On On Engagement Ultimatums

Ultimatums sound so simple and neat as a proposition, but my own "ultimatum" got so very messy. I'm a foreigner living in the US, and my partner and I only had been together for about 7 months when we started talking about marriage. Or more precisely, my parents started pressuring us to think about it. We knew I was a temporary US resident and would need to either leave the country soon or find a way to stay. My partner and I had no interest in marriage at first, but a greencard seemed like the easiest way for me to stay, and so my parents said, "So are you guys serious? If so, then you should get married ASAP and get the greencard app rolling." We loved each other and got along pretty well, and this path sounded much easier than my immediately starting to stress about which companies might sponsor me for a new work visa. But even though we basically agreed that we were committed enough to want to stay together, what then ensued was a 6-month comedy of errors and manipulations. It started around the 10 month mark of our relationship, at which point we had been discussing marriage tentatively together for a couple months. At that point, I popped the question to him for the first time. I casually said "So will you marry me?" while we were driving one Sunday afternoon to the farmer's market. I thought that since we had both agreed that marriage would be more a practical act than a romantic one for us, we didn't need an excessively romantic setting in order to agree to do it. Let's just cut the bullshit and be honest and straight-forward about it, I thought. Bad idea. He looked shocked in the car and then acted offended that I would make the proposal so callous and casual. He said he was holding off on answering and instead would propose to me himself when he was ready, but in a "nice" way that did justice to the whole affair. I was confused. He would "propose to me himself when he was ready?" Did that mean he was committed, or not? I waited several more months, trying not to bring this issue up. During this time, I was getting nervous. My temp visa would soon be running out, my parents were by now asking me what was going on with us every week. I was pulling my hair out with frustration at their phone calls. Meanwhile, I started tentatively bringing up the subject of marriage again, pointing out my dwindling visa status. In response, my partner started singing 3 different tunes alternatingly, sometimes switching from narrative 1 in the morning to narrative 2 in the afternoon to narrative 3 that very night, and back again: 1. Sometimes he said: "Marriage is just a formality and doesn't mean anything to me. It's just a piece of paper. I'm not going to have a state dictate my commitment to someone for me." VS. 2. Other times he said: "If you keep asking me about an official proposal and questioning whether I'll propose, that means you don't trust my love for you. If you don't believe I'll propose to you, then why are we even together?" VS. 3. And yet other times, he'd respond with: "Even though the marriage itself is a formality, if I haven't yet proposed to you, then nothing is certain between us." I was going nuts. I thought I'd given him an ultimatum of sorts. But look where that got me. I was coming across as a nagging, manipulative girlfriend, and his responses suggested both that he was and wasn't ready, and that marriage both was and wasn't just a formality to him. Two months later, we had a huge fight. I told him I needed to figure out my life and my visa and didn't have the time for him to keep giving me mixed signals and to keep accusing me of manipulating him. He needed to make a decision so I could move on with my life if he wasn't ready. He responded that I was being manipulative and that he'd never proposed to anyone before in his life and that besides, he had never imagined being married in his late twenties. He added that all this strife was making him question our compatibility. I said, "fine, then let's break up." But no, he was heartbroken even to hear that. A month later, another sweaty, angry fight, at the end of which he confessed that he still hadn't asked me because he had ordered the engagement ring from a local silversmith, but that it was taking a long time to be made. I breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed in a new air of ambivalence about marriage into my own mind. Now that I was sure he wanted me, I wasn't so sure I wanted this.

Posted on October 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm 1

On The Cost of Bringing a Person Into The World Via C-Section

@gyip I'm actually wondering now roughly how much it would cost in Ontario to have a baby (with and without a C section, no other complications), assuming you have OHIP. Does anyone know where we could find such information? And this would only apply if one had OHIP, I suppose? An American popping over the border to give birth wouldn't get this cheap care too, right? In the 1st world-ish country I'm from, I once found a few American patients wandering the halls of the hospital where my grandfather was hospitalized. They did not speak a word of the local language. When I asked them if they were there seeking treatment instead of back home in the US because they had no insurance, they said, "oh no, we are insured back in the US. But it costs less to have a bone marrow transplant here without insurance than to have it done privately with insurance in the US." My reaction was !!!.

