Parental Bonds

I don’t always manage to stay on topic here. Most of the content is supposed to be about relationships, specifically marriages, from the point of engagement onward. I also would like to focus on things you’re not typically hearing or prepared for. Today I’m going to deviate from that just slightly, and on purpose. We’re going to talk about something you’re probably sick of hearing about, but you’re simply not prepared for, at least if it hasn’t happened yet.

Your first child.

I’m sure you’ve heard it from your parents. I’m sure, long before you decided to get married, you’ve played out the scene where one or both of your parents throws their hands up in exasperation and exclaims some permutation of the following: “When you have kids you’ll understand.”

Well, they’re right, it’s one of the many things your parents were right about. We all go through those face-palm light bulb moments. My parents didn’t spend so many words on it, perhaps they thought an explanation would be wasted, or impossible. Impossible, probably, but not wasted. I’m going to attempt, I’m going to do the best I can to convey just how powerful that love can be. I’m sure, like many before me, I’ll fail to exhaust all the words necessary to convey the meaning. I’m sure the words sufficient to do so do not quite exist. I’m just going to do my best.

When I decided to marry Emily we had the strongest romantic bond I had ever felt in my life. I had a separate bond with my parents and siblings that felt on par, but it sure wasn’t romantic and Emily came slightly ahead anyway. I didn’t think there was a situation that was likely to happen where I would choose say, my parents, over Emily, but I could imagine them if I tried hard enough. When Emily became pregnant with our first child, that immediately changed. Emily was now unequivocally first, above and beyond the bonds of siblings or parents, not even on the same playing field. If we were in some impossible SAW movie scenario and it was push my mom into a wood chipper or lose Emily it would be the wood chipper no problem. It would suck, as understated as using that word there is, but it wouldn’t be a difficult decision. Hell, mom would probably ask me to push her into the wood chipper, but she would have had the advantage of knowing the love of a child already. It’s a little graphic, and you might think I’m spending a little too much time on that already, but there’s a point to it. On other fronts, my aggression increased. My eyes were wide open and everyone was a potential threat. That hardly ever manifested itself anywhere but my heart rate, but even the act of Emily driving herself to work became nerve racking. I wanted, selfishly, to ensure that if anything happened to her that it was either unpreventable or my fault. I anticipated each day the grief that would befall me if something happened to Emily that I could have prevented had I been there.

Sound a bit obsessive? Good, because that’s what was going on. Her safety became an obsession of Don Quixote proportions that took an extraordinary amount of will power to prevent from manifesting into daily actions. Oddly enough this obsession started self-soothing as time went on and the baby bump was getting bigger. Not until the “any day now” phase did that feeling rear its head again.

Then it happened. I watched our first child come into the world. I’ll clarify this right now. I can only write this from a father’s perspective. I can’t under any circumstances imagine that Emily doesn’t experience these feelings on a more powerful level, it’s impossible to compare however, so I won’t. I swear with everything I have I could feel my brain chemistry changing on the spot. I was never the same again. I started noticing changes in my behavior and mood almost immediately.

I noticed that sad news stories involving children and particularly murders hit me like a ton of bricks rather than the just-another-bit-of-info that they were before. I thought parents whom’s children died of neglect were unbelievably incompetent before. I abjectly hated them now, I actively wished for their deaths. Prior to this, I’d go to the seedy underbelly of the internet on occasion and take some morbid satisfaction in some gore threads. I don’t enjoy those anymore—I can’t even stomach them. I don’t know if something was just fundamentally broken with my empathy back then, but it was fully armed and operational now.

I recall, not long after the event, Emily and I were up late watching a very old episode of Deadliest Catch. It was during the two or so weeks I had off after the birth—I’m lucky to work for a place that affords me such luxuries. An episode like this wouldn’t have bothered me before, despite being the eldest of four and the youngest indeed being a little sister, but one of the fishermen got news that his little sister had cancer, or had succumbed to it, I forget which, it doesn’t much matter, I bawled. It came from absolutely nowhere, I was just fine and then I wasn’t.

