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ADD: The Rant

Telling other people how to raise their children, especially when not asked, is an exercise in futility. I promise you that they will ignore you. Even when they ask you, they are likely to ignore you, if they don’t like what you have to say. For example, a lot of people know that I have ADD, so they’ll ask me about ADD in their children. They then argue with me about everything I tell them.

So let’s get a few things straight.

I know that you do not want your child to be labeled. They are going to be labeled, though. If your child has untreated ADD, what they’re
going to be labeled is:

  • naughty
  • lazy
  • crazy
  • stupid
  • The Weird Kid
  • Would you prefer a child who is properly labeled and properly treated or would you prefer a child called any or all of those things? Would you prefer a child who has no friends because they have no impulse control and hit people when they get mad? Or who say whatever comes to mind, no matter how inappropriate?

    We all have labels and I think labels can be good. No one minds their child being labeled The Smart Kid, do they? Your ADD child might well get THAT label if they are properly treated and can function well in school.

    Get over yourselves. This is about what is best for your child, not what image you have in the world at large.

    People also say to me, in a very dismissive tone, that they “don’t believe in ADD” and that it’s overdiagnosed and that kid just needs his/her behind paddled.

    I’m amazed at how many people “don’t believe in ADD.” What’s not to believe? It’s a medical fact. It’s not the Virgin Mary showing up in someone’s potato.

    As it happens, I agree that it is overdiagnosed. There are a lot of lazy parents out there who think that because their child is a child, that they are hyperactive. MOST children have a lot of energy and need engagement, attention and something to do with all that energy. THAT IS NOT ADD. That is childhood.

    I also think that spanking children only serves to teach them that violence solves things. I know our parents spanked us and all the arguments that the pro-spanking people have. I also think that spanking is lazy. If you whack a kid, they’ll probably stop doing something but it’s lazy. And it teaches them that violence is the solution. So. If you are too lazy to parent your children, then don’t have them. (PS: On the other hand, I completely understand the *urge* to smack that freaking look off a kid’s face. I just don’t understand that actual doing of the smacking, even on the behind.) [Oh, and, yes. I have had children. This is not a *theory* for me.]

    Also, not every child who has ADD is hyperactive. I’m not. I was the daydreamy child. The one who couldn’t pay attention or stick to the topic at hand. I still have ADD. There are 2 kinds of it. Just because your child is not hyper, doesn’t mean they don’t have ADD.

    There are also the smug parents who say that they will not give Ritalin or Adderall to their child because a) it’s addictive and b) they are controlling their child’s ADD with diet and exercise.
    For a person who has ADD, Ritalin/Adderall is not addictive. I have been taking it since 2000 and I’m not addicted. How do I know? Because I frequently forget to take it! If I were addicted, trust me, I would not forget it. The medication makes my brain work more closely to normal. The end. If a non-ADD person took my Ritalin, they wouldn’t get calm and focused, like I do. They’d get jacked and jittery.

    If your child gets a diagnosis of ADD, I absolutely encourage the parents to try the diet/exercise thing. It certainly cannot hurt. A healthy body is good all around. HOWEVER, ADD is a brain dysfunction. It cannot be treated by diet and exercise. If that works for your child, they do not have ADD. The end. Given the fact that ADD is frequently misdiagnosed and you never want to give a child medication that they don’t need, definitely try the diet. Just remember: if the diet works, your child does not have ADD. Don’t go around smugly telling other parents whose children are ADD and ARE taking medications how superior you are.

    If you’re a parent of a child with ADD, please get your child treated properly. It will make a world of difference in their life. I can tell you this from experience. I was 33 before I got my diagnosis. I thought it was nonsense until I started to take Ritalin and saw my entire life change. I don’t struggle with things that other people do easily. I can remember stuff! My relationships are better, my work is better, my LIFE is better. I am happier because I don’t feel so frustrated and I no longer have conflicts that I don’t understand.

    It isn’t about self-control or discipline. If your child has ADD, they have a brain dysfunction. You wouldn’t ask your diabetic child to use self-control to manage their insulin, would you?

