P’s Mother Changes Her Mind

Text message from P:

My mum phoned to say she has come to terms with me and you and to say she is glad I’m happy and to tell you that you’re lovely.

I don’t know how I feel. ~ It’s been a while since I posted. A lot has happened and is still going on.

  • I’m going to be an uncle and I’m so terribly excited. I was told first, before anyone else from either family. I guessed that my sister was having a girl. When asked, I predicted she’ll be born November 2nd, a few days past her Oct 29th due date.
  • I have exams right now. I haven’t slept a lot. My routine has been: write exam, nap for 2-3 hours after an exam, then all night study, then nap for 2 hours a few hours before an exam, study some more, write exam, repeat.
  • P woke me 1 hour after texting the above. I thought it was 7:30am.
  • I’m going to Melbourne after exams. I’ve never been. I’m so keen.
  • I’ve been running more. I ran a 12km race last month, I’m doing a 14km race soon, and I have the half marathon in August.
  • I’m thinking about joining the armed forces for a career as a medical professional after graduation.

~ With that out of the way, I have no idea how I feel. Writing things out helps me to figure it out, to process. I’m happy that P’s relationship with his mother is better. I feel no closer to his mother. From my perspective, she met me, was nice, then decided she wasn’t comfortable with us, barely spoke to me for the entire 2 months she was here, then changed her mind 3 months later. It feels patronising, like after much consideration, she’s finally condescended to say, “Fine. I approve.” Either that, or like a child, announcing from the top of the stairs that, “I change my mind! We can do what you want. I’ll come play with you.” I wonder if his father had words to her, and said something like, “Stop being stupid because if they have children, you could never meet them.” In my state of fatigue (10 hours over 3 days, not counting that great nap just now), I will say it’s entirely possible. But realistically, I like to think I wouldn’t be so cruel once less sleep-deprived. Besides, I’d want their help with the babies. I know we would be unlikely to get help from my parents. A few months ago, I rang my mum all frustrated because my dad was telling me that I could live my life how I wanted, but his actions contradicted it. Why ask if you can fly back in August and how long you can stay if you’ve already bought tickets?! I not so subtly hinted that 1) I was dating someone and 2) they would probably have objections. My mum said, “Well if he doesn’t share our faith, then I can’t support that. I have to align myself with our faith.” I said I understood. And I do. I can’t and won’t ask her to compromise her beliefs for me like I did for P. Back to P’s mum. After some consideration, I have some thoughts and questions.

  1. What changed her mind about us?
  2. I don’t feel like being friendly to you. Why should I? Also, why, should I?
  3. I want her to say something to me personally, not via P. Apology for being rude by proxy is not acceptable.
  4. What does this mean for the future?
  5. How will changing her mind impact her interaction with me/us?
  6. Can I expect her to be more than polite, maybe solicitous?
  7. I should probably respond to P’s text. It just has a “Read on …” receipt right now. What else should I say aside from, “Ok. Thanks for the text.”? I don’t want to condone her behaviour as it could set a precedent/tone for the rest of my relationship with her.
  8. Re #3: I don’t know if she actually apologised for being a rude cow. Barely talking to someone, like your son’s partner, is rude even if you’re civil.

I feel less confused, but I don’t think I’ve completely nailed down how I feel. I’m hungry. I wish KFC still had that deal of 9 pieces for $9.95 still going. I want to have a workout. I feel so unfit. That actually reflects my inner conflict quite well.

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New Baby!

Not mine. Obviously. My parents would kill me. As I’m unmarried. And studying. And for not having told them it was on the way.

P’s best mates have had their second child by C-section. They took my name suggestion! I’m so chuffed! And feel slightly responsible for the baby now. It briefly crossed my mind whether they’d ask me to be a godparent, but surely not… P is the godfather to their first child, but really, they don’t know me that well… I hope they don’t, I feel unprepared for the responsibility!

Even so, CHUFFED!!

Another C Word: Condoms

I was talking to a friend of mine over in Adelaide. In the course of our conversation, J started teasing me about the age difference between myself and P. I said that in 5 years, it wouldn’t be as bad. J was surprised that I was thinking that far ahead. Apparently last time we spoke, I gave the impression that I was unhappy and thus, going to break up with P. And glancing over my posts, yes, there’s doubt, and in healthy amounts too. Why do I stay? There’s a few different reasons.

Foremost, I know P loves me. P can be very considerate. One example of that is the insistence on safe sex. We’ve never had sex without a condom. I’ve asked and tried to cajole P into no condoms to no avail. I’ve teased, I’ve begged, I’ve coaxed and I’ve wheedled. Despite my attempts, P has steadfastly refused. I’m not that desperate for it to be bare. I can be a bit …obsessive though. Last night, when things were starting to get heated, P told me very unexpectedly that some test results had come back; P is completely clear of all STIs including HIV. I teased back, “…Ok. Considering some of the things we’ve done, I should hope so.” With a slight grin, P said that if I wanted, we could do things without a condom. And we did.

