What’s In a Name?

I love my new colleagues; they’re bad-ass (sorry for the Americanism, bad-arse just looks wrong!). We have fab convo, lots of laughs and some good bants.  One such recent convo turned to weddings, marriage and the hot topic of women changing their names.

You see, people have an opinion about women’s names.  Or specifically, if they are ‘allowed’ to keep their own name and not change it to their husband’s name when they marry. Yep. In 2017.

Let’s just step back a moment. Now people are, I believe, free to call themselves whatever they choose. (Shout out to Friends’ Phoebe aka Princess Consuela Banana Hammock & her beloved husband  Mr Crap Bag!!!). But what is going on when a husband thinks he has the right to expect, much less insist (?!) a woman – an actual human person with her own identity, character, challenges & accomplishments – takes his name when they marry.

rose by any other name 3
Shakespeare / Photo: quotespictures.com

                                                                                                                                    I know married women who’ve changed their name to share their husband’s (crack on); I know married women who’ve kept their name (crack on again); I know women who’ve hyphenated their names -or like me, both spouses have cos, hey, there’s two of us getting married (again, crack on); & I know couples who’ve merged their name with their spouse’s (keep cracking on).  So you get the gist: I know lots of combinations and personally, I love the freedom to be creative and not be bound by one specific tradition or societal expectation (I’m not good with either tbh).

But why, oh WHY, is it that the man – or even his parents or yours – feel they have the right & power to dictate the name by which a woman calls herself based on a patriarchal tradition of a wife’s identity being absorbed into her husband’s upon marriage? Wives are, thankfully, no longer a husband’s property so while the choice to share a family name, whether it’s his, hers, a combo, a new name, is understandable and lovely, it should be just that- a choice. And a choice is only really a choice if it is open & equal.

You (Don’t) Complete Me…and That’s OK!

Any movie fan or anyone with ears recognises the line ‘You complete me’, those heart-warming words uttered at the end of the movie Jerry Maguire that prompted a collective ‘awwww’ from cinema audiences across the world.

They are, however, bollox.

Ok, I overstated that for attention (gotcha!). But it’s a sentiment with which I’m definitely in conflict.  See, in many ways, yes, my husband completes me-I feel ‘home’ when in his arms and all that jazz and if everyone else around me got sucked into an earthquake crater, I’d be ‘OK’ with having just him survive (sorry folks).  Obviously, I’d be miserable and distraught but he’s the one human I root for before all others and the one whom I love the most.

But he does not ‘complete’ me (whatever that phrase even means!)…  And nor should he.  I am a multi-faceted person who enjoys philosophical, intellectual discussions one minute and Bunny Suicide cartoons the next; I love sociological films and also The Avengers; I have enjoyed reading Shakespeare and also Fifty Shades (judge away but there are several similar themes-Juliet and Anastasia are both insipid characters!).  So no, my husband, one human being, does not complete me; that is what God made friends for. And music. And books. And TED talks. And work. And colleagues. And films. And travel. And sunshine. And gin. And prayer. And good food. (you get the gist).  No one person completes me and nor should they.

you-complete-me-is-that-your-job.png

And yet we see the myth of Romanticism take hold of so many relationships; the myth that our spouse/partner/other half is supposed to ‘complete us’ and be that one person to whom we turn before all others.

WHY the hell should he be that I ask? Why should the person with whom I share my bed & my life also have to be the one with whom I share my thoughts and feelings if they aren’t the best person for that particular job? Personally, I am blessed with some close friends who share my social joys, intellectual passions and mirror my own emotional intelligence and interests. Some who love watching Grey’s Anatomy and discussing the ‘characters’ as if they’re our friends; others who love discussing sociological, political or relationship ideas, and who allow me to hone and critique my thoughts by listening to their views on issues that are my equivalent of mental/emotional oxygen… and the equivalent of disposable scented razors to David (yes, they are ACTUALLY a thing, ugh).

