On a humid summer day, and old friend and sit in a restaurant balling our eyes out, tears streaming down into little bowls of wasabi, as our sushi sits untouched. I have just told her my husband has asked for a separation. It was not my feelings about losing him, however, that had us tearful for ten solid minutes as fellow patrons tried to be subtle about their gawking — it was my fears, and her empathy, about losing my kids.
You see, my friend and I have something in common. We both went through infertility. We both know how hard being a mother is, but we both know how it feels to fear you’ll never get to be one. For months now I’ve lay awake at night thinking about what it will be like to someday lay alone in bed in my house knowing my kids are sleeping somewhere else. And she can imagine all too well what that would feel like, especially after willing our kids into existence against every odd.
Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, my husband sits with some friends over drinks talking over how good I’m going to have it after the divorce because I’ll still have him doing half the childcare.
Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, my own family members laugh aloud about how I’m going to cook and clean for myself now that my “wife” is leaving me.
Marrying a feminist rules, but friends, let me tell you, divorcing a feminist sucks.
Marrying a feminist means a true parenting partnership. Divorcing a feminist means losing half your access to your kids.
Marrying a feminist means it’s not the woman by default who does the most housekeeping. Divorcing a feminist makes all too clear the sexist notions people had about your marriage.
A woman does more housework in a marriage and no one bats an eye. A man does more, and the same people who are ready to erect a statue in his honor are quick to draw conclusions that his wife is lazy, incapable, ungrateful, etc.
No one stops to consider all the ways in which a relationship can be egalitarian, all the different types of work that go on in a household, and the many reasons why one person might end up doing certain work over another.
When I agreed to share childcare 50/50 with my husband I did so in the context of a family. I wasn’t giving up time with my kids, I was gaining a partner, someone to parent with. It never crossed my mind that when that partner would choose not to be my partner anymore, parenting together would morph into parenting half the time.
Having a fully capable, fully involved parent in your bed with you at night in case a child gets sick or is upset, is not the same as sending your young child to a strange home without you. Both of these situations could be called egalitarian, but they are far from the same.
Having time to yourself because you’ve made arrangements with your life partner and best friend to be with your children is not the same as having time to yourself because your children are with a man who prefers to build a life with someone else. That person’s investment in you, in respecting your wishes, in your general well-being, is never going to be the same. And your ability to really know him and trust his motives will never be either.
So I’m not just losing a husband and best friend. I’m losing the family structure that I chose for my kids, and the parenting structure that I chose for myself when I decided to have them. I know I’m not losing my kids, but I am losing time and access to them. I’m losing the ability to know who they are with and how those people are treating them, to know what they’re being fed, what substances they are coming into contact with in the their environment, what types of experiences they are having, and what the little expressions on their faces will be when they have those experiences. It’s missing out on first-times, kissing boo-boos, comforting them, and even knowing comfort was needed.
I don’t say any of this to denigrate my ex-husband as a parent. He is an incredible parent. But I didn’t spend three months on bed rest willing my precious O and J to survive so I could miss those things. And I didn’t make the choice to parent with someone who isn’t invested in me as a life partner. I guess this is all just part of the terror of parenting, because however we conceive our kids, whether with a partner, a donor, through adoption, a gestational carrier, etc., we don’t ever have complete control. There are governmental forces, legal forces and unknowns about our child’s other parent(s) that we will never have complete control over.
The truth is I have no more control now that I did in that bed wishing to god my cervix would stay closed long enough. But that was random, and this doesn’t feel quite so random. This feels like a betrayal. It feels like a betrayal of my trust in the person I chose to parent with, because for me, I wouldn’t have chosen to do it alone.
Marry a feminist and you can look forward to a cushy lifestyle of reasonable contributions by your partner to childcare and housekeeping – lofty contributions nearing 50% – which far exceed the average in which women still do twice as much. But beware. Every single thing that male does will stick out like a sore thumb to everyone in your vicinity, including him, and the things you do will be as invisible and undervalued as women’s work always has been. You will know your relationship is 50/50, but someday you may realize that no one else sees it that way. Because a woman with an egalitarian spouse looks oddly similar in a lot of people’s eyes to a woman lounging in a pool sipping a tropical cocktail, and parenting 50/50 in a marriage can suddenly morph into only getting to parent 50% of the time.
