The Fiery Freedom in the Church of Rammstein

When I heard that Rammstein was coming to Chicago this year on a limited US tour, I bought a ticket to go see them.  I have been a Rammstein fan since I was 14 years old and angsty as hell in the way that only Gen X'ers and early millenials coming of age in the nineties could be.  Rammstein turned me on to David Lynch thanks to a friend loaning me the Lost Highway soundtrack, which I mentioned in a previous post.  Rammstein was also the initial driver for me to learn German.  I loved them so much that I bought a German dictionary and started attempting to translate their songs without any knowledge of German grammar or syntax.  My subsequent love affair with the German language took me on a series of far-flung, wacky adventures.  To that end, I owe Rammstein a tremendous debt. 

I saw Rammstein tour with System of a Down and Slipknot back in 2001, when I was a senior in high school.  I went with a couple of guy friends down to St. Louis to the Kiel Center - I don't know what it's called now, but it was the Kiel Center then, and that's how I still think of it - and we sat up in the nosebleed and literally lost hearing from the sonic onslaught.  Back in those days, you could still mosh to your heart's desire and smoke inside, and although we weren't allowed down to the mosh pit, we definitely smoked a lot.

That has been over 15 years ago, and Rammstein and I have both grown up a little.  They're at the point now of having grown old.  Till Lindemann is 54, and he wears heavy flame-retardant suits, metal wings with flamethrowers attached, and climbs all over the set as part of the show.  I have to be honest: I have a lot of respect for someone that will go that hard when it is probably getting a lot harder for him to do.  He is still doing it to great effect though because the show that I saw last night was hands-down the best I've attended, in terms of entertainment value and fun.  For a group of dour Germans, a national group not particularly known for its emphasis on joy and delight ("Es gibt kein Happy End!"), Rammstein is fun, and their audience last night was happy.

As I drove home down the dark but decided un-lost highway last night, I began to contemplate metal and its place among the freedom movement.  My observations are based on 100% scientific evidence that many libertarian-leaning people also happen to be metal heads.  Okay, it's based completely off of the Anarcho-Capitalist Community group on Facebook, but I'm here to tell you that that group is chock-full of metal heads.  Ask them what music they listen to - because people have - and while the answers that you get will be varied to some degree, there is an overwhelming amount of answers that include metal bands of all sorts.  I listen to mostly indie music, but two of my favorite indie bands, Queenadreena (my actual favorite band) and Jucifer, are known for either being actually metal or have a lot of metal elements.  As an annoying hipster acquaintance of mine once surmised, upon learning my top five bands, "You like it hard, don't you?"  Apparently I'm not the only market anarchist that does.

What is it about metal that is so appealing to the sons and daughters of liberty?  Rammstein, for example, is not a band that a person would instantly associate with libertarianism.  In point of fact, all the members are, I believe, from former East Germany, and they have decidedly socialist leanings, if you understand their lyrics which, thanks to them, I can.  Rammstein sings about a lot of things, but liberty is not one of them.  In point of fact, they sing two songs, "Amerika" and "Moskau," which criticize the US and praise Russia, and that is coming from the classical position of a supposedly capitalist nation versus a communist one.  Rammstein also criticizes Germany quite a bit.  There is an alternating irreverence about them, serious and playful, and perhaps that explains some of it.  Could this perhaps be a key to explaining the libertarian love of metal?  Is it the hopeful despair that appeals?  I think that is part of it.  

People think of metal and they think of a bunch of leather-clad guys abusing their guitars and screaming about Satan, which isn't necessarily an inaccurate picture, but I think where a lot of people get it wrong is what it actually stands for.  Yes, I'm sure there are some metal heads that are actually Satan worshippers, but I don't think that's accurate of the average metal head.  I think the average metal head is looking for an experience based on their observations and a feeling of oppression in their daily life.  Metal music provides that outlet.  

In mulling it over, I actually came to the conclusion that metal may, for some, be the equivalent of a libertarian safe space.  Metal kids are weird.  There were people wearing costumes last night.  Girls - fat girls, yet - in booty shorts, corsets, too-short plaid schoolgirl skirts, lace, fishnets, and heavy boots.  Guys with gauged-out ears and various other piercings, distasteful black tattoos (no color to be seen), and bad facial hair.  There was a sixty-something lady with purple hair.  There were clean-cut guys in polo shirts completely devoid of any of those trappings that were head-banging with the goth kids next to them.  People were dancing, singing, head-banging, throwing their arms, and just plain having a good time.  It was fun and uplifting to see, actually.

Normally, I'm on the judgmental side about fat chicks that wear short skirts and people that wear flagrantly stupid-looking clothes on purpose because it feels like a cry for attention.  In the context of the metal concert though, it feels different.  It feels liberating, and I think the music allows for that.  The intensity of the music serves as a means to a release.  It allows people to come as they are, to have these insane thoughts and emotions, acknowledges them, and releases them.  Perhaps that is why there are so many religious themes in metal music.  It allows people to deal with their own rejection of the conventional and gives them a place where they can come to worship and have that sublimating effect that others seek in the church pews on Sunday morning.

In its recognition that not everything is all right and that the system frankly sucks, metal gives people that space to find their own meaning.  Metal is for the people that have looked around, observed the insanity, and decided to go their own direction.  Metal stands up in front of the crowd and says that it is okay to be different because it can't be any worse than the other stuff on offer.  It takes those emotions of rejection and discontent and gives them a place to go, and it gives people a place to go where there are others that have had the same experience.  Metal says that it's okay to be different, and not just a little bit different, but wildly different.  It is okay to think for yourself.  It is okay to go a little bit crazy.  