I hadn’t really thought about it till then, but I am glad and thankful that P resisted and waited till we knew for sure. It’s a reality that people have STIs unknowingly or otherwise. There are people who don’t know how to have safe sex, or worse still, know and choose to disregard that knowledge.

I have a confession and I don’t really care if it reflects badly on my parents. My parents chose to keep my siblings and I out of the sexual education classes when it came time. I can respect that they wanted to protect us from sexual things before it had to happen, that they had their morals and stuck to them. And it’s true, I think children are exposed to things of a sexual nature far earlier than reasonable. My parents did try to have the talk with me, but I knew what was coming and pretended I was au fait with it all, you know, Mum being a nurse and all.

So you can imagine why just once, the very first time without a condom and suddenly, the realisation struck me,

“Oh. That’s why no one wants to wear a condom.”

It also helped me understand how, without any sexual education, someone might come to hypothesise that extra-attentive cleansing and washing might prevent pregnancy. Gosh I’m glad I went and read up on my own.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, be safe. Condoms aren’t the end of the world, even though they taste funny. In fact, they make things a little easier in terms of clean up. But when you’re with someone and have absolute confidence and evidence that they’re clean, having that reassurance makes what follows that much better. I guess that could be one possible point of differentiation between fucking and doing something that goes beyond sex.

Making An Effort

My dad flew back to North America recently. It was P’s birthday a few days later. After 6-7 weeks of parental hovering, I was overdue for some fun. I mean, finally, a point where I wasn’t given the third degree on what I was doing, who I was going with, how long I was going to be, queries on why I wasn’t studying….

GOOD GOD I HAVE A PROFESSIONAL DEGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have tried to assert myself beforehand, saying that if I failed this second one, it was on me. After all, I’m paying for it. But my dad has this inexorable persistence. So that left me with one choice when Dad left: spend craploads of time at P’s. I think I overdosed a bit.

  • We went for Korean for birthday lunch.
  • Dinner with my workmates, then had waffles for dessert.
  • For P’s birthday dinner, everyone came over for some champagne and cheese. I know it’s usually wine, but it’s not my birthday. Besides, I got told off for nearly cutting the nose off the cheese. Oops. “Dragged up” was how P put it, teasingly. And then we went for some delicious French food. But I was so full by the main, I couldn’t finish the ratatouille. And this is odd for me. I usually eat everything bar garnish. Hello, I’ve said it before, what’s the point of running if you can’t eat what you want?
  • Sleeping over nearly the entire weekend.

Now with exams looming, I’m getting organised. It’s nose to the grindstone, it’s crunchtime, it’s go-time, it’s non-stop, it’s DEFCON-1.

The invitations to go for drinks, for dim sum, to hit the running track with a uni mate.. they’re still coming.

I’m realising there’s a certain wisdom to my dad’s strict discipline:

The cost involved is always greater than what you think it is.

Lunch is more than the 2 hours to order. It’s travel time, it’s parking, it’s attention elsewhere. Star Trek Into Darkness this Thursday with P and P’s best mate is going to be more than a 2.5 hour movie. I’m going to be thrilled, my senses heightened… how am I supposed to come down from that and get my game-face on for study? Could I study after? No. That’s why I’m going to see it later at night, then sleep.

I’ve calculated the number of hours I need just to finish my notes (never mind studying them!) and doing my readings. All of a sudden, there’s that much more impetus NOT to go to lunch with my frenemy. I’ll write about that another time.

My dad was right. Dammit, how does this always happen? I can do this, I can say no. They will be there for me after my exams. Delaying gratification! I’m doing better with time management though. I’ve scheduled study for each day for the next 7 weeks till exams are over. I’ve studied from 8 to 6 today, with breaks for lunch and dinner. That schedule still has room for me to have drinks in the city at 9 with uni mates. Don’t make that face, I’m staying for 1 hour and then to bed! Promise.

The C Word: Children

My parents always made sure we ate dinner together since we were little. It was a time when everyone at the table had a chance to share what had happened that day. It was probably mundane and dull for them, but those experiences added up to a certain kind of closeness. In a family with four children with 6 years between the oldest and youngest (poor Mum), a variety of personalities, and different activities (again, poor Mum who drove us around!)… it was actually quite nice, looking back. Now, two of my siblings are married, with the third wedding scheduled for this summer.

This wedding and naturally, conjecture as to who would be the first to produce a grandchild has been on my mind of late. I mean, really, with uni on and my dad here, it’s not like I have much to talk about. (Discussion of autonomy in my life with my parents alive is a wholly different post.) So, grandchildren. I posited the first child would come from L&C, whose wedding will be this summer. One sibling is frightened of episiotomies and tearing, and the other has career constraints. I have accepted the opinion that there is no good time to get married and/or have babies.

