Category Archives: marriage

On Kids

Rat King

It’s hard enough trying to make one person happy. Try making two people happy. Or how about three? If you are good at making people happy, then by all means, go ahead, have kids. If you’re having enough trouble trying to make one person happy, then don’t do it. Kids won’t strengthen your relationship with your significant other. If anything, a child would add more responsibility and could potentially make you feel more trapped in an already claustrophobic relationship.

Take a friend of mine for example. I’ve known him since high school. I’ve never heard anyone ever speak an ill word about him. He’s always been very friendly, knows almost everyone, and is always ready with a joke or two, trying to make people smile. He was good that way. It was easy to be friends with him, and he’s one of the few people from my childhood I still occasionally keep in touch with. Anyway, it is no surprise to me to learn that he now has a second child… a second child with a woman who has a child of her own as well, making it three children under his care.

My first thought was that the whole situation is quite the undertaking, especially in this economy. Who can afford to raise three children? Not only that. People these days are now more focused on themselves after years of doctors, experts, and the media extolling the benefits of introspection and self-love. I believe we are not as selfless as out parents and our grandparents’ generations. Who has time to care for children? When can a person fit child-rearing between work, hobbies, exercise, social life, Netflix, social media, self-improvement, self-fulfillment, etc.? I focused more about his time, his own personal needs. I forgot to think about his partner’s needs, his children’s needs. And maybe all the other things I focus more on when thinking about his situation is truly secondary to everything else. It makes me feel small to think that way, like I’m a proper selfish dirt bag.

This is why I admire that friend, and all of my sisters for that matter. They have more of themselves to give that just making their spouse happy just wouldn’t be enough. Not only are they better with managing time and money that I could ever be. They are much more generous and better in dealing with other people and making them happy than I am. As I said, it’s very difficult for me to keep one person happy. I’m not that smart, or perhaps I’m just built with so many failings and weaknesses. I can’t imagine being good enough, responsible enough, to bring a child into this world, much less two or three. I’m just not that big of a person.

 

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Marriage Advice

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Today is my wedding anniversary. Today is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. As content as I am with my marriage, I can’t really recommend marriage for everyone.

I’m not saying that my marriage is better than most. I can’t even say that I’m particularly good or content at being a husband. I’m just more realistic about it. It’s challenging, and the good days are coupled with the bad. The problem is, instead of being objective at viewing the bad days, you either blame your spouse and drive a wedge between the two of you, or blame yourself which drives you to depression. And as hard as it is not to do either, sometimes the thoughts just linger there at the back of my head, like a tiny cancerous cell.

So why the negative? Well, as content as I am with my marriage. It is the marriage I think that I deserve. It is the relationship that a person like me, with all of my talents and failings, am worthy of, or perhaps even extremely lucky to have (depending on how much of a scumbag low life I think I am at the moment). I think people come in to marriage with visions of roses and a path paved with rainbows. And that’s when it starts falling apart. Nothing in life is that sweet. No prince charming will sweep you off your feet and take care of everything and make you happy. You can’t marry a sex doll who will also appreciate your personality, feed your intellect, and help support you financially. You get married if you finally find someone who can put up with you, someone that’ll make you happy now and then, someone that will put up with your inadequacies, a roommate that you won’t totally hate. That sounds like a low standard for marriage, but it’s actually quite a tall order if you look at it realistically. Just looking at the roommate standard, I’ve had roommates before, and many of them I liked, but there’s a tipping point to some of the things I won’t put up with and vice versa.

So what’s my advice regarding marriage? Don’t do it to make yourself happy. This applies especially to Korean women my age. Marriage won’t make you happy. You get married, because deep in your soul, for whatever reason, you have to wake up with that person next to you every day, until one of you dies and leaves the other person broken hearted until they pass away as well. It has nothing to do with happiness. It’s about filling a place in your life that is both joyous and miserable. You do it, because you have to do it. I guess that’s my roundabout way of describing a soulmate. A soulmate fills a void in your life; they don’t necessarily make you happy. Find happiness somewhere else. Then let marriage complement or complicate that happiness. Don’t confuse marriage and happiness for the same thing. Otherwise, the minute you start being unhappy, you start blaming your spouse. Going back to the roommate analogy, I never blamed my roommate for my unhappiness. My unhappiness was all because of me.