I think this is what the mainstream finds so generally distasteful about metal.  Metal does not give a fuck.  Metal is going to be what it is.  It is going to come as it is, and it is going to say unpalatable things.  It is going to be offensive.  It is going to be loud, and it is going to have fun while singing about scary, un-fun things.  It is going to sweep its fans away and take them somewhere else for a couple of hours, and in the case of Rammstein, it is going to take them to hell.  There is going to be fire, and it is going to be hot.  You are going to see strange things and hear about some strange stuff, and you are going to be able to shake hands with the shadow and walk away feeling elated at the end of that two hours.  Rammstein will literally bleed on stage to make sure that you have that experience.  

Isn't that what a lot of us anarcho-capitalists are looking for?  A lot of us aren't necessarily looking for a tribe, but we are looking for an arena where we can go to let loose.  The world outside does not allow for that.  Everywhere we go, we find that we are in chains.  But at the metal concert?  Ah, at the metal concert, you can scream, shout, bounce around, and let the power chords transport you somewhere else, and maybe it doesn't appear to be technically better, but it is a place where you are allowed to be crazy and to revel in it.  To those that don't think this is necessary, I hold that this truly is tantamount to a religious experience, and I think religious ceremony and release exists for a reason, even if you don't believe in God.  I think people need that acknowledgement, that they are okay and that there is a place they can come to where it will be, even if outside it is not.  And that, I think, is what appeals to the libertarian nature.

Rammstein does not sing about happiness.  They sing about unrequited love, hatred, loneliness, political discontent, rejection (personal and religious), and even incest.  "Wiener Blut" scared me the first time I heard it.  In spite of that essential ugliness of much of their lyrics, the fans last night were happy.  I didn't see one angry face there.  There were no fights, no drunken vomiting, and no discourteous remarks.  Everyone was there to have fun, and there was an air of acceptance and even a certain glee at the weirdness.

I want to contrast this to another concert I went to last year for OAR.  I love OAR, and I take shit off of my friends for it all the time.  When I was going through my godawful divorce, I needed upbeat, and they provided.  As a sort of thanks for that, I decided to go to a concert in St. Louis last year.  I was glad that I got to see them and give them ticket money because as I have said before, I believe that expressing gratitude is important, but Goddamn, I can't stand OAR fans.  I also just noticed my own inconsistency in the capitalization of G/god, and I think that is oddly fitting for my awkward relationship with the subject.

There is quite a bit of drinking that goes on at all concerts.  I'm totally fine with that.  I personally do not drink at shows because I came to hear the artist, not get wasted.  I respect the fact that some people prefer a buzz.  Not my circus, not my monkeys.  But man.  The level of drunk at OAR was unreal.  It was like a frat party with people ranging up to sixty, and while it was escapist for certain, it was directionless and seemingly pointless.  The only reason people were standing was to go to the bar.  It made me wonder what about saying that it should be fun made it so, well, kind of un-fun, at least for me.  By the way, I still love OAR, and I have a ton of respect for them. They tour hard, and their schedule has been punishing for a lot of years.  It takes a lot of willpower and sacrifice to maintain that.  I still like their music a lot, but man, their fans are not fun in a room together.

I was shocked by how fun the Rammstein fans were.  They were weird.  They were friendly.  They were polite.  They were well-behaved.  They definitely did some drinking, and many of them disobeyed the "Thank You For Not Smoking" signs, but nobody seemed to care.  I didn't hear anyone make any rude comments, and everyone was thrilled with the show.  There was an air of joviality throughout the evening, and it made the show that much more enjoyable.  It was, in fact, the best crowd I've ever waded into.  If all concerts had fans like Rammstein's, going to shows would be more enjoyable, on average.  

I hadn't seen Rammstein in a long time before last night, but seeing them reminded me of a lot of things in my own life that I had sort of forgotten over the course of the last several years.  I am making my way back to them, and the impact is much deeper than it was before.  They have been one more piece of the puzzle, it would seem, and I was pleased to find that that piece that I had misplaced or that had wandered off is an enjoyable piece, and it feels good to have it back in place.  Contained within is some of that natural contrariness, distrust for authority, and general disdain for surface and no substance.  I think those are essential to the true anarchist's nature and certainly to my own individual nature.  

I went to the show to have an experience, and I had one.  True freedom, it would seem, resides in our imaginations with so many other hopes, dreams, fears, and desires, and Rammstein dutifully provided the space to commune with those things.  They gave their sermon and the choir sang, and we all rejoiced in the chorus of "Halleluja."  And it was good.

Impressions of Twin Peaks, S3 Ep8

SPOILER WARNING!  If you have not seen Twin Peaks season three episode 8, "Gotta Light?" and do not want it spoiled, go read something else.  I'm going to spoil it for you, insofar as this episode can be summarized or spoiled.

I resolved quite some time ago that I was going to write a massive analysis of Twin Peaks from start to finish, and I may even turn it into a free eBook if I ever have the time to edit it together, but suffice to say that I decided when Twin Peaks came back for season three that I was going to remain quiet until the whole affair had reached its close.  Friends, I'm breaking my promise.  

