Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Orifice-Count

Well our little shih tzu fell through - not literally. But we're really on it now. Bets and I visited a shelter yesterday and will keep going back until we've found another dependent creature to take into our lives.

I have so screwed up this week, the final week of Betsy's vacation, juggling the work/childcare conundrum. It took me, Lucy, and a babysitter just to survive Monday and Tuesday and today will be a total mess of working from home and plugging Bets into videos and then scooting her off to work with Faith for a couple hours. We're off to NY tomorrow and it didn't even cross my mind until yesterday afternoon I had not arranged for a kitty sitter.

I 'm going to bring a dog into the mix?

I think I just need to surrender. I need to realize the days when it all goes as planned and I have covered every base are the exceptions. Mostly life with a small child is like this: unruly. Maybe a dog will help by pushing me over that edge. Maybe I should get a ferret and a hamster too. Then I will have no chance to assume I am an autonomous being.

Which brings me to the next chapter in the Lesbian Divorce: Whattup? series, and that is Kids: You Can't Live With Them and You Can't Live Without Them.

A good friend and I were having dinner last night. This friend is a psychologist and we were talking about sex. Without having heard me tell about the Bunny Syndrome she suggested one of the biggest most giant pitfalls of any marriage as far as she can tell are the childrearing years when couples - gay and straight - slip away from being two separate people and come closer to being siblings. That's when sex pretty much dries up.

Kids demand of you so much time and energy and constant negotiating, a marriage can become more like a small business. Each parent's needs are put aside in order not to rock the delicate balance of a boat that is barely above water what with tuition costs, karate classes, day camp, after school, soccer games, ADHD, teen angst, colic, and the family pet(s). It's easier to just go into battle mode and lose yourself. And if you're all merged out with your partner, or feeling like you're in business together, or focused solely on your children, then sex is usually the first casualty.

But you have your marriage certificate, your parents, your friends, your government, clergy, your children's school to support you. There are infinite books about you and your family and your marriage to guide you.

Imagine if there weren't. Imagine if on top of the supreme amount of effort it took to raise a family you had no legal support, very little emotional support, and some school systems didn't want you. Imagine if - thanks to the sexism of the dollar - as well as you and your partner's compulsive need to do any work but that in finance and real estate development you also had limited financial resources.

Then imagine your relationship faltered. Imagine you stopped having sex, you and your same-sex partner. Would any one care? Imagine you were at risk of splitting. Would the world gather to help you survive? Would your family?

There is just so little support for lesbian families even here in the bastion that is liberal Boston. Venture around the block from a cozy two-family home with lesbian families up and down and you find 17 families who would prefer those families did not exist.

It's hard to stay together.

It's hard to stay together.

And for those who have, mazel tov. Hold tight, if it's right.

Sometimes relationships are meant to come apart. But that is another story, nothing to do with gender or the orifice count within a household.

That's how I have come to think of gay vs. straight households: the orifice-count is different.

Otherwise what plagues us and brings us joy is pretty much the same as far as I can tell. It's only the context within which we exist that is so different and which has the power to knock us off our feet.

I leave you with this riddle: What is a shih tzu in a bath?

A cat.


Ms. Moon said...

Another great post. Listen- as the mother of four I think that if there was one thing that has kept my husband and me together as a couple is remembering that the most important relationship in the house is OURS. Yes, of course, the kids will always come first in many ways, but the very bond that makes it all work is that of the parents, which includes SEX.
For us, a weekly going-out-together date was incredibly helpful.

word to your mother(s) said...

Your “Lesbian Divorce: Whattup?” series is striking on many levels. My partner and I had a delightful discussion on a competent spouse topic, equity of household responsibilities, just the other day!

Having a successful relationship and building children into the equation is hard work, nevermind adding pets. Are people still shocked that the heterosexual divorce rate teeters around fifty percent? Yet, I find that in our same-sex household there is also this frustration or resentment that tends to build up over time regarding the struggle for equality in all facets of our lives. We grapple with homophobic work environments and society in general (my partner cannot be out in her job), acceptance/alienation from our families, and all of the legal quagmires and uncertainty we have to consider when making simple decisions (i.e., how will moving to another city or state affect the rights we currently have as a family, what healthcare provider will make us feel comfortable and/or treat us, and on and on). Frankly, it’s tiring.

