Lady Mary and Healthy Sex Talk

I grew up in a predominantly Catholic country, in a devoutly Catholic household and received formative early education for 10 years at a Catholic institution. Given this, I think it is safe to say that when it comes to sex and sex education, Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey and I have a lot in common.

I learned about the egg and the sperm pretty early. As a precocious child, I received a picture book entitled “Where Babies Come From” that explained among other things, why kittens looked like cats and how the egg and sperm are single cells that fuse to form a blastocyst and eventually an embryo that grows in the mother’s tummy. I was 3. It would be 7 years later, in 5th grade, when I would discover the mechanics that would make the meeting of said egg and sperm possible. Incidentally, a year later, SPOILER ALERT! my world would be forever shattered when I find out that Santa was actually my mom and dad.

In last week’s episode (S5 E2), Lady Mary checks into a hotel room adjacent to her prospective husband and lover Tony Gillingham. They plan to dine, return to their respective rooms and make love until they run out of stamina. Lady Mary feels this trip is a dry run (pardon the pun), a preparation for married life should she accept Lord Gillingham’s proposal. The trip is secret, of course, as is the contraceptive device she had her lady’s maid purchase.

My mother will disown me but I think Lady Mary is being smart. It’s the 1920s, less people have maids and butlers and she and her husband will be under less scrutiny. Her reasoning, is that it is therefore imperative that they get along especially in that private area. Plus, she thought about contraception– what a forward thinker!

While it is noble and admirable to wait until marriage to have sex, I believe it can set you up for a lifetime of disappointment (sorry, Mommy). Sexual compatibility should be right up there with the ability to leave the toilet seat down and squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom. Seriously, being a good lover should be just as important a consideration as eye color and the ability to manage money. It’s so important that it can’t be just left to chance on your wedding night. Besides, something that’s good could only get better if you work on it.

But sex is so complicated and sticky (hahaha another pun). It’s a physical act that is usually accompanied by a huge wave of conflicted emotions and may leave in its wake even more conflicted emotions. I’m not saying go out and whore yourself. (Although if that is your choice, yay you. I’m not judging.)

What I’m saying is that I wish my parents (and my culture) had been more supportive rather than prohibitive when it comes to sex and
relationships. That they let me make mistakes early. That they allowed me to try and nurse a broken heart instead of compelling me to wait until after college to have a boyfriend. I wish they talked more about their relationship, were more open to answering stupid and awkward questions, more forgiving, more human towards sex. I mean, “Go forth and multiply” notwithstanding, I really do think God would not have made sex enjoyable if it were not meant to be enjoyed!

I am nowhere near ready for when K starts asking questions but I do know that I want to be open, not just about sex and relationships but everything else. Maybe then she wouldn’t have to ask someone else to buy condoms or inform her about consent, contraception and all that important stuff. I want to be there for her, as hard as it will be to imagine that anyone will be worthy of her, when she thinks she’s ready for the ride (oops pun again, sorry!). Maybe she can talk to me instead of feeling like she has to burn down her bedroom (tsk tsk Lady Edith. Shame on you!)

In the meantime, S5 E3 airs tonight. K will be mad because I won’t let her watch with me as it is aired because she can’t handle late bedtimes. But I imagine we will watch the Lady Mary train wreck someday, and talk about making good choices.

I am really looking forward to it.

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Retrospective is everything

“Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh” – Indigo Girls, Watershed

“Perspective is everything” – Aimee Mann, Invisible Ink

My friend Foxglove surprised me with a phone call one day. She’s a special ed teacher who deals with challenging kids all day and while going home she was thinking about how the parents of her students were going to manage over the weekend. This led to thinking about parents and parenting and how difficult it was to be “on call” 24/7, and her various friends who were now parents.

Gusto ko lang sabihing ang galing mo!” (I just wanted to let you know that you are awesome!), she had said, and when I asked where this was coming from she went into a discussion of Katie and me and all we’ve been through and just that she was happy about where we are and what we’ve become. “Biruin mo, a few years ago kung san san lang kayo nakikitira tapos ngayon.. basta ang galing mo!” (A few years ago, you lived from friend to friend and now…you’re just great!). Thanks Foxglove!

My friends have always been encouraging, and are the type to freely give a kind word. But lately, these affirmations have been resonating. It’s always pleasant to hear and gives me a certain high to be told I’m a good friend/listener/mother, and that someone believes in me especially from people who know our story. But for some reason, I feel I am really only hearing and believing this now that the shitstorm we went through is over.

The thing about difficult situations is that it is hard to find their value while you are in it. Five years ago, I didn’t think I was a good person– I was dragging my almost 2 year old from couch to couch, scrounging for food money, wallowing in debt and self pity and all I could think about was how to get to the next day and that I would have to do it all over again. I felt I was being unjustly punished. I felt bitter and that life would never be the same. I felt hopeless and that I would never be happy again. More days than not I contemplated “the end” and the relief that ceasing to exist would bring. I prayed I wouldn’t wake up. I prayed my ex would be struck by lightning. I prayed one day that God would stop hating me.

Dark days indeed.

