Deserving affection, love, respect, and security

Natalie at Baggage Reclaim mentions “what we deserve, such as love, care, trust, and respect“. Her article, “What We Deserve Isn’t The Same As What Somebody Will Do” is, as usual, helpful and encouraging.

I wonder if “deserve” is the best relationship word for describing what each of us should have, for the best good of ourselves, our families — our children, friends, and communities. Every time one of us fails to receive all we should have of love, care, trust, respect — and discipline (the will to complete a task), a foundation of security — those we depend upon, and those around us, are each left with a bit less joy in their lives than might have been.

The word “deserve” might come close to describing how much we want the basics of common, unexceptional (and gloriously joyful) nurturing for one another.

But I don’t see a richness of a relationship falling short, just because, say, the waiter forgot part of my order. That isn’t what happens.

For biological reasons, and cultural backgrounds, some people would be better mates for any particular person. Of those possibles, some have the skills and temperament, time and interest, to include someone into their lives in a mutually satisfactory sharing. Thus, the love, care, trust, respect is exchanged, and overflows onto all around the happy people.

Some cultures have refined (restrictive) notions about mating, and mere rote attendance to those strictures will avoid much cultural conflict, and sometimes ripens into real caring and affection, perhaps even into joy. Others have no notion at all — only bad examples from dysfunctional families, peers, or modern media, and thus unlikely to share anything healthy. Most people fall in between — struggling to combine images from home, from friends and their communities, often only partially understood. Many people, from whatever background, find mostly satisfactory was to share their lives, make a family, and enrich their community.

Everyone should have love, care, trust, and respect. These aspects of nurturing enrich everyone around us. But often we have to make choices — some people we have to exclude from our lives, at whatever cost is required, and with others we have to struggle to develop a consensus about what love, care, trust, and respect will mean in our lives, and in the lives of those we embrace.

If anything, what we deserve, each of us, is the chance to choose to associate with people of good character, to embrace the positive values from homes, and challenge the people and notions that aren’t nurturing us. Each of us deserves the wisdom to recognize when a potential partner makes a mistake — or exhibits a significant character flaw.

Because every hurt weakens each of us. And none of us deserve that.

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Why to say no; he is not your daddy.

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Natalie at Baggage Reclaim writes about Saying NO.

“Stop feeling bad about the possibility of saying NO! Its like going, “I feel bad that I can’t be your easy option” or “It’s terrible that you have to find someone else to mug off.” FLUSH!”

As children, we grew up hearing instructions and demands from our parents, dictums that shape our world and our lives, stories and explanations and directions that define right and wrong. Implied, but just as firmly learned, are the values of interactions — and our expected response. “Come to dinner.” “Put that down.” “Wash your hands.” Somewhere about the age of four or so, our world enlarges to include contradicting life stories. Toward puberty we learn to question some(!) of what our parents told us, and be begin to rely on peer values and our own (rapidly!) changing understandings of values and choices. We make, sometimes rash, declarations, “I will never make my children do that!” Or “I will never be that way!”

And there is the horror of hearing people lament, “Oh, no! I am turning into my mother/father!”

One of the firm messages that guide us through our childhood and into adulthood is that of obedience to authority. Daddy says, so we do it, or believe it. Most especially if Daddy lives it, we take this to be a firm truth of life.

When we come together as a couple, whether we believe we are just casually co-mingling our time and affections, whether we invest in “I have found my destiny/soul mate” swooning, or whether we choose an emotionally mature and engaged, responsible and honorable mate and co-parent prospect — we re-engage on our childhood subconscious roles. As we take on the relationship masks of lovers, we also invest in behavior we believe to be correct Mommy and Daddy behavior.

So we tend to project our partner, our date, into a role of authority — of becoming the “mommy” or “daddy” of the family we are building in our minds. All before we consciously choose whether this person we are beginning to depend upon is really suitable.

Saying “No” when part of the choosing process, or part of the process of becoming a couple (the start of the family that you want to bolster you for the rest of your life), the “No” is enormously appropriate. When “No” is part of manipulating someone’s behavior, it is either parenting, when that you are responsible for that person’s growth and development — or quite dishonorable, rude, and inappropriate. Choosing where you want to be, and who you want to be with, is a fundamental right, and something every adult deserves.

