Family Holidays for the Non-Anchor Partners

I run a group for “monocorns” – a word I coined to describe monoamorous people who are comfortable and happy in relationships with polyamorous people.

This morning one of my fellow monocorns posted something – and, though I don’t feel quite as strongly about it as she does, she is spot on about the struggle that certain “family holidays” like Thanksgiving and Christmas pose to those of us who aren’t the “visible” partners to our partners’ families.

It’s not a monocorn specific thing, either. Anybody out there who doesn’t hold “primary”, “anchor” or “nesting” status with their partner(s) might feel the struggle of a day like Thanksgiving.

I adapted. Thanksgiving isn’t a Thursday holiday anymore. Now it’s a Friday. Christmas happens several days later. Sometimes New Years eve is a day earlier or a day or two later, as well.

But, I won’t pretend that it’s not difficult on the day of.

If you are the nonmonogamous partner to someone you are not seeing today – it’s probably a good day to let them know that you wish you could. At the very least, it’s a good day to acknowledge that it might sting a little for them when they’re not sitting next to you at the table. Even if you wish YOU weren’t at the table because, hell yeah – families can be annoying. It’s having our partners there that makes some families more tolerable.

And for those of us who are spending these next few family holidays without our partners by our sides…

I guess all I can say is “I understand those feels.” I hope that for you, like for me, it’s not so much pain that it overshadows everything amazing you have with your person.

Wishing you all a pleasant evening, whether you spend it with your family, your friends, your pets, or with Netflix.

What being a woman means to me: A Writing Challenge

A friend issued a writing challenge, asking to answer the following three questions. Below is my entry.


(1) What does being a woman mean to you?

I realized right away that the way I wanted to answer this question was to start highlighting the many incongruities with the concept of “womanhood” and what womanhood actually means to me. In other words, it was going to be an essay about what it doesn’t mean to be a woman.

It doesn’t mean I like shopping, or babies, or makeup, or that I have a vagina. Being a woman has nothing to do with my anatomy or my hobbies or my sexuality or my talents.

So I spent a few minutes trying to figure out what it does mean.

I think that being a woman means learning to adapt to a world that insists on making decisions for you. It tries, at first, to make you believe that this is the world you want to live in – because “decisions are difficult, and women are weak, or emotional, or incapable – and as a woman, it is a relief to be given all the answers.”

And when, as a woman, you begin to question that – because, at one point – we begin to question that, you face the many ways that the world continues to manipulate you into staying inside the nice, comfortable box they have designed for you.

I think that being a woman means learning to adapt to being consistently underestimated. Some adapt quietly, some react with defiance – but regardless, it is a fact of life for a woman.

I think that being a woman means absolutely nothing, because “woman” is a socially constructed label.

Being a woman means that I am a person.

And being a person carries far more relevance in my world than being a woman.

(2) What about being a woman do you want or would you impart to your own daughter by the time she reaches adulthood?

Were I to have children, I would want them – regardless of gender – to understand and respect the power of living authentically. With respect to women, I would want them to understand that our society will attempt to erase their individuality while simultaneously selling on all the ways they can be more special. I want them to understand that so they can never fall victim to it.

I also want them to understand that those who hold tightly to the systematic oppression of women are often as much victims of the patriarchy as we are. When we confront these ideas, we are confronting their stability. Instability frightens people. Fear makes people feel attacked. People who feel attacked attack back.

I would want them to understand the difference between forgiveness and understanding. One must strive to understand their oppressors, but to forgive them is a personal choice, and not one I’d likely to make without a sincere apology.

At the same time, I want them to understand the power that forgiveness gives them over their own pain. When they are ready, I want them to embrace that power for themselves.

I want them to understand the importance of respecting nuance, imperfections, and the diversity of perception. I want them to embrace the challenges of facing our own imperfections and learning from them to become more enlightened members of the human race.

I want them to love themselves and to not feel like doing so is a sign of selfishness. I want them to love themselves so well that the people who love them have a template for how it’s done properly.

