Irreverent Mama

Friday, April 08, 2011

I had a birthday a while back. A milestone birthday, in that it ended with a zero.

So today I was heating water to make a cup of tea. As the water heated, I moved quickly through the house to find my cup, so I could drop another teabag into it. I had to be quick, because I'd set the microwave for a minute, and I wanted to have my cup ready when it beeped. I knew which cup I'd been using all morning... but it wasn't in any of the usual spots.

Bah. Hell with it. I got a clean cup and dropped a tea-bag in, just as the microwave beeped. (Timing!!)

And when I opened the microwave door...

there was the cup I'd been looking for.

Full of tea. Hot tea. A full cup of tea, which I'd been re-heating, as I'd left it steeping on the stovetop a little too long, and it had gotten a little cooler than I prefer.

Steeping, because I'd made it, as I always do, with an electric kettle. I have never once made tea in a microwave. Not only is it an enormous waste of energy to boil water in one of those things, the times I've drunk tea made this way at someone else's home, it makes the tea taste weird.

(Yes, it does. Does too.)

But in my addled and distracted, soon-to-be-senile, post-milestone brain, I'd managed to morph "re-heating tea in mug in microwave" to "preparing fresh cup of tea in kettle".


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Friday, January 07, 2011

As we relax and chat round the dining table after dinner, our dinner guest rather abruptly rises and plucks a book from the shelf. Riffles through its pages and then says, nodding at the rainbow on the wall, made by myself and some neighbour children, "You might want to double-check that." He grins, quite clearly very pleased with himself.

He's right. The rainbow is disordered: red, blue, purple, green yellow, instead of the correct Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. In part a result of inadequate hues of construction paper, but mostly of disinterest in stopping production to look it up. I have since double-checked. I know it's wrong. I could fix it... but then it wouldn't be the children's work any more, would it? I said the latter to him, mildly, then changed the subject.

You know what?

If you have to look it up before you're sure enough of your facts to correct someone, perhaps you should reconsider the correction in the first place. And there are better ways to say "Thanks for the lovely meal" than to show up your host.

Pretentious nit. See if I invite you to dinner again.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

At a Christmas potluck last night, Matthew points to one dish among the many crammed onto the long table, groaning under its calorie-rich burden. It's a colourful dish, dark green and white, aromatic with curry and ginger.

"Look, dear. You should have some of that. It looks like just your kind of thing."

"You called that one right, love... It's the one I brought."

I love that man.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading "The Bride Stripped Bare", in which it seems that the protagonist is about to embark on an affair, in retaliation for the affair she believes her husband to have been having with her best friend.

While it was clear that the marriage was flawed before this crisis, she seemed blithely unaware. It is his infidelity (assumed or actual, we're not sure) which triggers her affair (and, according to the dust jacket, her ensuing sensual/sexual awakening; I haven't gotten that far yet).

A retaliation affair? Though not the most laudable of human impulses, "He did it first" serves to make her infidelity, if not entirely justifiable, at least comprehensible, even sympathetic.

But what of those who have affairs simply because... they want to? There is no great flaw in their marriage, there is no lack of love, there is no betrayal, nor even particular boredom. But, lovely, loved, and appreciated as a spouse may be, a new body, a new person, a new set of responses is passionately intriguing, fascinating. Unfair though it undeniably is, a new person is simply more exciting, at least in the short term, than the person you've been lovingfuckingbedding for ten, fifteen, twenty or more years.

A book which purported to reveal the deepest secrets of the role of wife turns out to be no more than a tale of a bog-standard retaliation affair.


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Sunday, February 07, 2010


No, not a nasty website nor some sort of spam aspiring to induct me into the marvels of barely-legal playthings, but a title on the front cover of that mostly sensible publication, Brain, Child.

So of course I bought it.

Not because I'm interested in sex. Though I manifestly am. Not because I'm intrigued by teen sex, because I'm not, particularly.

But I do have three children, the youngest of whom is still a teen. They're all sexually active.

Though I have never -- since my own teenage years, at any rate -- had any moral qualms about premarital sex, nor about sex, at least for older teens, being a mother has taught me that it is one thing entirely to have an intellectual stance on teenage sex, and quite another to have it happening under one's own roof.

My first must've picked that up out of the ether, because, though we never talked about the possibility of her bringing a boyfriend home, she never did. At least, not when I was in the house. When my son became sexually active, roughly four years after his sister, it did happen in the house. Discreetly, not too often, but definitely under my roof. The girlfriend was slipped into his basement bedroom after I was in bed, and slipped out again early in the morning.

I knew it was happening, of course, but opted not to say anything because:
- he was being duly respectful of my comfort level (and probably his own) by behaving in such a way that I could pretend it wasn't happening
- the girlfriend was a lovely young woman and their relationship was respectful and positive.

