stevenpiziks: (Default)
Over the weekend, Darwin and I went clothes shopping.  We both needed shirts for work.

The standard or stereotypical shopping method for men is that they decide what they want BEFORE they go into the store. When they arrive at the store, they find what they want as quickly as possible, pay for it, and leave immediately.

The standard or stereotypical method for women is that they decide what they want AT the store.  They therefore spend more time in the store itself, and shopping also often becomes a social event.

When we arrived at the mall, Darwin directed me to head for Sears.  "They have my size in dress shirts," he said.  "I can get them there."

Usually I'm agreement with this method.  However, in today's case, I didn't need dress shirts.  I needed overshirts--fleeces or sweaters or heavy shirts with a dressy look that I can wear in my classroom.  The heating system at Nameless High School is breaking down, and my room starts out freezing in the morning, and is roasting hot by the end of the day, so I have to dress in layers.  It's tricky to find stuff that is both functional in these circumstances and also looks decent.  I literally can't wear a dress shirt with a t-shirt under it, for example.  I'll freeze until sometime after lunch.  But I don't like most sweaters, either--the texturing is uncomfortable and prickly.  This means, unfortunately, that I have to go hunting for what will work.

"I have to shop like a woman today," I told him, and Darwin groaned.

True to form, Darwin headed straight for the dress shirt display at Sears and pulled five  of them in his size.  Done!  I wandered about the store, examining and rejecting, until I found some heavy dress-ish shirts that would work for me and snagged a couple of them.  Cool!

"Are we done?" Darwin said.

"You have five shirts, I have two," I said.  "Into the mall!"

And Darwin groaned.

We went here and there throughout the mall.  I was mostly looking for fleeces and sweaters, but the only sweaters I could find were thin, thin, thin!  I needed something with a little more heft.  My classroom is COLD.

I pulled Darwin into Buckle, but the store was too young for my demographic.  "We'll have to remember this place when we're Christmas shopping for Sasha," I said.

I also noticed how Twelve Oaks Mall has gotten rid of their loud, annoying fountains and hard benches and replaced them with lounging areas stuffed with comfortable chairs and couches.  The hard benches are gone.  I observed aloud to Darwin how mall philosophy has changed.  The hard benches and loud fountains were designed to keep people moving.  But now mall designers have realized that people who stop to rest on comfy chairs are likely to shop longer (duh), and that fountains are damned expensive to maintain.  Off with their heads!

Darwin noticed several men who were lounging on said comfy chairs while I was dragging him into several stores.  "Can I sit there with those husbands whose wives are shopping?" he complained.

"Am I your wife?" I shot back.  "Several studies showed that women spend the least amount of time in a mall store when they have a male companion with them. They'll spend more time in a store with a small child in tow than they will with a man.  A psychologist urged stores to put a man cave in the corner to occupy the men and let the women shop--and spend money.  The stores that did saw their sales rise, but corporate ultimately made them get rid of the man caves because they didn't like losing the retail space.  A clear case of corporate stupidity.  These stores don't have man caves in them, so you'll have to suffer."

A sales clerk overheard me, and chimed in.  "I see that all the time!" she said.  "We should have a man corner so the women will shop.  It would totally help!"

We tried Macy's, but I ended up fleeing the store.  It looked like a bomb went off in the men's department.  The clothing racks were a mass of unfolded slacks and flipped-around shirts and other messy, pawed-over cloth.  It was awful!  No clerks were in evidence even trying to recover the merchandise.  Meanwhile, in the makeup and perfume department we passed through, there were dozens of clerks behind well-lit counters panting to wait on people.  They needed to move some of them into clothing.  You could see where Macy's figured the money was.  We left.  If a place won't take care of its stuff when it's on the floor, what the hell are they trying sell me?  No.

Lord and Taylor's selection ranged from Old Fogey to I'M TWELVE AND LOVING IT! with nothing in between.  And everything was $100 or more.  We left.

On impulse--and because Darwin liked the way it smelled--we ducked into Abercrombie & Fitch.  I didn't have high hopes.  But to my surprise, I found a great, non-textured sweater and two heavy dress-ish shirts that were exactly what I needed.  Who knew?

And then we had supper in the food court, because I can get the quasi-Asian food I like, and Darwin can get the soup he likes.

On the way out, I said, "There's one more store I want to hit," and Darwin said he didn't slug me only because he loved me.


stevenpiziks: (Default)
Today I persuaded Darwin to go on a bike ride with me.  He's not a big fan of bike riding--his bike spends most of its time hanging from the garage ceiling--but I get around this by simply telling him I'm going on a ride and if he wants to spend time with me, he can come along.  Even when he knows that's what I'm doing, it works...