An I’d want them to know that regardless of who they are, who they love, or how they choose to express that love – they would never lose my respect, unless they willingly harmed people without consent.

(3) What would you impart/share with her around the age of 13-14 as she’s entering her teen years?

There’s a part of this I’ve written before:

By the time my step-daughter wanted to read the Twilight series when she was in her early teens, I’d already read them. I told her she could read them on one condition – we had to have a chat first, and we’d have to have another chat before she got to the final one.

All her friends were reading it so she agreed to the chat.

Here’s the gist of what I told her:

This book makes the bad guy sexy. He wants to hurt her but he loves her. She is the ONLY one that drives him this kind of crazy and because he loves her so much he holds the whole “I want to kill you” instinct back. This is not a healthy relationship. This book will make you want that guy, and it’s okay to fantasize about that guy – but that guy is not the right guy when you start actually dating.

By this point in her life, my step-daughter had not yet given us many clues as to her sexuality. She had admitted she liked boys, but had not denied that she might also have an interest in someone who was not a boy.

And if she had shared with me that she might be into dating someone other than a guy, I’d probably have done a lot more reading with her on what some of the challenges and hardships that are inherent in that. I’ve recently become aware, for example, that there is inadequate-to-zero sex-education for lesbian teenagers leading many to find out much later than necessary about safe sexual practices, and have some confusion over what “losing one’s virginity” even means.

So, yeah. Right around when the hormones are about to hit – my priority would be to help my daughter prepare for them.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Thoughts on the TV show)

I started watching it for the humor and the silly musical numbers. No, wait…I started watching it because of her. Rachel Bloom. I’d become aware of her last summer watching an episode of Lip Sync Battles, and felt drawn to her persona.

It’s not often I look at someone and think I see a physical resemblance, so when I do, I start to wonder if I’m imagining it, and then I maybe start semi-obsessively trying to find out more about them.

Which, if you’ve watched the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” you’ll recognize as a patently “Rebecca Bunch” move.

So I started watching it for her, but then I realized it was a silly comedy/musical romance story and I started watching it for that. Because I love silly comedy/musical romances.

I mean, I was absolutely hooked the moment I heard the “Sexy Getting Ready Song.”

But something else was going on, and I didn’t realize it at first. I don’t think I realized it until I was well into season 1, and I didn’t REALLY REALLY get it until I started following the lead/writer/producer Rachel Bloom on twitter.

I think her brain works like mine, but she does with music and comedy what I try to do with essays.

Because, yeah, it was some time during season 1 that I kinda realized the series actually featured a fairly diverse cast of characters in terms of race, sexuality, and size.

And I also realized that none of those characteristics actually defined the characters.

Then the crazy stuff she says – the tangents she goes off on with regards to feminism and the patriarchy and consent and slut shaming and …

…she’s my HERO.

Except she’s also a deeply troubled person with severe, untreated mental disorders. Only, she’s likable and kind of the heroine in her own story. Which makes her a bit of a narcissist. But a cute one, who sings and dances. And c’mon, I mean, it’s just a comedy…

…only it’s covering very serious topics more deeply, thoroughly, and honestly than most depictions I’ve seen in storytelling of any kind.

I knew I wanted to put into words how I felt about this show all day (I started binge watching season 2 on Netflix last night when my plans were rained out by the storm).

But there was so much. I wanted to use words like “rogue” and “subversive” to describe how this sneaky little comedy grabs hold of the heart of some very uncomfortable topics and sort of forces you to sit with them a while. The comedy and musical interludes serve to disarm you, but then..there those feelings are.

I keep confronting my own predispositions and preconceptions about people through these very silly, almost superficial characters that obfuscate the depth of their interactions with one another, as well as the show’s interaction with the viewer.

I swear I’m not high as I type this. I almost wish I were. I bet I’d get even more out of it.

Anyway, as I was saying – I wanted to write about how this show was making me feel because I thought that most people who watch it would stay on the surface and not get that deeper meaning, but then I read a few other blogs out there about the show and realized I am definitely not alone.