Any fan or passing observer of the David Lynch universe knows that it is rife with WTF moments. For some, it is a feather in Lynch's hat and the main reason to view his work, and for others, the weirdness that spews from the screen is more than enough for one lifetime.  Lynch won me as a fan way back when I was a freshman in high school.  A friend let me borrow the Lost Highway soundtrack, which I adored, and when I saw the lone VHS copy of the movie in the old Family Video on the main drag, I knew what I was watching after Mad TV wrapped.  I had no idea what I had seen when it was over, but I knew that it wouldn't be my last journey into the weird world of David Lynch. I'll skip the rest of the personal backstory and get right to the meat, since I'm short on time, and I don't want to lose the feeling of the first impression.  

The first three minutes or so of the episode pick up where we left off with episode seven, which features Evil Coop getting out of jail with Ray coming to pick him up.  Evil Coop directs Ray to follow a truck on the highway, makes note of the license plate, and then tosses his cell phone out the window.  They turn down a dark road, and things take a turn for the dark side. 

Ray manages to outfox Evil Cooper.  Cooper intends to murder Ray, but before he can, Ray shoots him.  It harkens me back a bit to Bobby Briggs shooting the man in the woods outside Twin Peaks all those years ago, but something decidedly different happens tonight.  Eerily, we see blackish figures begin to shamble out of the woods.  They move almost like the undead in a zombie flick, and when they get close, we see that they resemble the homeless, charred man from the police station and the guy from behind Winkie's in Mulholland Drive.  

Lynch brings back in strobing light, one of his favorite effects, and we see them moving around Evil Coop as ghostly apparitions, and they encircle him, dancing strangely, as though in a Walpurgisnacht trance.  Several of them paw at Evil Coop, smearing blood all over his face and shirt.  You get the impression that they are tearing at him, but I'm not really sure that's exactly what happened.  Ray looks on in horror, and eventually flees in the tan Buick.  (I think it's a Buick.) I watched this part twice, and on the first look, I swear one of the faces down by Cooper's body looked like BOB's face, but I didn't catch it on the second viewing.  

Ray is seen in the car, talking on the phone to Philip Jefferies, who I'm assuming won't be appearing in-person, since David Bowie is sadly no longer here to give us the rendition.  He makes the comment that this "may be the key" to what it's all about, so I suppose we may revisit that in another episode.  But first:

"The" Nine Inch Nails at the roadhouse!  I hope some of you old TP fans noticed the nod to Jimmy Scott, who sang "Under the Sycamore Trees" in the Black Lodge for the original series.  The MC looked very much like him, and I thought that was a nice little throwback.  I wondered at the time if his presence didn't signal a sort of return to the Black Lodge, in some sense.  Then I remembered that I'm still hot for Trent Reznor and didn't care.  

I think I smiled stupidly through the entire Nine Inch Nails performance, and yes, Trent & Co. perform "She's Gone Away," off of the new EP Not the Actual Events from start to finish.  It fit rather well and harkened back to the song that played when we were first introduced to Evil Cooper.  I thought the lighting was on point, and, well, I just really enjoyed it.  Because I went to Goth Prom.  Fuck, I miss the nineties. 

Evil Cooper sits up.  And that's when shit gets weird.  And we all know what happens when David Lynch gets weird. 

We are transported to White Sands, New Mexico to see the detonation of the first atomic bomb in July 1945.  Everything is black and white, and the camera zooms slowly towards the mushroom cloud, which is expanding in slow motion.  We are taken inside the cloud, and the trip begins.  I have never been to Disney World, but what happens next is what I kind of imagine Splash Mountain probably looks like if you're on acid and Robotussin.  The camera pans through fiery explosions, what seem like stars blinking across the screen, orbs (lots of orbs in this episode), and finally a strange, white, alien-like creature not unlike the one that mutilated the ill-fated young lovers in episode one, and it is seen throwing up some manner of cosmic vomit, and inside one of the orbs in the vomit contains an image of BOB.  

At the end of this strange trip, we find ourselves back at the purple ocean, at the foot of a mountain, and we are taken inside to see the Giant, or ??????, as he's referred to now, and a lady dressed like Bette Davis or Marlene Dietrich, vampy and ready for a night of cabaret.  They appear in black and white, which gives the atmosphere a wonderful feeling of being a silent film.  

The Giant goes into another room, built like a theater, where he watches the scenes that the viewers have just seen.  He floats up towards the ceiling, and the lady comes walking in behind him.  She watches him and seems to be at once scared, relieved, happy - an interesting mix of emotions that I'll come back to below.  An orb floats from the Giant's head, and the lady peers into it and sees Laura Palmer's face.  She seems incredibly satisfied by this, kisses it, and lets it float to the ceiling, where it goes into this elongated trumpet device and spits out into the film, landing somewhere in North America. 

I'll take time here to interject with the run-down and tell you that I have no explanation for this episode generally but for this sequence in particular.  I have the sensation that we will understand it at least a little bit better later, but I have felt that way about Lynch before and come back empty-handed.  What I can tell you, having read some of the commentary about this episode already, is that it is polarizing.  People seem either to regard it as absolute tripe and a betrayal of people that paid hard-earned dollars to see an acid trip on TV, or they regard it as perhaps the most artistic, incredible 41 minutes of TV that perhaps has ever existed.  Guess which camp I fall into.

