Monday, November 2, 2015

What A Community Can’t Do

Last month, I made the painful decision to leave the Unitarian church that has been my spiritual home for seven years. It was over a philosophical difference that really snuck up on me, a lightning-strike realization that we (the church and I) weren’t on the same page. I try to see it the way it’s best to see dating deal-breakers, that saying no to what doesn’t work makes room for what does, but leaving was a huge loss. I’m struggling with a mix of shame, disappointment, and sadness that is very familiar to be because I seem to hit a wall of it at least every few years.

In her wonderful new book Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, and The Revolution Brené Brown says that in order to get out from under disappointment, you have to be brave and really examine the expectations for the situation. So I’ve really given a lot of thought to the conscious and unconscious expectations that keep leading me to be damagingly disappointed by groups, scenes, and communities.

1. A community can’t be a correction for a hurtful family. Just the way I’ve sometimes gone to doms for approval, I go to communities hoping that they can love me into realness, approve me into existence. There’s an underlying hope of “Now that   I’ve found/become/befriended ___________, I will finally be okay, will finally be welcomed into the world and find unconditional love. It’s sad to realize that I didn’t have that with my original family as a child, but I can’t expect healing and wholeness to come from anywhere but within.

2. A community can’t replace my own family, flawed though they may be. I live too far away from my family of origin and I don’t have a family to share a household with right now, and that leaves a hole that nothing can fill.

3. A community can’t fix rape culture, because rape culture is in all of us. It is always easier for groups to be angry at the person pointing out the problem than to face the problem itself. I’ll always have to speak up against it, but I’d love to learn to feel safe doing so.

4. A community can’t erase heartbreak. I’ve realized that, though there were other factors, I left the BDSM scene because I couldn’t process the rejections I’d experienced there. I tried to patch each loss with another person, (and the whole thing was an attempt to patch divorce grief) but the grief kept walking me down the same path. After three years, I’m to the point where I can see the loss for what it is, and I desperately want to stop sponging that pain onto other people. It’s hard not to try and numb the loss of Sweetie and the life we created together.

5. A community can’t stay the same forever, and it can’t change as I change. Just the way that, in dating, I have to walk away from a bad match instead of trying to torture the person into changing for you, I have to let go of situations that aren’t a good fit. It doesn’t mean that I have to fear or fight forever, just that I need to constantly let things come and go.

6. A community can’t replace love. I am sick of being single, but I still have some inner work (and a whole lot of book-editing!) to do before I’m ready to start a life with another person, but I have to look loneliness in the eye, to honor it. I have to realize how much I want my own family and stop trying to shoehorn other things into that space.

7. A community can’t come to my rescue. If I ignore my instincts and walk into something that doesn’t work, no principal, no dom, no friend can be expected to “save” me. I am a grown woman, and I want to train myself to hear and respect my inner voice so that I can stop reliving abandonment or having childlike expectations of “loyalty.” We’re all adults being ourselves, and it’s up to me to find out what actually works, and do it.

8. A community can’t define me, erase me, or absorb me. It can’t give me an identity, and any identity it DOES give will feel constraining. The only thing I know I am is me, and I have to find out a way to be solid within myself, so I can stop expecting others to create me.

This has been a harsh, lonely time. The double loss of J. and the church has made for a very sad couple of months. It’s hard to have faith in anything right now, so I’m just trying little things as they come along, letting joy and connection in whatever little windows they can find. I’m also still trying to find help with the walls and wounds I keep running into. I don’t like being back in this Groundhog’s Day of sadness, this most vexing part of the labyrinth, but I’m doing my best to learn as much as I can while I’m here. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

#TBT: The Mayor of Kittentown and Being Bi for Realsies

As I've mentioned a few times, I'm in the process of turning the first year of The Kitten Calendar into the first book of a memoir trilogy, and that means I've had to fill in parts that were missing from the story the first time around. As much as I STILL sometimes wish I could simplify everything by being a lesbian, it's important to remember what to took to get in the habit of being true to my penis-loving self.

I named him The Mayor of Kittentown because he was the first man I had PIV sex with in seventeen years, (oh, whoops, spoiler alert!) and also because he mentioned on our first date that he’d been named Mayor of White Castle by Four Square. I was attracted to his profile because he mentioned Mystery Science Theatre 3000, had long, silky-looking dark blonde hair, was taller than me, and had a son—I have such a thing for dads. I told him that I had fond \memories of snuggling up with my goth, indoorsy Nineties boyfriend and watching “Manos” The Hands of Fate. I didn’t hear back right away. (Meaning not within a week or so—this was before everybody had the app on their phone and the process sped up.)

It was almost my default emotion in those days to be frustrated. I was in a meeting of my (Unitarian) church group processing irritation at a party-kissing-related near miss when MKT finally texted. He asked if we could get together sometime and a warm feeling wrapped my shoulders like an afghan made of sex-hope.

