Archive for the ‘personal’ Category
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.
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 wrote a ton about suicide, but I put it all in a notebook I can’t find because I moved cross country. The piece I remember best is this idea of concentric circles of grief. I did not get to mourn, in a direct sorta way, for Conor. I got to hold his daughter and wash dishes for the person who was not washing dishes because she was talking to his widow. And because I was washing dishes for the person who was talking to his widow my friends finished my packing for me, and so it went in ever expanding circles of impact. I held the people I love. The person I was most worried for called me and we sat on the phone silent, him in Philadelphia and me in Maui, unsure if the other knew, not wanting to be the first to say.
Someone wrote a behind the scenes piece about how depression is a disease and most of us aren’t doctors, which I read, and reread, and watched my friends read. We shared lists of mental health resources with the people who were left who probably weren’t the people who needed them. I tried, and probably failed, to not ask personal questions – tried to give Conor and his family the privacy and dignity they deserve. I thanked the person who came over when I was at my lowest, and reflected on how very lucky I was to pull out from depression. I had a fight with an ex about the nature of suicide and how I relate to it. I had a fight with an ex who thought I was wishing it away, when I was, sadly, preparing for it to happen again.
I moved my stuff, and carried boxes, and rebuilt furniture, and missed – and still miss – my tribe.
A little more than a year ago, I was sitting in a beer garden with some friends, a couple of people I was dating at the time, and maybe even some new kids I didn’t know well, and we were talking about, academically, marginalized youth. Actually we were talking about traveler kids, punks, and different ways of being poor or in poverty. And what it meant to be “in” with an out group.
Someone mentioned facial tattoos. In the early days of punk rock, when things were more radical, and probably still today for people who are much more radical than I will ever hope to be, a facial tattoo was a way of affirming one’s commitment to the edge. You have not only opted out of the status quo, but you have effectively shut the door on ever being able to access it again. This made sense. In fact, I had always wanted a facial piercing, but hadn’t gotten one because I had also wanted a job.
The day after that though, I was in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, and I realized I had reached a point in my career where no one will ever question my competence or right to be there based on a facial piercing. So I got my eyebrow pierced. I joked that it was my job security piercing and I adored the cross-signals it was sending.
Unfortunately, today I had it checked out, and sure enough it is growing out. Eyebrows are surface piercings so this is not entirely unexpected. I can re-pierce it after a few months if I’d like, but before I leave the west coast – and my piercer – I have to get it removed. I’ll miss my little symbol of not-belonging. For both reasons actually: as a celebration of my career and as visible deviance. For now I’m thinking about what role this little bit of surgical steel plays in my identity.
I’m also thinking about what it might feel like to be so sure of a thing, so passionate and committed to it, so as to close the door on all the comforts and privileges of a past life.
Be kind. Be kind to yourselves and to each other because there are plenty of people who will be unkind. Spend that extra afternoon with a friend who has had a hard year. Listen. Listen past people’s anger and find the root of their pain and then find compassion for that. Or if their anger upsets you, walk away. Know that their anger isn’t about you, it lives entirely within them as your anger lives within you.
Most of all, have compassion for yourself and know that there will be better days.
And if this hippie massive contributed to your feelings of depression, email me, I will make you cookies :-p
How can you possibly care more about some abstract threat of false rape accusations than you do that your best friend, a woman you love, might be raped.
And why, if you really were concerned by the impact on the accused did you switch your tone suddenly when you realized that argument won’t work. That I will never prioritize the falsely accused (statistically small a number as they are) over my own safety and that of other women (approximately 20% of whom are raped in America). Why did you get all smug and tell me if there was the chance of false accusations, real survivors won’t be trusted so the tool hurts survivors. By that logic, police reports also hurt survivors. As do hotlines and church pastors taking confessions. Moreover, shouldn’t you be outraged that anyone would disbelieve a rape victim? If increasing trust in survivor accounts is your goal, shouldn’t you be elbow deep in the fight against people who hide behind slut shaming or “he said/she said”?
Or maybe you should be crying out against false accusations of vandalism, drug dealing, even murder. In any event, your tone made it clear your believed you were winning the argument and more than your own words.
I’ll be honest, I started loving you a little less after that conversation. I still love, of course I do, but if I had to give you a reason why we aren’t meant for each other, it’s not that we like different sex – we can get through that – its that you tried to tell me my being raped was worse than someone being accused of rape falsely. It’s not, and it’s complicated.
Wait, don’t tell me about how false accusations ruin lives. I know that. First, imagine me being raped. Really pause and imagine. Imagine where it might happen, am I wearing my standard jeans and black shirt uniform? Am I dressed up? Imagine me fighting, or because we’ve talked about this, imagine me not fighting when all I can think is “so this is what rape feels like.” Imagine holding my hand while I file a police report. Would you get to hold my hand or do police reports have to happen in private, I wonder. (Last time, #IDidNotReport)
But you’re scared too. That’s what I learned from that conversation. What I didn’t know, didn’t have empathy for when we started. You are scared that some woman will get angry at you and say you raped her. You imagine this would ruin your life, this angry woman and the power of accusation she holds. Do you think it’s strange at all that a woman who is angry at you has only this in the way of power?
