Like many American women, I’ve spent a lot of my life nodding politely as other people tell me How I’m Doing It Wrong. (This might be endemic to women worldwide, or even to people worldwide, so don’t feel excluded if you’re not an American woman, ok? But I’ve only lived in America, and I’ve noticed that men are far more likely to argue back against HYDIW syndrome.)
I’ve put up with it for several reasons.
- You can’t win an argument with a crazy person. If someone unbalanced is telling you HYDIW, it’s really in your best interest to nod a lot, promise to take it under consideration, and then go do as you see best.
- In general, you can’t win arguments. People aren’t telling you things as a prelude to a rational discussion; they’re just telling you stuff to tell you stuff and there’s not much point in arguing, unless you enjoy arguing. (I don’t.)
- It’s surprisingly fun to not argue or disagree; you get to hear some amazing stuff if you let people keep talking. For more on this point of view, go read How to Be Polite.
But I’m thirty-six years old and I’m really tired of putting on the poker face, nodding, and walking away. I’m consciously trying to change. I want to be able to say “hey, that’s inappropriate” when someone says something inappropriate or tells me HIDIW — but it’s unrealistic to expect myself to react in real-time when I have all this conditioning in place, so I’m working on reacting appropriately at a delay.
I do want to point out that one of the reasons I didn’t name either of the people who made me cry over the weekend was because I don’t think they deserve that. Neither of them intended to make me upset, or at least not that upset, and it’s unfair for me to call them out when they can’t respond in kind. I don’t want them publicly shamed, as it were. But I also don’t really want to interact with them right now, either. I try to be a kind person and a forgiving person, but that doesn’t mean I have any obligation to let myself be hurt repeatedly.
So instead of getting in a defensive fight with someone privately, I’m just going to write up a manifesto about my kid and my parenting goals and all kinds of stuff. And the next time someone feels compelled to tell me HIDIW, I can just point them here.
Wait, don’t leave yet! This is primarily a horse blog, so of course I’m going to frame it all in a horse analogy. I’ve just got a little more rambling to do before I get to the horse stuff.
So what you’re here is seeing a sliver of my life and my interests. I don’t talk politics here and I don’t even do media analysis here — I have other sites for that kind of writing. You’re here for crazy Funder stories, and in general, that’s what I offer.
Everything I write is true, but not complete. I freely leave stuff out — a lot of stuff. The boring bits that drag down the narrative, details of other people’s lives that they might not want posted online, and at this point, a lot of the daily background stuff. So what you’re reading here is an accurate but partial picture of my life.
I think my posts have gone from clever but basic narrations to pretty good stories over the last couple of years. There are a lot of elements that go into a good story. It’s not that hard to recognize a narrative arc, or see repetition and foreshadowing. It’s quite a bit harder, I’ve found, to write those things with any kind of subtlety. And the same goes for my choice of words. I passionately love language, and I try really hard to strike a balance between using the most precise high-dollar words and actually writing like real people talk, which includes the Seven Dirty Words. A couple of commenters on my last post mentioned that they hadn’t really noticed the cursing, which means I’m doing it right — for better or for worse, this is how people talk. (At least it’s how they talk when they think it’s fun to spend twelve hours riding half-ton herbivores that stomp your feet and drool poison oak slobber down your neck.)
So. When I was 28, I was in law school, so I required a lot of caffeine, and I spent a lot of time in a coffeeshop by our apartment. A couple of women who worked there had horses, and I hadn’t really realized you could afford a horse on a barista’s pay, but it turns out you can (if your standards aren’t too high). I’d always wanted a horse, and my husband wanted me to have a hobby, so he foolishly bought me a horse.
I had no idea what I doing. I hadn’t ridden in twenty years, then I rode my friend’s horses exactly twice (once at a walk/jog in the arena, and once on the trail, where I got off for some reason, let go of the reins, and watched my noble steed gallop away through the forest), and then I got a horse of my own. His name was Champ, and he was a saint.
Champ, a basically kind soul, didn’t kill me as I fumbled through those first couple of months. In return for his kindness, I started a really concerted effort to become a better horse owner.
Go take a look at this Science of Running post real quick. I think Mel already posted it, but she was using it to talk about running or something, and I’m using it to talk about how we learn. This is the most important bit:
When I first got interested in learning more about coaching and the science behind it, one of my mentors, Tom Tellez, told me about the process of learning. When you are new to a particular topic, everything seems intriguing and complex. You don’t have a built in filter, as you don’t know what is right, wrong, or controversial. It’s a very intimidating time in the learning curve.
