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Oct. 11th, 2012 | 09:23 am

I keep walking into traffic, black cabs honking at me, giant red double-decker buses looming up in my face at the last minute, my friend yanking back my arm, “Look out!” I cannot get the hang of checking for cars in the right direction, even with LOOK LEFT and LOOK RIGHT helpfully painted on the roadway. It’s not obliviousness, but misplaced instinct—last week was Puerto Vallarta in the off-season, every taxi drifting slowly by, calling out to me in hope that I was tired of walking, ready to go to Nuevo Vallarta to a club or a casino or even the airport (150 pesos!) instead of walking and browsing through the old city, the local part of town.

The week before was Canada, where just standing on the curb indecisively leads to sudden braking. Half the time I ended up crossing without really needing to, feeling obligated to the stopped line of cars.

Here the City goes about its business, the pedestrians are on their own lookout. The street signs are bolted to the sides of buildings, or painted on. In the county town where I sleep, the names of closes and courts and lanes and ways are on signs at knee level, easy to spot now that I remember where to look.

I don’t know where to look when my friend’s children get home from school. They’re at the whiny, I-want-it age, the age where they’ve started noticing what their friends are wearing without comprehending how a household budget works. I write my mother, Were we that ungrateful? Did we have to be asked five times to empty the dishwasher? I’m sure we were, we did, we’re getting old now and we don’t remember storming up the stairs with “I hate you!” bitter in our mouths. Now we ride the train and raise our eyebrows at the teenage girls with piercing voices.

My friend has no support system, only barely out of “I hate you!” with her own parents after twenty-five years of bed-sits and keeping the house cold to save, still paying off the debts from two partners ago, still in therapy from the last partner, still replacing the things she gave up to move for the twenty-third time. I remind myself of these things when I notice that she does not want her children. I try to remember to shut the door so that someone creeping to the bathroom in the night won’t hear “mistake” and “doing my time.”

I would feel the same.

As my coach says, “None of the plans you’ve ever talked about have a little person running around in them.” And maybe I’d be more driven if they did, if dinner for all of us depending on turning out words every day. Maybe I would have my friend’s MBA, her fast-paced job, her five CV pages of skill set. Instead I have late mornings, afternoon tea, squeezing out a few paragraphs before the bus home, the wayward days of the artist alone.



_______________________________________
Do you secretly wish you'd worn that condom?

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Comments {9}

Vice Captain of the Universe

(no subject)

from: sweeny_todd
date: Oct. 11th, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
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haha! I know!! I often look at kids and think "did I act like that???" knowing full well I could be a horrible kid!

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Holly

(no subject)

from: minnesattva
date: Oct. 11th, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
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It took me so long to get used to the traffic being on the wrong side of the road (even more because, being what they call partially-sighted, I never realized how dependent I was on audio cues until they all failed me: only then did I catch myself thinking "I'll miss a car from that way if I hurry across" or "that direction will mean the side of the road further from me" and always end up getting especially in the car's way rather than pointedly staying out of it.

Your title made me smile, just because I've seen a lot of people talk about National Coming Out Day (in the U.S. today, UK tomorrow, but everybody talks about it everywhere on the internet) and of course there's all kinds of orientation, or lack thereof.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 12th, 2012 12:41 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I keep being startled as cars come from the "wrong" side!

I hadn't realized it was Coming Out Day until I got on FB, funny coincidence :)

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Rowan

(no subject)

from: mzrowan
date: Oct. 11th, 2012 02:47 pm (UTC)
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Do you secretly wish you'd worn that condom?

No, I secretly wish that the next person who secretly wishes that would give their baby to me.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 12th, 2012 12:42 pm (UTC)
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I still remember the thing you posted about the way to determine if one was ready to be a parent was that you felt "when will the misery of childlessness end" rather than "might be nice." It's one of the things that helped me decide not to parent.

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Oct. 11th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
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I loved all the contrasts here, including

The week before was Canada, where just standing on the curb indecisively leads to sudden braking. Half the time I ended up crossing without really needing to, feeling obligated to the stopped line of cars.

Oh, Canadians. How are you so lovely? And how can a person not want to reward that?

we don’t remember storming up the stairs with “I hate you!” bitter in our mouths.
Great phrasing here, all of it.

Your friend's children seem their own sort of traffic, moving around in the background, their needs and the consequenquences of their mother's choices always traveling with them.

It's hard, and I'm sure there are hard moments-- more than she'd like. But I hope she doesn't regret these things she can't change.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 12th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
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The smaller the Canadian town, the farther from the curb you can be and have cars still stop :)

I feel like I have a more old-fashioned viewpoint, in a way, that "childhood" as a modern concept belongs to the wealthy. The less well-off or well-supported the parent(s), the more the children must shoulder responsibility and give up some of the ability to be modern "children". I don't actually think that's a bad thing--but I do think it's very hard to create that behavior in a world where we don't read a lot of Dickens or Laura Ingalls Wilder any more. There aren't a lot of models for kids to see, "Helping sustain the household is an appropriate 12-year-old activity".

And of course there's the inner conflict for a parent of, "My long hours are what keep us eating, but also what keep me away from time and attention for my children."

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Ellakite

The counterpoint.

from: ellakite
date: Oct. 12th, 2012 01:05 am (UTC)
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I have no children of my own, and I never wanted any. Partly because I wanted to avoid the "drama" that comes with child-rearing... but also because I never saw myself as "Dad" material. Hell, I thought I'd be "fucking awful" at it. Plus there was the whole issue of The Family Curse -- until the doctors figured out exactly what it was and how it propagated from generation to generation, I feared that my progeny might be stricken the way my brothers had been. So for all those reasons, I knew I was never going to have children.

And yet... I am a doting godfather to my seventeen-year-old nephew. Ever since his parents divorced when he was three years old, I have been his mentor, his confidante, his best friend... and yes, his surrogate father. Though I do not live with him I have regularly celebrated his birthdays, helped him with school projects, driven him to appointments, discussed Shakespeare plays with him and given him advice on everything from dealing with bullies to talking with girls.

He's the closest thing I'll ever have to a kid of my own. I'm the closest thing he'll ever have to a Dad that truly cares about him. Each year for the last decade my nephew and his mother have taken me out to dinner on Father's Day... because they feel my influence in their lives is that important, that meaningful.

My godchild is a fine, upstanding young man. I know I haven't had to deal with anywhere near the level of drama that real parents have to face, but understand this: I will go to the wall for him. I am a pacifist by nature, but I have seriously considered committing deliberate violence in order to protect my godchild. So far, I've never actually had to act on those impulses... but I will do so and gladly accept the consequences of my actions if that's what is required to keep my godchild safe.


what i secretly wish is that i had at least one opportunity in the past twenty-five years to have worn a condom...

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whipchick

Re: The counterpoint.

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 12th, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
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That sounds like a terrific adult-child relationship, where you are both getting the best part of the father-son relationship. I'm glad it works and is fulfilling for you, and it's clearly pretty meaningful to them!

We'll keep working on the wardrobe :) It's tough to feel disconnected, and even tougher to feel that making connection is either not worth the effort or a hopeless pursuit.

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