Communication - and Acceptance
B* and I are very different in several significant ways:
1. She is female, while I am male,
2. She is Black, while I am white,
3. She is 57 years old, while I am 69
4. She is "neurotypical" (e.g. "normal"), while I am am "neurodiverse" (e.g. autustic/Asperger's)
5. She is Queer identified bisexual, while I am cisgendered hettish
Our childhoods were very different. B's father wanted her to obey him and not to question his authority. B's brother's were much older, and out of the house while she was around age six, making her in some ways an only child. Her father experienced racism directly not being allowed to become an officer in the military because he was Black, despite his abilities as a career soldier.
In school if B got 5 A's and one B, her father would question why she got the B. B's mother tried to raise her to be self-sufficient, not wanting her to be economically or emotionally dependent upon a man as she was.
B's family traveled a lot, using the military privileges to see other parts of the world. In the summers the family traveled together in their car, visiting other family and seeing much of the United States. B learned that one never deviated from the direct, safe paths on the highways, where racism my be more directly faced, and one could be in serious danger.
Each summer her father's extended family would gather for the first weekend in August, with at least 75-100 family members regularly together. B learned to cherish time with her cousins and knew members of three or four generations of her family very well. When there is a medical question, B may question the wife of a cousin, who is a doctor. When a niece struggled as a teenager, and young adult, her problems were discussed extensively within their branch of the family.
I grew up in a household where intellect and learning were the primary values. Feelings were not shown or listened to, except reactions to my father's anger, when his work in his study was disrupted by outside noise. The Sabbath meal (when we used the family silver place settings), was the one meal where we didn't read at the table.
My brother and I learned Jewish traditions from our father, helping to build the Sukkah yearly, being a part of seders during Passover, and enjoying Chanukah with another Jewish family each year.
Our father spent two weeks with us when we stayed in a cabin at a state park each summer. Jewish holidays were time together. Otherwise we lived in a reasonably adult-centered household. Classical music from two public radio stations was the norm in our household. We visited the households of other families who were friends, mostly those of fellow professors at Purdue University.
We were brought up in a household with clear values coming from our father. Squirt guns were not allowed, because they were guns. We did not have television, because it would interfere with our reading. We didn't attend the movies, unless there was an excellent movie to attend. We knew next to nothing about popular culture.
Our clothes were hand-me-downs or the cheapest clothes possible from Sears and Penneys. We lived in an old, inexpensive house near Purdue University. Our parents put down $5,500 of it's $11,500 cost, to minimize the mortgage payments.
According to my mother, I was a very insecure baby, needing a lot of reassurance. I never bonded with either of my parents. My mother never bonded with her mother. I learned, from an early age, that I was "on my own". I had no "pals" and when I began in elementary school, I had no friends.
I loved sports, while my parents and brother had no interest in them. Starting in the second or third grade, I had Purdue University men’s basketball season tickets by myself. I walked about a mile to the (night only) games by myself, enjoying them very much.
My world as a child was nearly completely on my own. I played on the school playground across from our house. Rarely were there any other kids to play with. Summers, I rode my bicycle, usually alone, to swim at Purdue's 50 meter pool, where I spent most afternoons. Late Sunday afternoons, I walked to Purdue's Memorial Union Building, to watch Wide World of Sports on the television set in a lounge there.
During my childhood, I clearly remember:
1. Being the only boy in a dance class at age five. I forgot part of my part in our dance for the parents.
2. Once - visiting the B's house - around 1st grade, where we could dunk the basketball in the basement hoop playing together,
3. In the spring of 1st grade, being with a boy (who left town after that year) and R. a female classmate. The boy had an empty refrigerator box, where the three of us showed each other our privates,
2. My 7th birthday party, where I was the only boy who didn't eat his candle,
3. Happy Chanukah celebrations each year at the H's house.
4. One one single occasion In the 6th grade in Zurich, Switzerland, a classmate (from South Africa)'s family took me out in their convertible (I don’t remember any other invitations from other children where we got together),
5. Having a peer group of three boys and two or three girls. For the only time until 12th grade In the summer of 1964 (age 13, several months before my father died) in the fraternity house we lived in at Stanford University. This is the only time before my senior year, where I remember having friends. Through this, I learned to like rock and roll, which my parents despised.
6. In the 9th grade, a classmate, asked me to come with her to a girl-ask boy dance, which I declined, terrified. The following summer, I asked her out, and had an awkward single date. She left town later that summer.
7. In the 11th grade, I had my first "girlfriend" C. I held her hand regularly, but I never kissed her. After about 7 months of dating, I heard through another boy, that she was going out with Z (e.g. we had split up).
