I confess that she got engaged way earlier than just now. I had to get used to the idea. It’s a big change and of course I’m happy for her, but I’m nervous about the change.

I like the guy. Okay, of course I like the guy. Melissa is very good at setting a goal and meeting it. He is smart and interesting and loves Melissa and he is maybe the only person in the world who is as obsessed with gaming airline miles as she is.

But back to me. I notice that I’ve been thinking in analogies lately. My professor in grad school told us that writers use analogies to keep distance. Like the ants in Farewell to Arms. Hemingway can’t watch all his minor characters blow up at the end of the book. So he sets the ants on fire.

But recently I read that people do that as a way to form consensus. In my mind, consensus is railroading, to my own end. (And that is a metaphor, not an analogy.) But I think my analogistic fervor comes from wanting to have consensus with me and Melissa about what our next phase will be.

Here is an analogy I’ve been using lately. Deciding to have kids is like deciding to have spaghetti. If the only option for dinner is spaghetti, then that’s what you’re eating. You can only pick something that is not spaghetti if you have something else to eat. It won’t work to say, “There are a lot of really good things I could eat.” That’s irrelevant. Those things are not in your kitchen. You will starve. So it is true that spaghetti is mostly carbs, and stains your clothes, and probably you only have crappy canned sauce for the pasta. There are lots of bad things about spaghetti, but if there are no other choices then it’s irrelevant that there are things you don’t like about spaghetti.

Which is to say that if you have a choice between having kids and nothing else specific enough to evaluate then you don’t have a choice. All you have is kids. If you don’t know if you want kids, but you have nothing else you want, then you want kids.

Sometimes I think if I talk enough people will give in. They will say I’m right. Sometimes this tactic has worked with Melissa, but that phase is over. G. I guess we will use this name for him. G will not put up with that. He has very good boundaries.

I do not have good boundaries. That’s why you read my posts.

One of my favorite things about G is that he doesn’t mind when Melissa and I talk late at night. I told Melissa I have PTSD from her last boyfriend not letting us talk. She says she does too. But I think it’s worse for me because I couldn’t dump him.

So I was really touched that G not only lets us talk, but he joins in. Every time. He’s always there on speaker phone.

I always look forward to our late-night talks and that’s pretty much the nicest thing I could ask for from the guy Melissa chooses.

I have a new business plan every night. It’s a coping mechanism. Like some parents drink wine after the kids go to bed. I spout business ideas. Well, and my kids never go to bed.

I tell G and Melissa I met someone who wants to overhaul the pro beach volleyball system.

G asked how I’ll make money. He’s all about money, which will not surprise you if you have heard my tirades about how women should marry someone who can support them.

I just realized that I use analogies to entertain myself. Do you allow yourself to marry a felon? No. Because conjugal visits are annoying. So you make a rule for yourself, no felons, and then you work around the restriction. You can do the same thing with partners who cannot support a family.

Or maybe I make analogies to pontificate when I’m a hypocrite. Because it’s not like I ever chose someone who could support me.

So G asks how I’ll make money.

That’s usually my role. To tell someone their business idea sucks because it won’t make money. I like that he can be that role for me. People think when someone tells them the flaw with their business that it’s mean, but actually, when someone takes the time to consider the business and come up with the flaw, that’s a gift. I feel cared about each night when G dropkicks my ideas.

Another night I was telling Melissa that I don’t know what my role is in her life now. I’m the Velveteen Rabbit. People like metaphors because it’s a sensory way to present a complicated idea. I am hoping this is not true in this particular case because it is so pathetic for me to say I’m Melissa’s Velveteen Rabbit. I better be something better than that.

I could not have written this post without the distraction of metaphors and analogies. I don’t want to write about this topic. I don’t like this topic.

I cried at my brother’s wedding. And it wasn’t from joy.

I told Melissa this post will have to stand in for tears at her wedding because now I’m too old to have mascara streaming down my face.

53 replies
  1. Erin
    Erin says:

    It’s good for your healing that Melissa (& G) help you feel like you can express feelings, even if a part of you wants to burn the ants alive.

    Melissa, I hope we get to see wedding photos.

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    Maybe I’m misreading it, but it seems odd coming so soon after the “misogynistic conversations” post to use the analogy of “kids are like spaghetti, if you don’t have any better ideas, you’ll have it, even though it’s just so awful in so many ways, but if you really have nothing better going on, go ahead.”

