I was sitting at my dining room table when the voices on the other side of the wall went from a murmur to a sharp, clearly audible argument. In this apartment complex the walls are made of kleenex and spit, which means privacy is often at a minimum, especially if you’re unselfconscious in your own home. Which really, you should feel you can be. But the reality is that builders use cheap materials and what you’re doing and saying next door may be on aural display for your neighbors. In three of the many places I’ve lived as an adult, fights have erupted on a consistent basis on the other side of a shared wall. In one spot the walls were thick and it was the routine slamming of doors, kitchen cabinets and drawers that served as an indicator. In another place it was the shrieking of accusations by a woman to a man with a low voice, altercations that always ended in her bitter weeping.
He offered to be interviewed when I put out the call for volunteers, and I knew immediately I wanted to hear about his experience of divorce, Initially I had wanted the series to be all about different peoples’ experience of sex–what they learned growing up, what constituted sex ed at at home/school, first experiences, overall attitudes. But with him I remembered getting a facebook invite to a party that was part farewell to a marriage, part estate sale. At the time I thought him and his soon to be ex-wife incredibly respectful toward each other and thus felt intrigued by his seeming drama-free divorce. He had “a lot of angles and spins on divorce in his head” which I found him quite open to discussing, as I sat in my car outside work, furiously scribbling notes while he spoke into the phone.
A man in his mid-forties, he had been in the marriage for ten years, divorced now for three. I told him about my impression of his “divorce party” to which he replied, “I’m sure we seemed very evolved. In reality it took a lot of drama for us to get there. Once we had decided we weren’t healthy for each other, if we ever had been, it was easier to be civil.” Continue reading →
He had written a guest post for us over the summer, and I knew when I conceived of the interview series idea, I was going to want to delve more deeply into how he had come to marry a woman who refused sex and subjected him to terrible emotional blackmail. From what I understood, she had used threats of self-harm, all the way up to suicide to control the relationship and his response to her from the beginning. How does a relationship even get out of the starting gate with that kind of dysfunction present from day one? How does it become a marriage? So what, they had gone right from sexual activity in his truck after a dance one night in high school, to her making threats to injure herself, right into a relationship? Continue reading →
The “SexEdFail” series Candid Uprising featured in December and January (a progression of posts about my experience of working at Planned Parenthood) were the most-read content on the site yet, peaking with “Sex Ed Fail: The Interview“. I found myself wanting to trace sexual attitudes through the generations, to talk to a parent about their perception of responsibility for educating their child about sex, and how that may have been shaped by their parent. Out of the woodwork came a woman in her mid-forties, a mother of two, open to filling in the picture for me.
As a kid she moved a lot, never settling in one place long enough to make a close group of girlfriends. Later, she would point out that a lack of girlfriends made her vulnerable, often times sexually. She grew up in a family that was comfortable with nudity around the house, parents who were honest and forthcoming with her about sex and sexuality. Her earliest memories of learning about sex involve a conversation between her and her mom when she was eight. “I asked my mom about kissing, and she told me it was something that people did with each other when they loved each other.” Any question she had, her mom answered with medically accurate information. What seems to have made the strongest impression was her mom’s ability to talk to her on her level, in a developmentally appropriate way. It increased her comfort level so that asking her mom questions about sex felt natural as she grew up. In lieu of girlfriends (or “the playground” where so many of us learn backwards mis-information, legends, really about sex), she had her welcoming mom. Continue reading →
I took tiny bites of the salty, fiery veggie pho spiked with Sriracha and lime juice, normally my go-to hangover cure for its stomach-settling and head-clearing powers. My head hung low over the bowl as I struggled to look presentable, appear sharp and interested in the informational interview in which I was engaged. I was four paychecks away from unemployment, a terrifying prospect given the utter instability of my personal life. Deeply in credit card debt, new marriage scraping the rocks, interpersonal dramas playing out every other day, emotionally enmeshed with a long-distance boyfriend, drinking spiraling out of control, I had gone to this networking interview to try and save myself from total crisis. I seemed unable to reduce or stop my alcohol use, to clear the confusion and panic from my mind, to not act on my almost constant outrageous and high-risk impulses. I wanted so much to engage in pleasurable activities that I ignored the risks or consequences. My life was blowing up in my face, my behavior hurting, offending and scaring my friends. I was a runaway train, pedal to the metal, going right off the rails. Continue reading →
“I was one of those kids you wrote about,” she commented, after reading about the pregnant virgin I counseled at Planned Parenthood, “and you probably want to interview me for your blog.” I leapt at the opportunity she was offering to capture a first-person narrative about the experience of being opted out of school sex ed and how it affects adult sexuality. Continue reading →
I was talking with my dad about Candid Uprising, telling him about our mission and purpose and encouraging him to read. While I knew he’d be proud to hear that I’m exploring a passion project, I was also concerned about how he might react to some of the opinions we’ve put forth. While he is socially liberal, and overall of a progressive mindset, he was raised in the Midwest in the 1950s and has some closely held traditional values. My dad is a rather reserved, reticent person, but he came alive when I told him I had written and published a couple of posts on not wanting children. “Right”, he said animatedly, “people have kids to fill the void. Things get stale. People’s lives plateau and they tell themselves, now it’s time.” He continued to expound upon the subject as I frantically scribbled notes. “Kids fill up the room”, he continued, “they take all your extra time, all your extra money, all your extra love and affection. Kids are all consuming. Being a parent is a bitch, and the most responsible thing you’ll ever do. You fuck up someone elses life, and it’s terrifying”, he finished. “Dad”, I exclaimed, “then why in the world do people do it?”