Brought up by goats

I was brought up by goats, if photos of my early childhood are to be believed. There were also some parents with hair down to their hips who worked their way through most of the community farms and communes of the south of England, before settling down on the rolling hills in the heart of Hardy country.

I went to local state schools and did pretty well academically (until A levels); was generally seen as a bright, sensitive, quiet child, with an artistic and musical bent. As I got older I became more shy and shunned the lime-light. I played a leading stage roll when I was about 10, but after that preferred doing backstage (I only badly stumbled my lines once, but it still haunts me). I’ve been accepted by some as an honourary girl (or possibly ‘lesbian trapped in a man’s body’); was far more likely to be quietly talking/playing with them than running around with boys (who were into football and boring things like that). This may all sound too good to be true for husband material. However, there are some bloke-ish characteristics I annoy May with.

So that’s a synopsis, but to get to the interesting stuff let’s rewind a bit… when dinosaurs roamed the planet [too far – Ed]… my parents married as I was starting to make my presence obvious. The family legend is that they worked in the veg garden in the morning, put the bread to rise and wandered over to the registry office for the necessaries, baked the bread, finished the gardening and then drove up to posh grand-parents in London without even bothering to change or dress up at any point. Unfortunately, said posh grand-parents had arranged a surprise grand wedding reception, so my parents had to be smuggled in through the basement, so they could go and smarten up.

This casual, laissez-faire attitude is one of the first of the traits I have inherited and think worthy of further discussion/confession (although, rest assured, I did make more of an effort for our wedding :)). Generally it serves us well; I can be cool under pressure, take things as they come/go with the flow, etc. However, there seem to be a few downsides to this, mainly:

Appearing to not really care about things
I find it very difficult to maintain a concentrated interest/effort in things. This manifests itself in a couple of main ways:

  1. Not following things through
    On the trivial level this means I’ll probably never get really good at hobbies, such as photography/music as I won’t put in the 10,000 hours in a constructive and useful way. On the less trivial end this leads to major relationship rows, as it doesn’t come naturally to me to ‘do my homework’ and think about my thoughts/feelings to be able to explain my odd or annoying behaviour to May.
  2. Flattened affect
    I don’t ever/very rarely really get enthusiastic about things. For example, May loves Spring and will bask in the glory of buds, colours returning, sights and smells – talking with great energy and a spring in her step. I… don’t: “It’s Spring; it’s OK I suppose” “I like the colours of Autumn too”. I secretly admire May, but cannot muster similar feelings.

This also allies with an area Womb For Improvement asked specifically about – handling of miscarriage/bad news. I would like to think of myself as strong and supportive, although counselling and a few rows have snapped me out of this self-delusion. In reality it’s a *sigh*, *pause*, OK moving onwards… I’ll just put these strange emotional feelings that I don’t know how to handle or react to in this little box over here… Oh, yes May would probably like a hug… What can I do to fix something/anything… What laundry needs doing…?

Now, overall I think of this as my rational side – May hates me thinking this, as to her it consequently leads to me making/displaying some very irrational decisions/behaviours. For example May would ask me if I was upset after a miscarriage and I would quite calmly answer ‘not really’. Partly this is because I do/can not feel directly physically connected to the event – how could I by the very fact I wasn’t the one who was pregnant; the embryo was just a bunch of cells, not even a child – I didn’t see its face or feel its kick or corporeal presence. The other part is a lack of empathy and awareness of emotional responses.

My inability to properly recognise and deal with emotions is also probably another post (and it’s only relatively recently I’ve acknowledged them at all). But leaving that aside, I guess the let’s not get too bogged down in this, life happens, life goes on take that comes across as a ‘no use crying over spilt milk’ attitude that can (I now realise) seem at best slightly cold and uncaring, and at worst cruel and abandoning from an external perspective. I’m a sulker, rather than a wallower, so I will get taciturn (also unhelpful I’ve found out the hard way) and just try to keep myself occupied to work through the sulk and avoid the emotional distress… bit like goats really.


17 responses to “Brought up by goats

  • BigP's Heather

    hmmm Good food for thought.

    I see what you’re saying. It is just odd to me because I’m a VERY emotional being…nice to see the other side. I think BigP is quite like you in this fashion.

  • a

    The question for me is, are you really unemotional or are you just really good at suppressing reactions? Because, as half of a pair of very experienced suppressers, I can tell you that these things pop up in very unusual ways completely unrelated to the actual event.

    I’m fairly certain that all the men (and several women) I’ve ever met were raised by goats for at least some portion of their life. 🙂

    • May

      From my point of view, a has hit the nail thunk on the noggin. H will be all calm and emotionless about a piece of Miserable Woebollockydreariness as it is happening, and make tea with the demeanor of a WWII nurse on Citalopram. Then, even months later, he will do something even he agrees is bizarre and unlike him (irritably avoiding me during my period, for example, when usually (bless the man) he’s solicitous and cuddly when I’m feeling unwell). Eventually we’ll work out the Woebollockydreariness is upsetting him (ie, re: periods, a couple of my miscarriages were excrutiatingly painful and he had to call an ambulance as I lay weeping and screaming on the bathroom floor. And my periods are nearly as bad sometimes, and it gives him a sort of PTSD). And I’ll be all ‘see? SEE? Emotions! Better NOT boxed and left to fester! See!’ and H’ll be all ‘but I didn’t know I HAD that emotion, did I?’ He’s such a good supresser he doesn’t even know he’s supressed anything until it ferments and starts smelling weird. And as you can see, he’s still quite convinced he doesn’t really have emotions. *throws up hands, stomps off to drink tea H has made her*

    • H

      Well, May has answered this one for me really. I used to believe I was ‘unemotional’ now I understand (well almost) that I suppress. It’s a strange, dramatic about turn on a fundamental tenet of self image and has taken time to come to terms with – much to May’s frustration, I think.