Remember that other thing you told me? That thing I told you was unethical? That thing was like a false rape accusation – why did that cross your mind? How did you feel when playing that card felt ok? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you felt powerless and you were grabbing at straws. When you think about false rape accusation, load that conversation with everything you felt in that desperate last resort moment. Because they do happen, and they are the last resort of some caged animal.
You aren’t scared of being falsely accused of burglary or murder, are you? You are personally scared of being falsely accused of rape. That fear is not unreasonable, you are allowed to be scared, you are especially allowed to be scared of desperate upset people playing their last card.
However, the chance of my being raped is an order of magnitude higher than that of you being falsely accused. And even if it wasn’t, I would expect more of you. I would, and do, expect you to build a safer world for me when you tell me you love me.
So we can talk about your fear, we can honor that and we can work through it, but your fear does not trump mine. It certainly doesn’t trump my safety.
*No, I’m not just having a super important conversation with the person who is listed on every legal piece of paper I have as my emergency contact, beneficiary, or both. We talked about this. A lot. It just didn’t feel right to post until we’d put the issue to bed, or not to post at all when I hear less personal arguments about this all the time.
It’s a still warm Fall morning and we’re curled on his couch holding our coffee cups.
Me: I want to try monogamy, but I’ve never done it before. I don’t know how to do it.
Him: I’ve done it before. You’re not allowed to have sex with other people, and you’re not allowed to flirt with other people, and you’re not allowed to kiss other people…”
Me: That’s a lot of not alloweds.
We chat some more in those one-step-removed terms you use with someone you like a lot but are only just getting to know. You know the way that lets you both maintain plausible deniability – answering the question “are our wants compatible” without asking the question “do we want to do this together.” Our wants seem compatible, so that’s nice.
Here’s the funny part though. All those not alloweds, sure, sounds like there’s a lot of them, but weirdly, I’m not bothered by them. Six months ago I poked my head back into the theme of am I poly. And then I spent a bunch of time thinking about it, and chatting about it with people, and thinking some more. A couple of themes started to emerge:
1) Poly people, despite having a huge diversity of relationship styles, were a lot more defined than monogamous people. Poly people told me that what I described wasn’t monogamy. Monogamous people told me about their compromises (a genteel word for any flirting, kissing, or even sex that may or may not happen outside of their monogamous marriages).
2) I started seeing all sorts of little (and huge) ways that poly was not about autonomy, but rather about the partner with more power leveraging that power to direct the course of the relationship. I started seeing poly people give their previously monogamous partners “my way or the high way” ultimatums and realized I’ve been guilty of this myself. I started noticing how people treat and talk about non-primary relationships, and wondered if these secondaries really don’t mind you only seeing them for sex on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, or if maybe they are just taking the best they can get? And really, is the 3rd Tuesday of the month the best they can really get, or are they/their community selling them short?
3) I realized that I really want very little to do with other people’s relationships. Maybe I’m exhausted. Maybe I’m a natural at this monogamy thing, but one thing I hadn’t realized is how personally invested I have been in other people’s relationships. Not in a good supportive way, in a social policing way. That…that’s not something I feel good about. It sorta makes sense that I’d figure that out now, after all, poly and kink are both outward facing identities as much as they are personal practices. Being monogamous sounds like the kind of thing my partner and I would decide on, and, well, no one else really needs to be involved, do they?
Most importantly though, I am learning to think about what I do want, not what I don’t want. And I am creating space for the reality that I was very happily poly for most of my adult life. It worked, and it was lovely, and it was a choice I made and was blessed with partners who did that with me. I would simply like to make a new choice now. One where I don’t have to schedule around my partner’s other girlfriend or try to balance the needs of two lovers. One where minimizing opportunity costs is no longer something I’m concerned about because my goal is to find the right person for this particular moment of the journey and then focus inward. Focus on nurturing that relationship, in all of its nuance, through a journey that makes sense for both of us. Plus with only one lover, there might be enough time to finish my knitting projects!
So yeah, I probably won’t be “allowed” to sleep with other people, but the funny part is that two things changed since I started thinking about this: 1) that suddenly doesn’t sound restrictive, and 2) I let go of my own fear of being the ball and chain putting artificial boundaries on my partner out of some sense of insecurity, and saw this for what it is: asking for what I need.
Early this year I thought the theme was “what 2012 giveth, 2013 taketh away.” Happily, I’m learning that the theme of 2013 is shedding the things I thought I was so that I could dig a little deeper and figure out who I am now.