Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sex and Superglue: Talking with Kids in a Hook-Up Culture

I was a virgin when I got married at the ripe old age (back then) of 28.  I’ve kissed fewer men than the fingers on one hand.  I didn’t have a “serious” boyfriend until graduate school.  And for all those sexless, boyfriend-less, not being the sought-after-object-of-mens’ desires years, I felt pitiable, like a loser.  Even though Jesus was my boyfriend and I staunchly wanted to be a woman whose self-esteem didn’t rest on how men regarded me, it was hard.
Now my personal history feels even more foolish in light of Hanna Rosin’s Atlanticarticle Boys on the Side about how the practice of hooking up, rather than something to be derided, actually empowers women.  As Rosin writes:
The most patient and thorough research about the hookup culture shows that over the long run, women benefit greatly from living in a world where they can have sexual adventure without commitment or all that much shame, and where they can enter into temporary relation­ships that don’t get in the way of future success.
I’m not going to argue with her assumptions (read Amy Julia Becker) or her use of studies (even though my inner sociologist cringes).  Instead, let’s talk about emotional and spiritual damage, not to mention risk of pregnancy, disease and abuse.
Rosin seems to believe, as does our larger culture, that sex is a purely biological act with no emotional or spiritual overtones, a biological and necessary need.  She justifies that hooking up doesn’t seem to get in the way of intimacy, citing
 one study of college seniors where 75% of students hooked up an average of 7.9 times, but 74% also reported having a relationship in college that lasted at least six months.
Can I say that measuring capacity for intimacy by how long a relationship lasts lacks nuance?
My pastor Dave Schmelzer gives the best analogy I’ve heard for the power of sex—one I use with my kids often—so often they can almost chant it each time the topic of sex comes up.
Imagine that you’re a sheet of cardboard.  Sex is like superglue that glues 2 pieces of cardboard together—very helpful if your hope and goal is to be bonded to one person in marriage for the rest of your life.
Now imagine what happens when you rip 2 super-glued sheets apart.  Chunks of my cardboard are stuck on the other sheet, leaving holes, wrinkles, and tears, while chunks of the other person’s cardboard are now permanently stuck on me.  Then imagine super-gluing your wrinkled sheet of cardboard repeatedly with various other pieces of cardboard.  After 7.9 of those sticks and rips, how’s your cardboard going to look?
I firmly believe that Jesus can and does heal the worst of emotional and spiritual damage–that even if your cardboard has been through 79 sticks and rips, God can heal and make whole what’s been broken.
But I’d rather my kids not have to go through the pain of being ripped apart.    I’d rather them go through as much of life as possible whole.  Even if it means they spend young adulthood feeling like losers.
This was first published on What She Said

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fitbit How I Love Thee!

“You’re going to love this!!” Scott crowed when he got home, “This is going to change your life!”

The flower grows based on how active you’ve been the past 3 hours
And he gave me. . . a pedometer.  A very expensive pedometer that we never in a million years would have bought for ourselves, but took when his workplace offered it for free.
But the Fitbit is not just a pedometer, it’s also an altimeter which logs how many flights of stairs I walk, a calorie counter that shows how many calories I’ve burned, and a cheerleader that flashes little messages when I pick it up after it’s been lying fallow.  Most interesting, at night, when you wear it on your non-dominant hand, it measures how well and how long you sleep.  Plus it syncs online.

