12.29.2008

Wait-Time

As a middle school teacher, I asked questions—lots of them—to keep my students engaged. It’s a tougher task than it sounds; you’re never quite sure what your hormone-charged students will say—or if they will say anything at all. One valuable trick I learned to make sure my pseudo-Socratic method worked was called “wait-time.” I would ask a question, and then—the impossible—I’d wait. I’d stand there, watching an ocean of blank or unreadable faces, letting a heavy silence flood the room, anticipating a wave of potentially wrong answers as seconds drip by one slow drop at a time: Did they understand my question? Are they following along? Am I teaching the best that I can? Am I a travesty? Is this lesson a tragedy? Panic! At the Classroom.

Miraculously, at the end of the pause-that-would-last-forever (or ten Mississippi seconds, at the most), the Red Sea would part and reveal a hand in the air. If I was lucky, there might be two. And if I was doing my job, the student I would call on would be close to a right answer. Wait-time allowed my pupils to think and debate about possible responses while I recollected my thoughts about how to follow-up and lead the class. Ta-da: the fruits and labors of sitting—or standing—at the edge-of-your-seat without saying anything at all.

In the dating game, I’ve found a similar phenomenon: the wait-time between your date and your call, between your call and his call, between dates and dates later, between dates and nights and the bent knee proposal to forever. How long is too long? Or, perhaps more appropriately for an antsy and impatient guy like me who operates on five-year and ten-year plans, how soon is too soon?

You’d think it’d be easier when you don’t have thirty middle schoolers staring back at you. You’d think that because you’re an adult and you’re dealing with an adult, that these waiting periods would be less of a strategy and more a consequence of the busy bee lives we lead.

False. In dating, wait-time is a wait-game. It’s not fun, but it’s the rule; it’s a political move to be taken despite everything we say about love. That stuff about listening to your heart and then acting on it? Bullshit. If I listened to my heart, time would not be in the way of me and the people I want to date. My mind would draw unswervingly straight lines from thought A (“Wow, I really enjoyed hanging out with that guy”) to thought B (“I should ask him out again”) instead of tweedling over to paranoia-laden distractions like thought A.2 (“The ball’s in his court, so I’ll wait for his call”) or thought A.83765 (“I shouldn’t seem too excited, so I’ll wait exactly 48 hours”).

The wait-game is torture. Instead of doing what wait-time does in the classroom—giving students and teachers time to collect their thoughts into articulate arguments—all that the wait-game does is allow the butterflies in your stomach to multiply. Is it fair that they get to reproduce while you sit by your phone waiting for the chance to reproduce?

Throwing wrenches into an already sweaty situation is what I like to call the technological hierarchy. How much value should I place on a call versus a text? An email versus a text? An instant message versus an email? A Facebook poke versus a G-chat drop-in? Do waiting periods of non-communication differ depending on how I want to communicate with you next? Can I poke you two days after a date, or is it more efficacious to have a G-chat conversation after three days or a phone call after five days?

I’ve always felt like the wait-game has been detrimental for me. In my first dating experiences, I remember wanting to talk on instant messenger whenever I could; this stemmed out of a na├»ve understanding of love as togetherness—if not literally physical, then at the very least, conversationally. I soon learned that this was something called clinginess. I discovered that personal space and time was valued in the early phases of dating; love would be something to be planned around later on, but if you were just dating, you were supposed to let the tension between you and your eyed-one come to a slow boil. You couldn’t just jump into the deep end of a relationship; every cup of coffee or glass of beer you shared on a date was but a small contribution of water into a pool you had to fill. And you had to digest before attempting the next serving.

I’ve worked on this. In each of my relationships, I’ve tried to remind myself not to get too excited, not to always make the first moves, not to, as I desperately want to, wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve been told that the acceptable thing to do is to keep it in my chest where it belongs, under layer and layers of pretense called, “Getting to know you.” (Some people also wear alternative layers called “hooking up.”)

But if love were about chemistry, sparks, and connections that either are or are not, then why put yourself through the wait-game? To prove to yourself that these are feelings that last? To make that which is after the wait worth so much more? Why do we put these connections on hold instead of understanding that what will be will be—and still will be whether accessed now or later?

When I was a teacher, I knew exactly what I was gaining by waiting. As a dater, though, I’m lost for words to explain my purposeful word loss: what exactly do I get aside from lost time?


