Wednesday, May 28, 2014


40 years ago. 2014 to 1974 doesn't really seem all that long when you have lived through the entirety of it; 1974 to 1934, on the other hand, seems like an eternity, especially when you weren't born until 1966.

40 years ago. We lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan then; my father was in the Coast Guard and that was our current three-year tour. I can picture the surroundings all these years later. Two streets came together in sort of a triangular fashion, and our house was at that corner. Two blocks away was a soda bottling plant from which we stole drinks on occasion. Across the street in the backyard was an abandoned high school. We used to throw rocks at the windows and imagine what it would be like to get in there and play.

One morning I woke up to find fire trucks and police cars congregating in the back. The school was on fire. When all was said and done the place was a total loss. Just a pile of rubble. The front steps were largely intact, and there was a crawl space underneath that we could use as a hideout. Us kids, of course, loved it. One more cool place to play.

I was six, possibly seven years old. Not entirely sure. It's been 40 years. Other things I remember all too well. Like the older boys taking their clothes off. Like the older boys making us take ours off. Like... yeah, maybe you should just use your imagination on this one. Mouths, and genitals, and no permission granted. I was six. Maybe seven. I didn't know what oral sex was. I did know that I didn't want to get my ass kicked by a neighbor boy who was bigger than me. So... yeah. Just use your imagination.

It was abuse, all right, but it was 40 years ago. The consciousness of people regarding sexual abuse was not the same as it is today. You didn't talk about it. I sure didn't talk about it. I didn't want to get in trouble. Yeah, I said it. Kid makes me put my mouth on him and I'm the one worried about getting in trouble.

The years went by. We moved, and we moved again, and we moved again. Sault Ste. Marie was a distant memory. I let what happened fade off into the distance. Never brought it up with anyone, until I started becoming friends with women who had been sexually abused. Then I began to wonder. Was I abused too? I quickly stomped such thoughts into the mudholes of my mind. It didn't happen to boys. Boy on boy abuse was just some bully neighbor kid being an asshole. So I let it go.

Life becomes much more complicated when you become an adult. At a certain point I started seeing a therapist. I was suicidal, depressed, and my marriage was collapsing. The therapist and I got along. I had been seeing her for a few years when I brought up Sault Ste. Marie. I wanted to get a professional opinion. Did what happened to me "count"?

She listened, we talked, she spoke. Did you give your permission? Well hell, I was six, I had no concept of permission. Were you coerced? Well... yeah. I didn't want to get my ass kicked. I was timid. I couldn't defend myself. Hell, I was six. Then yes, she said. It "counts".
In 40 years I have only talked about this with two people. It wasn't as severe as some women I am very good friends with. It didn't seem like I should bring it up for fear of being accused of hijacking someone else's story. This doesn't happen to guys. Keep quiet, let women tell their story. Which I do.
But yeah, it does happen to guys. Please remember that.
Because it happened to me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Really? You don't like the hashtag #YesAllWomen , huh? Doesn't seem fair? Seems like they are blaming all men for their problems?

Got a full tank and some chips
 It was me and a gun
 And a man on my back
 And I sang "holy holy" as he buttoned down his pants
 You can laugh
 It's kind of funny things you think
 at times like these
 Like I haven't seen Barbados
 So I must get out of this

---"Me and a Gun"

Little ten-year-old girl gets enrolled in a private Christian school about 40 minutes from her home. A long-time family friend is the principal. He built the house that her parents bought when they got married. To save the family some time and effort, he offers to drive the little girl to school. Didn't take long for him to stick his hand down the front of her underwear while he was driving. And so it began.

Yes I wore a slinky red thing
 Does that mean I should spread
 For you, your friends, your father, Mr. Ed

---"Me and a Gun"

A 17-year-old girl is admitted to the hospital for attempting suicide. A hospital is a place for healing, a place to get your troubles resolved. A male orderly is in charge of taking her to her next group therapy appointment. Instead he takes her into an unused examination room, drugs her, binds her in the stirrups and rapes her. And the next day. And the next day. She is put on suicide watch. Whenever she has the chance, she attempts to kill herself. Death would feel a whole lot better than this.

