baby development

Friday, May 27, 2005

Our Parents & Sex

I asked my husband last week if he thought his parents still have sex. He quickly said, "Nah." And he left it at that. I had assumed he would answer that way. If I had to guess, I'd say they don't either - though I wish for them that they did. His parents are only in their mid-50's - attractive, intelligent, and loving. His dad seems tired most of the time, and keeps to himself without interacting much with anyone - even when we come for the yearly visit at Christmas. I have never seen him sleep in the bed with my mother-in-law. Instead, he sleeps on the sofa or in his chair in the livingroom. My mother-in-law is beautiful, kind, and vivacious. She gets tired too, but no more than I do at 34.

His parents do not spend much time together, mostly out of circumstance. When Michael was in the 9th grade, his dad was transferred to Alabama for work. Since his mother did not want to move from Mississippi, she and the children stayed there, and his dad stayed in Alabama. He came home every second or third weekend. He did not attend church with the family, even when he was home - and he still does not. The family photo under their television set in the livingroom is a testament to the separateness - it is my mother-in-law and the three children. Though it was taken when my husband was in high school or college, his dad is not in the picture. I sense my father-in-law loves his family quite a lot. Obviously, he worked hard to provide for them. He beamed with great pride at my husband's graduation ceremony when he received his PhD, and last month when my brother-in-law received his PhD as well. He seemed happy at our wedding, and smiled and even danced for a few minutes. He is now out of work temporarily (or perhaps permanently) due to a diagnosis of sleep apnea that still hasn't been successfully treated. I am worried about him, and about how he will cope if indeed he is out of work on an infinite basis.

Michael clearly did not have a model growing up of a physically intimate, passionate, and/or sexual relationship while he was growing up. He saw companionship and deep intimacy in marriage as optional. He saw a dad who provided for the family financially and showed his love in distant and quiet ways. He saw a mother who showed little concern for the distance between she and her husband. I do not know when the last time was that he must have seen his parents hug, or kiss, or act like people who have a sexual relationship. Throughout all of my visits with family and extended family, I have not seen anyone that I thought might have at some point modeled this kind of relationship. Even my husband's siblings - 23 and 30 years old, do not date or seek out intimate companionship for the future. Career goals, for them, seem to be the dominant theme without a balance of the importance of intimate romantic relationships as well (though they seem to have a strong set of friends). In the three years I have been with my husband, I have not known either his brother or sister to date anyone.

My parents were quite different. All of my life, may parents have worked together - side by side, literally. My father is an accomplished architect. In the beginning stages of his practice, Mom worked hard running blueprints, managing the files and finances of the business. She was his secretary and office manager when he could not afford to hire one. She continued to run the entire practice when various secretaries over the years proved to be complete flakes. My little brother and I were frequently in the office, and every day after school I was there working too to earn money for college. The family business was comforting to me. There was closeness and a lot of contact. And there was a fair share of hurt feelings and animosity as well. But at the end of the day (and sometimes at the end of the week), everyone drew back in together. My friends used to come over to the house and ask why Dad didn't kiss Mom when he walked in the door at the end of the day. I had to explain that they had gotten up together, worked together, had lunch together, and that Mom had been home only long enough to have dinner ready when Dad got in. They were tired. But at night, they often snuggled on the sofa. They grinned at each other. Dad had been known to emerge in his white t-shirt and underwear and do a "mock" seductive dance in the kitchen for my Mom while the two of us kids looked on in amusement.

Mom and Dad slept together at night, and had a lock on the bedroom door. We knew not to bust into the bedroom, and we knew why. Married people have sex. We never questioned this, and as I became a teenager, I realized my parents were "hip" and that my father was a sexy man. Women looked at my dad, and my friends thought he was handsome. Candles, boxes of condoms, lubricant, and massage oil were never too far out of sight in their bedroom or in the master bathroom. When I got older and would come home from college, Mom might show me the latest lingerie she had bought - she even bought the marabou slippers. When my brother left for college, they seemed to blossom further into true intimacy and love. I know they went through rocky times. Dad went through a pissy phase of life where he was no joy to be around. Mom stood by him, and I knew that God was the only reason she didn't. He frequently fired her at work. Yes - fired her. Or she would quit. She would box up her things, put them in the car and go home. And she would refuse to go back until he apologized sincerely. And he did, I suppose (I assume). Either that or else Mom worried the business would crash and burn if she didn't go in to do billing.

I never doubted the importance of intimacy in all its forms in marriage. When I was about to get divorced, I was riding in the back of the car on a visit with my parents. I finally decided to disclose to them that my husband and I did not have sex - because he wasn't interested. They both voiced how a lot of people in the family had thought he way gay. Dad was furious with him. He got very serious, and went on one of his famous monologues about the importance of sex. He said that if I ever brought another man home to meet the family, "He'd better look at you like he wants you. And I should be able to tell." He explained what it means to want someone, and why wanting to be with someone sexually is important. He explained that at 50-something years of age, he still wanted to have sex every day - or more. While this seemed like a little too much father-daughter disclosure, I appreciated his honesty. He made me promise I would never again settle for someone to whom physical intimacy and sex were not important. I promised him I would not. I felt that promise in my heart that night, and I was hopeful. God was the inventor of sex - he planned for us to do it, and he made us only fertile part of the time, so it wasn't merely for procreation - it was for pleasure. Wow - God is awesome.