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What does a story matter?

Matt wrote, a couple of years ago, about Dealing with Negative Feelings and mass media on his blog, The Modern Savage.

Could watching a simple television show really have this much impact on one’s emotional state?

The thing is, this is story telling. A story, well told, will be remembered, it will touch the emotions — a story well told is art, it changes us.

Just a story, or song, or meeting with an acquaintance or someone we hadn’t known? Just a book, a magazine article?

You might as well say that a sermon, an expression of faith in spoken, written, or re-enacted form, in solid form of constructed, carved, or formed images and structures, won’t affect anyone’s life. These are stories. Attending worship together binds a community together with shared changes, shared experiences of . . stories.

Gangs and groups sharing social or work times — these are stories, as are the daily and extended interactions with each.

As I commented on Matt’s original post, one of the most common factors in divorce is living next door to a single person. A single person tells a different story with their lives, their choices of how to spend time, what to comment on (what they *see* and pay attention to, as opposed to what is visible), and who and why they associate with others. For a mated, married, handfasted, or other form of community-sanctioned expression of “family”, this “single” story is often discordant, and disrupts the focus of the familied couple and their home.

We walk a tangled path through life. At the same time our childhood brings many of us to consider a stable home (often with two adults as parents) to be “normal” and “family”, and something that we want in our lives, the stories of “shop around”, and “it didn’t work out” convince us that Karen Carpenter’s lament “Freedom only helps you say good-bye” is about frolicking about promiscuously — and not finding the foundation of a stable life in a mate and home and family.

Love is grand, love is good, and a shared, glorious sunset is a moment to treasure. But we have been storied so often that sexual attraction has anything to do with affection, devotion, and interest in a home and family, that this story and that send us every which way, on the tangled path through life.

We can, if we want to fulfill the drive to family that our culture and society grew up on, choose the stories, and story tellers, that we pay attention to in our lives. Those of us not coupled with a treasured partner should be listening to the family stories, and cherish the family storytellers. That isn’t the kind of story you find in an establishment that serves liquor, or cosmetics, or body alterations. Recreation *isn’t* the common value that holds a family together, not even recreational sex.

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NYTimes and Motherhood vs. Feminism

The New York Times today offers opinions on whether a woman can be both a mother and a feminist.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/04/30/motherhood-vs-feminism/

Ahem. I am neither, exactly. I am a guy, I have been a foster parent, and substitute school teacher. Parent, not so much. I am not, per se, a feminist, though I tend to deliberately choose a female doctor so that she doesn’t have only female patients, my name in the phone book is “B. xxx”, so that initials only aren’t always a woman’s name.

So, this is my opinion.

The problem with having to choose between a feminist agenda and professional life, and being a good parent, is that it perpetuates the artificial, corporate myth of modern so-called civilization.

Back when the industrial revolution started, those making money found it cheaper to bring folk into the manufacturing facility by day, pay a pittance, and send them home. Kids were put to work, or like those not on the payroll, sent away.

We still, most of us, assume that we should not be working where our kids are welcome, where our kids can learn life’s lessons working at Mom’s (or Dad’s) elbow. And we think this is “getting ahead”. Or a healthy way to live. We still think that our kids have nothing to contribute to our work, or that work we cannot do with our children present is healthy for us, our families, or our community.

That is the problem that I see.

Should any parent’s choice of profession be allowed to interfere with raising their children? Yep. Soldiers, prison guards. Emergency workers.

If you are concerned about the ongoing decline in energy availability (peak oil), in climate change or the ongoing economic crisis of debt, then there is the compelling challenge of finding a career and life style based on food, energy and resources that are available locally. But that is another story. I contend, though, that the modern, dysfunctional approach to life on corporate terms isn’t, um, sustainable.

The reclusive Amish feel that the farm is the right place to raise a family (children). The parents are always working, always near, the work can easily be expanded to include every child, and children know their work and what they learn is important to the health and welfare of their family. Even the youngest child sent out to help gather eggs before breakfast. Their culture has persisted and grown for a very long time, since about the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation.