When I talk with my straight friends in this area, they tend to take a lot of issues that I have to be cognizant of on a daily basis for granted. When I bring this to their attention, their reply is along the lines that these matters are inherent in their expectations as a couple, so of course they don’t consider them. For us, though, it’s an added layer of muck. Yep, it’s hard to stay together, especially when the orifice count is balanced.

Anonymous said...

the first time Klove and I added a child to our family we very much felt as if no one would really care all that much if we managed to get through it and stay together. In fact, from many of the lesbians around us, it seemed a given that I would take off. That was fun. And then we live in a state where all the child/family laws are predicated on the assumption that a lesbian bio-mother is deluded and will, sooner or later, wake up and go find a father for her child. So, you know, the state has a vested interest in making that a proba -- oops-- possibility for her.

So there's no one to turn to when you need to talk about the rough parts of your relationship. I know that I didn't turn to anyone when it felt like things were falling apart, I could have used an outside opinion, or some fresh perspective, but knew I couldn't trust many of the people around me to provide that.

This time, based on what happened last time, we've been consciously creating a network of people who support our relationship completely. I think it's really going to help us stay happier this time.

kingkong said...

I do not have kids, but I have friends who had an interesting approach to child-rearing. At 9 p.m. each evening, the couple went into the bedroom and shut the door. The child was not allowed to enter or knock or bother them. When he was about 8 years old, they taught him to set his alarm and get up for school, pour his own cereal, make a sandwich and head out. Don't wake us up, please. While they loved their kid, they thought it was really important that the parents team up against the child, to form an alliance that the kid could not interfere with. The child grew up to be a wonderful well-adjusted adult, and the couple is still going strong. I'm not sure I could have pulled this off, as I am the doting type, but it worked great for them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, there's gotta be something in between the bunny syndrome and the you-will-never-enter-after-9pm mandate. i'm hope the kid is well-adjusted enough not to repeat that system.

Anonymous said...

Like ms. moon said, ours is the most important relationship in the house. We've been together 13 years, 2 kids, live in 'burbs. Early on learned we were in trouble big if we did not have a date each week. We rely on sitters, grandparents, friends, other parents and it is as important as school, baths, the dentist. Sometimes we go to a hotel, sometimes the kids go elsewhere and we try to ignore housework. If we do not have privacy, sex, time alone we are lost to each other. Then everyone loses.
I think women are taught we should be all for our children and not taught to express desire, passion. We leave that to men. i want to know my spouse wants me, feels passion and I like knowing I feel that way about her. We express it when we are alone and when we are around others (obviously with moderation). We want our children to know we love each other, to see us being loving every day so they know what to expect, how to give, that love is good. And I want her to feel and know as much love as I can give her always.
If we let ourselves lose that what's the point?Our friends who have divorced/split up - gay and straight - lost it. sometimes it's clear they were going to, they were not right for each other. but we could have been there too if we had not rearranged it.
also, we have 2 labs. great dogs but a lot of work when they are young.

Anonymous said...

Are you not benefiting from the pink economy or us we refer to it over here the pink pound!!

Are You My Mothers said...

Thank you everyone for such thoughtful comments. It is essential to hear everyone's stories when navigating your own.

Seda said...

What Ms. moon said. You're right about support. It's so needed, but our patriarchal and economic systems both work to weaken family support. That dis-support is mitigated by social and cultural norms for different-sex couples.

It's even tougher when you change the orifice count in midstream. If it weren't for NVC (, we'd have split bitterly long ago.

Wishing you the best,

elswhere said...

One of my favorite quotes about this phenomenon is from the movie "Before Sunset," in which the Ethan Hawke character is describing his marriage and he says something along the lines of: "It's sort of like I'm running a very, very small day care center with someone I used to date."

Um, yeah. It can be like that.

Thanks for this series. It's giving me a lot to think about.