I was working in the library at the time and my boss noticed that I was ready for a date. She said she’d noticed a glow ever since I started going after guys, like I was coming into myself. I wore more makeup than I usually do (red lipstick=confidence) a red top that showed off my cleavage a little, my cute red girl-about-town raincoat and fake-Chucks sneakers because I had to take the bus.

Ah, riding the 23 bus to dates—45 minutes of feeling pretty and hopeful and texting my various two-person support groups for courage. The night I went to meet MKT it was a miserable, gusty October night—bitter and rainy. I felt awful for the Occupiers as I walked past their encampment and hoped they were bundled up warm in their tents. I made a mental note to mention them to him as a way of gauging whether he was an asshole or not—if he was mean about them, he would be out.

We were meeting at the science museum to watch “Eight Legged Freaks” MST3K style. When I saw him across the cosplay-dotted lobby, he looked snuggly but shy. I was delighted to see that he really was taller than me—I’m 5’ 10” so that’s hard to find! He felt nice to sit next to while we waited for the movie to start. He was a tech-guy early adopter who brought an iPad on a date so we scrolled through his photos, which I deemed sufficiently soulful: leaves, water, an inexplicable pile of decaying stuffed animals by the river.

He didn’t even make fun of me when, after I visited the restroom, the belt of my raincoat was hanging down and had clearly dipped itself in the toilet—a rom-com moment if there ever was one.

We walked through downtown to a diner after, my lifelong favorite way to eat. When we passed Occupy, he told me had a Lego display on his desk (a few blocks away in the tallest building in the city) of Star Wars characters carrying signs like “These are not the spending cuts we’re looking for,” “Occupy Tatooine” and “Tax the Hutts.” Of all the things I’d imagined potential dates saying about Occupy, this was not one of them.

With both of us being all of the awkward, conversation over French silk pie was stilted, but there was this: Both of us has worked at Great Adventure in the summer of 1993. Because I was slackersome and didn’t try for one of the better jobs, I was on the cleanup crew, sweeping up trash and cigarette butts and charming male workers into cleaning up roller coaster barf. He worked on the Demon Drop, which is exactly what it sounds like. You go up really high and it drops you, and you scream with delight. The thing is, though, I’d had a crush on the operator of that ride—I’ve always had a thing for the glasses/ponytail combo, but especially in my grungetastic teen years.

With that little coincidence, he seemed like a good prospect, until, almost to the bus stop, he mentioned that he frequented the nearby nude beach. I saw absolutely nothing wrong withit, but I said “Oh, I’d be way too shy for that!”

“Oh, I have body issues too.”

“Um, why would you assume I have body issues?”

One of the major psychological and actual barriers to me dating men has always been my size.  I’m 5’ 10” and a size 20, so as one former boyfriend remarked, there is nothing little about me. In the context of my own little world I can feel powerful and goddesslike, but it’s hard to avoid feeling fat in the eyes of men—part of me assumed that a man could NEVER find me attractive, so I looked for evidence of that, and almost always found it. Until I didn’t.

In follow-up emails I mentioned his statement and he was horrified to know that’s how I took it, telling me he did in fact find me nice to look at. He was by far the most promising candidate yet, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and invited myself over to his house to watch MST3K.

It took a little bit of juggling, but we found a Friday evening that worked. I had another datelike thing that afternoon, a walk through the local state park with a nice librarian I’d met through friends. It was the perfect picture of a fall day, like an advertisement for being alive. We took the less-trodden trails and found Narnian bridges and falling down stone fences. There’s a fancy inn in the park and we had apple crisp and spiked cider. I didn’t feel a spark with the librarian but it put me just in the right frame of mind for my MKT date.

What scared me the most was driving there. Though Sweetie was agreeable and encouraging about it, I had this idea that I might crash her car on the way and thus become the official worst person ever. She was a terrible backseat driver so it was always hard to find confidence, but I think the driving fear was just a way of feeling anxiety over being disloyal. Even when you’re bi and sorely in need of a penis, it’s very hard to transition to playing outside the marriage.

His newly-trendy neighborhood was very parked up, but I found a spot (pretty far away, it turns out) that I could go frontways into—parallel parking has never been my favorite thing.

From outside, his rowhouse (which he owned!) looked impressively adult—two well--kept arbor vitae framed the door and the window had a lovely beveled glass design—not so different from what I imagine my Grandmom had in the olden-days version of this city.

When he came to the door, I handed him the cupcake-taker (he’d requested lemon) and surveyed my surroundings. Toy-collecting divorced guy can go in many directions, but for him it was a somewhat tasteful one. There were toys on the mantle—a Peewee Herman doll, Gypsy from MST3K. There were Legos that looked decidedly untoylike, as they’d been built into tiny but intricate architectural structures, including (and this was a major selling point in his favor) Fallingwater (which, as I Google it for capitalization check, I notice comes in a kit.) All of his dishes seemed to be plastic, which I thought was endearingly single dadlike.

He had a beige two-people-can-recline couch, how could we not recline. He selected Red Zone Cuba for our MST3K and we settled in to our marooned astronaut (I think the Joel episodes are the only real ones) and his wisecracking robot pals.