I am terrified of growing older with my husband and becoming like his parents (though on some level it has already happened). I don't want to become like mine either, though that sounds like the lesser of two evils for me. I know Michael sees the kind of a relationship his parents have as a comfortable one - one in which he can have all of the privacy and freedom that he craves (more on this later). On some level, I understand why he would be so alienated from his sexuality and wonder what in the world I keep complaining about. He knows nothing more. It would be like telling someone to walk through the forrest, with the promise that there is a paradise on the other side they can't see - but they've never experienced paradise, and they hate forests. It doesn't seem worth it to them. It seems too costly. They don't comprehend the reward - they might even say they don't know what all the excitement is about over it. The dessert they are standing in is far more comfortable - the temperature is always the same, and so is the climate. There is nothing to explore. You can see all the things around you. There is nothing to nourish or care for. There are no hills or valleys - just flat land. There are no colors to interpret, or anything to stimulate your senses. Your mind and body have little adjusting to do. The dessert seems a much safer, more comfortable place than the forrest and this unseen and unpredictable paradise. Paradise seems high-maintenance. There are plants to water, and lawns to mow. There are seasons, and a vast variety of living creatures to look after. And there is risk of discovering paradise and loosing it. If I don't want paradise, I won't be disappointed if I never make it there. So why bother wanting it?

This is the dilemma. I'm already half-way into the forrest. I can't even look back and see the dessert behind me. My husband is standing on the edge of the dessert and the forrest. All he sees are trees ahead of him - and an impossible journey. He likes his dessert with it's freedom and privacy. I had attempted to pull him into the forrest, but he got cut and scraped, and cried, complained, and sulked, and felt sorry for himself. He kept looking back at the dessert and longing for it. It looked better to him than the forrest. So, he ran back and stood at the edge and watched me running into the forrest. I tried to wait for him, but now I was in the middle - I had to choose to run toward paradise, or loose myself and retreat to the dessert. If I stay in the dessert, I will die - I know my own limits as a creature of paradise, and I must get there - even if it means I go through the forrest alone. My friends are in the forrest too, and they will walk with me. I can hear the voices of thousands of others ahead of me, and I can see the corpses of others who have stayed in the dessert and lost their souls. Michael does not seem bothered by the corpses or the suffering of others in the dessert too. He says they are content, and so is he. Staying in the dessert requires nothing. Running into the forrest requires giving up too much for him. But for me, it promises a receiving of everything. Even if I never make it through the forrest, I have been in good company, and I have seen wonderful forms of life. And I held on to myself.

Not Feeling Worthy

The following was written by Rachel K., a wonderful woman I've yet to meet. I've read it so many times now that I feel it deserves it's own space on my blog. Thank-you, Rachel, for the encouraging words:

I, too, struggle with feeling worthy of God's love. It truly is unfathomable. In Romans 11, Paul writes, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?" I don't think it is for us to know on this side of heaven how MUCH God loves us! But in Ephesians 3, Paul writes "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love" - which means we are daily walking in God's love, not just thinking about it, but expressing it to others, demonstrating it - "may have power, together with all the saints" - we need each other to obtain this, it cannot be reached on our own accord - "to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ..." My study Bible has this in the commentary: "God's love is total...It reaches every corner of our experience. It is WIDE - it covers the breadth of our own experience, and it reaches out to the whole world. God's love is LONG - it continues to the length of our lives. It is HIGH - it rises to the heights of our celebration and elation. His love is DEEP - it reaches to the depths of our discouragement, despair, and even death. When you feel shut out or isolated, remember that you can never be lost to God's love." WOW! We can NEVER be lost to God's love. I hope this encourages you to SEEK God's love. To live for Him daily. To read His Word to us daily. Until we do that, we are lost. God does hear our prayers, but more than that, he desires and he longs for communication with us - not just a one-way line when we are desperate. One way to hear from God is to read his word. I encourage you to read through the Psalms. Read just 5 a day and you'll have read the book in one month. They are uplifting! The Psalmist David shows us that we don't have to have happy feelings all the time. Many of the Psalms were written when David felt God had abandoned him..."BUT I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me." (Ps. 13: 5-6). No matter what is going on in our lives, or how we feel, we still need to praise God for his marvelous works.
You are in my prayers!

Read Lamentations 3:17-26 and Romans 8:38-39

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Getting My "Affairs" In Order

It's no surprise to people that know me well that I had an affair when I was married to my first husband. In November of 1995, while at an interdisciplinary conference, I met D. I recall heading downstairs in sweats with my hair in a ponytail to register before too many people arrived. I hurried back up to my room and changed and put on makeup. As I walked back down into the lobby where folks were gathering, I noticed a nerdy-looking guy standing next to a potted palm. He was the quintessential glasses-clad geek - khakis, oxford dress shirt with a sweater vest and penny loafers. He grinned at me and caught my attention. He spoke first. "That was a remarkable transformation you made." I blushed. He had obviously seen my bedraggled self who was in sweats earlier. Horrors. But he didn't mind. He seemed amused with himself and with me. We introduced ourselves, chatted a bit, and went together to the opening luncheon.

I learned he was single, a mathematician and a computer software designer. He learned a bit about me. I did not mention I was married, though my nametag clearly displayed my hyphenated surname. We "clicked" and I was falling into the conversation, his sense of humor, and his attention to me. After the presentations that day, there was evening entertainment - a one-man play on the life of Albert Einstein. There was a cash bar outside, and D. purchased a glass of wine. A few minutes into the show, he handed the glass to me. I'd never had wine before, but I sipped at it and pretended to be a pro. I told him that Chardonnay was my favorite, so I'd look like I knew something. He went for more, and I felt my inhibitions vacate. While he was out, I removed my wedding band and slipped it into my pocket. The tan line was clearly visible, but for some reason I no longer cared what anyone thought.

During the play, we whispered in each other's ears, and brushed our cheeks against each others. After the play was over and everyone had left, we made our way back to the lobby where a beautiful grand piano sat. No one was around, and the snow was starting to fall outside. D. sat down at the piano and began to play an amazing classical piece like folks I'd admired in college. I sat on the piano bench next to him as he played for about an hour. Several people walked by and smiled, but no one ever came to question what we were doing. I felt like a princess - pretty with a glass of wine and a man playing the piano.