  • Melissia

    I have to agree with May, H. I am married to an engineer and he has the hardiest time with naming his emotions. He use to yell at the children if they fell down and were injured “see, I told you you were. going to get hurt doing that” as he scooped them up and hugged them. I had to teach him that being scared was the emotion he was feeling and that it was not okay to yell at the children. ( He grew up in a yelling family)
    He no longer yells but still has difficulty with identifying his emotions and will often deny that he feels anything, but he is very sensitive and feels very deeply, as I am sure you do. I think that this is often a way to protect yourself when you are so vulnerable, especially as a child, you learn not to feel anything at all. However, it does not work as well for us when we become adults. At least it didn’t for my husband. So he did some therapy and it really helped us with our ability to communicate.

  • Womb For Improvement

    I feel like congratulating you for being so honest, and really scrutinising your own feelings and opening yourself up to scrutiny to us, the witches that inhabit May’s blog.

    (And btw your parents sound unconventionally cool.)

  • Amy P

    My lord, H, you’re a male me, as far as emotions. Except I tend to blow up a bit… (At myself, I hasten to add–generally, if there’s yelling and insults flying about, the insults are to me, by me.)

    • H

      Oh, I’m good at mostly suppressing my self-anger too (well, I like to kid myself about that anyway). I’ll try and address that in my emotion blog post.

      • Amy P

        We quite likely have different backgrounds, as far as the suppression-beginning (you having a Y chromosome is a difference, right there–the whole “Boys don’t cry” socialization thing comes to mind. I think I’ve gathered that you’re older than May and, thus, older than I (I’m 36)?) I *was* the neighborhood cry-baby 30ish years ago, then my younger half brother turned out to have been born with major brain damage (manganese poisoning–pre-frontal lobes atrophied, one detached) and negative emotional displays would send him into rather frightening destructive tantrums, so I learned to suppress until I could get somewhere private, then to suppress the more minor stuff completely. Of course, do *that* enough, and the positive emotions get damped down, too.

        Combine that with what was originally a coping method to deal with inlaw drama that got internalized (declaring that whatever was being argued over, that wasn’t decades old, was my fault so we could drop it, already!) makes me wonder sometimes what the folks just on the other side of the apartment walls are thinking when Tom and I have an especially loud discussion…

        • May

          *hug*. I know H supresses his emotions for similar reasons – when he was a kid, a family tragedy/crisis meant having negative emotions became very scary and worrying, so he learnt to squash the buggers. And, hah, it took a while to excavate that from his subconscious too: ‘no, I don’t think the Family Tragic Crisis affected me at all, why?’

          And yes, he is older than me. By a whole, vast, aeonic six months. I’m afraid he’s still (just) younger than you, Amy! (Have been teasing H about his geriatric writing style all morning, but obviously it must have been something I wrote. Am curious as heck – how did I make H out to be older than me?)

          • H

            I was rather taking it as a compliment that I was coming across with wisdom and dignity, rather than geriatric! 😦

          • Amy P

            I was thinking by maybe 5-6 years! Heck, it couldn’t’ve been by much, with both parents having hip-long hair, and my being born 3 days after Christmas ’73… I think I may have seen a pic elsewhere, that may have been black-and-white, and interpreted light hair wrong. Or else I was wrong about who the person was. Or both. Can I remove my foot, now?

            And 6 months *is* older 😛 My dad was 3.5 weeks older than my mom, and *that* still counted.

          • Amy P

            Ooh, H was complaining that *May* was implying he’d been taken as geriatric… Guess I’m still nibbling my toes here.

  • Betty M

    I can empathise with the wanting to put difficult emotional stuff in a box. I’ve done the same on occasion too for eg I managed to get through the main bit of a miscarriage at a family gathering with no one bar the husband being any the wiser. Not really helpful for mental wellbeing I’d say. Do you also take a “stuff and nonsense all this emotional stuff is woefully self-indulgent” kind of approach?

    • H

      Possibly the “stuff and nonsense all this emotional stuff is woefully self-indulgent” is behind my suppression. However, I’m pretty sure I rarely judge others in that light (can’t say ‘never’, for fear of correction – I’m sure it’s cropped up once or twice).

  • Teuchter

    This is such an interesting post. I think Mr T may have been raised by a particularly stoical family of goats.

    I’m going to go and mull it over before responding further.

  • wombattwo

    I think my husband is very like you. In the compartmentalising of emotions etc, not in the raised by goats thing. He was raised by the very talkative and sometimes tactless in-laws, so I suspect his silence may be due to long years of not being able to get a word in edgeways…
    I also know that his overwhelming urge is to look after me, and to be strong for me, which is quite sweet, if somewhat infuriating at the time, when I think about it.
    I just find it quite sad that he, and you don’t feel so connected to the event of pregnancy/miscarriage – in that carrying a baby and losing that baby touches us and changes us so much. I can’t speak for others, but I loved my child from the moment I knew I was pregnant, despite the knowledge of how small that child was. I know for my husband she was more of a theoretical possibility, purely because of the fact that he wasn’t the one who was pregnant. I know this is always going to be the case due to the obvious male inability to bear children, and not that it’s not understandable, even normal. I just find it sad. (Hope that makes some sort of sense!)
    And from what I can tell, from May’s posts, you seem like a pretty well-adjusted and supportive husband to me.

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