He was easier to warm up to when we were alone than when we were out in public, and I easily snuggled into his lap. Somehow, we two must awkward of people took off our glasses and went from snuggling to making out.

In all of the years (seventeen, all told) that I’d been almost exclusively with women, what I missed most was the decadent teenage sensation of dry-humping, the feeling of straddling someone and finding something there. When I gathered the courage to climb into his lap, that rush came back to me with a surge of joy. He was big and hard beneath me, but what felt even better than that was the vitality of him—his whole body was shot through with pure life, and he smelled like aliveness, too, sweet and clean and strong.

Though our pants stayed on that night, we surged into each other like a waterfall. He took off my shirt and ran his hands over my shiny red bra, pet then gently over my back and through my hair. I wanted his hands in me, wanted more, and there was this completely new feeling of being of being utterly in charge and utterly at home.

But I wasn’t at home, and I never stopped being conscious of the digital clock next to the TV screen. I’d told Sweetie I’d be home around 11, and I counted the hours left in my head the way you do when you can’t sleep. When it was close to time to go, I had a few sips of soda so I would be alert for the drive home.

He grumbled about how far away I’d parked in a way that made me question his chivalry a little, but he walked me there nonetheless. We kissed goodbye and I drove home in a dizzy haze, changed.

After that, MKT and I fell into a routine. With my school stuff and his family obligations, we found time for each other every couple of weeks. I’d park far away, we’d watch part of a bad movie, catch up in kind of a cursory way, and then make out. The night we watched my favorite one, “Manos” Hands of Fate, found me splayed on the couch with his hands inside my favorite pink lacy underpants. The moon was big that night and when it was time for me to go, we couldn’t stop making out at the car, just like that couple at the beginning of the movie.

Ravenous though we both were, he was patient. He knew I hadn’t had PIV sex (or what most of the world simply calls “sex”) since a little after my twenty-first birthday in 1995. It that I’d been abstaining or anything,  I’d just been single for most of my twenties and then met Sweetie, been perfectly satisfied for a few years, then spent a handful of years being dissatisfied but not doing too much about it. I liked the idea of the kind and gentle MKT being my first-in-a-long-time.

Our relationship was somewhere on the friends with benefits spectrum, but I adored his penis. After three years of research and much, um, reflection I’m ready to pronounce it the best one. It’s difficult to believe that someone who’s walking around with something that amazing could be so meek and unassuming—kind of seems like a miracle! He was magnificent: long, thick, cheerily pink and perpetually hard. He apologized that his antidepressants made it difficult for him to climax, but that meant so many hours of good, hard enthusiasm.

The night I planned to go all the way with him (such an old timey term, I know) I was meeting him to see the new Muppet Movie—the one with Amy Adams and my imaginary boyfriend Jason Segel. Because I’d be taking the big step of staying over, I left the car for Sweetie and took the bus all the way across town. It was early December but not too cold so I could wear my red coat again, but with a teal beret and mittens. They were the kind the kind with flap and the the button on the back so that they were both mittens and gloves.

I was excited to see both MKT and the Muppets, but I felt a little bit off. There was someone else on my mind, someone you’ll meet in the next chapter, someone more Domlike, the appraising look he would give me if he saw me dolled up. I liked MKT and he liked me back in a way that (because I am the worst) Made me just a little less turned on by him. He was nudist at heart, wouldn’t care about the lipstick or the pretty shoes I walked 9 blocks from the bus stop in.

MKT did, in fact care about the lipstick. He had a little girls-are-icky moment of worry that is would get on him as we kissed hello. The other guy had no such compunction—our relationship was pretty much based on his ability to demolish lipstick.

Nonetheless, MKT was the perfect person to watch the Muppets with (re-watch, actually—I’d seen it with my family on Thanksgiving) and as we bussed over to his neighborhood, he wove his hands into my mitten/gloved ones. Because of his deadly shyness, there was always something excruciating about being in public with him, but he was fundamentally sweet and I was fundamentally ready for him.

He was radiant with health and life. Even though it was time for his Lego Christmas village to be up and running, he still shined with beach light—every bright smile I would learn to smile naked on a beach was in there and I still can’t think of a more welcome guest, a more welcome friend.

I’d been ravenous for a penis inside me for many years, but I’d also wondered if it was a forbidden fruit situation—did I only want it because I couldn’t have it? Would I get a man inside me and discover I was a true blue lesbian after all? I half hoped for that, it sure would have uncomplicated things.

But as he slipped the condom on and pushed inside me, I felt a great heave of relief and happiness. Joy came out of my lungs in great gasping wails. I loved it so much. I paused my caterwauling long enough to ask if the neighbors would mind, and he said he didn’t care.

We didn’t get to snuggle in the morning, because he had a Lego convention to get to. To catch the train on time, we had to be out of the house by 8:45. I had a having-a-hard time feeling of being claustrophobic in my own skin, but also the sanguine feeling of having an inner suntan. Every memory of him feels a little beachy, even if we never made it to the beach together. There’s rosy cheeks and sand in my hair when I think of him.

