It is now Saturday afternoon. The agenda for the weekend is to clean the house for Thanksgiving next week. Alice and Carl have decided to host because energetically it makes the most sense. Carl loves roasting the turkey and Alice's mom loves to make a fuss over how beautiful it looks. Since Sally spends so much time at home, and her inner neat freak has taken hold, she tends to go around the house tidying up. Nobody knows where anything is anymore, but that's okay. It's around there somewhere. They don't have too much to do to get ready for their guests this year, so Alice can get a little more writing done.
Nolan wrote his first app for the Google Store several months ago, and had to make a hard decision about whether or not to lie about his age, or have one of his parents submit the app for him. The whole family finds this rather ridiculous, especially Alice, who by Nolan's age had gone to the World Championship with her OM team, had etched windows for million dollar homes in Castle Rock, had led the most successful Junior Achievement project in the nation, had made a relief map of the Gulf of California for the Jason Project which was displayed at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, had been the first minor on her church's session, had gone to Washington DC to learn to write and debate bills and meet her senators and representatives, had vocal and instrumental solos, had "grown up" jobs typing foreclosure and HUD legal documents and transcribing medical research, and, and, and. Alice was one of those lucky young people, who, although emotionally abused, was thoroughly supported and encouraged in her leadership pursuits. It was because of this that she had a reasonable idea of what risks were worth taking in her life.
Ultimately, she left the decision up to Nolan. She had seen a disturbing pattern among parents where they removed the decision-making process from their children's lives. She heard from community college instructors and through the news from university professors that incoming freshmen and sophomores had absolutely no executive function, and she had a feeling this came from not having any control over their own lives. Many parents, she noted, had no idea what the difference between encouragement and control was. Parenting advice when children are toddlers tends to revolve around giving children choices between two things, and she noticed that a lot of parents stayed in this paradigm rather than helping the youth understand that choices become more and more complicated as a person ages. So, we end up, as a society, with people seeing things in a very binary fashion, rather than being able to go with the flow.
Alice realizes that Nolan might not be aware of all of his options. He could "accidentally" choose the wrong year, and then apologize after the fact. It was short-sighted of Google to not include people under the age of 18 in their community program. Nolan's project, called "Where's My Stuff?" had come in second for the hackathon, earning him rights to submit his app to Google, which helped inventory items in a house using voice recognition through Google Assistant. He had helped the other two programmers whose projects came in first and third. His project was written in response to Alice and Shayla's repeated discussions about how 90% of their brain power was dedicated to keeping track of stuff for the family, and what a ridiculous use of brain space that was. Alice was proud of Nolan for using his exceptional talent to help people. His application had received enough downloads that he was sent a free Google Home.
Ultimately, they felt that Nolan should have his own name on his project. Both Alice and Carl felt icky about parents who lived vicariously through their kids. Parents should have their own achievements, they felt. It is wholly narcissistic to put pressure on one's child to perform, and part of the burden of narcissism in this country.
Nolan and his father were the only two people who made it through the tensor flow (artificial intelligence) exercises that Google had given their group to solve in Boulder. Nolan was programming physics simulation engines before he had even taken physics. Okay, Nolan still hasn't taken physics because he has to take a CLEP exam to get credit for high school physics, which Alice finds ridiculous for him. Nolan and Sally are capable of learning anything, because they are given the support and encouragement they need to learn, and learning is not made stressful. Lots of other kids, even homeschooled kids, have blocks around learning because of fear that they can't do it, because of the unnecessary pressure that was put on them to learn something when they weren't quite ready (but the average student their age should have been ready, according to the Department of Education in that particular state). Alice has been very careful to let her kids learn in their own time, so when it comes time, it is easy for them.
"What about holes?" a friend of Alice's mother had once asked. This woman is an expert in tech education and has two kids, now adults, who have graduate degrees in their respective fields. The older one followed a very traditional path and is a professor in the UC system in California. The other one had a lot of trouble in school, so the fact that he has had a successful career in the art world in New York City and a graduate degree in Art History from Yale is a surprise to everyone. Not to Alice. He needed some time to detoxify before he knew what he wanted to do.