I will not even attempt to rationally evaluate what I saw at this point because I think I need at least two more viewings to have a full cognitive handle on what I saw.  Secondly, I have this belief that Lynch is often more interested in eliciting emotional reactions from his audience than anything else, and this certainly succeeded, at least with this viewer.  I am not sure that we should necessarily approach this episode as something to be dissected but rather as a commentary that we can know from our feelings about it.  With Lynch, there is more truth in emotion than there is in fact, and that seems to be something that most people, including me, struggle with when they view his work.  

Starting with NIN's performance, I had a general sense of gladness going into the sequence.  That is not because the song is calming or happy or anything of that sort; rather, it is strictly me feeling happy at some callback to my teenage years, and also to Lost Highway in a sense, since that was my first Lynch experience, and I was just starting to get into NIN at that point.  Due to a long series of personal events, I have had the sense of looping back around to my earlier years quite a bit lately, and this is not an unwelcome thing. 

I think the bomb sequence succeeded for me because my reactions were wholly feeling-based. I was very much awed by the visual onslaught Lynch created for us, and I was truly left with the feeling of being on a primordial, drug-induced trip that showed me the ultimate expression of evil and annihilation in the world.  Whether or not you want to relate this symbology to BOB being "the evil that men do" personified is another matter.  The point I'm trying to get across here is that I was left with that sense of rage, despair, awe, and hopelessness as the camera weaved through the fire, clouds, webs, and stars.  

The scene staring at the gas station, with all of the woodsmen (the vagrant, homeless-looking demon guys) coming and going in disjointed motion, in combination with smoke and the usual explosive lights, was unsettling.  It was like waiting for another murder at the Bates Motel that we never actually witnessed - or not at that juncture, leastways.  They move a lot like the blind woman seen previously, giving that sense of being somehow out of sequence with time as we know it.  

The part with the giant, where the orange energy and the orb flow from his head, brought me to tears, and I still have no idea why.  There was something deeply sad about it and yet oddly uplifting.  I think I felt as though perhaps he had died, and that was a loss somehow, even though it is unclear what the Giant's function truly is, beyond giving cryptic messages to Coop.

I always watch Twin Peaks alone because, frankly, I haven't anyone else to watch it with me, and this generally never bothers me, but it did tonight.  I wasn't bothered in the sense that I was frightened, but I was bothered because I found this episode to be deeply profound and wonderfully artistic in a way that nothing else I have ever witnessed on TV has been.  I feel as though I have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing something fantastic, even in its potential awfulness, and not having someone to share that experience with saddened me a little bit.  I find great truth and beauty in Lynch's work, and I enjoy and appreciate art of all kinds, although it is rare that it moves me to that extent.  I like to be able to share that experience when it does.

The episode ended with a frog-roach thing coming out of the desert and a bunch of woodsmen appearing to terrorize a small town in New Mexico.  The head woodsman, who was credited as "woodsman" and apparently plays Abraham Lincoln on the side - no, for real, he does - walked around asking people, "Gotta light?" for his cigarette.  The couple in the car escaped, but the DJ and secretary at the local radio station weren't quite so lucky.  Reznor's lyric, "You dig in places till your fingers bleed" suddenly makes more sense.  

The woodsman commandeers the airwaves and begins repeating, over and over again, "This is the water, and this is the well.  Drink full, and descend.  The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within."  The whole town falls into a sleepy trance, and the frog-roach thing that crawls out of the desert crawls into the mouth of the young previously seen kissing her boyfriend.  

I don't know what purpose the little lyric serves, although I suspect that the white eye reference refers to the woodsmen not having much visible aside from the whites of their eyes.  I will say his voice creeped me out quite a bit, and I find the woodsmen to be one of the scariest elements in the Twin Peaks universe.  Who are they?  Demons?  "Dead" doppelgängers?  I can see why perhaps Lynch calls them "woodsmen," if he is harkening back to the old English superstition about the woodhouse.  

The credits roll to the sounds of a horse running and the angelic vision of the girl that now plays host to a frog-roach creature.  Birth of BOB?  Birth of Laura?  I thought maybe this girl could be Sarah Palmer, since the age would be about right, but who knows.  I think some elements of the episode will be explained, but I have no doubt that we'll be left wondering about others.  Lynch is notorious for playing it cagey with the meanings of his work.  

A lot of people seem to find this really irritating about David Lynch, but it's actually one of the things I like best about him.  He respects his audience enough to give them two journeys: the artistic, emotional journey and the search for meaning.  I have gone so far, searching for meaning in Twin Peaks, that I ended up on a major soul quest and came out on the other side with my perspective and beliefs utterly altered and for the better.  

I actually sent David Lynch a thank you letter for being the instigator of said quest, not because I care about flattering someone that no doubt gets plenty of it or because I'm actually a psycho fangirl but because I genuinely felt gratitude and wanted to express it.  I think there is a dire need for gratitude in this world, and I think it is a worthwhile endeavor to express it when you feel it.  I also think people enjoy getting snail mail, and I try to send out cards and letters once in a while. 

In any case, I know there are already people out on the internet saying that tonight's Twin Peaks was a total wash - a betrayal of the fans, an exercise in self-indulgence of the worst sort, a cockamamie mishmash of visual images that don't mean anything, and a useless meandering through a world without meaning.  There is the other half that says it was like tripping the light fantastic, and I am in the latter group, quite clearly.  