We were a little early for the train, so we stopped at Dunkin Donut to get breakfast. As I ate I prattled a way about poly and sex and Sweetie and he started to look worriedly around like he didn’t want anyone to overhear.

“Are you…ashamed of me?” Vexingly, tears came and I lost all semblance of friend-with-benefits-playing-it cool-ness, if I’d had any to begin with.

“What? No! I’m just not used to people talking about this stuff.”

I sniffled and felt myself sink inward, away from him. I spread cream cheese on my bagel and stared down at the table while he reached for my hand.

“I’m not ashamed.”

“Because if you are…” I set my jaw and tried to be brave, but I was sad to be so close to a dealbreaker, sad about everything, ashamed myself. I’d trusted him, it has felt so good, but what if he was someone who couldn’t like me for what I was? I mean, I already knew we weren’t long term, because of the whole he’s-not-poly thing, but I also knew that I wanted something darker, deeper, more permanent. I wanted to be spanked and dominated and owned, but most of all, I wanted the crazy, cracked romance I already felt for another character.

MKT walked me to the train and made sure I was really okay—my warmed-up body felt opposite to my heavy heart, and what I wanted most was to go home and get into bed with Sweetie. It was a long trip from his side of the city to the bus that would take me back home. I felt wistful for all three of the people on my mind and cheered myself by texting updates to my friends. This morning was both an accomplishment and an ending, both a triumph and a betrayal, but I covered the complication with bravado.

When I finally got home and got in bed with Sweetie, she tried to embrace me but I felt her body stiffen and then sigh into sadness. With tears in her voice she said “You smell…different.”

In the rush to get MKT off to the convention, I hadn’t showered. The smell I wanted to keep with me and mull over was hurting the person I loved most. I said I was sorry.

“Nono, I don’t want to make you feel dirty, like you HAVE to shower, it’s just…”

The wind went out of my sails and I felt so trapped and frustrated. It had felt so good. the shirt he’d lent me, a bit of tech conference swag that said “Heck yeah!” on the front was expressing how part of me felt, how all of me wanted to feel. Here in my own bed, I was so far away from the joyous shouts of the night before. I was a tangle of warring sensations as I lay there and dozed with Sweetie.

Overtaking it all was the unassailable physical well-being that went all the way to my core—if it had had a voice, it would have sounded like this: “I’m bi! I’m bi! I’m bi! I’m really DOING this, can you believe it?”

My limbs were soft and warm and my belly felt full, full in a way I’d craved for so long—it wasn’t that I’d been empty without him, but I was empty without that part of me finding expression.

Then there was the guilt—as much as I wanted to love what I was, to find a way to fully inhabit myself and really bi up a storm, it was heartbreaking to know that I’d hurt her, that this was one in a series of so many disloyalties. I’d already hurt her so much by not being gay, and I would hurt her so much more (and only sometimes in a fun way.) It would be years before our relationship would be at peace, and even then only after monumental changes.

And then there was the loss. I loved my life with Sweetie so much, it was so full of snuggles and birdwatching and Sundays in bed, and I knew what I’d done, what I’d admitted I WAS would change our relationship forever.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Between my condom struggle with J, newly-admitted motherhood wishes, #StandWithPP, and Catholicism smothering the infrastructure of major cities the way it sometime smothers the infrastructure of my heart, I realized this little almost-a-character from my teen years needed some love. My teen pregnancy-scare story sheds a strangely warm light on my current adventures.

The summer before my senior year of high school, my mom and siblings went away for a week to visit my grandparents, leaving me to fend for myself. My Best Friend, who lived a block away, came over every day and we drank what seemed like the entire liquor cabinet on the first day. My parents weren’t drinkers, so we did the ‘ol top off the bottles with water trick with little worry of being found out. I have very vivid memories of heaving up vodka and pink lemonade into the bathtub and then walking over to the diner for fries. We invited every male person we could think of over and played risqué-but-not-too-risqué Truth or Dare. I remember one of them chivalrously picking me up and carrying me across some gravel, apropos of nothing.

It was the year after the Bad Thing happened. I’d stopped being quite as slutty as I had been and purported to only have sex for love. Sometime in that week of shenanigans, Best Friend decided to introduce me to Dave. He was in a Misfits cover band, or maybe it was Danzig. It was the Nineties. She called him up, passed me the phone, and within ten minutes, he was telling me that he loved me, which I (think I) knew was insane, but the words had their desired affect. (I would repeat this mistake and lose a Twitter handle making the same mistake as an adult. *sheepish.*)

He was a teen version Bill, stocky and handsome, dark-haired and snarly. On the first day, we had angry, vocal sex with the windows open. Sometimes, when I was having sex back then, it was a simple “Fuck you.” to the world. Sometimes it still is.

The next day, after the sex, we went for a walk in the cemetery, the Catholic one that had all of the angel statuary and was therefore my favorite place to pose people moodily in front of for black and white photos. We took the bus to the mall and bought a tape, The Dead Milkmen’s Bucky Fellini.

