every one of the above-mentioned issues with your partner’s kids, on top of dealing with whether or not you actually like the spoilt little buggers. You can ooh and aah all you want over your partner’s kid, and put up a good fake front, but you need to be completely honest with yourself about how likely it is that you’ll be able to stand being around them for longer than ten minutes.

  • Do you have compatible pets? Pets usually aren’t as bad as kids. Having said that, they do come with their own set of issues. Some animals are grumpy. Some are predatory and/or jealous. If one of you has a pet snake, and the other a pet mouse, well…you get the idea. Cats and birds are known adversaries, and it’s not always the cat that comes out the winner there – just ask any parrot owner.

Introducing pets is a very delicate process, assuming your pets can’t be kept separate or in cages at all times. If it’s done right you can still have problems if you don’t continue to keep an eye on the situation. However, if it’s done wrong the damage can be permanent. The introduction has to be done cautiously, and only two pets at a time. Both animals need to be fully controlled by their owners, and the experience needs to be a relatively pleasant memory for both creatures. In other words, don’t allow one animal to chomp down on the other and try to shake the life out of it. Have treats handy to distract the animals. Both animals need to feel secure, and know that there’s no threat. Sometimes it’s best if you just allow animals to get used to one another’s scents first, without physically introducing them, if there’s a real danger of one animal attacking the other. Swap their blankets back and forth for a few days.

  • Are you financially compatible? Money is a major bell-ringer for some. If one of you is frugal and the other spends more money than they earn, it’s a big bone of contention when you’re pooling your resources. That, of course, is something else that needs to be determined before shacking up with your new love slave. Are you sharing funds, keeping things separate, or a combination of the two? This is not the time to be making ass-you-me type decisions. If you do you can find that ass handed to you in court if you neglect to pay your portion of the rent because you thought it was ‘our’ money and not ‘yours’ and ‘mine’. Yet another issue with money has to do with large purchases, no matter how you choose to handle your funds. A sofa or bed is a joint purchase, generally, but they’re nothing compared to a house. For that matter, are you willing to even consider the purchase of a house? In this day and age, that’s more of a commitment than most marriages.

In the vast majority of polls conducted, sex and money are two of the biggest reasons people fight. I can’t help you with your sex life – mostly because I don’t want to know what weird things you might be getting up to. I have my own weird things to contend with. Money is one area where advance communication can make a world of difference, though. If a compromise is reached before a decision ever has to be made, and both parties follow through on their agreements, all’s well that ends well. If not, expect your own bell to be rung a few time – or even your ears from all the shouting that’s going to go down.

  • And finally, are you sexually compatible? No, you’re not supposed to actually answer me. You’re supposed to carry on that conversation with yourself and your partner, and leave us innocent folk out of your bedroom Battle Royale. Have you been truly honest with your partner about what you like and don’t like? Have you shared the secrets that you intended one day to foist upon them? Are you happy with the ways things are going there – and if you’re not happy, are you and your partner working toward a solution?

Now this is just my opinion, but then it’s my blog and I’ll have a potty mouth if I want to, but I do not think it’s a good idea to move in with someone (or especially to engage in the matrimonial legal tangle) when you have never had sex with them. Sex being one of those really big issues that people fight about, it makes perfect sense to me to figure out whether or not it’s something you’re likely to fight about. We all have those times when we’ll argue about almost anything in a relationship, but a complete lack of sexual compatibility will result in mind-blowing fights rather than other mind-blowing activities, and quite possibly some nasty insults that your ego might never recover from. Getting your freak on is necessary if you intend to be anything more than friends. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. If there’s no sexual chemistry or activity, you’re nothing but friends. That’s fine if you’ve spent forty or fifty glorious years together and things have petered out (no pun intended – okay maybe it was), but if you’re just getting started and there’s nothing there you’ve got serious problems and you’re not actually involved in a romantic relationship.

 If, after all this insanely boring self-reflection, you still think it’s a good idea to share living space, there remains the possibility a frontal lobotomy is in order. Maybe not, though. Maybe it’ll be the best thing to happen to you. Nobody can answer these questions for you, but if you’re not asking them of yourself you’re probably going to end up wishing for that frontal.