Feminist, if you want my completely jaded, absolutely colored by bitterness and anger, totally situationally-bound, and thoroughly inappropriate opinion… don’t marry a feminist! Better yet, don’t marry anyone. Keep your bank account to yourself. Keep your kids close. And ladies, if you have to partner with a feminist, for god’s sake, make it a woman!
Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw
I used to think life was about accumulating answers. The more you learn about yourself and the world, the fewer questions you have and the more answers, right? There have been stretches of my life (albeit short stretches) were I felt like I was racking up the answers – like I was closing off certain paths and possibilities and narrowing my focus to others. For a few brief moments, I had this moderately stable, fairly typical identity. Mother, wife, professional. I was a happy, content, straight person. I had answered enough questions that the big decisions were made, and it was time to settle in and “live.”
Lately, it feels like the opposite, however. Lately, it feels like I’m accumulating questions instead of answers. The answers I had before seem less and less relevant, and the questions are piling on with a vengeance. I’m drowning in them. I find myself re-opening old questions I thought were laid to rest, and wondering what I was thinking with the conclusions I drew in the past. All this soul-searching leads me back to my faithful friend Q. Q as in LGBTQ. All this questioning makes me feel awfully queer. When I try to put my finger on what happened since that brief moment of heteronormative stability, those are the words that come to mind. Was I just too queer, is that why it didn’t take?
Then I revisit my other old friend Q – the “Questioning” Q. I used to think of that label in very black and white terms. Someone who was not sure of their sexual orientation or gender identity was “questioning.” Now I wonder if questioning can be an orientation in and of itself. Other people seem to get to that point where the major questions are answered and stay there. Was I really too queer for contentment in my former life, or is it more that I’m just a questioner? Perhaps I wasn’t so much queerer than other people, but just asked more questions. Too many questions?
Am I the person who picks at a scab just because it’s there when others would just let it heal? The truth is, Pandora’s Box is always there just outside our comfort zone, ready to render all our answers meaningless and dizzy us in a whirlwind of question-demons. That box of questions is always there, straight, queer, heteronormative or otherwise. It seems like most humans manage to ignore that thing, while I’ve just got to repeatedly fling it open just to see what comes out!
What happened to that relatively content straight person? Was she ever really straight? Was she ever really content? Was she in some kind of denial? Were all her answers woefully inadequate, or was she asking the wrong questions? Was she choosing the path of least resistance, or was she following her truth at the time? Why does a woman who had strongly considered, even desired a homosexual existence at twenty conclude she is irrevocably straight, then proceed to marry a closeted homosexual, only to open up the marriage in order to date women, causing that closeted homosexual to realize he is gay and leave her? So many questions. Not an answer to be had.
So what was at the root of the anguish and rage of the last few months – of finding out I am going to lose my life partner because he is gay? Was it the queer, or was it the questioning? What it something I set in motion years ago or very recently, or was it an utterly random set of events that was always beyond my control? Since Seth has come out and decided to leave our marriage, several people have suggested that if I had just left well enough alone, not had to pick at that scab, I’d still have a marriage, and a happy one at that. There are probably plenty of blissfully ignorant women married to gay men who just left well enough alone, they suggest. But what kind of existence would that be? I don’t know, but it doesn’t so bad right about now, as I prepare for my kids’ dad to move out.
More questions – cause that’s the thing – we were happy. At least I was. And yet there’s this part of me that just can’t get on board with thinking there wouldn’t be something insidious about staying ignorantly content and never finding this version of ourselves. It’s the part of me that just can’t leave that damned Pandora’s Box closed – that will probably go to my grave flinging it open letting all kinds of demons and fairies on the loose… letting myself loose… demons, fairies and all. I may not know much about who I am, but I know this. I am “Questioning,” and I probably always will be. The things that feel settled and stable to other people just don’t to me. The questions that feel long answered are always up for debate somewhere within my psyche.
Does my questioning nature make me happier, more self-aware, more authentic, or just miserable? Perhaps all of the above. Who can say. That’s yet another question whose answer will never fully satisfy me.
Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.
In college, a female mentor introduced me to Sark and her classic book Succulent Wild Woman. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Sark’s work is like a playful, engaging little kick-in-the-ass that feels like a soft pillow enticing you into a lazy, afternoon nap. Sark inspires you to envision a more expansive life and take the risks to get there.
Some of my favorite gems that I go back to again and again from SWW:
-“Traveling Alone for Women.” Sark inspired many trips small and large for me, including a month-long, cross-country road trip by myself where I struck up conversations with strangers of all kinds.
