Thursday, July 24, 2014

On That List of Excuses for Not Having Sex Floating Around the Interweb

I wanted to chime in on a facebook discussion about that list (a man made a spreadsheet of his wife's excuses for refusing sex), but it wasn't started by an official FB friend, so I couldn't comment on it.  I'm not sure the etiquette on this, so I'll just keep everyone anonymous.  Here's the opener attached to a link that suggests women never owe men sex:


This analogy seems to suggest that, like a game of badminton in which nobody actually hits the ball is not actually a game of badminton, marriage in which nobody has sex isn't actually a marriage.  That's an archaic notion of marriage, and even in more religious times the union needed to be consummated only once to be validated.  Today, sex isn't necessary to prove a marriage is valid or invalid - even in religious circles.  I know more than one Catholic who's had a marriage annulled even though there were children produced.  Having sex doesn't make a marriage and not having sex doesn't unmake one.

And this is a progression to be celebrated.  There was a time when raping a woman was enough to legally make her your wife.  Now, here at least, it's illegal.  We've come to a place in which whatever people want to do sexually between consenting adults is accepted.  It's their own business.  But one choice that's less accepted is the choice to abstain while in a relationship.  It's curious how all or nothing we are about that.

The original poster continues:


Let's look closer at "a de facto exchange of fidelity for participation."

There's nothing in marriage vows suggesting sex is a necessary part of the union, but we can skip that type of argument and look at what the culture actually believes about marriage.  I think he's right that many people accept this type of agreement - at first.  But things come up.  Kids happen and people get tired or bored or sick of playing a game that they don't enjoy as much as their partner does.  Maybe they never actually "win the game," so to speak because their partner wins too fast every time.  Whatever the reason, I think in the first blush of matrimony there may be an assumption made that sex is a significant part of the marriage, and too many people unwisely don't discuss the what if's around this assumption.  But later on, it seems some people acknowledge and often accept a waning of interest.  The mutual understanding shifts over the course of time.

I'm not a marriage advocate largely because I don't think we can actively promise to love another until we die (as explained in this), but I also think it's too much to ask to promise we'll be the same kind of person and want the same kinds of things for decades into the future.  We are beings constantly in flux, yet some marriages expect consistency.  It's wonderful when people grow and change together, accommodating changes as they arise and working through them, but sometimes the changes are too great to be accommodated.  That's just life; it's nobody's fault.

Furthermore, because many people believe it to be true, that marriage is an exchange of fidelity for participation, doesn't make it right.  Just because it is that way for many people, doesn't mean it ought to be that way.  As we evolve to recognize individual rights, we have a moral duty to respect that we all have a right to do what we want with our bodies.  If a partner wants to have sex, it has to come as a  request, not an expectation.  That spreadsheet-man's wife's reasons for saying "no" to sex are seen as "excuses" implies that he believes sex is her duty, a chore, and she's trying to weasel out of her responsibility to him like a kid explaining why she can't clean the bathroom right this minute.  But it's not a duty for her to perform while she lies back and thinks of England.  Sex is an act to be freely shared between partners.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Ideally marriage is about caring for another without expectation.  It's about loving another person, which is not self-seeking and keeps no record of wrongs.  It's a public gesture that makes a commitment to care about the well being of another.  Publicly humiliating a partner by posting "excuses" online shows a profound lack of care and respect.  

I agree with the writer that the couple needs to "dispel a mutual illusion."  They clearly need to have a conversation, and spreadsheet-man has approached his personal problem in, I think, one of the worst ways possible.  No matter the initial intent of their marriage, that's changed, and they're not coping well with that reality.  It's a very real and serious problem for people when they're mismatched sexually, I agree, because they've promised not to go elsewhere.  It's not like if one person wants to see a movie, and the other declines, and the desirer can call a friend.  But that's not enough to suggest the solution is the assumption of participation.  Almost any two given people will have different desires at different times, and there are myriad ways to cope with that reality besides "Participate when I want it or we're over!".

Most importantly, a mismatch must be seen as just that.  There's no right amount of sex to have, so someone agreeing to it three times a month must be accepted as much as someone wanting it several times a day or never at all.  It just is what it is.  A mismatch is a problem for both the person not getting as much as they desire, and for the person denying the request, but it's only a problem at all if people hold sex in their relationship as more important than care, respect, and love.  If you care enough, you can become attuned to one another's needs.  It might mean not asking even if you're feeling it, and it might, for some people so inclined, mean doing things you're not really into right now.  Love isn't about giving everything of ourselves to another person, though, or solving all their problems ourselves, it's about caring about their issues enough to be there while they find their own way.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shaving Minutes Off Your Cycling Time

Or, In Praise of Crappy Bikes

I'm in the middle of several books right now, and I'll write more about them as I finish.  But I was thinking about this title on my morning bike ride.

I'm often no more than ten minutes into a conversation with a fellow cyclist before I'm being told I'm doing something wrong, and I'm struck by how divisive the community can be.