Beyond My Wildest Dreams, By Any Name

As mentioned in other blog posts, I’m 42 years old. I’ve been through three marriages, spectacularly failing at them all. At my age I had serious doubts that I would even find a relationship that would work for me. However, a good friend of mine gave me a kick in the ass a number of weeks ago and told me I shouldn’t give up on relationships and love, or blame myself for the fact that I hadn’t done so well on the marriage front. Since he knows a lot about my personal history, including a really rough childhood, he told me with some knowledge and authority that I was just doing what I needed to do at the time, in order to find what I needed in my life. I took those words to heart, and despite a hiccup or two I ended up finding success with online dating.

I say success (though there are no guarantees) because I found something I think is pretty incredible. Almost miraculous, in fact. Not just something, but someone, with whom I seem to have everything I ever wanted or needed. My only problem is that I can’t get enough of being around him.

When people talk about love and relationships everyone has their own ideas of what would be the best for them, and what they value most in a potential partner. Some want companionship more than they want anything else. Some want lots of sexual chemistry. Some want a potential spouse and/or someone to have children with. None of these things are necessarily right or wrong – they’re simply what we feel we need.

I’m not sure I really knew what I was looking for in a partner; I just knew there were a lot of things about me that a man would need to accept. I have a strange lifestyle, much akin to that of a vampire from what I’ve been told, and it’s not something I can change – nor would I want to.

There are so many things I didn’t know I needed, though, and so many more things I didn’t realize were even possible. For example, I had no idea that I could be truly calm just lying in someone’s arms, despite having chemistry that brings me to my knees (I mean figuratively at the moment, just in case there are perverts other than myself who are reading this). I’ve never been able to turn off my brain and just relax while being held, but now I don’t even have to make an effort at it. I didn’t know I could talk to someone for 8 or 9 hours in a day, or spend 12 hours in their company and the two of us would still be talking. I didn’t know I could be held and know without a doubt that I was really wanted there.

I guess what I didn’t know was that I could really focus on someone, to the point where I’m not thinking about the million other things I need (or want) to be doing. I began living in the moment, because the moment became vital.

Something else slammed into my consciousness within the last 24 hours. It was a confidence I didn’t know I could achieve. Like so many people I see the physical flaws in myself far more vividly than others see them. I found myself able to make jokes about them, knowing they just didn’t matter. Suddenly years of self-consciousness about certain things evaporated and I said to hell with it – I wasn’t going to let those things be anything other than a punchline. It wasn’t a conscious effort, though. It just came from hearing the right words at the right time, from the one person I needed to hear them from. Not that real confidence comes from someone else – it’s more that the words made me think, and then something shifted inside of me.

When you can be with someone and really feel that the ‘worst’ things about you are not the glaring issues you thought they were, it’s an unbelievable gift that can never be taken away – no matter what the future holds.

I had no idea how important it was to me to find someone capable of comforting me, either. Having lived so long without that, it never occurred to me that I should expect it, so I guess I didn’t allowed myself to want that from a partner. I actually got some bad news a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered that I might have been responsible for the death of my ferret. I had no idea how seriously my actions would impact him, and it devastated me. Nearly 7 months after his death I still grieve for Stimpy every single day, and to learn that I might have killed him with my ignorance was a devastating blow. Instead of being shrugged off when I needed a shoulder, though, somehow I was given exactly the words I needed to hear, again from the one person I needed to hear them from. He took away so much pain with a single sentence. I doubt he even knows the impact he had on me at that moment.

Love isn’t a declaration given to you in three words. Love is what is breathed into a relationship at every significant moment. It’s there when it is needed. Love is when you can’t keep your hands off of someone even when sex isn’t the intention – you just need to touch them. Actions are love. Love is the way you live within a relationship. It’s just there. Being cherished, respected and accepted is something you can feel. Three words can’t express or contain what love is meant to be. People say it all the time, without living it.

Finding someone who makes you feel like this begs the question, “Why couldn’t I have found you years ago?” In my case I know the answer to that question. Some things have to happen just the way they happen. Life prepares us for these moments so that we can see them when they come to us. Some of us learn the lessons early, and some don’t. Until we learn the lessons, though, we don’t recognize what may be right before us. Twenty years ago I looked for completely different things. The choices I made twenty years ago were the wrong ones, but nothing would have derailed those choices without me experiencing the results. I made the same choices over and over, getting the same result. Finally I changed what I was doing. What I looked for was completely different, and lo and behold I found it.