I think the pairing of expectations of motherhood with “home bound” is unfortunate, as is “work for adults cannot include children”. I think what I understand of feminism’s original mandate, that barring women from any aspiration, was needed, and is appropriate. But I think we need to look deeper, to find meaningful work that enlarges the family, the parents, the community, and our children, all at the same time.

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The worth of sexy lives

A while back Crunchy Chicken (“Putting the mental in environmental”) posted about Skinny vs. curvy ideal. A recent commenter states:

Curvy is sexy.

Obesity is not.

Thin is sexy.

Underweight is not.

Thin or curvy doesn’t have much to do with the worth of a person, unless, of course, you are selling the body. This commenter seems to be using ‘sexy’ as ‘worth lots of money’ and obesity as ‘no one would pay much for that’.

Sex is important among adults sharing an intimate lifetime. Otherwise, only the fashion, advertising, booze, and other body-selling industries should be worried about the money to be made off a particular body shape.

When the person is important, then it is the way the person lives, the competence, and the respect of others that has been earned that matters. In a shared intimate life partner, compassion and emotional availability and emotional health are critical. I figure the single most important feature of a person is the smile. A potential partner attracted to bodies is at risk of being distracted by other bodies down the road.

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Love on Earth Day

I get four of these random quotes, most ironic or sarcastic, or humorous (“there is no humor without pain”), a few true gems. This is humorous, and not a ‘gem’, I think.

Matt Groenwald’s explanation of love seems cynical. “Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”

*sigh*

I am coming to view the difference between a long term relationship and a marriage/handfasting, as one of identity, and community. For the most part, one’s role in the community, one’s identity, changes when you partake of that community event, where the community is presented with a new entity, a family — a couple. That it is the community interaction that redefines who the community sees, as that individual vows to honor community standards and responsibilities. Most wider communities have different responsibilities and opportunities for those formally invested as “family member” than as individuals. Yes, there are some informal communities of individuals. Communities that include the “informal” economy not measured in cash, though, such as neighbors, parents, spouses, schools (non-tuition), grandparents, gardens, play, etc. are made of families, for the most part. Single parenthood is a fringe participation role, as the parent bond is recognized as family, yet the spouse bond isn’t there.

One of the single most common correlations in divorce seems to be living next door to a single adult, thus community wariness of adults that haven’t formally invested in community recognition of bonds to family. Singles are an indirect risk to family stability of the community around them.

While Cosmo focuses on commitment as intent and investment between individuals, I think the relevant aspect of marriage and forming a shared life is the combined dedication of a couple to their community and commitment to form a family.

Enjoy Earth Day!

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Saying, “It is over”

The “Friends” TV show played a re-run the other day. For one reason or another, the guy couldn’t bring himself to break up with the girl.

I wanted to scream.

The thought kept running through my head, “Tell her.”

Tell her that you want her to have a love and shared life that is amazing and wonderful.

But you don’t want to be part of her life.

By rights, everyone should be ready to make the choice to end a courtship, to stop being “a couple”. Everyone should be disappointed, but ready to respect a partner-prospect that makes the choice to change their mind.

Choosing to take a life partner must begin with the first contacts, with the first information gathered about the prospect. The entire period leading up to standing before the community and assuming the role of family and life partners must be one of confirmation. We must confirm that this person we are courting is acceptable. And we must respect ourselves and our partner if we find trouble accepting who they are, and who we are when we are with them.

Breaking up changes us. It changes our community, it affects how we are perceived in the community and how our partner is perceived. That cannot be as important, as knowing that the one we choose for life partner and co-parent is going to build a good home with us, is going to make a good home for us and our children.

Values change, over time, as circumstances change and as we mature. But the underlying ethics and morals won’t, barring traumatic events. Worry, fear, or disgust over another’s choices can and should be danger signals, signs that change is needed. Change such as examining the underlying reasons for those choices; if understanding doesn’t bring respect then a question arises; are you engaged with a person you are ready to share your life with?