I'm often grilled about the type of bike I own and how many.  There's a competitiveness and elitism to the ride itself.  I rode my dad's Sekini for decades until the early 90s when an old boyfriend convinced me I had to have a mountain bike - even though there are no mountains around here, and I don't ride on trails.  It was the thing at the time.  I succummed to peer pressure, but I was happily back on a road bike when that bike got stolen.  And now that old Sekini is retro.  But it seems it's not enough to have one bike.  You're not a real cyclist if you don't have multiple bikes - and at least one of them should be custom-made to fit your body.

Sometimes it's all just a show of normative cycling behaviour - fitting in with the form without the substance.  I know a guy with four bikes and all the bells and whistles.  I suggested we bike to Guelph for lunch one day (about 30 km).  He countered, "You can't bike all the way to Guelph!"

Chatting with two women on bikes once, they warned me, "You can't get 100% efficiency without clip-in pedals."  When I asked how they do groceries in bike shoes, the response was met with an eye roll and aside, "She wants to do groceries with her bike."  They probably didn't mean to sound condescending, but wanting a multi-purpose ride definitely put me in a different class in their eyes.

I don't wear the lycra shirts no matter how aero-dynamic they might be.  I ride in regular clothes - even dresses. If I'm going over 40 kms, I might wear bike shorts.  Even in the heat of the day, I haven't found sweat-soaked clothes to be an issue.  I mean that it doesn't happen, not that I just don't mind it.  When I get to my destination, it just takes a few minutes to wipe the sweat from my face, and I'm good as new.  Maybe my endocrine system works differently, though.  To clarify, I don't have any issues with people who do wear the gear, I'd just like people to think a bit before putting people in a different category because they don't.  

Then yesterday I was told that the way I bike and everything I've been doing for the last 45 years is entirely wrong.  "You can't get a real workout unless you're on a single-speed bike, and you should be standing on the pedals to go up hills."  Apparently, though, most people are riding incorrectly and need to be taught a thing or two because gears make you weak.  At least I fit in with the ignorant masses.

This all speaks to a culture obsessed with more and better.  That's a concern in itself.  It's about showing off your stuff instead of enjoying the day.  And it's a problem when we suggest others aren't up to par because they're not using the currently highest-rated stuff or practices.  But it's a bigger problem with cycling because we'd all be better off if more people were encouraged to ride.

I feel a bit vindicated watching this video in which a Dutch cyclist questions the bikes and outfits of Americans and their relegation of cycling to an activity for children, a hobby, or a competitive sport, but rarely a regular means of transportation.



Infrastructure issues aside (which is a bigger discussion), I think we'd woo more cyclists if it weren't so competitive - if there weren't so many arbitrary right and wrong ways to ride.  An elitist culture is exclusionary, and we need more people to get riding.  I think some people might be reluctant to ride because they can't afford that custom-made high-performance bike or don't feel comfortable in spandex or don't want to do the work it takes to build speed enough to fit in with some riding groups.  But they don't have to do any of that to get the benefits of cycling. When the bar's raised too high, it's hard for the novice to jump in.  So they stay in the comfort of their cars. It feels like you have to be an athlete to try it instead of just a mom getting groceries.

I think we need more of us in regular clothes on cheap bikes to be celebrated by cyclists, not subtly disparaged. We're impressive for how far we get with just a single crappy bike and anti-aerodynamic gear, dammit!

And it seems to me a strange juxtaposition to have hobby-cyclists so concerned with speed and efficiency.  For me, cycling fits with the slow movement.  I know I can get to a neighbouring city faster by car, but cycling has benefits that outweigh speed.  It's precisely because I think we need to divorce ourselves from our obsession with speed that I ride a bike everywhere.  The people I've talked to - and been "helped" by - about cycling don't ever hope to race professionally.  They're not prepping for Tour de France time trials.  So why is it so important to shave minutes off their time?   Or, more to the point, why are they so concerned that I shave minutes off my time?  And to what extent have people gotten sucked into just another marketing ploy to get us to buy more stuff?

I'm not saying the gear doesn't make you go faster, but that it feels like the focus on going faster or getting the best workout possible with the best stuff possible is overshadowing all the other benefits of cycling.

Environmentally it prevents creating the GHGs produced while the car's running as well as in the production of the car.

Financially, a refurbished bike is a lot cheaper than a car - or even a bus pass.

Aesthetically it beats the Met.  Even when I ride the same routes, it's always a shifting scene.  The greens are different and the clouds are often up for a good show with sunshine filtering through the trees like a strobe light.  Some loops are full of horses frolicking, and, near sunrise, rabbits are everywhere - and they're merry.  It's nice to look at.

Physically it's good for your heart with less stress on the joints than running.  Half an hour of a raised heart-rate a few times a week is necessary for optimal health.  Whether or not you get a peak muscle workout is a side issue.

Psychologically it offers me time to go into a plane of thought that I don't get to during the rest of my multi-tasking day.  It's meditative.  I've started riding with pen and paper to record the insights and ideas I get only when riding - like this entire post.

And it's fun!  I always feel like I'm 10-years-old on my bike.  Little else beats the rush of a good downhill after slogging it up a steep incline.  Especially in a dress.