I’m open, but I’m not THAT open…

Thrice this past week, I’ve been asked how soon I plan to get pregnant after I get married. (Yup, how soon plan. Me. The fiancé gets no say, apparently.)

One, I’ll admit I kinda walked into. Cooing over photos of my cousin’s children and then admitting a craving for tuna (which I haven’t had in forever) does kind of create a natural segue. It really was a “Wow, you really like kids! Are you planning on being a mom soon?” sort of thing. Okay. I can handle that. (My no was followed by the second question of if I already was pregnant. Pro-tip: DON’T FREAKING DO THIS. Not okay.)

The other happened as I was cooing over other photos. I quote, “Oh, I see where this is going: that’s why you’re getting married!”

Look, I get that it’s teasing. I’m not looking to play the victim or cry injustice here. But the implication that kids will take (or worse, already have taken) precedence over other qualities in a spouse really rankles.

Yes, I unapologetically go to mush over babies, and I like working with kids. I’ve always known that I want to be a mom someday. Honestly, I think the fiancé will make a great dad when we’re (yes, “we”! The fiancé gets a say!) good and ready. But I’m not just biding my time by programming–it’s a passion and I want to keep doing it, even after kids, and I don’t love the fiancé just because he could be (as a friend rather aptly put it) a “baby-enabler”. He is so much more than that. He is my partner in crime, my sounding board; he understands and accepts me. He’s a good cook, has an infectious smile and laugh, and plays a mean game of Scrabble. He gives the best hugs and, being far more aesthetically inclined than I, occasionally helps me pick out what to wear. We first bonded over composting and origami, and only later found out that we were compatible in terms of life and family goals, and while kids are a pretty important part of compatibility (you can’t really have half a kid, or only the good parts of a kid), again, I’m marrying him for everything else, too, and quite possibly everything else, first.

Also again, I get that it’s good-natured teasing. I really do. I’m not about to report either coworker for harassment or anything–in this case, it would be counter-productive. However, I have resolved to speak up next time. Not harshly or anything; just “Hey, I don’t appreciate the implication/you asking me about something this personal”. I know they’re good guys and will take it just fine. We all make mistakes. This is just a reminder to me that some have a deeper effect than they seem.

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Who Kills the Spiders?

WARNING: This post contains emotions. Sappy emotions, mostly. I am not ashamed.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert at everyone’s relationship. Sometimes, I’m not even an expert at mine. But we’re getting married, so I’m pretty sure we’re doing at least something right… My point is that if you’re looking for advice on how to make your relationship work, it may be that some or all of the below won’t apply. Also, I’m not sure how you happened upon this if you’re looking for advice.

I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be ready to spend the rest of my life with someone else. Which is, y’know, kind of a thing, given that the fiancé and I are going to be married next year. If we didn’t think we were ready, we wouldn’t be planning.

But how did I get here, I sometimes find myself wondering. I can’t pin down an exact day. What I do remember is this: It wasn’t a petulant “I don’t wanna live my life without him” or a desperately dramatic “I simply can’t go on without him”; it was something deeper and much more profound than that. But that was more or less when I really solidly knew. It was when a large chunk of the puzzle of life slid very soundly into place.

I mean, I’d had moments of that before, but nothing so sudden and so deep. I’d been pretty sure, but this was pushing me over into “I know I’m sure” territory.

All I mean to say is that while a lot of it came upon me at once, it has been and still is something of an ongoing realization. It’s not just the big things, as they say.

Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

It’s realizing that I can see myself doing things like voting and taxes and the census and getting a mortgage with him. It’s seeing myself doing even the more mundane things—things we already do, like going grocery shopping together or texting “I need x, y, and z… what else do we need from Safeway?”. It’s deciding what to make for dinner together, and then having a bit of an impromptu dance while waiting for the water to boil or the oven to come to the correct temperature. (We both turn up the music when we cook.) It’s knowing that these things are mundane and still managing to find the occasional way to treasure them.

It’s knowing that we can laugh and learn together. It’s poking gentle fun at each other. (“What do you mean, you’ve never ______? What kind of childhood did you have, anyway?”) It’s knowing when to back down and when to stand ground. It’s making the effort to stay calm even when upset, and knowing when to apologize.

It’s seeing the look in his eyes and not being able to put into words how it makes me feel. It’s cuddling on the sofa or the bed at night, and knowing where to find him when I have nightmares.