Even five years ago I would never have been wise enough, or experienced enough in my own life, to value what’s important to me now – the things that I’ve found that make me so happy. At that time (for the first time in my life) I wasn’t running from one relationship to the next. For once I took time away from all that to live and be quiet within myself. I didn’t need company, because I enjoyed my own. I was as surprised as anyone else when I signed up for a dating site a while ago. I knew I was ready to be involved with someone again, but whether or not I was ready for the dating world was another issue altogether. I can only be grateful I didn’t have to endure that many first dates before I found the man I had learned to look for. Everything I get from our relationship beyond that can not be trivialized as icing on the proverbial cake, though. They aren’t mere fluff to decorate the surface of our relationship; they’re vitally important even if I didn’t know I needed them.

It’s a beautiful thing to feel utterly safe with someone; safe in the way that you can share details of your soul and know those secrets will be respected. Being safe with someone can open up the floodgates of our emotions. We can bring things to the light of day that we never dared express before, and shining a light on them can be a huge relief when we see they aren’t as dark as we thought they were. Fear of judgment is no longer an issue. You know your secrets will not be used against you at a later date.

No matter what happens, my world has been rocked. Just knowing that these things are possible has made a permanent change in how I look at relationships. Life is like that, though – if you allow it to be. It teaches you new and wonderful things all the time. You just have to be open to the possibilities.

The Love Stops Here…No Here! Now Where the Hell am I?

When we talk about love in a new relationship we often use the term ‘falling in love’ and it’s a bit of a misnomer. Falling implies a drastic ending to the process, possibly resulting in a gruesome death or grotesque injury. To be fair that’s occasionally true, but we’ll try not to dwell on that.

As I was out walking today, grinning like an idiot because my head is kind of in the clouds these days, it occurred to me that the implication of falling in love is that (somewhere along the line) we know exactly when it becomes love, and that it doesn’t go past that line. Is there a switch? What’s the defining moment where you say, “Eureka – I’ve found it,” and happily begin plotting a nefarious future with your partner in crime?

The reality of love is more that you continue falling for a really long time. I’d have to say that the day you stop falling into love is the day you start falling out of it. The longer we go on with a partner, the more we learn about them. We’re not always going to like everything we learn, and it would be beyond tedious if we did, but we can only hope that the things we learn keep turning us on, rather than off.

The one recognizable point might be when we realize we can’t imagine a life without the other person in it. We can feel this way about friends, too, but certain differences are obvious…like sex. Still, that point of true friendship is a bit of a key, I think. I’ve had relationships where I wasn’t friends with the person I was in love with, though, and that’s probably the reason the relationship didn’t work. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever had a partner where they were my best friend at the time the relationship was going on – there was too much competition and combativeness, with a power struggle thrown in to really make things entertaining. I’ve had friends turn into lovers where the friendship disappeared, and I’ve had lovers turn into friends when the romance disappeared.

Well, I want the whole package now. I might actually get it, too, considering the whole ‘head in the clouds’ thing, but that’s neither here nor there when it comes to this post. We’re not really talking specifically about my love life, but rather an idea and understanding about the true nature of loving someone. A question has arisen in my mind, and as always it must be explored and answered. I’m kind of like a terrier that way – I just can’t leave things alone once I sink my teeth into them. Throw in the corpses of relationships-past and we’re stuck with a pretty gross image, but I still want my answers.

I’d say we don’t really fall in love, but maybe drift into it and sometimes through it. The further we go toward the middle, the denser it gets, but if we’re just passing through a portion of it we never really get the whole effect. It would be nice if we could always travel the longest distance through it, because it would be enough to keep a relationship going for a lifetime. Then there are the relationships that aren’t on a linear projection at all, and veer sharply in one direction or another – like when a person cheats on a partner. They might have been swimming along nicely when suddenly one of them needs an ego boost that collides with a pretty, flirtatious face, or a handsomely formed bicep.

Let’s go back to the part with the infatuation stuff. When we’re young, and sometimes we never rid ourselves of this behaviour, we often cherish our rose-coloured glasses to the point of idiocy. The person you’re mad about slammed their car into another one because the other driver ticked them off? Hey, no problem! They were just having an off day. Your crush is someone you met at the bar and they’re considered a regular there? Oh, that’s okay. Once they settle down all that will change. [Please note that I am holding up a very large sarcasm sign with flashing neon and a strobe light.] Apparently we all look pretty through pink lenses.

Often that infatuation stage is what we call ‘falling in love’ and it does imply that we haven’t reach the love part yet. How true that is! You don’t actually know the other person beyond your own perception of them. You haven’t been slapped out of your delusions yet. It’s very easy to pretend everything is perfect, because that’s how we really want it to be. On the other hand some of us prefer a cold shower of reality as soon as humanly possible. It’s a lot less painful in the end. We don’t necessarily decide to end a relationship because of the reality, but at least we know what we’re getting into.