    • J
      J says:

      Seriously. I don’t understand why some people go around telling people to have kids because their life seems bereft of meaning as though brining more people into the world already full of 7.5 billion people, just so they can fill some gaping void in their life as a great way bring up kids. Its just nuts. I mean lots of people actually do exactly this, (e.g. Kylie Jenner) but this does not mean its good advice. It’s terrible, terrible advice.

      • Jeannie
        Jeannie says:

        It looks to me like she was only sharing her thoughts, observations and deductions. Not giving advise.

        She is always dead on IMHO.

      • Throwing_bricks
        Throwing_bricks says:

        I don’t think this is advice, this is just the truth — sadly. She’s not exactly wrong, people who don’t have anything better to do with their lives tend to have kids “just because” — and a lot.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      I was chuckling about that one too. It’s hard not to read assertions like that and not imagine they are saying more about their author than about the world at large. It’s easier than imagining there are really a lot of people who say one day “The cabinet of our marriage is almost empty. We’re down to having some lousy kids. Oh well.”

      We were married for several years – long enough to be sure it was a good idea- before we had our first, and it seems kids were always part of the plan. Our choice to have kids was joyful, timely, and deliberate.

      I’m sure another food metaphor would be better than spaghetti with cheap sauce from a can. Maybe opening an expensive bottle of wine you’d been saving?

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        The analogy is not for people who were excited to have kids. Women are on a biological clock. They have to decide in their 30s if they want kids. A lot of women (though mostly INFJs and ENFPs and people from abusive households) have a hard time deciding they want to have kids. They keep thinking there is something better. They think they will do some mysterious, unnamed big thing, or find a job they love even though they haven’t liked any job from age 20 to age 30. For these people, all of life’s decisions are difficult because their outlook on life is that their must be something better — for everything. So the spaghetti analogy is that if you see one option, it will never be as good at the mysterious, unnamed, possibility for greatness. Because that’s a feeling, not a real choice. The analogy is for people who don’t like any of their choices. Because there are a lot of people like that, but you still have to make a choice even if all the choices seem bad.

        Penelope

        • Tina
          Tina says:

          Please stop saying that INFJs don’t want to have kids. I think this is an inaccurate assertion. None of the people I know who don’t want kids are not INFJs.

          • Ana
            Ana says:

            I am an INFJ, and I don’t want kids. I think Penelope’s analysis is spot on. In fact her original post almost brought me to tears. I will cry for her when Melissa gets married.

        • Emily Kramer
          Emily Kramer says:

          Kinda but also I think these two types want to do things really well or not at all, and it’s so hard to do kids really well. ENFPs def have a hard time deciding, but it’s because once we’re into something we are ALL IN – and that is so exhausting, fulfilling, alienating and well endless – when that thing is a child. Note – I have a two year old,

        • Tina
          Tina says:

          I am an INFJ and I always knew I wanted kids. The couple of other INFJs I know also always knew they wanted kids. However, we did have kids a little later because we were waiting for the right time.

          I feel that P conflates the idea of not wanting kids right now (but knowing that you want kids) with the idea of not wanting kids at all. This is inaccurate.

          Personally, I didn’t understand the spaghetti analogy, but maybe that’s because I always knew that I would have kids and if I didn’t I would be less happy with my life.

        • J
          J says:

          Sure, choices are hard, But truly, if all choices are so bleak, & this person likes none, then bringing kids into the mix is not a great idea. Kids are not a good band aid for clear life choices. I think that advice in particular is deeply flawed and very problematic.

        • Throwing_bricks
          Throwing_bricks says:

          That’s why they would be great tutors/teachers. There are many other ways to take care of children than popping one. People tend to overlook that a lot.

    • Throwing_bricks
      Throwing_bricks says:

      She’s not exactly wrong, people who don’t have anything better to do with their lives tend to have kids “just because” — and a lot. I don’t think this is advice, this is just the truth — sadly.

  3. juliet
    juliet says:

    I feel for you Penelope, losing the undivided attention of your best friend. I hope you can let her go enough to be able to also keep her as your long-term significant other.
    Good luck Melissa and best wishes for a long happy marriage.

  4. Manfred
    Manfred says:

    If you do not have kids, you will have tons of extra money. More than you can ever spend. You will have tons of free time. You will have many interesting hobbies and passions. You will be able to work whatever kind of career you want. This lifestyle is not for everyone!

  5. Patti
    Patti says:

    That’s going to be quite the crowded marriage. Of course you’re sad. If Melissa wants to have a healthy marriage, she’ll cut you loose. Being successful at marriage means putting the marriage first.

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Congratulations Melissa! I’m loving his boundaries, and without us getting much detail he sounds really cool.