If you don't understand or like David Lynch, that's fine.  I get it.  That said, I feel the same way about loving David Lynch as I do about loving indie bands, which is to say that I generally have more respect for people that listen to artistic music because I can usually infer that I have more in common with them and that they are probably more intelligent than average.  I make no commentary on my own IQ by the way, but I definitely prefer to hang around people that are smarter than me because I like the challenge.  My honest opinion is that if you didn't like this episode, you probably aren't that creative or intelligent, and we probably wouldn't be friends.  And that's fine.  There are plenty of seasons of Big Bang Theory for you to watch.  

Edit #1, 6/26/17: I just went back and re-watched for the first time.  I think I was wrong about the credit sound being the hoofbeats of a horse.  I turned up the volume, and I think it's just radio static.  I have terrible hearing, frankly, and this may not be correct.

The orange light and the orb pouring forth from the Giant's head made me teary again.  The look on the face of the cabaret lady is arresting, and I love it.  I am coming under the impression that this iteration of the Giant is perhaps symbolic of God - does "??????" stand for "YAHWEH"? - sending forth a Jesus-like figure into the world to redeem man for the original sin of creating his own annihilation?  I like this theory and suspect I will explore it further in my own mind in the days to come.  Lynch is superlatively good at working religious themes into his work without too many people noticing, or at least that is my opinion.  

I have also confirmed in my mind that the "starry" portion of the atomic bomb sequence is more buggy than anything else.  It looks like a swarm of flying insects - bees, perhaps - in a container.  I think it more likely that they are flies, as flies are a fairly well known symbol of evil.  There is another, shorter clip featuring what appears like small white things with black eyes moving around, and I wonder if they aren't supposed to be maggots.  

I like all of these assessments thus far, but I try not to get too attached to my own theories with anything David Lynch does.  I could be completely and utterly off-base and attaching meaning where none exists.  

And Trent Reznor is still hot.

Feeling (Poly)amorous: Asking Questions About Managing Modern Relationships

At the end of this month, I will have been single for two years.  June 24th is my first “divorce-a-versary.”  I have been on a couple or three dates since then, none of them good, and I have not had sex since the last time I was with my ex-husband.  I literally cannot imagine a sexual relationship being less satisfying than ours.  You would actually have to try to get it as wrong as we did, I think.

I have three kids, and since my British ex moved back to the U.K. as soon as we split, there is no weekend off for me.  I have full custody of the kids per the court and per the circumstance.  I cook all of their meals, wash all of their clothes, tuck them in, get them up, strap them into their car seats, drop them off and pick them up at daycare, take them to the doctor… You get the point.  I do it all.  I’m not looking for pity here; this is merely a statement of fact.  Most single parents at least get some time off.  I do not.

As a result of this inconvenient truth, I haven’t a whole lot of time to tend to my personal life.  I do go to Chicago and St. Louis to visit friends from time to time, but it’s basically impossible for me to just drop everything and go on an impromptu date with someone.  In point of fact, it will never happen – not while the kids are still as young as they are, anyway.

It would be a lie to say that I’m not lonely.  In point of fact, it feels like a physical ache sometimes.  I do not miss my ex-husband, but I do miss having someone to talk to, who fulfilled those essential husbandly duties.  I also miss not having to bang pickle jars against the counter to get them to open, but I manage.  Still, loneliness is not the thrust of this conversation.  I’ve had a lot of time over the last two years to consider what I want in my next relationship, should I happen to stumble blindly into one.  And after all of that consideration, I feel as though I have been left with more questions than answers.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here today to talk about polyamory and open relationships.  I feel like these two things are to our current times what Origami Owl and Lula Roe are to the girls at my office.  Everywhere I go, people are talking about having the freedom to fuck other people and why it’s the only logical consideration. 

Well, actually, I don’t hear anyone around here talking about it.  I know there are people that do it, but the community I live in is conservative and generally Christian.  Nice people don’t do those kinds of things, even if they secretly do.  (There is a reason I keep my shenanigans contained to weekends out of town.  I know better than to act up around the town gossips.)  The whole subject made me think about my own marriage and other relationships, and it made me start to question how valid the idea of a lifetime of monogamy truly is.

Humans are not biologically oriented to mate for life.  Men, in point of fact, are more or less directed to spread their seed as far and wide as possible.  When this is the biological imperative, you have to wonder if a 40-year commitment to never having sex with anyone else is anything less than cruel and unusual punishment.  I certainly know plenty of women that get bored quickly too, and I can definitely count myself among that number. 

I have never cheated on any of my partners, although I was sorely tempted many, many times during my unhappy relationship with my ex.  I had the opportunity, but I never took it.  We had never discussed the possibility of an open relationship, and frankly, our shoddy foundation would probably never have withstood such a thing.  I would have fled the scene a lot sooner, I’m sure.  Still, I have begun to ask myself the question of whether or not I would be open to an open relationship, given the fact that I am easily bored and am frankly something of a novelty-seeker under the best of circumstances.  I’ve always had itchy feet in nearly all areas of my life.

There are so many ways that people approach polyamory and open relationships.  Some people have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Some people prefer “throuples,” where a couple has a girlfriend or boyfriend.  Some people swing, some people go to sex clubs, and some people blatantly date others and tell their spouse everything.  There are any number of different ways that couples can negotiate these waters.  

Personally, I don’t know how fond I am of the idea of my partner having sex with random people.  For one thing, I live in fear of STDs, which was not true when I was in my twenties.  Unfortunately, I know enough people that have contracted incurable uglies over the years to view hookups through a different lens than I did when I was 19.  Back then, life was forever, and I never looked further down the road than next week.  I had my fair share of unprotected sex, and in most cases, I never looked back about it.  Now, however, I have the wisdom and caution that comes from lived experience, and it has led me to lean more towards treating my body like a temple than a parking lot.  Also, well, see above.  I don’t have time for dating, and I will never let strangers into the same house as my young children, regardless of how much I might want to have sex.