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 9:44 pm 0

On The Year We Saved $10K: It Was Like Shopping For A New Life

I would love to read a piece about how first-year teachers in the Arctic do money. Seriously. Is food extremely expensive because it's shipped in? Do onions cost 6$ apiece like they did in the Netherlands Antilles in 2009?

Posted on August 6, 2014 at 12:39 am 3

On How Much is Too Much for a Root Canal?

IS dental really worth it? I looked into it recently and it seemed as though the premiums were high but the coverage they offered was not that great. Also, I remember that even though my dad has excellent health+vision+dental from his university, when he needed a bridge last year, he still had to pay several thousands dollars out of pocket.

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 11:39 am 0

On A Banker Missing His Wallet Asks for Some Money

About ten years ago, as an undergraduate, I was walking down the street in downtown Toronto on a warm, sunny afternoon. Suddenly, I saw a dozen yards ahead of me a large man wearing a nice business suit, and lying belly-down on the sidewalk. His clothes and his body position were so odd that some of those milling around him in rush-hour pace stopped to ask if he was all right. I, too, thought instinctively that he had fallen down or was injured. He didn't seem homeless, or at least, I had never before or since seen a homeless man wear a nice business suit and lie down on his belly. When I approached the man, I, too, said, "do you need anything, sir?" The man looked up at me from the pavement and said, with a mildly sarcastic tone, "do I need anything? yeah, a pizza and coke would be nice." I immediately noticed two things: first, the wasn't injured and hadn't fallen down. He was "simply" begging for money in a nice-looking suit and while lying down on his stomach, to catch more people's attention. And second, we were right outside a Pizza Pizza, a popular Canadian pizza chain. Feeling embarrassed by his sarcastic tone, but more ashamed that I would not have stopped if he wasn't so well-dressed, I walked into the Pizza Pizza and got him a slice of pepperoni pizza and coke. I think I was trying to prove to myself that I would help him even if he didn't sound so grateful about it and that I shouldn't judge. Maybe he really needed food and had none, and maybe he got that suit from the salvation army and was really homeless. When I stepped outside with the pizza and coke, the man was now sitting up and talking on a flip cell phone while brushing away some of the pavement dust that had clung to his knees while he'd been lying down. I held out the pizza and coke to him, and he, still talking on his cell phone, simply motioned for me to put them down on the ground beside him, without saying anything or thanking me. I did so, feeling increasingly annoyed and perplexed by the whole situation. At that moment, another man standing next to him who seemed to be his friend, and who was considerably less well-dressed, grinned at me said in a whiny voice, "Miss? Will you get me a pizza and a coke too? Please? I'm hungry!" I turned around and began walking away quickly, hearing the second man bursting into laughter behind me. I was really pissed. 7$ was a lot for me in those days. I had spent them thinking I was helping someone in need, and I felt I'd been had. But probably I was the jerk, only bothering to stop by him because he seemed like a "normal" guy in a suit, i.e. not your typical homeless guy. It was a point well-made. What kind of thank you did I expect, anyway?

Posted on August 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm 2

On The Lawyer-to-Be (A Poem)

@aetataureate Anybody know of good pieces on what being a lawyer actually is? A serious question. I'm looking for an ethnographic or insider piece, as I'm on the brink myself,..