    Get educated about ADD. There are good websites and TONS of good books. If you want a recommendation, just leave me a comment and I’ll send you some information.

    Heteronormative

    Did you all ever see If These Walls Could Talk? The one with Chloe Sevigny as the butch who fell in love with a femme, then that femme discovered 70s-style feminism and dumped the butch .

    You would think that sort of ignorance would be a thing of the past, but you would be wrong. It’s alive and well in the queer world. [I love the word Christendom and I wish we had one like that for the whole of queerness.]

    I love Twitter, for the most part. [This is relevant, promise.] I
    have fun – it’s like a really great party you can drop in on anytime. There are people from all over the world, talking about interesting things. You never have to worry about when you show up or when you go home – it’s all right there the next time you sign on.

    Every now and again … well, about twice a week …. someone either tweets or retweets an anti-butch-femme message. Which makes me so mad. It’s almost always a fairly young woman. Being young is a wonderful thing. The exuberance of the very young adult is both beautiful to see and annoying as fuck to deal with.

    The most recent one was this: I’m happy I found someone who’s secure in her being and content with mine. We don’t subscribe to foolish rules of heteronormative gender roles.”

    Couldn’t she have just stopped with the first sentence? Why does she have to go on to call those of us who gladly embrace “heteronormative” gender roles foolish? What do our lives have to do with her? What makes her think she gets to pass judgment?

    It wasn’t just this one person, though. I’ve been hearing about this since the day I came out but the word – heteronormative – is a fairly new one.

    “Heteronormative” boils down to the idea that we’re lesbians who act like straight people, specifically with regard to gender roles. The other thing, though I suppose it’s not entirely new, being as misogynistic as your average conservative Christian, is the idea that the femmes are somehow being harmed by this. That we do not freely choose to live our lives this way, that we are merely a presence to validate the masculinity of butches.

    So, part of me wants to patiently explain why she’s full of her-damned -self and needs to grow the fuck up. Live her life and let me live mine and shut the fuck up. [I tend to throw the F Word around a lot when I’m mad.] I’m sick of being patient about it.
    This is my blog and I don’t have to be patient or even kind, if I don’t want to.

    So:

    Shut. The. Fuck. Up. How can you, with a straight face, complain about how LGBT people are treated, then turn right around and do the same freaking thing to a subset of the queers that you don’t like? Do you not recognize that there are people in the world who think YOU are foolish? Because if you met the right man, you’d find out what’s it’s like to have a real, adult relationship. That’s what they think. Does that make you feel patient or does that make you want to scream?

    You know who you have to thank for the freedoms you do have? Butches. Drag queens. The Stonewall Riots? Were butches and drag queens, my friend. Those butches were pretty fucking heteronormative but they are responsible for the beginnings of the gay civil rights movement that allows you to have any freedom to be out at all.

    How fucking dare you turn your nose up at them? At us? At me? How dare you?

    This is a picture of me, right after I came out. I’m on the right. My favorite aunt, Jennie, is the one on the left.

    Me and Jennie.

    I could have passed.

    No one ever thought I was a lesbian. Not even lesbians. I did not have to be out, but I was. Even at 20, I knew it was the right thing to do. It was risky but it was the right thing to do. Even at 20, I knew that in order for anything to change, WE had to change. We had to stop hiding. So I was out. I was out in a very conservative small, Midwestern city. I was out at my Catholic college. I was out to my family, to my employers, to my straight friends, to everyone. I purposefully identified myself as a lesbian because people needed to SEE us.

    I was out because my butches had no choice but to be out and I couldn’t betray them by taking the easy way.

    Femmes were familiar looking so people could relate to us more easily and they could talk to us. They could ask questions. They could have their perceptions shifted. I was the first gay person many people in Grand Rapids, Michigan circa 1988 had ever met. That was true well into the 90s. The Very First Gay Person They Had Ever Met. So far as they knew, anyway. The first Out Gay Person, at any rate.

    There were still a lot of those 70s-era “feminists” around when I came out. They told me I was selling out because I looked like a heteronormative woman (though they didn’t use that word.) They told me lipstick and mascara and skirts and heels were allowing the patriarchy to dictate how I looked, that those things left me powerless. I ignored them.