-“Marrying Yourself.” This is brilliant stuff, folks. Everyone should marry themselves, everyone. Go out there and “become the person you want to find!”
– “Investigating the Dark Places with a Flashlight.” Sark is all about facing our demons head on, with plenty of naps and treats in between, of course.
-“Importance of Being Crabby.” Duh.
-“Radical Self-Acceptance.” In college, I actually put little post-it notes all over my dorm room that said “permission” in keeping with Sark’s advice to “fly permission flags.”
-“Importance of Vibrators.” I will never forget how Sark describes getting her first vibrator as a teen on Easter morning. She bounds downstairs exclaiming joyfully, “Happy, Happy Easter!” after using it for the first time. I often think Happy, Happy Easter to myself after a particularly satisfying time…
It’s incredible how life sends you something, and then brings you back to it again and again offering a fresh perspective each time. When I first read Sark, I was doing very hard emotional work. Sark helped me take myself less seriously, give myself breaks, and accept myself where I was. Part of that was accepting I was really far from being emotionally ready for serious intimacy, including sexual intimacy.
At the time, Sark’s advice about learning to be alone, taking emotional risks, and facing dark feelings felt so on target, but other things were very foreign back then. Sark talks about “living juicy,” “succulence,” and “sexual blossoming.” She has another book entitled, “Eat Mangoes Naked.” Looking back, what Sark was getting at was eroticism – taking hold of erotic energy and utilizing it to live a richer, more vibrant life. I was so far from “eating mangoes naked,” the best I could hope for at the time was protecting myself from further emotional harm.
In 2005, I traveled around southern Africa with a close friend of mine. It was one of the three most important experiences of my life. I had met Seth only two months prior. I was allowing myself to take risks with intimacy that I hadn’t before. The friend I was travelling with kept looking at me like I was someone different she’d never seen, as I spoke about Seth and my feelings for him. Looking back, it was a time of succulence for me, one of the first I had ever allowed myself.
I spent a lot of time on my own during that trip; reflecting on my mother’s death just a few months prior, grieving, but also exploring my feelings for Seth, realizing I was in love with him, and considering what that meant for me. I remember walking across Table Mountain in Capetown, looking out over the stunning coast and shimmering ocean. That was my ocean, the one I’d learned to walk next to, but at the opposite end of the world. At that moment, the sun felt like it was shining on parts of me I hadn’t even known existed. While my mother’s cancer kept me closed off and hidden, her death left me raw, exposed, with a lot of open spaces ready to be filled.
This week I found myself eating mangoes naked with a lovely, witty, sexy woman from Cape Town. I had a little chuckle to myself, for Sark, for how far I’ve come, and for the way we grow in circles, revisiting the places we’ve been so we can see the view from where we are back to where we were. That day, I again found myself somewhere I never could have imagined I could get. “Living Juicy,” as Sark would say.
By this point I really know what “Eat Mangoes Naked” is all about. The woman I was on my Africa trip was no longer terrified of love and loss, but the woman I am today is more than that, she is a real Succulent, Wild Woman. The risks I am taking now feel easy and playful instead of like walking through a title wave. I let all the big questions of identity and relationship negotiation melt away this week into the simplicity of brushing up against a stranger on a rooftop, an instant connection, and a lingering sense that this was what supposed to happen, for both of us.
My new friend is back in Cape Town now. Saying goodbye is hard, but it also teaches us to embrace the present. So I am left with the feeling of being amazed by life, and truly, almost painfully grateful. Grateful above all else for the simplicity. After the soul-searching, the over-thinking, the wading through other people’s fears and projections, this experience has been beautifully ordinary. Not ordinary in a bad way. Ordinary in a way that tells you in your gut that you knew who you were all along, and that new experiences don’t have to change the old ones, just deepen them.
As I sit here alone, picturing her in her apartment on the slope of Table Mountain, overlooking that same sparkling ocean I once did, I think about the incredible journeys life takes us on if we let it. If we drown out all the noise, turn off the tv, ignore the naysayers, don’t let other people’s fear turn us off to our own internal compass… If we don’t play by other people’s rules but allow ourselves to make our own, the ones we really need, life will take us exactly where we need to go.