    Penelope, your role is to keep being the best friend by being as supportive as possible and Melissa will continue to do the same. Just let things unfold naturally. There doesn’t need to be any pre-determined path to plan everything out and no one needs to be in control. There will be a short honeymoon period, and then things should start to settle back down.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Smart and considerate guy to be friends with her friends. Very happy to hear all the new positive experiences you will have together.
      Congrats Melissa and G!

  7. MMJ
    MMJ says:

    “If you don’t know if you want kids, but you have nothing else you want, then you want kids.”

    No, wrong, absolutely wrong. Not having another burning passion does not automatically mean that a person “wants kids.” It’s not binary, and some people are just not interested in children or “family.”

  8. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    Congratulations, Melissa!

    My 3 year old daughter recently picked The Velveteen Rabbit at bedtime, and I old her it was too long, that we could only read half. Which wasn’t true. What was true was that I couldn’t bear to read the last half to her, aloud.

    All that to say, I don’t think you’re The Velveteen Rabbit. My husband is my best friend. Still, I talk with my girl friends late at night all the time. It’ll be fine!

  9. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Congratulations, Melissa!

    Penelope’s advice is unusual. Other writers advise that if people do not know if they want children, it’s better not to have them.

    It’s easier to have children once you decide to have them rather than to regret having children or doing a bad job of raising them. Besides, if having children or getting married was so important, people would have wed or had kids already.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      “Other writers advise that if people do not know if they want children, it’s better not to have them.”

      I think most good parents (not just writers) give this advice because there are no “backsies” once you actually have the kid, so one better be very certain they actually want kids. Don’t most women have their kids in their 30’s? Some of these posts make it sound like they aren’t when I don’t see any evidence that babymaking has stopped.

      Additionally, I rarely see these sort of personal decisions with an either/or lens. There is always middle ground and life exists out of the mainstream. What has been a great experience for me (after years of fumbling my way through) may not be easily replicated for others.

      I think there is a better way out there that doesn’t include having to revert back to 1950’s thinking, no matter how idyllic some choose to make it sound.

  10. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    G seems like he’s making room for you in him and Melissa’s marriage. It sounds like he likes you, because it sounds like he’s an xNTJ, so if he didn’t think you were smart and interesting he wouldn’t talk to you. That’s the best you (I mean you, Penelope, not “you” generally) can hope for from her getting married.

    And you’ve been yelling at Melissa to marry or whatever for a billion years now, so really, this is the best thing that could happen ever. So congrats to Melissa AND you! Melissa found a husband and you made a lifelong friend.

  11. Sarah Booth
    Sarah Booth says:

    I think the fact that people are still obsessed with a woman’s biological clock is absurd because it ignores the fact that adoption is a valid route to parenthood. You do not have to physically experience pregnancy, childbirth & breastfeeding to be a mother. Considering adoption as a valid choice removes the time pressure of the biological clock, as well as removing the requirement for a woman to endure physical processes that can be especially traumatic for women who are survivors of abuse.

    • Ylva
      Ylva says:

      Most countries do not give children for adoption if the age gap between the paren and kid is greater than 40-45 years. Moreover, adoption is a very complicated process, not everyone is accepred as an adoptive parent.

  12. Rita
    Rita says:

    I loved this post. But I love all your posts. I had to fight the tears at the end. It’s beautiful tribute to your relationship with one of the most influential people in your world. Thank you for sharing.

  13. May
    May says:

    I don’t think you have to worry too much about Melissa staying a good friend with you (G’s boundaries or no). I think INTJ friends tend to stay very loyal as long as you are the one who keeps in contact with them (INTJ bad at relationship maintenance, but most of them stay in a general stasis instead of fast degradation). Melissa chose you as a friend because she found you valuable in some way and I’m sure that value hasn’t really diminished.

    Also, what.. INTJ woman even follows the boundaries of others unless they also thought it would benefit them? lol I figure if you were too up in Melissa’s face or if she gave you too much time reluctantly, she’s perfectly fine enforcing those boundaries herself, not because of G’s whims.

    Though my main experience is becaise I am married to an INFP and I talk to and do whatever I want/need to and he doesn’t really have that much to say. Perhaps if he did there’d be more problems or I wouldn’t have been in a relationship with him for 15 years already. haha

    • May
      May says:

      Oh yeah, and congrats Melissa!
      I hope everything goes well!
      I hated wedding planning and going through the ceremony myself so I hope you have a better time than me!

