31 May 2009

Emergency

Often I just link to things like this, but I felt that this was big enough that I wasn't going to risk people deciding not to click the link to read it:

When You Can’t See

Space May 26, 2009, Matthew Good

You’ve just arrived home. The kids, having gotten home from school a few hours earlier, are going about their usual business. You walk into the kitchen and throw your briefcase on the counter, grabbing a glass out of the cupboard. As you walk towards the fridge to get some orange juice the phone rings, diverting you.

You pick it up. You stand there in stunned silence. The voice on the other end of the line informs you that your wife has been involved in a serious car accident.

You immediately hang up and dial your neighbour. You ask them to watch the kids while you go to the hospital, telling them that you’ll inform the kids of the situation once you know more. Your neighbour, who you’ve know for years, is aghast, but assures you that they’ll drop everything and come over.

The glass that you had grabbed remains empty on the counter, you grab your keys, get in your car, and drive like a madman.

On the way to the hospital your whole life flashes in front of your eyes – the seventeen years of marriage, the night you first kissed her, the look on her face when you asked her to marry you, the tears that filled the corners of her eyes as you were pronounced man and wife. The hard times are forgotten, the good times surging to the forefront of your memory - the birth of your children, the vacations, the laughter, those silent moments when you stared at each other in bed at night contented and at ease with yourselves.

You get to the hospital, park in a two-away zone, run into emergency, find the desk, ask where she is, and…

…you can’t see her.

Imagine that. Because that is the reality faced by many gay and lesbian couples in that exact situation. They are not considered immediate family, even if they have been together for decades. At that desk, with the one person that means more to them than anything possibly facing death, they are stopped.

I’ve read and heard a great deal about God in my life. If you’re of the opinion that God’s will is represented at that desk when a gay or lesbian person is stopped, then what is there to say other than God help you.


It's ridiculous to me that you can't choose who can see you in an emergency. Can we have the equivalent of Medic Alert bracelets that designates "next of kin"? I mean, basically, your homosexual partner can't visit you, but your estranged parents could. Isn't it time that we eliminated archaic hospital visitation rules to better reflect the reality of contemporary families?

29 May 2009

But I DO like it.....

I just hate stupid commercials devoted to it. And the ever-worsening chemical and disposable nature of the products....

26 May 2009

Forgetting to breathe

Sometimes, when I'm thinking or stressed out, I stop breathing. I guess it's a form of apnea, but it apparently doesn't happen in my sleep (at least, not enough to warrant a diagnosis).

Sometimes, I let things get out of hand. I pack my schedule; I rush from pillar to post. It's exhausting.

In five weeks I will be on summer vacation again. The next two weeks are insane (much like the last two). I have some things jammed into my summer already, including a family wedding, some professional development, and a road trip.

I just hope I remember to breathe.

25 May 2009

Tick Tock

Everyone's in a rush. Gotta get married; gotta have babies. Clock's ticking, people!

I've mentioned my biological clock before. I generally ignore it. Plus, I work with teenagers, which is as effective a prophylactic as any I've encountered.

Last month I turned 30 and I started thinking about where I am, what I have, and what I want. In considering some other people in my social sphere I started wondering whether what I want is more closely linked to what I have access to than I originally understood. Last summer I had an interesting conversation with Tricky's husband about free will and whether it can possibly exist, and he put forth a theory (which I can never correctly attribute) about whether our subconscious pushes us to the point where we're not actually taking decisions about things, but selecting an option based on it being the only possibility after all others have been eliminated. It changed my way of thinking about certain "mistakes" I'd made in the past, although I think it's an incomplete consideration of the theory, which I've very badly explained above.

Humans are remarkably good at rationalizing our choices. Someone pointed out to me (maybe Tricky's husband again) that we are not a rational species, but a rationalizing species. That's how I find it easy to identify when someone says they've "made a choice". It's probably unfair to say that everyone rationalizes each decision that is limited by resources or access, but I think it happens more than people realize. Personal example: when I was young, my parents would never have shelled out $80 for a sweatshirt, so it was really easy to say that I had no interest in owning one. I actually don't know whether my indignation at being required to pay so much money for a sweatshirt was genuine or whether I knew that it was useless to ask my parents so I pretended I didn't want one until I believed it. I'd like to say that it was the former, considering the time period, but maybe my distaste for popular fashion (which, at my junior high and high school) was borne of my inability to access it. What confuses me is my lack of resentment. I don't look back and think, "Why didn't I have _____?" When I talk to others about similar forced denials, social or material (significant others, clothes, etc.), it always seems to entail some underlying anger at not having something that "everyone else" had access to. I rarely had that anger, and it certainly wasn't because my parents caved to every demand.

