Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Being an adult - 5 grocery tips

I haven't written for a few days, but I don't especially have any issues getting me riled up. Or books/TV shows/movies/products to review. Soon, but not yet.

So I thought I'd write instead about how I'm learning to be an adult through my grocery shopping. Don't worry, I'm not turning this into a mommy blog - I'm just kind of proud of myself. And I think I have a few good suggestions that I've never seen before.

  1. I start out using this printable to plan my meals for the week: At first, I looked down on this sort of thing. I disliked the crafts women make to hang a menu in their kitchen. I mean, my mom always told me she wasn't a restaurant, and putting a menu in your kitchen seems to contradict that. But this printable is different from that because it is really made to help you plan what to shop for. Your shopping is organized by meals. After I'm done with the shopping, I put the list on my fridge and it helps me remember the meals I had planned earlier in the week and what the ingredients I bought are for (I can be very forgetful). I've been using it for weeks, and I love it.
  2. When I plan my meals, I try to have a "secret" ingredient. Kind of like that TV show, "Iron Chef"? If I've bought ham, I try to make multiple meals that use ham that week. So if I make some sort of cheesy ham broccoli rice thing in the crockpot, I later make fried rice (or Colby does, because he's the expert at that meal) and put ham in it. This is great for me and Colby because, with only two of us, food tends to spoil more than we would like. It's also great because you aren't buying multiple expensive ingredients at the same time. This might get boring to some people, but it really works for us. 
  3. This has been said before, but we only shop once a week, and we try to make it the same day every time. We also see grocery shopping as a bit of a moderate race, because the longer you stay in there, the more you will buy. 
  4. Try to go to a store where you will have some sort of membership discount card. Only buy the generic of everything, and then the card will get you some really great discounts. 
  5. As soon as you leave the grocery store, grab the receipt and shame yourself with it. I'm serious! And I don't mean shame yourself over what food you bought and its calorie count/fat content/whatever else health-wise you could get upset about. Don't do that! Just scan down the list of prices. For us, if one item is above $3, that's a red flag. That doesn't mean that we don't buy that item next week - it just means we want to be aware of our expensive items and if we really need them or not. Simply going over the list and the costs of each item will help you prioritize which foods you actually need and which ones are luxury items. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sexytimes Language

Once upon a time, I was talking to my mom and my sister about sex. I can't remember exactly how the conversation went, but it was definitely about intercourse and sexytimes ("sexytimes" is my fun word for all the sexual experiences, or "play" as some people call it. I prefer to use it, personally, because it makes the whole experience sound more playful and it is more all-encompassing. I also think that maybe it is less heteronormative - definition found here - because of it's nature of including all types of sexual acts). 

Both my mom and sister are medical professionals (or future medical professionals, in the case of my little sister) and LDS. Because my mom has been a nurse for a very long time, she has always been very comfortable talking about sex and genitals with us. My sister, on the other hand, can be very uptight. I think because of her rigidity in Mormonism and some of her past experiences, she is extremely uncomfortable when sex comes up. 

I, on the other hand, love to talk about sex. I like hearing about others' experiences with sex because I believe it can be very enlightening (for example, I think reading about the BDSM community or sex workers can teach us a lot about the emotions and psychology behind sex, as well as the culture and stigma surrounding sex). I can also be very immature at times, like when I think sex is funny. I'll admit that. I don't mind that I can be immature about sex, because I think it makes me more comfortable with sex and makes sex more fun for me and my partner.

So what happened in this conversation between me, my mom, and my sister, is that my sister became very upset with the time of colloquialisms I was using. I think I was saying "cum" or "jizz." To me, it is very natural to use those words, especially since I most learned about sex as an ignorant teenager trying to look up information online. Not exactly the best way. 

My sister found my slang to be "disrespectful" of sex, which she believes is a very sacred act. I agree with her there, by the way. I believe sex is sacred, and it is most enjoyable when it is treated seriously and with respect. 