It’s having completely separate days sometimes, and still being able to come back at night to just be content with each other.

It’s feeling attractive whether in pajamas with floofy sleep-hair, or all dolled up for work or an outing.

It’s reminding about a shirt tuck-in or a hair combing. It’s asking him which scarf would go better with my top because he’s Mr. Visual Aesthetics and I’m… not.

It’s knowing that neither of us is perfect, and sometimes getting annoyed at the other’s quirks, but maintaining that we’d still have each other no other way.

It’s feeling totally safe and totally at ease and just plain at home. It’s trusting in our love.

It’s giving music I didn’t think I’d like a try, and giving my honest opinion when I don’t. It’s reading too much into media sometimes, and the conversations that come from that.

It’s that silent confirmation that yes, sometimes I do sound exactly like this or that relative.

It’s sometimes stepping back and going “What the hell are we doing?” and very swiftly answering that with “Enjoying life together.”

It’s finding out something new about him and going “How did I not know this before?”

It’s so very simple that it’s in everything. Some time ago, the fiancé’s younger brother said he had a relationship question for us.

“Who kills the spiders in your relationship?”

The answer we gave is that neither of us do (well, unless we were to find a poisonous one or something), but that whoever finds it traps it and sets it free. It’s what works for us. But it might not work for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t force the fiancé to trap and release spiders if he had a crippling fear of them. But, all things being equal on the fear front, whoever finds it deals with it.

And I guess that’s the biggest thing: this is an equal partnership. Maybe not an even one—maybe one of us does more of the cooking or cleaning, and maybe the other shops for groceries more or something. But we complement each other. I’d like to think that we’re each whole on our own, and that together, we’re something more than that.

What I do know is at the end of the day, we are two people making our way through this crazy, unpredictable, funny, scary world together (but not just on our own!), and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chickadoodle’s Life is Average

The boyfriend recently went in for a patch test. The whys and wherefores are a long story, and not a particularly pleasant one at that, so I’ll skip that bit.

If you’ve never had one, patch tests aren’t pleasant things in and of themselves. You get large strips with various patches of common allergens (not food allergens, by and large, because this is more of a contact-allergy thing) stuck on your back. For two days, you can’t shower—sponge bathing is allowed, though—twist your torso, or even really bend over or backward all that much. It’s a good way to practice your posture. And end up with sore shoulders. All of this and more, the boyfriend bore with much fortitude. He’s cool like that.

But the fun doesn’t stop there; no sir! For another 5 days after the patches are removed, you need to make sure the outlines of the patches stay well-drawn, and you need to monitor your back for any changes. As we kinda only live together, the task fell to me. I accepted it with much dignity, probably rather more than it was due, but it was kind of fun to have something to take so seriously.

Now, something else one is not supposed to do is get very sweaty, especially while the patches are applied, but this holds true somewhat even after the patches are removed. Sweat has a funny way of eating through permanent marker and ruining adhesive and carrying allergens around on skin. Being that it’s been rather warmer than we’re used to lately, and our apartment very much lacks for air conditioning, this one’s been a little tricky.

The first night, after a day when it hit roughly 10 degrees above the norm (I admit it, I’m a wimp. Temperature hits about 80, and I just want to shut down.), it was the first time to see what sort of damage had been done. The boyfriend readied himself, and a lesser girlfriend might have been overcome with passion by the loveliness that is the boyfriend’s torso, but I would not be so easily swayed. (Okay, I may have looked longer than strictly necessary. But are you really going to tell me I’m not allowed?) First things first: make back less sweaty. Thankfully, I do have a fan.

After cooling him down for a few minutes, I re-drew the markings to indicate where the tests had been, careful to stay as on the lines as possible. The fact that he (unfortunately) seems to be reacting to a few things was helpful. He asked me to take pictures (my pleasure, really!), and to diagram the spots so that we both knew where things might be reacting. While there is really only one orientation to the diagram that makes sense, I am known for a bit of a wicked sense of humor, and labeled down with “your arse” juuuuust to be sure.

It’s a few days in, and so far, things look okay. No nasty, oozing, itching, burning reactions yet, which is a pretty good sign, I’d say. Though it does leave me to wonder what caused this in the first place…

Well, we shall see in another few days. If nothing else, this is one of those moments in a relationship—whether it’s a romantic one or not—that you realize just how accustomed you are to having that person around and how relaxed you are around them.