But on the third day, it was off. He treated me like I was ugly and big, he called me by my first grade nickname, which had the word “barbarian” in it. I couldn’t make him see me or want me, and after that day, he was gone.

I desperately wanted him to be not gone. I looked for his parents’ pickup truck (a red one with one of those cover things on the back with windows) in every parking lot, hoping that I would run into Dave somewhere, that he would recognize me.

In a few weeks, I noticed that my period was late. (I haven’t always been the princess of safer sex that I am now, and I’m very grateful that the consequences were not worse.) Best Friend and I went down to the Birthright, the prolife clinic downtown, next to the little bakery where we sometimes got cinnamon donuts before school. It felt like a very grown up and important errand to be on.

I peed on a stick but never saw the stick. The nice Birthright lady, who in my memory is dressed all in pastels like a doll, just gave me the result: positive.

And I, almost-seventeen and pretty utterly lost in life, didn’t feel even a little bit of fear. Here’s what I felt: joy. The pressure of having my life ahead of me whooshed away and I knew what to do. Of course there was the silly teenage idea that I had made (literally made) a friend for life, someone who would love me and never leave, but there was also a real sense of calm and purpose. I didn’t have to worry what I was for anymore, because I only had to take care of this baby. I named her immediately: Daisy.

It’s seems bonkers now to think that no follow-up doctors appointments were made right away. There was no wait-until-third-trimester-to-tell-people rule back then either, I guess, because after I told my mom, she let me call up the aunts and tell them too. An amazing thing happened: For the first time in my short life, I felt valued and accepted. My mom was 100% on my side, and the wall of hatred that had lived between us for years temporarily came down. No one judged me or said I was bad, they just asked how they could help. My beach aunt gave me my (then) littlest cousin’s car seat.

That all of that happened without me even had a doctors appointment was complete madness, so I can be forgiven for calling the ambulance when my period came. (It warms my heart to think that my mom, who yelled at me for every single other thing, never gave me a hard time about that ambulance bill.) I called Dave, who had never picked up a phone after our third and last day together) from the hospital waiting room, grateful, if I’m honest, to have an excuse to call him, and left a message.

I wanted them to tell me it was okay, that I could still have Daisy, but what the doctors said was that the blood test proved that I had never been pregnant at all. There had either been a false positive or the lady at Birthright had tricked me as some kind of abstinence lesson. I always assumed it was the latter, but I just Googled the organization and it seems pretty not-evil, so most likely, it was an honest mistake. My main advice-giving aunt said to tell people I’d lost the baby, since technically that was true even though I’d only lost the idea of her. I do still love and miss her, even though she turned out to have been an imaginary friend.

That was twenty-five years ago and the closest I’ve ever come to pregnancy. The situation makes really no sense, but I have to take seriously the way motherhood settled over me like a magic blanket of hope and purpose. Though it’s unfair that only motherhood could unlock my family that way, I can still feel that time as an oasis of acceptance and love in those ugly and violent years.

I want to acknowledge that even as I rail against the coercions and injustices that come from the patriarchy, from the institution of motherhood, the actual spiritual fact of motherhood is in me. I felt it in those few teenage weeks, a white light lantern in my soul that I knew would guide me through it, to shiny and wonderful parts of myself.  It wasn’t really loss or fear that made me bury that light. It was just life and other projects. But it sure was a lovely little light, and even if I’m not blessed with a miracle baby or stepchildren, I would love to look for big and little ways to shine it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Today's Award for Outdoor Orgasming Goes To...

Lately, I've been wrestling with and trying to declutter the amount of patriarchal organized religion nonsense that is still taking up space in my brain. One fantastic side-effect is that I'm feeling my witchy, bitchy nature-goddess side start to re-emerge. For a while now, I've had a very private outdoor spot all my own, and today, I deflowered it. This is a very good thing.

Friday, September 25, 2015

In Which I Realize I Am Really Lucky to Have Had My Adventure Years, Part Eight

After dinner, we took a walk in the woods, during which we fell into several more conversational rabbit holes of incompatibility. The first draft listed them, but it felt nitpicky and boring. I don’t want to be any more like his million-paragraph blog post about the girl at Coldstone Creamery who accidentally put nuts in his sundae than I already am. Plus, the shaky conversations didn’t stop us from falling back into bed, where the real crux of things happened.

J, in times when he could get beyond his self-doubt, felt like a present and thorough lover. It’s hard to discard the times when he took my hand and placed it on his heart afterwards, and there were times when I certainly (thought I) felt our whole beings being celebrated, where pleasure ran the show and overcame everything. But he also needed an incredible amount of praise, and that’s coming from me. Even when I was smiling and wailing and near-crying with pleasure, he constantly made this “Mmmm?” sound that I figured out meant “Am I doing a good job?” which I thought was already apparent. As I rolled though orgasm after, he asked over and over for confirmation that I’d arrived. He chimed on the phrase “my partner’s pleasure” to an almost Rain Man degree, but after a while it could feel like I wasn’t a partner at all, but a flushed and naked approval machine, a sweaty mirror. It was a kind-of-terrifying glimpse into what it must be like to fuck, well, myself.

