AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the tag “Toronto”

On Not Caring What Others Think

Ben is now with me in Vancouver and we’re quite happy about that. It’s nice for us to get to be domestic together again. Aside from that, I’ve unfortunately had to deal with some family nonsense. Last weekend, Ben and I went to visit my grandmother, who has moved to BC from Quebec. She moved to the same city as 2 other family members of mine, whose identity I will keep secret. Until recently, she was living with them and that was difficult at times because one of them can be a rather taciturn individual. I will call that individual R and use the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ in order to keep the gender a secret. R discovered my blog about 8 months ago and sent me a very disgruntled email. I had written about my interest in doing a PhD in order to study polyamory more in-depth. R wrote to me saying that I might as well do a PhD in being a couch potato because that would make just as much sense. R also wrote that I was disgracing the family because I use my name on the blog – forget the fact that I don’t use our last name, so people who don’t know me personally can’t trace my family through my blog. I sent R a rather diplomatic email back, but never heard back. I don’t really care what R thinks because we’re not close, but I was concerned because my grandmother was living with R and R definitely shared how they felt with my grandmother. When I visited my grandmother 2 years ago, I had tried to explain poly to her, but she didn’t really get it. After the nonsense with R, I was very happily surprised when my sister actually stood up for me and explained to my grandmother that I wasn’t cheating on Ben. When Ben and I actually saw my grandmother last weekend, she said she doesn’t care about how I live my life; she’ll always love me. Before going to see her, I sent a cordial email to R saying that Ben and I would be visiting that city and I asked R if they would like to meet Ben. R wrote back saying, not interested. I’m disappointed that R doesn’t really want to be involved in my life, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is the fact that another family member of mine isn’t talking to me and I’m close to them. I will call that family member S and use the pronouns they and them. S is someone I’ve grown very close to over the last few years. S is actually the only person in my family to have met the American, who got me into poly. I thought the 2 of them would get along, so I introduced them when the American visited me and that did go well. In terms of more recent events, S was going to contribute money to the wedding, but has decided not to because they think Ben and I shouldn’t be getting married right now due to our unstable financial situation. S also thinks that I should not be doing a PhD; I should focus on making myself employable in Canada. The irony is, one reason why I want to study in the US is because that will make me more employable in Canada. Universities tend to like it when you’ve studied in a different country because they want to have different perspectives contributing to the field. Also, PhDs in the US tend to be funded and there are people I want to work with there. I would very seriously consider doing my PhD at UBC because I really like Vancouver and I don’t have a huge desire to move yet again, but I need to know that it would lead to employment afterward and that I would be funded. Regardless, the situation with S is difficult because we are close. I care about what S thinks, but I’m not going to modify my life to suit S’s concerns. There is a part of me that thinks that S is afraid of being abandoned. They don’t like the fact that I keep moving and would prefer if I was in Toronto. The truth is, Toronto doesn’t feel like my home anymore.

In general, I think society often expects that women are going to adjust their lives to suit others around them. Women follow their partners to other countries because their partner has found a job there. Women give up a career they love to raise children while their partner continues working. Women may even modify their reactions to suit their partners. As a feminist, I refuse to change my life significantly to suit someone else unless I feel comfortable with it. I like pleasing people, but I also want to please myself. I was talking to a slightly older friend who told me that all of this gets easier with age. Women are respected more and taken more seriously as we get more grey hair. Thankfully, I’ve already started getting those…

If you have any relationship questions, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thank you as always for reading! I hope to blog more regularly from now on.

Twas Christmas Day… and I got tested for STIs

Of all the possible days, yes, I got tested for STIs in Zhengzhou on Christmas Day. Being a Jewish person, Christmas has never mattered that much to me. I have definitely enjoyed sharing with significant others and their families, but growing up, it was never important. This being China, Christmas isn’t a holiday where people don’t work. I teach one class on Thursday morning, so I did that as normal and then hopped on a bus to the central hospital of Zhengzhou University. Amy, who I’ve previously written about, took Ben there to get tested several weeks ago. At that time, she forgot to bring her ID card, so she couldn’t get tested. Thus, she came with me.