    Well, no. I didn’t. I couldn’t. It was hurtful. I didn’t change and I didn’t allow *them* to dictate how I looked. I didn’t give my power to them, either.

    But, pumpkins, it hurt me.

    I came out all full of love for the lesbians …. and they didn’t love me back.

    Sigh. Still, they don’t love me back.

    However, I will no more be quiet about this disrespect than I am quiet about disrespect from straight people.

    You do not have to like how I choose to live my life and how my relationship looks. I will be damned, however, before I allow you to disrespect me.

    I am your elder.

    If nothing else, you will respect all that I – and other heteronormative femmes and butches – did to get us where we are today. So that you have more choices, so you can be out, so in some places you can get married, so that your employer offers domestic partner benefits, so that your churches are open and affirming, so that YOUR life is so much easier than ours was.

    You’re welcome.

    Why Not Just Date a Man? The Answer

    Femmes who date butches have been asked since the beginning of time, “Why date a woman who looks like a man? Why not just date men?”

    A friend told me about a blog she reads that tried to answer that question and, from both of our perspectives, failed miserably at it. The blogger said all kinds of things that made us laugh or shriek with outrage. [Well, the friend in question is butch, so she DEFINITELY didn’t shriek with outrage. She … bellowed with outrage! That’s more butch, right? A bellow? Whatever. She, too, was outraged.] Things like “there is always an air of femininity, even with butches.” [Uh, no. If that butch has an “air of femininity”, I’m not interested. ]

    I tried to put into words why I am sexually attracted only to butches and generally only to those who are, as a jealous ex once put it, “just this side of peeing standing up.”

    I couldn’t.

    Want to know why?

    It’s an unanswerable question.

    It’s also an infuriating one.

    Who the hell else is asked “why are you attracted to X,Y, or Z”? I mean. Does anyone ask the guy who only likes petite blondes why that is? No. The reason they don’t is because they *understand* that: women are supposed to be petite and, in this country, blonde. No one thinks twice about it when a woman is only attracted to lumberjack-kinda guys or wealthy men. The attraction makes sense to them. No one asks butches “Why are you only attracted to femmes?” (for those who are, that is. )

    Oh, I know who else is asked that: non-fat men who the media call, in a snarky tone, “chubby chasers.” If a non-fat man prefers larger women, then he’s castigated. ESPECIALLY if he’s a guy who is judged attractive enough to snare a “regular” woman. [When I realized that description of men sounded like they were milk, I almost changed it. But it made me laugh, so I didn’t. The inner workings of Barbara’s mind.]

    Sexual attraction is nebulous. I can give you a list of attributes that I find appealing but the women to whom I’m attracted don’t all have each of those attributes. My college girlfriend barely qualified as butch and I was hopelessly in love with her.

    The best I can do by way of explanation is that I am attracted very much to masculinity but not at all to men.

    The best answer I can think of is this: That, my friend, is like asking me why I like blueberries. I just do. Oh, and they’re delicious.

    Coming Out, Part 2

    I knew I was gay long before I knew the word. I liked my little friends – but I thought everyone did. I played house with the neighbor girl and I was the wife. There was another girl in 4th grade who wanted to get naked and make out. Until her mom found us once and booted me right out of the house because that Pre-Baby Butch Wannabe Sold. Me. Out. Anyway. There was this girl in my school who I fell as hard in love with as an elementary school child can. She was the older sister of a classmate and she was very sweet. Well, she was actually sort of badass and always in trouble. However, she liked me, so she was nice to me. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea.

    When I was in 7th grade, my mom had a butch friend. I used to drive my mom nuts because I wouldn’t leave them alone to talk. I liked butches early! However, she confused me. I knew she was a lesbian but I didn’t know the word butch yet and I knew that I wasn’t like her. So I didn’t know what to think. How could I be a lesbian if it meant to be like her?

