Archive for the ‘Flagrant Ideology’ Category

Lessons from the Mommune

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

In August 2016, after living alone with my daughter for three years, I took a leap with two other moms with kids the same age, and we rented a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom duplex in a hip section of lower Manhattan. I had met one of them through a mutual friend in the NY dance world. The other we met on coabode.org, a roommate matching service tailored to single moms that want to team up on housing, bills and childcare. Commune living is something I’ve been actively working on for over a decade. I knew since I was about 20, after breaking up with my second boyfriend, that marriage, the two-car garage, picket fence, and lifelong monogamy were not things I was cut out for. It wasn’t just about sexual partners — I’d found sharing much of life with just one other person, be it a roommate or boyfriend, utterly myopic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted children, and when I imagined it, I imagined it alone, or living in a big house full of my friends.

When my daughter was born, her father and I were sharing a 4-story brownstone with a dozen other adults (none of whom had children) in an ambitious attempt at architecting the postmodern commune. I learned a lot about group dynamics in that house, and by the time I was ready to make the leap again a few years after leaving him, I knew that living with other parents, with whom I could trade and split childrearing responsibilities was of paramount importance. I also knew I wanted to live exclusively with other moms. While the modern cry of women with children is to demand that our men equally share the burden of household and parenting responsibilities, I find this is regularly contradicted by the playground-mom past-time of volleying stories of fatherly incompetence with the other exhausted moms. I wanted to live with other soldiers, not rookies.

Shared Values

Our first conference call (for one was arriving from out of the country) centered around a google spreadsheet I shared with the group for collaboration.

Don’t you just WISH you had done this with your spouse before moving in together? Love is blind, and makes us think things like that having great sex means living together will be a breeze. Which is why it’s actually very cool to have a platonic relationship with your co-parents — your perception is not clouded by having your brains fucked out.

Pros: This was incredibly helpful in determining what sort of apartments we should look for. It also served as a casual springboard for conversations about custody arrangements and annual income, which are not generally ice-breakers.

Cons: Not everyone was honest. Gee, kinda like dating. It constantly baffles me that people lie their way into relationships, but oh well, we accept these truths as self-evident. Hell, my ex lied to me about his income so I’d feel safe having a baby with him. Would that we could all accept that we are flawed, push past our fears of rejection, and courageously express our true selves to others right off the bat. Would that others weren’t so easily rattled by what is new and different — for it’s true that people often flee from what is unfamiliar. As I tell my daughter, everyone is a little crazy, you just have to find the people that are crazy like you. The sooner you can get it all out an uncomfortable on the table, the quicker you’ll weed out the people that you don’t jive with and zero in on the kindred nutballs.

The Setup

Real Estate

The three of us co-signed the rental lease, which meant we all had equal footing in terms of rights and obligations, and we all had to be transparent about income in order to figure out what we could afford and qualify for. Home or Lease ownership has a direct influence on your relationships. When I was co-owner of a house with my daughter’s father, living with a bunch of people with tenant status, the power imbalance was a clear obstacle to that fuzzy feeling of an egalitarian commune. If your roommate is also your landlord, you are less likely to go next-door and tell them to turn down their music so you can sleep. Additionally, as the landlord, your assumed role as ‘fixer’ means fielding copious requests for repairs, even when you’re also working a full-time job, taking care of a baby, and paying the equivalent of your tenants towards the mortgage each month. When it comes to decision-making, Democracy is slower and messier than a benevolent Monarchy, but I unquestionably prefer it. Regardless of how you arrange it, transparency and consensus are critical.

We measured all the bedrooms that the moms would occupy (the kids would share the fourth), divided the total rent by the combined square footage to ascertain a price per square foot, then multiplied that by the square footage of each bedroom to determine each occupant’s rent obligation. In retrospect, the prices between bedrooms were pretty drastic, and I think a better formula would have incorporated shared-use spaces into the equation as such:

bedroom price = bedroom area * total rent/total square feet

There are also factors like windows, privacy, balcony access, or which floor a room is on that can alter the perceived value of a space. Regardless of what your equation looks like, the numbers should “feel” right to everyone, and make it difficult to choose. You know you’ve got it wrong if one room has way higher demand.

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Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 2: The Narcissist’s Asshole Attorney

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

“I’ll take a reasonable lawyer with a crazy client over a crazy lawyer with a reasonable client any day.”

These words of wisdom were uttered over coffee one midtown afternoon by my friend C. She was relaying HER attorney’s advice, as I was pouring my heart out over the nonsensical, twilight zone custody case I was embroiled in with my Narcissist ex.

