Saying I can’t imagine the belief in god is inaccurate. I can imagine it quite well. I can imagine how comfortable it would be to believe that everything in my life has meaning by default. When bad things happen it’s a test, when good things happen it’s, well, do Jews have an understanding of Karma? But belief in god, for me, would be a daily lie. I would be blaming a made up deity for my own wants and prohibitions, because fundamentally, as comfortable as it may be, I don’t believe in a god or gods. I believe that things happen for a reason and that reason is usually how you set up the situation, or carbon emissions, or geopolitics. On a good day that reason is civil society and connected communities.
So, nu, I’m not the only atheist around, why the blog post? The blog post is because I’m actually pretty religious. I light Shabbat candles, celebrate the major holidays, tell the story of exodus from Egypt. I struggle with the desire to give my children Jewish names in a world that’s seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism. I find the multitude of rules and bylaws of the Torah fascinating.
My partner and I discovered that we know different tunes for Lecha Dodi and I love this small difference that we have between us that requires so much similarity and shared history to get to. I once explained this to someone as ethnic identity. If I was Native American for example, I wouldn’t believe that a rain dance brought rain, but I would want my children to learn about rain dances anyway. I’m not entirely sure about this explanation, but I wish I knew why religion without god doesn’t seem incongruent.
Maternity leave isn’t something I’d given much thought to. I know there is a debate raging, I know that my Swedish co-workers correct me and say “parental leave benefit” and I know my current benefit is competitive (16 weeks, full pay, regardless of gender of the parent or birth/adoption/guardianship of child). I didn’t know how parental leave impacts retention of women in the workforce across all incomes and sectors, but I knew that Google increased their benefit in a pitch to retain female employees and it worked.
And then, seemingly overnight, this became a major consideration. I became a 30 year old woman in a stable relationship with Plans. Moreover, I became a 30 year old woman in a stable relationship with Plans and the good fortune to be desirable to people who occasionally show up and try to offer me new jobs. And in looking at these, I discovered that my maternity benefit is very, very competitive. Others I’ve seen have ranged from 8 weeks at full pay but no ability to take more than 8 weeks to 16 weeks at no pay.
And my first question is “do you people not want to retain female talent?!” It costs about $10,000 to hire someone in my field when you think about time lost to interviews, money spent perking people up (recruiting), and various other activation costs. I guess depending on the hire that’s only 1-2 months of paid leave, but I think I just found the leaky pipe everyone has been talking about.
My plan had been to work until it was baby time (in a year or two, relax folks), take my leave, then come back. If I were in a job with one of these less generous leave policies my plan would be either 1) work until I though “ooh, baby next year” then look for a job with better benefits or 2) work until baby time, exhaust the benefit such as it is, then quit my job and find a new one 6ish months later.
There is a huge, glaring, major assumption in my plan: I am in a high demand, well paid field and I have options. I assume that if I quit my job I will find a new one 6 months later. I have enough padding to quit my job for 6 months.
Now imagine the average woman who at this point may or may not be partnered (40.6% of American babies were born out of wedlock in 2013 per the CDC) and whose income is probably in the $40k-$50k range (if she’s lucky). What the hell does she do? No, really, daycare is prohibitively expensive, her leave benefit might only allow 6-8 weeks, what does she do?
Parental leave is about so much more than individual families – it becomes a major concern in enabling women to have joint career and family goals. It enables men to take time off to spend with their families beyond a couple of days of PTO, and normalizes work-life balance regardless of gender. Further it helps level the playing field between rich and poor moms and boosts retention of female employees across the income spectrum.
Boston had a historic storm yesterday* and I got to practice my emergency preparedness. How prepared am I? Very. I didn’t have to buy anything (I did end up buying icecream and steak, but had enough other food that this was entirely frivolous). We had enough flashlights, batteries, candles, blankets, medical supplies, water storage devices, food, and books to be snowed in with no power for several days before needing to do something about it. In short: this is a test, this is only a test.
But I forgot one thing – you need to put the snow somewhere. In my head when you shovel it, it just…dissipates. In reality, when you shovel it, you make big piles somewhere. So when the neighborhood kid came to clear the drive with his father’s snow blower his first question, pointing at a nearby pile of snow, was “put it here?” What would we do without the neighborhood kid is unclear, but please be reminded that community networks are a high predictor of survival during an emergency.