Anyway, so after our walk we were back in bed, snuggling and making out and trying a few new things. He sat on top of me and put his dick between my happy boobs, played with my nipples, and, intermittently, my clit. I’d told him I like having guys come on my chest, and I loved having him up there, pinning me down, doing this good-kind-of-humiliating thing. I liked looking up at him the most, at his soft brown animal eyes, and I liked his hard dick in my hands and thrusting against me. He didn’t come, but I didn’t really think about that, just moved on to the next cuddly position, stroking him lazily while he petted my arm and kissed my forehead.

But then his entire energy just…froze. He got up to go downstairs a second, and when he came back up, he was almost like a ghost. He lay down rigidly next to me on the outside of the bed and said, in an impatient voice, “I feel like I’m doing you a disservice by not letting you do blow jobs.”

“What? No. I told you, I only want to do things that you feel enthusiastic about.”

“But you were disappointed that I didn’t come on you. I have trouble coming sometimes and (ex-wife) used to get mad about it.”

“But we were just playing. I thought we were just having fun together.” I’d known he was obsessed with my orgasms, but it hadn’t occurred to me that he was worried about his own.

“It’s just, I can’t do my favorite thing.” Meaning, in case you forgot FOR LIKE A SECOND, sex without a condom.

I just started to cry. “I was having so much fun, and you feel so good to me. I thought we were in this together, but somehow it’s not enough for you. We’re not on the same page.” I knew in that moment that just as he blamed his ex for their entire failed marriage, he’d ask me to shoulder the blame for anything that went wrong between is. It was what I predicted would happen when he went off on her after our flower date. I was that girl who couldn’t do anything right.

I felt so sad and hurt and little. I wish I could say I told him to put his pants on right then and go, but there were four torturous hours after that, trying to talk and fuck ourselves back into a connection. (Still with a condom, of course.) Though they were sad hours, I’m glad we tried everything, and I’m glad that we were the kind of honest you can be with someone who is no longer a prospect. When he told me he never wanted to get married again, I told him I could only be in a relationship that had hope. I admitted how lucky he was to have already had his children, how difficult and sad it can be to long for a family at this age.

Just before we finally admitted that he had to go, he lay there on the bed and sang the most awful Harry Chapin song (Pause to Google Harry Chapin and see if he’s still alive so that I might hope to someday punch him in the face…drat.) about a broken barfly and a fat, ugly waitress who decide to make their empty, broken lives better by settling for each other. I am both fascinated and livid that this is a thing that happened to me, but it really helped me to understand that he and I lived in such different worlds.

When I met him, my life was anything but empty—it was full (it is full) of poetry and friends and flowers and art. That’s more and more what it looks like, the further away from the bitterness and grief of divorce that I get, and I can hope that he’ll end up someday in a similarly more lavish landscape.

To him, sex narrowed down to such a tiny seconds-long pinpoint of pleasure, and it made me feel so grateful for all of the confident and generous lovers and players who showed up at my face with condoms and lube and gloves and everything they needed to help keep us safe, who took their penises’ ups and downs with adult aplomb and fucked my whole body with their whole bodies. I remembered Mr. Sweetheart, who tried to be my first anal at ten minutes to midnight at Nude Years Eve, couldn’t, and then spent the evening dancing and fucking and cuddling like the best and happiest of souls.

While lately I’d been dismissing this project as a source of pain and loss, that night as I tossed and turned and mourned J’s departure, I was filled with a bright, golden love for all of the characters who came to me with such generosity, care, and abandon. I knew I could no longer try to divorce myself from all I’ve learned, that painful as they sometimes were, my adventures made me strong and part of the world in a way that’s important to share.

I was proud, too, that I’d been willing to give him everything, to put on the special underpants and trust despite my misgivings and fear. Because I was having these epiphanies on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, I got curious about the holiday and in my cursory research, I read somewhere that this is a time when god is particularly accessible. I had the crazypants thought that the way I was feeling, with the special underpants and the flowers by the door and him still finding fault, might be the way a benevolent creator would feel sometimes about all humans. Not that I’m saying that I in particular AM god (though Spinoza sais there’s nothing that isn’t) (also I think everybody is) but that it might be helpful to look for the ways in which the universe welcomes us, lavishes us with gifts, the ways in which god is always wearing the special underpants for us. (It should be noted, also, that J. wore special underpants that night for me, too—they were silver boxers and I’m sorry I left then out of the story so far.)

So that’s how a guy with an upsetting fetish for not wearing condoms made me want to take down the deeper barriers that separate me from god, and myself, and others. It doesn’t make the heartbreak any less, but I could not be more grateful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In Which I Realize I Am Really Lucky to Have Had My Adventure Years, Part Seven

The night before J. was set to stay over at my place, I had one of the most optimistic shopping trips of my life. I really wanted to celebrate my slutty self and all that was joyful between us, what was beautiful in my dripping-wet desire for him. I got a matching fancy blue lace bra and underpants with delicate peach accents. Since I had a toothbrush at his house, I got him one for mine. Buying a 24-pack of condoms seemed so hopeful as to be hubristic. (I’ve since remembered that I’m happy to have them for my own use, too!) I overcame my mental block about buying lube. It felt like as soon as I made these purchases, he might disappear.