Cause what if I'm a mermaid
 In these jeans of his
 With her name still on it
 Hey but I don't care
 Cause sometimes
 I said sometimes
 I hear my voice
 And it's been here
 Silent all these years....

---"Silent All These Years"

A young woman is in her second year in college. Her friends begin to have a "can you top this?" session, with alcohol as the topic du jour. "Remember when we partied with those guys at Cedar Point that one weekend? Man, I got so wasted!" "I remember when I went to my first party- dude kept giving me shots... damn, I don't remember anything after the fifth one...." The young woman keeps quiet. Her first memory of alcohol certainly wasn't her first exposure to it, just the first one she remembers. It was of her rocking on her bed, door locked, as her father went on a drunken rampage with her mother as the target.

walking home in her wrapped up world
 she survived but she's feeling old
 cuz she found all things cold
 strange little girl
 where are you going?
 do you know where you could be going?

---"Strange Little Girl"

Really? You don't like the hashtag #YesAllWomen , huh? Doesn't seem fair? Does it seem fair that these women that I love have endured the most horrid bullshit from men in their lives? Is it fair that a girl who knows nothing about sex has sex forced upon her, and then isn't believed by her family?

How about we come up with a hashtag a little more palatable for you, then.

Because ultimately, you're right. We shouldn't need hashtags such as this. Women should be able to just tell their stories. Women shouldn't have to worry about whether their partner is going to give them a black eye or a broken arm that day. Women shouldn't have to worry about whether they are going to be used and discarded at the end of the night.


So here's a thought- just shut up and listen.

And do you know Carolina
 Where the biscuits are soft and sweet
 These things go through you head
 When there's a man on your back
 And you're pushed flat on your stomach
 It's not a classic cadillac

 Me and a gun
 and a man
 On my back
 But I haven't seen Barbados
 So I must get out of this

---"Me and a Gun"

(song lyrics by Tori Amos. Stories are true; names have been left out.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

That peculiar institution

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove...
---The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

So why do people get married?

When I was younger I didn't think two thoughts about marriage. That's just what people do. As I got older, of course, and became more educated and interested in the ways of life, I knew what marriage was for.

Sex, of course. And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

Never occurred to me that people were having sex without being married. In my limited worldview you got married, then had sex.

And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

"Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you. The right person is still going to think the sun shines out of your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with."
---Mac MacGuff, Juno

The winter of my discontent turned into the spring of my discontent... and then the summer of my discontent. I was having a hard time connecting with someone. Junior High was horrible. I realized at that time that something's happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear. But I wanted in. So to speak.

Problem was, no one wanted to open the door.

I liked girls. Oh did I like girls. I liked them so much that I would write dirty stories about them and shove them in their locker. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Yeah, that will impress them. But I just couldn't talk to them. I froze big time. So I thought... hmm, how can I make them notice me? With 35 years of hindsight I realize that I just didn't know how. Certain things that should be obvious in dealing with people weren't that obvious to me. High School was more of the same. Only this time my literary career got me suspended several times.

But wait... there's more.

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it's privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it's humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”
― Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

I became a born-again Christian when I was in high school. It helped me as far as my debilitating shyness goes; I was finally able to speak before a group, I became one of the first teenage lectors that our parish ever had, I even gave talks to young people on retreats. The shyness issue was fading into the background.

But me and girls still didn't hit it off. And it depressed the hell out of me.

I was still pursuing the golden ring, the holy grail, my eyes firmly fixed on the prize. In my eyes at that time a relationship with the opposite sex could only lead to dating, the altar, and... well, use your imagination. I was horrendously naïve. In high school I finally started to be able to talk to girls. I took a speech class which had most of the popular girls in the high school in it. And I found that I could talk with them. Didn't get me any dates, mind you; but I had my foot in the door.

I entered college still not ever having had my first girlfriend. Heck, I hadn't even had my first date yet. I started attending a lot of Bible studies, as a good born-again Christian is prone to do, and I met women there. And I finally learned how to be friends with women there, without trying to make every relationship with a women proceed to something more. (Women, not "girls".)