During the first several months I would wake up in the middle of the night, not because of crying or anything, but because I was afraid my child had stopped breathing and I felt the urge to check. That remained constant with each subsequent child. I was a tosser and turner prior to my first born. Emily decided she wanted to co-sleep. I instantly and immediately stopped tossing and turning in my sleep, I lay mostly still now. Did I mention the terror of SIDS and the need to make sure my child was still alive in the middle of the night, and didn’t die for literally no understood reason?

I know a mother whom’s child did die in the middle of the night, inexplicably. You hold your children tighter when you get that news. I think the absolute worst thing was when a friend of mine passed away suddenly as a result of a seizure. I have to impress this, I have to make this absolutely crystal. Losing my friend was not as painful as imagining, and witnessing, the grief of a father that’s outlived his son. I get emotional just typing that out. Losing an infant is immensely terrible, but I have to be honest, I think losing a young man or woman in their prime is that much worse. You know SIDS is a thing, you know that’s a possibility, a terrible and tragic possibility, you are hyper aware of their frailty in that stage of life, but losing someone in their mid-twenties to a seizure, it just doesn’t compute.

Realizing that the love of your life, isn’t. That was an eye opener. Here you have this beautiful, loving wife worthy of all your adoration and you think that nothing will ever top that. You’re wrong. My wife had become above my parents, now she was the second banana. Between her and any one of my children, Emily gets the wood chipper. She feels the same way about me, and neither of us feel a hint of guilt about it. If you’re married now, but don’t have children, I really want you to take a second and try to imagine loving someone else enough that condemning your spouse to death is even an option.

That aggression I mentioned before when Emily was pregnant? Multiply that a few times. I had never before seen Emily get short or aggressive with anyone. Beware parents with young children, they’re not to be messed with, you just don’t understand what that chemical cocktail can do until it happens to you. There’s a reason society frowns on messing with other parents kids. You’d be surprised just how much spine and rage you can find within yourself when you feel they’ve been mistreated, or even that they’re about to be. Maybe you’ve encountered some really meek parents before, granted. Don’t press your luck, you’re going to run into something entirely different someday if you do. I can’t express that enough. Playing that game is dangerous, physically dangerous. Socializing your kids isn’t just about them getting along with other children, the parents of the other children are threats too. Seeing your child overtly physically mistreated, especially by a significantly larger kid, is enough to make you forget that you aren’t supposed to come at children with the intention of seriously hurting them. Do not let your kid turn into that if you value their safety. Ignore that if you want, think that extreme if you want, it kinda is, but it’s also the truth, you don’t know rage like that until you do. Don’t let it surprise you.

How could it be any other way? Who else would you endure that many sleepless nights for? Not your spouse I can tell you that much. Your children are utterly dependent on you. They’re not just dependent on you for their nutrition or their physical safety, neither of which do they make easy, they’re dependent on you for emotional support too. Lack of love and touch can literally be fatal to an infant. So not only do you need to change every diaper, never miss a meal, deprive yourself of sleep, you’ve got to do it while totally in love with them. Willingly and lovingly exploited. That’s the bond with a child. I hope I even got a tenth as far with that as I needed to.

Book Review – 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote to Chaos

Book Review – 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote to Chaos

I’ve been looking forward to picking up 12 Rules For Life for a while now. I’ve enjoyed Jordan Peterson’s online lecture series off and on for a few years in distracted moments that needed a bit more productivity than gazing at the outdated popcorn ceiling or watching things explode on YouTube. After I started this blog 12 Rules moved up in importance on my reading list but stayed behind books that seemed to be more about addressing direct problems to relationships and marriages that were in trouble and needed immediate fixing. Those books just seemed to fit the mission of the blog better though I had a feeling 12 Rules could potentially be just as efficant in the long term. 12 Rules surprised me in some ways, conformed to my expectations in others, and disappointed me in ways I should have predicted. So let’s dive in.