Also, the other bloggers were way more clear about the point I wanted to make.

When I was in elementary school I used to walk around the baseball diamond by myself singing songs I’d make up on the fly about things going on in my life. I wish I could tell you that habit ended as I got older, but I still do it. I’m often led by my emotions and my idealistic outlook on life in general. I don’t want to say I’m a big “schemer” but I definitely see and pursue opportunities that benefit my wants, just not to the point of sabotaging others around me. Oh, and a season 2 episode where Rebecca goes to visit her family at a bar-mitzvah? Yeah, that WHOLE episode hit really close to home.

Over these past few years, I’ve learned to confront my privilege and recognize some deep-seated tendencies toward codependent relationship and external validation. I’ve done a lot of introspection and I’ve learned to harness my empathy as a tool to help me help others, and not manipulate them. And, with the family thing, I learned how to cope with my semi-narcissistic family who value appearances over character.

The difference between myself and Rebecca Bunch is that I did the work to confront those issues and overcome them. That’s it.

That’s all that separates me from that crazy character.

Well, also she dresses better than I do…

…but I may start Single White Femaling the shit out of her outfits.

Children of Sacrifice

I was listening to the West Wing Weekly podcast on my way to work this morning, as I do. In episode 2.13, they speak with Don Baer, former White House Communications Director in the real-life Clinton White House.

He quotes a line from a speech he wrote for President Bill Clinton, given at the US National Cemetery in Normandy, France on the anniversary of D-Day in 1994. “We are the children of your sacrifice,” he says, referring to the generation that had fought in World War II.

It was a pretty powerful statement. It showed the acknowledgment of an “easier” life and appreciation for the generation that had a very hard life in order to give their children a chance at a better one.

I’m thinking of who it is in charge right now in this country. It’s those “children of sacrifice.”

I read something a while back – a blog about the Baby Boomer generation. For all that’s said about Millenials, the blog makes a good point that it’s actually the Baby Boomer generation that behaves with so much entitlement. I wondered about the connection – from being the children of sacrifice to sacrificing their own children’s futures for their own comfort.

Do they seem to care that their children and grandchildren are paying into the system that supports them in their retirement, while they gut the coffers so there won’t be anything left to take care of us?

Do they seem to care that the actions of this Republican administration in denying the existence of climate change so they can go back to dumping toxins into our water and dismantling environmental protections that will keep this planet able to continue sustaining human life for generations yet to be born?

Do they seem to care about starting fights with and essentially poisoning our reputation, not just in countries that pose current threats, but …hey, even pissing off our allies for a good tweet-sized sound bite?

I say this as the daughter of a man in his late 60s, who said the nomination of a completely unqualified woman to the position of Secretary of Education wouldn’t affect him because his kids were grown, and his grandchildren would always be able to afford private schools.

Oh, father. Your privilege is showing, and it’s ugly.

Same man who recently shared a memory on Facebook of the day he decided to help out a friend who’d opened a restaurant by volunteering as a server in the dining room. “Menial” work, he called it.

Yeah, ’cause spending the last 20 years of your pre-retirement career in a comfortable office with a private executive bathroom planning your next two week vacation was very skilled labor.

I keep wanting to tell him, “I don’t know how, but you raised me better than that.”

All across this country there are stories like mine. The rifts between families that were torn open during this last election cycle, that are being further unraveled under the regime of this cruel, unprofessional, and divisive administration.

They don’t get it, either. They don’t get why their kids are so opposite. Why don’t we behave? Why are we such “whiny crybabies” and “snowflakes?” Why cant we take a joke?

But we look to our own grandparents’ generation…one that is being put in homes, and silenced as they enter their own end-of-life phase. I seem to have much more in common in terms of fundamental values regarding humankind with them than I do with the “if it doesn’t affect me personally, it doesn’t matter” stance of my parents’ generation.

I go back to thinking about that quote. “We are the children of your sacrifice.”