I fell in love in college, two times. And I fell hard. When I received the "just friends" talk, it was time to pull out "The Wall" by Pink Floyd and lose myself in the haze. I was first diagnosed as clinically depressed when I was in college.

My naivete about Christians and sex took a beating in college. Christians were having sex! Huh? How could this be? And getting pregnant? Everyone knows that you always wear a raincoat when you go out in the rain!

My friends were now getting married, some of whom out of love, some of whom out of necessity. And as is common when people get married, they tend to go off the grid for a time, and you don't have the same kind of friendship you had during the single years. So I continued to make relationships and marriage my goal. My idol. My golden calf, if you will.

“I have to wonder at what point the people fighting to protect marriage will realize that traditional couples haven’t exactly been doing too good a job of it so far.”
― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

I finally had my first date when I was 29 years old. Met a woman through a classified ad. We stayed out at a bar until 2AM. And 8 days later, on our second date, we had sex.

Some Christian I was turning out to be. The whole experience wracked me with guilt. No more waiting until marriage, huh? Yeah, that ship finally sailed, although I had pulled the anchor on that one a long time ago. We didn't stay together long, maybe a couple of months. Just long enough for her to pull a fake pregnancy angle on me. When I figured out that was false, we were done. I ended up in a hospital for three days. Just wanted to opt out at that point.

I was done. Through. I wasn't going to pursue dating anymore. I was tired of the whole game, and a game it really was, because people were playing each other to get what they wanted with little concern about caring for the other person. At least from my observation.

And there's no one there to dry your tears. I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love.
Bob Dylan, "To Make You Feel My Love"

So why do people get married?

In 1997 I met a woman named Laura Rose. We got along. We became friends. We quickly became boyfriend and girlfriend. And on August 16, 1997, I knelt in the dusty gravel outside of her father's office and asked her to marry me.

(SPOILER ALERT: She said yes.)

So let's step back from the personal story for a moment and ask ourselves a few questions.

Why did you ask Laura to marry you?
Because I loved her. I still do.

If you hadn't asked her to marry you, does that mean that you didn't really love her?
No, because I loved her before I asked her.

Did you have a wedding?
Yes, on August 8, 1998, in a Baptist church in Medina, OH.

If you already loved her, and everyone knew that you loved her, then why did you have a wedding?
Because.... umm....

Where there is love, there is life.
Mahatma Gandhi

So why do people get married?

My belief for a long time is that people get married to have sex. You ain't got a thing if you ain't got that ring. It was a trick question, of course. First of all, people do have sex outside of marriage. Second, you may start off a marriage having sex four times a week, 2AM sex, afternoon-in-between-appointments sex, cancel-the-appointment-and-pay-the-penalty-fee sex.... But ask people who have been married for more than ten years how much sex they are having. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Yeah, I thought as much. People don't really get married to have sex. Married people stop having sex after awhile. Go ahead, deny it.

So why do people get married?

"Out of love", some will say. "We love each other, we want to commit ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. We have a wedding to proclaim our love and demonstrate our commitment to each other amidst a gathering of our family and friends."

You can't commit yourself to a person without getting married? You can't love them deeply and fully without exchanging vows, rings, shoving cake in their face and having your automobile vandalized by people who if they had done that in another context would be up on charges? Obviously you can. People do. But where else are you going to get to wear formal clothes and have a hell of a party? And get showered with toasters and money? And be the center of attention?

A related question is "why do people get a marriage license?" I mean, if you are together out of love, why the need of a piece of paper? Why the need of that legal recognition?

Wait, I'm going somewhere with this.

If ever a man had it all
It would have to be me
I love you

Climax Blues Band, "I Love You"

The topic of allowing a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, has been bandied about a lot in the past few years, and everyone has an angle. On one side are people who defend marriage as "a sacred institution", although they get divorced at the same rate as other couples do. On the other side are those who want "marriage equality". It shouldn't matter who you love! You should be able to marry the one that you love!

Yet they both have something in common.

If God is the one who sanctifies a relationship via marriage, then why the need to have the state recognize it? I have the feeling that God hasn't recognized a lot of "official" marriages, and has blessed a lot of couples who are doing their own thing.