But I'm not sure we need to "deify" sex all of the time. For a lot of people, using slang or colloquialisms for sexytime things makes them a lot more comfortable than using the correct, medical terms for things, which can be very sterile and intimidating. And when people are more comfortable talking about sex, they learn more and feel more comfortable having sex. 

The practice of being able to communicate with people you love about sexytimes, such as family members, does translate directly into being able to talk to your partner about sex. It is a hell of a lot easier to talk to your partner about specific sexytimes things when you feel more comfortable using specific words. It might be a lot easier for you to say "don't cum on me" than "don't get your ejaculate or semen on me." 

Some people might argue that this is very immature. And I'm not necessarily going to disagree with them. Maybe we do all need to be comfortable using "proper" words. I would definitely say that we should be more comfortable saying "vagina" and "penis," because I believe those clinical words help us to be more educated about those specific areas. That and other slang can be so derogatory to our own bodies, and I believe in loving your body! Not in subtly putting it down! 

And maybe if we were all more comfortable with using the "sterile" words, it'd be easier to talk to our doctors and other medical professionals about sexual, reproductive, and general genital health (that may have been redundant. Oh well).

But I would argue that it is way more imperative to educate others on their sexual health, and to have healthy dialogue about sex practices, than it is to enforce specific words being used.

That and my sister really just needs to lighten up.    

Thoughts? Questions? Confessions? They are welcome!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

More Art

The BYU art museum really is a great place to go. Sure, they have your expected religious and LDS art, but they have a bunch of interesting modern exhibits as well. And while you're not going to find any nudes (I think), some of the pieces displayed are pushing the envelope in a different way. (I talked about another exhibit that they still have up here. It's Andy Warhol and Takashi Murakami.)

Their current exhibit is "We Could Be Heroes: The Mythology of Monsters and Heroes in Contemporary Art." It's an interesting exhibit because the pieces all seem very mismatched. You have photography, paintings, videos, sculptures, large inflatables, etc. None of the pieces really have the same aesthetic feel. Some concentrate on comic book characters, some on real-life "heroes," and some on Big Foot. I guess what really ties them all together is the artist's exploration of what it means to be a hero or monster. 

A piece that really stuck out to Colby and I was this untitled painting by Michael Whiting. The rest of Whiting's artwork can be found on his website here.

The story goes that Whiting found this piece at a garage sale or something like that, and then painted a pixelated robot into the original scenery. What's awesome is that it works so well, you almost can't even tell. I mean yes, there is a giant futuristic robot in the middle of this Victorian (?) romanticized pasture, but the colors, the softness, and the direction that all of the nature and characters seem to point to fit in perfectly with his addition.

And who could not love a bubblegum pink pixelated robot? Especially in the middle of all that nature - he just looks like he belongs. There's definitely a lot of great humor to this painting. 

Again, maybe this piece of art mostly appeals to Colby and I because of our love of science fiction. But this painting also makes me want to find garage sale crap and turn it into something awesome. If only I were artistically inclined!

So props to Mr. Whiting and the BYU art museum. (You can check out the museum's website here.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mormonism & Femininity

So much pink ...
When men in the LDS church say things like this, it makes women feel special. Words such as "delicate, radiant, sensitive, creative, charming, gracious, gentle, dignified," and possessing "quiet strength," are very complimentary.

My problem is that those are the ONLY words used to describe LDS women, or really the ideal LDS woman. This quote comes from the talk Womanhood: The Highest Place of Honor, and can be in full found here

What bothers me first about this quote is the very limited way which a woman can be in Faust's eyes. It sounds like he is basically describing a china doll, and I for one do not want to break. I've head before that "if you put a woman on a pedestal only the thing she can do is fall," so I disagree with saying things like "womanhood is the highest place of honor." 