Scott was right.  The Fitbit has changed my life AND my marriage.  The first day, when Scott learned that I had climbed 5 more flights of stairs than him, he promptly ran up and down our stairs 6 times.
According to Fitbit, I’m supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day, climb 10 flights of stairs, and burn 2,184 calories.  The steps and the calories have been quite the stretch.  In order to hit 10,000 steps each day, I generally have to take an extra 2 mile walk downtown and back.
The 2,184 calorie goal feels astronomically out of reach.  As a middle-aged, small-boned, Asian female, I need about 1400 calories/day to survive.  That’s dieting for most Americans.  An intensive hour-long spinning class burns 400 calories (300 according to Fitbit).  So I’d need to spin for 2 hours every day to hit that calorie goal.  Not happening.
But I have achieved some impressive milestones including:
  • 33,387 steps walking Paris one day (which according to Fitbit was equivalent to 12+ miles and 2400 calories)
  • Climbing 201 flights of stairs the day we hiked Mt. Monadnock
  • Averaging 6.21 hours of sleep in September (talking too much in bed with my sister while in Paris)
Why do I love my Fitbit?  Is it some legalistic workaholic strain in me that wants to obsessively measure my achievement?  Probably.  But I also love it because it gives me a daily read on reality.
Until I read Gretchen Reynolds’ The First 20 Minutes:  Surprising Science Reveals how we can:  Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, I thought of myself as quite fit because I exercise 5-6 times a week.  But Reynolds writes that sitting is the new sugar—poison to our bodies.  Blood pools in our legs, our metabolism slows down, electrical activity in our leg muscles shut down.  Even those who exercise vigorously 7 hours/week experience deleterious effects on their health if they sit for more than 3 hours straight on a regular basis.
Well that’s me.  Between sitting at my computer, sitting at coffee shops, and sitting through breakfasts, lunches and conference calls, my life is sitting.
The good news, according to Reynolds, is that if we get up and walk for a minute every 20 minutes or so, we can mitigate all the bad effects of sitting.  My Fitbit keeps me accountable and stretches my goals.  I’ve even walked a couple conference calls!
Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle in Paris and have been hobbling ever since, sending my Fitbit scores to the lowest depths of all.  The only good part about spraining my ankle?  Scott can’t boast every day how he’s beaten me by 4,000 steps and 5 flights of stairs.
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This was first published on What She Said

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Abandoning My Kids for Paris

The Eiffel Tower on 9/9 as I stood under it!

Last week I did one of the most irresponsible things I’ve ever done as a parent.  I flew to Paris for a week—purely for fun—and left 3 children in their first full week of school without a parent at home.
My sister surprised me just a few weeks ago by inviting me to go to Paris—she had a business trip with free hotel, her husband had frequent flier miles, and she wanted to give me a 40th birthday present (7 years late!).  The only wrinkle?  Scott had a full week of business travel already scheduled.
So I said no.  I didn’t see how it was possible.
But then I told my girls, and after saying, “Take us too!” they both said, “Mom, you have to go—we can take care of ourselves.”  Call me crazy, but I actually believed them.  I trust they won’t throw a wild party or break into the liquor cabinet or have sex with random boys while I’m gone.  The only things I didn’t trust were their abilities to refrain from eating junk food and fighting with their brother.

Every single fellow mom I talked to said the same thing my girls did.  “You have to go,” often with an offer to take my kids.
So I decided to take the plunge into complete selfishness and immerse myself in Paris for 7 glorious days without kids.
Because Ling’s swim team carpool picks her up at 4:45 a.m. every morning, it didn’t make sense to send her to someone else’s home.  Helen, who lives across the street, agreed to take my son–I don’t trust him to go to bed on his own—plus this helped eliminate the girls on boy fighting.
Then Tara offered to stay at my house for the first 2 nights—she homeschools, her kids are portable.   I made 2 meatloafs, 1 lasagne, and stocked up on frozen Chinese dumplings so she and Helen could feed all our families, and flew to Paris.
Flowers at Paris Market
Flowers at the Market
It was WONDERFUL!  I walked over 30,000 steps each day exploring museums, sights, cafes and chocolate shops.  I took a bike tour.   I ate dinner at my normal bedtime—steak frites and sole and falafel.  I had a croissant or pastry every morning.  I talked until 2 a.m. with my sister as we lay in bed having a grown-up sleep-over.  I shopped the Parisian marketplace with my cousin who’s lived there over 20 years.
To the annoyance of my family, communicating was hard, so I didn’t talk to my kids for almost the entire week.  I emailed but only one child emailed back with a question about viola lessons and to both MIA parents:
Did either of you take my swimsuits off the drying rack and throw them in some dark corner?  Cuz I can only find one, and it’s the one that’s been sitting in my drawer since last year.
While I was gone, my friends had significant conversations and prayer with my kids—lessons better heard from them than me.  A blessing since apparently the most significant ways for teenage girls to grow in authentic faith is through being mentored by “aunties”—Mom’s friends who AREN’T Mom.
So all in all, it was worth it.  Although I last wrote about being a vacation failure, turns out I’m only a vacationing mom failure.
C’est la vie!
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 This was first published on What She Said