It was a matter of personal honesty, of putting my money, as it were, where my mouth is, of behaving in keeping with my principles. If I am not opposed to pre-marital sex, so long as it's positive, loving, respectful and mutually desired, then how could I espouse the familiar "not under MY roof, young man/woman!" strategy? That just smacks of a distinct lack of parental integrity.

Okay, I know I can't take the high road here on my parental integrity. Pretending it wasn't happening is a weaselly way around the dilemma. You learn as you go in parenting, and at this point, though I felt a bit sheepish about my less than 100% integrity, I was grateful to my son for allowing me the out.

And really, though in a very real way I would like to have done so, I could not think of one good reason to prohibit it. "You can't because it's gross!" is not a good reason, and thank God for that. My youngest still thinks it's a bit gross that I have a sex life. I'd have gone decades without. DECADES, I tell you, and I wouldn't have one yet.

My youngest child has pushed the envelope still further by entertaining her boyfriend in her room while I am awake and around the house. When he spent a few days with us over Christmas, they forgot to close the guest room door, making it abundantly clear he had not spent even a small portion of the night in that room.

They are reasonable about it. They don't kiss at the door and scamper direct upstairs to entertain the household with groans and giggles and rhythmic squeaking of bedsprings. They visit with Matthew in the living room, they chat with me in the kitchen, they do homework at the dining room table. And then sometimes, but not always, they head to her room and close the door. Sometimes the conversation continues in her room, unabated for hours, and sometimes it gets very, very quiet.

And, while I am mostly at peace with this -- he is a fine young man, intelligent and kind, sensitive, respectful, interesting -- there is still that squeamishness. And I wonder about it. Not many of my friends know my position on this, and of those who do, not all approve.

"I would never let them have sex in the house! That's like condoning it."

Well, I guess I do condone it, don't I? I don't think it's morally wrong unless it's coercive or abusive. I don't believe that teen sex is by definition damaging. I don't believe that virginity should be saved for marriage. I do believe that sex is best experienced between people who care for each other... and that is what is happening here.

So why, I wonder, the squeamishness? I don't let my emotions call the shots, but I do respect their input. Does the squeamishness indicate there's some important factor my brain has missed that my emotions and subconscious are trying to push me to see?

So I bought the magazine, hoping for some insight.

The article proved to be a debate, with one essay on the "Yes", and one essay on the "No". I was particularly hoping for insight from the "No" side, some clarification of the reasons behind my reluctance, some explanation of the ick response.

I didn't find it there. Instead, the arguments on the "Yes" side all rang true, while those on the "No" side were not compelling at all.

On the "Yes" side, I particularly liked this: "I sometimes want to ask those of my friends who know their kids are having sex but who don't want it to happen in their house ... Do they really think it's wise or helpful to add the burden of furtiveness and guilt to something that might be emotionally complex enough as it is?"

To which I would add: and if your teen knows you have that degree of discomfort with it, are they likely to come to you with any problems that may arise? Or have you, by catering to your squeamishness, proven yourself unworthy of their trust? Are you letting your children swim those waters without the security of your safe harbour?

And on the "No" side? The author argued that letting it happen in the house removed layers of mystery and stripped your child of their rightful privacy. To which I respond, Um, no. Unless you're in the room with them, they have as much privacy as you do when you have sex with your spouse.

The argument that carried the least weight though, was this:

The author, as a child, had overheard her aunt and mother in conversation. "'I'm bored by sex... It was so much more fun when we did it secretly in our folks' basement.' And she swept her hand around her room in a dismissive way to indicate that her queen-sized bed was a total downer."

Wait, now. You were forced into furtive sex as a teen, and so marital sex has no spice. And this is supposed to be an argument in favour of prohibiting sex in your home -- i.e., making it more furtive? If you're going to draw any conclusions from that single example, the more obvious one would be that if you'd been allowed to have legitimate sex as a teen, your legitimate adult sex would be equally intense.

Or, as my husband noted, "If she believes that, then what she's really saying is that the 'not under MY roof!' school of parenting is precisely calibrated to not just make sex more attractive to teens, but, when they have it, actually better. What she should be saying is 'if you really want to take the pizazz out of teen sex, make it legitimate'."

It was the "Yes" writer who gave me the insight I was seeking, when she wrote,
Don't get me wrong. I understand that there's a fairly hefty 'ick factor' here. About the only thing more uncomfortable than imagining your own parents' sex lives has to be imagining your children's.

It was the juxtaposition of the idea of your parents' sex lives with that of your children's that gave me the key. The 'ick factor', I suddenly realized, is nothing more (nor less) than the incest taboo -- a highly useful, profoundly ingrained, social pressure that prevents us from wishing to have sex with either our parents (ew!) or our children (ew! ew! EW!). Because incest is bad for the gene pool, because it is bad for the propogation the species, because it increases the likelihood of birth defects, and because, well, ICK!