But what I find curious now is whether not wanting certain things (marriage, kids, etc.) on a certain time line has as much to do with my lack of access to them as any actual free will on my part to decide whether I want them at all. I have friends who definitely wanted things to happen at certain time in certain orders; some were successful with this and some failed miserably. I have also encountered people who have declared from the rooftops that they don't want to get married, they aren't looking for love, and they certainly don't want kids.

While I believe some of these people, others make me suspicious. It seems really easy to say that you don't want to get married or have kids when you're in a relationship that isn't ever going to offer those things. Specifically, an acquaintance of mine has been with the same partner for 13 years. He declared early on that he didn't want to get married or have children. She was enjoying herself at the time and probably didn't think much of it. She stayed with him. All these years later, she says that she doesn't care about getting married and she doesn't want kids. But when I look at the state of their relationship, I wonder if she hasn't just convinced herself of that because she doesn't want to start over. I certainly can't see any other reason why she'd stay with him, and you'll just have to take my word on it.

At the same time, my rampantly feminist self thinks, why should she feel the need to get married? We can all be just as happy without it, if that's what we want from our lives. So why can't I shake the feeling that these choices aren't just choices?

Because the choices change. I've been in the situation numerous times where I've been just as happy on my own -- thanks to some hard work on my part -- and then something changes. Maybe a friend has a baby, maybe I meet someone and feel connected, maybe I witness something tragic that breaks my heart; whatever the reason, I seem to adapt. Suddenly, if only briefly, I want a baby too. Or a husband. Or a trip to Cuba. Then I settle in to not wanting it anymore once the initial stimulus passes. I guess that's a great evolutionary skill, but it's what makes me skeptical about what influences other people.

I wish I understood more about how people came to decisions and why they choose between certain social standards. That might make it easier for me to cope with the pendulum swinging as often as it does.

11 May 2009

Things That Make me Feel Better #2

Hooray for common sense!!

09 May 2009

The R Word

I always love how this guy thinks.



Respect is a big deal. It's hard to earn; harder to keep. There was a time when it was assumed that you automatically respected anyone who was older than you, or in a position of authority. Now respect seems to move laterally. You can like someone, but not respect them. You can also respect someone you don't like. I have more respect for some of the kids I teach than some of the adults I've worked with based on many different factors. And we don't respect everyone equally for equal reasons.

Very often, we fail to outwardly respect people in favour of our "right" to exercise our freedom of speech. I won't bore you with the details of how that freedom isn't available in Canada like it is in the US. I will enlighten you on the fact that people have feelings, and that if you decide to trample on them, don't be surprised when people get upset, even if you don't know those people. Even if you didn't intend for those people to hear. Especially if you say something that could, at any point in history, be considered offensive.

My example, I do not like being called a "broad" or a "chick". I am a woman. I find those terms derogatory. I will likely call you out if you use those words to refer to women. I don't care how many other women would giggle, think it's cute, or just roll their eyes at your ignorance. Those are words that subjugate me as a human, and I'm not just going to smile sweetly while you say something that offends me.

What Asher Roth said was much worse, but it's analogous in that it's something patently offensive. In this case, as proven by another douchebag. It's not about the offended people needing to "lighten up" or "have a sense of humour". It's that we are all entitled to respect and to define what makes us feel respected. If you say something that squashes someone else, take responsibility for it. You'll probably come out seeming less of an asshole in the long run.

04 May 2009

The Challenge

Tricky asked me to write about porn consumption from the other angle. She asked if I could speak to the experience of people who frequently look to porn either as a supplement to or a foundation of their sex life.

That’s a sensitive topic for me. As I’ve discussed before, I’ve been in the unfortunate position of trying to sustain a relationship with someone who was/became more likely to look to porn for their sexual release than to me. Therefore, it’s hard to talk about the reasons why someone might feel entitled to watch porn without feeling a sense of outrage or shame. Outrage because of how he made me feel; shame because of how I feel I created that need.

Before I continue, I need to link to this article about porn in relationships. It popped up a couple of weeks ago and I meant to link to it then, but it feels more relevant now. In fact, when I read it, I’m kind of stunned that I didn’t write the e-mail that prompted the article. The only difference between her experience and mine is that I’m not married.