    My aunt came out when I was 19 or so. I started hanging out with her friends, all lesbians. What an awakening that was. I spent a lot of time with them and learned a lot about what it was really like to be a lesbian. My aunt always told people, “My gorgeous genius niece is coming for the weekend. She’s straight. Back off.” [Yeah. My 5’6” 105# femme aunt is SO threatening!]

    There was some flirting but, for the most part, they did actually leave me alone. (SIGH!) Then, my aunt left me alone with them and we went to a lesbian bar. I had sex with a woman for the first time that night. Not long after that, I started dating the woman who would become my first girlfriend. We dated for a few months and then I broke up with her. There were a couple of reasons, but the main one, for me, was that while I knew that I AM a lesbian, I wasn’t sure I could BE a lesbian. I mean, live my life openly as a lesbian. That was in September 1987.

    In December they invited me to a New Year’s Eve party and I took a straight friend. We had so much fun. I can’t tell you how many phone numbers I went home with that night. [I remember the outfit I wore: black short skirt, black hose, black boots, a grey sweater that was open in the back (closed at the neck and at the bottom, open in the rest, scads of fake pearls of various colors worn in the back. Big hair, excessive amounts of mascara and red lipstick. It was 1986. I towered over all the butches at that party, but they didn’t seem to mind.]

    I saw First Girlfriend again but I didn’t do anything. I went home that night and never called one of the women whose numbers I’d gotten. Mid-January, First Girlfriend calls me to tell me that one of those women asked for my number. First Girlfriend didn’t give it to her but called to tell me that the lot of them were going out that weekend, if I wanted to meet them.

    Immediate Femme Frenzy ensued: went to the mall, got an outfit, got my hair done, got a manicure and pedicure. Because I had decided that yes. I could live as a lesbian.

    I got to that bar (and it wasn’t a club. It was a total dive bar) and there she was. First Girlfriend, I mean. The other chick had gone home because I was late – long story but we got pulled over on the way, my friend got arrested and I left his sorry ass to go to jail and I went on to the bar.

    First Girlfriend’s friends left en masse (think that was planned?) so I *had* to take her home. She got home about 5 am and we were together for two years.

    See, I grew you in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s the home of one of the most conservative mainline Protestant religions and I had to be sure I could deal with it. I was 20 by this time. I went to a Catholic college. I was Catholic. I had a boyfriend. Could I do it? It took me a while to be comfortable with it myself so that I could be comfortable telling it to people.

    I knew that there were very good reasons – especially in 1987- for being closeted. I also knew that I couldn’t live my life that way. I don’t have it in me. So, when I came out … I came the hell out! :)

    So, pumpkins, tell me your coming out story. I wanna hear!

    Who Am I?

    Identity is a tricky thing. We think we know who we are and then something changes and we don’t know anymore.

    I spent my young adult years distancing myself from my family and my upbringing, thinking that it was somehow shameful to have been poor. No, that’s not right. I thought it was somehow shameful to have been me. One of the by-products of an abusive family situation is that often the child grows into an adult with no sense of self, other than shame.

    My identity was based not on actual identity but on facts about me: I was smart, I was reasonably pretty, I learned to be a good cook, I was a good dancer, etc. My identity was totally external: what I did, what I was good at as valued by other people. I knew these things because other people told them to me.

    When I was 27, I got tired of being crazy and went to a therapist. She literally saved my life. I was Seriously Crazy. For a good while, crazy became my identity. But then, as I continued therapy, I got healthy. I started to figure out what I believed, who I was and who I wanted to be. I chose a profession and was very proud of being good at it and of recognition that come from being good at it. Things like that.

    My 30s were good. In my late 30s, when I was 37, I became a mother.

    When my boys came into my life, Barbara as I knew her ceased to exist and I became A Mother. My boys had a difficult life and they needed a lot from me, so I quit working and was a full-time mom. Being P’s wife and the boys’ mother was all that I was. It sounds like that was horrible, but it wasn’t. That was the happiest time of my life. The best time of my life, the best I’ve ever been. I was a good mom and the boys thrived in my care.

    I won’t go into details here about the undoing of my family. I’ll say only that the laws prohibiting marriage equality in Michigan meant that I didn’t have any voice in what happened but I found myself childless.