I know there are many of you out there who feel like you can’t live your fullest, most succulent life right now for a variety of reasons. The path may be long, can be slow, and I assure you there will be pain along the way. But don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Don’t let anyone tell you you have to stop, that you are getting too old, too wild, too outside the lines. Keep expanding, keep growing. Eat mangoes naked. Find people who will do so with you and let you go when you need to do so alone. Why do we do anything other than let the ones we love live fully and succulently? If someone loves you, ask them to set you free. But you have to set yourself free as well!
Seth and I talked a lot this week about feeling like we should feel bad. Feeling bad about not feeling bad. We have real fears, of course, but the ones that came from outside of us, we are letting go. From here on out we steer our own ship. We are accountable only to each other. Never could I have imagined this depth of connection when I first marveled at having an intimate partner. There is little more powerful in terms of an act of love than setting someone free, and little more exalting than having that person stay anyway, though the door is open and the whole world is spread out before him. There is great power in watching your partner grow and live fully, putting your fears aside, and being happy for him. The “poly” folks call this compersion. I think Sark would call it succulence.
While I continue to work on my treatise on gay marriage (and why it’s really all about gender, and not gayness or marriage), I thought I would post this poem I wrote for my partnership ceremony in honor of the marriage equality battle being waged this week. It, as well as most of our ceremony, was meant to highlight our desire to create a conscious, feminist, non-hetero-normative union, rather than a marriage in the traditional sense.
Even back then, before we really knew just how queer our union really was, I think we felt like we were getting away with something, even above and beyond our extreme unease at getting married when so many others couldn’t. Thinking now about bisexuals getting just highlights the absurdity of making marriage dependent on gender. Anyway… more on that soon.
Also appeared in elephantjournal – check it out! This post is dedicated to MF.
The following is an internal dialogue between me, Lyla (“grown-up,” married, mother of two), and my gay, teenage alter-ego. We’ll call her “Eve since,” as you will see, she spends a lot of time focused on, shall we say, forbidden fruit.
Lyla: There has to be a way to keep up with the laundry without doing some every single day!
Lyla: Aw, my little boy asked a question, that must be a developmental milestone.
Lyla: Seth is my soul mate, best friend, and life-long companion.
Lyla: How do I know if my kids are adjusting well to pre-school?
Eve: Girls… and sex.
Lyla: Dental Insurance?
Eve: How do you pick out a strap-on?
Lyla: I can’t believe this, I didn’t think we had dental insurance, but we do! What a relief!
Eve: Dates… we should be going on them. With girls!
Lyla: I should probably talk to my therapist about this.
Right before I met my husband, I flew to another state for a graduate school interview. After we landed, I kept running into the crew from the plane. Turns out they were staying in the same hotel as me, including a very attractive man around my age, who I assumed was a flight attendant. He invited me to dinner, and in a very uncharacteristic move (I had to get up early for my interview),, I agreed. That was my idea of living on the edge!
Turns out the guy was the co-pilot and quite a hot, charming co-pilot at that. After Cuban food and an excellent mojito, I went back to his room to see his “flight plans.” Uh-huh. So we were making out, and it was cool. I didn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable, or any of those things “they” warn you about. I was having fun. So what did I do? I excused myself and went back to my room to rest up for my interview (an interview, mind you, I didn’t really care about). I think I am still feeling the sexual frustration from that night to this day.
Why did I leave my pilot friend (and myself) so unsatisfied? I had learned somewhere along the line to assume that I would regret a casual hook-up. I didn’t have any personal evidence for this. There wasn’t anything at all about the situation to suggest I might regret it. The guy was a perfect gentleman, and I really liked him. And yet, regret was the only possibly outcome in my mind. There was no part of me that considered the possibility that I might be glad I had hooked up with him.
A few years after finding and marrying each other, Seth and I found our couple-friend soul-mates. Over the few years that followed, in an entirely platonic way, we became more than just friends. When there was something going on in one of our lives, there were four people, instead of just two, who put their heads together and figured out what to do. Instead of Seth and me planning our social schedules together, all four of us would coordinate. When one of us was being bullheaded, there were three other folks there to gently but persistently provide an “intervention.” Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to get your partner to hear feedback on his behavior when there are two other people there backing you up!
However, the biggest thing I took away from that experience was that the business of life felt a lot less like work during that time. Life felt less burdensome and more fun. With four adults facing the world together things just felt a bit less daunting. Spending time with friends stopped feeling like it required elaborate planning or impossible scheduling feats. There just seemed to be… time.