But also, this quote tries to make it so beauty is no longer dependent on shallow things, such as hair and makeup, but making beauty based instead on levels of spirituality. "Inner beauty," becomes the strength of your testimony. In this sense, it is almost as shallow as the physical attributes. To judge a woman's spirituality and to find her attractive based on that quality alone is wrong. A person's spirituality is just one facet of her life. Why are we not attracted to her based on her personality? 

What disturbs me even more about that talk is this quote right here:
"Unfortunately, we see some very poor role models of womanhood in today’s society. We see women boxers and wrestlers as we flip through the television channels trying to find something uplifting. I believe the women of our time need to be strong, but not in that sense. In my opinion, these activities demean the nobility of womanhood."
 Women are only allowed to be strong in a "quiet" way, possessing only spiritual strength. Women who engage in typically masculine activities, such as boxing and wrestling, are all the sudden bad people because they are not feminine enough. How in the world could female boxers and wrestlers be bad examples for women? We glorify female pioneers who pushed handcarts across the country for their physical strength, as well as emotional and spiritual strength - why not a modern woman doing what she loves? 

Talks like this rigidly define gender roles in the LDS culture. "Femininity" is a social construct, but many in the Church teach it as a divine characteristic of women. 

The same type of rhetoric can be found here at Meridian magazine (link): 
"• Be a lady.
Is there a difference between a woman and lady?  When a female client was recently asked this question she said, “Woman is a gender, lady is an attitude.”  An excellent definition of the difference.  One man said, “My wife is my yardstick for womanhood.  She acts like a lady, she dresses like a lady, she talks like a lady, and expects to be treated like a lady.  And she’s fun to be around.”
Men love being with a lady. They’re surrounded by men all day, or some women who are trying to be like men, so give him the gift of having a wife who is a true lady. He’ll love it. And yes, ladies can do all kinds of tough tasks and still be a lady.  Does that mean she has to wear a skirt all the time.  Of course not.  That’s not even practical. It means she acts in gentleness, but can work like a trooper.  She is strong, and yet is respectful and gentle in her strength. She doesn’t curse or act vulgar. She speaks in loving ways. She embraces her femininity. That’s being a lady.  Remember, it’s an attitude.
President Faust said, “Femininity is part of your inner beauty.” (Ensign, May 2000, 96) So let it show by how you act."
This comes from a list of how to be a good wife (which I mostly agreed with until this part).

This type of language and these very specific expectations on LDS women are not only among the older in the Church (whom I believe are still living in a Mad Men era). I see it a lot in the people my age as well, for they are internalizing everything they are hearing.

Here is a blog post from a "gentlemen" at BYU, wondering where all the truly beautiful women have gone:

Here is an article published in BYU's student newspaper, The Universe, on gender roles and the recent announcement that women can now be in the front lines of the army:

All of this may sound very nice, saying nice things about women and their divinity.

But it is all extremely SEXIST. You may not immediately recognize it because of the benevolence with which it is said. And I am sure all of these different people only had good intentions when they wrote the things they did. They probably aren't aware of their sexism either.

Why is this all sexist if it sounds so complimentary? You are putting all women in a very narrow box. You are limiting women to very specific roles, instead of allowing them to make decisions for themselves based on their personal needs. You are putting women on a pedestal, instead of treating them like equals. You are treating women respectfully, but not actually respecting them.

I have a fairly good example of this in play. When I was living in my ward in New England, there was a young girl there, about 12-13, who wanted to be a boy. And I don't just mean that she was a tomboy - for whatever reason, she wanted to be a boy. She dressed in only boys' clothing, tried hard to cover up anything that revealed she was anatomically female, and always kept her hair short. This was a problem for the leaders in my ward who didn't know what to do with her. She couldn't be in the Young Mens program because that would be improper. She didn't want to be in the Young Womens program. This wasn't just a phase she was going through, and I believe that to this day her family respects her decisions and treats her as if she (I should be saying "he") is a man. But while he was still young, the actions of our ward made him feel very isolated.