So no, my beloved, wonderful partner does not ‘complete me’. And for me, THIS is the splendidly ingenious recipe of being ‘completed’… My husband gives me the support and confidence to think (& use him as a sounding board when like-minded & interested friends are unavailable) and the loving space to actively seek & invest in relationships with people who will nurture & stimulate me in the interests & areas where we diverge (and I do the same for him).

And in THIS gracious, creative way we go some way to completing each other far more than we ever could in and of ourselves.  By supporting me in finding my people, reading the books, listening to the talks, dancing to the music, preaching the sermons, travelling to the places (without him), laughing at different comedy & socialising with friends he doesn’t wanna spend an evening with (& those he does!) my husband does help to complete me.

So let’s please discard the deceitful myth of a partner’s role being to complete us. And breathe life into the truth that a partner’s role is instead to nurture us to seek out & find the beautiful variation of people, ideas, and ways of life which, along with our partner’s deep love & faithful support, pour life into us-not to ever be ‘complete’… but to be grown.

 

 

With You

One night last week I just couldn’t sleep, because words to a poem were swirling in my head and I was forced out of bed to capture them and write them down… and so for my birthday party a few days later, instead of making an impromptu speech (to avoid last year’s unplanned but hilarious reference to blow jobs!) I recited this poem for my dear ones:

WITH YOU, I stand warmly blanketed by the rich, thick tapestry of you all,
coloured brightly with different characters and ideas,
different views and learnings…

With You, I laugh at different pitches;
the full musical range of NLB dirty laugh to Natalia giggles,
In your company finding both home and release,
each of your unique lights illuminating a different side of my multi-faceted natalianess.

With You I am both punished and forgiven,
I am made weak and thereby made strong. Because with you I am exposed,
not possibly just by one, but by an all,
I am seen, I am heard,
I am endured, I am adored.

With You, my smile is stretched,
My intellect is fed; my soul is nourished,
my ideas are chiselled, and my being is flourished.

Your friendship tapestry is rich, & reflective,
you hold a mirror to my face and point out my character lines, so they can be refined,
and my beauty, so I can be admired.
With You, I am both humbled, and edified.

Above all.
With you, I am given the gift of…S.P.A.C.E.
For, though small, I am big.
With You I am given space- to flounder, and flap,
and spread my big Natalia wings…
and with you pushing me … I (fucking) fly.

NLB bday 2017

A Feminist’s Defence of Fifty Shades Darker

Now, as an avowed feminist and Christian I know I may be an odd choice to be writing a blog defending Fifty Shades and I genuinely didn’t think I’d be bothered enough but then, of course, the articles denouncing it as abuse, and encouraging people to boycott it did the rounds and I got pissed off, again. So here I am.

I have read all the books (including the one from Grey’s perspective which, being less whiny, is my fave) but I wasn’t sure about seeing the films for some of the same reasons people have given in their condemnatory articles: unhealthy example of a relationship, perpetuating the hyper-sexualisation already dominating our culture (pun intended), maybe negatively influencing my own sexual ideas and, maybe most importantly, the crappy dialogue.  But I caved. Because I love dramatic love stories with happy endings (no pun intended-actually, I’ll stop saying when puns are/aren’t intended because practically anything could be a pun given how sexually creative they are!!).  And just as with Twilight, the simplistic writing, bad relationship example, and pathetic heroine still grabbed me because I was hooked on the love story (I’m ridiculous, I know!).

So here’re my thoughts re Fifty Shades. Firstly, it is NOT ABUSE. It is NOT un-consensual. For starters, he gives her a bloomin contract with a buffet-list of sexual proclivities from which she chooses what she’s up for and what are her definite no nos.  Furthermore, it’s her who chooses what’s she’s up for and what’s off the table, and whenever she uses her safe words or says no it’s a NO.  That’s gotta be the most consensual, communicative start to a sexual relationship ever. Yes, he IS demanding, controlling, and domineering -he tells her this in their sex-contract-meeting so it’s not a surprise.  And yet, in book/film two they only go into the playroom or do any kind of BDSM when she initiates it; we see her saying No, arguing, and drawing boundaries.  Yes, hers are looser than mine would be but she’s hardly the first pathetic female lead…she’d be in good company drinking and whining with Carrie from Sex and the City, Bridget Jones, or, of course, Bella from Twilight-on whom she’s based.