      (lol drops an Fe as an afterthought)

  14. Aida Rinebarger
    Aida Rinebarger says:

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  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Penelope, this is a nice post. It shows how much you value your friendship with Melissa and now G too.
    I especially like these two sentences – “People think when someone tells them the flaw with their business that it’s mean, but actually, when someone takes the time to consider the business and come up with the flaw, that’s a gift. I feel cared about each night when G dropkicks my ideas.” You have reciprocated nicely by taking the time to express your thoughts and feelings in this post and sharing them with us.
    I can understand being nervous about the change. If you weren’t, I’d wonder why. There may be some details that change but it seems to me you and Melissa are inseparable in many ways and G is aware of and fine with that fact. I believe things will work out well as they unfold each day.
    Congratulations Melissa and G!

  16. Celeste
    Celeste says:

    “Because it’s not like I ever chose someone who could support me.” As I recall, YOU were the one who borrowed money from the farmer. Isn’t that him supporting you? You lived on his farm, planted flowers in his land and housed your sons in the farmhouse. You made countless car trips to access cello lessons for your son, which meant leaving the farm for long periods of time. You bought a purebred puppy for a troubled young woman you housed at the farm. I would like to know what your definition of “support” actually means…because it seems to me that you had it in Wisconsin.
    Maybe support, to you, means unlimited funds to pursue your own goals, whatever they may be. If that is true, very few of us will ever be “supported”. If support means access to housing, an emotionally satisfying relationship, finances to cover mutually agreed upon goals, and a safe place for children, I would argue that you did indeed have “support”.

    • BW
      BW says:

      Having read her for years, I can assure you that “support” means precisely “unlimited funds to pursue your own goals”.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      I’ve also read Penelope for many years. She left many things behind at the farm in WI including a 12K stove and a 35K piano. I don’t know the final agreement between her and the Farmer but she has written that with all the stuff she left behind, it was a large monetary loss for her.
      As for the money owed to the Farmer – “And he (Farmer) told me that he has been keeping track of any money he spent on the family that is over $200 and I owe him $30K. To be clear, $30K is not that much for me. I can pay it back.” In the same 2/9/17 blog post, Penelope states that she made this agreement with the Farmer – “I told her (Melissa) that’s not fair because I agreed, when I moved the boys to the farm, that the farmer would not have to pay for anything for us – he just paid utilities and taxes how he always did.”
      Which brings me to Penelope’s 5/08/17 blog post where she writes – “When I moved to Pennsylvania with the kids last November the Farmer gave me a bill for $35K.
      I told him, “Fine. I’ll pay you back in a few months.”
      I have a long track record of paying him back huge sums of money.
      But then he called his bank and told them I stole his credit card and have been charging things on it for half a year.”
      Penelope goes on to explain that she realizes she was in an abusive relationship and needs to go see a social worker at a domestic abuse place. So while some of the things you stated are true, some are not such as “emotionally satisfying relationship”. Once Penelope moved away from the Farmer, some things became more clear to her.
      As for Penelope’s definition of support, I think she can make the distinction between monetary and emotional. And I think she values emotional support more than monetary support.

  17. Laura
    Laura says:

    As always this is thought provoking reading but I’d also appreciate this considered from the child’s perspective: their needs and welfare.

    For me being the child of someone who was not up to the task has been (and continues to be) difficult in a myriad of ways.

    Do not start a family merely because of your “timetable” and emotional needs.

    Maybe also reflect on what you realistically have to give to others.

  18. Maree Livermore
    Maree Livermore says:

    Problem for SAHMs is that is very easy to end up as someone’s Velveteen Rabbit. These days, even your kid’s. And then you’re grateful for that!

    Losing people frankly sucks.

  19. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny,
    Change comes and we accommodate it. You know this and you do it well.
    Chin up and work with it as you always do. Heck, there’s probably an opportunity hidden in it somewhere; why don’t you look for it.

    Peace,
    D

  20. Susan
    Susan says:

    “So I was really touched that G not only lets us talk, but he joins in. Every time. He’s always there on speaker phone.” i haven’t read all the comments yet, but does anyone else think this is weird? Hi Penelope!

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      It’s not weird, my husband and I constantly banter with friends via phone or in person. It’s fun and we are normally interested in the same topics (similar personalities). When there are several people with the same interests the conversations can be extremely engaging and you build on it quickly. I can imagine the fact she has found a guy that is on their wavelength is quite nice for the friendship as well, which is why I doubt the boundary issue will be much hassle (yes G will come first, but who cares, Matthew had to come first also…)…

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