In other life updates, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my early 20s. This is generous, I’ve been missing the wild wild west days of my early 20s and finding myself eerily envious of college co-ed in the local café. This is perhaps entirely predictable as my real life is, well, in exactly the kind of settling down trajectory I imagined I wanted a couple of years ago.
I remember in the midst of a particularly challenging alternative poly arrangement talking to my metamour and saying something to the effect of “I don’t know! I think I just want, you know, the status quo. Like I want a nice house with a big kitchen and dinner parties with other couples!”
Well, I have a very nice kitchen, I have had several dinner parties since moving in, and I have a partner whom my family seems to adore. My grandmother called me to say that she and my mother liked how he looked at me. I have had to sadly inform my buyer’s agent that this nice young man has put a wrench in my tiny condo for one plan and would she please send me 2 bedroom condo listings in my area.
All this to say the universe gave me what I asked for, and I am, predictably, freaking out. In an effort to remind myself that I did not “miss” my early 20s but actually enjoyed them fully, I thought I’d make a list of highlights. This is what I did with my early 20s:
· Lived in Thailand for a year
· Had two book chapters published
· Moved to San Francisco with no job and no place to live
· Went to grad school and spent three years having a loose schedule that allowed for spending my days in coffee shops
· Organized an alternative sexuality unconference in a hacker space
· Dated two people long distance and clocked more than two-dozen flights in one calendar year.
· Dated two other people in a completely serious could have gotten married but was too young to know what hit me way. (And learned a lot.)
· Went to Morocco alone and had to hire a chaperone
· Went to Israel, Spain, Italy, and France mostly alone and did not have to hire a chaperone
· Learned how to rent an apartment. Pro-tip: you need a check book
· Had a handful of weird quirky jobs and then landed in my real life grownup career job
* Note: I wrote this post after a storm 2 weeks ago, but I guess we’re getting another one now so it’ll still be relevant, right? :)
I’m sitting in my living room drinking tea and dipping a bagel into a small mount of za’atar on my plate. Later, I might go over to his house to watch a movie, or I might stay in my pajamas until it’s time to go out for cocktails with a couple of friends who live nearby. And I feel…happy? Self-satisfied?
A while ago I decided to try monogamy. I said I thought I might like it, but really I was harboring a lot of fear-fear that I would cheat on my partner in a sort of auto-pilot. Fear that the autonomy I kept talking about doesn’t really exist. Fear that…I don’t know, of the boogy man mostly. You know what? I fucking love it.
When my poly friends tell me their scheduling woes, I nod sympathetically on the outside while nodding “yes, I’m so glad to be rid of that” on the inside. When my friends talk about relationship hierarchy, I actually care a lot…one of the reasons I decided against the “we’ll just have this out of town girlfriend on the side who doesn’t want to live with us” solution is that I didn’t, in my heart of hearts, believe anyone really didn’t want to be cared for and so it felt unethical to be part of someone’s “I’ll take what I can get.” But I’m still delighted that this isn’t my problem to deal with.
When it comes time for gossip I let the ball drop, I’m sorry. I’m dating this dude, he’s nice, I’m still dating him. How’s your metamour’s cat?
But there are some common concerns-couched-as-questions that I thought I’d answer:
You must still have scheduling woes?!
Yes, of course, we’re working adults. But think of, say planning a meeting at work. Is there a difference between the complexity of planning a multi-stakeholder working group and planning a review session with the person who sits next to you? Yeah, so I’m planning with one person who more or less sits next to me.
One person can’t meet all your needs!
You’re right. Now explain to me, slowly, how you think monogamy works? Really though, I got this most recently from a woman I was driving home from a party, but it was followed up by “but some monogamous people still cuddle with their friends so that’s ok.” Maybe her needs are different than mine. This person I’m dating meets most of my sexual and almost all my intimate touch needs. I say “most” and “almost all” because I’m making space for pornography, this blog, frivolous shoe purchases which for me are tied to sexuality, hugging friends and family members, holding hands with people during difficult conversations, etc. I have many other needs, they are met through friendships, hobbies, work, family, etc. The point is, I don’t feel deprived. I sometimes feel slightly awkward when I have dinner with my male friends alone and then I tell my partner and I get over it.
Do you miss it?