In other news, I’m finally not breaking stuff at work! Well, at least, it’s not totally my fault… It took my mentor and 2 other SDEs (and a lot of laughing) to figure out where I was going wrong. At one point, my mentor saw the issue and said, “Why did you put that? It’s supposed to be this!”

I came back with a “That’s what you told me to use!”

He actually had to go check his computer to see the ping he’d sent me. I was right. The other two SDEs couldn’t hold back their laughter, and neither could we for that matter.

Now that work’s going much better, I’m almost excited at the beginning of the day. Almost.

What can I say? My life is average.

I think that’s why I love it.

Chickadoodle’s guide to communication

Long about a year into my relationship with the boyfriend, I started getting the comments.

“Chickadoodle, your relationship is perfect!” (Me, thinking: It’s pretty damn good, but I wouldn’t say perfect. Perfection is boring, anyway.)

“Chickadoodle, you and the boyfriend get along so well!” (I’d hope so. Kinda hard to have a good relationship when you don’t get along with the person you’re in it with…)

“Chickadoodle, how can I make my relationship more like yours?”

Okay, not really on that last one.

But really, I’ve gotten “How do you do it?” quite a lot.

The answer is, like most good relationships, communication.

We communicate frequently, and we communicate well.

So, here’s a how-to. It’s not hard and fast, but it’s worked well so far.

0. Let’s start from the beginning.

1. Do you talk at all? (Yes—proceed to 2. No—Repeat the question until Yes.)

2. Do you talk about things that make each other happy? (Yes—proceed to 3. No—Go back to 0.)

3. Do you talk about things that might potentially upset the other person? (Yes—proceed to 4. No—Go back to 2.)

4. Do you handle upset well? (Yes—proceed to 7. No—Proceed to 5.)

5. Does not handling it result in all-out screaming matches or violence? (Yes—Rethink your relationship! No—Proceed to 6.)

6. Does not handling it well result in the silent treatment? (Yes—Go back to 1. No—Proceed to 7.)

7. So, you probably handle upset well enough. Same with actual conflict? (Yes—Proceed to 8. No—Go back to 5.)

8. Good! This is good! Do you talk about deep things, like your feelings, dreams, desires, etc.? (Yes—Proceed to 9. No—Repeat until Yes.)

9. I have nothing left to tell you.

Well, it’s really not that simple. There are nuances. But you get the idea. If you can’t get the basic stuff down though—and treating anyone, but especially your partner with respect should be quite the no-brainer—well, maybe you want to work on that. Humans are social animals, communicative ones, even.

So… yeah. Not really that talkative tonight, strangely enough. There you have it. Chickadoodle’s guide to communication.

Weird keeps us together

The boyfriend and I have some pretty weird (or at least random) conversations, as evidenced by “What’s Your Slug Doing?” In fact, something weird slipping into almost every conversation is the norm for us.

Take, for example, the mantis shrimp. It’s a pretty awesome critter, and, if The Oatmeal is to be believed, pretty terrifying. I want one. The boyfriend knows this, and yet, for some reason, he insists that this is not a good idea; something about how it can (among other things) break aquarium glass. I told him I’d be careful with it—I’d wrap its scary bits in, like, diamond or something and feed it by hand. He said that it wasn’t me he was worried about. Which is probably true, though I can be a bit of a klutz, myself. So maybe I can get a mantis shrimp plush or something—maybe a little glass figure. I’m sure such things exist.

There was a detour somewhere in there about how I would present the mantis shrimp much in the same way as those “It’s dangerous to go alone; take this!” moments, which led to Link (yes, of Legend of Zelda fame) smashing his way through everything with a mantis shrimp because they are just that badass. Despite all my tearful (My eyes were watering for some unrelated reason. They do that on occasion.) pleas, and all my awesome ideas, though, the answer still remains a very firm “no”. (Thankfully, my other pet requests trend towards normal: a corgi, a Maine coon cat, and a lionhead bunny. Bunnybunnybunny…)

On occasion, these pleas devolve entirely into some other nonsensical argument that eventually leads to utter ridiculousness. I think one of my favorite non-sequitur comebacks at the moment is “I EAT YOUR FACE!” I’ll leave it to your imagination just how that goes down.