Of course this is just me talking about marriage without taking children into consideration. I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know how that factors in. I love children, but I couldn’t imagine having them myself. I think I’d make a good uncle but a terrible parent. Perhaps having children would make marriage more fulfilling, but I’ve seen marriages not survive despite couple having several children. Perhaps children help marriages, perhaps they don’t. But I wouldn’t want to risk having children in an unhappy household. And if the statistics are accurate, despite what your Facebook feed might tell you, more than fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce. Out of the other half that survives, how many of that are unhappy? How many of that has children. The stakes are just too damned high.

And before there’s any confusion regarding my own happiness with my marriage, let me answer that question. Today, I am happy with my marriage.

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God Bless Honest Bigots

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I’ve written about dealing with racism and prejudice now and then. It’s something I deal with occasionally here in South Korea, from either Koreans or fellow expats, and it’s something that I haven’t quite gotten used to. I try to remind myself that Canada also has its own racial issues, and that I would probably face a different set of racist incidents and attitudes even if I never left Winnipeg. I believe as Canadians, due to our history and multi-cultural background, we are better when it comes to racial relations, but we’re not THAT much better. After all, as I mentioned, I do encounter bigoted expats now and then, even Canadians.

Now while the occasional sting of prejudice is something that I have come to expect, especially as a mixed couple here in South Korea, it’s always more painful when I hear about my better half dealing with racism because of me. Last night, I learned that my wife was defending me from a rather racist American who was making crude remarks and somewhat racial innuendos about me. I have met this person once; I thought he was decent enough. We had dinner and drinks once, and he was fine. I didn’t think about him much afterwards. I just wish he was decent enough to make comments to my face when I met him rather than wait until I’m not around and offend my wife. And although none of this is my fault, I can’t help but feel demeaned by such comments and attitude, and sorry for my wife for having to deal with such things.

The racist barbs are meant for me. I’ve taken it before. I’ll never get used to it, but it’s something that I can deal with.

And so let’s talk about Donald Trump. While there are many things that I find abhorrent with Donald Trump and his followers, there’s one thing I can appreciate about the whole thing. Among the racists in his group, they belong in two camps of bigoted attitude: there are the ones who truly embrace their own racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and there are the ones who try to hide their bigoted nature, the alt-right or the anti-PC crusaders who trumpet freedom of speech or whatever cause they claim to care about. God bless the first group. We all see them for what they are. Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And God bless them for it. They have the courtesy to tell you what they are, to tell you to put your guard up, don’t cross this line and hide your children.

The second group is more insidious. They are the ones that claim that they are not bigoted, they are just principled. They are not sexist, but just friendly. They are not racist, but just curious. So many buts… “buts” that don’t matter to the receiving end of bigotry. And what gets me with this second group is that now and then, they would surface when the person they are being bigoted about is not around. They peddle their “soft” bigotry when the person who would most likely correct them and give them an honest dialogue is not in the room. “I didn’t realize your friend was gay.” “Did you know she’s dating a black guy?” “I don’t think your Korean girlfriend would understand.” It is more insidious, because these people are never honest about their biases, you let them in in your life, and then they do their damage. Of course, a person can be forgiven for an innocent dumb comment now and then, but as a person who’s been on the receiving end of several racial barbs, I know a bigoted statement when I hear one.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, a woman I met in Seoul assumed I didn’t have an office job because I was brown. She was concerned about this, and inquired about it when I wasn’t around. I would’ve preferred she be upfront about it, and saved me the time I spent being pleasant with her. In her mind, she wasn’t being racist; she was just concerned that I might be misleading people regarding my employment. But what pains me is that other people had to confront her about bigotry and be offended and frustrated for my sake. Westerners are no better of course. I’ve heard friends answer for me the question, “is he really Canadian? Where is he REALLY from?” when I’m not around. This is a question a person would almost never ask about a white Canadian.

So thank you, openly bigoted people. Thank you for showing your colors for those people who choose not to willingly associate with you. Just like nature puts bright colors on its poisonous vermin, you flash your warnings for all other creatures to see. I worry more about the soft racism that hides itself. It is too cowardly to face you up front. It deals its damage when you’re not looking and when you least expect it. Unfortunately, last night, my wife had to deal with it.