If you find someone else is intriguing, is occupying your thoughts and dreams — then two things are clear. First, you are not ready to court, you aren’t involved in confirming a choice of prospective life mate, you have already chosen no. “Settling down” is not an either-or choice. It is a “Is this where I long to be?” yes or no choice. Second, if there are multiple “candidates” then you are dating for social recreation, not choosing a life partner. Many choose this kind of social life; few are rewarding people to make a “long term relationship” with that will last the generations.

Live, love, and prosper.

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Avoid the disreputable.

The girl with a future avoids a man with a past.

According to the Quotations Page, Evan Esar (1899-1995) was an American humorist. He wrote “Esar’s Comic Dictionary” 1943, was editor of “The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations” 1949, and of “20,000 Quips and Quotes” 1968.

This pithy statement recalls language of America’s past. A man with a past is taken to mean not just a reputation, but a reputation for ill deeds and relationships. Ill repute was one phrase used then. And, yes, even before women’s liberation, men were entirely capable of achieving, and being tarred with, a bad reputation.

Of course, in this context, a girl (woman) with a future is assumed to mean a future successful marriage, with a life-long husband and well behaved children to her honor.

Is this word from the distant past, maybe 70 years ago, useful? Does it still apply?

Avoid

Avoid is a strong word. Some religions practice formal shunning, many communities and groups practice avoiding problem members informally. We all practice avoiding dangerous situations . . and dangerous people. We need to be aware of those people and situations around us, and remain vigilant to avoid what we should avoid. At the same time, when we learn about the facts of situations, we may find that returning to school might be a good thing, rather than something to avoid. That a different racial type might not be enough reason to avoid a community or an individual.

Avoiding danger is something we do to survive danger. But our lives are safer and more fulfilling if we are diligent in identifying what to avoid, and what to stop avoiding.

A future

Whether your future includes marriage, handfasting, or a long term relationship, for the most part one requires a partner. To have a bright future, that partner must be suitable to share that future.

Many think that personality — character — is formed in early ages, maybe by age 4, maybe age 7 years. So looking at a life partner prospect’s past is a reliable indicator of the kind of person you are looking at today. Predicting how life experiences, including exposure to one’s illustrious self, will affect that person in the future, is really tough. Their intent, your good will, and the intrusion of life’s joys and terrors will all have their way with that partner. But there will be some things that remain.

Honesty, honor — these can be nurtured. Respect, a joyful nature, these can be lost, but seldom found if not already present. Resort to escapes, brutality, and exploiting others, these might be tempered, but probably not. Someone practiced at winning bed partners, this life skill is a winning tactic for perpetual dating, not for a secure shared life companion.

What the old guy said is limiting today. Today a woman doesn’t think of a bright future only as a marriage and children. Every adult needs a shared life companion with a good reputation — and to avoid those with a past that isn’t likely to mean a happy ending.

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Don’t trust . . Instant attraction. Sometimes.

NML discusses instant attraction, at BaggageReclaim.co.uk. The BR topic is that instant attract, “spark” isn’t reliable for telling whether a relationship will work out. And if you rely on the spark, you close yourself off from many possibly great relationships. It is important to follow the spark — but be realistic as you discover the person behind the spark. If you give someone without the spark a try, be realistic if the spark should emerge later.

What Natalie describes as “spark” is very useful at a party or a bar, when you might be looking for someone interesting for a quick conversation, to touch bases with. This is related to your hormones, not your awareness of your self, your needs, or your situation. Or even awareness of the object of your desires as an actual person with needs and agendas of their own.

For a long term relationship in a real world family and community, you need to combine real world family and community evaluations, to make a better choice. Be ready to embrace someone you already know (and respect), but be ready, too, to turn away from someone that turns out to be unsuitable.

Chemistry or spark, whatever you call it, can happen nearly anytime, with many people. Partners suitable for and interested a shared life are harder to identify, and mis-identity can be most costly in lost opportunities and lost joy and comfort.