There's simply nowhere around our house to ride a bike decently, so we have to drive to a trail to ride with our bikes on the back of the car.  The section of trail we usual ride, however, has a long, long section with no shade on it, which is fine in the spring or fall, but miserable in summer.  I looked up a section of the trail a little farther down and we drove down there to start our ride.

This turned into a miniature Afternoon Outing.

We rode along a nice, shady biking trail, which eventually took us through the town of Orchard Lake.  I'd ridden around the downtown area years ago and knew Darwin likes exploring downtowns, so I suggested we leave the trail and go exploring. He liked this idea.

The first thing we saw off the trail was a sign for a real estate open house, and it pointed toward a huge 19th-century brick mansion.

"We should go look inside!" I said.

"Let's!" Darwin said.  He parked his bike and strode up to the door.

Darwin and I love old houses, so this was fun for us.  The real estate agent probably knew we weren't serious lookers, but he had literally nothing else to do, so no one minded.

The house was empty, and I think the owner was down-sizing.  It was built in 1860, and very well kept--and updated.  Everything was wood floors and crown moldings and grand fireplaces.  A staircase curled up the front hall, and I found a servants staircase going down the back.  The second floor had a master suite and a guest suite and servant's quarters (off the master suite).  The basement was room after room of fieldstone and ancient wooden doors, and included a small safe that looked to be original to the house.  But the place was updated to include a gas furnace and AC and a huge modern kitchen.  And it had several hundred feet of lakefront across the road.  Asking price?  $999,000.  Whew!

We left the house and biked into town, where we found a diner called the Early Bird Cafe for lunch.  Darwin adores diners.  I hate them--their menus are always exactly the same.  (I think that's why Darwin likes them.)  But he went on the ride with me, so I went into the diner with him.  This is marriage.  And we had a very nice lunch.

Afterward, we rode back through lovely Michigan summer weather.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The Mormons (or the Latter Day Saints, or LDS, or whatever you want to call them) are trying to ride the coat-tails of same-sex marriage. They want to get polygamy legalized in the same way same-sex marriage has been legalized. They've failed:

They needed to fail.

I'm not a proponent of the LDS church.  The organization is a dreadful, terrible thing.  It preaches homophobia, sexism, and misogyny.  The sects that practice polygamy are worse.

I don't object to the concept of group marriages. If you can manage multiple spouses, go for it. I do object to the LDS version, however.  "Reguar" group marriages aren't based on gender, or the ones I know aren't, anyway.  The group decides as a whole who should be in it and who should not.

However.  The LDS version of the above says only the man can marry multiple wives.  Women are not allowed to marry multiple husbands.  The man ultimately decides who enters the group.  He also makes the decisions for the group.  (And no matter what you may see on SISTER WIVES, that is indeed the way it works.)  This is misogynistic, sexist, and abusive.

The LDS have argued that polygamy (one man, multiple wives) is a part of their religion, and the government's refusal to recognize these marriages (and Utah's outright ban on them) amounts to religious discrimination.

When the government responded that current law states you are perfectly free to marry one person of your choice, the LDS shot back, "You let LGBT people marry the way they want.  You need to let us marry the way we want."

Sorry, no.  The cases aren't even close to analogous.

The LGBT community didn't argue on First Amendment grounds to get the bans on same-sex marriage overturned.  They argued on equal protection grounds and gender grounds.  The LGBT community also didn't argue that marriage laws be changed, only that they be extended to include people of any sex and become compliant with anti-discrimination laws already on the books.  The LDS wants an actual change in the law, and there are no grounds for that.  The law doesn't forbid them to marry based on their religion.

Additionally, the LDS version of group marriage violates the equal protections clause of the Constitution, since it would extend a right to men, but not to women.

If the LDS wants polygamy to be legal, they need to get marriage laws changed.  They'll have an uphill battle, though.  Utah's frank ban on polygamy was passed to "prove" that the Mormons were no longer practicing polygamy (but of course all that happened was that it went underground), so there's zero chance of getting it changed at the state level.  Other states simply aren't interested in it.  In order to have any shot at all, the LDS would have to get marriage laws changed to allow group marriage regardless of gender, and I can't imagine the Mormons arguing to pass a law that would allow four men to marry each other, or one woman to marry three guys.  The challenge seems unsurmountable.

And so the Supreme Court stopped a group of sexist, misogynistic fanatics from having their way. Go them!  And go all the other judges who rules against them!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last weekend was my and Darwin's first anniversary.  We've now been married for one year!

