Sunday, 18 May 2014

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

As we've recently celebrated some historic achievements for the LGBT movement, freedom to marry in Arkansas and the first openly gay football player was drafted into the NFL, it's hard to believe that Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) was signed into law twenty years ago. DADT was considered an accomplishment at the time. Although it represented a compromise, gay men and women could continue their service in the military with some protection from prosecution, just as long as they concealed that part of their identity. Objections to DADT eventually emerged as it became clear that this doctrine essentially amounted to the old separate-but-equal provisions and discrimination still ensued. In 2010, DADT was repealed, which was a signifiant triumph for LGBT rights, and made me feel a bit old, as I could remember the time when DADT was seemed to represent progress. Nonetheless, I'm willing to engage in a little nostalgia as I feel so proud to be living in a time that is is advancing toward acceptance.

Meanwhile... after a particularly upsetting phone call with Myrtle after the transfer of our promised embryo delivered a new chapter of disappointment, I was starting to consider that I needed to repurpose our friendship. However, I had no idea what that would be or how I would accomplish it. Many of my followers have suggested talking to her, but I had no idea what to say. It was time to start brainstorming. Hi, can you try not being such a huge bitch? came up in my first draft. Do you realise that you're being rather insensitive? was my next attempt, but I had to admit that was probably sounded a bit condescending on my part. I know you mean well, but sometimes you don't come across as being sympathetic to our situation... Maybe that would work. I failed to return two calls from her while I searched for the best choice of words.

Even though I am an atheist and don't recognise the Easter holiday, both my mother and Myrtle feel obligated to ring me on that day. I knew that I couldn't keep avoiding Myrtle forever. I also had some misgivings that this may not be the best time to reconnect since I was coming off the final BFN that put the nail in the coffin of our first IVF cycle. Fuck it. Maybe it would be best for her to see me in my raw emotional state, if I snapped, so be it! I picked up my phone and pressed the call button. Her voice mail greeting answered.

Hi Myrtle, it's Jane. It's after 5 your time, so I hope you're home from your mother-in-law's place and are enjoying a long overdue glass of wine. We just did brunch with my aunt, I'm sure your heard from my mother that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. So... we got more disappointing news of the fertility front. You know... same shit, different day...If you want to talk about anything else, I'll be home for the rest of the evening. 

Myrtle phoned back about 10 minutes later after she fixed little Myrtle's dinner. She was compliant with my request and we chatted about everything else from work frustrations to our husband's annoying habits. I remembered why we're still friends after all these years, and after spending the weekend with sporadic crying fits, it felt good to be laughing for a change. It was what I needed from a friend at that moment.

Yes, I swept everything under the rug. Very good Jane, you'll be an excellent role model of conflict resolution for your child if you ever have one! Yet, you know what? It worked. Okay part of my cowardliness was also from her anticipated reaction. I thought she might whine about how hard it is for her. How she doesn't know what to say to me. How frustrating it is for her as she may feel that she can't talk to me about her experiences as a mother. I'm not denying that these impositions are real for her, but I really didn't want to acknowledge them at that time. Thus, it was preferred to become the proverbial ostrich with her head in the sand.  Don't ask; don't tell.

I had another pleasant and enjoyable conversation with Myrtle on Mother's Day. Once again, a little part of me hoped that she would reach out and acknowledge that this day is a bit hard for me. However, if I am to enjoy the benefits of DADT, I must appreciate that there are some sacrifices involved. It's as if were back in 1994, although this time without the bad hair styles and emergence of grunge music. For now, don't ask, don't tell represents progress. There will be a time in the future for it's repeal.


  1. My best friend and I went through a rough patch about 10 years ago and I complained about her bitterly. Everything she did annoyed me, but we never had a big blow up, we never even talked about it--time just went on and whatever bothered me didn't bother me as much and I realized how important she was to me and that the friendship, for all its flaws, was worth it. Maybe Myrtle is just worth it. And while I'm not a fan of DADT (although I too remember when it was considered progress), I also think there's nothing wrong with not talking about IF all the time, because you're right. Sometimes it's nice just to laugh and talk and be friends.

  2. I think I've struck a Don't Ask, Don't Tell infertility policy in my life. People used to ask all the time about our plan for children. No one does anymore, even though we've never said we're infertile to anyone. Maybe our circle of friends is now smart enough to realize that it's none of their business. Or they assume that since we've been married for four years, if we wanted to have children we'd have them. Or if we wanted to tell people our plans we would. No one asks, we don't tell. For us, it seems to be decent progress from people asking and us lying.

  3. I've sort of evolved into DADT with some. Yesterday, a friend and her family went out to dinner with us. She never asked about our recent IVF fail, but in the end, I thought it was for the best. Like when I was a kid, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. (Or, you don't know what to say...or will say the wrong thing...etc.) Besides, I often ask for distractions, so this works too. Good for you, Jane. You navigated your way into a compromise.

  4. I think most people feel very comfortable with DADT (when they are not the ones struggling). At least with the people I know, they like to avoid talking about sad/uncomfortable things after the initial "Oh, I'm sorry." Although they are typically much better at talking ABOUT you rather that TO you.
    I think DADT is manageable if you have at least one person (outside your marriage) to confide in who sort of gets it, AND if your situation doesn't stay the same forever. It's too bad Myrtle can't be one of the friends you confide in.

  5. I've sort of struck this balance with my best friend now too. For a long time she was my infertility confidante, but after a while I could sense that she didn't know what to say anymore. Now that she is 8 months pregnant we pretty much never talk my IF issues. It's sad to lose her as the person I could talk to about *almost* everything, but over time things evolve and you make a choice to change with things or move on, I guess. I'm glad you still have Myrtle as a good friend, despite her misgivings in dealing with your infertility.

  6. I guess sometimes DADT is a good thing, if it means that you can talk with Myrtle and remind yourself why you're friends as opposed to getting upset by something whenever you guys chat. I definitely think there are friends you can tell everything to, and some you can't. It just sucks when you think someone is in one category, only to find out they've moved to another.

  7. I'm so glad that you have been having conversations with Myrtle lately that you can just enjoy each other's company on the phone. Sometimes we do have to get away from conversations about IF.

  8. I'm late to the scene, but I first want to say I'm sorry about your mom's diagnosis and about the bfn. Both suck.

    I am glad however, that for the time being, you have a little peace with Myrtle and you've been able to have some good conversations and even laugh a bit. I haven't been too impressed with Myrtle, but I know she can't be all that bad or she wouldn't be your friend in the first place. Hopefully this DADT will last a bit between you, and you can have a little of your friend back.

  9. The DADT is so appropriate when dealing with infertility. That pretty much sums up a lot of some of my friendships. I too struggle to address issues with specific friends. It is hard to figure out how to deal with them. I hope that Myrtle can maybe become a better support to you in the future.