If all that matters is that you want to celebrate your love, then why the need to have the state recognize it? If a man loves a man, or a woman loves a woman, then be together! Have a party if you want, exchange gifts, celebrate however you like. No one is stopping women and men from loving other women and men.

The one thing both sides have in common are the benefits. Social Security. Visitation rights at hospitals. The government recognizes marriages and extends certain benefits to those entering that state of life.

People say they get married out of love, but ultimately they want to get married out of what they can get from the union. At the core of the issue seems to be those federal and state benefits.

Men and women can love who they want. In that there is equality. I didn't have to get married to love my wife. I already did. But if the government is extending benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be men and women, and they aren't extending those benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be two men together or two women together? Then that government is in the wrong.

A lot of people are complaining that gay and lesbian couples can already have civil unions. "Isn't that enough?" Well, let me ask those people something. Isn't that enough for you? Why do you pursue legal recognition of your relationship? Isn't it enough that God recognizes it? And if they are being totally honest, the answer would have to be "No". They want that legal recognition for the benefits it provides. And if our government is extending that legal recognition to them, they should also extend it to gay and lesbian couples who are every bit as committed to each other. There is really no legitimate reason not to do that.

The exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, accordingly, is not a small and tangential inconvenience resulting from a few surviving relics of societal prejudice destined to evaporate like the morning dew. It represents a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples.
Justice Albie Sachs, Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another, 1 December 2005

So why did you get married?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Now that I have your attention...

I stumbled upon a blog recently, one which was written by women and apparently geared toward women, and I saw a letter from "Dear Amy" being discussed. The letter-writer was offended that her partner knew that they had sex 76 times last year. And he was grading her. I would hate to see that report card.

But it started me thinking. Sex. No, nothing lewd, nothing pornographic, but I've always been fascinated; by the act, most certainly, but also by the attitudes people carry towards it. Sex can be good, and really damn good; it can be evil, and pretty damned evil. It's a noun, a verb, probably an adverb too if I could remember what an adverb was. One singer wants your sex, another wants to sex you up. It can be a weapon, it can be a reward, it can be a punishment. You can think about it too much, or not enough, or both at the same time, depending on your perspective. One gender stereotypically only has their mind on "one thing"; another gender stereotypically pretends that they are above that kind of talk but over glasses of wine and "chick flicks" they can embarrass a sailor.

My wife attended a wedding a few years ago. I got out of going by the fact that we were told that no kids were invited, although the bride's family was apparently an exception to that rule. Her father is the pastor of the church. Anyway, being a man who is prone to uttering inappropriate comments, every 20 minutes after my wife came home I wondered aloud, "Hmm... I wonder what she and her husband are doing now?", knowing very well what they were likely doing, but wanting to embarrass my wife just the same.

But seriously, folks. How do a woman and a man who have been brought up believing that sex is off limits, having abstinence instilled in them from the very beginning- how do they go about suddenly flipping the switch? Now they're allowed to see each other naked? Now they're allowed to grope and moan? Sex is just not talked about in fundamental Baptist circles. They obviously have it- the plethora of kids running around at the end of every service testifies to that- but do they enjoy it or just tolerate it? Maybe Baptists have sex with their clothes on.

Stay with me here- there's a point to be made. I spent several years as part of a couple of fundamental Baptist churches, and the point was hammered home every other Sunday- we do not live by our experience, we live by the Word of God. Quite often people who enjoyed certain experiences were talked about as if possessed by Lucifer himself. No guitars or drums- can't have that sensual beat enticing our senses. So how do they turn the page when the tie comes off and the bodies go horizontal? Do they know that it isn't JUST about procreation, that they're allowed to like it, that it's a good thing?

Experience is woven into the fabric of life. Roses have color and scent. Anchovies have taste. (Oh, do they!) And sex is not merely functional. If it was merely for procreation, then a man could just fill some test tubes and keep them in the freezer. Procreation is obviously a function of sex. But oh, is it so much more. The experience. When you don't have the experience you consider yourself to have failed at it. Men who don't have "the experience" take drugs. Women who don't have "the experience" read magazines, get therapy and talk to their girlfriends about their dissatisfaction. "The experience" is part of the package, thereby proving that God approves of pleasure and excitement- He created them.