We did sort of a multi-day celebration.  On Friday, we went out to eat at Casey's, which I call the Irish Sushi Pub.  It's an Irish-ish pub downtown that serves bar food (burgers, fish and chips, various deep fried objects) but also has a sushi kitchen in it.  Only in America!  I think the place is perfect because Maksim and I love sushi, but Darwin and Aran hate it.  Normally, we're at an impasse, but Casey's lets everyone have what they like!

As it happened, one of their specials the night Darwin and I went there was prime rib, which is Darwin's absolute favorite.  I ordered a caterpillar roll, an eel and cucumber roll, and a dragon roll.  The food, as it happens, was absolutely delicious.  The sushi was delicious--everything in the right proportions, both crunchy and soft, tangy and sweet.  Darwin's prime rib was fork tender and done to a turn and spiced just right.  On the way out, I paused at the sushi bar to tell the chefs they were =on= that night.  They appreciated the compliment.

Saturday for supper, Darwin wanted to go to Wendy's.  "Wendy's?" I said in a shocked voice.  "WEN- dy's?  You know that a year ago we were dining on roasted chicken, fresh vegetables, and dense wedding cake.  Tonight you want to go to Wendy's?"

"We went to a nice place last night," he said.  And so we went to Wendy's.  Sigh.

The meal was forgettable, but the company was nice.  :)  We talked about the wedding and how cool it was:

Afterward, it was so mild out, I insisted we go down to the woods for a walk.  We intended to go to a public nature trail we like, but ended up hiking through a meadow behind the place I lived when we first met.  A hunter's moon was rising above the trees, and we paused to watch it come up, full and heavy and bright.  The deer were out, all over the place, and they watched us warily.  We found the wild apple trees we remembered, and they had no apples on them at all.  They didn't have any last year when we checked, either, and I wonder if something's gone wrong.  We walked back to a little hill we used to sit on when we were dating and wanted privacy from the ever-present boys at my place.  It was such a pleasant evening.

I never thought I'd be able to marry a man.  But here we are, celebrating our first anniversary.  Wow.

I love you, Darwin. Forever and always.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We also did a fair amount of shopping, but very little buying--who needs more knicknacks, right?  We also drove to Cheboygan and Charlevoix and Petosky to look around.  Cheboygan has unfortunately gone badly to seed.  It used to be a bustling, major coastal city, but after the steamer traffic dried up, and two major recessions hit, the place sort of sagged.  The sidewalks were empty.  No major businesses are located there, and the area's slogan for bringing them back is a pathetic, "Cheboygan: Why not?"  However, we browsed through a kitchen gadget store and bought a couple of things to do our bit for the local economy.  Charlevoix and Petosky were much nicer, fresh on the lake, with sparkling downtowns and upbeat, busy people.  We were delighted to discover a downtown movie theater, and we decided to see FINDING DORY.  (It was okay, but nothing fantastic.  Hank the Septapus stole the show.)  When we stopped in at the visitor's center at Charlevoix, the lady behind the counter asked if she could help us, and I said, "We're new in town and we're looking for stuff to do."

She about fainted with joy, and rushed about the center gathering up pamphlets chock full of things to visit and things to occupy us.  I got the feeling not many people came in with such a request.

We also loafed around the cottage and the little wind-swept beach.  I did a lot of reading and harping.  On the first three days, we spent a lot of money in restaurants, then finally located a decent grocery store near Petosky and loaded up the cottage so we could cook cheaper meals.  (In Mackinaw City, expect to pay $12-15 per person for an entree.  It adds up fast.)

All too quickly, the week ended and we had to drive home.  Our honeymoon has ended.  The marriage begins!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
During the rest of our trip, we visited other historical parks around Mackinaw City because we love them.  One of them (Mill Park) had a zip line and a reconstruction of the area's first water-powered saw mill.  Darwin couldn't bring himself to do the zip line, so he waited while I did, and here we ran into one of the problems of visiting a history park--The Lecture.

The Lecture comes whenever you visit an event at a history park.  First you get the call.  "Come see how the sawmill works!"  "Demonstration of the blacksmith in five minutes!"  "Firing of the cannon!  Come see the firing of the cannon!"  So you go, hoping to see something cool or educational or both, but when you arrive, you first get The Lecture.  Someone, usually a morbidly obese man in bad period dress, stands up in front of the crowd and gives an achlingly long lecture about whatever it is.

"Now this is a Bindlefuddle rifle. It was made in 1762 in the Bindlefuddle factory in Gricklecrabbingsmere, and only two of them were actually ever made because they were the least accurate rifles in all history.  We have them here because I'm the only expert in Bindlefuddle rifles in the world.  Isn't that great?  How about some applause?  Thank you!  To load a Bindlefuddle takes some practice.  First you use a klackermacker rod to clear out the snicksnacks inside the barrel. You have to ram the rod exactly eighteen times, and it takes forty-seven minutes to do it right.  We're going to do it right.  I want you to count with me. Ready?  Are you ready?  Is everyone ready?  Can you count to eighteen?  You sir--can you count to eighteen?"

