When I moved to Houston a couple years ago after meeting and falling in love with a Kansas-to-Houston transplant, I had heard the idea that Texas was less like another state and more like another planet. And it does feel like another planet to me…a planet filled with strange and interesting creatures. Men.
The only memories I have of my father from when I was young are spotty; trying to remember what it was like to live with him is like trying to remember a dream several hours after you had it. I remember seeing him perform in plays as a professional actor, but I don’t remember him at home. When I was five, my mother left my father and took me to Michigan to live with my grandma and my very young aunt. For the next fourteen years, this group of three women would come to define my concept of family. Though I had uncles and I saw my dad occasionally until his death in 1998, when I was speaking of my family, I was thinking of my mom, aunt, and grandma, as well as the other female relatives on my mom’s side with whom we were all close. It didn’t occur to me that anything was missing, really, because I had never really known what it was like to have a male presence in my life. When I got to college, I joined a sorority, extending the family I had become accustomed to include 114 other women, 50 of whom I shared a house with for two years.
Despite the fact that I loved being surrounded by women, a lot of my thoughts in high school and college were focused on boys. While this isn’t out of the ordinary, my appreciation for the opposite sex stemmed not only from attraction but also from…fascination. Who were these other creatures? How did they think? Why did they act the way they did? If men were from Mars and women were from Venus, I was mesmerized by the Martians. They weren’t my kind. I didn’t get them at all, so that’s what I focused on. Getting in their heads and getting them in bed. When I began my writing career, I wrote about both topics quite regularly.
My mom had another baby when I was nineteen, and for the first time, my family had a male presence in our multigenerational home. When Preston was born, he looked otherworldly; he had the large, curious eyes and careful movements of a Furby. As he grew up, we realized he couldn’t have been more different than I was as a child, and this, it seemed, was further proof that boys and men were not from my planet. They were Others. And I had no idea how to live with them.
When I first moved to Houston a few years later, I didn’t live with Eric. I found a roommate and took a marketing job at The Motherhood Center, which had pre-natal classes, baby and toddler music classes, and lots of family events. The staff and clientele were overwhelmingly female, so once again, I was surrounded by women and back in my comfort zone.
Then my boss left, so I found a new job, where I was one of two women on the staff. And then I moved in with Eric, which was pretty much like finding E.T. in my shed. All of the experiences I had gained from dating and observing men for several years did very little to help me understand Eric. And not long after I started at my new job, my female coworker was let go and I became the only woman on a team of eight people. At a tech startup. In Texas. Being surrounded by men in my personal life and professional life made me feel like my ship had suddenly crashed on their planet, and I was terrified. Continue reading Going To Mars