There are many LDS members who believe that such behavior is wrong, the same way acting on homosexual attraction is wrong (to them). In my opinion, you are free to believe that, though I would disagree with you. Regardless, as christians and members of a welcoming church, we should not allow someone to feel isolated because they do not fit our description of what they should be doing. We should not judge others, spiritually or otherwise, based on whether or not they act more typically feminine or masculine. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Good & bad wisdom

In my January Relief Society newsletter, there was a blurb from Elder Neil L. Andersen's talk Reverence for God is the Beginning of Wisdom, which can be found in full here.

The chunk picked out to be in the newsletter goes like this:

I want to emphasize several principles of wisdom. First, in our age of information and knowledge, we must seek after wisdom. Wisdom is multidimensional and comes in different sizes and colors. Wisdom gained early brings enormous blessings. Wisdom in one area may not be transferable to another. And finally, the wisdom of the world, while in many cases very valuable, is most valuable when it humbly bows to the wisdom of God.
The scriptures describe two types of wisdom: the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world has both a positive and a negative component. In the darkest description, it could be described as a partial truth, mixed with intelligence and manipulation, to achieve selfish or evil purposes.
An example from the Book of Mormon is the man Amlici. The scriptures say that “a certain man, being called Amlici, he being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world … [drew] away much people after him.” The scriptures go on to describe Amlici as a “wicked man, … [whose] intent [was] to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:1–2, 4; emphasis added). We are not interested in this kind of wisdom.
There is another kind of wisdom of the world that is not nearly so sinister. In fact it is very positive. This wisdom is consciously acquired through study, reflection, observation, and hard work. It is very valuable and helpful in the things we do. To good and decent people, it comes as we experience our mortality.
Let's just say that I don't really get it. As a Church, we are constantly encouraged to learn. We are taught that we all have gifts we can develop through learning, whether it is skills or hobbies. We are taught that an education in both a college sense and a religious sense is very important to our spiritual progression and eternal development. So why would we then classify knowledge into "good" and "bad"?

To me, it doesn't seem like there is really any kind of "bad" wisdom, unless you're learning about devil worship (that's mostly a joke). As Andersen clearly demonstrated, there is always cases of people using their wisdom in bad ways. But does that really mean that there are certain avenues of learning that we shouldn't pursue?

I feel like this sort of thinking comes up a lot in the opposition to Mormon feminism. Many members would like to classify feminism as "wisdom of the world." They feel feminism is a dangerous line of thinking that they should not follow, even if it means clarifying what "feminism" actually is. So you get people who respond to the "Let Women Pray" campaign by saying that we should not be questioning the General Authorities' wisdom. Or people who really do believe that, in the gospel and Heavenly Father's perfect system, women are subservient.

This is not to say that feminism should take the place of spiritual learning within the Church. Or that anything should. All kinds of learning can supplement the spiritual learning done in church (science and feminism are the first that come to mind).

I believe that many people are scared of certain kinds of learning, such as learning that may make them doubt the Church or their own testimonies, if only for a little while. They would put the kind of learning that scares them into "bad" wisdom, and accuse those who have allowed themselves to experience doubt of being led astray. But I also believe that it is necessary to doubt at some point in your life in order to develop real and lasting faith. I guess it would be a lot like the Indiana Jones scene where he takes the "leap of faith" ... but omg ... how coincidental is that name?!

We as a Church should not be closed off to any lines of learning, particularly when it comes to someone else experiencing their testimonies differently from ours. How ironic is it that a very radical, progressive church that was founded by a little boy praying and everyone else having the faith to believe him is now a stereotypical close-minded conservative church? How does that make any sense?

It doesn't. So I propose we throw out this old-fashioned line of thinking that makes knowing certain things good or bad, rather than emphasizing that only the active use of knowledge can sometimes be bad.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Let Women Pray

Discovering Mormon feminists has been such a huge joy for me. It has been so amazing to find men and women who feel the same way as me - both in sharing some not-so-mainstream beliefs, and in the same emotions of being an outsider, being confused, etc. Some of the discussions we have are amazing.