"No," I say.  "I just want you to fire the fucking rifle."

At which point, an embarrassed Darwin drags me away.

I've learned over the years that whenever someone announces, "Flower folding demonstration in five minutes!" you can actually show up in thirty minutes to see the good stuff.

However, I got caught off my game during the zip line at Mill Park. A group of us donned the safety gear and dorky helmets.  (What, exactly, is the dorky helmet going to protect me from?  If all eighteen thousand things fail and I fall off the zip line, my head is the LAST thing that will hit the ground.  Not only that, this zip line was running OVER WATER.  Why was I not wearing a life jacket instead?)  Looking like Martians from a 1950s TV show, we dutifully trooped up the hill after the guide lady to the zip line.

She kept stopping along the way.  "Here we have an oak tree.  It's a really big oak tree.  Sure is huge.  Nice and tall.  Okay, let's keep going."  So we kept going.  "Here's some poison ivy.  Don't touch the poison ivy.  See that two-story sign that identifies it as poison ivy and warns you not to touch it?"

"Yes," I said.  "We all saw it on the way in.  We do know how to read."

"Leaves of--"

"Three, leave it be," I finished.  "We're from Michigan.  We know the rhyme.  Zip line?"

A little miffed, she lead us further along, then abruptly stopped.  "Now here we have some good news and bad news," she said in an exaggerated schoolteacher tone that I disliked immensely.  "The good news is the park has two special residents.  Can anyone guess what those residents are?"

"A pair of bald eagles," I said, pointing to a sign behind her that proclaimed this was a bald eagle habitat.

"That's right!" she gushed.  "They've lived here for ten years now.  They built a nest."

"Shouldn't that more correclty be called an 'aerie'?" I said in my own teacher voice.  I couldn't seem to help myself.

"Wow!" she enthused.  "You know your eagles!"

At this point, people were craning their necks, checking the treetops for eagle nests--or aeries.

"But the bad news is, we can't see them," she went on sadly.  "The eagles live far, far away from here, in another part of the park.  Bald eagles are. . . . "

And she launched into a canned lecture about these birds that could easily be found on a number of web sites, if we cared.  I didn't.  She wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, and I'd paid for the zip line, not a gushing lecture on eagles.  I finally took my cell phone out and played video games.  My dorky helmet was getting itchy.

At last, the gushy lady said, "Does anyone have any questions?"

Thank heavens to was over.  But to my horror, people ASKED QUESTIONS!  At this point, the children in the group were becoming restless.  They wanted the zip line, too.  The gushy lady gushed on about more eagle stuff.  More children became restless, and the gushy lady said, "Uh oh!  Mama Eagle has noticed her babies are becoming unhappy.  Did you want to go on the zip line?"  I SWEAR that's word-for-word what she said.

"Yes!" the kids said.

"Does anyone have any other questions before we go?"

And another person RAISED HIS HAND.  At this point, I interrupted.  "I'll tell you what," I said, "why don't you send those of us who don't have questions down the zip line, and the people who DO have questions can stay a moment longer and get them answered?  It will save lives."

"Save lives?" gushy lady asked.

"At least one," I said, staring directly at her.  (This is why Darwin needs to accompany me everywhere.)

The gushy lady didn't get it, but this suggestion was greeted with nods of relief from everyone else in the group.

"So Mama Eagle's babies want to fly, do they?" she gushed.

My god, I swear I was going to hit her with my dorky helmet.

At last we mounted the steps to the zip line.  I zinged across without further incident and met Darwin on the other side.

"What took so long?" he asked.

"We were ambushed by eagles."
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last fall when we got married, Darwin and I couldn't go on a honeymoon trip. It was the middle of the school year, and I can't take a week away.  Later, when I had vacation, Darwin couldn't get away from work.  So we made plans to go this summer.

We love Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, and that's where we wanted to go.  I surfed around on AirBnB and found a little cottage to rent for the week, and we were all set.

The drive up was pleasant. We were heading up on a Saturday, after everyone in Michigan who wanted to go north had already done so.  Traffic was light, and halfway up, I woke a dozing Darwin to show him the Blue Angels, which were swooping diving near the highway.  He managed to get some photos.

The cottage sat in the middle of a great green lawn, about a hundred yards from a nice beach on the Straits of Mackinac.  (It's Mackinaw if you're on the mainland and Mackinac if you're on the water, except for Fort Michilimackinac, which is on land, or--oh, never mind.  Even Michiganders get it wrong half the time.)  The view was stunning!  We could see the Mackinaw Bridge, Mackinac Island, and Bois Blanc island all from our cottage.  The little beach was delightful, but the water was way too cold for swimming yet.  Darwin and I didn't mind--we aren't big swimmers.