Newsflash: It’s NOT About the Kid

It took me a year and a half and $50K in legal fees, AFTER having agreed to waive child support and single-handedly pay for preschool, to figure this out. It’s actually about keeping YOU – his Narcissistic Supply. The crazy thing is, the Narc and I don’t actually disagree on a lot of parenting decisions, even in the course of settlement discussions. The difference between us and the other fighting parents is that when I agree to something, he quickly finds some way to change it in order to keep arguing. And whenever I evade his attempt to use the kid as a creepy excuse to hang around me, he needs to file a motion and howl at the judge about what a terrible person I am. Why? Well, he was raised in an Arabic Muslim household for one thing, and yes, women in this culture are considered chattel. He was physically abused by his stepmother, who was the housekeeper prior to marrying his father — a father who openly admits that he didn’t love the woman, but needed someone to take care of him after the divorce. Voilà – Cluster B personality disorder (NPD). Narcissist’s don’t actually WANT agreement. They want a fight (aka Supply), and when you give in to the crazy demands he’s put together to spark a fight, they’ll find something else.

I was his property, and once I left the house I was out of his control. So custody of our daughter was the way he was going to punish me for my disobedience. Abusive men just LOVE taking the kids from mom upon divorce, only to dump them on a nanny or girlfriend, go figure. This was exactly what my ex wanted to do – and why not? That’s what his childhood looked like once his parents divorced. “No,” I thought, “you will not replace her mother with the fearful, illiterate, subservient nanny.” By retaining primary residential custody, I believe I broke the cycle of emotional disorders running through his family and spared my daughter a lifetime of suffering. He was fine with this as long as I waived child support, which was no problem for me, and the lawyers at our first four-way remarked that this was going to be a walk in the park. But once my ex realized it was going to be over and done, he did everything he could to prevent settlement. It’s a type of stalking, and the state of Tennessee passed a bill in 2018 annotating Title 29 to address this problem clogging up the court system.

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. — Charles Lamb

Yes, he is a total piece of work. But his attorney was far, far worse. Because this guy had a license to practice law, the ability to translate my ex’s clingy requests into plausible-sounding parenting demands, and no skin in the game – except that he could make more money, the more he stirred up our conflict. I discovered a parallel between the business of being an attorney the business of being a web developer: the newbies will attempt to sell the client on a lot of BS they don’t need so they can inflate the billable hours, and those of us that know what we’re doing and get more work offers than we can handle — we’re just trying to get you and your project out of our hair with ample scalability and backwards compatibility to minimize ongoing maintenance (aka, “keep it simple, stupid”). You get what you pay for. The $200-300/hr lawyer will make scrivener’s errors, stir up conflict, and drive your case to trial. The $500-700/hr lawyer will get documents right in 1-2 drafts, push you towards a deal and save you thousands in misery. The catch is, you don’t get to choose both lawyers in this sticky foursome. I had the high-priced, googleable attorney who took the high road and looked for mechanisms to manage conflict, while he had a younger, more aggressive attorney that seemed desperate to prove something. An attorney whose ill-fitting suits never matched, whose office was at WeWork, and whose personal assistant was (wait for it…) his MOTHER. When push came to shove my attorney did pull some very good moves, and her advice was filled with insightful observations about human nature and conflict. But in many ways I felt like yet another proof of the old adage that nice guys finish last, and she too would at times be blindsided by the sudden 180 the other side would do after we’d made positive headway in negotiations. You need an attorney that has enough clientele that she’s not interested in billing you up the wazoo (which means she IS the sort that negotiates to keep you OUT of court — these are highly sought after), AND who can spot the kind of opposition that wants to prolong the fight. And when she does see it, she must ruthlessly push for the exposure and high costs of a trial.

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Disarming the Narcissist – Case Study 1: The Birthday Party

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018
Narcissus by John William Waterhouse width= Balloons Zena Warrior Princess

Like many Narcs, the one with whom I share a daughter, likes to use the kid as a creepy excuse to impose his presence on me and pick fights. When I wriggle out of it, he takes me to Court. As you can imagine, this is a cripplingly expensive situation for yours truly. But Family Court is a joke, just like the rest of the so-called American Justice System, and the lawyers and judges all make way too much money off it being ineffective to bother changing anything. So most of the time, you must take matters into your own hands, and do so with the precision of a surgeon so as not to damage the kids or your reputation before the Court.

