How do we learn how to select our life partners? How do we learn what a loving relationship is? Most people would say there is some learned knowledge from our families and some ingrained impulse from our biology. I was born with baby fever, and an intense desire to further the species. This biological urge has dominated my search for a mate. I may have been overly focused on finding a good father for my future children that I have neglected to consider who would make a good partner for me, irregardless of children.
My informal sex education was a weird conglomeration of information, like that of most people. Before I ever had a personal interest in boys and sex, I knew I wanted kids. My own mother told me that I have wanted kids for as long as has known me. And I wasn’t very picky about where my babies came from either. In elementary school I had a strong conviction that I would find an abandoned baby in a basket on my way to school one day. Around that time, my favorite book was Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink in which two sisters (ages 12 and 10) and four babies they were carrying for end up in a life boat after their ship starts taking on water. If you had asked me then what five items I would take with me to a desert island, I would have said four babies and a crate of condensed milk!
In fifth grade, I checked out The Miracle of Life from the library to watch at home, just for fun. The science of pregnancy fascinated me, and still does…part of me wants to be pregnant just to study the phenomenon first-hand. My class watched the film later that school year, and I felt so mature, and probably a little superior, that I had already seen it, and hadn’t been grossed about the ending…or maybe they didn’t even show that to us.
Discussing pregnancy and birth never made me uncomfortable until I started to associate them with sex. I must have known how someone got pregnant, but I cannot recall the specifics about when or how I learned what sex was. The topic of sex began to embarrass me and I became kind of prudish. What I think happened was I was implicitly raised to believe certain topics were meant to be private, not talked about openly, and this included sex. Consequently, once I knew how babies were made, I was always shocked when someone would announce enthusiastically that she was pregnant. What I heard was a loud admission that she and her husband had had sex! When my mother got pregnant through IVF, it was hard for me to say the word, “pregnant” out loud, even though in that case sex was not the direct cause. And to this day, I still immaturely think about sex every time I hear about a new pregnancy, I am just no longer embarrassed by the topic.
In high school, I stopped watching any television or contemporary movies as an experiment, preferring musicals with the likes of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Considering how PG these films are, and since sexuality was not really discussed in my home or with my friends, I had to get my misinformation about sex elsewhere. Spurred on by my budding sexuality, I developed a proclivity for nature documentaries about the mating behaviors of animals. I was especially fond of the ones on birds! See some prime examples below:
In the life of birds, it is the males who try to impress the females and the females who select their mate when they find the one with the most impressive voice, plumage, or nest. The males never seem to care who their partner is as long as they have one. As for infidelity, animal males may impregnate many females, but the females are not blameless either. Some female birds cuckold their mates into raising the children of another bird (named for the cuckoo bird). So, I think I got the impression that men are supposed to attract me and I get to keep the one I choose!
Unfortunately humans are not birds, and our mating rituals are much less straightforward. I have “chosen” many men who I was convinced would be good fathers to my future babies. But when these partners opted out of our relationship, I was very confused. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I was fulfilling all my responsibilities as a partner, so how could they choose to leave?!
If I am honest, I still do not understand why anyone decides to end a serious relationship, be it a friendship or a romantic partnership. I have always stood by my choices without question. The more I realize my choice is not all that matters, the trickier it is to trust myself to again attempt to choose a mate.
I had a good first date last night and so I plan to see the man again. But I am scared that I do not know what qualities might make him a good choice. All I know at this point, is that I was attracted to him physically, we had fun, and we agree about what kind of relationship we want as far as we could discuss it in one night. Although, I wish I was a female bird who could make a quick decision and be done, I am trying to remember that I am a female human and there are more factors to consider than voice, plumage and nests.
So, dear Self, be picky like a bird, but take your time with your evaluations…be patient like a human, but have a clear idea of what you want…and please do not choose someone just to pass on your genes with…human love involves so much more! Keep going on dates, see who is out there. But love before offspring. Love someone for yourself, and see what comes from that. You have a human form in this incarnation, so love like one, and leave the birds to be birds!
Your Past Self