Posted on July 28, 2014 at 6:55 pm 0

On Think Of The Money I Could Make By Simply Ruining My Life With Airbnb

Airbnb's comments section also strikes me as increasingly odd. I hardly ever read less-than-stellar comments, and it makes me wary. I recently stayed at an airbnb room in a farm near Ottawa. The room and the farm were lovely, but the water wasn't potable. It was cloudy and tasted strongly of mud or something even less pleasant. And the shower and whole bathroom smelled strongly of sewage while the water was running. The owner, who lived on the premises himself, made no mention of this or his site or in our multiple correspondences beforehand, and I found this out the hard way after gulping a mouthful of mud-tasting water before spitting it out. We then panicked, since we were incredibly thirsty after a long day, our water bottles were empty, it was 2am, and we were far from any place that might be open and selling beverages. We should have mentioned this to the owner the following day, but the moment never arose, and when it did, my partner and I chickened out since my partner said that the owner might be insulted, given that he lived there himself and didn't mention it. Maybe he drank it. Maybe he had a Brita filter. So we never said anything about it, but I suppose the six pack of large mineral water bottles we snuck in the following night, unsuccessfully trying to be discreet, conveyed in other ways our silent disapproval. Long story short: it clouded our stay (especially the poop-smelling shower), but I never mentioned this in my airbnb review. The owner left his own review of us before I did, and his was positive, so I felt doubly-bad leaving a mixed review, especially since we hadn't mentioned it to him to begin with. My review ended up being purely positive, maybe undeservedly so. There's something a bit sticky about airbnb that way. It muddles the boundary between the commercial and the personal. It's got the vibes of a true sharing economy like couch surfing is - but it's not. You're paying 120$ a night for a room in a farm, and if you feel shortchanged about the mud-water, you should be able to complain about it. But at the same time, you're sharing an intimate space, filled with personal belongings, with those belongings' owner. It feels almost like betrayal to leave a personal and public complaint, even if it's an important one. I just could not bring myself to complain about the water, either in person or online. In the same way that I could not complain about the rock-hard bed in another airbnb room in Maine. My reviews were purely positive, as are 99% of the reviews I read on airbnb. Which makes me wonder whether other people feel the same kind of pressure to be positive since there's sometimes that sticky personal connection you make with your host...

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 8:09 pm 0

On A Nanny (BA, MSW) Chats about Psych Grad Programs, Zigzagging Through Life

So many feels on this piece. I am curious why Brittany didn't like social work's approach to broken systems, and why psychology seemed better to her, or more to the point, why "more formulaic" (is that even a better thing?) seemed better than "just what feels right" (from her SW program)? I am in a similar place in life. I've considered both clinical psychology and social work, and don't know which to try for despite roughly two years of meeting with practitioners in both fields and doing some volunteer work that could count as relevant in both. Since I'm currently completing another PhD in a totally unrelated field, which I don't want to pursue further after I graduate, doing another 5-6 years of a clinical psych PhD seems just too exhausting, since I'm also 30. A 2-year social work master's seems a lot more feasible. Plus, life has shown me that you can't get around dealing with broken social systems if you really want to genuinely, genuinely help people. I'd rather be screaming at health insurance company reps to get my cancer patient the health coverage she deserves as an underpaid, overworked social worker than diagnosing her with complicated grief as a much better paid psychologist. I'm not saying psychologists don't help people. I know they do. I admit, though, that the older I get, the more I think that fighting corrupt or deaf social systems is where it's at, and that's what I respect about social work's systems approach. I also have reservations about the way the DSM is used in clinical psychological practice, and about the categorization-heavy way clinical psych is taught in the US and Canada, and don't know if I'd survive 5 years of studying it, if I even got in. Although I guess even psychologists themselves often do "just what feels right" in their own clinical practice! On the other hand, maybe I'd burn out fast as a social worker, since fighting cold bureaucracies can be so brutal, and I know several people who's left the profession because they couldn't handle the stress. I've never heard of a psychologist leaving the profession due to stress. I guess it's true that it's hard to know what profession suits you. You can read all you want about it, and even volunteer in it or with people who do it, but ultimately nothing substitute for cold hard experience, and by that point, you may already be halfway through a grad program with many thousands of dollars in debt under your belt. Finding something you love, are good at, AND can feasibly find work in is the perfect trifecta that I worry I'll never achieve.

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm 2

On The Privileged Question of Whether Money Buys Happiness

I remember an undergraduate psychology class that cited research showing that money only helps with happiness if it pulls you out of poverty. After you're no longer fretting over bills, any additional money doesn't increase your happiness. Of course, someone could be making a six figure salary and still be fretting over bills...

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 10:26 am 0

On I've Fallen Into the 'Lifestyle Inflation' Trap

But what drives lifestyle inflation? Is it only that you are living in a wealthier or more exciting area with more to do after work, and feel the pressure to pay to partake of it? Or is it more just seeing people around you spending more?

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm 0