So, no, we don't like to be made too aware of the sex lives of our close relatives. But that is not because it's morally wrong for them to be having sex, only that it would be wrong for us to be having sex with them.

Allowing my child to have sex in the privacy of her room with a young man who treats her very well is not "involved" in her sex life, any more than she is "involved" in mine when her stepfather and I have sex in our room down the hall from hers. And so, powerful though it is, the incest taboo is irrelevant. It does not apply. It can be ignored.

I was thinking I might come to a different conclusion when I picked up that magazine... but I'm happy to have resolved that one last niggling uncertainty.

Yes, I let my teens have sex in my house. And no, that doesn't bother me.

Yeah, I'm a little surprised, myself.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"I recommend... walking around naked in your living room..."

"Thanks, Alanis. I'll do that." It seems that at sixteen, Emma approves of in-home naturism. "Though it would help," she muses, "if you lived alone."

"I'll say. It's happened now and then that Matthew and I will be sure we have the house to ourselves for a while, and decide to make out downstairs, and then someone will knock on the door. Last time, we had just -- just -- gotten back upstairs when Alex (her youngest stepbrother) walked right in the front door."

Emma blinks. "Alex? When was that?"

"Last weekend."

"Ew! I'm not sitting on that couch any more, ever again!"

Mwah-ha. Teenagers are so predictable sometimes. And what is the point of having these predictable, so-conservative bodies around if you can't push their buttons, just a bit? I grin at her.

"How do you know it was the couch? How do you know we didn't use the dining table?"

"EW! You DIDN'T!"

I let my grin grow wider.


She pauses mid-gross-out as the initial revulsion fades and a different thought strikes her. "But at least wood wipes up better than upholstery. I don't have to worry about sticking my elbow in the wet spot."

She grins back as I shout with laughter.

Yup, she's her mother's daughter.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

My step-son is getting married next fall.
At the ripe old age of twenty-one.
To the girl he's been dating since he was fifteen.
A stable sort, my step-son. A good boy man.

Their marriage will probably be fine. Two worthy, if unimaginative, sorts doing what is right and necessary day by day, with enough good will and mutual respect to keep it going in a companionable way. For years. They may not be burning up the world with passion, but they're solid, kindly, grounded.

I am dreading the wedding.

Just dreading it.

Where shall I start?

With the ex-wife's alcoholic dad? No, not likely to be a problem, since when he's in his cups he (reputably, I've never met the man) gets quiet.

Unlike the ex-wife's mother, who, when in her cups gets loud and aggressive. Usually the aggression is directed against her husband. (Hence his quiet retreat to the friendly haze of alcohol, one surmises.)

Though of course, knowing the conservative bent of the happy couple, the reception could well be dry. Where will that leave them?

With the ex-wife? Maybe. She's been known to go off the deep end at weddings, but since she's recently remarried and, so we hear, very happy, perhaps her general good feeling about life will translate to good behaviour. It may, however, translate to too much bonhomie -- barbed, of course -- directed our way. This has been known to happen, and it is not comfortable. She is a woman who, if I saw her on a bus, I'd sit as far from as possible, fearing the possibility of a loud an inappropriate conversation.

She usually delivers.

So there's that.

It could be the ex-wife's SIL, who hates, hates, hates my husband. Because he was supposed to be a failure, and he didn't fail. Instead, by her standards, she did. Unhappy marriage, stalled career, no publications, no children. And she, like all the womenfolk in her family, is loud and aggressive.

Then there's the ex-wife's brother, who, unlike his dad, gets loud and aggressive when in his cups.

There's my eldest step-daughter, who has very little control over her tongue or her temper. Less when she's drunk. Which is mostly. She also hates her dad. We're not quite sure why. Even her siblings are not sure why. Apparently, he 'ruined her life'. Her ruined life has nothing to do with the alcohol, or course, nor of her chronic abuse of her mild-mannered boyfriend. (Verbal, emotional, and physical. She's a big girl.) When she's angry, which is mostly when she's drunk (which is mostly), she is not just loud, she SCREAMS. She can be heard blocks away.

God, I hope it's a dry reception!

And all those people? The ones who like being angry, who rage and scream, make barbed comments, delight in unkindnesses small and large?

They loathe my husband, for divorcing their daughter/sister/mother. Even though it's been 15 years. Even though she's much happier now. Because they like to have someone to loathe. Pouring contempt on people is fun, fun, fun.

And me? They've never met me, but I hear, through the endlessly un-self-censored grapevine of my step-children, that they hate me. They're curious about the bitch "he" ended up with, the one who (despite the year and a half gap) "broke up" their daughter/sister's "perfectly good" marriage.

Oh, goody.

"Bracing" does not begin to describe what I'll need to get through this ordeal.


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