I got picnic fare for our Sunday breakfast: nice bread, cheese, chocolate, and pretty little red delicious apples. For some reason I had a twinge of fear about drinking with him, so I didn’t copy his (AWESOME) champagne-in-the-fridge move.

The morning of our date, I felt sunny and expansive. I had been squishily turned on since our picnic and was fully embracing my desire to pounce. He understood that he was to surrender his pants promptly at three. In preparation, I went down to the corner to the neighborhood co-op and got rainbow carnations for the table inside the door and little mum pots for the outside front and the terrace. All of my plants were thriving green and blooming, and the nasturtium seeds I’d bought at our garden date had grown into nice little sprouts. I cleaned and organized my girly apartment until it felt like a perfect welcome. You could certainly say I was trying to hard, but I might call it service. Or art!

I had my pink soft pajamas on over the sexy lingerie and I was full of my lovey-dovey self when he knocked on the door. I let him in, gave him a quick kiss, and asked, “Do you need anything? Are you hungry? Do you have to pee?” When he said no, I pushed him up the steps to my loft bedroom, shoved him down onto my princessy bed, straddled him, pinned his arms above his head, and kissed him hard. He pulled off my top and the lacy lingerie was summarily dismissed. There was an odd moment when he said “I didn’t bring condoms, so…” but I was way to rarin’ to go and stocked up on condoms to be all WTF about it. I opened one with what I hoped looked like confidence, slipped it on him, rubbed his big, hard cock until it was more than happy, and with a relieved exhale, pushed him inside.

He was the one who made me truly love being on top. I felt so at home there, so in control and competent. He sucked and played with my nipples for the longlong time I so enjoy, and when his hands were at my waist or on my back, they felt made for me. I keep saying magical, but those hands were. As we were turning over to switch positions, I asked him to stop and hold me a minute, I felt overwhelmed. I was out of breath and dizzy from emotion and release. After we breathed together for a while, he had me lay back, held my hair, and pushed in, and I looked up into his eyes and loved him. There’s no other way to say it.

We stayed in bed a long time, listening to my makeout playlist (YAAAY for having one again, it’s been since Steampunk Guy!) cuddling, staring into each other’s eyes, and fucking some more. At one point, when he was on top with my legs wrapped around his back, he hit the spot so precisely that I blurted out “If you were me right now, you’d believe in god.” and he said “No, the name’s J___.” and I laughed for like forty five minutes. It was one of the funniest, happiest, silliest moments of my life so far, but all of the laughing had the unintended effect of killing his hard-on, so we went back to cuddling and pillow talking. We decided to consider ourselves a couple, but I was still afraid to ask about the boyfriend word even though I was tired of referring to him as “the guy.”

Eventually we got our clothes on so that we could go to dinner. I was showing him my favorite neighborhood diner, so we decided I would drive. My little car was parked in a tight spot, I bumped the car behind me, and though I laughed and said “that’s why god made bumpers” I felt really stupid. I’m normally an okay driver (not the best, as we’ve established here…) but the dizziness of the day and his razor-sharp attention to my driving made me feel lost and discombobulated.

Sweetie was the world’s worst backseat driver, in the car and in life. Her protectiveness made her chime in over and over on what wasn’t safe and what I shouldn’t do. It took years for me to convince myself that I could drive on my own and to feel competent to drive others. Now I do, I even drive my niece and nephews to the comic shop when I visit them. I want to keep steering towards autonomy, so I have an inordinate amount of baggage about backseat driving. The night might have ended differently if he’d driven, but probably not.

Dinner was fine, lemon meringue pie for and appetizer and mostly pleasant sweet nothings of conversation. We made so many plans—for me to spend weekend-after-next at his house, to go back to the art museum sometime, and the beach before it got too cold for him (instead of Sweetie) to help me pick out an external CD drive. He was planning his next mix CD for me, now that he knew me better. It felt like we were kind of a snowball picking up relationship momentum, except a few little things, like this: He had a sandwich with SO MANY onions and refused a stick of gum after, giving the rest of the night a literal bad taste. Knowing how it turned out, I’m tempted to see that as evidence that he couldn’t really empathize with my side of things, but that seems like a stretch.

Next Time: Taking too long to say goodbye.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In Which I Realize I Am Really Lucky to Have Had My Adventure Years, Part Six

Before I do all of the analyzing and narrating, I want to stop and say I miss him. I liked him so much. He was soft and warm and sweet and strong, and he gave me so much pleasure and inspiration. Whatever else was true during those weeks, there was a deep happiness that rang in me like a bell.

After the pool afternoon, my smittenness with J. had both good and bad effects. First and foremost, I was dizzy with joy because A. He was driving an hour each way that Thursday to have a campus on the pretty, Hogwarts-like campus where I work and. B. Our next date was going to include him not only going to my Unitarian church with me, but bringing water from his pool to add to our beginning-of-season water ceremony.