"You don't have any holes?" Alice asked her. "I have lots of holes in my knowledge. I look at them as an opportunity for something to learn later, and also a source of humility." In fact, Alice has built an un-library in her home around this very idea. Her books are there, because she doesn't have time to read them all, as a reminder to her of all the things she doesn't know yet, and might never know. It was easy for Alice, for a lot of years, to become frustrated with people for the things they didn't know, and then, all of a sudden, like a ton of bricks (or books), she realized that she was in a unique position, not having to work outside the home, to read whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, unlike most people. To become enlightened. Most people are too busy to learn, and too exhausted to notice when The Universe is trying to teach them something. Furthermore, having tried and tried to share her knowledge with people, she realized she needed to wait until they asked. If she tried to teach them, they wouldn't have it. Plus, if the lesson came to them when they were open to it, it took root on a deeper, more meaningful level. It is that way for her, too.
She doesn't have any idea what the hell is going on with Jeff. He had clearly been interested in her on some level when she was no longer his student, but she grew tired of his "subtle mind bullshit" as she called it to her friends, and made several attempts to bring things out into the open to discuss them. Like fucking adults. Well, mostly. First she tried playing his game and telling him that she's had lots of crushes over the course of her marriage, and that it's normal and she's usually able to let them go. Wishful thinking on her part, of course, since it takes years for her to do this. He told her he didn't read her emails, and Carl was so happy to hear this, because he knew it represented a major fall from grace for Jeff.
From her natal chart: 292 Conjunction Sun - Mercury 4 degrees 12': Your opinions are usually strong and you are an independent thinker. You tend to be proud of your opinions and thoughts and might easily get a bruised ego if you are not "heard," if your opinions are pushed aside or ignored, or if your opinions are criticized. You are expressive and possibly a very animated speaker. You are also very witty and others enjoy your playful and sometimes mischievous sense of humor.
It triggers the wound in her of the little girl who was silenced. Because although she was certainly empowered on a lot of levels, she has been silenced a lot in her marriage and by men in general, especially in employment situations. In fact, a big reason she decided to stay home with Nolan was because not one, not two, but three female scientists had told her that the chase for tenure was not worth it, and having children was much more rewarding, and she imagined as a scientist, fighting to get your voice heard in the sausage party that science was at the time must not be so easy.
If she hadn't needed to continue taking Nolan and Sally to class that semester, it would have been so easy to let go. When Jeff came by after that week when he told her he didn't read her email, she purposefully averted her gaze when he came by to play his "eye fucking" game with her. Nope, she thought. Not playing anymore. I was trying to have an actual discussion, but you only want games. Is this your way of showing me respect? Feminist my ass. She was simultaneously delighted that he still wanted to see her, and unnerved by his performance in front of Sally. Damnit.
They were accidentally entangled through a couple of situations she's not ready to write about right now, so she still had to interact with him. It was excruciatingly painful. She tried telling him to have a good life after he moved to Denver. He had really gotten under her skin in a way no man had before, and for her sanity, she felt like she needed to cut him loose. Then she apologized and told him how much his friendship meant to her, and how her life was improved since he came along, which was true. That was all true. But then he sent her an email saying thank you and that she would work through the "layers," and she knew he knew, as if her splitting behavior wasn't a clue. Damnit.
So then, she sent him a coy email about being able to be satisfied with very little. Crumbs, she said. She didn't need the whole cake, she said. That's how she got herself into this fucking mess. She asked the Universe for it by not valuing herself enough! And you know what? The day she did that, she got bit by a black widow while out on a walk with Carl. Jeff told her he is terrified of spiders. Of all the spiders in his bedroom (what the fuck?). Alice is not. And she's still not. And she got bit by another black widow six weeks later when she was channeling her ego again. She's still alive. Spiders are just a warning.
So after that, she wrote him an email clearly expressing her feelings to make things right with the Universe, and when he responded, he said he was "flatted" but that he was seeing someone. She wondered if this was the same person he told her about with whom it "wasn't going anywhere." Well, she is certainly capable of having a "not going anywhere" relationship, if that's what he wants. She just wants an emotional connection and some passion in her life again. With a fellow creator? Hell yes. A friend who sees the hardware store as the playground it really is. A friend who doesn't feel like he is in competition with her, like Carl does. Carl admits feeling competitive with her and she is tired of it. She wants a relationship where she isn't controlled, but unfortunately, Jeff clearly has some control issues himself with respect to communication.
He said he didn't date much, which she took as code for, "Fairly safe regarding STDs." Is that how she was supposed to take that? She wasn't used to talking in code. She was typically more direct. She thought. Except for all those goddamn signals she was giving that she didn't know she was giving. Damnit.