It seems to me like Mormon feminists are trying very hard to make some small splashes in the Church. In the past, various Church leaders have spoken out against feminists as people who destroy families, essentially. I feel like these older gentlemen can be (kind of) forgiven because they probably witnessed a very radical kind of feminism that did appear to be full of home-wreckers for the sake of home-wrecking. However, many much younger LDS members follow suit, and there is constantly a lot of backlash against Mormon feminists. For this reason, they have to be very careful to not incite a lot of negative responses - such as excommunication - and try to limit their movements to changes that are not very radical, but still improvements.

One of these changes is being attempted by the "Let Women Pray" movement, found on Facebook here. (This is being done by the same women who put together the "Pants" event, where women would wear pants to church. They are called All-Enlisted.) Like this beautiful infographic says, a woman has never prayed in General Conference before, despite a proclamation made by President Kimball in the '70s that a woman can pray at any activity that they attend. I hadn't ever even noticed that this was a thing. I don't think most Mormons have.

Like I said, this is a pretty small step, especially when you consider that "worldly" feminists are trying to end rape culture and elect a female president. But I do feel like it is a very important step. If you don't think so, look at some of the crap that is being slung at this Facebook group! So many people who consider themselves to be righteous members of the Church are saying such rude things that reveal a lot of subtle sexism - or at least an unwillingness to question the Church. Which is sad.

So anyway, I actually wrote a letter. I'm going to admit that it is not very good. I think it's more sentimental than some other exerts I'm seeing from other peoples' letters, but I was trying to use a lot of techniques and wording that General Authorities usually use in General Conference talks. Also, I was full of feelings and emotions and tears (and, I admit, feeling the Spirit)! So it didn't come out very logically.

Here it is:

To whom it may concern:
I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my entire life. I have never written a letter to a General Authority before, but I am writing now because this is a matter very dear to my heart. Even now, as I write this, I'm feeling very nervous, but also very sure that this is right.
I love being LDS. I love the sense of family and community, and the constant learning that is encouraged in the Church. I loved it in Primary when I had friends to play with and I loved being in Young Women's where I could learn about my divine potential and find role models in my adult leaders. But I became inactive a few years ago. I started to feel like I didn't fit in, no matter what ward I went to. I started to feel too different from everyone else. It is only in the past few months that I have regained a sense of solidarity by finding other women, and men, who have frequently felt the same way I have. This is a church for the misfit toys, the ostracized, the Nephis and Sams as we try to resist the Lamans and Lemuels of the world who dislike us for being too different. This is a church for everyone.
As women in this world, there are many ways that we are disrespected as a gender. Many times General Authorities have outlined this themselves when they talk about pornography or the over-sexualization of women in the media. There are many forces, including the adversary, who gain from taking equality and divinity away from women. We resist the forces of evil who wish to fill us with darkness by praying. I was taught from a young age to “search, ponder, and pray.” I watch my young niece, who is only a year and a half old, babble incoherently as she tries to imitate her mother praying. As a young newly-wed, I felt so much love and acceptance when my father-in-law, with tears in his eyes, thanked his Heavenly Father for his new daughters in a family prayer. It is with these small steps that we fight those who would try to take away our light. Even now as I write this, I can feel the Spirit overwhelmingly confirm to me just how important prayer is. I truly believe that it is through prayer that we learn to love our Heavenly Parents, ourselves, and everyone else around us.
And as a Woman and Relief Society member, I need to know that our leaders, including the General Authorities, love me and my sisters, and that they are listening to us. I need to know, and I would like to raise my future children to know, that we are all equals in the eyes of the Lord. I would like the General Authorities to show how important the power of prayer is to everyone by having a woman pray in General Conference where all members of the church – children, youth, and adults – can hear it. I would like to see the divinity of women recognized through being given that privilege.
I believe that the gospels and doctrines of the LDS church are true. And that is why I humbly ask you to consider this small request from one small daughter of God.
Questions? Thoughts? Please comment below!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

Yay, I finished one of my book resolution books (post found here)!!!