So, sexually, there’s no abuse.  In fact, I commend the latest film for the two scenes of cunnilingus-seeing a woman’s pleasure prioritised in a film is so rare, and to show this ‘strong’ man doing it can surely only have a good effect on dismantling the idea that it’s unmanly, so well done Fifty!

fifty-shades-darker                                        Image: Happy Naila Edits

As for their emotional relationship, my goodness is it unhealthy but, to me…that is as someone who sadly knows women who have been abused in varying ways…it is not abusive.  Yes, he’s an over-protective control freak and she’s insipid.  This film, Fifty Shades Darker, actually goes a long way to improve things.  In the books, they’re both in need of serious therapy (which he’s getting) but this film makes Ana’s character more assertive, likeable and generally less pathetic and wet (ok, that pun was unintended but it’s funny so hey, it stays).  When Ana wants to say No or challenge him (cue the movie hairdresser scene), she does.  And in the film her times of compromise are clearly through conversation and negotiation; even though I, as a strong-willed woman would have definitely not caved where she does (cut to NY trip convo), she isn’t emotionally manipulated or dominated but rather weighs up the options and makes a choice that suits her best.  Sounds rather feminist to me.  Of course, the reasons she makes the choices she does are because a) she’s in love for the first time and we are all a little pathetic when those hormones are flying. b) she has lowwww self-esteem but again, I know real life women-and plenty of fictional ones-who seek their affirmation from a man and to give Christian Grey his credit, he’s always encouraging her that’s he’s capable, intelligent, beautiful and worthy of his affections when she asks stupid, doe-eyed questions like ‘why would you want me?’

So no, Anastasia Steele is not up for the best Feminist Icon in Fiction award, nor is Christian Grey Mr ‘I Love to Compromise’. But the film is far better than the book re showing her as a more assertive, confident, independent young woman growing in her career and love life and skin. So watch it or don’t. But let’s not condemn it when we don’t decry the same pathetic characters in other movies, and let’s definitely not decry ‘abuse’ when there are so many real women (& men) who are being abused.

The 3 Ts for Love

Through a ranty, rambly convo with my Vicar’s wife a few years ago, during one of those inevitable bad patches of marriage, I coined what I call the Three Ts; they’re basically my 3-point guide for regular health-checks on my marriage. What’s great about them is if they’re both diagnostic & curative…hope they help you too:

T1: TIME… We are both really busy (who isn’t!) so we need to really try to spend quality time together having fun & making memories together.  Just ‘being’ in the same room, home or even bed (well…) together doesn’t connect a couple as does a round of crazy golf & a cocktail!   When I start my week & people ask ‘what did you do this weekend?’ I don’t want all the fun I had to be with other people and all the sitting on the sofa to be with my husband…my friendships would quickly tire & die if we just sat watching TV & discussing our schedules each time we met so common sense says my marriage will fade if we don’t have fun together too: cue Date Night.

invest-marriage-dates
T2: TALKING… I’m a talker, hub is not, but we both try more & more to talk to each other about our days, about our gripes, about our plans &, yes, about our feelings. This ranges from touching-base re what we are up to socially to the more in depth ‘this is bugging me’ chats.  There are many times I have a problem and David is nottt the person I need to talk to: I need a girlfriend (usually one with whom I can swear!).  But while I could be tempted to then shut David out, instead I make a point of sharing it with him anyway even though he won’t know exactly what to say like my girlfriends will. He doesn’t need to be my counsellor or genie but he’s my husband so I make sure he’s connected with what’s going on in my head and in my life-and the more I share, the more he knows me & the better he gets at supporting me.  And vice versa.