He had told her that he got in trouble once for kissing a friend, and Alice felt really badly for him for that experience. She would have been really flattered if he had tried that with her, and thought about it often. They had been discussing the male and female perspective of relationships - a dangerous subject when there's a little chemistry. Or a lot of chemistry. It felt like a lot of chemistry to Alice, anyway, since her libido skyrocketed around him.
She will probably never know if Jeff is as fucked up in the heart as she is over him. His actions still leave her feeling puzzled. She wonders, a little bit, if growing up in a feminist household can make a man a coward. That thought makes her sad. Despite what other women might say, she thinks it is important for men to make the first move, because by putting their hearts up for offer, they are indicating they are willing to have some skin in the game. (Double entendres always intended, especially when metaphorical, as the sacred feminine is receptive in nature). She worries that feminism is going to kill flirting, just like it has attempted to kill motherhood. Both men and women need to be strong, and communicate well, and be nurturers, she decides. Or maybe he thought he knows better than her and decided to protect her from her own impulsive behavior. Ahem. Like she couldn't think for herself. Or maybe he just didn't want to be "the other man," but that's not the vibe she got from him at all. Maybe he wasn't aware of the vibe he was putting out? Is that possible? If it was for me, maybe it was for him. Nah, he's 40 years old and single. He knew what he was doing, she thinks.
Pearl, who is now 70, told her this kind of connection is quite rare, so Alice has been careful not to close it off entirely, but she's tired of feeling crazy. Maybe the whole thing is in her head. Nice. I'm crazy, she thinks. It's lovely all the tools men have at their disposal to make women question their sanity.
Things had happened very quickly with Carl, since he is a good communicator, but she learned through reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Roberta Estes that a woman should always question the man who is in a hurry. The man who is in a hurry is insecure. Not working through his own shit. Not strong for himself.
Things are now tolerable with Carl. She can force herself to be "in the mood" with a little weed. She can force herself not to take his mindless insults personally with some deep breathing. She can process their marital trauma through writing. But emotionally, she isn't sure she can open up to him anymore. He had not been allowed to feel much as a boy, and is therefore ashamed of having feelings, and incapable of supporting her with hers. She has reached a level of acceptance about it, for all those years she had to get her emotional needs met through friendships rather than her marriage to the son of someone with exceptionally strong Kansas homesteader blood. People who never cried. Never got sick. She would be reminded of that a lot. Or maybe it was the sports-focused-locker-room-banter-style communication of his father's family. He was the son of the popular kids. Stupid vanity and pride fucks people up, she thinks.
She knows lots of other women in the same situation. Lots. It is a common theme in her friends' marriages over the years. So, if they can deal with it, so can she, she decides. She can do it through whatever means necessary. Alice is resourceful.
But in making this realization, she also realizes she is not going to put up with any more men who are not going to treat her like she is any less than the fucking amazing woman she is. Men who shame her for her feelings. Men who don't respond to her emails. Men who are impatient and immediately go find someone else to fuck. Men who treat her like she is disposable.
Carl has never once planned a vacation for them. He tells her regularly that he has difficulty shopping for Christmas or Birthday presents for her because she buys everything she wants. She has to plan any sort of anniversary celebration. So, it had been pretty clear to her for years that she doesn't mean much to him, because if she did, he would make a better effort. Her friends have always told her they would never put up with all the hours he spent on the computer playing games, but they didn't realize that after a few years she discovered that was her ticket to freedom, but not in enough time to really take advantage of it before his buddies' significant others put the kibosh on the constant gaming. But for him, all those years, tolerating the stress of work was how he showed his love. That is how, Alice realizes, a husband becomes no more than a paycheck. If that's all you provide, that's what you become. She would gladly trade the paycheck for actual love and respect. Money is overrated. She hopes her children would make the same choice. She wants them to not be afraid to follow their hearts.
Crumbs. Crumbs of love and respect they give her, when she gives her all! Fuck them. Maybe this is why women become lesbians, she thinks. She had thought about her friend Katie in this way, but she realized it was because Katie was controlling and manipulative, and it was anxiety mutating into lust, not actual love or attraction for Katie. Katie is a straight-up bitch. Not many people can do Katie. None of Alice's other friends could. But if Katie had been through a bunch of relationships with men who treated her like that, Alice understood. Katie's husband is passive aggressive, but some of that may just be due to Katie's controlling behavior. Maybe it was time for Alice to become a bitch, too. Hide her heart away. Issue orders, judgment. Alice is not even sure she has this in her.
