Sunday, September 07, 2014

What is a real man, again.

Well, I have been divorced (or at least separated) for almost a decade now. Attempts at finding a meaningful adult relationship have been largely unsuccessful. Whilst I have not given up on it, it is at the very least on hold. Something I found a little useful lately was a reflection on what I didn't want in a man. Based loosely on the things I have encountered during and after my marriage;

(1) Irrational dictator (Simon: barking at me that "we are not doing this, we are not doing that" and then later (quite often) turning around and deciding to do it himself),
(2) Groundless opinions (Simon again: freely given baseless opinions on everything from Immigration to which colours go together),
(3) Passive aggression (Simon also: to accompany the above, shut down if people don't agree with you, and refuse to discuss - this includes big life decisions like buying a house, moving in together, having a baby),
(4) Outright bald aggression (Neil: If a person doesn't agree with you shut THEM down, physically if necessary)
(5) Unfaithfulness and the accompanied necessary lies and possible gaslighting (making me think it is all in my mind (Neil)),
(6) Meaningless posturing/assumptions about their role in my life - "I'm here to Protect and Provide!" whilst doing neither, and without being asked to anyway (Neil). "I can just see where this is going, you'll move in and get half of my assets" (John, and school dad)

(7) Distain and indifference (all of them ultimately),
(8) Objectification ie "I couldn't just sleep with anyone, I REALLY LIKE you" followed by a litany of my physical charms and nothing about me as a person (Seamus and Hamish (in actions if not in words)),
(9) Cherry picking - you would be perfect if it wasn't for your child (Seamus)
(10) Ineffectual posturing (Simon - earning a 5th of what I do then turning up at school in a business suit handing round his card, telling the teacher how to do her job...)

Then I got to thinking maybe many of these are the dark side  of what we consider attributes of a REAL MAN. We like our men to be strong, and admire us physically. We socialise them that way.  I may be in the minority of women really not liking to be objectified. Even more demanding, we want our men to bond with us for life, help us to raise our children, not look at other women..So if I was born a man, and couldn't rise to these expectations maybe I too would "fake it 'til I made it"

I see so many unhappily married parents of school aged kids.  The men who manage to be faithful to their wives, take an interest in their kids, bring home the bacon, and project an ideal of manhood are in the minority and their wives become tired, irritable, critical and unappreciative, and stop making an effort.

I set to wondering if maybe being faithful was, to men, the ultimate sacrifice they make for their women. It is not in their nature, they have to work at it every day relentlessly pushing down their urges and finding the best in themselves for the greater good of their families, and they actually want credit for this - from their wife and from society. It is analogous to women keeping young and beautiful - diet, exercise, a nip and a tuck, whatever it takes (subtext - to keep our man) it's not easy or natural for us we would rather eat donuts and wear a velour tracksuit. We actually want credit for that (from our husbands and from society). Both may be doomed to failure, but it doesn't stop us trying.

My mistake is that I have always wanted to get beyond this. I have wanted to be with someone who is actually my friend, is with me for who I am, rather than (as well as) my physical assets and has no trouble being faithful and keeping their end up financially, and tells the truth in small and large things and confronts problems head on.

There have been very few people with whom I have formed an easy, mutually rewarding, relationship of this kind. People who do all of the above and who make me laugh, give me just the right amount of space, compassionately observe my life, build me up where necessary, be honest about my flaws. Who treat me like a human as well as a body. People I really long to come home to... and in fact those people would be my mother and my son and a few close friends in my university days.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Other people's damaged kids

Oh My! people have I got an update for you? Well, I suppose I took a risk, I went away over Christmas for six weeks. I wasn't sure about Seamus's level of commitment. We had had very happy times together in 2013, but it still seemed to have "Hamish" overtones. Never the less I had heard those three little words a few times. I thought it would be a test, and that we would find out how we truly felt about each other.

Anyway over Christmas I had some trouble with my mobile phone and our communications were challenged. Then I got it sorted but things were still very quiet. I eventually queried how quiet he was and this was the reply:

Hi Fiona Yes UR right my absence is an indication that something has changed. I have been talking  with a woman friend from work this is totally unexpected but we have connected really well. Its not that I don't or haven't loved you, I really don't want young kids at this stage in my life I've known this for some time as I have mentioned to u. Anyway, I would like to pursue a relationship with her. I know you will be hurt, I don't know it you still wish to keep in touch or just write me off. Let me know your thoughts love Seamus Happy New yearI'm sorry for letting you down.

Hmm well it arrived on the morning of New Years day. I was at my parent's house. There was no place for middle aged grief over a middle aged dalliance, so, not to be crude I restricted my tears to the few minutes it took to visit the bathroom that morning.

Being in the protection of my family cushioned the blow, but now I have returned home and reality has hit. Worse still that "woman friend from work" also has kids ever so slightly  (2-5 years) older.