Sunday we went straight to Mackinac Island. We love it there. Mackinac is a tourist zone, and nothing else, but it's a tourist zone because it's beautiful.  Cars are not allowed on the island, so all transport is horses, bikes, and feet.  This gives the island a sedate, quiet feel, even if it's crowded.  Most of the island is taken up by the state park, but the city sits down at the harbor, and the old fort, which has been refurbished into an interactive museum, sit at the south end.

If you want to visit Mackinac Island, do it in late June.  The weather is lovely (though you can't swim yet) and NO ONE IS THERE.  Darwin and I were shocked at how light the crowds were, in fact.  When we visited in July or August in previous years, the place was always packed.  We were here on a Sunday, and it was dead quiet.  There were empty seats on the ferry, and no lines anywhere for anything.  An absolute delight!

A yearly tradition for us to ride out bikes all the way around the island, which Darwin and I did first.

The weather was perfect--sunny, 70s, breezy.  This is why Mackinac has been a vacation destination ever since the fort stopped being a military necessity.  Mackinac is lovely and cool during the hot, muggy Michigan summers.  And the views of the lake are stunning in all directions.

We also visited the graveyards, because we like graveyards.  We found one grave that was particularly poignant--a father and son (age 6) who died on the same day in 1823.  A little research on our phones turned up the fact that a steamer was returning from Chicago to Charlevoix when one of the egineers knocked over an oil lamp.  The ensuing fire rushed over the wooden ship in moments.  The captain decided to make a run for shore, which meant they couldn't put the lifeboats down--and the wind fanned the flames.  Very few people escaped with their lives.  The father and son were heading home from a trip to Chicago, and they died.

We traced another family in the cemetery as it transformed from one name to another, thanks to a generation of all daughters who then married.  This took several minutes of detective work and logic, but Darwin and I love this kind of thing.

At one point, I climbed over the (low) graveyard wall to avoid walking all the way down to the gate, and the back of my shorts tore open.  (!)  Darwin was very amused by this.  I remedied the problem by either wrapping my sweat shirt around my waist, or by hanging my shoulder bag behind me.  I threatened to do neither while I walked down the street if Darwin didn't stop laughing, and he finally subsided.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I spent the last week on our (delayed) honeymoon up in Mackinaw City.  I didn't write, I didn't post to my blog, nothing!  So liberating!

More later.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Maybe I should write a book on this . . .

After I got divorced, my life was unabashedly difficult.  I was raising three special needs sons completely on my own.  I was separated by time and distance from nearly all my friends.  I was working two jobs (including some crushing writing deadlines) and trying desperately to clear up a divorce-created pile of debt.  It was a harsh time.

Eventually, however, things stabilized.  Even the deadlines eased.  I was able to take stock and think about where I wanted my life to go.  A big question was, did I want to be single?

I had already thought about this a number of times, but earlier my life was so dizzyingly chaotic, the thought of adding another person to it made me physically ill.  Now that I had solved a number of pressing problems and settled my life down, I had more room to maneuver, and I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be single.  Sasha had already moved out.  Aran would follow suit in just a couple more years, with Maksim shortly after that.  I didn't want to be alone for twenty or thirty years after they left.

So I would have to find someone.  The question was, how?  I'm not naturally outgoing.  My job requires it, but that's my job, not me.  I'm don't strike up acquaintances easily, and I find it excruciating to talk to strangers.

Compounded was the fact that I was a man looking for another man.  Straight people have all kinds of venues for romance.  Straight people can make runs at each other without worrying about someone being mortally offended, and their choices are vast and varied.  The gay community, especially where I lived, is rather smaller, and LGBT people don't wear tattoos on their foreheads to tell you who they are.  This was also before same-sex marriage was legal, and I wasn't widely out, for fear of repercussions at my job.

I realized there was another obstacle in my way: my own house.  I looked around my house, my bedroom, my bathroom, and realized there was no space for another person.  My entire room and bathroom were filled with my stuff, and where would another person fit?

This was a mind-set thing, I realized.  Creating space in my physical life would create space in my psychological life, and allow me to find someone more easily.

I cleared out my room.  I rearranged my furniture so that half the room was empty, ready for someone else.  I emptied out a chunk of my closet for the same reason.  I created space in my bathroom.  There!

Then I made a list of characteristics a partner had to have.  There was an ABSOLUTE MUST column and a WOULD BE NICE column and a NO WAY column.  (Basically, the person had to be at the top of Maslow's hierarchy.)  I made a commitment to stick to that list, no matter what.