I actually miss metamour relationship more than I miss dating lots of people. By which I mean, I miss having a sort of haram women’s space were we are connected in a more than casual way. I address this by spending more time with women in my family, dragging my partner to couple events where I can spent time with other people’s wives being wife-ish, and organizing girls night.
And one question no body asked – did anything surprise you?
Yes! I was really concerned when I suddenly started thinking a lot about my exes. Some with relief, “that person wasn’t for me, I’m glad I didn’t marry him.” Others with sadness, “that person was amazing and I was too young at 23 and didn’t know how to date or communicate with him.” But apparently this sort of chapter closing is normal? I’m really glad I have the past experience to learn and grow from, and it’s not like I didn’t know I still harbored feelings for one of my exes (not to mention some “I exploded that relationship because I was in the middle of my first year of grad school and losing my shit” guilt). But harboring feelings is one thing, apologizing might be appropriate even, but it’s very unlikely that there’s a there there, so I guess in some ways I’m reacting to what feels like the finality of it.
There’s a lot of monogamous to poly transition lit, has anyone gone the other way? Did the experience surprise you?
I’m drinking cider, must be Fall, though I did get to the beach today.
I haven’t logged into this blog in a couple months, so imagine my surprise when I log in and realize people are still reading. I love the Internet because it lets us share knowledge and confirm that whatever is on our minds in a common experience. Apparently the knowledge y’all are looking to me for is all about chastity :-p
Anyway, if you’ve been waiting for a comment to be approved I’m sorry for the delay, and thank you for your kind words. If you’re looking for an update, here’s what I was going to post…
I went to yoga tonight and we were in lunges, bending into our front knees, figuring out where our stomachs and pelvises were, raising hands over head, pushing shoulders down, opening heart – “Stable core, vulnerable heart.” Basic, physical advice on holding the pose and not falling over and also the biggest coolest thing I learned about myself over the years.
I used to think that lovingkindness had a lot in common with doormat. You can see how I’d make the mistake, what with talk of forgiving and letting go. I had a yoga teacher in 2006 who told me if enlightenment was what I’d described it as – people wandering about unattached to anything or anyone, unwilling to stand up for themselves or have their needs met – we’d have enlightenment wards in the hospitals.
No, it turns out lovingkindness, vulnerability, whatever you want to call it, is something I find at the end of a lot of work. It’s something I’m still easily knocked out of, if I’m scared for example, or stressed, I have to remind myself and sometimes I forget to remind myself :-) But it turns out that vulnerability is actually born out of learning how to create safe, stable, sustainable core spaces in my life. It’s not in lieu of having my needs met, it’s not about putting other people’s needs first, it’s about feeling grounded enough that if I swap someone else into the center of my universe it doesn’t negate my feelings or remove my ability to have my needs met.
Maybe it’s a type of feeling whole. I don’t know. It feels really new still…like when you almost but not quite yet understand a math problem.
It’s about this post by Timoni about her love for the Internet, which I read in the same week as Dangerous Lilly’s post about the history of sex blogs. It’s about my worlds colliding, and “I was there” meeting “what happens next?” It’s about missing San Francisco so bad that it hurts. Physically. But leaving still being the right thing in that moment in time.
It’s about that moment, in 2008, when someone I knew from the Internet met me in person and took me to Google – the physical place that provides the infrastructure for our most random questions. I loved that moment. I still love it because it made the Internet real and physical.
I treasure it like my memories of smothering the dial-up modem under a pillow so I could get online in the middle of the night without waking my parents. As an adult I find it a little funny that the incredible power of the Internet was so very lost on me. I took for granted talking to people on the other side of the world, it just seemed normal. Of course it did, right? I didn’t have a before time. I just had the beeping of the dial-up and ways to get around it.
But what does happen next? This blog, this experience, maybe even this format – it’s played out. I’ve learned so much from it, but it’s not what I’m passionate about anymore. I want to spend my time learning about how better understanding the data we generate can teach us about ourselves, unlock hidden patterns, and allow us to make conscious decisions about privacy and sharing. I’m not sure where that happens, but I don’t think it happens here.
So goodbye for now. Thanks for reading, responding, engaging, and letting me be a part of it. I will miss you with the same longing as I miss sipping Blue Bottle on the Embarcadero, but I am very excited about what’s to come.