This book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The novel starts out in 1959 as a Baptist preacher takes his family to live in the Congo so they can be missionaries. Interestingly enough, the entire story takes place from the point of view of his wife and four daughters, and not the preacher. I believe this novel is supposed to be a modern-day retelling of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a classic that takes place in 19th century colonized Congo. They share very similar themes of individuals trying to "colonize" the land, but the jungle is so wild that it ends up changing them forever, claiming them, or driving them mad. They learn in the end that Africa will never play by their Western rules.

Kingsolver's novel, however, is not nearly as dark as Conrad's, so don't be too afraid there. It's also interesting to note that Heart of Darkness had hardly any women in it, but Kingsolver's book is not only from the perspective of women, but often concentrates on the role of women in both the tribe they are living with and the American society back home. I almost see this book as a sort of sequel to Heart of Darkness, and I think it would be very effective reading for maybe a high school AP history class (because you have the original effects of colonization, then the lasting effects up to the 1980s).

I loved this book and recommend it to anyone. I finished it in about a week, which says a lot because it is over 500 pages. I will say that the end dragged on a long time. You'd think it would've ended about 200 pages earlier, where the climax was, but it just kept going. The end also gets very contemplative and preachy. I think Kingsolver really wanted this novel to touch in our modern times, to relate to the reader in some way. I'm not really sure because I wasn't around in the 80s, so I had no idea what was going on in the Congo back then (come to think of it, I don't even know what's going on there right now ...).

I did find this book pretty easy to relate to in certain ways. It does make you think about real Christianity ("There are Christians and then there are Christians," the novel says at some point). I think the novel does ask you to think about what circumstances would change you. I think it definitely smacks you over the head with our own white, American privilege, and wants us to be aware that our lives are so vastly different from people living in Africa (or other places like it). And really, I appreciate that. I mean, the least we can do is be aware of our privilege.

Also interesting: although the novel talks a lot about Western vs. African privilege, it rarely goes near the issues of race and the discriminations that existed. You'd think it would do that more, but I think the point Kingsolver is trying to bring across is about humanity in general, and not the differences we have. I think she did that extremely well.

To end with: it was beautifully written, with an engaging story and very round, likable characters. Go put it on your list.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I've written before in this blog post, Day 1, that I am currently unemployed and working full-time at finding a new job. Being a former English major, there really isn't much out there for me, and it has been a struggle. Still, I'm hopeful.

What I want to talk about in this blog post is how I am home, all day every day, while my husband is still a full-time student and part-time employee. This means that I'm dropping him off and picking him up every day from school and work because we only have one car. He comes home exhausted and starving every night, sometimes as late as 7pm. After he's done with school for the day, he still has long and demanding projects to do for homework, some of which can take up to 20-30 hours depending on their difficulty (he's a computer science major).

Since I have nothing to do all day except look and apply for jobs, this means that the "domestic" work falls mostly on me. I make dinner almost every night. I do all of the dishes, laundry, cleaning, vacuuming, meal planning, etc. When this semester wasn't as busy, Colby would come with me to grocery shop, but now he doesn't have the time.

For a little while, I was worried about the inequality that this situation might possess, especially after my little sister referred to me as a "stay-at-home-mom." I'm not even a mom!

I talked to my older brother about my concerns, and he reminded me not to look at it that way. Colby's and my marriage is one where equal partnerships will always be the ideal. It is definitely something we both wanted going into that big commitment. In this place in our lives, it isn't about Colby being the "breadwinner" and me doing the "woman" work. It's about both of us picking up each other's slack. I am not doing all of the household chores because I am the woman; I am doing them because I am the one who is home all the time and has the time and energy to do it. Being a stay-at-home-wife may not be my choice at the moment, but it is my choice to be as positive as I can about it, and be grateful when Colby does have the time and energy to clean or make a meal (which I make sure he does every single time he can).