    I didn’t get out of bed for nearly 10 months. Okay, I got out of bed to go to the sofa and watch hours and hours of TV on DVD, then back to bed. I didn’t do anything I was supposed to do. If I’d have had a job, I’d have gotten fired. As it is, I defaulted on my student loans, didn’t pay my credit cards or anything else. The only reason my cell phone bill got paid was it was on an automatic payment. We very nearly got foreclosed on the house because I didn’t pay that. The Ex found out in time and she took over all the household stuff from there on. After 10 months of this, I realized that The Ex and I were irrevocably broken and we split.

    I moved in with my sister. It took me only 3 months to get a job but it took me four years to give a damn about the mess I’d made of my life otherwise. It will take *years* before I undo the financial damage. But the real problem, my friends, was the emotional damage.

    Once again, I had no identity. I had no idea who I was. Or who I wanted to be. I’ve floundered over the last few years. I’ve made bad decisions, I’ve done stupid things, I’ve been messy. I’ve been *publicly* messy on my old blog, on twitter, back on MySpace when I used to do that.

    Recently, I realized that the reason I was still struggling and having so many problems is that I was trying to be the person I was pre-boys and I couldn’t. I kept wondering why I wasn’t “getting better.” Well, I was trying to fix the unfixable. I am going to have to form a new identity that incorporates who I was into who I will be but I can’t *erase* those years. I have to figure out how to make that part of me fit with who I need to be from here on out.

    I’ve also stopped looking for external validation of who I am. Of course, I want to do well at work and have friends, etc. For someone who really does have a good sense of self in many areas, I *still* think that for my family to respect me, I have to be “perfect.” Do you know what? No one is perfect and if they don’t respect my choices, then …. I will love them anyway and know they love me. (Easy to say that, right? I am going to work on that being *true* for me.)

    I’ve realized that you can accept your limitations without making excuses for them or for yourself. You work around them. You find ways to make your life good and happy and healthy, even if you can’t do things that other people think that you should be able to do. Somehow, you have to learn how to be okay with that. (Full disclosure: I ain’t. I want to be and I will be, but I’m not there yet. I’m still MAD about things that I know I will never be able to do. The first step towards making a difference is knowing there is a problem, right?)

    How has your identity changed over the years? Has it been good? Did it always seem like the change was good or did you only discover later that it was good?

    Relationship Advice I Never Got: Conflict

    The last round of relationship advice was a hit, so I have more from my twitter friends, blog friends and Facebook pals.

    Conflict seems to be everybody’s sticky point. EVERY couple fights. Or, has disagreements, however you want to say it. It’s healthy. You have to resolve them, though, or you’ll have the same damned fight throughout the relationship.

    The most important thing, according to my pals, seems to be communication.

    Always communicate, never quit trying is what my pal Kelly G says. You can’t resolve something if you just give up. It’s very easy to say “the hell with this!” and end a relationship. My friend LL (@ButchIma to those of you who follow her on twitter) says that she thinks you have to earn the right to leave a relationship. By that, she means you’ve tried as hard as you can to work through things and you can say honestly “Yes. I did everything I could and this just won’t work out.” [Of course, there are some exceptions: eg substance abuse and domestic violence. In those cases, GET OUT NOW. You can’t fix it.]

    Olivia adds: if at all possible, talk about conflicts when they’re small. This is my weakness. I admit it. I HATE to talk about my damned feelings. I mean. I know I have to. I just don’t like it. However, I’ve been practicing with my friends and my family, so if I ever get a girlfriend (which, doubtful. See my “I’m a pain in the ass” post a few back) I will have some experience with just getting it done.

    Olivia is a wise woman. It is actually far, far easier to deal with a problem when you’re only mildly annoyed by it. If you wait until you’re ready for a Full Femme Fit … well. You’ll have a Full Femme Fit. And have to deal with the aftermath of the FFF. It’s far easier to remain calm and rational, when you’re only mildly ticked off.