I do have a postscript on Seamus, but for the moment I will concentrate on Connor. We are in a SPOC relationship - Single parent only child.  It is almost impossible for me to judge his sociability or behaviour, but I always get good comments from friends who invite him on playdates, he was a dream to travel with over Christmas, and my (highly biased) family found him no trouble at all.

The only people who have mentioned / been honest enough to criticise his behaviour are my friend  Marcia, Seamus and Connor's own father Simon who said "he is painful". The horrible irony of this crap from Connor's own father is not lost on me. Years of infertility and IVF lead me to consider adoption. Well I recall his response "I don't want to raise someone else's damaged kids" and now the stupid git won't even raise his own kid.

I think the SPOC thing is relevant the single parent only child relationship is a particular pressure cooker environment.  Journalist Sue Carpenter in the Daily Mail describes her relationship with her daughter thus: 
 ..when Simi was just seven years old, and we were walking along our local strip of restaurants in South London, with Simi vetoing all the ones I liked while making a strong case for the one with the chocolate brownie and ice cream that she preferred, that I suddenly stopped. ‘Hang on, Simi,’ I said. ‘How come you’re making the decisions? I’m the mummy, you’re the child!’ Since then, I’ve become increasingly aware of the very particular relationship I have with Simi, that of Single Parent and Only Child.
 and ..
Simi would select the TV channel or DVD and set the table while I cooked supper. Then we’d cuddle up on the sofa and often end up going to bed at the same time. I had nobody to answer to, nobody to undermine or question my way of raising my child.

I recognise something of our relationship in this.
In my early days of my relationship with Seamus, Connor and having "young kids" in his life did come up, my close friend Marcia (who has three kids) recommended that, to alleviate his concerns I should do a parenting course, because in her opinion Connor had become entitled, and manipulative and I needed to learn some strategies to rein him in. So I went ahead, hired a babysitter and did the six week course and associated exercises.

He is nowhere near as difficult as some of the kids I encountered on the course there, but I know there are some particular things about our relationship that make it hard for others to be part of it, and that I am not as harsh in my discipline as I might be, not least for the lack of a moderating influence in the shape of another child.

Anyway,  it did not work out with the woman friend from work and Seamus would like us to take up where we left off. Doubtless there is still friendship and chemistry.

Which leaves me perplexed. Has the not wanting young kids thing gone away?  Am I just a back up plan? that just seems the obvious conclusion. I also conclude that this could happen again the next time some prospect comes along. Cheifly I ask if I am strong enough to handle it?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Being valued

I had a thought the other day which went something along the lines of

Somewhere out there there is somebody who would want to marry me. They would take this 47 year old kit, as is, and make it theirs.
The problem being, how high might the price be? It might have to be a very old and unattractive man, they might beat me, use me, spend my money, or worst of all not value me for who I am.

I was running this idea past Seamus the other night, he was following along. After all he thinks I have nice tits and no doubt there would be some dude who would want to have their way with me... But when I got to the value part, I received the blankest of blank stares.

Photo credit Andrew Malone wikimedia commons

Well, I go to work every day, I work hard, I make a good wage, I am highly qualified, I have my own home, somehow I manage to keep it clean and to cook and look after my child all alone, I'm a kind and generous person. I'm not big noting myself, but these things don't grow on trees.

Then something happened at work:

I am lucky enough to have long service leave approved for three months next year. But after this had happened Capow! the only other person who could do my job is pregnant, and my employer is high and dry. I am very hard to replace.

In the marriage/dating market I am apparently ten-a-penny but at work it is hard to replace me. This is one of the most alluring things about being a working woman. I am valued. Sigh. Even if it is some sort of imputed value derived from the cost and difficulty of replacing me.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Men Love Bitches

Well, this is a thought that has been brewing for a while. It is nothing like  the thoughts indicated in the book of the same name, although I think I can be guilty of doormatism and pricing myself too low. I prefer to stick to my principles, be my own person (both of which the book recommends) but  not contrive to use bitchery to attract a man (which seems to be the main thrust).

Anyhow my thesis is an evolutionary one and goes thus, the kinda bitch a man likes is one that sets the bar high, sets him clear boundaries and follows through with consequences if he lets her down. Although they will proclaim otherwise, many of them especially the old fashioned men's men do not want to be king of their castle, or master in their own home, they actually want to be organised by a woman.

And the reason this is so appealing?

Well those type of women make good mothers, and after all human coupling is all about finding the best parent for your offspring

Ta! Da!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tanabata Revelation

It was the Japanese star festival and I went to a Tanabata festival party where we were exhorted to write our wishes on a bit of paper and hang them in a tree.

My mind was blank and there was nothing I wanted, so I resorted to an old favorite from this blog once wished for in the context of Hamish "A compasisonate observer of my life experience". In that moment, I suppose, I was thinking of a man, a life's companion. But then I woke up on the morning of the 8th, knowing what is lacking in my life. Good and reliable female friends. It's OK where I come from to call them Girlfriends.