We got drinks and headed up to his room to talk more. We laid on the bed and told grad school stories and jokes. I asked him how old he was and he asked me to guess. I guessed 26, and he was so flattered because he was actually 30. I said, "Okay, you can guess me now." Well, apparently he heard that as "Okay, you can kiss me now." And he did. And I was gone. Absolutely gone. Brian who? Married to who? Me? Enter two more days of me out of my ever-loving mind. When D. finally asked about my last-name, I lied and told him I was separated. Later I told him I was still living with my husband, but going through a divorce. More lies. How deep could I sink? My roommates at the conference obviously knew I'd been somewhere, and it was easy for them to put two and two together.

After we parted ways from the conference, and I returned home, I was full of guilt. But as I returned to my unattractive and sexually uninterested husband, I longed for the excitement I had experienced. D. was the opposite of Brian. He was getting his second Master's degree, and was teaching at a prestigious university. He was older than I was, and had experienced a lot of life. He had been incarcerated for stealing computers at the first university he had attended. Still, I seemed to care less and less. D. and I exchanged e-mails, letters and cards, and several phone calls over the following months. Then, in 1996, after moving to CO for grad school, I decided I wanted to see D. again. We planned a trip for me to fly out and visit him where he lived. I did, and I spent more than a week at his place. We had fun going to museums and the zoo, and taking walks to the park and over to a lake and I worked on my writing in his apartment during the days when he was on campus teaching. I ate mussels for the first time, and ate at a fancy restaurant in the museum. I spent an entire afternoon on campus, roaming around the library and enjoying just living. We had dinners with his friends, and we stayed up late listening to Tangerine Dream.

That was the last time I saw D. In March of the following year, my husband declared that he was leaving to go back to Florida, and two weeks later he was gone. A few weeks later, in April of 1997, from a hotel room in Savannah, Georgia, I called D. It had been a long time since we'd talked. My girlfriend was in the room. After I hung up, she asked if I was going to see him again. I said, "No. That was the last contact we will ever have." She looked stunned and asked why, and if he had said anything. "No.", I said. "I just know." I was right. He never made contact after that, and neither did I.

That weekend in Savannah turned out to be life-changing. I went to the beach with good friends, and an ex-boyfriend named Len, all of whom were at the conference. I told them about my upcoming divorce. The ex-boyfriend looked interested, as we'd dated before I'd gotten married. But I wasn't interested in Len anymore, really. I enjoyed the beach, and enjoyed talking to my friends. I bought my first toe-ring and considered it to be a sign of my re-birth. At an early-morning business meeting, I met the man who would someday become my second (and hopefully last) husband, though I had no earthly idea at the time that we would ever be more than acquaintances. How the cosmos runs. I thought he was beautiful and interesting, and wickedly motivated and brilliant, but this time I was leaving well enough alone.

I had to get my "affairs" in order.

Now, as I feel like I'm in the same desperate kind of empty place in my marriage, I wonder about having an affair. But I also know well the risks. I had a great time, and discovered that I had permission to be sexual and adverturous and experimental, and that breaking the rules could produce unimaginable highs. But I hated the secrets and the lies, and they made the depression that I was already in even more unbearable. I adored being the object of fantasy, and knowing that I could knock someone's socks off. I loved the novelty and the newness, and (in some ways) the fear. I'm also sure that I felt like I was "getting even" with Brian for not paying attention to my needs, or working harder to please me and create desire and sexual intimacy in our marriage.

I don't want to have an affair, but I want all the wonderful feelings and discovery it brought.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Taking a Stand

Knoxville, Tennessee is a nice spot - about 2 1/2 hours south of Lexington. There is a fabulous used bookstore there called McKay's that I simply adore. I decided that for my birthday weekend that I would treat myself to a weekend there. If got a hotel room for $78 for two nights on Priceline, and invited my husband to go with me if he wanted to. I made it clear that I was going for my own enjoyment, and that I realized that he had a lot of work to do and probably could not afford a weekend away.

Though I gently encouraged him to stay home and work, he decided to come along.

I recalled the painful trip down to Tuscaloosa, AL and back just two weeks earlier, and how I hated the car trip because I had no one to talk to. So, I offered to drive. I got in the car with a declaration of my excitement, happiness, and enthusiasm. I smiled and tried my best to make conversation with my husband. For a while, the trip was OK. We listed to a talk radio sports show, and he called in on his cell phone and got dinner for the two of us at a restaurant. We seemed to be off to a good start.

Then the conversation ended once we were out of range of the radio station. My mistake was trying to make conversation. I had begun reading the book "Passionate Marriage" that our counselor had suggested...well, ordered us to read. The few pages I had already read had sparked many questions, and I was eager to ask them outside the stresses of the house and the bedroom. As is our style, every question I asked was carefully thought about by my husband prior to responding. And every answer was not what I wanted to hear. His answers are logical, reserved, and pragmatic -never laced with emotion, passion, or enthusiasm about the future. Once again, we spun into a fatalistic view of the future as we talked.

After arriving at the hotel, we went to find dinner. We ate at a Chili's and I had 4 margaritas - small on-the rocks margaritas - but alcoholic nonetheless. I was relaxed and felt good for a change, though I couldn't get the thoughts out of my head. Alcohol certainly does not make your problems disappear. Back at the hotel, I undressed and climbed into bed. A tired and unenthusiastic man crawled in next to me and, per usual, asked what I wanted. I wanted to turn around and shout at him that for once I'd love for him to tell me what HE wants instead of asking me. How am I supposed to be thrilled about having sex with someone who doesn't want or need anything? You got it - like I'm all alone. That's exactly how it feels - very little connection, sex without intimacy, orgasm without closeness. So I declined the invitation to "be serviced".

The next morning, my husband promised that he would "have more energy" that day and that he "wanted to come back after lunch and the trip to the bookstore and "spend some time together" (his code for sex - because, God forbid he say "I want to make love with you.") So, I felt a bit better - there was a promise of great things to come. Even though I was angry and frustrated about not having my sexual needs met last night, I said nothing. Even though this morning, even as I was touching him sexually, he got up to take a shower because he was feeling "sinusy" - I said nothing. I vowed to have a good day and not let his moping around get the best of me.