When our couple-friend soul-mates divorced, Seth and I were devastated. We all joked that Seth and I were more upset than they were, but I think in some ways we really were. We were losing this family unit we’d created, except we didn’t have any of the motivation for wanting to move on that they had. We were perfectly happy in our sexless, four-person marriage. We hadn’t signed on for divorce.
“Love is like plunging into the darkness toward a place that may exist.” – Marge Piercy
It took me a long time to let myself love, especially when there were penises involved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of men now, but the first one I knew made a pretty bad impression. As a smart, cautious girl, the most prudent way for me to avoid re-creating my dysfunctional relationship with my father was to avoid men until I had had enough therapy to be able to trust myself around them. Of course that didn’t stop me from re-creating my dysfunctional relationship with my mom.
That’s right, during that time I was avoiding men, I dated plenty of women. I didn’t call it that at the time because we dated in all respects but one… there was never any sex. That would be too dangerous. One can never be entirely certain a woman is not one’s dad wrapped up in the body of a red-head, tomboy.
None-the-less, these sometimes enthralling, sometimes volatile, and always heartbreakingly ambiguous relationships taught me how to love, and how not to love. I even tried one with a man, eventually. Still gut-wrenchingly ambiguous, of course. Finally, in my early twenties, I had to admit that I had a problem. While these relationships were “safe” in some ways, they were mind-fucking me, badly. Trying to shield myself from intimacy for fear of getting hurt was getting me pretty badly hurt.
So I swore them off! If I was ever going to be really ready for love, I was going to have to go all in – “plunge into the darkness” without a parachute. But instead, I hid out. I avoided everyone. When I was 24, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Just before she died, my dad and I stopped speaking. I assure you, he deserved it.
After I lost my mom, I felt raw, exposed, and yet opened up from the pain. I took a lot of time. I had the twenties I’d missed out on while I’d been researching cancer treatments and battling with neuro-oncologists and brain surgeons. I traveled around Southern Africa, to Costa Rica, and backpacked for 8 days in a remote part of Wyoming. I waited tables… very badly. I applied to graduate school. I went on real dates with boys who were auditioning to have to acknowledge we were more than just friends.
Almost a year to the day after my mom died, I met Seth. After all the drama and soul-searching, and years of tearful nights with female friends wondering if there was something wrong with me that would never be fixed, it was… easy. I had these surreal moments where I’d look at Seth and think can this really be happening, and how long until I lose him too? A few months before our wedding my Gram died. We had been planning for her to walk us both down the aisle. We were devastated.
Around that same time, my father showed up on my doorstep. It had been three years. He cried until he was almost sick. He didn’t deserve my forgiveness, but I knew withholding it would hurt me more than him. My therapist always said, “We don’t do well without our tribe.” Why did my tribe have to be so fucked up?
Seth and I’s partnership ceremony was the most authentic, radical thing I’d ever done, and the people in my life accepted it joyfully. It was so disorienting, I literally lost my balance. I started having these inexplicable and quite horrible dizzy spells. It was like my world was spinning on a different axis that my body wasn’t used to yet. Still, I felt like I was building something, finally, instead of sifting through ruins. I even invited my dad, and he was strangely behaved.
Getting married for me was like stepping into a strangers life. It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t fighting like hell just to continue to exist. Was this what it was like for “those people” I saw walking around in the world? It finally occurred to me… I did have a parachute. I was my parachute. I’d gotten me here. I’d been the one who padded my fall, got me back up, and plunged again into the darkness.
When Seth and I started talking about children, the idea that I could actually add people and not just have them be slowly stripped out off my life was intoxicating. I couldn’t change the past, but I could create a better future. Then we discovered Seth had a fertility problem. Then we discovered I had worse one. We were told we would never conceive. My husband once read me a quote about your family or origin being your roots and your children being your branches. I already felt like my roots had been cut off, and now I felt like I’d lost my branches. The babies that would move like my mother or laugh like my Gram would never exist.
This is my life, I thought. This is the life that happens to me. Not the strange, surreal fairy-tale life where I meet a soul-mate, form an egalitarian partnership, and finally feel like I can be who I truly am in the world. That was indeed some kind of fantasy. Reality was back, and it was harsh. My eggs were more than ten years older than I was. It felt fitting. I felt awfully old. We grieved.