On a more positive note, Canada is dominating the World Cup of Hockey this year. Carey Price is a wall. The competition is a bit limited, but it’s still good hockey. It’s a good primer for the NHL season.

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A Love Letter

Horseman

The beauty of being married is not being alone when you die. The thing is, if you don’t have children, that scenario is only possible for either you or your partner. Otherwise, one of you will spend a few years alone, missing your spouse, wondering if you’ll ever see each other again. Depression sets in, it reflects on your health. And if you don’t recover, life becomes a nightmare, and death, once feared, becomes the ultimate cure to your melancholy. This is why it is all too common that when half of an elderly couple passes, the other one soon follows. The years missing a beloved spouse can be a long, existential torture.

But worse still is the possibility that you’ll spend many years longer wondering why you got married in the first place, hating the familiar stranger you’re sharing your bedroom with.

As Hunter S. Thompson put it, “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”*

So I say to my beloved single friends, don’t give in to the pressures of marriage. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If you want someone to be there and witness you die, as morbid (and strangely primitive) a desire that may be, I will be there for you. Just don’t get married for fear of facing death in a room by yourself. Know that I will watch you pass away for the right reason. I will do it because I love you.

 

*It is worth noting that despite Hunter S. Thompson’s thoughts on finding happiness, he got married twice. It is also worth noting that he ended up committing suicide, while on the phone with his second wife.

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Love and Marriage and TV

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Sometimes my weekends are too long. My wife gets on my nerves or I get on hers. I’m afraid my job, which often finds me not talking to another soul for eight hours, has turned me into a bit of a lonely curmudgeon. And I’m starting to get used to it. I get uncomfortable around people, and I start avoiding social settings or just give off an unfriendly vibe. And unfortunately, this preference for seclusion includes my wife after a while.

Or maybe the media and roughly fifty percent of all married couple are right. We’re not built to be with another person co close for so long… that we all end up living like roommates or worse.

Louie has a failed marriage. I just started watching “Master of None” and the first episode is about the plight of being married and having a kid. I remember back in the 90s watching a show built on the worship of one’s spouse, “Mad About You.” I had a crush on Helen Hunt at the time. And (SPOILER) the couple eventually ends up divorcing on the last season.  They stuck together for six seasons; they were “Mad” about each other, only to end up as another failed marriage statistic. One of my favorite TV characters, Frasier, divorced his wife, Lilith. I enjoyed “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and come season six, same thing, Larry David ends up getting a divorce (again SPOILER). George Costanza was in an unhappy relationship until his fiancée died in an unfortunate envelope-licking tragedy (SPOILER!!!).

And it’s not just comedy. Don Draper had a couple of divorces. Walter White was trying to put a façade of a nice family life underneath a crumbling marriage. No one gets married for love on the “Game of Thrones.”

These are just a few shows off the top of my head that I happen to enjoy.

I think if you’re a TV couple and you’re not animated, you have a great chance of ending up divorced.

I don’t know if a study has been done on the subject before. I’m sure there are more shows with divorced or couples with troubled marriages now, but I would like to see how prevalent they are compared to married couples (who continue to be married). I would even count Al Bundy’s unhappy relationship with his family as somewhat “successful” compared to other relationships on television. Granted, Al’s life appears to be a bit of a nightmare, but I believe the lesson is that he sticks with it regardless of his marriage’s many dysfunctions. I wonder because I start thinking “are there more unhappy couples on TV, or are am I somehow more inclined to watch shows with unhappy couples?”

Now, I’m not saying my relationship is on a downward spiral. It’s settled to what I assume is the average experience cohabitating with another person.  I don’t think my relationship is any better than most married couples, nor is it any worse. I guess I’m modest like that. There’s just a bit of mixed emotions whenever I turn on the television sometimes.

“These people know exactly how I feel!”

“Oh shit! I’m gonna end up just like Louie!”

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How We Are Here

Double_Virgin

Simon and Garfunkel looked at loneliness and isolation as something like a super power, a super human ability to be impervious to what drags most people down. We are social creatures. We take strength from our neighbors. But this reliance on others makes us vulnerable to our neighbors’ weaknesses as well. Looking back at Simon and Garfunkel, after spending an intimate afternoon with Cecilia and forming what I assume are more than just sexual bonds with another person, Cecilia starts having sex with another man the minute either Simon or Garfunkel leaves the room to wash their face. Being a rock, being an island would have been better. At least one doesn’t have to deal with the humiliation and emotional battery.