During these days my therapist would tell me to focus on what I was doing as accomplishments. I was navigating a system foreign to me, as best as I could. That I was in an temporarily unpleasant situation but was doing extraordinary things. That I was doing the right things: getting help for depression and trying to get our life on track. That time would bring healing and that someday I would look back at all of this in awe.

Just as the newborn days are a haze of sleep deprived never ending hours where much happened and little is remembered, so are my dark days. We survived with the help of many, but also (as bestie Maya often reminds me) through my sheer determination and stubbornness. Now, 5 years later, I feel vindicated, validated and strong. Above all, I feel more human: more able to accept my mistakes and more likely to reach out to someone else who might be in the middle of their own dark days.

This is not the last shitstorm. Things won’t be smooth sailing forever. But retrospective is teaching me that life isn’t crummy all the time. And that somehow you become a better person because of what you’ve endured.

Life is short: Eat snow

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I remember the first time I saw snow. It was 8:30 am and I was at the 6th floor of 700 Albany Street watching it fall in tiny flakes, coating the rooftops. It mesmerized me so much that when my boss came in to see me staring out the window instead of starting my experiment for the day (probably PCR or DNA extractions) all I could blurt out was “Look! Snow! Pretty!” He laughed at my naïveté.

Because I grew up in a tropical country, my knowledge of snow (winter, really) was full of misconceptions:

I thought it tasted like sugar.

I didn’t know it came in various types ranging from coat the power lines wet to snowball perfect to powdery.

I didn’t know that wearing an ugly puffy jacket was better than 4 layers under a stylish wool coat.

I didn’t know it turned slushy dirty a few days after it coated the world white.

I didn’t know that it could persist in pile form until March.

I didn’t know that shoveling it was a pain, literally.

My Swedish friend R has warned me about my penchant for eating snow. You don’t know what’s in there, she says. Don’t be fooled by how nice and white and clean it seems. She begged me to melt a bowl of it and see how dirty it was. 20140205-205530.jpg

But snow is among the (weird) things that Katie and I love to eat. It is on the level of marshmallow Peeps, Cadbury mini eggs and edamame as our favorite treat foods. We now have a standard for eatable snow (if possible, freshly fallen, take the top layer from at least Katie height on plants..) which makes me feel a teeny bit better about the minuscule dirt particles we are ingesting.

It’s foolish but I think the joy outweighs the consequences. Someday I know Katie will find everything I do or say to be annoying and uncool and I’m kind of okay with that. In the meantime, we shall eat snow. Together.

We usually eat it plain but today was a snow day so we had access to flavored syrup 🙂
20140205-153353.jpgfresh from the backyard20140205-153401.jpgshe wants hers to have 3 flavors: grape, blue raspberry and cherry20140205-153410.jpgnoms!

Yellow means go slow

An ex-roommate and very good friend once told me that setbacks are allowed by God to give us a chance to pause, reflect and warn against a bigger danger. Getting sick is a way for the body to replenish and renew. Vacations rejuvenate and change perspective. In short, waiting is good and has its own purpose.

There’s a really good song by Simon and Garfunkel called Feeling Groovy. The first few lyrics go

Slow down you move too fast
You gotta make the morning last

Who does that, though? My every day is filled with the desire to catch up- with reading, cooking and cleaning, getting to places on time, work and laundry. It’s a frenzied no-mistakes-allowed-self-imposed miserable cycle. So suddenly a wrench gets thrown in the well oiled but overworked machine and you can either curse at your “bad luck” or you can embrace it.

I am proud to say I’ve gotten better with every wrench thrown my way and see the bigger ones, in retrospect of course, as blessings. From the time I had 3 months to get back on my feet after a nervous breakdown, to Katie’s stomach bug/flu/pinkeye mega week after Christmas, to the surprise flat tire that led to needing 4 new ones, all of these were a message.

Slow down.
Make the morning last.

The latest bump in the road came in the form of a traffic citation. I was in a hurry to pick Katie up from a friend’s house after work. It was kinda foggy and darker than am used to on my commute home. And I had a big bite of summer roll in my mouth (the other half was in my hand) and wasn’t paying attention at a non busy intersection when the lights came on. Turns out eating counts as impedimented driving and so I was cited for that on top of failure to stop* for a whopping $140. Incidentally, $140 is what I spent at Market Basket for the next 2-3 weeks of groceries so the fine is a really big deal.

Except it’s not.

Because I have been getting cocky on the road and speeding here and there. I guess I needed the reminder to be more damn careful. The citation also made me think of having Fluffy’s (my car) brakes checked and sure enough they do need to be changed ASAP. To be honest I haven’t seen the silver lining of an impending $430 brake job yet but see? All about attitude.

As I dropped her off at her Nana’s house last night, Katie told me “Enjoy the break”. Last week I started planning a vacation am getting really excited about. Tonight am going to my friend Mrs. R’s house for girl talk. It’s a lot of slowing down am not used to but it’s all good.

Here’s to moderation and slowing down in 2014.

*Incidentally, my mother taught me to drive. And she taught me that when the light turns yellow you have to go faster so you are through it before the light turns red. My citation above can totally be blamed on a lack of commitment and a moment of indecision due to prioritizing food. But that is a whole other post.