Something of note was the topic progression at dinner. Mind you, just me and Dad. So, it goes: siblings -> wedding -> married siblings -> grandchildren -> my status as unmarried -> grandchildren (again) -> grandparents -> desired number of grandchildren -> realistic number of grandchildren -> age -> mutagens that affect eggs -> age to have children -> relatives without children -> adoption -> surrogacy -> Bertold Weisner: a scientist who replaced sperm samples with his own and fathered approximately 600 children.

Right. That’s not awkward.

Yes it is.

~

P knows I want children. I love kids. I will readily admit I am clucky. I have some babysitting experience with a range of ages, from barely out of diapers to about year 6. I’d like to think I’ve seen not just the pleasant afternoon visit side of them, but the snotty, wailing, peeing-themselves side too. I know that while I don’t quite have rose-coloured glasses on, there’s still more I have yet to see and experience.

But there aren’t any prerequisites to having babies, aside from introducing an egg to sperm. I mean, just look at all the teenage girls who pop them out easy as anything! Case in point, one girl in my friend R’s graduating year who said,

“Oh, I’m not going to uni, I’m going to have a baby and go on the dole.”

Lovely. I would like to say I do support socialised medicine, I just don’t support entitlement and taking advantage of the system.

Despite my cynicism and frustration, I want kids. I’ve said it to P before. P said, “Why do you want kids? They’re just a prop for you, an accessory.” Paring away the prickles of the question, what are my reasons for having children? I didn’t and don’t actually have an answer.

  • It’s not to give my parents grandchildren (though free babysitting would be nice.)
  • It’s not so that I won’t have to go into a nursing home when I’m grey and wrinkly (though that’s not a guarantee anymore.)
  • It’s not for social acceptance.

What about the reasons do I have? They are small and fragile. Some people would readily interject, “That’s stupid. You’re being selfish. You have unresolved issues.”

But so what? Why can’t my answer be: “because I want to”?  Who ever said you needed approval from a selection panel made up of all and sundry to procreate? This isn’t defending a PhD thesis.

I don’t have original rationale for why I want babies. P doesn’t even want children. It could be a deal-breaker for us. I know P likes children. I mean, hello, if P didn’t, P wouldn’t have a job! But working with children and having children are completely different. This will have to be a discussion, probably spread over multiple occasions. Just having the discussion isn’t enough. There must be logical and pragmatic conclusions.

I wonder if there’s a handbook or something out there. Probably.

Bedtime, ahoy!

Respect, Regrets, Resolutions

Community is important. We need people. We can’t do it alone. When I was younger, I was willing to listen to anyone but my parents. But I find that as I get older, I’m much more ready to listen to what they have to say. I recognise the value in their experience. I had dinner with Dad tonight, just the two of us. It was nice. I asked him things. Things like,

  • Why did choose to immigrate to North America?
  • Do you ever wonder what it would’ve been like if you’d chosen Australia or Singapore or the UK like your friends?
  • How did you decide what you wanted to do with your life?

All fairly big life questions. The world is a big place and there’s an awful lot of paths you could take. I struggle to know, “Which one is the best one?” One of my biggest faults is that I can be quite obsessive. This translates to hours thinking over what might have been, rather than going out and doing. I’ve spent hours wondering what life would be like if I had questioned authority more when I was growing up, or if I had more gumption in high school, or had clearer goals of what I wanted out of my first degree. Sometimes, I try to compensate by acting on gut-feeling and without thought. This isn’t much better.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about a judge and a maid who share a moment, but do not pursue that feeling. They each go on to live their lives the way society expects them to, with regret.

God pity them both! and pity us all,

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all the sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

This is hardly the only quote on regret. (Kurt Vonnegut has one that is very similar.) I used to want to be original, or at least, be doing things the right way. Even in kindergarten, I can distinctly recall colouring assignments where much of it was brown and green. Why? Because wood is brown and grass is green. I have since taken a much more pragmatic point of view on assignments and life.

Get it done. No one is original. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you’re smart, you’ll learn from them.

Anyway, just some thoughts that have been rattling around.

P is away at a conference in Melbourne. It looks like a perfectly wonderful time. I’ve been bored witless for a week over this midsemester break. Some resolutions from this week of boredom and thinking:

  1. Continue New Years Resolution to do morning runs at least 3 times each week. This month has been excellent, with nearly one every single day. 
  2. Make a 5 year plan with specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and timely goals along the way. And some sort of rewards. like shopping.
  3. Spend at least 20 minutes each morning thinking about what I want to achieve for that day.
  4. No distractionary reading. Especially not fanfiction as this feeds daydreaming. (embarrassing!!) Speaking of which, no more daydreaming. If I absolutely must, then I will have a good idea from it that I can apply. And not for more than 15 minutes.
  5. At least 30 minutes before bed, start winding down. To exercise good sleep hygiene, no more bringing the Macbook or iPhone to bed. Find something to think about before bed. Other than what I need to do tomorrow. Because that’s what P does and I swear I can hear the gears in P’s brain ticking as I’m trying to fall asleep. Possibly reflections on the day.