Unfortunately, true isolation is rarely possible. By virtue of being raised by someone, or the minute we take interest in another person, be it sexually or emotionally, we are trapped. Our lives are connected regardless of whether the other person cares, and the dynamics of this relationship ultimately affects our happiness.

Which brings me to what a friend of mine told to me the other day:

I’ve come to full terms with the fact that my father is a bit of a deadbeat. He is someone who saw the first opportunity to retire and took it, not even caring about what happens in the future. He would rather be lazy, not work and lead a mediocre life, than work and actually do interesting things, be interesting… travel the world, contribute to society, have a freakin’ hobby, do something. And that’s what got to me the most… people like that, and the way they drag other people down into an especially tedious and mediocre existence.

Because he doesn’t work, he relies on his children for money. His children are just starting their own families, their own lives. Instead of saving money for their own children, or maybe using that money to make their lives a bit more exciting, a trip to Disneyland or something, they end up sending that money to their father, someone who has no interest in working. Instead of just one person leading an uneventful life, he drags his children’s life to the same mediocre existence, only they are working harder for it. He isn’t. He’s “retired.” 

Now, this hit me a little close. Being the breadwinner, I have to worry about providing for my wife. Ideally, we would be DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). But for one reason or another, my wife would not be able to survive by her income alone. And by some miracle, the one who graduated with an arts degree is the breadwinner of the family. I don’t mind this much. I believe, as Dan Savage said, this is the price of admission. This is the price I pay for being with my wife. I’m fine with it. My wife is a good person and I am fortunate to have found someone like her. Unfortunately, the price I pay is not limited to money. It is also the scope of what I could dream, what I could accomplish.

This is not news, but marriage ties finances. And because finances are tied to another person, instead of considering just one’s self when thinking about the future, a person has to consider their partner. Now, this would be good if the other person can carry their own weight (or even better if they could help out considerably). But it’s a tad problematic if they can’t. My dreams, what I can accomplish, are tied down by the needs of those that are around me. It’s true to varying degrees with everyone who’s married. A husband can’t get that new car he always wanted, or a wife has to give up on her dreams of moving out of their small town. We are all tethered to each other, and I believe, more often than not, it grounds us. It makes our lives more mediocre. Now, imagine if there was another person in the mix, like a deadbeat dad.

Which brings me back to my friend. It seems that he has surrounded himself with people that tie him down financially: his wife, his kids, and now his deadbeat dad. If he was single, with his salary, he could lead a rather exciting life. But because of his social bonds and obligations, he leads what he considers a rather normal, run-of-the-mill life. It is the price of admission for love and family.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a rock? A lonely rock that has more disposable income?

Life without his wife, his kids, even his deadbeat dad, would be more depressing. It’s easy to dream about all the money we could be spending on ourselves, to be free from the responsibility for other people, but it’s not so fun thinking about a life that we don’t share with anyone. I think it’s more realistic to dream about a life where others contribute as much to your life the same way you contribute to theirs. Instead of people tying our dreams down, they make our dreams possible.

I gave him an encouraging sermon, which is basically what this whole entry is about. He was a tad depressed, but really, who’s married and never had stuff like this to worry about?

Then I introduced him to the uplifting music of Elliott Smith.

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Resets and Monogamy

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I had this dream last night where a naked woman was lying next to me, she touched a spot on my back and it triggered a heart attack. She said this way, I’ll die and we’ll end up together for eternity.

Wouldn’t that be great? A quick and easy way to end it all? A great off switch (or reset button, depending on what you believe). I mean sure, a person can just take pills. But taking pills alone isn’t really that quick, painless, or effective. I believe only a small percentage of people actually succeed in committing suicide using pills. Some people advice using a plastic bag over one’s head in combination with the taking pills, but that just sounds too grim.  Of course there’s also Nembutal, but it’s far too difficult to obtain.