We went to lunch, and he did not like the food, so he didn't eat much. We went to the bookstore, and I had a nice time looking around the store. I selected several books on sexuality in marriage, and a couple of DVDs that I thought we might like watching together. W spent a couple of hours in the store, and we each had a nice time there - although there is not much interaction and intimacy in a bookstore. Afterwards, I looked forward to going back to the hotel room and "spending time together" before dinner. But that was not what my husband had in mind anymore, apparently. When we got in, he got in bed fully clothed and began to read a book he had purchased at the bookstore. I said nothing, and so I began to read more from the book "Passionate Marriage". We read in silence for an hour or so, and then he put his book down on the nightstand and fell asleep. He slept so long he started to snore. I figured by now I had taken enough - "soothe myself" the book says I need to do - don't rely on my husband for anything.

OK, so in an attempt to "soothe myself", I got up and got dressed to go to the mall. Still half-asleep, my husband stirred in bed long enough to offer to go with me. "No", I said, "Get your rest. Do what you need to do." He had broken his promise to me, and didn't seem to care. I was disappointed (again - what's new?) and a bit angry. I went to the mall and spent 2 hours there. I enjoyed the walk, and the relative quiet. I hurried back to the hotel once I realized it was 6:00. When I returned, he was still in bed with all the lights out in the hotel room. Eventaully he woke up, and I gave him the Godiva chocolates I had bought for him. But he just picked up his book and started reading in bed again. He bared paid any attention to me.

As I always do, I started to cry. I went into the bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror. I looked miserable and tired. And then I realized that I didn't have to put up with it - I wasn't stuck. I got myself together and simply said, "I want to go home now." All he said was "OK" and we both packed up our things. I walked out to the car first, threw my things in, turned on the air, and waited for him. About five minutes later he came out and put his things in, and got in. I pulled out and back onto the road. He made some comment about it being possible to still have a nice next five hours together if we turned back. But in my mind, my nice weekend getaway was ruined. I would have had a better time by myself and I was angry that he had come along and behaved the way he did. It was my birthday weekend, and I felt so alone and hurt. How could he have done that to me?

I was sure I wanted out. I told him. He said, "Fine. Done." And we drove in silence. I actually felt better and better as I drove. I envisioned a life free of this constant sadness and depression and axiety and feelings of being "overwhelmed". I felt free of a life with someone who was never happy, never felt well, and who had no desire to be anything but a roommate to me. I felt better. If I have enough energy and keep feeling better, soon I will have enough energy to actually leave for good instead of just talking about it or threatening it.

Friday, May 20, 2005


A counselor once told me that I don't handle disappointment well. Um, yeah - this was a huge shock (does sarcasm translate on blogs?). Does anyone handle it well? And just what does it mean to handle disappointment well? Does the person simply just get up and say, "Well, on to the next thing" and just forget about it? I can't seem to be able to do that. I don't even fully understand what is going in with me lately, and I'm not sure I can -or if I am supposed to.

I am trying hard to come to terms with the truth that I (in my current marriage), will never have children. This absolutely killed me this past Wednesday night. I sat on the floor of the guest bedroom with the cats and wept. I hadn't put much effort into cleaning that room up, or decorating it, because, well - I had figured that we would get pregnant and use that room as a nursery someday (if we were still living there). I felt stupid and foolish. I felt unworthy and like a freak. I couldn't get over the feeling that if my husband truly and deeply loved me, that love would be so powerful that he would naturally want to have a family with me. The only thing wrong with that is, for Michael, the thought of children is not a natural one.

He told me that he had hoped that eventually he would be enough for me, and that my desire to have children would lessen or disappear completely. And I had prayed that God would change his heart. I suppose that prayer was the most selfish prayer I had been praying lately - "God, please change my husband." I was so wrong. But why would God have put the two of us together, given our extreme differences?

At both lunch and dinner yesterday, I was again reminded of the far-reaching impact of those differences. Michael sat across from me at lunch, and beside me at dinner, and was silent and unexpressive. He looked sad and tired, and (to me anyway) he looked like he would rather be anywhere but there. I tried to be upbeat and happy, and I tried to carry the conversation by asking questions about music and upcoming sporting events. I tried to talk about the food. But he barely responded. I asked several times if he was OK, and I told him I was sorry he wasn't feeling well. Though the food was very good, I really didn't have a very good time with him. And I thought back to his earlier statement about hoping that he would eventually be enough for me. And I was terrified. What is this is as good as it gets? I enjoyed my food, but wished he would have been better company.

My imagination flashed forward to the two of us on our 40th birthday six years from now. I pictured us in the same apartment, petting the same two cats, driving the same cars, struggling to get out from under debt, Michael with tenure, me in the some mind-numbing job, childless, and without anything to talk about or anything in common. I imagined Michael even more unhappy and more tired as the impact of another six long years had taken their toll. I imagined me without anyone to talk to at my 40th birthday dinner - the two of us alone at some quiet isolated spot. And I felt the panic creap up through my arms again and down into my fingertips. I tried to say something to him that was meaningful - I managed to get something out about our not having anything in common, or anything to talk about. I said we needed to build a relationship. I wondered if the people that saw us in the restaurant thought we were business associates instead of a married couple. We certainly are not the image of a couple in love.

I am at a corssroads. I do not feel compelled to stay married, nor do I feel particularly compelled to leave. I adore my husband - I want to laugh with him and experience all that is in store for us together. I don't know what to do. I don't want to be 34 and already divorced twice. All I really wanted for my life was to be a good Christian women, serve God, and have a great husband and family. I figured if we couldn't have children that we would adopt some. And I figured we would embrace it with passion and excitement and joy (at least the majority of the time). Right now, it's difficult to scrape together even a few minutes of mere contentment.