T3: TOUCHING…like having fun together & communicating well (!!!), sex is a vital relationship glue and one which uniquely sets marriage apart from friendships.  Intimacy breeds intimacy so prioritising time to be sexual, to be creative, naked & vulnerable is vital.  When one first starts dating it is such a struggle to leave the house on time and not stay home kissing like a teenager (sorry about that Char Char!).  But then you’re married and they’re always ‘there’ and so quickly sleep can begin to feel more important than sex which can be had any day.  NO! The more sex we have the more we want it (good ol hormones!) and the more connected & in love we feel. That said, there is more to touching than sex!  As a teenager, I remember kissing til my lips were sore! The hand holding, shoulder-rubbing, face stroking, & kissing *just because we want to kiss* are fun ways to physically & emotionally connect us, not just as a key to open the sex-door.

Pink lotus blossoms or water lily flowers blooming on pond

So they’re my 3Ts…of course lots of patience & forgiveness needed too but they don’t begin with T! If they help, share them, and please comment & share our own good tips too!

(Too?) High Fidelity

While this may sound bizarre to admit even though it’s a common sense fact: I know my husband may cheat on me (as may I on him). I’ve seen adultery a plenty in my life and have a great cheating & bullshit detector…I’m sure we all know the classic lines from the Cheaters Handbook, the oh so popular ‘s/he doesn’t understand me but you do’ & the tried & tested ‘I’m only staying for the children’ lines!


Hence I recognise this obvious truth: my darling, devoted, absolutely incredible husband may cheat on me (& I on him!).  Nearly every couple meant their wedding vows on the day, but things can change… distance & resentment can creep in and so, seeds for cheating can germinate, as shown so well by my beloved fictional friends Steve & Miranda in Sex & the City: if devoted, dependable Steve can, anyone can!! Adultery doesn’t have to destroy a marriage –  breaks can be beautifully repaired. But I’d rather avoid the pain & damage if I can… so I take precautions against it for us both. For myself, I don’t hang out too closely or frequently with anyone I’m sexually attracted to (a girl is only human after all). And re hub, as well as the private detective and secret tracker in his boxers (kidding!), I utilise the best defences I have: observation & communication. I pay diligent attention to our relationship and, just like checking one’s breasts or scrotum for monthly changes, I check in on the quality of our relationship frequently and both of us try to share & listen to any concerns or unhappinesses creeping in.

Importantly though, I think understanding why people cheat is a valuable protection against adultery & the damage it can cause, so here’s a short, humorous but erudite animated talk by the oh so wise Alain de Botton: https://youtu.be/d079McwlBRE

Crying for strangers

It pains me to type these words-it actually hurts me: BEN AFFLECK and JENNIFER GARNER are divorcing! What The Beep?! Now, admittedly, I don’t know these people and yet I nonetheless have opinions and attachments and expectations- and now disappointment and sadness.

I cried. I tried not to, rationalising that they’re strangers and hey, ‘it’s Hollywood so why am I surprised?’… But still, I gave in and cried. Because they seem so lovely, and happy, and chilled, and like they’re really good friends-in sum, a beacon of light in the Hollywood relationship darkness. And they have three children whose lives are now shaken – and not in the fun cocktail-making way.

So I am SAD. I am sad that they are sad and that they, and their children, have lost what was once good and bright and life-giving. I am sad that what was full of hope is now deflated; what was beautiful is now charred.  And added to this, I am sad that people don’t seem that ‘bovvered’; it’s just another divorce, another disappointment, another ‘Hollywood romance bites the dust’. There’s no weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth.

but, whatever the private pains and reasons, love, hope and security have died/dissolved/ended – a fight for love and hope has been lost, a bloody, tear-stained towel thrown in. I am sure divorcing is right for them and their family, and only they know what is best and right for them.. but, when the fight is lost, for whatever reasons, that loss is worth a little of our grief.