I am, of course, still looking for a job. My career is very important to me. But I am also still super proud of myself when I try a new recipe and create a delicious new meal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is the book that my Relief Society bookclub is reading for this month. It is a historical fiction about a family (particularly the sisters) who helped start a revolution that eventually overthrew the dictator of the Dominican Republic. A brief historical summery can be found here: Wikipedia.

I think this book was great for our bookclub because it centers around the Mirabel sisters, who were an important symbol of the movement, as well as extremely brave activists. They were called "Las Mariposas," which I guess means "butterflies" in Spanish - hence the title.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. It's a fairly easy read, but very interesting. I think that the dictator, Trujillo, and the struggle of the Dominicans is a largely forgotten part of history (I only know of it because I've read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz). The majority of the novel concentrates on the relationships between the sisters, but also about the sisters as wives, daughters, in-laws, mothers, etc., even their relationships to God and their beloved country. They learn much about themselves and grow, especially as they get older and the rebellious movement picks up. I think the women are largely fascinating because even though they married young in a patriarchal society where their husbands and fathers had the final say and they were expected to just raise children, they are extremely independent and strong. Their involvement in the revolutionary movement is often alongside their husbands or they joined after their husbands did, but they have roles separate from their husbands. Their reasons were separate from their husbands. They were seen as just as much of a threat to Trujillo, if not more of one.

What I didn't like about the novel was that it was easy to mix up the timelines and some of the sister's husbands. The sisters themselves were distinct enough that they were easy to keep straight, but I could never remember who was married to who.

Some bookclub questions:

  1. Why did the Dominican people choose to call the Mirabel sisters "the butterflies"? What is the significance of that particular symbol?
  2. How were the Mirabel sisters strong outside of their activism? 
  3. How did their gender influence this story?
  4. In what way were these women "nurturers"?
  5. What did this novel teach you about relationships?
  6. When did the sisters grow in this novel?
  7. Where in the novel could you relate to the characters or their situations?
  8. What did this novel teach you about sacrifice?
  9. What about their setting is similar to ours? Do we share some of those cultural aspects (such as religion, emphasis on family, etc.)?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dating a porn addict

This is a topic I've wanted to write about for a while because I've had quite a bit of experience with it. Well, maybe not compared to some of the stories I've read about women who have married men who are addicted to pornography and have had to deal with it for years and years. But I've dated two guys with porn addictions and have heard experiences from other men who had once suffered from the same problem, and I do think that's probably more than the average person.

So yeah, I dated two different men, both living in Utah, who were addicted to porn. One was LDS, but the other was strongly Greek Orthodox. They were both in their early 20s and hadn't had very much experience with relationships. In fact, I'd say that their strongest female relationship throughout their lives was with their mothers.

I'm not an expert on pornography addictions. I've done some research,  but I mainly just have my experiences to go off of. I don't know if having an unusually strong relationship with your mother is a symptom or product of a pornography addiction, but I do know that in these specific examples of the two guys I dated, it was a strong factor in the unhealthy relationships they had with women. I do also know that the rates for pornography addictions are higher in Utah, and that religious beliefs about sexuality can definitely be a big determinant in that.

If you are beginning a relationship with someone who has problems with pornography, my advice to you is to just stop. They are great people, I'm sure, but you do not want to have to deal with that problem if you don't have to. If you don't believe me, just go to any support discussion board and read the stories of these wives who have had their hearts broken so many times.

