The weirdest thing that ever happened to me

I’m not sure this is definitively the weirdest, but it’s up there. I was wondering how I’d define my weirdest experiences if someone asked, and it struck me that some of the things that might seem weird from the outside (a 300-person orgy in a crumbling central-London mansion for example) actually don’t feel that weird at all. But Ah-um-ah-Andy definitely still rates.

I met him early in my TG days, when he politely, nervously complimented my boots and asked if he might rub my feet.

Me: Yeh, probably, wait… J, can this man rub my feet?

Equally eloquent, J said something along the lines of “Yeh, why not,” and my new foot fetishist friend hoisted me up onto a huge speaker. I was dressed in a style befitting the location: skirt with no sides, pinstriped waistcoat, and platform boots comprising more buckles than leather. I set about removing these beauties without flashing too much muff, and belatedly realized I was also wearing Sleepytime Pooh Bear ankle socks.

I whipped them off hoping to belie my noob status, and hid them in my boots. The guy probably didn’t care anyway, and set about giving me a (mediocre) massage. He didn’t seem particularly comfortable making small talk, and when I asked him his name he paused then came up with “Ah… um…. ah…. Andy.” Nothing too strange about that though* and he was communicative and conscientious when it came to sharing his intent and seeking permission.

After a while he nervously asked me if it was ok if he wanked, and I’ll admit his underdog demeanor contributed to my saying yes. I flicked my eyes over to J, who was hanging out with friends some way off, made some lewd gestures and he nodded his assent. Ah-um-ah-Andy set to it and came fairly quickly. While he was cleaning up (I can’t remember the details – wet wipes, tissues, wipe it on the curtains?) I said, “I’ve never done anything like that before. How was it?”

To which this previously timid, whispering, almost apologetic boy looked at me, shrugged, muttered “You were alright, I s’pose,” and disappeared into the night.

Thanks Ah-um-ah-Andy, you were magical too.

* J and I have never been smart enough to come up with fetish alter egos, but there are plenty of good reasons why people do.

Permissive parenting

I worry a lot about exerting my will over other people. I hate the idea of forcing someone to do something they don’t want to, and worry that even if someone says, or even thinks, they’re happy to do something, deep down somewhere they are resistant to the idea and only complying to please me.

I can see that this is ludicrous. Layers of second-guessing quickly become meaningless – when someone says “This is my answer, this is my reason,” I have to accept that.

I can also see that this might have something to do with being raped. I explained before that it wasn’t a physically violent experience, only emotionally so. His bullying and threats wore me down and in the end I said yes. This presents a thorny issue. If I have to take other people’s words at face value, does that mean the rape was my fault. Could I have prevented it if I’d said no long enough?

Rhetorical question – I know academically my asking “Hey, do you want nachos…? Are you sure?” is not the same as bullying a crying 14-year-old into having sex against her will, but I need to acknowledge all the swirling, competitive thoughts about control and sense of self before I get onto today’s (non-rhetorical) question – what does this mean now I’m raising a child?

Toddlers have their sticky little fingers in EVERYTHING. Plug sockets, toilet bowls, plant pots, eye sockets. Plus they have no impulse control. My instinct is to let Isaac have at it unless there’s a chance he could kill himself. Knife in a plug socket? Not ok. But dumping a bowl of cereal on the table and smacking his hands into it? I’m fine with that, and I’ll clean it up without complaint.

J-dawg and our nanny are not fine with it though, and grumble about manners and things getting broken. But stuff is just stuff, and seriously I think it’s easier to teach manners by being polite yourself than by trying to control another person’s behavior.

I think you can use love and trust to teach children self-discipline – letting them make mistakes, solve problems, have a chance to learn are all part of that. I also think entirely permissive parenting is a form of neglect. The message you end up sending is that you don’t care one way or another what your child does. What I’m trying to find is the line between the two, while avoiding a swing in the other direction – where you control someone because you think you ought to, not because they benefit from it.

On postpartum depression

It takes a village to raise a child.

I see this phrase a lot on birthing and parenting blogs, testament to the fact that everyone with children needs help from time to time. We turn to family, friends, experts – Jonty and I didn’t wash Isaac for three days after he was born, until someone showed us how. Our tribe and its collective wisdom is there when we need to learn new things.

But my tribe is scattered. Singapore, Scotland, Spain, Sss-London. Always at the end of a phone line, but not necessarily on hand for a cup of tea and a hug.

This isn’t to say I’m alone and destitute in Singapore; Isaac has a rockin’ little hamlet contributing to his up-bringing. But we lack the knowledge of bigger numbers (and different generations) and the past seven months have been lonely and tough at times.

Hiring a nanny was supposed to make it better. Someone who knows lots about babies, someone to give me a break when Jonty’s work means 12 hours alone with the little fella. I had a list of indulgent things I was going to do once the nanny came: yoga, massages, pedicures. But it didn’t work that way.

I used the breaks from caring for Isaac to sit alone in my room and feel sad. I’d guessed I was struggling emotionally for quite a while, but I hadn’t really had the time or space to recognise it. But there’s no denying it now, my brain chemistry is baffled by its current predicament and that means it’s time to go to a doctor and get help.

When mothers struggled in the 70s the solution was to view their children through a valium haze – the wrong end of a telescope keeping life at arms’ length. Today the drugs are kinder, less intrusive, so here I am, prescription in hand.

It takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes you need Prozac too.