    Here’s what not to do: don’t ignore those little things and let them build up. Because build up they will. It doesn’t have to be a long discussion. It can be simple and direct. “Will you please rinse out your cereal bowl so that the milk isn’t gross to wash out at the end of the day?” Or “It hurts my feelings when you {fill in the blank}.”

    I think my beautiful friend Teri has the best advice of all Fight Fairly. The problem is that no one actually teaches us how to fight fairly, do they? Fighting is frequently not at all fair. [and don’t get all semantical here on me either. Fighting/ disagreement/ discussing/whatever you call it.] I read an excellent book once, Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg. It’s written for heterosexual couples but it can work for all of us.

    This is also helpful, even though it was written by Catholic bishops. [I mean, what do PRIESTS know about marriage? Exactly nothing, that’s what. But apparently, they know about fighting – or else consulted with a psychologist or two because this is actually good.]

    Conflict is unavoidable, whether it’s with a partner or a parent. Part of being a healthy adult is learning to manage it. So damn. I’m not a healthy adult yet. I’ll get there.

    What are your relationship woes? Where do you struggle? Do you have advice for my readers?

    The Best Relationship Advice I Never Got: Pre-relationship

    I’ve been dating a long time, darlings. A. Long. Time. I had my first date when I was 15, so holy fuck. I’ve been dating for 30 years. I’ve had some good ones, some bad ones, some fully unforgettable ones and some completely regrettable ones. I’ve learned a lot along that.

    I requested Best Relationship Advice I Never Got from my friends on Twitter and Facebook and I got some amazing responses. Turns out there is a lot of good advice out there, so I’m going to break this up into several posts. Be on the look out! All of these advice-givers prefer to remain anonymous, so I’m doing theirs first and mixing it in with my own.

    The Pre-Relationship Advice

    Some things, you need to know before you ever get so far as a relationship. As you’re getting to know someone, think about these things.

    If you give someone your number or, if have a date, and the person doesn’t call you? She doesn’t want to. She did not lose your number, she did not get into a car accident, her mother did not die. She is not too busy. We make time for what we want to do. She does not want to call you. Move on. All this means is that she is not the right person for you and that leaves you open for finding the person who is the right one for you. Which leads me to the next thing ….

    Believe her when she tells you who she is. If she says she is not ready for a relationship, she is not. If she says she is crazy, she is. If she says she is uber-jealous, she is, and it is NOT cute. Whatever it is, BELIEVE HER. For the love of pete, believe it. [However, if she says something like “I’m allergic to drama” that usually means, I am a dramatic motherfucker. Be careful.]

    Don’t try to change her mind. You can’t MAKE anyone love you. You also can’t make anyone want to be in a relationship with you, even if they do love you. Even if you are the perfect woman for her, if she isn’t ready, she isn’t ready. Don’t send her text messages or emails or Facebook messages or tweets asking her to reconsider. Let it go. There is someone else out there who will be good for you and who is ready.

    Drama at the very beginning is a bad sign. Into everyone’s life a little drama comes every now and again. It’s to be expected. Family problems, job crises, illness, crazy exes, etc. are all part of life. Things happen. If you’re just beginning to get to know someone and you see that they are constantly dealing with drama of some kind – think carefully about whether you can deal with it. The real red flag for me is when someone starts to create drama around “us.” That is a deal-breaker, my friend.

    I mean, okay, you’re likely to hurt someone’s feelings or make them mad. If it happens a few times, as you’re getting to know one another, that’s to be expected. You’re learning how each other reacts to things and what is okay to say/not say, and like that. You’re still ironing out expectations and that sort of thing. Hurt feelings and/or mad are likely.

    For example: Potential Girlfriend calls me “woman” sometimes. As in “Jesus Christ, woman!” when I’ve exasperated her. I like it. I think it’s sexy and, you know, dominant and hot. My sister? Would be mad as fuck if her husband called her “woman.” You can’t know that until it come up, right?

    Reconsider this relationship, though, if you have a lot of communication problems. It may not be that either of you is a bad person or a bad potential girlfriend but that your communication styles might not mesh. That is okay.

    I have many more bits of relationship advice to pass along, pumpkins, so stay tuned!

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