Then things started happening so fast I could barely catch my breath. Just a few short months later I found myself wandering around Soho, confused and delirious, my hippie gynecologist’s words echoing in my ears – “You have a line.” I must have sat there looking stupefied for a good half hour, while the doctor and phlebotomist tried to impress upon me that I was pregnant. A few weeks later, we saw two yoke sacs on an ultrasound. Twins. “Whoo-hoo,” I heard myself cry. Fear be damned, this was probably my only shot, and I was more than okay with a two-for-one deal. Who knew how long this stretch of miracle would last!
This isn’t a post about loss. It’s a post about how loss can make it hard when you don’t lose. For eight weeks I held my breath every hour of every day. I wasn’t just scared to miscarry. I believed I would. That’s what I’d been told. When the doctor at the fertility clinic found out I was pregnant she looked at me suspiciously, like I was some kind of witch or something. When I hit that Sunday – 12 weeks – I had that dizzy feeling again. Can this be real, I wondered? I was already showing.
There I was in that other woman’s life again. Like all those pregnant women who’d made me cry inside just a few short months before. I began to open my heart to my babies. I could feel them kicking, hiccuping, and squirming. At 16 weeks I was told I had a boy, but the other little stinker was hiding. That was a long week. Then I was told I had a girl. I wept for joy. I think I knew that was the closest I’d come to getting my mom back. I saw every little body part at my twenty week ultrasound times two.
Then one day we went to brunch with some friends. In the bathroom I saw two tiny spots of blood. Every little twinge I’d felt for twenty weeks had me panicked, but this was different. This was the real deal. Then the waiting game started again. Counting down the hours, until they became days, until they became weeks. 21 weeks – I may not get to keep them. 24 weeks – still hardly any chance I’ll get to keep them. I remember my OBGYN giving me a stern talking to – warning me that my cervical shortening was unpredictable, and there was no guarantee I’d make it two more weeks. 28 weeks – hallelujah, I will probably get to keep them!!
My babies were born healthy and strong, almost 5 pounds each and breathing on their own, at 33.5 weeks. We were told numerous times they were the healthiest ones in the NICU, but the reminders not to get too hopeful were everywhere. I’ll never forget one night during their 19-day stay. We were leaving very late with some family. The babes were already in the step-down unit, and as we walked back through the main NICU, we could tell something was very wrong. A huge crowd of doctors and medical personnel were huddled around a tiny little girl. You could tell by the looks on their faces the situation was grave. The next day, the little girl was gone.
Now take these babies home and love them. Love them like none of this ever happened, like you weren’t told you’d never have them, like you didn’t almost lose them, like your mom didn’t call you that day from the hospital and ask you if the plumber came to the house before nonchalantly adding, “They found a brain tumor.” Take these babies home and love them like you have no idea that every moment of life is spent walking on the edge of death- like every path toward the light hasn’t led back into the darkness.
This post was inspired by a post called It Took Me 18 Months to Fall in Love with My Daughter. Sure, I loved my babies from the moment they were born. I loved them even before they were conceived. Why else would I have grieved so hard when I’d been told they were never going to come.? I love them so much it terrifies and sometimes paralyzes me. On the other hand, a part of me feels like I’m letting myself love them little by little everyday as I slowly let go of my fear.
The past two years have been like a roller coaster ride back through all the things that terrify me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been holding my breath since they told me about that “line.” After 9 months, I finally felt like I was getting out of survival mode. I was doing it. I was keeping them alive, and myself sane. My worst fears hadn’t come to pass. I even found myself having fun now and then. Seth and I marveled at the two stunningly perfect lives we created. “Our roots are a bit gnarly,” we agreed,” but our branches are spectacular.” Then it happened… another “line.”
This time I was equally thrown but for totally different reasons. This one wasn’t planned, and I knew on some level I’d been holding back connecting emotionally with my babies. I was already overwhelmed by trying to love more than I ever had despite all that loss-baggage. But I’m already fucking up with the ones I’ve got, I thought to myself. Miscarrying was a major set back. It didn’t just set me back to when my babies were born, or even when I’d been terrified of losing them. It set me all the way back. Back to when I was terrified to jump at all.
Suddenly, I felt completely unsafe. Unsafe in my marriage. Unsafe with my babies. Maybe this was all a big mistake, and the universe knew I wasn’t supposed to have them, either? I think on some level I believed I’d killed my baby, and I was poison. Perhaps I thought on some level that the clarity of knowing for sure that I was dangerous and deadly would feel better than accepting the randomness of when I’d lost and when I hadn’t and when I’d been told I would but didn’t.