I certainly don't handle disappointment well, because for now, I simply can't say "Oh well, on to the next thing."

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Today is my birthday. Happy Birthday to me. I have now completed 34 years on this planet, and find myself looking back at what I have accomplished so far and what I have. I also find myself wondering what the next 34 years will be like, what they will hold, and how I might reach the goals I have for myself and my future life.

So far I have traveled out of the country to only Mexico and Canada.
I have slept in a hammock on the beach.
I've been picked up for a date by a man riding a white horse.
I missed a flight in order to go to Tijuana.
I learned to speak another language (Spanish).
I learned to play the clarinet, and some piano and guitar (though the last two were pitiful attempts).
I have tried alcohol and marijuana, and was impressed with neither.
I have been drunk, but never high.
I have had great sex as well as lousy sex.
I have been married twice, and divorced once. I have spent almost 1/3 of my life married.
I have been to Washington, D.C., Disneyworld, Epcot, Las Vegas, and a handfull of other tourtist traps. I have summered in the Cumberland Mountain in Tennessee.
I have had braces to straighten my teeth, and various dermatological treatment to fix my complexion.
I have tried no less that 3 different diet plans, and have lost and gained well over 100 pounds over the years. I have dieted about half of my life.
I have owned at least 8 cats - Drippy, Tigger, Charmin, Boots, BA Honey, Smokey, Callie, and Macy Gray, as well as an assortment of fish, birds, a turtle, and a donated hamster.
I have lived in 5 different states - FL, TN, CO, GA, and KY.
I have an AA, BA, and MA, and 3 years of doctoral coursework.
I have held no fewer than 11 jobs.
I have tried every food ever put in front of me.
I have been fishing and hunting.
I have been born again and baptized.
I have joined a church.
I have sung the national anthem at horse racing.
I have sung and acted in front of thousands of people. I have won singing competitions.
I have had chicken pox and mono.
I have tanned naked and gone skinny dipping.
I have seen 5 different mental health counselors of some type for some reason-or-other including pre-marital and post-marital counseling.
I have taught college as a professor - and have taught 9 different courses that I can recall.
I've been date-raped and lived to talk about it.
I have had an official "nervous breakdown".
I have comforted a friend who attempted suicide.
I have survived my own husband's brush with suicidal thoughts and a trip to the ER.
I have ridden a Greyhound bus over 22 hours from Georgia to Ohio and back.
I have truly loved someone.
I have lied and been lied to many times.
I have risked everything I had for love.
I have attended the funerals of my gradparents.
I have had my first mamogram and have expereinced both my grandmother and mother surviving breast cancer.
I have seen my little brother find love and get married.
I've dated a preacher, a golf-pro, a pilot, a probate judge, a professor, a middle-school teacher, a frech-horn player, a physicist, and a Marine.
I've been published several times in international journals.
I have colored, highlighed, and permed my hair more times than I can count.
I pierced my ears against my parents' will.
I lived in a trailor park next to people that owned Basset hounds.
I've read volumes of poetry.
I've made snow-angels at midnight under a full moon.
I've seen great musical theatre and not-so-great musical theatre.
I've been by the side of a great friend as she gave birth, and cried tears of unbelievable wonder.

And there are still some things that I haven't done - some of which I feel I must do at some point in my life, and others are just there because it seems like most people have experienced them, and I wouldn't want to miss out on anything.

I've never had children, and I've never been pregnant. For that matter, I've never (until now) been with anyone that I thought I wanted to have children with.
I've never owned a new car.
I've never owned a home.
I have not earned a terminal degree in anything. I did not finish my dissertation.
I've never been on a cruise.
I've never had a "real" honeymoon.
I have not seen the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, Hawaii, or Alaska.
I've never ridden on a train.
I have never had a massage.
I have never had a "night of passion" (whatever that means).
I've never had someone tell me that "You complete me" or "You make me want to be a better man" - or anything even close. Most of the time, it's been more like, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


When diagnosing me with PCOS, the doctor asked me if I had a "raging libido". "Yes", I replied. "HELL YEAH!" was what I really wanted to say. He explained that my elevated testosterone might have made me a bit more aggressive, a bit more uneven tempered, and a lot more, well...horny. Four months later, I can feel the decline in my sex drive. But I am afraid it's not that I want sex less. I'm afraid the struggles over physical intimacy have caused me to want my husband less. I simply don't want to put forth the mental energy it takes to be with him sexually, and the things that will inevitably upset me during one of those encouters. As I wrote before, he will not kiss me. More than that, he will not say anything, and if I say something sexy he will not respond. He looks uncomfortable, and as soon as it is over he rolls over and does not touch me, and jumps out of bed and runs to take a shower. He says he feel gross and "sticky". Well, you know - guess how that makes me feel? Yeah, like shit. Forget cuddling and hugging and kissing. Forget "afterplay". Oh, and definately forget talking about it afterwards. God forbid he say something to the effect of "That was fantastic."

I've never had a problem with my sex drive, unless you consider wanting sex a whole lot to be a problem. I've had great sexual experiences, and great sex. I don't feel that I've somehow missed out in life. If I never had sex again as long as I lived, I could still say I'd sexually lived. I've experienced just about everything there might be to experience. But I am not feeling very sexual now that I am married. I own a pendant that is the Celtic symbol of sexuality, and I wear it sometimes just to remind myself that I am still a sexual being - a married, and frustrated sexual being - but sexual nonetheless. It makes me smile.