Before my marriage girlfriends were pivotal in my life.  They were for travel, fun, joint man hunting expeditions, gossip and emotional support. They watched the comings and goings of my life with compassion and shared in  my ups and downs.  Then abruptly at 25 they were cut out of my life. Because, marriage is supposed to fulfil you, utterly.

No longer will you need to talk into the early hours about your "man troubles" or have a shoulder to cry on because tah da!! you no longer have man troubles do you? No you are  married  and that is nirvana. Should you ever need a shoulder there is a big strong man, look right there, yes him!

So I learnt to live without. I watched romantic films, attempted to gossip with my monosyllabic husband thing, and kept all my troubles to myself. Yes, surely my marriage was a very lonely place.

Occaisionally they would flash into my life, but they too had husbands and the intimacy was never quite restored. There was always a third and fourth wheel in the relationship.

The birth of my first child brought it back - the mum's group thrown together in adversity, having gone through a thing their husbands could not - childbirth and momentarily having time on their hands during maternity leave and the very early life of their first born with all its traumas. They've all scattered now, back to their nests and work-a-day concerns and the care and keeping of husbands.

Since my divorce seven years ago, I don't think I have managed for form a warm female friendship. And once again I have been lonely, possibly looking in all the wrong places for the kind of reciprocal love and support that only female friends can give.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hamish Seamus and the Stoics

I am looking for a word to describe a yearning or need I have in my life of late for Stability. Its not commitment, exactly,  or predictability. I just don't want to go through the process of being savagely terminated for reasons I don't understand again. I want to know that  I can depend on Seamus to be there for me, or give reasons why not. I have been hurt, and one approach, which I understand would be the stoic approach, it just to not allow myself to get emotionally involved.

We grieve because we stake our happiness on things we cannot control. If you think that your well being depends on things that you cannot control then you will become a target for coersion by anyone who does have control over those things. 

" you see, as Hamish said... you love me more than I love you" Hamish was holding all the cards.

So that would be a solution. We need greatness of soul and courage, wisdom and temperance and not to allow suceptibility to grief to make us feel weak, worried, upset, flustered and clouded. We must simply block out any feelings of vulnerability. And this I think is where sex is very handy as a proxy for love, particularly for men. Well you can protect yourself by saying "it's only sex"

but then come variations on a theme of giving into it to properly live.  We have Alfred Lord Tennyson
"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"
Or the more prescriptive:

''If you try to love on a limited liability basis, you limit your ability to love at all. It is for these reasons that the church upholds the idea of Christian marriage, lifelong, exclusive and faithful, as the only setting in which human sexuality can be responsibly and fully enjoyed.''Archbishop Robert Runcie 1987

And more recently Daniel Russell, talking more broadly than about love sex and relationships
"If the way you approach the happiness of your life is to try to make sure that you're never invested in anything enough that you would ever have anything to lose then you have utterly missed the point" Daniel Russell

So I suppose I conclude that real happiness means having something to loose, something to grieve for when its lost, not making sure you do not become attached to anything.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Girl That was Me II

Last week a girl who I knew at school came to visit me. She is (very sadly) widowed since her husband died when he was 49 and she 42. She did not work during her marriage and she is materially better off than me. She owns her own home outright, has two very functional and effective twenty-something sons and apparently does not need to work anymore - ie she is retired.

Rewinding 30 years at school she kicked her heels, didn't bother too much, never planned to have a career. Dabbled in a bit of secretarial work then got married.

I on the other hand set the school alight with my hard work and intelligence, always getting prizes and trying my best. But I find myself barely holding on to my (highly cerebral) job, being a single parent to a difficult child and only half way through paying off a huge mortgage.   It made me think again about The Girl That was Me

Maybe I should've just ignored my Physics homework, and set my eyes on the main chance - a man who could provide me with a home and a family and not expect me to work. Or perhaps, more likely, our personalities have dictated our destiny.

She, prepared to play second fiddle. Needing to be emotionally and financially supported. Me, driving, striving, independent desperate to prove I could do what any man could.

Thus who I selected as a partner was immaterial in terms of support because I could do that for myself. So I chose a playmate. She was more circumspect, knowing she needed someone to make a nest for her.

And whilst I feel somewhat ripped off by the state of affairs as they are, I could also say that this early determination has served me well for my current lifestyle. If I had been a more gentle, passive, unambitious woman I would not be able to carry this off even at the level I do. I would be a single parent in the popular understanding of the term. Poor, uneducated and with health and social challenges.

But the mistake which has been obvious through many of my posts was to assume the immateriality of a man who could protect and provide. I suppose I threw the baby out with the bathwater. Because if less of my  energy was spent on the day to day business of living, I would have more to offer to my career.