The joy I felt at the idea of him joining me at church cannot be overstated—I kinda lost my mind. Having been married to an atheist all those years, I longed for a partner I could go to church with, and even though none of the women in my family attend church, I knew it was part of my big, almost-too-scary-to-wish-for dream. Granted, he was also an atheist (Unitarians have those) who refused to call it church, but that did nothing to dim my enthusiasm.

Last Christmas Eve, I was sitting in the pew with The Cute Church Couple (on our friendaversary!)  and their beautiful baby girl. I joked that I was saving a spot for my boyfriend, in case this was actually a Hallmark movie. Later, when church started to fill up, I started to move over, but the Cute Church Husband said “No. Save that spot.” I was touched at his belief in my not-that-crazy church boyfriend dream, and I still take a lot of comfort in that story.

The bad part was, though, the more I liked J, the more I thought women would be lining up any minute to care for him and the boys. I felt like I had to be more grateful, to spoil him more so he wouldn’t go away. (And that I had to be creative about that, since he purported to not like blow jobs…) I also felt (I can’t believe I’m saying this!) slightly guilty for insisting on condoms when he clearly disliked them so much. To quell my anxiety on the whole question of them, I offered to provide them for our next date, since I was hosting. I had him send me a picture of the package we’d gotten together, since he said they were okay.

Also, I felt a great deal of worry wrapped up in making him a picnic—he mentioned food and health several times and was quite a lot more fit than I am, so I started to have a little trouble with food. (Sample comment: Me: “I always have a treat after therapy, and you’re better than a macaroon.” He: “And healthier for you.”)  (Um, no.)  I made salads with chicken breast and brought little teeeeensy slices of birthday cake. I worried that he would end up controlling my eating, and also that I was too fat for someone as fit as he. He’d only mentioned it in tiny ways, but it grew a furrow of anxiety in my mind.

Nonetheless, when the work day of the picnic came, I felt like a romance millionaire. It was raining when I got in, so I parked in an off-to-the-side spot and cleared my backseat in case we had to have a car picnic. I spent the morning packing up boxes of books for returns and gazing dreamily out the windows at the rain and the starlings in the tall trees. I didn’t want him to see me behind a register, but we’ll get to why in a later post.

Sweetie/the boss even said I could take a long lunch and promised to be on her best ex-wife/best-friend behavior. That made me a little nostalgic for the poly days, and I wondered if seeing her there with me would make him bolt the way some of my other not-poly suitors had. I wished I was further along in the moving-on process, so I guess I’m working on that now for the next guy.

When he got to the store, it wasn’t raining but it was still wet. I suggested my backseat but he said no, he wanted to walk across campus and get his family picnic basket; he had a present in there for me. The present was this: a glow stick. From the line in my poem that accidentally said I wanted kids. And I wish I could say that I didn’t let myself wish what I wished, which was: That he would be the one. That he would change his not-wanting-more-kids mind someday and give those boys a baby sister. I have a name picked out, it arrived in my consciousness one evening over the summer, as if from nowhere.

“I asked for a glow stick and got one!” I exclaimed with glee, “Should’ve wished for a million dollars.” (That’s what Sweetie always says to me whenever synchronicity brings me surprisingly apt gifts.)

The campus has these red, green and yellow Adirondack chairs strewn around and we tried sitting in those under a pine tree, at first. I felt princessy and cared for as he napkined the rain off of our chairs. As we settled in, though, it started to rain harder, so we made for the porch of the most castle-like building on campus.

“We were too far apart in the chairs anyway.” I said.

“We’re too far apart even when we’re on top of each other, so…” So romantic, but also…not.

There happened to be a table with two chairs on the porch, and he wondered aloud whether we should sit on opposite side or together. Judge John Hodgman disapproves of sitting on the same side of the table, but Judge John Hodgman was not there.

Lunch chat was mostly pleasant and sweet. We took a lovey-dovey my-head-on-his shoulder selfie that makes my heart ache just think about it. We kissed and cuddled a campus-appropriate amount. The STI testing conversation that I had kind of skipped over last date had been hanging over my head, but it was without trouble except that he sounded kind of naïve. I mentioned the possibility of someday going on birth control, which is a huge deal for me. (Just, I’m a delicate machine. And the side effects sound scary. I wish I were more easygoing about it, but not yet.)

He set off alarm bells, though, when he offered some very creepy Svengali-like help to my creative coachees, about whom he knew virtually nothing. It made me wonder again what I might be getting manipulated into.

Still, the rain and magic won out. He said he wished we’d seen a rainbow, and I said we were the rainbow. The rain stopped exactly when I had to walk back to the store, take that, Mr. Atheist. (I don’t really think that’s what god is, but also I felt like god wanted us to cuddle.) On my commute home was download-This-Is-Water miserable, but glances at our selfie gave me almost as much comfort as the 90210 recap podcast that is currently my favorite.

Coming up: Special underpants, hello/goodbye.