Another slightly more playful one is “husky kisses”. If you’ve ever seen pictures of husky puppies, or seen them in action, you know that they love to nip each other’s muzzles. (Even if you have seen it, you should look at those pictures. SO CUTE.) If I recall correctly, this is actually a holdover behavior from wolves. I certainly don’t see this happen nearly as often with dogs that are less closely related to wolves, anyway. However, since humans don’t have the same sort of structure, the next best thing is clearly a nip on the nose, somewhere between a little peck of a kiss and “I EAT YOUR NOSE”.

After one of those happened, we somehow made the jump to the “insane sadistic psycho surgeon” from the boyfriend’s information ethics class. It was a pretty messed-up example taken to extremes, but it’s clear what the point was: pure hedonism is bad. (Because apparently, this is not entirely self-evident…)

So yeah, we’re weird, the boyfriend and I. It’s part of the attraction. It’s one of those things that makes our relationship (and, to be honest, most of my friendships) work. Being accepted for (or despite) all one’s flaws is astoundingly freeing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on them, but it does mean that we can have a lot of fun along the way.

What’s It All About?

There has been a recent bit of uproar over the arrest of Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old high school senior charged with various crimes because she has had sexual contact with a 14-year-old freshman from her high school.

The 14-year-old in question is female, and that’s where things get really hairy.

Statutory rape laws make it clear: this is not okay in the eyes of the law, whether we’re talking about a heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple. At 18, though still very much dependent on her parents for support, Kaitlyn is being prosecuted as an adult, and it doesn’t seem there is a Romeo and Juliet law to save her from serving time.

Kaitlyn and her parents argue that the motivations of the younger girl’s parents are rooted in their alleged belief that Kaitlyn “turned” their daughter gay. However, no proof of this seems to have surfaced (as of yet, anyway), but I can’t help but wonder: what sort of precedent will this case set?

Certainly, as I said, laws were broken. If you look strictly at the age, this is no different to the law than an 18-year-old male having sexual relations with his 14-year-old female girlfriend, nor is it different than the case of Mary Kay Letourneau. But would the parents be pressing charges if Kaitlyn was male? If their daughter was their son? If Kaitlyn was of a different race than their daughter? And what part would the media play in all of this if things were different?

These are really uncomfortable questions, but I think that they are necessary. While we can’t prove the younger girl’s parents’ motivations, knowing them would change so much about this case. Or maybe it wouldn’t, if they would choose to press charges against a male of the same age. (Their lawyer has made statements that seem to indicate this is the case, but we really can’t know. Maybe they are savvy parents just putting out there what they know popular opinion wants to here.)

The younger girl seems to be indicating that their relationship was entirely consensual, and I can believe that. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in high school, and while I saw my share of dysfunctional senior-freshman relationships, there were a few that worked out just fine, too. At fourteen, some kids think they’re ready. Their bodies, if they are going through or done with puberty are certainly telling them that they are. I can’t be the judge of who is and is not ready, though. What I can say is that, under the eyes of the law, at least in the U.S., if you are under the age of consent, whether you are consenting doesn’t matter. The law assumes you don’t know better, or that you may feel threatened, or any number of other things that would make your consent void even if you were over the age of consent. Honestly, I’d rather have the law assume that, though, because there are a lot of coercive or forced relationships concerning kids who don’t think that they can escape, and that’s definitely not okay.

But, at the same time, I’d hardly consider Kaitlyn an adult. She is still very much dependent on her family for all support, and society doesn’t really expect her to be otherwise. I know I didn’t feel much like an adult at 18. No magical transformation happens overnight and suddenly WHAM! You can walk the walk and talk the talk and automatically lose all interest in anyone who isn’t an adult, so I doubt Hunt is a predator. I doubt she gave more than a passing thought to the “I’m over 18 and she’s not” factor because this is a high school relationship.

At this point, it seems like Hunt has given up. She’s not giving slimy-sounding protestations of how her girlfriend wanted it and acting smooth. She is acting traumatized, and I don’t think this is a façade. I thinks she is terrified, both for her own future and for the precedent that this might set if the younger girl’s parents’ motivation is homophobia: what sort of standard could that set for future cases concerning homosexual couples in high school?

