Setting The Bar Low

I don’t like to bring up social issues on this blog. There’s probably something that makes this seem like a lie, but I genuinely don’t. However, this is one I couldn’t ignore.

I’d rather not get into the details, but two days ago, I got a huge reminder of how fortunate I am to have my boyfriend. I say that in spite of the arguments and near breakups we’ve had, and I mean it. I’ve read a lot how men are praised for doing the bare minimum, especially when it comes to caring for their children, and I agree it’s ridiculous if that’s the case. At the same time, when you’ve never gotten even that, the bare minimum can seem like the peak of the mountain.

A friend of mine is in a very rough spot right now. She’s staying with friends and relatives, alternating between houses. She had to argue with her boyfriend just to get his attention and check in with him if he’s home or not, despite he knew she had to go out. From her frustration and arguing, it was obvious this happened a lot. He apparently has a habit of ignoring her just to rile her up (if she’s not exaggerating). Even when she finally got a hold of him, they continued arguing. All because she wanted to know if he was home or not so he could possibly let her in.

My boyfriend came with me when I needed a root canal for no other reason than I asked and was anxious. He asked the dentist if he could hold my hand. He couldn’t (dentist said certain things splatter), but he was allowed to stay in the room, so he did. Note my boyfriend lives thirty miles away, so this is going out of his way. He still did it, and arranged his work schedule to allow him the time for it.

That specific example may not be the bare minimum, but caring for your partner’s well-being is. January 2020 will mark five years since we met (June 2020 will be five years of being a couple), so any honeymoon phase ended long ago.

I hear of relationship struggles like my friend’s all the time. In general, it’s a running joke a woman’s first child is her husband and it’s so odd to me because that doesn’t describe my boyfriend at all. Contrarily, as an example, we argue (playfully) about who does domestic chores better and he insists on doing certain ones because “I don’t do it right”. Yet for some women, their boyfriend or husband washing a single dish would be a small victory.

I know being over the moon for doing what anyone who shares a household or a relationship should do is setting the bar low (note: I’m talking heaps of praise, not simple appreciation and a thank you), and my boyfriend agrees, but it’s hard not to feel I lucked out when I grew up with and continue to be surrounded by relationships where it’s an endless battle solely to get a helping hand. When my friend was arguing with her boyfriend on the phone to know if he’s home, my mind couldn’t stop drifting to my boyfriend, who’d wait at home all day until I came back if he knew I couldn’t get in without him (or give me the key, which is more sensible).

I feel writing this post is mocking people who have these struggles in their relationships, and that is not my intent. Rather, it’s bewildering to me this is so common, getting the bare minimum feels like winning a battle. I’m describing an observation, not trying to belittle others, and a very confusing one at that.

Money Can’t Replace Time

“You’re getting paid for this.”

So, what?

One thing I have never had tolerance for: the idea getting paid means you should be content devoting every minute of your time to work, whether or not it’s necessary.

Apparently, no one remembers it’s (almost) always possible to get more money, but time can never be replaced.

Baby, you’re all that I want
When you’re lying here in my arms
I’m finding it hard to believe
We’re in heaven

This doesn’t mean I don’t ever work overtime or I’ll never clock back in for a while if something pops up. But there are some days I am ready to go home! I don’t live to work. Yes, while at a job, I want to work, but after my shift ends, my work is done. I’ll have other shifts to make more money, and it’ll be the same money. But I’ll never have the same day or night.

Sure, I usually spend my time out of work catching up on sleep or surfing the internet. But I also make plans. I write silly fan fiction. I talk to my friends. I meet with my boyfriend.

And love is all that I need
And I found it there in your heart
It isn’t too hard to see
We’re in heaven

I’ve talked many times about how that last activity has changed my life. Yes, that’s including the awful times. Until we live together, it will never feel like enough, and when we do, it possibly still won’t. Money makes time spent together more fun, but it does not replace it outright.

In fact, though I enjoy traveling with him, my favorite times with him are when we’re in bed with each other. I love to wake up next him (snoring and all 😛 ). There’s not enough money to replace the few times I can do that.

Oh, once in your life, you find someone
Who will turn your world around
Bring you up when you’re feeling down

There’s not enough money to replace the fewer chances I’ve had to spend with my friends, who I hope to have for a long time, if not for life. I’ve met some through my retail job, which is why I don’t entirely hate it, but that still isn’t enough for me to want to spend most of my time at work if it’s unnecessary.