And yet... is that all there is to it? "Getting yours"? Seems like if that was your whole perspective than you could accomplish the same thing by going into the can with a magazine. A large part of it, it most certainly is... but not IT.

I'm not naïve. IT isn't always some metaphysical, ethereal thing. Someone falls asleep, someone farts, someone remembers that the garbage didn't go out yet; the cell phone rings, the bed collapses, little Johnny or Susie walks in and sees Mommy and Daddy "wrestling". Sometimes you just realize that you're just not that into it and stop.

But let's not pretend here. We all think about IT, we all talk about IT. Hopefully with our partners. I certainly hope with our partners. If you are complaining to your friends or your blog audience that your husband wants IT all the time, then you probably need to talk to your husband first. If you are sharing "locker room talk" over some cold ones with the guys, perhaps talking about how your wife won't "give you any" because you insulted her mother or something, then the person you need to be talking to is your wife, not your buddies.

And I haven't even scratched the surface of the subject. Other people with vaster vocabularies and more varied experiences have written about IT. I am only speaking from one corner of the universe here, and my vision is limited.

Now let's get back to the beginning. Was the guy who kept track of the number of times he and his wife had sex wrong to do so? Well... I would definitely say that he was kind of crass in putting out report cards. That certainly isn't helping matters. Throw the report cards away, dude. Wash the dishes, cook every once in awhile, take a shower and change your undies more than once a week- there are a whole plethora of things that you can do to build up capital in the love bank. But geez, report cards? Your bank account is overdrawn, dude.

And to the wife? Well, I'm not a wife, am I? So I really can't speak to the subject. I would suggest, though, that if the wife isn't at least trying to talk with her husband about this, if she is just writing to advice columnists or bloggers about it, than she also needs to back up and communicate with her husband. Her husband isn't wrong for wanting it, but she also isn't wrong for not wanting to reward crassness with concupiscence.

Gotta talk with each other before you can do other things with each other.

Monday, May 12, 2014

And so it begins....


Matthew was seen for neurologic follow-up and was accompanied by his mother. He is a 4-year-old boy with significant developmental delays. Testing today has not provided a clear identifiable etiology. He continues making nonspecific noises. He has not had much interest in peers. He still finger feeds. He puts carpet strings in his mouth. He has hand regard behavior. He likes watching computer screen showing the image of a certain level of a game for up to half an hour. He sleeps about seven to eight hours and smears stool. He gets speech therapy twice a week and attends school four days weekly for 3-1/2 hours per day. He has an attendant.
Today’s exam finds a weight of 18 kg, height of 105 cm and head circumference of 54.5 cm. He makes nonspecific noises while jumping and pacing around the room. Eye contact is inconsistent. Overall tone is unchanged. No words are heard. He has no focal neurologic deficit.
Matthew continues to have significant developmental impairments. I agree with his father that he clearly shows some features within the autistic spectrum. This label can be useful for identifying his areas of need. He has had some other lab tests, results of which will be checked. He will continue with his school programming. Family will call if there are problems, otherwise follow-up will be in one year.
Max Wiznitzer, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology
(Amazing how something can be so concisely worded but not even come close to the depth of what we would experience in the 10 years following. Here's how it should have read:)
Mr. and Mrs. MacNair;
I believe that your son exhibits characteristics consistent with those on the autism spectrum.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You had ideas, goals and dreams for your son? Toss them in the crapper my good friends. Your new life begins today, a life filled with ambiguity and unknowing. What causes autism? We don't know for sure. How should it be treated? There are various and manifold ways, not all working the same for every child. Is there anyone who can help you navigate the waters? Sure, there are several people with various areas of expertise, and they will all tell you something different. Then there are the people with no expertise- amazingly they seem to have more to say than the educated ones. It's a jungle out there, Mr. and Mrs. MacNair, and I've just handed you a butter knife. Have fun navigating the forest.
Welcome to the wonderful world of autism, my friends! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Max Wiznitzer, M.D.
Pediatric Neurology