Maybe she is only attracted to Jeff because of the taboo circumstances, or because he is actually encouraging to her, and that stimulates anxiety about her relationship to Carl and mutates to lust. She may never know, though, because Jeff doesn't value her enough to answer her goddamn emails.
So, fuck him, she thinks about Jeff. Campbell had told her she deserved better than Carl. Told her to forget Jeff. That Jeff was nothing and treated her poorly. She felt sad when she read that text. The only thing Jeff did wrong was not answer her emails, and maybe he did that to protect his own heart. Campbell was forthcoming about his feelings for her. Man, he really laid it on, too. Really built her up. Compared her to another muse in town. But then, when Carl's permission-rescinding tendency reared its head regarding potentially opening their marriage, Campbell easily found another woman to take her place. Within weeks. She had been warned about Campbell by Lydia, how he burned through women and could be quick to anger. Lydia said over and over how worried she was about the situation, but Alice felt like it was a good opportunity for her to learn, and Lydia agreed that working with Campbell was an amazing opportunity. He had not shown this side to Alice - in fact he had been incredibly encouraging and patient - but she did tell a little lie when she said she wasn't attracted to him, because she didn't want to screw things up the way she did with Jeff. She wants the opportunity to keep things totally professional with Campbell, and thinks the level of attraction, at least on her end, can be easily ignored.
When she met Campbell, she was so surprised at who he was in person. He does not fit the mental model she had of him at all. She had believed he was the gruff cowboy sort, but he isn't at all. He is tender, passionate, extremely intuitive, and open. And there are some things about him that remind her of Carl, so she needs to have some time to process that before deciding how to move forward. If I can get this all sorted out, I might have a shot at a decent career as a sculptor. Man, I would love to be able to do something creative for a living to help the world, even if it means living hand to mouth a lot of the time.
The attraction, despite Campbell's openness, isn't like what it is with Jeff. It certainly confuses Alice a little bit, but her Mr. Touchy-Feely episode reminded her what that yearning she felt for Jeff was like without cannabis, and that what she feels for Campbell is nothing like it. That is kind of a relief, actually, because she can't handle any more heart chop suey episodes. She might act like she is attracted to everyone through her flirtatious demeanor, but she is definitely not attracted to everyone. Although she and Carl had discussed opening their marriage, Alice doesn't really have interest in anyone besides Jeff, so she doesn't pursue anyone else. She actually told Campbell, who is quite a catch, that she was still hung up on Jeff, and it wouldn't be fair for her to get involved with him. Heart chop suey really sucks. Better to deal with the devil you do know than the one you don't, she decides.
And of course, poor Carl - there is little yearning for him. And every time he does some sort of asinine controlling move on her, or "Big Brother" behavior, her yearning gets closer and closer to zero. She feels badly about this. She's sure he wouldn't be like this to someone else. She feels like he deserves someone who feels passion for him and doesn't have to travel elsewhere in her head during intercourse. He's a much more evolved man than he was, but her heart can't get that message when all their baggage keeps creeping up through being together 24/7. And Carl rarely leaves the house, so his opinions, bravado and need to win are constantly up in her grill, not helping matters.
How nice it must be to be a man and be overtaken by desire so easily, or relegate someone to whom you are clearly attracted to the bottom of the waste can for the next shiny thing, Alice thinks.
Earlier this week she was on her period, and while she is usually willing during this time, this month, because Carl was being a total jerk, treating her like her intention was to go sleep with every male artist this side of Anchorage, she said no. She actually wasn't sure she'd ever be able to sleep with him again after the crap he pulled.
But they went to the grocery warehouse store and Carl noticed another man stop and watch her walking down half an aisle, and two days later with Charlotte, she had a guy at the dispensary do a very clear double-take and then try again later to get her eye contact, a guy at Chipotle look at her (it's a special look from the eyes down to the breasts, or even down to the feet and back), and two guys at Charlotte's church try several times to get eye contact. Carl asked her what the hell kind of juju she was exuding.
She wonders if maybe there is a special communication she has not learned since she jumped into marriage so early. Can I just go into, say, the grocery store, and make eye contact with someone and then just, um, get down to business? she wonders. This is probably how animals do it, she thinks, and the Bloodhound Gang is now playing in her head.
You and me, baby, ain't nothing but mammals...