The point here is that I don’t know that having sex with random people is the thing for me.  I would like to, but I just don’t feel like it’s feasible.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my partner having sex with a bunch of other randoms, either.  What I have decided I could be okay with is the occasional threesome or, uh, you know, minor orgy with known quantities.  I think I could actually feel fairly good about “cheating” together.  That way we’d both still get to feel like we’re part of the whole fantasy, but it we would get to bring in new elements, to keep it interesting.  I like that.  I think I could be happy with that. 

I actually think, in my mind, that it would be beneficial to me.  Most of us have this tendency towards complacency in relationships.  We get too comfortable, and we start to take our partner for granted.  They get on our nerves.  We get on theirs.  We get short with them and they with us, and sometimes it takes getting away for a few days to force us to really appreciate how great we have it at home.  What if the cheating was a part of our vacations together?  What if bringing another couple in, getting our jollies with some new people, and then returning home together, actually made us feel happier and more grateful for one another?  In my own case, I could quite easily see that, actually.  I could see enjoying someone else and coming home happier and more eager to please my partner.

My other question is this: How do you deal with this scenario when there are children involved?  Although it is clear that these types of relationships are becoming more and more commonplace, how do you handle it with kids?  Do they need to know?  What happens if they find out?  What happens if they find out from their bitchy friend’s gossipy mother?  Saying that others’ opinions don’t matter isn’t a helpful response in situations involving the kids, since quite frequently their peers’ opinions are more important to them than what their parents think. 

I don’t know that I would tell my kids.  For one thing, I think sexual matters properly belong between the couple.  That said, I am wrestling a similar question in regards to what I hope is an eventual new relationship.  How do you handle sleepovers with your new sex partner?  How much do the kids need to know?  How do you talk to them about it?  How do you present it without making it sleazy?  These questions are important to me.  I want my daughters to grow up having a healthy relationship with sex, but I also believe in a certain amount of discretion.  I am a private person – hard to believe, given the current subject matter, but when it comes to the specifics of the person, place, etc., I’m protective of the information – and I don’t actually think my kids or anyone else need to know everything I do.  I don’t just feel that way about sex.  I feel that way about most of my personal relationships and my other personal activities.  Nobody else has the right to know my business.  I just like it that way.

How do you reconcile that need for privacy with the need for honesty?  And for that matter, how honest do we really have to be?  Does our partner need to know everything?  My ex believed that not telling wasn’t the same as lying, although he never cheated, to my knowledge.  (I don’t know who’d have him, frankly.)  I wonder now if he wasn’t more correct than I was willing to give him credit for at the time. 

If we cheat once – just once, for one night, with one other person – are we doing the right thing by confessing to our partners?  Are we just doing it to assuage a guilty conscience and force the other person to pay the price for a burden that would perhaps best be carried alone?  If we’re in an open relationship, do we need to tell our partner the details of every date, ever sexual encounter, and every crush we have on someone new?  And even if we don’t know the details for fear of our own jealousy and that we are losing the person we love, isn’t that equally as likely under any circumstance, even in the absence of sanctioned cheating? 

I am asking these questions because I don’t necessarily have right or good answers.  I do not believe, at this stage, in confessing to a one-time slip.  I studied German for many years, and the Germans have a saying: Einmal ist keinmal.  Once is never.  I believe it is generally meant in regards to perfecting a practice or study, but I think it can also be applied to cheating.  Once is never, unless you confess and force the other person to carry that burden with you until death, desertion, or divorce do you part. 

As for the rest of it, well, I’m still searching for my own personal answers.  I think swinging and “cheating” together could be a viable solution for me, but it wouldn’t have to be often.  I can be perfectly content with routine, but I do like to indulge my senses every three to six months.  I don’t anticipate that will be something about me that changes.  I actually look forward to the idea that I might be able to find someone that is compatible with me on other levels that would look forward to a few debauched nights or vacations here and there.  I think I would feel like that person understood me, and perhaps in conjunction with everything else – sexual attraction, intellectual stimulation, shared goals, and a real affinity for crème brûleé and burrata – would make me feel like I had finally found someone that could make sense of it all.

I’m really interested to hear what is working for others and also what did not work.  If you’re willing to share, please weigh in down in the comments section.  I think this is a conversation worth having.  Also, if this is a subject that interests you as much as it does me, I would highly recommend listening to Tim Ferriss' interview with Esther Perel.  I found it incredibly interesting, and it made me uncomfortable at points, which is usually a good indicator that I'm getting something out of it.  

Bad Soccer Mom

I belong to a private group on Facebook for libertarian ladies.  I joined the day it formed, and one of the first questions that came up for discussion was about motherhood: Who here is a mom?  Do you fit in with other moms?  How do you parent your kids differently?  I was completely and utterly unsurprised to find that all of the moms, without exception, generally did not fit the stereotypical mommy model, present company included. 

I have read a couple of different articles over the years asserting that libertarians, as a political group, tend to have above-average IQs.  Some of this may just be (probably is) conceit, but I honestly do believe that there is some truth to this notion.  Withholding commentary on myself, every libertarian I know, regardless of their personal brand of libertarianism, is smarter than average.  And you know, they are all also, without exception, a little bit weird or different. 