Updated for 2017, I think our speech to our own parents would be: “We are the spawn of your entitlement.”

But mostly we just talk about the weather, if we talk at all.

Walls of Jericho

But my life turned out okay, didn’t it?

That’s the answer I’d expect from some people after I write the post I want to write. This wouldn’t be the response I’d get from the people who already “get it.” It would be from the ones who regularly refute the premise, but for some reason, they’d be more inclined to listen to me even if they’d continue to disagree with me.

And then they’d remind me that despite all that had happened my life turned out okay, didn’t it?

And to them, I’d just want to say that yes, it did. It turned out okay. And that still doesn’t make it right. That still doesn’t make it an acceptable loss.

It’s hard to imagine there are still people in the world who would ask the question “if it were true, why did they take so long to say anything about it?”

I keep waiting for my parents to ask the question so I can remind them what happened the two or three times I told them about it right after it happened.

You weren’t there, so I’ll tell you.

Nothing. I was told not to make a fuss. I was told not to make a scene. In one case I was told I was overreacting and exaggerating despite having a male family member corroborate my story. And when I refused to be near or friendly with the person that was making me uncomfortable, I was chided and accused of being rude.

It was happening right under their nose, not just once. Not twice, but THREE times. Though, one of those times I was all for it; but looking through the lens of maturity now, they should have said something. It was highly inappropriate.

But, of course, they didn’t want to make a scene.

Yes, my life turned out okay. Just like when my dad sold my car without talking to me about it first, and…well, I mean, I love my Prius now, so that turned out okay, right? Why would I still be upset with him for doing that without talking to me about it first if it all turned out okay?

For millions of others, that’s not the case. They don’t end up “okay.” And even if it were…even if everyone who ever got groped without consent, or raped, or had their personal space and personal agency violated in anyway turned out okay it would STILL not make it okay for that shit to have happened to them.

So, why don’t they speak up sooner?

Are you listening? Or did your wall go up as soon as you figured out what this post was about?

Afflicting the Comfortable

I heard a quote yesterday during a conference. The key note speaker called it out as his favorite quote. We “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

I just saw a friend on twitter lament over a post on facebook asking “why does everything have to be about race?”

And…yeah. Because it is. But it’s a really uncomfortable reality, isn’t it? When you are the comfortable and not the afflicted and everyone wants to talk about the injustice that people who look like you perpetrate on people who look like them?

I wrote the posts about my dad a couple nights ago because I was really upset. I was really upset about the turn that conversation took. But, at the end of the day, I know my father loves me. I know that, for the most part, he’s a decent person. I was never abused or lacked for anything. I have had a very comfortable life with all my needs and most of my wants addressed.

So it makes me uncomfortable when I have to face the imperfections of my parents. When I have to face the fact that, as their daughter, my power to change them is limited. That my ability to cry and get what i want out of them stopped a long time ago.

i’ve had my dad unfollowed on facebook for years now. Started during the original Obama presidential campaign. He’s a conservative republican and a troll, so his posts hit ALL my buttons.

A cousin of mine likes to get into it with him. He’s like, the liberal version of my dad. Loves to get into the weeds of a political debate. My late husband was kind of like that, until there was a big family blow up that caused a rift and then we all decided never to speak about politics or racism again.

Anyway, so my cousin posted something the other day – about racism in America. Calling out the hypocrisy of people up in arms about a guy taking a knee during the national anthem, but seemingly unperturbed by the many guys getting shot by police without cause.

My dad commented that he took offense to the post. ‘Cause America is the greatest country in the world, y’all!

I sent my cousin a private message. I wanted to make sure he knew my dad mostly likes just getting a rise out of people and conveyed that I was impressed he (my cousin) put up with my dad’s bullshit so frequently.