I’ve read no one on their deathbed wishes they worked more. I doubt that’s true. There are probably some people out there who died wishing they had a bigger career, or something similar. I doubt I’ll be one of them. I think I’ll be the person who wishes they spent more time with their loved ones, even if I spent every waking moment with them. Or made more memories. Or had more pictures. Say what you will about my generation (Gen Y/Millennials) and the current one (Gen Z/the iGeneration), but I take a lot of pictures and I don’t regret it. No, I’m not snapping my camera every minute of the day, but I love having the reminders. Physical photos are still awesome though, and I plan to print some pictures out and put them in a photo album I bought at my retail job.

Yeah, nothing could change what you mean to me
Oh, there’s lots that I could say
But just hold me now
‘Cause our love will light the way

I know so many people will call me “foolish” or insist “I know nothing about life” because of ideals I have like this. I know very well life isn’t a fairytale, though some people do get to live that life (like my co-worker who found the love of her life at 14 and became a parent at 17; at age 20, they’re still together and she’s clearly happy). The good news is all fairytales are different. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Disney (though I’ve learned many), it’s that when things reach the very worst, they can still get better. Life isn’t Disney, so sometimes, it will get worse… but not always.

I simply like to hope they get better. If only because I want another day with the ones I love most.

It’s cliche to say, but love – platonic and romantic – is powerful. You can’t pay your bills or your taxes with it, but it makes the time we spend on this Earth not so bad.

And that’s as fair a trade-off as anyone can get.

You’re all that I want
You’re all that I need

(And let’s just say every so often, I’m reminded why time is precious. We’re not here forever.)

“Don’t Make Any Babies”

Quick note: No, I didn’t make a birthday post this year because my birthday was terrible. I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to be a parent, but I feel like the “scare her out of pregnancy” tactic is getting old.

I’m 25. I’m in no financial place to have a child, but were that and my lack of desire not issues, I don’t think I’d be terrible if I chose to be a parent. The matter with my family is neither of those things are why they still tell me “don’t make any babies”. The reason is they believe it’s impossible to have a romantic relationship without having kids.

What’s most annoying is this often comes from my grandfather: a lifelong addict and marriage-long cheater who had kids with his affair, and went on to cheat on her. Of all the people to try to give me any kind of life advice, he is the most unqualified. This is the same person who didn’t want me around my friends’ brothers or fathers if they happened to be present when I visited. I genuinely feel it’s a kind of projection for him. He assumes every man is unfaithful and thoughtless because he is, and he has no remorse for it (he calls it “satisfying his needs”). My father and my uncle aren’t unfaithful, but they’re also not much better when it comes to relationships. One thinks it’s the girlfriend’s or wife’s job to take care of 90% of the household and bills, and the other thinks women are too complicated and tricky (but also refuses have any male friends; figure that one out).

I’m not claiming to have everything figured out, but I don’t think any of them can lecture me on relationships, let alone the choice to be a parent outside of common sense. Unfortunately, my family’s history only backs them up. Every parent I know within my close family had their child with someone who left them, even if they have more than one kid with the same man (in that scenario, the other kid(s) is the result of the couple getting back together for a few months, only to break up again). Obviously, I don’t know the details of all of their situations, but I despise it’s ultimately held up against me about why parenthood is terrible. Really, it has nothing to do with parenthood. Outside of unfortunate circumstances, they suck at choosing partners.

It’s weird to me they still feel the need to talk to me about “having babies” like I’m still 15. And even then, I thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t have any interest in dating until I was 19 anyway, but the automatic assumption I would’ve been a teen parent if I did annoys me beyond comprehension. At 25, my immediate family still acts like I’ll become pregnant if I so much as breathe on a man. I really wish that was an exaggeration. If I really wanted to become pregnant against all logic, I would’ve done it by now. Their scare tactics really didn’t work when I was a teenager either. I knew from a young age – about nine or so – children were a huge responsibility, and I only saw more and more of how huge when I became a teen and learned about pregnancy and childbirth. That’s the one good thing that came out of being an older sibling: taking care of my sister was more than enough for me to realize I don’t want to do it voluntarily. For the same reason, it’s probably not surprising if I wanted to be a parent, I’d be “one and done”. To this day, I envy only children. And no, siblings don’t prevent loneliness. Outside of school, where my friends were, I was always lonely. You can be lonely with other people around. “Lonely” and “alone” are not interchangeable.

Since I haven’t “made any babies”, my family assumes their scare tactics work, and I don’t think it’s worth it to tell them they’re wrong. Part of me wishes I could prove them wrong – that it’s possible to be a parent in a committed, healthy relationship and raise kids as a couple – but aside from being a terrible reason to have kids, I doubt they would change their minds. They are stubborn (not hard to see where mine was inherited from), and I’d rather not spend my life fighting to prove them wrong. Some people are motivated by that idea. I find it tiring.