My husband says that he does not think about sex very often, and does not have the same level of desire that I have. Before we got married, we addressed this issue - a lot. And we found that our differences were drastic. When asked how often I would like to have sex, I replied, "Twice a day." "Fourteen times a week?!", he exclaimed. "Uh-huh. Yeah. You?" "Well, I think anything more than twice a week is excessive", he replied. My heart sank, and I didn't know wether to be angry or disappointed. Clearly, I knew that we would not have sex 14 times per week. I figured there would be some days that we would make love in the mornings and in the evenings. I even figured that Saturdays might prove to make the weekends even more wild. I knew that some weekdays would be exhausting, and that one or both of us would not desire physical intimacy - I just didn't count on that being so often at the ripe 'ol age of 33.

I rationalized away his response by taking into account his lack of experience and the physical distance between us. I figured when we were married and could do whatever we wanted sexually without being sinful, we would have lots of sex. And I figured once we lived in the same place, proxemics would work to our advantage as well. That did not prove to be the case. A year later, I feel like we've been married for 30 years. He has no more desire to be with me sexually than he does to vacuum the floor.

Throughout our relationship, issues of sexual intimacy (kissing, touching, intercourse, and more) have caused conflict and difficulties for us. Now, we seem less able to talk about those difficulties and the tension between us seems to be getting worse. On my last visit to the doctor, the doc summed it up this way:

"You have a nice man who loves and cares for you and is willing to work hard and provide for you. He doesn't want children, but is willing to have them with you and help raise and provide for them (not enthusiasticly, but willingly). He is not interested in sex because he has never placed importance on it, and has excluded it from his life to this point. He likely never will. I see him as a pretty shy, pretty naive guy who now feels pressured to have sex with you and to have children, and he doesn't want either. We've gotten his testosterone levels up to normal. He should have just about as much interest in sex as the next guy. Anything going on now is psychological. I really like you two. I just hope you find a way to make it work."

I sat in that man's office with tears streaming down my face. I drove home in tears, and when I got into the house, I had to run into the bathroom to cry and put a cold washcloth on my face. My girlfriend was in town for the week, and when she took one look at me when I came in the door, I knew she understood. She didn't press me for information - she just knew.

So, now I'm still re-thinking everything.

Tomorrow I turn 34. Big freakin' deal. This will not be a happy birthday for me. I see all the things that I thought for sure would happen - because I worked hard, I was giving and kind, and I loved him. And now I'm looking to my career to give me fulfillment. But I'm now a glorified secretary. I make more money than I did as a professor, but I don't change lives anymore, or better people's futures and relationships. I write policies and procedures. My life is work, and watching TV at night, and making dinner and cleaning the house. I would not call what I have with my husband a "relationship" let alone a "marriage". We are roommates. Some days we manage to be friends. But my friends know me more than he does. And they want to get to know me more than he does.

I don't think I want kissing or sex anymore - at least not with my husband. And knowing I've gotten to that point - and admitting it, feels even worse.


I've always been a big fan of kissing. This served me well in my dating experiences, as I learned that most men are also fans of it as well. But my husband is not a fan - never has been, and never will be. My fantasies anymore are often about being undressed and being slowly and deliberately and passionately kissed as much as they are about anything that might follow. There are times I think I'd be willing to have a fling if it were with someone who liked kissing me.

I've had lots of kisses over the years. The worst kisser by far was a guy I dated in high school named Travis who was best described as kissing like a fish. Somehow, I always ended up with slobber all over my face after we kissed. I think he had not yet mastered how to swallow between kisses. Eeew. But in his defense, he kissed me often and loved kissing me, and was passionate and deliberate about it. He apparently improved enough to convince his wife to have 3 children, though conception does not rely on kissing as far as I know.

First kisses are fabulous - especially when there is great anticipation in the kiss. With my husband, I'd dreamed and imagined kissing him and what it would be like. But reality was so much better. Unfortunately, he remembers none of the experience because he was too scared and freaked out to enjoy it. What a shame. I even remember the feel of holding him right there in the airport, and how he smelled and the feel of the jeans and sweatshirt he was wearing.

Now days go by and we never kiss. When he does kiss me, it's quick little closed-mouth pecks on the lips. He pulls away so quickly, I hardly even get to enjoy the feel. I also have to ask to be kissed. Literally, I have to say, "Can I have a kiss?" And even then I only get the aforementioned casual peck.

I try to kiss him the way I want to be kissed. I even tried to describe it to him once, only to embarrass myself so badly that I ended up in tears afterwards. I've tried showing him and demonstrating how I'd like to be kissed. He said it "felt weird" and "would take getting used to". Well, three years later and obviously he still is not used to it. I have all but given up.

Still, I try. I brush my teeth, and use mouthwash, and try not to wear lipstick if I want to be kissed. I walk up close to him, or sit close to him. Yet he never gets it. I imagine he wonders why I don't sit on the other sofa since there is plenty of room over there. The other night, I wanted to kiss so much that I ended up really kissing on him in bed, the way I wanted to be kissed. I promise, if he could have pulled back any more, his head would have been buried in the pillow or down into the mattress. It was clear he was trying to get away from me - from the kissing. Later, I apologized for it, and promised I would not "assault" him like that again. When I asked why he was pulling away the whole time he said he was "trying to catch his breath" - literally.

So, I'm at a loss. I don't know how to talk about it anymore, and frankly I'm sick of talking about it. It seems like every time I try to talk about it, it just makes the whole problem worse.

So, what makes a great kiss? Hmmm - here's what I imagine is just about perfect: He looks me in the eyes, smiles, kisses me softly and slowly - doesn't pull away. He uses his hands, too - but no boob-grabbing (too Jr. High school) - along my back and my arms. He touches my face like he wants to memorize it. He kisses my neck and my shoulders - even licking and nibbling. He runs his hands through my hair. When he kisses me on the mouth, he stays there a good long time. He takes his time, isn't rushed, doesn't pull away. He kisses me the same way he wants to make love with me - hard and fast or slowly and passionately. He plays with my lips and tongue with his own, teases and tastes and lingers. He's not afraid to open his mouth, and enjoys the softness, and warmth, and even the wetness of kissing. He enjoys kissing, even making out. These kisses are long, slow, soft, moist, even deep (I'm hearing Kevin Costner now). He likes using all of his lips and tongue. He smiles and enjoys looking at me between kisses. He even tells me what he likes and what feels good. If it turns him on, he's not afraid to tell me. And he likes to do this a lot. He likes kissing for the sake of kissing, and kissing for foreplay, and kissing while making love, and kissing as afterplay.