Here are a few things I've noticed about men with pornography addictions:

  1. They usually have another problem that they are treating with pornography. For example, one guy I dated suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, while the other had severe anxiety. I didn't stick with these guys long enough to know if treating those other problems helped with their pornography addictions.
  2. They felt that they were victims. To some degree, I agree with this and sympathize. I've heard stories where a man's first exposure to pornography starts with something tame, like Victoria's Secret ads, or with someone else giving them the porn and not with them seeking it out. It makes sense, with internet ads and pop-ups frequently being very pornographic in nature. But no matter how the addiction starts, it seems to me that the addict could never get out of the "victim" phase. When my exes confided in me that they had pornography addictions, it was usually accompanied with tears and feelings of anguish and regret. They genuinely wished that they did not have an addiction. However, that was as far as they were willing to go. They would ask for my help, and I would waste no time going to the internet and trying to find out how to help them. I found software programs that would report all of their internet activity to them or a sponsor. I found group therapies for this specific addiction (not hard to find in Utah). I found internet chat boards. I bought them journals. I encouraged them to go to therapists and religious leaders. I encouraged them to put their computers in a more public place in the house. But they responded by doing very little. That is their own choice and fine. No one should ever push an addict to recover if they don't want to. But if they act like they want to change, but then employ very few methods or put forth only a little effort, then back out. At some point, they need to move past the victim phase. But they aren't going to do it because of you. It is my belief that, deep down, these addicts did not want to give recovery everything they had, and I think it was because they were afraid of failing and feeling like they really were bad people. Either way, just don't deal with it.
  3. They do not have good relationships with women. They have very few female friends. They have been in very few romantic relationships. Some have unhealthily close relationships with their mothers that keep them from forming romantic relationships with women who are not related to them. Neither of the addicts I dated were very into commitment, which I believe is partly due to the places they were in their lives and partly due to their addiction. Both of the addicts I dated eventually went to therapists and talked about me. Though both of them were unwilling to give me up completely even after we broke up, both of them would report back to me that they talked about me in their therapy sessions and discovered that I was often the one to blame. Both of their therapists diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder without ever having met me. So as much as a porn addict may need you and love you, they also will turn on you and use you as a scapegoat if it means lifting some of the blame off of themselves. 
  4. Neither of them actually wanted to have sex with me, surprisingly enough. They were both willing to fool around with me and had many sexual desires, but that was as far as it would go. I do not think this is because they already had an outlet and, therefore, didn't "need" me. I think it has more to do with their religious beliefs and with their inability to make that emotional connection.
  5. Many porn addicts I have met have confided in me that they have committed some deviant behavior. One admitted to me that he had hired a prostitute. One admitted to me that he had molested a girl in her sleep when they were both young teenagers. One admitted to me that he had previously been in a dominant-submissive relationship, also when they were teenagers (which, regardless of whether or not you are okay with that type of relationship, is way too young to start trying that sort of thing out). They were all secretive about the types of porn that they looked at, but I did hear from them the different types of fetishes that they had watched. I have always believed in the saying "to each his/her own" and so I do not judge those with very specific and unusual sexual preferences. However, it is my understanding that pornography addictions become a problem of constant escalation, of constantly needing newer and more exotic material until the addict becomes unable to have a healthy sexual relationship with a real person. So while having one unusual fetish may be healthy (I really don't know), I do know that an addict getting off on lots of different fetishes is unhealthy. This article from an actual porn addict is very helpful in understanding what I'm saying here:
I think that'll be the end of my thoughts. 

I want to wrap this up by apologizing if I've offended anyone. I do not mean to say that porn addicts are pariahs that we should shun, or that they are bad people. All I want to do is advise women to not date people with this particular problem until they learn how to recover from it. I am clearly not an expert, nor do I believe that every observation I've recorded here must necessarily apply to all persons with a porn addiction. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Parents on Pinterest

So, lately I've been creeped out by stuff like this: 

I am not a parent. Maybe that means I don't have the right to judge because I don't understand. But I don't give a crap.


Yes, you love your children a lot. Your love is super special. But you do not love your child like this. This all sounds like ROMANTIC love. 

Also, I really don't like the father necklace story because your father should not be "owning" or "possessing" your heart like this. The symbolism happening here of the father passing the heart on to the groom (which is not "literal," by the way, it is definitely figurative) is too close to when fathers would pass on their daughters as property. Not to mention, it's just way to damn cheesy for my taste.