On Instagram she follows several body positivity activists, and one of them tagged a porn star in a post. Only, Alice didn't know the woman was a porn star, liked her posts, and followed her. Her body bore a certain resemblance to Alice's, she thought. Later, the woman made another post and Alice went to her website where she discovered that the woman is part of the sex-positive culture and blogs about her sexual experiences. With pictures. And videos. And she's winning several awards for her work in the adult entertainment industry. And yes, their bodies are similar.
Alice's bras are expensive, and she needs new ones every six months or so. She used to limit herself to two, but now she knows that is not practical, so this time she gets four. As she has lost weight, to her dismay, she has not lost any circumference around her breasts, even though her ribcage has shrunk six inches. Women pay a lot of money for what Alice has achieved by accident. That's gotta be the juju, she thinks.
She watches the porn star get railed by an unusually erect and sculpted fellow, and notes how her natural breasts dangle beneath her body when she is on her hands and knees, and this is exactly what Alice's breasts do, which she used to think was weird. Damn, I am pretty hot, she thinks, and she also thinks how strange it is that she ever thought herself unattractive. And how dangerous it was that she didn't understand.
-64 Square Mars-Pluto 2 degrees 25': Your approach to love and sex can be quite intense at times. Your sexual desire naturally is a very strong one, and you may even use sex as a bargaining chip in your relationships in order to achieve your goals. More likely, however, is a very focused and intense sexual nature. This also adds a very magnetic quality to your appeal. When a man finds you attractive, it can transform into a near obsession! Your aura is strong and somewhat mysterious. You want a deep, soulful attachment on a sexual level. You have a highly developed sex drive, but you must learn to rein in your aggressiveness in this area.
It is, at this point, that she realizes she has the upper hand.
She needs to let Carl know this. Of course, she will do it in her way. Alice's way. The weird way. Alice is weird. (Does good writing use emojis nowadays? Insert devil here).
Carl comes up to check on her and she is laying on the bed with a funny smirk on her face.
"What are you doing?" he says.
She tilts her phone toward him so he can see.
"What? Did I catch you being naughty? You never do that," he says, excitedly.
She explains the events that led up to her laying in bed watching porn, and then gets up and closes the door, locking it.
"Take off your clothes and get on your hands and knees," she tells him, authoritatively. "You have most definitely been a very bad boy, and now I am going to punish you."
"Oh..." he says, and does what he is told. Like a good boy. She knows he will do anything for sex. It is a definite weakness. She wonders if there is something she will do anything for, and she decides, without a doubt, she will do anything for love. (Whatever you do, please, please don't get Meatloaf stuck in your head right now). (I said, stop it). (You know, I share a birthday with Rick Astley, too).
And she spanks him once for each shitty thing he did in the previous week. So three times. Once for talking to her disrespectfully, another for gaslighting her, and once more for lying. She hits him hard and leaves a mark, but he is laughing.
Then, she pulls out a surprise she had been holding onto for quite a while - some red heart-shaped sequined and tasseled pasties. He stands up behind her, curious. She keeps her back to him as she applies them over her nipples, feeling a little ridiculous. As she turns around, she can't stop giggling. She tries to swing them around, but realizes her breasts are so large she can only swing them side to side. He grabs them and kisses them.
She pulls out a couple more toys she got from a boot box sitting in plain sight on the floor of the bedroom.
"How long has that stuff been there?" Carl wonders aloud.
"Oh, just since I was cleaning this morning. I bought it a long time ago and was saving it to spice things up here and there," she explains.
Since Alice isn't quite in the right place or time for writing sex scenes, you'll have to use your imagination, but let's just say she was going for four times and got three, so that's not bad for 43 years old. She wonders if all this sex is giving her the body of a porn star. Not a bad thing at all, she decides, thinking that on average, people definitely don't have enough sex, if people her age only have it once a week.
And afterward, Carl reiterates that he has no problems with her modeling - he is just worried about nude pictures making their way to the internet.
"Oh, Adam told me that the photos would be on my memory card," she says.
"Geez, you didn't tell me that! That's great!" he says.
"You know I have to write about this, right?" she reminds him.
"Yeah," he nods.
What he doesn't get is that she is sick and tired of having to justify herself! She can think for herself.
Be a fucking adult, Carl, she thinks.
Oooh, maybe she could be a literal fucking writer.
<Click here to go back to Part 6: Whatever>