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First I’d like to apologize for not being around as much and missing my last few entries on this awesome blog. The majority of you don’t know but I’ve been living in Guatemala for 3 months learning Spanish at www.plqe.org which is an amazing school full of ex guerrillas and leftist politics that I suggest going to if you’re interested in learning Spanish. Suffice it to say my experience has been incredible and simultaneously solidified my political beliefs while expanding my desire to change the world in the very ugly and very blatant face of white patriarchal capitalist dominance.

The story of Guatemala is typical in Latin America and the people of Latin America, especially the women, pay for it the most. The short story is this: Guatemala was and is a country of indigenous Mayans and for several hundred years white people have been enslaving the people and raping the women and continue to do so to this day. I saw my first slave on the street here and I’m sure I’ve seen more without even realizing it. When I drive by the land in buses and see all the beautiful mountains and volcanoes and jungles and forests I also pass by coffee plantations where people work 15 hours a day for 3 dollars on land that US corporations stole from them and then forced them to work on. Many of them are slaves via indentured servitude. The last 50 years of hell here is quite literally the sole responsibility of the US. The government staged a coup and then put in motion a series of military dictators leading to what the UN now calls a genocide against the Maya of Guatemala. At this time the person who killed the most amount of Mayans still holds a place in government and while America continues to enslave and exploit the people here in Guatemala we do the same to ¨illegal¨ Guatemalans in the US and dare to blame them for their own actions while we drove them out of their own country through exploitation, murder, and rape. Slavery exists and I see it more now than I ever have and I hate American culture, the government, money, and corporate power more now than I ever have. But that´s not what I´m going to talk about.

What I am going to talk about is the story of my host family in Guatemala. Guatemala has largely been colonized culturally due to religion and its culture severely injured due to dictatorships. Every night I walk home from school I pass by evangelical churches where people are having seizures thinking God is talking to them. Misogyny is ever present due to the heavy control the church has over gender norms, women’s sexuality, the sanctity of marriage, contraception, abortion, etc. Condoms are evil, abortion is illegal, women are harassed and rape in the street in broad daylight, and the police and army all contribute to, not help, any of these problems. I, however, thought I was lucky in my experience here. I got a host family for the past 3 months that was my age, the wife 21 and the husband 25. They have a baby that is 8 months old and utterly adorable. My dad played Radiohead songs on his guitar and we took turns playing my Nintendo DS at night after talking for long periods of time about life and how much police suck. Everything was awesome until the first time they had an argument. My host mom left for a week and they got back together afterwards and I moved back in with them. My host dad’s mom apparently had been disrespecting and interfering with their marriage and my host dad wasn’t defending his wife to his mom. It was ongoing enough that one day she left for a week. When she came back I thought everything was going to be ok, I hadn’t realized due to the length of time I’d been there, the language barrier, and other things that their problems were much greater than some family feuding and I came to learn that had been the fifth time she had left.

A few weeks later I really started to find out was going on. My Spanish kept improving and I got closer and closer to them. They asked me to be the godfather to their baby because they liked me and respected me and wanted someone responsible to be a third parent to their child. It was definitely a great night and I was incredibly flattered.

After another bit of time my host mom left again for a couple days though this time she was just visiting her family. My host dad did not believe this and while she was gone spent the days complaining about her and saying how she wanted him to change and blah blah blah. At first I bought into some of what he was saying because, after all, men aren’t ALWAYS the problem (or so I thought ha haaa!!!). When my host mom came home everything seemed more or less ok but a day or two later I woke up and went into the living room and saw that their door was open. My host dad wasn’t around and I walked by the door and saw my host mom very obviously crying. I asked her what happened and she told me that my host dad, the guy who talks about revolution and changing the world and who plays music and is into art and has a new born baby girl, had hit her. At first I thought maybe I was just mistranslating because confusing things like that had happened before and made for hilarious stories. But no, I checked with her again, and I had heard correctly. I talked with her for a while and apparently the baby had fallen over and scratched and bumped her face. He blamed her, hit her, then left the house and called HER mom and told her that my host mom was a bad mother and hurt the baby. The baby fell by accident and nothing more.