And then I decided to try on-line dating.  I went to a couple of different sites and danced around with their free versions, then said to myself, "Either you're looking or you arent," so I bought a full membership to one site.

One guy I talked to (by email) was so shy that he wouldn't even tell me what town he lived in until the third email.  I dropped him.

Another guy still lived with his parents and they didn't know he was gay.  I went on one date with him, and had to pick him up three blocks away from his house and drop him off the same distance away.  He kept checking his phone to see if his family was texting or calling.  "I told them I'm going for a walk," he said, "but they might get suspicious, so I have to have an excuse ready."  I dropped him.

And then this guy named Darwin McClary contacted me.  A message led to emails.  Emails led to texts.  Texts led to phone calls.  Phone calls led to a date, then more dates, then Wednesdays and weekends at each other houses, and then a house together, and then a legal wedding.

I credit the commitment.  I had to create space in my life, physically and pschologically.  I had to commit to finding someone.  I had to stick to the list.  I also got very, very lucky.  It still makes me shake just a little to think how lucky I got with Darwin.  I can't imagine life without him now.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
No, nothing like =that.=

When I was single, I woke up in the morning and the bedclothes were barely disburbed.  I got up, twitched the sheet and coverlet back into place, punched the pillow, and it was done.  Five seconds, tops.

Then I married Darwin.

Holy man!

It bugs Darwin when the sheet is tucked in at the bottom of the bed, so he always pulls the sheet free of the mattress.  Darwin is also a close sleeper--he wants to sleep close to me.  If I migrate away from him, he moves closer.  (It's very cute.)  Also, about halfway through the night, he usually gets overheated and kicks the covers off entirely, or bunches them between us.  So when dawn arrives, the bed is a total wreck. Making it involves stripping it of everything but the bottom sheet, settling and straightening the top sheet, spreading the quilt, and finally placing the pillows.  Sheesh!

Of course, most days I have to get up and leave before Darwin's even awake, so =he= makes the bed.  :)
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Our society is becoming more progressive, but the majority of households still divide up the chores by gender.  Women do the majority of housework and men do the majority of maintenance.  (Yeah, yeah, yeah--your husband is a great cook and he helps with the dishes.  Great.  Does he vacuum, change the sheets, clean the toilets, do the laundry, mop the floors, dust the knickknacks, sort the video games, do the grocery shopping, and scrub out the refrigerator once a month?  Fewer than one in twenty do.)

So the big question comes up: in a same-sex marriage, who does what?

Theoretically, this happens in het marriages.  Wives and husbands sit down and discuss these things like adults and figure out--

Yeah, I couldn't keep a straight face, either.

Anyway, Darwin and I did have to work this thing out.  Neither of us gravitated toward one particular area based on gender.  However, Darwin doesn't like to cook or do anything much dealing with food, and he's (frankly) awful at grocery shopping because he won't use a list or comparison shop.  I hate anything to do with lawn and garden.  Neither of us much likes household maintenance.

In our house, I'm in charge of food and groceries, partly because Darwin rarely gets home before 7:00 (and if we waited for him to get home and cook, we wouldn't eat until 8:30), and partly because I'm a much better shopper and cook than Darwin.

Maksim and I are in charge of keeping the house clean daily. We decided on this because I have a 10-minute commute and Darwin has a 45-minute commute each way, so it makes more sense.  Darwin, however, handles occasional chores like mopping.

Darwin is in charge of anything outside.  If it's outdoor, I have nothing to do with it.  I don't rake, mow, or shovel.  We got into a couple arguments about this during winter when I asked him to clear the driveway and he wanted to know why I couldn't do it, since I was home all day, too, and I had to remind him that he'd agreed to handle the outdoor everything.

Everyone in the house does their own laundry.  It's easier that way.  You want clean clothes?  There's the machine.

We still get into difficulties with all this.  I get resentful because I do a lot more work around the house than he does, and he hired a lawn service to handle a great deal of the outdoor work.  He gets upset because he feels he works longer hours than I do and handle housework.  Sometimes this is true, especially when his commute is figured in, but when I'm under deadline, I'm working two full-time jobs and trying to handle housework as well.

But usually things work out.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)

Over the weekend, the weather turned delightful--one of the few benefits of global warming is that spring comes to Michigan in early March--and I persuaded Darwin to emerge from the cave of our home office to go on a walk down a local nature trail.

Because the day was nice, a fair number of people were on the trail--bikers with their aerodynamic helmets, joggers in spandex, families with strollers, walkers with dogs.  Since I was out walking my husband, I naturally reached down to take his hand.  This was at a point in the trail when no one else was around, and we walked that way for a while.  Then we came around a bend and saw more people in the distance.  Darwin took his hand away from me, casually, in order to change his grip on the coffee container he was sipping from.