One axis I use when recommending a book in the self-help space is the opportunity cost for reading it. There are other books you can read, they might apply to your situation more directly, or you may be able to grab 2 helpful books for the price of a different singular one. This is where books that are more comprehensive, like say Marriage, A History run afoul a hesitation to recommend simply based on the fact that you could get two points of view from potentially two different but related subjects for the price of the one deep dive in both time and cost. Being too short and lacking comprehensive qualities is bad, but being too long and failing to get to the point is equally as bad—I’m giving you an example of this right now. 12 Rules seems to ride the line here for me. It’s inexpensive, no issues there, you can currently pick up the hard cover—my preference—on Amazon for like 17 bucks (or is that buckos). The length however is a bit of a double edged sword. It’s not that 12 Rules is entirely too long, the meat of the book is approximately 350 pages and I was able to clear that in a day. Much like Marriage, A History my reading speed was slowed by the fact that many of the sentences weren’t exactly skip-able, skimming is a bad idea with 12 Rules. But I felt like each rule took too long to get to the point, and let me explain that a little bit, because that’s really worth a breakdown.

One, there’s a bias alert here. If you watch the bulk of Peterson’s online lectures like I have a ton of the material in this book is remedial. Secondly, I think Peterson made the right choice in the persuasion tactic. Sure, you could arrive at the points a lot more quickly with a few short facts, but then why have the book at all? 12 Rules could be a Buzzfeed style list article if you weren’t going to take the task of expressing the very real-life, highly emotional and devastating consequences of breaking the rules. The intent here doesn’t seem to be giving you a list of guidelines, it’s a list of rules and that takes a little extra convincing. Rightly so! if you just willy nilly accepted the rules because they were in a book you’d be just the kind of non-existent doormat of a person Peterson is warning you against being in the first place! There’s also the point that I was reading the book front cover to back cover with no priority to the order of consumption. I did not skip rules I was already following and I didn’t skip ahead to rules I found more intriguing. That’s probably actually how this book is supposed to be used, but for the sake of the review I read it cover to cover and that may have not been the best way to enjoy it.

Here’s what I did enjoy. A lot of these rules have immediate application. If there are any parents here I highly recommend picking up this entire book just for Rules 5 and 11. If you argue a lot with your spouse or friends a lot you’re gonna wan’t to read 8, 9, and 10 first. I don’t think there are many people around who don’t need to read rule 3 every now and again.

The prose is easy to read, and while Jordan Peterson takes himself seriously he doesn’t take himself too seriously, though his writing voice isn’t nearly as fun as his lecture voice. They’re similar but it’s just not the same when you can’t get the inflections. Peterson’s skills at oration are just flat out superior. Peterson also makes sure to assure the reader he isn’t speaking from some high-horse position either and I found that quite nice. As he says in one of his lectures…

“I’m full of snakes and so are you…”

So what’s the conclusion here. Ultimately when I sit down and I review one of these the central question I ask myself before all others is “Can this book help you”? As with most good self-help books, the answer is, if you let it. Peterson’s book however deserves a special call out here. It’s tough love, love, but tough love. If you want help from this book you will get it, but you have to want to let it help you, I’d say more than other books I’ve reviewed here. Given that prior, I think it’s as close a thing as you’ll get to a “Classic” in the self-help genre and you can’t beat the price right now. Get 12 Rules, and get it in hard cover, have your children read it when they’re old enough. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Making of A Sex Toy Review: D-Score Explained

Told you we’d be making time for fun now and again. Emily and I are busy working on our first sex toy review, which is mostly already done. In fact, we could probably both independently write the first one from memory and the sum of all of our experiences with it. There’s a catch though.

It may seem like a stuck-on-stupid moment, but while we were going through building a format we thought would be most useful to our readers we ran into a bit of a stumbling block, size. There are plenty of objective ways to describe the size of a toy; the diameter, the length, the areal cross section, or even the displaced volume, but how do you turn that into a subjective recommendation? What exactly is a good size for a beginner? We have no clue, Emily hasn’t been a beginner in some time, we’ve completely lost frame of reference for that experience.