So explain to me what the fuck is going on? I had no idea. After keeping her company longer and talking to her more my host dad came back home. I asked him to go for a walk with me. We got outside and began to talk. He complained and whined about how it’s not fair, how she wants him to be different and he doesn’t want to live with her and blah blah blah. I told him none of that matters, that he has to apologize to her for what he did, and that he’s wrong for it. He was saying she was immature and doesn’t talk to him and he started saying all this weird stuff like he TOLD her she wasn’t ready for a baby that she was too young and blah blah. So I told him why the hell would she want to talk to someone who hits her? We went back to the house and he left again. I spent the day with her running errands outside and I asked her if she wanted to have a talk about their problems with my girlfriend and I present to create a barrier and to make it more calm and she said yes if her husband wanted to. I spoke with her husband on the phone and he asked me where we were and I said we were out walking. He said that it wasn’t good for her to be out with the baby, the baby is fragile, she shouldn’t leave the house for that long, all in this weird controlling tone. It was very strange and I told him everything was fine that the baby was fine and she had to run an errand. I asked him if he wanted to talk with us all present that night and he said maybe the next day, but he didn’t really want to, that it was embarrassing. He told me he’d see me later that night or the next day.

My girlfriend and I kept her company that night and stayed over and made food and watched movies. We tried to be supportive and I think it worked fairly well but unfortunately my host dad came home drunk in the middle of the night and woke me up because he was in the kitchen. I was worried something would happen but I didn’t hear them fighting or any noise so I fell back asleep. In the morning I said bye to my host mom while my host dad slept and went to school. A couple hours later I got a call from my host mom crying saying she was leaving immediately to go to her family’s house. I told her to come meet me at the school. A couple hours later she came and told my girlfriend and I what happened.

Apparently when my host dad finally woke up they started arguing again and, while she was holding the baby, he hit and strangled her. Not only that but the night before he had asked her to sleep with him ¨one last time¨ before they got divorced. What the fuck is that shit??? I was fucking furious and I really couldn’t do anything except do whatever my host mom wanted. I was sure that he felt more comfortable hitting her while I wasn’t around which just made me want to beat the crap out of him more. Testosterone aside I had to help my host mom pack her bag for the baby so I went back to the house and stayed near her while she packed so she would feel safe while her husband, my former friend, awkwardly meandered around the house. The next day she came back and I helped her move out her furniture and everything else with her father, who doesn’t know what happened, just that they’re getting divorced, and her two younger siblings who also don’t know (her mom and her older female family members do).

Already he’s called her and told her he loves after demanding to both me and her that he wants to get separated immediately because he can’t take her any more. Oh and I forgot to mention that my host dad called her a prostitute and then called his mom to come over and call her a prostitute and tell my host mom that she was ruining her son’s life after he hit and strangled her. Also he apparently told her she wasn’t allowed to have friends once they got married – no fucking wonder she’d want to leave all the time to go home where she can TALK to people who aren’t fucking assholes. And he wonders why she didn’t want to talk to him!

It’s utterly insane how much things change. I never would have imagined any of this happening after first knowing them for a couple months. It’s horrifying how hidden serious problems like these can be. He’s already called me asking why I’m mad at him and I haven’t spoken to him since saying I didn’t want to talk to him. I visited my host mom with my girlfriend in her hometown and she is a lot happier. Part of her is still holding onto the belief that they might get back together after a while if he changes. I want to talk to her one last time before I leave and try as best I can in my non fluent but functional Spanish that he’s not going to change and he’s a fucking bastard who doesn’t deserve her or anyone and talk about feminism and that there are men who aren’t assholes. It’s hard to say all this due to the language barrier, the cultural barrier and the norm of men cheating and abusing their wives here in Guatemala. Would she even believe me? Every man she’s known has been an asshole, as far as I know I might be the only non asshole man she’s ever met. Her father cheated on her mother and her two younger siblings are kids of another man. The statistics about men in Guatemala make the US look like heaven in some ways. Which, consequently, is pathetic since we are largely responsible for a lot of the patriarchy entrenched in the culture here. All I can do is try and help her in any way I can.

So yeah, this has been one hell of a trip. Trying to help someone in a personal matter like this in a country and culture you only know a little in a language you’re learning to speak is extremely hard. But it’s just as interesting to see that the same problems and same themes exist pretty much exactly the same in other parts of the world and that people aren’t all that different anywhere. Sorry if I haven’t done that much analyzing in this post but I’m hoping the story speaks for itself and makes us all think about how to deal with things on such a personal level. If you have any suggestions or know of any books in Spanish I could buy for her about this sort of stuff please leave a comment. Thanks!