I looked at him.  "It's still weird, huh?"

"What's that?" he asked, looking straight ahead.

"You still feel weird holding my hand in public."

"Oh."  He drank from his coffee.  "Yeah, I guess so.  I'm not comfortable with displays in public, even from straight people."

"Holding hands isn't much of a 'display,' " I countered.

"I suppose," he conceded, "but after fifty years of having to hide, it's a hard habit to break."

"I know," I said.  "I sometimes feel weird about it, too.  Like someone's going to jump out of the bushes and shout, 'Ah ha! I knew it!' "


"But," I added, "we need to hold hands in public for two reasons.  The first is that you're my husband, and if I want to hold hands with you, I'm damn well going to hold hands with you.  The other is that we need to set an example."

"An example," he repeated slowly.

"Well, yeah.  How is everyone else going to get used to the idea of people like us getting married if they never see it?  It's too easy for them to pretend it only happens somewhere else.  We need to show them it's happening right here, right now.  Besides, who's going to bother us?  I'm six feet tall with a head shaved like a biker."

He laughed at that and took my hand.  We walked past a few knots of people, who ignored us just like you'd ignore anyone else.

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last night, I woke up around 3:00 AM. The other side of the bed was empty, and it took my sleep-fogged mind a moment to work out that Darwin was in the bathroom.  I lay there, realizing I should go, too.  When I heard water running in the sink, I got up and lurched unsteadily toward the bathroom door.

I'm six feet tall, and I have a broad build.  And our bedroom is dark at night--no street lights to lift the gloom.  My mouth was also dry, and I was making little "mmf mmf" noises while I stumbled for the bathroom and reached for the knob.

I later learned that while he was in the bathroom, Darwin thought he heard a man's voice emanating up from the basement.  Was it the house creaking?  No, it definitely sounded like a voice.  Was someone in the house?

So I suppose it's reasonable to excuse the already-nervous Darwin's reaction when he opened the bathroom door and saw a big, rumpled, groaning zombie with its arm outstretched.

It was his first chance to be on THE WALKING DEAD, however unwittingly, and I think he meant to say something coherent, but what came out was, "Gwrfstfflgl!"  He shot backwards into the bathroom and fetched up against the sink.

I, meanwhile, wasn't expecting a husband to shriek, "Gwrfstfflgl!" at 3 AM, so I jumped back and smacked against the bed.

Darwin recovered first.  He's never at his best at this time of night, and he grumbled and growled his way back to bed.  I had a hard time using the bathroom because I was laughing at both of us.  Darwin was pretending to be asleep when I got back into bed, but he wasn't.  I kept breaking into fits of laughter, which Darwin didn't appreciate, even though I explained to him I was laughing more at me than at him.

He just didn't believe me.  What's a guy to do?
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
When Darwin and I go somewhere and talk to actual people, we run into awkwardness.  Part of it is my fault.  I'm not used to my husband yet.

My entire life I was explicity and implicity taught by everyone I know that the only spouse a man can have is a wife.  A man doesn't ever use the phrase my husband. Even the LGBT community refused to use it, stupidly settling on the word "partner" as an idiotic way to maintain separateness from the straight community.  So I don't have any precedence for saying my husband aloud myself.

The phrase my husband crackles in my mouth, like a little firecracker.  I wince half a second before I spit it out, and the crack startles other people into silence for a tiny moment.  Then they go on, as if their ears and mine aren't ringing, or they don't smell sharp residue of gunpowder.  It takes courage to light it in front of strangers.

In a restaurant, I flag down the waitress and say, "There's a problem with my husband's food, and we need to take care of it."  Crack.

At a hotel, the clerk asks if Darwin and I want two beds, and I say, "No, my husband and I will share."  Crack.

During a party, someone asks if my wife came, and I say, "No, I'm here with my husband." Crack.

I'm not used to those two words yet, and I still brace myself for some kind of nasty response--jeers, shunning, even a physical threat.  My heart jerks a little and I brace myself to snarl, snap, or even block and punch.  But I've never needed to because no one has ever done any of these things to my face.  Still, a lifetime of faggot still rings in my ears and I brace myself anew at the drop of each firecracker.

Eventually I'll get used to my husband, and I'll stop bracing myself.  And maybe everyone else will get used to it and stop handing me that little pause. 
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I find myself cast in the role of political husband.  It's a strange place to stand.