Sure, there are lots of toys that claim they’re good for beginners, take the Tantus Starter for instance, but we’re doing a review here. We’re supposed to be examining those claims. Does great for a beginner also mean bored in a week? At 1 inch diameter and 4.5 insertable length the Starter seems like it could be just that. Problem is, we really don’t know, we can’t wave a magic wand (or a Hitachi Magic Wand for that matter) and make Emily a beginner again, and even then while vaginas have an average size like everything else, they’re also unique. These types of things are things I’d like to be able to tell my readers with confidence; this is good for a beginner, or experienced users only. Things like lubricants are a little easier due to their subjectivity. We can simply say in the case of a water based lubricant if it felt like it dried out too quickly for us, things of that nature, but it’s hard for someone who can hilt a large Apollo to make subjective recommendations about being ‘good for beginners’ in the size department. Getting back to the Starter, it’s easy to say the shape is exactly what a beginner would want, the head is a bit larger than the shaft, the whole thing is smooth and glossy, it’s relatively short (you probably won’t be accidentally slamming your cervix), made from a body safe material, and relatively cheap. The problem really comes in the girth department. Is one inch diameter really good enough, even for a newbie? In other words, are you going to be getting your 30 bucks out of that?

We’re struggling to answer questions like that. One thing we do know is, just the simple diameter of a toy isn’t really something that translates well to gauging size. These aren’t pants, you can’t really try them on in the fitting room, and you definitely can’t return them if you’re dissatisfied. Diameter also doesn’t scale linearly to the felt girth, which we’ll get into soon. We need a way to accurately communicate the difficulty, or lack thereof, of using a toy of a certain size.

For a while I considered taking the volume of the total displacement of a toy, which would give us its absolute volume, but some toys have very large portions that aren’t insertable or meant to be insertable. This includes the flared bases of anal safe toys, harness compatible toys, and things like the gigantic bases of toys meant to literally resemble a horse’s dick. Absolute displacement is out. So then I thought about just measuring the insertable portion and doing a rough approximation of a cylinders volume. This presents trouble for two reasons. Some toys change drastically in thickness like the Crystal Delights Twist and you can always control how much the toy is inserted, making the total volume largely adjustable by the user. The real difficulty comes from roughly 3 factors; the firmness of the toy, the shape of the head, and the area of the cross section of the toy. There’s still the problem of making a useful comparison however.

For very experienced people like Emily, it would be useful to compare the diameter to a standard soda can, but then you’d have to say what kind of soda can—they’re different around even English speaking countries.

Then it clicked, since our target audience are traditional couples, we can take the average areal cross-section—though in functional terms the circumference is just as good they really reflect the same measurement—of the average member and assign a score to how much larger or smaller the area of the toy is than that. For a variety of amusing reasons; diameter, deviation, dick, rhyming with Z, and because this is supposed to be fun, we are going to call this the D-score. We are still going to post the diameter, that’s still useful information, but we will also be posting the D-score. A D-score of 1 means the toy has roughly the same area as your average man (that’s 1.67 square inches for those curious).

Some of the more mathematically inclined out there might be asking, “why don’t you just use diameter then? The area is based on radius in the first place so reporting the listed diameter is as good as listing the area right?”. I get it, and you’re right, those measurements are intrinsically related. However, if you caught that bit, you also likely know that a 50% increase in diameter doesn’t equate to a 50% increase in area, and that’s why listing diameters can be misleading. Let’s go back to the soda can and our new base measurement. The average human has a diameter of 1.46 inches (1.67 square inches) and the standard 12oz can in the united states has a diameter of 2.6 inches (5.3 square inches). If we just eyeball the diameters we might be tempted to think the soda can is 78% larger than your average guy, but the area is just over 3 times as much (3.17x to be exact). It should be obvious which one of those better reflects the felt reality in the difference between the two objects. Thus, we would say the soda can has a D-score of 3.2 (we will be gratuitously rounding here). For those of you curious about the Starter I mentioned earlier, it has a D-score of .5!

I hope that was as fun for you to read as it was for me to write. First toy review will be up soon. In the mean time, have a good one.

Have a comment or a question? Is there a topic you’d like discussed? Let me know through my contact page.

Why I Started This Blog

Why I Started This Blog

I have always been the shoulder to cry on. People just always seemed to trust me. I’m the person people go to when they’re disturbed but afraid to tell their spouse or boyfriend. I’ve always been the person people come to when they need a pick-me-up. I still haven’t figured out why that is. I don’t know why I’m the person people tell secrets they haven’t told their friends, their family, or their significant others but I always have been that person.