When it was time for my daughter’s 4th birthday, and subsequently her first REAL birthday party with her whole preschool class, the Narc of course wanted to co-host a party. Because I don’t party with people that are incessantly suing me, I declined, which is when his Narc lawyer got involved and the fun began. Kids’ birthday parties are like the caviar of Narcissistic Supply for an NPD dad. Especially if they can get an organized schmuck like me to plan, prep and pay for everything. Ha.

I’m including actual emails, with identifying information removed and names replaced. Here’s a key:

[Yours truly] …………………………. That’s me
[A**hole] ……………………………… My asshole ex
[our daughter]/[dear daughter] …. Our daughter

The Narcissist baits you, but don’t give in

Ever since I left him, the Narc has become superdad, and in true superdad fashion, emailed me a month before the kid’s birthday to see what “our” plans were. Luckily, I had not yet planned anything, so the stakes were flexible.

My firm, detailed and unemotional response citing past visitation patterns and the custody agreement we’d been drafting for the prior year:

The Narc’s Slimy Lawyer

Whenever the Narc knew I wasn’t backing down I’d hear from his attorney. His attorney, whose suits never matched and who’s “office” was at WeWork.com (one of those office-sharing places). And who would look at me like he wanted to fuck me during settlement discussions. He once had to gaul to invite me to do a “settlement talk” without his client present – just him and me. Sheah.

What follows is the long-winded, contradictory email from this slimeball to MY lawyer, suggesting that I’d better spend time with his client if I want to see my kid at ALL on her birthday, or they’ll file a motion:

Shakespeare was totally right when he said “First, we must kill all the lawyers”. They will lie and threaten even when they know their client is the asshole in the situation. Cuz they’re getting paid to. So I had a predicament.

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Letter to every married mom that’s ever snubbed me because I am a single mom

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017
On my bad days, I hate you. But most of the time, I feel sorry for you.

I feel sorry for you because you’ve let yourself go, which is why you give me the once-over with a grimace whenever you see me. And why wouldn’t you? You’re not supposed to be sexually available. You have an owner. You’ve settled down, like a good girl. Anyway, who has time to primp when cleaning up the perpetual trail of chaos that the hubby and kids leave in their wake?

I feel sorry for you because you’ve gotten so insecure about letting yourself go that you’d snub not just me but my kid too. Really? You’re gonna take your sexual resentment out on a CHILD? Go ahead, enjoy your playdates, help the other depressed married moms out with some babysitting. Keep that single mom and her spawn away, lest she go after your fat, balding husband that you haven’t fucked in 2 years. Puh-lease. I wouldn’t touch that creton with a ten-foot pole.

I feel sorry for you because I know you have to ask for something 4 times and then shout before he hears a word you say. It’s like you have to turn into an asshole in order to get ANY help. And then you have no patience left for the little ones, who deserve it so much more than he does.

It hurts when you snub me. I’m also juggling kids and a household. Childcare is just as much a financial burden for me as it is for your family. I could use the same break you and the married moms give each other. If you got to know me, I think you’d like me. But you’ve already decided, so my kid gets shut out.

Maybe you think I don’t notice. I don’t give you the benefit of the doubt anymore. The other single moms and I get together and we dish about how snotty you guys are to us.

Maybe you think us single moms are mooches, and any sort of reciprocal arrangement would be a drain on you. But your math is off. My kid is at her father’s every other weekend, which is when I get to skip off to yoga and the bar. I also don’t have a man-child draining me emotionally 24-7. Your combined incomes *might* add to more than mine (though not by much, because I’ve been in the six-figure club since I was 30), but I get to decide what happens to everything in my account, sans negotiations or eye-rolls. It’s not what you gross that matters, it’s what you net.

This is totally an American thing too — the foreign moms are way cooler to me. Why can’t you be more like the foreign moms?

I wilt a little every time my daughter asks me for a playdate with someone whose mom I know will not reply. I say that I’ll see what I can do. It gets harder the older she gets, because she remembers who she’s already asked about. I tell her that I sent the mom a message but she is probably just very, very busy.

I feel sorry for you because deep down you know how fucked up it is when your kid wants to play with mine and you make up excuses as to why they can’t. Cognitive dissonance is a bitch.

I feel sorry for you because you make your friends based on something as ephemeral as relationship status, and not based on anything real in your heart.

I feel sorry for you because he cheats on you. Not yours you say? Wow, you have a lot to learn about men.

I feel sorry for you because there is a 50% chance you will also divorce. And when you do, and you get snubbed by the married moms, you will realize what a shitty person you’ve been.