In essence, you haven’t built the model in your head of how a particular aspect works. So there’s no model to compare the information your reading to. The goal therefore is to build that model. Coach Tellez explained it, in his own usually precise way “that you need to just keep reading. It won’t make much sense at first. But as you read more, eventually it will clear up and all of the sudden you can tell within the first paragraph whether you should read the article or throw it away.”
His point was that you have to have a foundation upon which to decide whether something is worthwhile or not. Once you have that foundation, it’s all about filtering the information.
I managed to instinctively do that right. I built my foundation by reading everything I could get my hands on about every aspect of horse-care I could think of. Once I knew the basic concepts, I started talking to people. I had a huge base of horse people that I was on friendly terms with, and I asked them about all kinds of stuff. I asked them what they did and took note of it, but more importantly, I asked them why they did it.
(As a side note, one of the reasons I’m always willing to talk about horse/endurance stuff with people is to pay it forward — there’s no One Best Way to do any of this, and I’m happy to tell you why I’m doing whatever I’m doing, because so many people have helped me to where I am today.)
How often do you deworm? Why did you get that kind of shoe put on? What hay do you feed and why? Why do you use that saddle? I asked a ton of questions. I got a huge variety of answers, because I’d deliberately cast my net really wide. Sometimes I hoped I’d one day be as good as the person I was questioning, but sometimes I thought he or she was wrong and I wanted to understand why they were Doing It Wrong.
As I felt like I’d gotten a handle on each little aspect of horsekeeping, I’d start to veer away from the default and make my own decisions. I got Champ re-shod in keg shoes, but he didn’t gait very well in them, so I tried plantations (heavy shoes) for six weeks, and he didn’t gait any better at all, so I pulled his shoes entirely and went barefoot. (He still didn’t gait well. I never got him doing anything but trotting, but at least I was no longer at the mercy of incompetent farriers.) I did the same kind of gradual experimentation with all the little nuances.
One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that sometimes the people who I’d thought were Doing It Wrong were actually doing a pretty good job, and I was glad I’d asked their opinions.
When I got Dixie a year later, I was marginally better prepared to handle a psycho mare, but she was definitely an order of magnitude harder. I just kept at it, learning more about tack and more about how to train mammals and horse psychology and rider equitation and on and on and on and on and now, almost seven years later, I have a truly amazing partnership with a truly special world-class horse.
We always wanted a kid or two (some day, when we had more money and we were actual grownups and all the usual excuses). I haven’t touched an infant in twenty years, but I’m about to have one of my own to take care of full time. I am handling this in the exact same way that I handled sudden horse ownership.
I have a huge base of friends who are parents, ranging from infants up to teenagers. Not everybody is making the same choices I think I’m going to make, but you never know, so I’m asking everybody a ton of “what are you doing and why” questions.
(Well, I’m planning on asking everybody anyway. Right now I’m hyper-focused on infant care, and I’m still in the process of building a model in my head, so there’s more information gathering than advice-seeking. If you’ve got a kid and I haven’t grilled you on what/why, don’t feel left out; it’s coming!)
I’m gonna fuck up. Everybody does. But something else I learned with horses is to keep trying different things, and to periodically go back and try old things again. Whips used to make Dixie completely lose her mind; now she doesn’t even react when I accidentally smash her in the head with a crop while I’m riding — and using a lunge whip to get her to load doesn’t work anymore. I’ve gone from a curb to bitless to a snaffle to a curb again, and now I don’t even really need a bit and I can ride in a halter if I want. I’m sure parenting has the same kind of reversals of fortune waiting for me, especially when he’s in the irrational tyrannical toddler stage.
I’m going to cry. I’m going to laugh. Some days, I’m going to count down the hours til my husband comes home so I can have a large drink and a bubble bath. I can’t wait to see the firsts, and I can’t wait for my kid to be old enough to ask me interesting questions. I really want to meet my kid and find out what his personality is like. I may, possibly, lament that it goes so fast (but I kinda doubt it.) But I can promise you that I will never stop being a snarky bitch. I’m not going to unironically refer to my kid as a sweet angel. It’s just not going to happen.
Talk is cheap. He’ll know we love him. It’ll be ok.
(And I really don’t think he’ll be interested in reading my blog before he’s learned how to cuss from the internet and TV. Just don’t call your teacher a bitch, kid, you’ll really regret that even if you’re right.)