Raw

“I hate you,” I hiss through clenched teeth, while he wails back at me.

I feel instantly guilty, and hope he didn’t hear, but the words still came out.

His crying unravels something deep in my soul. I want so desperately to fix it, to make it stop, but at the same time I resent the cries for even existing. If they could be sucked back into the void, and that meant taking the baby with them, so be it.

I tell Jonty in the morning that I’d fantasised about running away in the night. I’d imagined finding someone who could love Isaac and take care of him, and I’d give him to them and just run and run.

The confession opened the floodgates and I’ve been crying ever since. I know these feelings are normal, I know everyone struggles at first, but I feel so desolate; so small and full of fear.

The pregnancy felt so easy, everything fit into place and made me strong. And the labour and delivery even more so. I’d never felt more aware, happy and certain of who I was and how I fit into the world.

Three weeks later I feel the exact opposite. I thought becoming a parent would be the same – not that it would be easy or I’d be perfect at it, but that it would feel right, feel like something I was meant to do.

I knew there would be sleepless nights and lots of feeds, but I was prepared for the physicality of it because that would fit into the framework of my new identity. I would be A Mum, and those are things mums cope with.

Except I don’t feel like a mum at all. I feel like a lost little girl who cries when her baby cries because she doesn’t know what else to do.

I can’t understand any of the things he tries to communicate to me. I constantly second-guess myself. I feel like any way I respond to him is wrong, and worse, I worry that my poor responses are somehow damaging his development or making him more likely to get upset.

I don’t know where to go from here, except to see if I can find some help. I need to know that I’m responding in the right ways to him, or I need someone to show me how I should respond if I’m doing it wrong. I need to know that he’s normal, that he doesn’t cry more than other babies, and that he’s going to cry less with time.

I need to rediscover my self-belief. I know it’s in there somewhere still, it always is. I need to dig it out and dust it off and let it make some of the decisions, instead of letting self-doubt continue to call the shots.

I need to take a deep breath and look at the sunshine and the new day and my new baby and *smile*.

Even if it’s only a half smile, tears still quivering at the corners, it’s a start.

Down came the tears

I’ve never been much of a crier. Apparently it goes with the late pregnancy/early motherhood territory though.

It’s 7am and I’m sitting at the dining table sobbing and sobbing, little rivulets running down my neck and through the valley of cleavage to form reservoirs where they meet the big belly.

The reason? I can’t see how I can be financially independent AND be as good a parent as I want to be, and I can’t see how Jonty could pay my way and not resent it. (Especially when he said as much last night, albeit while he was drunk and angry at his nicotine cravings.)

It feels horribly tangled from a feminist point of view. I’m pondering the female version of emasculation (I found ‘exogynate’ on two sites online and quite like it) and whether such a word would even be applicable. I want to be independently able to fulfill a ‘typical’ female role, where I can dedicate myself to small children and running a home, but there doesn’t seem to be any way that adds up.


Edited to add:

(Especially when he said as much last night, albeit while he was drunk and angry at his nicotine cravings.)

This isn’t fair. We’ve since talked and we both imagined the other was saying “That’s my decision, not yours,” when in fact neither of us was thinking that. Sometimes it is good to go to bed angry, cos then you have time to re-approach conversations more rationally.

Yes, you can.

How not to have an open relationship. Go read this Stranger article first, so the rest of this post makes sense.

I don’t agree that a relationship can’t evolve from one state to another if those states are determined (by whom?) to be too different. Shrews and warthogs share a common ancestor – all that separates them is a tiny handful of gene mutations and many, many years.

Time. This is the all-important factor, wherever the relationship is heading. In a situation where one person wants to be poly and another is set against it, you either have the conversation and possible separation now, or you say “Maybe we’ll be poly in the future”. If the anti camp still feels the same when the future arrives, you’ll likely separate then instead.

But… time does change things, not least warthogs and shrews. Sometimes when a person says “Yes, but not now,” they really mean what they say. Rather than assuming that means “Not ever”, patience, understanding, baby steps and a willingness to pick yourself up from the falls can help you reach a place where things really have changed.

I know cos the boy and I lived it. “One day” was the point we worked towards for many years. It wasn’t a case of “No, no, no” followed by a day when we stripped off our clothes and tripped naked through fields of third parties. Rather we got there in small steps.

Things didn’t always work out the first time, but that didn’t stop us trying again once more magical time had passed. Things didn’t always go at the pace I’d like, and yeh, sometimes I was impatient and bratty about that, which was hurtful. But I never doubted that we wanted to get to the same place, and that certainty plus a belief in the parts of our relationships that didn’t involve a poly label, meant the invested time kept ticking by.

Eventually enough of it had passed that our relationship looked very different. To labour the evolutionary metaphor, we changed to become adapted to the environment we’d chosen to live in. We’re red in tooth and claw, baby, and raring to go.

And having talked specifically about change at the macro level of monogamy or polygamy, I think there’s a pretty important message in here about change at the micro level of day-to-day happiness, however you structure your relationship. If you don’t accept that the first is possible, you are presumably more likely to overlook the second.

By accepting the small changes that happen daily, you make your relationship reflexive and responsive. You’re far less likely to look up one day and wonder where the warthog reading the papers came from.

The slut: quantified and qualified

Every so often I realise people’s assumptions about me don’t match reality – I guess this happens to all of us. Most recently it took place during a conversation with a drunken other about numbers of conquests.

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