I really don't know how you explain to someone how to kiss you. In my past relationships, kissing was never a problem. At least Travis enjoyed it! I've never had to beg to be kissed, and I've never had someone tell me it felt weird. And I have a pretty large sample size! (guess that's nothing to be proud of) I thought I was a good kisser - I've been told I am a good kisser.

Of all the things I miss, the regret I have over not having a lover, or a lover who likes to kiss me is a pretty strong regret.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


One of the changes that pre-midlife has brought is an ugly thing. It is jealousy. Not envy, but jealousy. I hate the feeling, and I can't recall having been a jealous person in the past. Of course, I've rarely felt so much anger, hurt, and frustration (coupled with insecurity) all at the same time either. So here's where I realized I had a problem:

My husband, who is not a happy individual, experiences the most joy when he is working and writing and being productive in scholarly and academic ways. He is usually isolated when he does this, which means he spends many hours alone in front of a computer. This also means that the things that give him the most joy and satisfaction in life are not things that he shares with me. I rarely see him happy. This doesn't mean we do not spend time together - on the contrary, we eat dinner together most every night, and we watch TV together until I am too tired to stay awake. On the weekends, he works while I do housecleaning, and he goes to church with me and on occasion will sit and read the Sunday paper with me. But we do not enjoy the same things, and since he is a quiet and reserved person, we do not have fantastic exchange of thoughts and feelings.

At least once a week, he spends a block of time in which he has committed to write in his office with one of the department's graduate students on a grant proposal - a young, sweet, smart, and pretty female graduate student - a happily married graduate student. The worst part is that I like her very much, and I've met her husband and liked him too. So why on earth would I feel jealous?

My husband does not get up in the mornings with me. When I leave for work at 7:30-ish, he is still sound asleep. Ironically, this morning he was up because he was going in bright and early to write with this student. I felt crushed that he is unable to get out of bed to see me in the mornings, but he is able to get up...(dare I say it??)...for her. But I know it's not her per se - it's his other life, his career, his work that he is getting up for. That is what he is willing to get out of bed for - but not for me.

I feel like my husband is having an affair with the rest of his life. I feel like he leaves to go to that which he dreams of all night. I feel like I get the leftovers. His way of putting it is this: "I'm spent." There is little of him left for me when all is said and done. And what I do get is not his best. I do not get to experience joy or happiness or peace with him. I get to solve the question about what is for dinner, and whether the credit card got paid, and if the tires on the car need to be rotated. Michael gives himself away to everyone else before he gives anything to me. He will spend money on me, and take care of anything I ask him to do. Yet somehow, that doesn't leave me feeling loved. It leaves me feeling last on his list. It leaves me feeling like one more thing he has to attend to on his to-do-list of the day. Write? Check. Answer e-mail? Check. Run to the post office? Check. Finish that journal article? Check? Tell Tamara I love her and give her a nonchalant peck? Check. Roll over and turn out the lights? Check.

But that does not end my list. It continues like this: Wonder why my husband has no desire to be with me? Check. Consider buying a vibrator? Check. Grow angry at being last again? Check. Try in vain to fall asleep? Check. Listen to my husband snore peacefully? Check. Grow angry and resentful? Check. Run through the mental checklist of why he wants nothing to do with me? Check. Start to cry? Check. Feel endless streams of hot tears running until my pillow is soaked and I flip it over? Check. Lie there and wish it would all end? Check.

And in the morning it starts over again. I wake up alone, eat breakfast alone and plan the day alone. I start dreading coming home at the end of the day, and I haven't even left the house. I look at him sleeping, and sometimes I admire how beautiful he is. Sometimes I walk over to the side of the bed and pet his head and lean over to smell him simply because I like it. And other times I don't turn around at all, and head out the door angry. The rest of the time I feel resigned. I used to really be in love with him. I got through endless difficult days knowing that we might see each other in a few weeks or so during a weekend visit or a conference. And now there is so little I look forward to.

So, the jealousy is about the joy he doesn't experience with me. It's knowing that everyone else gets to spend time with him doing things that he finds enjoyable. Meanwhile, I get a brooding, depressed, and exhausted roommate. I am jealous because I never got to be a newlywed. I just got to be the resented wife. His student is really lucky. She gets the best part of him, and doesn't even know it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Not Going It Alone

Like Bobby Brown, I too have my prerogative. I am changing my mind about having children. Of course, I still want to have children. But I think I am now choosing not to. And I think I want - no, need to write about why, for I am just now beginning to understand.

Maybe I'll start at the beginning, and finish this in stages - as long as it takes to sort out.

When I was a little girl, I had a school assignment to cut out pictures from stacks and stacks of magazines and glue together pictures of what our lives would look like in the future. Like most kids, I cut out pictures of my house and furnishings, a dream partner (who mysteriously looked a lot like my dad). I cut out pictures of cats, and I cut out a picture of two brown-haired, brown-eyed children - a boy and a girl. I named them Jason and Jennifer - very middle-class white America, don't you think? I liked this image of my family. I thought then that I would be a ballerina, or a singer. I thought my husband would be a doctor. I figured even then that our children would be beautiful and brilliant. I loved dreaming about these things!

My dream to have a family stayed with me until after my first marriage, when I was about 23. I'd met my girlfriend, Amber, and fell in love with her three children. But I saw how her husband and children often made her unhappy. I also started graduate school, and every message I got about being successful as a woman told me that children would be the death of my success - and if they weren't, they would be the death of me. I did not maintain a positive relationship with my father, who worked more than anyone I'd ever met, and who never seemed to like me much, let alone approve of me and the choices I made (and I craved his approval and longed for him to truly like me). My mother did not seem happy with my father much during that time in my life, but she always seemed happy that she had my brother and I. She never seemed to regret that.