As a Canadian, the Chinese healthcare system seems strange to me. When you enter the hospital, you have to get a health card and immediately put money on it. Ok, in many countries, you do have to pay, but in China, the thing that gets me is the lack of privacy. I was actually able to use Ben’s health card, which would never be allowed in many places. I didn’t have a health card and forgot to bring my passport, so they told me that using Ben’s card would be fine. First, we put a bit of money on the cards so we’d be able to talk to a doctor. Amy and I went up to see the female doctor and she confirmed that she could test us for everything we wanted. Again, this is a major lack of privacy. The doctor had no idea what sort of relationship Amy and I have; perhaps I was her foreign friend, perhaps I was a complete stranger. Regardless, we both had our vaginas swabbed, similar to the procedure when I get a pap smear, so not real pain to speak of. Afterward, we were given 2 tubes and 2 swabs that had what the doctor had swabbed. We had to bring that to a special window where they test for the STIs. I think it would be much better if those were transported for us. What if Amy and I had mixed up whose was whose? What if someone had something and the other didn’t? I feel that this whole procedure can lead to a lot of mishaps.

Next, we had our blood taken to test for the rest of the STIs, which went fine. One thing I find odd is that after your blood is taken, they give you a Q-Tip which you have to hold yourself until blood stops appearing. In Canada, a cotton ball is taped to our arm to do that job, which I feel is much better. As I write this, the day after getting tested, I have a bit of a scar where the blood was drawn, probably because I kept taking the Q-Tip off to check if the blood had stopped. Thankfully, we didn’t have to transport our blood ourselves to be tested – that was done for us.

Finally, Amy and I went downstairs to pay. It all ended up costing 253 RMB, which for reference, is about $50; not bad. Ben and I had told Amy awhile ago that in Toronto and in Tokyo, where I used to live, you can get tested for STIs for free and anonymously. She asked us, why do they do that? Ben and I told her that there is a public health interest in making sure that everyone is healthy, even with regard to sexual health. In China, it is normal to test for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and syphillis, but not the most common STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Ben and I were tested for the former diseases when we first arrived to make sure we wouldn’t infect the population with any of those horrible things. Thus, it’s not really about health and more about keeping out foreign influence. In the future, I sincerely hope that STI testing will be both more widespread around the country, more comprehensive in terms of what they test for, and less of a hassle.

Two final notes as an aside: Amy and I had lunch after we got tested. She told me that her son now knows that she’s getting divorced, which Ben and I think is great news. She also said that her Beijing beau is coming here next week and they’ll decide what sort of relationship they’re going to have. I don’t think Amy is aware of the fact that Ben and I wouldn’t have sex with her if she’s involved with someone else, as Amy told us that the beau wouldn’t want to share and we don’t want to be her secret. We do wish her the best and think this is the best bet for her.

For the second final note, I’d like to give a special shout-out to all those poly people at this time of the year. For those of you who are celebrating with your family and can’t bring additional significant others with you or can’t talk about who you are, I want to tell you that things will get better over time. As polyamory is discussed more and more widely in this society, I hope it gets accepted by more and more people and that more poly people come out. The older generations may not understand it, but in time, I think most people will come to understand that we can’t control who we love and how many we love.
Happy Holidays to everyone and all of their loves! If you have a question, email me at miriam@askmiriam.ca

Is Polyamory the new Homosexuality?

There has been much discussion lately related to Dan Savage’s column about polyamory and whether or not it is a sexual orientation. Many people wrote into Dan Savage and said, I have been polyamorous (or poly for short) my whole life. It’s interesting that something that’s supposed to come natural to humans has to be viewed this way. In the poly world, we sometimes talk of the need to “come out” to friends, family or co-workers. It can be a very difficult process since monogamy is the assumed norm. On the reality show, Polyamory: Married and Dating, the participants talked to their families about what they were doing and the families were generally supportive. Thus, even if families don’t really understand how it all works, they can still be accepting. I’ve had similar experiences with my parents and I feel lucky that I can talk to them about it. Being poly is definitely an adjustment but I do believe that our capacity for love is much greater than we recognize. Many people are afraid of getting hurt when they fall in love, which is why they don’t make themselves vulnerable. There are also different kinds of love and we experience many of them everyday, whether romantic, familial, platonic or otherwise. Polyamory is not for everyone, to be certain. However, it is something that needs to be better understood and I hope that more attention will be paid to it. Many poly people I talk to say that we’re in the 70s or 80s compared to homosexuality. We still have a long way to go and there are many avenues through which to publicize this even further, whether it’s in the media or just by talking to friends. I will do my part in this column by writing about different issues associated with polyamory.  Please do write in and ask me anything about poly. If you’re in the Toronto area, which I am, there are lots of resources- meetup.com has a group called Polyamory Toronto, for example. There’s another website called opentoronto.ca  Take advantage of everything our great city has. You never know what you might learn…

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