About a week ago I dreamed that I sat in a Vietnamese restaurant eating with several of my friends. A little later on in the dream, I saw myself crouch forward, and I felt a little Asian boy throw his arms around my neck. I heard us laughing together, and a rush of happiness filled my body as I recognized this child as my son. I then turned to the right and saw an attractive Asian man standing along the wall of the restaurant, who I identified as my husband. I thought to myself, right before waking up: I wish my grandmother were alive to see this.
I felt so annoyed with myself from the moment I woke up from this dream. Lying down on my bed, I thought: omg Thomas, you’ve worked so hard to disentangle yourself from the heteronormative patriarchal path of having a husband and a child, and then your brain literally betrays you like this. When I ranted to my therapist about having this dream, she pointed out, with an amused smile, that I felt happy with my son and husband. I acknowledged her insight, then I reminded her about how dangerous the idea of a husband and a child feels to me. Even now, I can think of several reasons to steer clear of that path at all costs: knowing so many people who pursue having a romantic partner and child in part because they do not love themselves, disliking how the choice to have a husband and child may stem from socialization, and the lack of control that accompanies maybe desiring a husband and child.
When I think about people who pursue a romantic partner in part because of not loving themselves, I recall an ex-friend who told me that she felt afraid that if her boyfriend broke up with her, she would “be all alone in [REDACTED STATE NAME].” This memory freaks me out, because then I wonder: omg, if I date a man, will I become dependent on him like I’ve seen so many of my more femme friends and acquaintances be when they date men? However, I try to remind myself that I am already different from these folx, because I do love myself and my close friends and no man will ever take that love away from me. Two of my closest friends are kinda interested in dating people and both of them feel confident in their ability to maintain their independence and radicalness whether they date folx or not – so I will try to follow in these friends’ footsteps, with confidence in my capacity to stay true to myself.
Then I wonder about how much of my desire to date a man stems from socialization. I remember a time a friend once told me that his father asked his mother to marry him after the two of them had gone to a wedding together; my friend said that when his parents split up, his father wondered if he would have proposed if he and his ex-wife had not gone to that one wedding. This story reminds me so much of the presence of amatonormativity and how romance is glorified through manufactured celebrations like Valentine’s Day, through the wedding industrial complex, and through society’s promotion of the nuclear family.
Would I have had that dream if not for all the messages I have received through my life exalting romance? When I reflected on this while playing tennis the other day, I remembered that socialization or not, it doesn’t really matter, because I can say with full confidence that I will live a happy and fulfilled life regardless of whether I ever date a man or have a kid. Even if socialization affects my dreams, I have taken my mind back, through engaging in tangible steps to unlearn normative messages surrounding romance and relationships. If I ever do date a man, I will always prioritize my close friendships because these friendships manifest outside of the state and heteronormative patriarchal tradition.
I do experience moments of guilt and doubt: guilt over desiring a man at all, as well as doubt because even if I let myself want to date a man, there is no guarantee a man will ever emerge who I want to date and who wants to date me. I remember though, that almost nothing is guaranteed in life anyway. It was not guaranteed that I would escape my abusive household, that I would develop my loving close friendships, that I would heal myself and contribute to the collective healing of communities I care about. So, I’m going to continue living openly, and I’m going to try my best to honor what I want without letting guilt consume me. No matter what happens, I’ll still write, feel, and love my way back to myself. I’ll still be me.
What are your reactions to this post? Have you had any dreams lately that have stood out to you? How do you reconcile wanting or not wanting a more heteronormative life path? I am publishing this post while withstanding an awful fever as a side effect of getting the second dose of the vaccine whew. Until next post!