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It's Christmas! You know what that means!! BUY YOUR WOMAN JEWELRY OR YOU ARE A TERRIBLE BOYFRIEND/HUSBAND. (And it also means only heterosexual couples buy each other gifts in the world of mainstream TV commercials.)

Now, I enjoy jewelry. And my husband has gotten me a couple items of jewelry as gifts, and I certainly appreciated it. But holy crap, what kind of mindless idiots have worked on the marketing campaigns for mall-jewelers for the past ... well, forever. Their ads are offensively heteronormative and wastefully consumerist.

Click for some videos.



Funny satire:




Unfunny actual viral marketing from JCPenney:



Personally, I would not be offended if my husband got me a double bagged vacuum as a gift. But that's probably because he vacuums more than I do. Or if he got me RAM with a note that said "thanks for the memories." That part of the "commercial" killed me. It was sweet and thoughtful and practical, but NO, it's not shiny and expensive and showy. Because all straight women want is shiny, expensive, showy stuff that has no real practical application other than making other women jealous when you scream "HE WENT TO JARED!"

I really hate when the world of consumer goods reduces straight women to money-grubbing whores with no sense of sentimentality or practicality. Yes, I do like the occasional shiny, pretty thing, but I also love practical, useful, thoughtful things. Maybe I'm not a true member of the girls club. But that isn't the first time I've thought that.


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Thanksgiving is one of the few chances I have to see my grand-nephew, Mason. The kid's just getting into everything, and he's got the same brown hair that I and my nieces have. There is no doubt in my mind he'll be a heartbreaker someday.

I look at my two nieces, Heather (Mason's mother) and Savannah, and it occurs to me that we all have roughly the same look -- a pile of brown curls, and dark eyes that peer from underneath.

Of course, it takes a certain amazing, powerful love to take someone who doesn't happen to be biologically related to you into your home and give them the support that their closer relatives in the world cannot -- but there are people who would never dream of having children, partly because they think they couldn't love a child that wasn't related to them. Evolutionarily, they might well be right -- but the point is moot for so many who are gay, lesbian, or transgendered; they face certain obstacles in the process of conceiving. Gay men and transwomen have a certain lack of womb and eggs, and gay women and transmen are of course sperm-free. Personally, even though I used to promise myself that I would adopt, if I ever wanted kids, I have found myself feeling deep loss that I'll never be able to feel what it is like to have another life growing inside me, due to being born male. (Also, for a long time, I didn't realize I'd ever start on estrogen, and wow, is the resulting increased awareness of the biological clock loud. I've already found myself daydreaming about what the baby's room is going to look like in extreme detail -- already picked out what kind of mobile I want over the crib! -- and it gives me pause every time it happens.)

Science, as so often happens, may be filling the void sooner than I ever thought it could happen. A recent BBC article talks about reactions to a technology that allows anybody with bone marrow to create sperm. Lesbian couples the world over can just pick whichever partner they wish to provide the spermatozoa, and voila -- egg plus sperm, and you've got insemination materials.

There are some current limitations, of course -- there's not an egg production process that would provably work in humans yet, and if both the egg donor and sperm donor are XX, there's no chance for a Y chromosome to stray into the equation, and hence no chance of a boy. (Whereas a couple that are both XY using the same technology for egg production would have 2/3rds male children to female children, because there are two combinations of their genes resulting in an XY configuration, but only one in an XX). Further, it does involve drilling a bone and making a marrow withdrawal, not exactly everybody's idea of a fun weekend.

Having said this, I couldn't see why -- as the process became less and less specialized -- that eventually people might not be able to have kits for generating sperm or eggs, ones that can be purchased at a local store and used with a blood sample to generate a few billion sperm or a couple dozen eggs for the user.

Back at my mother's living room, I'm pretty sure I'm not stable enough to take care of a child any time soon, personally. Also, I muse as I watch my niece Heather finding it very difficult to move with her enormously bulging 8-month-pregnant body, maybe not being able to do that isn't such a bad thing -- for now, anyway.

And who knows -- once I'm ready, maybe the science will allow me to actually bear the child, instead of just watching other people do it.

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