I feel sorry for you because you share a bed with the last person on earth you’d want to tear your clothes off. Yup, it gets old, no matter how good it once was. And now you’re both celibate and stuck.

I feel sorry for you because you can’t really talk about it — everyone is supposed to stop asking how everyone else’s relationship is once the rings are on. Is that why you drink so much?

I feel sorry for you because deep down you know you want to leave him, but the money, the money, how will you do it? It all seems impossible. And scary. No wonder you hate single moms. They did the impossible. What would you talk about at a playdate? When the married moms get together everyone dishes about how lame the guy they’re stuck with is. “The single moms wouldn’t get it,” you think to yourself. Oh but we do. And we aren’t afraid to say the unthinkable: “Leave his trifling ass.”

I feel sorry for you because he doesn’t appreciate you, and never will.

I feel sorry for you because what’s behind me lies ahead for you, and the fear of it keeps you trapped. The lawyers, the courts, the money. Yes, it’s awful. I know that going through it is still better than staying in a shitty relationship. But you don’t know that. So you stand at the edge, looking but never daring.

On Hiring Male Escorts

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
david B was not the first professional I’d been with. The first was J, whom I’d met years before at my first orgy, held in a London spa. I didn’t hire J — we took a liking to each other at the party, and he informed me as we chatted, that he did escort work. I’m sure if I was supposed to pay he would have said so, but if I’d had to I don’t think I’d have been interested. As we made small-talk in the hot tub, I felt his question on my thigh in the form of some ginger stroking. Which shortly turned into necking, which eventually led to a tryst in the steam room that rather knocked my socks off. Friends would later ask me what he did that was so good. There was little I could point out beyond the serendipity of immediate, firey chemistry, but what always stuck with me happened while we were kissing in the hot tub, in the nonchalant presence of other party-goers; at one moment he pulled his mouth away and asked “So, what do you like?” and my twenty-something brain was struck dumb. No man had ever asked me such a thing before fucking. It took me a few fumbling moments to come up with something, and his grinning acceptance of instruction led to a tense and rapid orgasm.

Some ten years later, I sought out B in the midst of my separation from my daughter’s father. Like anyone going through a divorce, I was an emotional wreck – too much of a wreck to manage dating or be dateable. I’d rebounded into a couple of exes, with mixed results. I wanted to get off, and get off well, but without any emotional obligation to anyone, or pressure to go further than I was ready to.

So I browsed backpage.com for a few months before mustering the gumption to contact B. His profile had caught my eye a few times, and with time I observed updates to his photos, details – at one point the addition of a website. This struck me as a sign of safety – for in this age of digital paper trails, should he be an axe-murderer, the profile would surely disappear after having committed anything suspect using it. Right? I didn’t know. I decided to send him a message requesting to book a massage.

He responded via email and then we moved to text message. He wanted a photo of me, which I sent. His messages appeared cautious. It got me thinking – in a society where their profession is illegal and socially ostracized, they have just as much reason to be scared. Having lived in Holland during my twenties, where the sex-workers have a union and healthcare, this saddened me. It was also comforting to know the person on the other end of the transaction was just as nervous. We arranged that I would come to his apartment for an hour-long appointment. As I recall it cost around $180.

On the day of, I texted a couple of friends that I was going to do this, and that if they didn’t hear from me by 6pm, they should call the police and send them to the address I’d been given.

Whenever I start to do something that unnerves me, I tell myself with each step “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. At any moment, you can say no and turn around and leave.” These were my thoughts as he buzzed me into the building.

It was like visiting any other friend’s place. The building was nicer than the one I lived in, but not immodest. Warm tones, decent light and lots of original woodwork. He was talkative, to a slightly nervous degree. He had a massage table already open in the center of his living room, one wall of which, was entirely mirrored. We discussed what I wanted, which was simple enough – a massage with release. I told him I’d never done this before. He said don’t worry, he was going to make me comfortable. I liked him. He was attractive, though I wasn’t all that attracted to him. I trusted him well enough to stay.

He left me to get undressed, which I did, and I laid down on the table. I think he asked if I liked the music but I don’t remember. He began with a massage. It was good. Not the best I’d ever had, but nice enough. It was platonic to begin with, and gradually became more erotic in quality and where he was touching. About 30 minutes in was when things really got going. He went down on me, which I was not expecting. He retrieved a conveniently located glass dildo, which I was also not expecting. I watched us in the mirror. I came several times.