I think there are three “stages” of love (HowStuffWorks.com has a good description of the hormone storms attached to each stage, http://people.howstuffworks.com/love4.htm).
o Lust, or erotic passion (animal level, intended to preserve the species),
o Attraction, or romantic passion (and power struggles, as we try to envision our partner as an ideal image, and struggle with nagging reality. Also disrupts sleep, daydreams, etc.)
o Attachment, or commitment. Love for the long haul. Idealizing your partner at *this* stage, and not before, tends to strength and lengthen relationships.

I might summarize these stages as excitement, adapting (change is always uncomfortable), and satisfied.

The choice, then, is whether you choose a dance (that instant spark, that excitement with someone new), or a satisfying shared life. Do you choose the flashy dancer, or the partner suited for, and interested in, the long haul? They usually aren’t the same people.

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Sandra Fluke, and the “slut” fallacy

The quite-right, conservative PJ Media has an article reviewing the Sandra Fluke storm stirred up when Rush Limbaugh used the s-word, slut to describe this abortion activists premeditated promiscuous sex life, and demand for free abortions at her convenience. Cassie Fiano writes “In Defense of Slut-Shaming“.

A couple of disclaimers, here. First, Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, he describes himself as an entertainer, and not a political or an ethical shining light. That said, I found, the years I did listen to him, that Rush was pretty consistent with my Lutheran, protestant Christian upbringing. But I haven’t been commuting in recent years, and that is the role, commute entertainer, that Rush filled for me.

Next, from the clips and quotes I have seen, my impression is that Rush uses the term “slut” in a Biblical/social context — a single woman, engaging in sex outside of a community-recognized family.

The Family

If we are a nation of faceless entities, individually answerable to the government, then there is no such thing as a slut.

But I think that our communities are made of families, primarily. I consider a family to be child(ren) raised by adult(s) in a life-long mated relationship. Myself, I don’t count genders or number of adults that make up a family.

I think a family is important. A marriage or handfasting or other ritual or ceremony that introduces a combination of adults to their community as a family is critical. The ceremony, regardless of the type of ritual or event, redefines the relationship between that new family and their community. Each of the adults acquires a new and honorable change of identity. Instead of individuals, each is now known to be attached to a single family, and the community opens new opportunities and levies new responsibilities on those adults because of their family ties. Parents, for instance, are presumed to be responsible with other children the same age as their own; often individuals must establish character and history to achieve that kind of acceptance.

It is the formation of a new family within the community, the change of identity of those combining within their community, that sets a marriage or handfasting apart from couples that live together. Even though a couple share their lives lifelong, they would still be shunning the way a married couple builds their community, one family at a time.

Adults bring to a family the home they grew up in. They know the culture of their homes, the rituals and observances, the values, rules, and procedures. When a couple (or other number of adults) come together as a family, they combine those home cultures into a unique blend, tempered by their community. A community, I contend, is build of the families that make it up.

The purpose of a family is to then transmit that culture and lore onto their progeny. The family consciously produces, nurtures, and develops the next generation of their community and family.

Promiscuity

For better or worse, family ethics in the Western world tend to consider a family to be a chaste unit, sexually. That is, sex with those not an adult family member is a serious breach of character. Sexually active singles weaken the community. They provide more opportunities for family members to “stray”, they distract adults from forming the families that form and nurture the next generation.

More fundamentally, sex outside the family requires one to develop life skills in attracting new partners, requires one to think of other adults in terms of possible sexual recreation. These habits are dire threats to the notion of a chaste family. If too many prospective partners are already sexually active, then those wanting to form a family are often left choosing someone with a detrimental life skill for considering sex with others to be mere social recreation.

I do not hold that one must only have sex within a sanctified marriage.

What I do hold to be true, is that anyone contemplating making a family, taking a mate, should be alarmed at and be avoiding everyone that is “popular” among those that consider sex to be mere social recreation. No, sex isn’t limited to procreation. But a partner with a mind set and life skills that doesn’t make chaste sex and the family a permanent and lasting part of their identity is going to result in the disaster communities, and families, are in today.

Media

Advertising, entertainment, and the government each support the notion that individuals, not families, are the target consumer, that sex is a matter of office politics and angst and gossip among friends and not-quite-friends. That is, that sex is social recreation that should be and is exploited for gains in wealth, market share, and power.