It’s no secret that most libertarians are men.  Ancaps in particular are overrepresented by the male sex.  That shouldn’t imply that there aren’t female AnCaps because there are, but they are certainly fewer and farther between than the men. 

If I had to base my opinion of AnCaps based strictly off of my groups which, frankly, is about all I can do, since I only know a couple in real life, I would have to say that most AnCaps are logical, somewhat predisposed to math and science, and don’t seem to have much of a problem forging their own path in life.  There is an air of not giving two fucks out in Ancapistan – a sentiment that I mostly share, by the way. 

I think this works out better for men, frankly.  Granted, geeky science guys tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to dating and such, but there is a niche for nerdy guys.  At points, they are even considered endearing in their social ineptitude.  I am not aware of any such niche for women in pop culture.  There may be one, but I doubt it’s considered endearing.   Awkward and unappealing, perhaps, but not endearing.

My oldest daughter played little league soccer this year.  I was never that active in sports.  I was always the fat kid, and it was a widely held belief that I would never be athletic in any way.  Even I didn’t believe it.  I dreamed of being a great hockey player, but I only played roller hockey for a couple of seasons, and I wasn’t very good.  I loved it, but it was clear that my dreams of glory had a big obstacle to overcome in a little thing called “reality.”  So for the reason that I started too late and didn’t get the weight off sooner, I decided to get my oldest started in sports before it was “too late.”

I wish I hadn’t.  For one thing, my daughter, despite being thinner than I ever was at her age, is about as athletic as her parents, which is to say not very.  The other kids ran circles around her, and she would get angry and pout every single game because she isn’t a fast runner and never got to kick the ball.  It would have been pitiful if I hadn’t been so annoyed that she was acting out instead of trying harder.  Suffice to say soccer is probably not going to be her sport. 

I learned the very first day that soccer moms are a real thing, and I am not now, nor will I ever be, one of them.  They arrived in their brand-new, spotlessly shiny SUVs – usually a Toyota 4Runner, Chevy Equinox (if they’re “poor”), or a GMC Yukon.  They slide out of the driver’s seat wearing North Face pullovers – the ones with the thumbholes in them – Lulu Lemon pants, vibrantly colored trainers, and a monogram bag.  Often their attractive, high-earner husbands are with them.  The monogram bag was a gift for their 7th anniversary, and the diamond earrings are the push present from the last baby. 

Enter Margaret.  I come rolling up in my blue Toyota van.  It has literally no options on it because the one that comes with a dial for the radio is the one that I could (barely) afford.  I haven’t washed it since last fall, there are several plastic McDonald’s cups under the front passenger seat because caffeine is the only thing keeping me alive some days.  I don’t know why there is a toddler travel cot and a roll of aluminum foil in the back of the van, but there is.  Two of the three kids are screaming, and my daughter does not have a perfect ponytail with ribbons and soccer buttons in her hair.  My bag is black like my soul, and my compression pants have a paint stain on them from last summer when I made the mistake of wearing them to do the door trim.  They no longer compress because I lost weight and didn’t have the inclination to buy new ones.  I never take my sunglasses off, even when it’s about to rain, and I stand off to the side, trying to control my two- and three-year-olds.  It is painfully obvious that there is no man in my life and hasn’t been for almost two years.  Given the way things are going, I will probably never touch a man again, let alone actually enjoy some brief adult interlude.

I realize rather quickly that I am supposed to hob-knob with the rest of the parents, which is just… Well, it’s not my thing.  I can be downright charming when I have to be, but after a full day at work, throwing dinner on the table, and then wrangling the kids back into the van for this event, the last thing I generally feel like doing is trying to relate to strangers.  It’s not that I’m incapable of such a feat, but it does take effort, and since I generally don’t expect the payoff to be that great, I tend to be choosy about when I expend the effort.

I probably ended up being the worst soccer mom ever.  I noticed right away that there was a division of labor between the parents.  The fathers were the ones that tended to run practice.  They’d set up the cones, kick the balls, clap their hands in that loud yet oddly muted way that athletes have, and offer tips on technique.  The mothers would stand on the sidelines with water and words of encouragement for the kids coming off the field.  I found myself in the position of fitting into neither mold particularly well. 

As mentioned above, I’m not much of an athlete myself.  I can play soccer okay now, but I’m no Ronaldo.  I’m not particularly nurturing either, and I forgot water on at least two different occasions.  I was usually attempting to contain the two little ones too, and that’s more work than you might imagine.  They like to run away in opposite directions.  The littlest one goes right for the road, and I have to scoop her up and prevent her from being hit by a 4Runner.

Probably the main thing that separates me from the mothers most particularly is my attitude towards trying and winning.  Winning isn’t the most important thing to me.  It’s wonderful to be able to say that you’re the best, but I have long believed that learning how to lose – how to literally get knocked on your ass by the superior competitor or just life (who is the superior competitor in most cases, make no mistake) – is probably the most important lesson that a child can learn.  To say that I don’t take well to my daughter walking off the field pouting is an understatement.  I don’t care if she never so much as touches that ball, but I want her to keep after it.   I’m the parent that squatted next to the double stroller on the sidelines and told my kid that she was only a loser if she gave up.  There were no sweetly uttered words from this “soccer mom.”

I did one other thing that is decidedly against the new soccer mom code, and some people find it frankly appalling: I threw away my daughter’s participation certificate and medal.  Yeah, you read that right.  Her coach gave her a cute little pink bag with her stuff in it, and all the kids got their pictures taken with their stuff.  And I took it away.  I took it from her and threw it in the stinky trashcan out in the garage. 