8. During the summer after my junior year in high school, I went to the Midwest Music and Art Camp, on the campus of The University of Kansas. I hung out on the front porch with the "oddballs" and learned to love the music of Jimi Hendrix and Cream. I decided to give up track and cross country (having lettered in both of them for the first time as a junior) and focus upon trying to become a better french horn player (ironically after paying little attention to the music at camp). I had girl friends each week of camp (there was a gender ratio of about 4 girls for each boy at the camp).
8. In my final high school year, I became a "hippie". My “hippie year” included taking accelerated calculus at Purdue, delivering the Indianapolis Star each morning at Purdue, working in the high school cafeteria, and practicing my french horn 90 minutes each day). I finally had a group of friends, fellow "radicals".
9. In my final semester of high school, I had a single high school class, and 3 classes at Purdue, spending my days with other "leftists" at Purdue. My identity was completely "anti-Indiana", "anti-establishment".
10. At the University of Wisconsin the following fall, I totally fell apart. My classmates were nearly all against the War in Vietnam. They also enjoyed popular culture, which I knew nothing about. They all seemingly got along with each other, while I was alone (very quickly after an enjoyable first one or two weeks).
11. I never found myself in college. I spent very little time studying, working hard when I loved classes, and doing as little as possible most of the time, when classes didn't interest me. I got involved in promoting blues music concerts locally, after having a wonderful experience at the 2nd Ann Arbor Blues Festival in August, 1970.
As an "adult", I separate my life into two separate parts:
A. Age 22 - until November, 2018 - age 67 1/2
B. My last two years - present
I was "imprisoned" in myself until very recently. I never learned to understand being alone - emotionally - and living among others as a part of the worlds around me. I failed to live up to my potential in school and in my work career, as well as inter-personally.
I never had a relationship that lasted more than about a month until I met B1, who I married, at age 25. Though we were together for 26 years, I never really knew her more than superficially. Whenever we hit difficult turf talking, I'd pull back and we'd each do our "own thing".
In late 1981, I discovered the pro-feminist men's movement, and began my first serious political and personal work. In 1983 I helped co-found Men Stopping Rape, Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin. I did some very serious, good work with MSR until my son B2 was born on my 36th birthday in 1987. I then discovered that my "ally/friends" weren't there for me at all. That was crushing!
In 1983 I first got involved in sexual relationships with men. Within a year or so, B, asked me if I would be wililng to stop, out of fears of AIDS, and I agreed.
I was a wonderful parent to B2, my son, the first two years of his life in Madison. When we moved to Oakland, in May, 1989, I began to distance myself both from B1 and him. I attended all his sports and later music events. I was physically present. Emotionally, I was similar to how my parents were with me.
I will live to my death, regretting this, feeling both shame and guilt!
In 1998, with a series of “major failures”, I discovered that I had erectile dysfunction. I wrote a writing for Voice Male Magazine which was later published in a book after unsuccessfully seeking peer writings on the subject.
In May, 2002, I met B*, the love of my life. We have struggled during significant parts of our time together. We were and are so very different from each other.
I drove B* away from me emotionally on quite a few occasions, often just as we were healing from a previous major wound. Though I could argue that I never was "unfaithful" to B*, if I wasn't unfaithful, I was strongly on the border of it.
I felt criticized and not accepted by B*. I was not aware of my feelings. I was not deeply aware of my childhood wounds. I didn't discover that I am on The Spectrum (Asperger's) until December, 2019.
None of my many therapists got to either my childhood wounds or my Asperger's prior to B* suggesting I take an online test for Asperger's, which started to tear apart the walls that remained. After a major betrayal in November, 2018, I had begun to become aware of some of my major dysfunctionalities.
I realized that "tit-for-tat" reactions did not help me or B*.
Today, I am struggling at times, growing a lot, and learning a tremendous amount each day.
B* has had a very difficult past several years. Moving to Chicago was hard for her, leaving her support base. My betrayals have hurt her badly. She has had other professional and personal challenges.
My becoming in significant ways a "different person" has been very challenging for B*. She both wants me to treat her much better, and to be one she can relate to. She feels that the Asperger's prevents us from being close.
I believe that we can become much closer, if not close. I do not know how much trust, I will be able to develop in B*. My biggest boundaries relate to my limitations. Our emotional separation is also related to how we work things out together.
It is very challenging! I don't see it as being difficult. I have a lot of work to do!
It feels good to finally feel like I'm really alive and am moving towards being the person I've always wanted to be. I work seriously on anti-racism and inter-sectionality work most significantly through Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation (www.OWMCL.org). My personal and couples' therapists help a lot.