The Slut

This isn’t a word that I am comfortable using. A slut, to me, is someone that is not only promiscuous in sexual activity, but lacks most common morals and ethics. Just as there are few truly evil persons, there are very few people with no ethics or morals. I get the point that a slut is a relative term, meaning lower class in terms of social class, in terms of wealth, in terms of resources and social connections. And it is pejorative, it is name calling, and thus usually hurtful without helping anyone to communicate or to . . help anyone.

Cassie’s PJ Media article goes on and on about Sandra Fluke’s advocacy for casual and frequent sexual encounters, and dwells at length on the exposure of so many sexually active people to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). She points out that one in five adults has chlamydia, meaning that if you have been with five partners, then the odds you have been exposed are better than half. And HPV, etc.

The Italians invented the notion of the virgin bride back in the Renaissance (when they were inventing the notion of courtly love, or “romance” as we call it today. Pretty recent, huh?) as a means to slow the spread of then-untreatable venereal diseases. Do we need to be that extreme (I would hope, knowing more about medicine and disease today, this would include all adults in the ‘virgin’ isolation category)? I doubt it.

But what if we chose to restrict ourselves, before marriage, handfasting, or other form of mating, to those we expect to form a family with? What if every sex partner measured up to the attitudes and aptitudes, the character, morals, and values, we expect of a mate and co-parent?

There will always be those that use sex as social recreation, or that prey on others for sexual partners. There will always be those that use sex as an expression of power, of wealth, and of decadence. But if the families of today and tomorrow, and the honorable people of our communities, embrace the notion that we just don’t have the time or use for those that aren’t suitable life-mates, we can restore our communities, rebuild our public health and reduce the number of attempted families that end in divorce and violence.

Commitment

I see the need for commitment to be in selecting those we are willing to get close to, personally and socially. Choosing to marry or to make a “relationship” a “long term relationship” sells magazines, but it comes way to late to build a functional family.

The danger of the sexual “freedom” that Sandra Fluke, activist, advances, is that it damages the fabric of America, of the states, of communities and families. Abortion is the very least of the consequences.

Unwanted Pregnancies destroy lives

I don’t really like the “pro-choice” approach, but I abhor the “pro-life” stance. This is putting the cart before the horse. Before we end the medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy, we must end unwanted pregnancies.

None of the pro-lifers are standing in line, claiming, “I will pay for medical expenses for every unwanted pregnancy, and I will employ every reluctant single mother for life. I will compensate for every social and economic barrier that a woman faces over an unwanted pregnancy, or take in that child and rectify the time the pregnancy took from her life if that is her choice.” Merely choosing to make the medical procedure illegal is, in my view, abhorrent and intolerable.

An unwanted pregnancy is often devastating to the life of a woman, and costs family and community a lot. Abortion is never a good choice, but can sometimes be a lesser evil. Back when abortion was made legal, the argument was not about whether there should be abortions, but whether the procedure should be underground, criminal, and killing too many women. The current prohibition attempt on abortion is most likely going to revive that underground butcher industry, and I fear that greatly.

Sacred life

For those that consider abortion to be abomination, that life begins at conception, then they must feel free to live as their conscience dictates. But that does not mean their religious views must be imposed on those that don’t find comfort in their faith. Let the Catholics and Protestants explain why they still celebrate a child’s first “communion” rite, a time that the Church held in the past to be the first day that that child possessed a soul, was actually a person and “alive”.

As far as Fluke’s testimony goes — hogwash. If a person attends college, and has to pay for textbooks and meals and lodging, then costs like collecting stamps and coins, and buying beer and contraceptives, is a choice when you have the resources to spend. Basic health care should be affordable; elective surgeries for cosmetic procedures, or for abortions, should be available but charged to those that can afford it. If you cannot afford the toll, don’t step on the bridge.

Listen to the lawyer, and take her words with a grain of salt. Or three.

We have to remember that Fluke is in law school. How embarrassing it would be for a future lawyer, to claim less than she might win? Thus, she looks to make her name and fortune even before earning a diploma. Not that I mean to disbelieve every word out of her mouth, and doubt the sincerity and ethics of any notion she promotes, but actually, I kind of do.

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