I caught flak from my friends for it.  “Damn, dude.  I get it, but… Damn.” 

I then realized that when I said that I threw my kid’s medal away, I hadn’t adequately explained myself.  I let her have a moment with it, and then, when all of us were sitting together in the van in our driveway, changing into regular shoes and getting ready to go somewhere else, I sat down in the middle of the van and calmly explained to all three of them – even though I know the two-year-old obviously can’t understand this yet – that there is no point in keeping a participation medal.  Life, I told my daughter, is not going to give you a medal just for getting out of bed.  Life is not going to reward you for not winning.  Nobody is going to be amazed that you showed up for work.  That is the bare minimum.  That is what is expected. 

I went on to tell her that I was proud of her for getting out there and playing, even if she didn’t always feel like she did well.  I told her that I was proud of her for improving and for finding a new activity that she can use to stay fit and active.  I told her that I love her even though her team did not place, and that I was glad that she had fun (sometimes). 

Believe me, she was not happy at first.  There were a lot of tears.  She told me that she didn’t like me, that was I mean, and that I was a bad mother.  Contrary to popular soccer mom myth, I’m not made of stone.  I do have a heart, even if it is black and pumping some kind of bitter, tar-like ichor.  We had our talk, she screamed and cried, I took her medal, threw it away in the big can, and then I went inside to get her street shoes and throw her cleats in the shoe pile. 

I went to my room to get something that I needed for our afternoon out, and I stopped in my bathroom and leaned against the counter for a minute.  My eyes watered momentarily, although you wouldn’t have been able to see anything but your own reflection in my aviators.  I leaned forward towards the mirror and asked myself, “Did you do the right thing?”  Is it the right thing to do to break your child’s heart?”  I slid my fingers up under my shades and wiped my eyes, and then I went on about my business. 

My daughter spent the next two hours telling me that she was mad at me and that I was a bad mom.  That’s hard for any parent to hear because most of us are struggling, anyway.  There is no manual.  Well, there are “manuals,” but they’re mostly full of crap, and nobody knows what they’re doing, really.  I kept my eyes on the road and kept driving.  Sometimes you just can’t engage. 

When we got home and the kids were hopping out of “the big, blue banana,” I stopped my daughter and gave her a big hug.  I kissed her face and said, “I love you, and I am proud of you.  Someday, you’ll understand why I did what I did.”  She hugged and kissed me back and said she loved me too, and by the end of the day, she had forgotten all about the missing medal.

In the moment, when my daughter was upset and I felt awful about breaking her little heart, I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing.  What’s the harm in a little medal?  It gives them something to remember the experience, right?  Wrong.  That’s what pictures and a functional memory are for.

The self-esteem movement really got going when I was probably fifth or sixth grade, and it was full-steam ahead by the time I was in high school.  Everyone gets a medal, and everyone is special as long as they try, etc.  I honestly never gave it much thought until I got older, and I realized that I hadn’t been told that I suck in a long time.  To all of the people that think it’s okay to tell everyone that they’re special, I say, “You’re delusional.”

It does not help people to tell them that they’re winners when they didn’t even place.  I don’t think my daughter’s team won a single game.  We were literally the worst in the age group.  I don’t think the kids cared at all.  Half of the time, we didn’t even know what the score was.  Some people think that there’s no harm in giving a four-year-old a medal for showing up.  I argue that you should start as you mean to finish, and that means that you don’t give out medals for participating.  Don’t set the expectation of something for nothing.  Set the expectation that success will be rewarded or that participation is, in and of itself, a reward. 

In the end, I think my daughter and I both got something out of soccer, but it wasn’t quite what I expected.  She is probably never going to be the best player, and we might not even do it in the fall.  She does actually like it, though.  We ran around the backyard last night, kicking the ball around, which she does actually enjoy, and she has improved. 

I stand firm in my belief that I did the right thing.  It was hard in the moment – it is never easy to upset your child, even if it is for all the right reasons – but sometimes you have to sacrifice the present for the future.  (I believe it’s called first vs. second order preferences.)  She will understand someday.  She might decide that she doesn’t agree with the decisions that I made, but if she becomes a person that contributes and successfully supports herself with no expectation of reward just for existing, then I will have done my job.

Sometimes you have to think of parenthood as a war.  It is a war against external influences – against the Kardashian world of sleazy morals, against the statism you and your children will encounter in almost every aspect of daily life and most especially in school (if they attend public school), against the self-esteemers, and against yourself.  It is so damn tempting to take the easy way and just let those externalities become the ones that win the daily skirmishes, but if you let go of all those little skirmishes in the bush, you’re going to lose the war.   Remember, the American militiamen sent the redcoats packing on the road back to Boston, and it was because they took them out one man, one bullet at a time.  It wasn’t because they faced the beast head-on.  In fact, during the one open confrontation, I am pretty confident that the results swung strongly the other direction.

You will not succeed in creating solid individuals if you don’t commit to winning the skirmish, and sometimes shooting from the front isn’t the way to go.  You have to fight the battle on your own terms because I can pretty much guarantee that if you fight it on theirs, you won’t be nearly as successful.  It’s hard.  Believe me, I learned that lesson fast.  But if you’re up for the challenge, both you and your children will be better people for facing it together.   Good luck, parents!  I’m rooting for you!