Good plan. Now to do it. I wonder if this is the start of self-actualization.

A Special Level in Dante’s Inferno

Dante Alighieri wrote the famous epic poem, Divine Comedy, detailing a journey through Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. The narrator observes nine circles within Hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.

Sidebar: I am glad that the word epic is finally dying out from common usage. It was bandied about too readily and usually used incorrectly. Unfortunately, it’s now been surpassed by “literally”. North Americans, your grammar and vocabulary is pathetic. I’m not a grammar Nazi. I just use it correctly. Most of the time.

Anyway.

Parents. More specific to this complaint, dad. Why? Why must you be so goddamn obtuse and frustrating? I mean in a tear-out-my-hair-grit-my-teeth-scream-incoherently kind of way. It’s torment, that you won’t listen to me. It’s so bad you could ring Dante and ask if he’d mind adding a tenth level to his Inferno.

1. Jump-starting the Corolla

I have a 1995 Toyota Corolla that is very inefficient, but did the job in my first degree. When the 29 year old was packing up to go live with her husband in Canada, she transferred the Prius to me. It is about twice as fuel efficient as the Toyota Corolla. When faced with the two options, I’ve chosen the more fuel efficient one. However, the battery went flat in the Corolla. Dad emailed a friend and got booster cables to jump start the car. It was pretty easy to get it going again, but why was it frustrating?

  • On way back from the run this morning, Dad tells me to relax, he’s had old cars before when he was younger and is quite familiar with jump-starting cars. I remind him to read the Prius guidebook. I googled the process myself, took a shower and went downstairs where a suspicious silence prevailed. I walked outside, and dad’s popped out most of the gear from the back of the Prius where the battery is, and has managed to damage the cap over the Prius battery. To be fair, it’s tricky, but don’t force it and nearly break the plastic! Fuck.
  • I get the plastic cap off, and we’re pushing the Corolla so that the cables can reach. I tell him to push it to line it up with the Prius, and he stops to ask me if we should ask our neighbour for help. Their garage door is opening. I say no, use what we have. After all, you can’t impose on someone else. But C is a nice neighbour and offers help when he drives up and sees our predicament.
  • There’s more cursing on my part with Dad’s refusal to listen to me when I tell him we need to shift the car to give C room and so the cars are more parallel. Look, this guy is being nice enough to help, just cooperate with me to make it easier for him to help us!!!!

Bullshit lots of practice. It’s exhausting.

2. Social Ineptitude

A couple our family knows has been immensely helpful and kind throughout the years we’ve spent in Australia. They’ve been welcoming, cooked for us, taken us to dinner, introduced us to other lovely people… very nice, overall. Anyway, Dad takes it upon himself to thank them for lending us some gear to fix up the house and re-grout the bathroom. He’s decided to do it with food. However, I have some suggestions.

  • Learn more than one dish to say thank you. Pizza is very well and good, but you’ve done it before. No one likes a one-trick pony. Besides, pizza doesn’t really say, “Thank you!” I think convention is usually baked goods of some kind. Or alcoholic beverages.
  • Timing. Why would you give a pizza to them after the event tonight? Or before? There’s a group of you tonight, so going to their house with a pizza is weird. Or you can do like you did, Dad, and invite them to dinner on the spur of the moment.
  • Do not spring it on them. Calling someone to say, “I’ve made you some dinner!” forces them to accept and possibly change plans they already have.
  • Language. Ok, I’m getting better with using expletives widely, but I mean language generally. If you must invite them to dinner an hour and a half before you all go to meet up with more friends, then don’t use the words, “Can you tell [your wife] to hold off?” Just overhearing it made me cringe with the awkward wording. It makes it sound like she’s a child and doing something wrong.
  • RELAX GODDAMMIT. Look, it’s very nice that you’d like to give some to everyone at the event, but it’s not feasible after we’ve already eaten and there’s only 6-7 slices left. You don’t know how many people are going to show up tonight and they’ve probably already eaten dinner before showing up. So take a cue from me kicking you under the table (three times!!).

Holy fucking goddamn shit. FUCK. How has he survived so long being so socially unaware? How the fuck did I gain any kind of social awareness? SHIT.

I should take my own advice and not care so much. It’s not worth the effort. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You know, the thing is, if it was anyone else’s dad, I’d probably be much more forgiving and say it was ok. Well, that time T’s dad called one of our mates a fascist was pretty hilarious.