Maybe you’re wondering why this is important to me, which is a fair question. It’s not simply that I’m facing these things at the moment, but also that I’d really like to make sure I don’t screw things up in the future. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and certainly have no trouble owning up to that, but if I don’t look for my own answers as to why that happened…well…like history I am doomed to repeat it.

Sexual Choices and the Numbers Game

I finally got a little bit more serious about dating recently. It only took me nearly six years, but I got around to it in the end. I know I’ve talked about dating, expressing my personal take on a whole list of shenanigans, but it’s only been within the last week or so that I really put any kind of effort into it. When you stop to consider that I went on a total of 5 dates in just over 5 years, none of which resulted in a second date, I wasn’t exactly tearing through them at the speed of light. I guess it’s no surprise then, that I’m not the type to date more than one guy at the same time. In fact, I won’t even talk to other potential dates if I’m already talking to someone in that capacity. I’m just not built that way.

So many people treat dating as a numbers game, and it’s incredibly easy to do that when you go the route of online dating. After all, you set up a profile that’s relatively anonymous, and you aren’t forced to date people that live close to you where you might run into someone else you happen to be dating. Plus, you’re able to carry on multiple conversations at once and then set up a dating schedule accordingly. Many people do it this way, which is fine for them I suppose but it’s just too much work for me. Partly that’s an honesty thing. You see, it’s not really tactful to tell someone you’re meeting three other potential partners that same night (or that week), and that you’ll get back to them if there’s ‘still an opening’ (tongue in cheek) when you’ve picked everyone over.

The alternative is to not say anything at all. While there really isn’t an obligation to tell all your secrets to a person you’ve only had one date with, however, it still feels dishonest to me. It’s just far less complicated to my way of thinking, to not have three other dates lined up. Maybe it sounds arrogant, but I’m considered fairly good dating material, so setting up three dates at a time falls under the heading of easy-peasy. To be fair, most women find dates pretty easily. The difficulty has more to do with the quality of dates.

Dating the way I do means that it can take a lot longer to find someone that’s okay with waiting more than 24 hours before knocking boots. Whenever I’ve run into the less than patient ones I’ve gotten rather discouraged at the state of dating these days and thumbed my nose at it – for a while anyway. I don’t consider myself a coward, or a person that gives up easily. Ergo, the dating horse gets ridden again – no, I’m not seeing a horse, though I do have them on my mind these days. You’ll have to wait for an explanation on that one, as I do like to keep a few cards close to the vest.

Along with not wanting to treat dating as a numbers game, I have other conflicts. Call me complicated. To start with I’m a feminist who believes in sexual freedom. I feel everyone should have the choice to have sex at whatever point they want to, without being labeled for it. After all, if you want to wait you get labeled a prude usually. If you want to bang on the first date, woah…the word ‘slut’ rears its ugly head. Now, I’m not all that concerned with the opinions of others when it comes to any of my choices, sexual or otherwise, and if a man doesn’t like the choice I make they’re not the man for me anyway.

It’s interesting to me that I might be labeled a prude because I like to get to know someone first, when I’m rather open-minded when it comes to actually doing the deed. I’m a feisty one. I just don’t burn up the sheets with anyone and everyone who gives me an hour of their time. Admittedly there are reasons for that beyond shyness and simply learning to be comfortable with a person. I’ve got a past that has built certain kinds of walls around me, and those of you who have been reading my blog for some time already know about that past so I won’t bore you with a new iteration.

So, if I were to be labeled a prude for waiting to have sex, what do we call a person who jumps into bed with someone and doesn’t put any effort or interest into it? Doesn’t sound like a hot tamale to me, so I’m not sure why that would be a sought-after prize. Sure, if someone is merely looking to gouge another notch in the bed post that might be adequate. Instant gratification for our desires, however, tends to fall flat. Sometimes anticipation is a far greater aphrodisiac than people can imagine. Not to mention the fact that the anticipation can be heightened by conversations about sex beforehand. If you’re at all liberated you can discuss some of the things you enjoy and take out a bit of the awkwardness when you finally do get down to it.

Luckily my own version of the numbers game, wherein I talk to and see one person at a time, seems to have worked out for me. No guarantees, of course, but many hours of phone conversations combined with spending a bit of time together, has so far resulted in a fair bit of intrigue on my part. Guess we’re off to the races.