We laid in an embrace on the table in the aftermath of my orgasms. I relished his lack of demand for anything, and for once, not reciprocating felt not only justified, but expected. We talked. I told him about the break-up, my difficult ex, being a single mom and all the subsequent stress. He remarked that I just needed to come, really really hard.

He left the room to let me get redressed. When he returned, he did not ask, but I took out the money and put it on the counter and confirmed with him that it was accurate. I didn’t tip. I probably should have, in retrospect. I was working but in plenty of debt and in the midst of a separation. I also felt, a little culpably, that I ought to be able to get away with it. Years before, when hanging out with J in the hot tub of that little spa in London, I’d asked about his orientation. His response was “Well, straight generally, but bi[sexual] for work.” I realized there isn’t really a market for heterosexual male escorts. The majority of clientele are male. B confirmed this as we chatted after – he had a few female clients, but most were men. Being an attractive and fit woman, I imagined that a session with me with no strings attached could hardly be considered grueling work in the eyes of most men, straight or bi, escort or not.

I left the building elated, relaxed, and triumphantly giddy. I was so relaxed that I forgot to text my friends, until I noticed a second message from one, saying that if she didn’t hear from me in 10 minutes she was calling 911. All’s well that ends well.

It was fun, and I’ve thought frequently about doing it again, but since that time, I only went back once, on the following Valentine’s morning, before rolling into the office with a smug grin. It has it’s pros and cons, like anything. It definitely made me feel a lot better about not having a lover on Valentine’s Day (or “Lupercalia,” as I prefer to call it, in the way they once did before the Church sanitized the amorous filth of the old Pagan holidays). As a single parent, it’s appealing as another solution to time-management in this extreme, daily marathon which leaves little time for dating. Anyway, I’ve never been fond of dating. I much prefer meeting people through work or extracurriculars, when smoldering attraction blossoms out of accidental familiarity. Purchased gratification definitely pales in comparison to THAT, so when I have a crush, my interest in escorts wanes. But I’d say I prefer this simple service to dating, online or otherwise.

The thing that deters me, is the awkward process and questionable safety. I could contact B again, but he ultimately he isn’t quite my type, and besides, what’s the point if one doesn’t go for a little variety? But every time I think of going back online to browse profiles and agonize over whether or not I’m going to be into the person, or like the way they smell, or whether or not it will be good, or safe, I throw up my hands. What I would prefer is a setting a little more like a salon, where one could select from a catalogue of screened men, or better yet, where there’s a few dozen meandering a wet lounge or game room or garden, such that one can see, smell and touch the merchandise before requesting a private room for a massage. It seems appropriate that this would be a place where one could get hair, nails, and facials done, and serves excellent tea.

The main obstacle of course, is the illegality.

Most of us take for granted the protection under the rule of law we enjoy at our jobs. Escorts and their clients don’t get to partake in this protection, and subsequently must operate furtively, while exposing themselves to undesireable risks. It’s pretty absurd, given that the transaction, between consenting adults, does society no harm. One could easily argue that marriage is merely the same transaction but under a contract involving a ring and a house instead of cash. Or that it isn’t much different than one person buying dinner for another preceding intercourse, or the pebble that one penguin offers to it’s would-be mate. After reading the Kama Sutra I felt quite convinced that the only difference between a wife and escort is that one is full-time and the other freelance — which is of course, a personal choice, and subject to change with circumstance.

I find others quick to argue that sex-work is dehumanizing and abusive, and that it encourages human trafficking — how can I possibly compare it to that sacred institution of love? Is it as sacred when it’s Russian mail-order brides or Middle Eastern children sold into marriage to pay off family debts? I know too many women that stay in bad marriages because they simply cannot afford to leave. The titles are different, but the abuse and objectification looks much the same. Like ownership of one human being by another. On the flip-side, and a lighter note, there are many great love stories involving concubines. Both Jesus and Siddhartha shacked up with brilliant whores.

Like seemingly all social problems, it boils down to income disparity. Were the income disparity between men and women the world over not so great, the sexual repression that comes inherently coupled with economic oppression would not be present in marriage or prostitution, and women would not feel compelled by financial necessity to enter into any transaction involving their bodies that is contrary to their health and happiness.

So I’d like to live in a world where I can go get head while getting my nails done, on the condition that sex-work is well-paid, well-respected, and well-regulated, and the plethora of living-wage jobs and social services mean that the choice to sell sex is not a last resort, but truly one choice among many, to which one can always turn on one’s heel and say “no.”