However, I don’t know Hunt personally, and it seems like the media is polarized between keeping this case hush-hush (for whatever reason) and giving it all the attention it can get. It seems to be kept relatively quiet where I am, and so I haven’t seen or heard much in the way of testimony from the girls’ friends and teachers, which would probably shed more light on the situation.

The law is very cut-and-dry, very one-size-fits-all. It has to be, because there are a lot of cases that really are as simple as they seem. But we also need to examine individual cases. While none of us is free of personal bias (I’d bet that someone somewhere thinks Kaitlyn turned the girl gay, even if the girl’s parents don’t, and that saddens me.), it is worth making sure that things are the way they appear, no matter who’s involved.

One thing is clear to me: Kaitlyn and the younger girl screwed up. (Pun not intended.) They engaged in a relationship widely known to be illegal because it was sexual in nature, but it doesn’t seem that any harm was intended by it. Because of that, I’m not sure that the severity of the current penalties Kaitlyn faces is entirely warranted, and I’d be just as unsure if Kaitlyn was male. In my opinion, discounting any speculation about homosexuality, this case boils down to parents not liking the fact that there are teens out there who are having sex, whether they’re ready for it or not. That’s totally understandable. But I think we may need to start re-thinking consent laws around relationships that occur while both parties are in high school.

I’m not saying that we should just abandon all hope and flat-out encourage high schoolers to have sex; I’d say that a lot of them really aren’t ready in one way or another, and given the consequences sex can have (no matter the genders of the people engaging in it), kids really do need to be educated, and, in a lot of cases, strongly encouraged to hold off. And definitely told what’s what about coercion and consent. But that’s exactly the tricky crux of this case: How do we prove that this younger girl was or was not ready? How can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s telling the truth when she says she wasn’t coerced? If we could know these things with absolutely no doubt, that would set this case to rest, in my opinion, but we can’t, and so we need to figure out what the next best thing is. I’ll be honest: I don’t know what that would be, but I’m all for looking at options so that cases can be handled properly.

My boyfriend is not Mr. 300 Roses*, and I’m just fine with that

*Title refers somewhat obscurely to the South Korean drama Hotelier. Yes, I watch K-drama on occasion. Yes, you can make fun of me for it.

WARNING: The following post is one of those “crown freakin’ princess of snark” posts. Let it be known that this is what you get when you imply a lack of lavish gifts means my boyfriend isn’t worth it.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of comments from strangers on a necklace the boyfriend gave me for my birthday a couple years ago. Most of these exchanges go something like this:

Stranger: That’s a really pretty necklace!

Me: Oh, thanks!

Stranger: Where did you get it?

Me: My boyfriend made it for me.

Stranger: (in awe) He made it?

Me: Well, he didn’t stand over a forge or anything, but he picked out all the pieces and put it together himself.

Stranger: (looks slightly disappointed, slightly pitying) Oh.

In fact, a little while ago, I got an “Oh, yeah, you can get that charm anywhere.” Her tone and facial expression made her implications clear: my boyfriend doesn’t care about me though he got me a charm that means something to me, just because it’s mass-produced.

I’m sorry, ladies. I’m sorry that I’m forcing you to feel frustration that I won’t let myself feel, because clearly, this is something that upsets me. I’m sorry that my boyfriend is not giving me my due, that he doesn’t regularly buy me expensive jewelry and a dozen roses every three days so that they stay fresh. I’m sorry that I suffer this in silence, wearing a token of affection just to make him happy while clearly burning with shame on the inside.

Oh wait, no, I’m not.

You know, I really don’t give a damn. My boyfriend has much better things to do than stand over a forge for hours, let alone become a metal smith in the first place. He picked out the components of this necklace with me in mind, and that’s all that matters. Hell, I don’t really like expensive gifts. I’m always scared I’m going to lose or break them, so what use are they to me?

My boyfriend takes the time to figure out what gifts I want. It doesn’t matter how inexpensive they are—what matters is that he puts his heart into it, and I’d rather have something meaningful over something expensive any day.

I love this necklace. I love that the clasp is impractical and that it tries to fall off almost every time I wear it. I love that it gets stuck in my hair. I love that it’s silver and not gold. I love the pendant. I love that it’s not ostentatious. I love that, by keeping it close to my heart, I can keep my boyfriend close to my heart.

And, in my own incredibly snarky, self-serving, and quite likely more than slightly delusional way, I love feeling like our relationship is so awesome that some people just don’t get it.