/digression

I can certainly understand why someone consumes porn overall. I understand that it serves a purpose. Whether that purpose leads to deviant behaviour or serves as catharsis is as individual as the person viewing it. But why would someone do it when it’s hurtful to someone else? Some theories:

LONELINESS - When you’re not making connections – sexual or otherwise – with other human beings, maybe the only intimacy you can get is through watching the most intimate thing two people can do. Maybe you’ve been hurt or shamed so much, that observing someone else’s experience is the only safe way to feel it for yourself. Maybe the easiest thing to do is turn on the computer and put yourself in the roll of someone else who doesn’t seem to have any hang-ups or self-consciousness about what they’re doing.

FRUSTRATION - Maybe you’re not getting what you want. And maybe you don’t know how to communicate what that want is. Maybe you have a fetish that you don’t think a partner would understand or that you’re too ashamed to vocalize it because of popular perceptions of the act. Maybe you’ve been put off so much that the porn is the only outlet.

REJECTION - If your partner turns you down often enough, I’m sure that porn becomes a viable option for sexual release. Having a computer in another room makes it easy to watch and imagine those fantasies without disturbing your partner. Maybe it’s just easier to stay up another half hour while your partner sleeps and you can partially get what you want. You can at least pretend, and you can also imagine that you’re in control by turning on porn and deciding what type you want and how long you want to let it go. You also get to remain sexual to the exclusion of your partner and it’s their loss if they don’t want to participate. In fact, maybe you even enjoy leaving your partner out of it because they don’t deserve it.

I think porn is a way of being in control. It’s so readily available, that you can find any type at any time and make decisions about when, where, how often, how long, etc. You don’t need anyone else’s approval or permission.

ENTITLEMENT - This one is my favourite. Some people, because of certain things that have happened to them, feel that they are above everyone else. Maybe because they were spoiled and coddled as children; maybe because they think they were deprived or neglected as children. Maybe because the media bombards them with sexual images and they get the message that they deserve it too. We all have a right to sexuality, and maybe this is the best access someone has to it. Plus with approximately 266 new porn sites daily (check the link for more great stats), it's not like anyone prolific is sending the message that we're doing something wrong. The internet is just making a point of how desired it is. So, why wouldn't someone feel like they should be able to consume as much as they want?

I find it interesting that I can talk about this with a certain amount of empathy. At first I thought that it would destroy me, but I think I let myself get too worked up by my experience. Having written this, I realize that, yeah, it bugged me to write from the perspective of not considering the harm that could come of the consumption, but I also started to see how it wasn't just a choice at first, especially when the initial use was based on ignorance of the consequences. The real choice came in after it was raised as a damaging issue and those pleas went ignored. That's when the hurt started.

Questions?

03 May 2009

Teenagers are people too

Teenagers get a lot of bad press. They're always destroying stuff and stealing stuff. They're too loud. They're obnoxious.

Well, for the past three days, I hung out with about 300 teenagers at DramaFest. And, except for the loud and obnoxious part, I didn't see the frightening creatures the media would have us believe they are; I saw 300 of the best teenagers in the world. I don't even count the loud, obnoxious part, since I'm just as loud and obnoxious as any of them. It's part of why I can handle teaching high school so well; and possibly why the kids don't hate me. :)

So many people miss all the good things teenagers do because all they hear about is the shit that goes on. I watched a dozen student-devised plays and was pleasantly surprised at the results. I supervised 30 students on a university campus in the middle of an urban core with no serious issues (unless you count finding them at a May Day anarchist rally). I spent time chatting with them as people, not just as students.

I wonder if teenagers are really that bad, or if it's the adults they encounter. Especially when I see crap like this:




And it wasn't his first offence.



Now, sure, that's one man and hardly representative of all police officers. Likewise, the kid, Eric Bush, is not necessarily representative of all teenagers. It's really a lesson in stereotypes and discrimination. Just because a kid is skateboarding does not mean that he's a delinquent; just because an adult is a cop does not mean that he or she is right.

Every day I work with 90 kids, the vast majority of whom are amazing, intelligent and caring people. Every day I encounter a few shitheads, too, but that has nothing to do with their age. Most of those will be shitheads when they're 90.

Adolescence is a hard time, and not having a clear idea of how to treat teenagers as people makes it worse. It's easy to live up to mediocrity. When you expect a kid to act like a stupid jerk, many of them will be happy to oblige because it's easier than busting their ass to prove someone wrong when they aren't going to listen anyway. So maybe give them the benefit of the doubt, even when they're walking in packs and taking up the whole sidewalk. Somewhere in that pack is a decent individual who will live up to your positive expectation. You just have to set the example.