My cousin wrote back:
“it’s funny because it’s exactly the same with my dad. Anyway, I think your dad and I still respect each other, we just have vastly different views. Most of that generation have bought into a political and cultural narrative [as immigrants]that they feel defines their love for this country. I think it’s possible to still love my country while recognizing its flaws and fighting to make it better for people who aren’t as fortunate as the rest of us. Your dad and my dad are good hearted and intelligent people, they’re just very much in a bubble and poking holes in that makes them very uncomfortable. So, we get on each other’s case sometimes, but I think we also both enjoy the reparte.”

Until …probably some time around the Pulse shooting in Orlando, I would nearly always run away from a fight. Until then, I would choose to disengage rather than engage with people who made me uncomfortable with their willingness to get me to the point of rage with their debate. I learned this from my interactions with my dad.

It is a lot easier to remember that i love him very much when we don’t engage in the conversations that make me want to use life’s “block” button on him. To paraphrase from my cousin, I think it’s possible to still love my dad while recognizing his flaws…I just stopped short of the fight to make him better.

Slowly but surely I’ve been a little more vocal on the topics that matter to me that are sometimes the very same ones I used to keep quiet on. But I guess I’d rather go head to head in a debate with someone on Fetlife than risk losing my relationship with my family. I don’t have so much invested here. I’m able to stay comfortable.

The turn the conversation with my dad took the other night definitely afflicted my comfort zone.

I still don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

I don’t know how well I can write this. Rather, I know I can write it well – I just don’t know if I could write it well enough to get through to you.

For as long as I can remember, I have chosen the path of non-engagement when it comes to discussing social or political issues with you.

The reason is this: You’re a troll.

I’ve known this for most of my life. When I was a kid, your trolling would be pretty harmless- except for the part where I felt like my concerns were dismissed. But yeah, before I could start forming my own opinions, the trolling was more like “teasing.”

You know, like how you used to take pictures of me when I cried and call me “trompuda,” or “Fabiana” after my cousin Fabian who was always sulky.

But then you started trolling in areas that undermined my confidence with my peer group. Like delaying the getting of deodorant after I hit puberty and requested it because it was funnier to pretend you didn’t know what “Secret” I was asking for.

I’m not sure when you started believing in your own bullshit. Or maybe you always have and you’ve somehow pulled the wool over mom’s eyes all these years. She says you don’t really believe the things you say. You just like to get under people’s skin.

But, no, Dad. I don’t think she’s right. I think you’re more than a troll.

I really hate admitting this because it’s a source of shame for me…

Dad. You’re racist. What’s more – you’re a chauvinist. And a victim blamer, but only if the victims are women, or black, or poor, or gay. The only victims you don’t blame are the ones you see in the mirror.

Do you have any idea how much that hurts me? Do you have any idea how disappointing it is to know that your father, who loves you and has given you so much to be thankful for, is the type of person you block on social media?

It really confuses me, dad, because you’re otherwise quite charming. Like, nobody would know you’re any of those things unless the topic came up. I don’t even think you know you are those things. I think you think you’re a good person, like…truly.

We had a conversation tonight- one that I should have known better than to broach because it concerned gender equality, harassment, and boundaries.

I was so angry with you when we said goodbye. You were laughing, nervously because you knew I was upset with you,…and you said “I love you,” before we hung up.

I should have ended that phone call long before I mentioned the thing my supervisor said that rubbed me the wrong way. I should have ended it with “yep, long drive home – long day tomorrow. Talk soon.”

But no. I told you what he said to me and how it made me feel.

And you told me my feelings were wrong.

And then the conversation went downhill.

Oh my GOD, Dad. I didn’t know. I mean, I knew, but I didn’t know you’d actually say it out loud. I didn’t know you would say out loud the things that people say who are called very nasty names by people I admire and agree with. I didn’t know you’d drank that kool-aid, too.

How our conversation derailed to the point where you uttered the words, “well if a woman is being groped by hundreds of men without giving them permission then she’s probably putting out the wrong message.”

Thud went my heart.

Dad, if anybody else had said those words, I would have gone into a raging rant the likes you would never have seen.

But instead, you broke my heart, Dad.

You broke my heart.

I love you, but I think I need a little space right now.

Your daughter,

phi.