My marriage to my first husband, Brian, was a blast at times, and a painful crisis at others. As I moved back into the swing of graduate school and we grew further and futher apart (spiritually, physically, and intellectually), we committed to never have children. When asked about it, we would just reply that children we not a goal of ours, nor the foundation for happiness. I carefully crafted the perfect "non-breeder" feminist response to any question. I always answered with confidence in my/our decision, and the more I said it, the more I believed it. We would see children, or our friends would have children, and we would talk about how grateful we were that we were not burdened by that. Whenever he lost a job (which I need both hands to count), or whenever we moved to a new city, we would tell each other how glad we were not to have children. When we went on vacation to Las Vegas, or even Disney World (how ironic), we'd remark about how lucky we were to not have to tote children along. We never changed our minds in the rest of our 9 years together.

When I finally decided to free myself from the chains of a bad marriage, I felt so many things I either had never felt before, or hadn't in a long time. Yet it took a while for my answers to change, and for me to articulate them to anyone - even to myself. It was around this time that I began to really get to know the man who would become my current (and hopefully last) husband. We had almost-nightly phone conversations, and we e-mailed (or I e-mailed him and from time-to-time he would acknowledge them) and talked about many important life issues, including children. I knew that he had recently ended a relationship with a beautiful, successful young woman - and that a main reason for the break-up was her desire to marry and have children. The marriage part he seemed to have less of a problem with, as they had planned to eventually marry. But he made it clear that he had no desire to have children. He made jokes and condescending remarks about people who wanted, or had children. When he talked about his friends or colleagues who had recently had children, it was with great bewilderment. He presented himself as somehow having become more intellectually evolved for not "needing" anything - especially children.

I told Michael that I did not want children either. Imagine his delight in knowing such a woman might exist - and she's pretty and smart and successful too. Imagine my confusion. I was 30 years old, educated, fairly attractive, and moderately accomplished. I could now freely choose the course of my life. And the man I had no come to love did not want children. "That's OK", I thought to myself. He had everything else going for him - he was a Christian, well-educated, extremely successful, brilliant, and beautiful. He came from a nice in-tact family, and didn't smoke, drink, or cuss. And he hated the very thought of children - second only to the thought of marriage, I think.

But I soon grew to want what the old Tamara had wanted all those years ago - a husband and children - a family of my own. In ways, I felt more free to go out and get this than I ever had before. In other ways, I was scared to death. Little by little, I tried to tell Michael about my feelings. While he seemed to listen, he did not seem to understand. Still the comments about female (and male) friends and co-workers who had or wanted children seemed to reveal his true feelings of disdain and contempt for anyone who wanted children and made that a goal in life. I cringed every time I heard these comments, and tried to brush them off as jokes. Then I began to cry about it - sometimes alone, and sometimes in front of him. I am certain he had no idea what I was so upset about. The more I tried to communicate my feelings to him, the more misunderstood I felt and the more frustrated Michael became. He ended our relationship in March of 2003 and would not agree to even see me until October of that year. He kept telling me he couldn't give me what I wanted, and that we were not the right people for each other. I am sure my newfound desire to have children was a part of it - my desire to get married was another.

In March 2004, my mistake or divine intervention, we somehow managed to get married. Michael wanted to wait until we were living in the same place for me to go off of birth control pills. I did as he wanted. Then late last year he agreed that it would be OK if I stopped taking them. He said he did not want to "try" to conceive, but that it was OK to not try to prevent it. At the time, I did not see the difference. I do now. Since then, a lot has been different. Michael is depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, and unhappy.

About 4 months ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS and found that my own fertility might be an issue. I started on Metformin, and now have regular cycles. In the meantime, my husband learned he too has fertility issues that are far less treatable. We do not discuss it. I test my fertility to see if I am ovulating. I chart my cycles, and feel crazy for doing it. All this I do in secret. My husband and I do not talk about trying to have children. He says whatever I want is fine, and that he would be OK with it. OK. Fine. Not happy, not excited, not joyous - fine. And his desire to be intimate with me is all but gone. I'm sure all of this has killed him mentally. I am sure he prays every month that if we are intimate, that I won't get pregnant. So, maybe this is why I need to change my mind about this...

There is a young man my husband works with, and he and his wife are having their first child soon. We saw them at a picnic recently, and they were positively inseparable and grinning from ear-to-ear. He stood behind her with his arms around her, and they talked about how excited they were as they made preparations for the baby to come. They even talked about planning the pregnancy so that he would not be teaching when the baby came. It was nice to see a couple where the woman was not the only one excited about having a baby. I wish I had someone to be excited about trying with. And the lack of having someone to be excited with has me changing my mind...

Every month there is disappointment when I learn I'm not pregnant. It's not horrible, but this month I was really down because I thought I had managed to time sex pretty well last month with my ovulation. I sense that my husband is relieved, and I have no one to be sad or disappointed with. I have no one to talk to about it. My best friend knows I want children, but she has no idea of the feelings I have each month to learn that my efforts haven't worked. I am sure she is tired of hearing me talk about my fertility issues. And so...

Now, as we spent the weekend in Alabama at my brother-in-law's graduation, I wondered what it would have been like to tote children on a trip with us. I wondered if it would be all that bad. It wouldn't be, if I had a partner to be happy with me. But I can't become a happy mother without a happy father - a happy partner. And I know it won't work with a partner who says, "Whatever you want is fine. I don't want it, but if you do, then we'll do it." I've decided that having children just can't be like that.

So, this week I'm going to the doctor for a checkup, and I'm asking to get back on the pill. Because for as much as I truly wanted to have children, I'm not going it alone.