Who Comes First?

Something recently told to me: “Your spouse should always be your #1 priority, and you should be theirs.”

I really hope there’s context included in that because if not, I have a big problem.

First of all, if I find out my boyfriend is “ranking” who he loves more, the wedding is off. Yes, I know everyone has people they love more than others. That’s human nature. However, I didn’t agree to be his girlfriend to enter a love competition.

Yes, I love my boyfriend and I know he loves me. But his family was there first. His friends were there first. It’s one thing if we agreed to certain plans and he suddenly cancelled them, but if that’s not the case, I have zero problem if he wants to go hang out with his best friend/sister/niece/whoever else instead of me. And if this is one of those “that’ll change when you marry him” things, I think we need to push the wedding date further down a few years.

Even cancelling plans has exceptions. There was an occasion some time ago where we finally managed to make some (admittedly last-minute) plans to be together, only for him to have to cancel because his niece had to be picked up from school and no one else was available. He was actually more furious than I was about that (mostly because it was suddenly sprung on him, and he wasn’t even asked if he would be okay with that; he could’ve easily been stuck at work), but as much as I wanted to us to get together that day, I would’ve rammed my foot up his behind if he didn’t pick up his niece. I was bitter about it, I admit, but I was not about to let a child be endangered, and thankfully, neither was he. We did get together the following week without trouble, though that didn’t go as planned because of our own pettiness. Such is life.

All of the above said, we do have our own troubles with our families, which is why that quote desperately needs context to it. No one should always be someone’s top priority. Priorities must change periodically. Even without urgent matters like the situation with his niece, I certainly wouldn’t feel neglected because he wants to spend a night, or a week, with a relative or a friend. As long as he does nothing he shouldn’t – and yes, he knows what falls under that – I couldn’t care less. Heck, after the “honeymoon” phase wears off, I’ll probably appreciate having the house to myself for a while. Except for when I feel scared in the dark. Then, I’ll miss him.

Missing Him

At my job, two co-workers I am friends with, one of whom is a manager, recently began dating. Granted, I’m not sure how long “recently” is, but to the best of my memory, about two months or so. He had a crush on her and the day he planned to finally ask her out, she (the manager) did it first. It’s a cute story, and I genuinely hope things work well for them. At the same time, I’d be a liar if I wasn’t a little bit envious.

Not because I want to date either of them, but because I wish I had the privilege of seeing my boyfriend as often as they see each other. Make no mistake. I absolutely adore my boyfriend and have eyes for no one except him, but the thirty miles between us across our neighboring states kills me inside at times. To be blatant, every time I see a couple together, I think of him and wish we could be together at that moment. I know it could be worse. He could on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world. That we can see each other the one or two times a month we manage to is a privilege in itself. But that truly doesn’t help me miss him any less.

I know there is such a thing as too much time together. That applies to us too. We’d probably kill each other if we had to spend every waking moment together. But I’d rather have too much time together than not enough. At least, we could avoid each other for a few hours or days if we were getting aggravated and make up later.

My co-workers, when they have shifts together (this particular manager does not make the schedule), will share their lunch break with each other. When she has to be on the floor, he’ll usually work with her and they’ll talk about whatever they please as they do returns or clear the floor area. Or if she’s counting out at the register to close them down for the night and we have no customers in line, they’ll chat together as she counts and he’ll walk her to back as she carries the register drawers (policy is that two people must walk with the drawers, though of course, she doesn’t let him in the cash office). I’d give anything to have that with my boyfriend. Perhaps it’d get old after a while, but again, we could avoid each other until we felt better. Really, I’d give anything for us to live in the same town, let alone have the privilege of working together at a job.

I feel bad for being envious of them. They are my friends, after all, and friends should not be jealous. I am truly happy for them since they are both sweet and funny people, and they don’t get angry if an employee talks to the one who’s the opposite gender (we had a couple at work before where the woman harassed me because her boyfriend, who was my boss and hers, would have to speak to me or I’d have to speak to him). I feel like I sound unappreciative of my boyfriend, which is not the case at all. I’d certainly rather see him only twice a month than not have him at all. I took off Fridays so if he’s not scheduled, we’re almost guaranteed to have that one day of the week together for a few hours (though I do have to work this coming Friday, and he has to work on the next, so that won’t really go into effect for two weeks).

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Absence also makes the heart break and causes it sorrow. I want what my friends have: the privilege of being a couple who can share their job. I want the thirty miles between us to be a 30 minute walk between us. I want being apart to be an option more often than it is mandatory.

I just want him to be here.