I don’t really believe in fate or destiny, but if such a thing does exist, then it doesn’t look too good for my marriage. First off, I just read Chester Brown’s brilliant comic strip memoir Paying for It. In it, he talks about giving up on having relationships and instead just paying for sex. It’s not so much about the adventures of being a john but an analysis of what relationships truly are and what we’ve been conditioned to believe are the meanings of love, sex, and adult relationships.

Around the same time I was reading Chester Brown’s book, I was listening to ‘This American Life’ ep. 95 on Monogamy. Act One, despite being the longest part, was definitely the weakest, and if anything, it reeks of a bored rich couple coping with their failing marriage in ways that doesn’t really connect with most people. “Oh I’ll just spend the weekend decompressing over at the Hamptons!” Nothing against the French, but the husband being French doesn’t help either. The rest of the show was really interesting. Roy Romer talks about how having an affair saved his relationship, and how he was able to separate his sexual needs from his intimacy with his wife. Dan savage examines how successful and how “happy” monogamous and non-monogamous couples really are. And Ian Brown discusses the struggles of being monogamous. In many ways, the show paints monogamy as a romantic fantasy much like a Rockwell painting. If you can be happy with it, then good for you… but then again, it’s not for everyone.

Then on Sunday, I had a rather public fight with my wife in our neighborhood. She ends up yelling at me while I kept my volume to a minimum (I always do). I thought it was rather unnecessary, if not cruel, for her to make such a spectacle. People in South Korea already automatically assume I’m the bad guy whenever we’re in a fight (we’re a mixed couple, she’s Korean). She doesn’t have to yell at me to shame me even further. Of course, one can argue that me posting this online is my equivalent of shaming her. But no one really reads my weekly entries, certainly no one where I live.

Trying times. We’re okay now, but boy that was bad timing.

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Random Rant

I woke up early Saturday morning with an urge to get crafty. I keep seeing these cardboard mounted deer heads in restaurants and stores. They sell pre-cut cardboard deer heads in stores and online anywhere from $20-$60. I decided to make one myself and save some money. I created a fake deer head out of plastic before. It’s mounted right above my living television. So I knew I can make an animal head in a weekend morning. This way, I don’t feel like I wasted my weekend just lounging around, watching movies, and playing video games.

deer heads

Boom. Made three. It took longer than I expected to cut them all out. I didn’t want to make huge mounted heads, so instead of cardboard I just had them printed on really thick watercolor paper.

colored deer heads

Painted them with acrylic to add some strength. It’s not much, but it should keep them from drooping. Today, I’m gonna get cheap frames to mount them on. Not bad for a Saturday morning project.

Speaking of movies, I decided to watch Full Metal Jacket again. I realize that the documentary Room 237 is all simply about theories regarding Stanley Kubrick’s motivations for The Shining, but theory or not, his imagery is truly rife for deeper interpretation. He really does seem like a “bored genius” who is a few steps ahead- and in in those few steps, manages to put so much meaning into his film, leaving viewers to sift through clues and red herrings. Of course, the message in Full Metal Jacket is quite clear, but it doesn’t make him any less of a genius.

I also watched Welcome to the Rileys which feature James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart. I miss James Gandolfini. There’s something incredibly human to the characters he plays. Kristen Stewart is not bad as well. I keep seeing her in many independent films these days. I guess she’s trying to wash away Twilight with a bit of indie cred.

Canada has a few teams at the NHL playoffs this year. The Winnipeg Jets barely got in, but I’m glad they’re in nonetheless.

Been playing a lot of Bloodborne lately. Just like the other Souls game, it is punishing but is quite addictive. Hidetaka Miyazaki is a genius. I’m a grown man and should really stop playing video games, but games like Bloodborne will keep me distracting myself in front of the TV until I’m old and gray.

Here’s an advice to married men out there. If you’re wife clearly doesn’t appreciate your sense of humor, STOP TRYING. Stop making commentaries and observations. Stop trying to make her laugh or smile. Who are you trying to impress anyway? It’s not gonna get you laid more. You’re making jokes and commentaries for your own benefit and not for her. She doesn’t want to hear from you. She wants her humor from the strangers on television. Just stick with banal observations. “The sky is cloudy today. I should bring an umbrella.” Stick with that. Save your wit and humor for your friends. That way, no one gets annoyed or offended.

Update: Framed and done.

framed_deer_heads

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