I wanted safety, even if it hurt. Even if I risked destroying everything .I spent the months after my miscarriage working together with my husband to drive our relationship to the brink, feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped with my friends, and becoming way too dependent on a friendship that I eventually also ended up nearly destroying.
In the midst of all this, I was still trying to figure out how to be queer. I guess I always thought by time I had kids I would have found myself. I didn’t realize finding oneself happens again and again. If we’re lucky.
Turns out I didn’t lose my parachute last winter at all, I was just falling faster and harder than I had in a long, long time. The truth is it was there all along, because as close as I came to the edge, when it came down to it, I did the work I needed to do, I stuck with therapy, I held my marriage together, I was there for my kids, I realized just in time that my focus wasn’t where it needed to be, that I was acting out of terror and had lost clarity, and I started slowly, slowly pulling it together. This blog was born a year ago today, during a time of darkness and loss, only a couple short weeks after my miscarriage. I did give birth to something after all, this blog turns out to be Baby C.
In my first post on this blog, I talked about feeling like a snow-globe with all the parts of me shaken up, not knowing where they would land. Motherhood will do that. Over the past year, Undercover in the Suburbs has helped me reclaim and re-order those parts. The truth is when we become uprooted (as we inevitably do when we become parents), when we lose ourselves for any reason, as I did last winter, when we find ourselves again, we are never quite the same. I’ve lost a lot in my life, and sometimes it’s felt like losing myself.
Still, I feel the most fully me I’ve ever been right at this moment. Perhaps the truth is that every path into the darkness eventually leads back to the light. Undercover has helped me find that light. It’s been a chance to come back home to writing, to feminism, and come home for the first time to being queer. It’s helped me let go of damaging cultural notions of motherhood and define the role for myself. It’s a space where all the parts of me can co-exist, peacefully for the most part. It’s a space where I can connect with others who are travelling similar paths, and be comforted, and learn from those who’ve made different choices. It’s a space where I can make myself more whole, recover from my losses, and thus make more room for love. I’m still working at it. That’s what I’ve learned. I will always be working at it. For me, love may always feel like plunging into the darkness, but I’ve got this parachute. Me. I’m the parachute. Thank you for reading.
So what will the next year bring? Integration. My next step must be bringing my “real” life more in line with Lyla Cicero’s online existence. Stay tuned this year as I work toward that integration. Stay tuned for posts on coming farther out, honoring my inner teenage lesbian, battling mono-sexism in myself and the outside world, egalitarian/feminist/non-heteronormative parenting on a collision course with SCHOOL, and thus, the large society, and many other subjects.
My main goal for the blog this year is to get more of you involved. Despite the catharsis of writing these posts, the greatest joy and fulfillment I get is from reading your comments, getting your emails, and dialogue-ing with you. I hope to get more folks reading, and more of you commenting and making your voices heard. Undercover isn’t just for me. It’s for anyone searching for themselves and working to create a more LGBTQQIAPK-friendly, sex-positive, identity-fluid, gender-egalitarian world.
“Opened the door, knew what was me, finally realized, parachute over me.” – Guster
A few months back it came out that actor John Travolta may have had sex with men. Whatever the facts of the case, the blogosphere and my sex therapist circles were a-flutter with speculation. What did this mean? Was John Travolta gay? Does sex with men necessarily mean gay?
This fascinating Good Men Project post Mostly Straight Most of the Time talks about men who identify as “mostly straight,” including men who feel politically or personally limited by the heterosexual male role, men who find other men attractive but primarily enjoy sex with women, and men who have romantic feelings or enjoy cuddling or going “beyond platonic” with other men but not having sex. It also talks about men who have sex with other men but still identify as “mostly straight.” For example, the article quotes a man named Dillon who explains that “he resides in the ‘Sexual Netherlands,’ a place that exists between heterosexuality and bisexuality.”
So what is going on with these men? Are they gay, straight, or bisexual? My answer to that question is that it is the wrong question. Rather than trying to squeeze people into existing labels, perhaps we should be making new labels. Can you be sexually gay and romantically straight, or as some of my colleagues described it, “homo-sexual and hetero-emotional?” Of course! You can be ANYTHING. That is what we keep missing. No matter how many categories we make, people will keep inhabiting “the netherlands in between.”