Darwin manages the village of Lake Orion, north of us, and his job carries with it a number of public appearances.  A huge new restaurant opens downtown and the owner throws a reception for various local people connected to the project, including Darwin.  Every year, the village puts on a firework display that draws people all the way up from Detroit, and Darwin must attend.  A charity puts on a Christmas fundraiser, at which the police department buys an entire table, and the chief invites Darwin.  Every summer, the downtown businesses put on a flower show and art fair, and Darwin must go.

With all these events comes the unspoken rule that spouses come along.  This never occurred to me when Darwin and I started dating.  It sort of snuck up on me.  Darwin casually mentioned the flower and art fair one day.  "I have to put in an appearance," he said.  "You should come with me as my partner."

"Oh," I said, a little nonplused.  "Sure.  I can do that."

At the fair, I followed Darwin around like a duckling and quickly learned the art of standing around with a look of polite interest on my face while various people (LOTS of various people) came up to Darwin for this or that.  He always made introductions, of course.  And I did know how to schmooze.  Every mid-list author learns it as a survival skill.  I schmoozed with Darwin from one end of the fair to the other.

"I'm becoming a political spouse," I declared at the end of it.

And lo, so it has come to pass. I've attended a number of events (including some unexpected Independence Day yachting on Lake Orion) and met a number of local celebrities.  (Here my author training came into play--I've met lots of celebrities already and don't get babbly or star-struck.)  It's weird.  I'm a teacher and a novelist, about as far from the political arena as you can get, but here I am, learning to navigate the odd political waters of municipal government.

The places life will take you!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Speaking of marriage, Darwin and I are adjusting to married life.  It's going fairly smoothly, I think.  We've had a few arguments, one of which kept us up until well after midnight on a work night, but we've managed to work things out.

This is a much bigger adjustment for Darwin than for me.  When he met me, Darwin had been living on his own for several years.  He had fallen out of the habits of sharing objects and space, reporting in to other people what he was doing, and dealing with other people in his living space.  He lived the stereotypical bachelor lifestyle, with an empty fridge and dinners at a local diner and coming home whenever he pleased and making or breaking plans at the last minute.  Suddenly all that went out the window!

I had to . . . train him in married life.  (Darwin had had a long-term partner before me, but the interim bachelor gap had wiped out his coping skills!)  Because his work hours vary and mine don't, he had to get into the habit of calling me before he left his office so I'd know when to expect him home.  It was difficult for him to figure out how to share a living room and a bathroom.  He withdrew from the kitchen almost entirely, leaving it my domain, partly because he never learned to cook and has no interest in it and partly because his preference is to eat out instead of cooking.  I wouldn't allow the latter on the grounds that eating out is time-consuming and expensive.  It took some work to get him to make plans in advance so I could work them into my and the boys' schedules.

And I had to adjust, too.  I had a firm rule against going out for meals because after I got divorced, I had no money and eating out cost too much.  Twice per week we had leftovers night, partly to clear out the fridge, but mostly to save on the grocery bill.  But to Darwin, going out to eat is not just a meal, it's recreation.  To him, the food is actually secondary.  So I learned to let us eat out more and not to cringe when it came time to pay the bill.

Post-divorce, I ran another firm rule: suppertime was family time for everyone.  This was mostly to foster a sense of family unity after the divorce shook everyone up.  But after Darwin and I got married, I discovered this wasn't always feasible.  Darwin can't always leave work at the same time.  And even if he leaves right at 5:00, he doesn't get home until 6:00.  Most days, he doesn't get home until after 7:00.  Meanwhile, the boys and I get home from work and school by 3:30.  We had lunch at 11:00, and by 5:00 we're all starving.  It's an ordeal to hold supper until Darwin gets home.  So in the end, we decided I would make supper at the usual time for us and Darwin would join us if he could.

The hardest time was finances.  Ohhh, we went round and round on this.  I hate banks and won't do business with them.  Darwin, however, liked his bank and didn't want to leave it.  For the year we lived together, we transferred money back and forth between his bank and my credit union to pay the bills, but there was always a delay of three or four days.  We paid bills primarily from my account, and sometimes my poor account was left gasping while it waited for Darwin's transfers to arrive.  This couldn't continue; we needed to combine our finances into single account.  But where?

The other problem was the actual handling.  We're both freaks at watching our money.  Darwin is because it's in his nature--his job requires it, in fact.  I am because of the financial problems that rose up before and after the divorce forced me to budget every dollar.  I habitually checked my accounts on-line five and six times a week.  The thought of letting someone else handle the money bothered me enormously.  Darwin felt the same way.

In the end, we finally decided that we would combine our finances at my credit union and Darwin would handle most of the household finances.  I, however, still watch everything from behind the throne, as it were.

The cool thing?  This is exactly the kind of thing opposite-sex couples have to deal with, too.


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