I’ve been a close confidant to people who have really needed one over the years. I’ve seen some unique situations. I’ve seen some patterns too. The first time I thought of starting a project like this was in 2016 as a result of noticing those patterns. In 2018 one of those patterns asserted itself in a terrible way and I had to help a close friend out of a terrible situation. It wasn’t without risk to either of us. There were friendships forged in that ordeal that I’m going to carry for the rest of my life and I am grateful for them.

That ordeal wasn’t the first time I had been told I had an enviable marriage, I’ve been hearing that message from one person or another throughout the 10 years Emily and I have been married, but it was when I really, truly started to believe it. I was able to be a positive anchor for someone who didn’t really know what a good relationship even looked like. This wasn’t just a person who could improve in this area or that, this was a friend who fundamentally needed to be shown that there was a bright spot to all this and that relationships did exist that were good. I was surprised over and over at how things I took for granted in my wife’s behavior and in my own could be the stuff of fairy tales for others. I was told my experiences and advice had value, and for once I believed it.

When I was helping my friend out of her long-term and highly abusive relationship I also cracked open a book or two—or five. I did a lot of research for her benefit, between books and web research, this wasn’t something I was going to screw up. When I first discovered her situation she wouldn’t even call the way she’d been treated abuse. I encouraged her to get professional help, but she felt trapped in her own home, like she’d be retaliated against if she tried, and she didn’t have a job—part of the entrapment—to pay for one anyway. Her siblings were reached out to, and they failed to live up to their duties. Even her mother didn’t recognize the need to do something. So it came down to me, untrained and going by instinct, nothing to lean on but my experience as a husband and father and the patterns I had seen before. Against the odds everything turned out for the best.

We had many conversations during and after incident. I talked about the patterns I’d seen and we talked about our mutual experiences, we still do. My friend encouraged me to pursue my interests with more vigor and conscientiousness and to be more confident in my convictions. So I started making plans to start this blog and after a half year of making plans, scratching them out, having ideas and crumpling them up and tossing them in the bin, to the drawing board over and over but finally I came up with something I liked.

I decided I wanted to write a blog for myself, for my friend, and especially for all the people that fit the pattern I mentioned earlier. It’s time to name the pattern.

Conformity.

As people came to me over the years the biggest theme I noticed in their problems was a self-denial of how they felt in order to please some sort of social order that had little to do with them. I’m not talking about things as relevant as parents and family who’s considerations may be reasonably taken into account; I am talking about things like social media, Facebook, Twitter, work gossips, and so on. Particularly in trouble are those people who have what I’d call normal desires for their life goals, convinced by outside forces that it’s wrong to want those things. One friend that stands out in particular is a feminist that had to be convinced that it wasn’t wrong for her to want children and live at home with them.

This kind of perverse conformity is what we’re going to tackle here. I’m going to tackle those things by doing what I do best. I’m going to share my experiences, the good and the bad, I’m going to talk about those in the context of the research I’ve done, and that I continue to do. I am not however, going to ask you to just simply take my word for it, that was one of the discomforts that delayed creating this blog in the first place. So as part of this endeavor I’m also going to be referring you to books and other media that I have found extraordinarily helpful to myself and others. We’re also going to have a bit of fun here. This is going to be a sex positive place, and we’re going to talk about that. My wife in particular finds sex toy and accessory reviews utterly lacking in larger contexts, especially in married contexts, and we’ll be doing some of those too. Hell, the whole subject of even having marital aides can be touchy, we’re tackling that too.

Then there’s the inspiration for the title of the blog. Many of the people I talk to have never really gotten advice on what to do after they’ve committed. It seems all media focuses on at the moment is the chase, whether it’s for short term pleasure or ‘finding the one’ no one really seems to talk about what to do afterwards unless there’s a big problem. To put it another way, pundits and commentators don’t seem to be really into ‘preventative treatment’ for relationships. They seem more interested in starting them and charging for the fix when they go bad. We’re going to talk about the blogs namesake, what to do after the yes, what to do before problems.

I really hope you enjoy your stay here, whether that’s to learn something new, expose yourself to a different perspective on marriage or be affirmed in ideas long held, or just to stick around and have fun.

I am here because some special people believed in me. I intend to pay that forward and help you believe in you.

Have a comment or a question? Is there a topic you’d like discussed? Let me know through my contact page.