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.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

In Which I Realize I Am Really Lucky to Have Had My Adventure Years: Part Five

On the night after the long date, I slept a deep, sad sleep and dreamed that I was on the island from Lost, but there was a huge old city at the center of the island with lots of art to explore. I went into the biggest museum chamber and found the shadow of a statue of Perseus. This seemed especially important since our flower date was during the Perseid meteor showers, which were also a part of my shared traditions with Sweetie. I decided it meant that it was time, past time, really, for me to slay my own monsters.

After I wrote out that dream and its various implications that Monday morning, I found myself deeply grateful to J and wanting to, if possible, leave behind the fears that were getting in the way of enjoying this messy, complicated, beautiful man and the fun we had to offer each other. So I did the most me thing possible: I sent him a thank-you note, for my early birthday dinner and all of the ways he made me feel good. That day as I went about my bookstore routines and filled in Sweetie (not in too much detail) on the weekend’s events, a little flower of happiness bloomed in my nether regions and in my heart. I decided it was okay to just go ahead and like him.

The next day, I got something in the mail back, an early birthday present he’d clearly sent the second he had my address: a blue canary night light for the birdhouse in my soul, for the song we’d sung together in the garden that night. I hadn’t had such a romantic gesture from a man in the past two decades, if ever. I shrieked and danced around and nearly swooned from touched-ness. I put on Flood and belted out the whole thing and got caught up on the dishes, even fantasized about him maybe wanting to be the only bee in his bonnet. I decided right then and there to let go of all the things that stop me from not being an Argonaut-murdering lighthouse. The little bird was too bright to sleep with him on (I was having horny insomnia and bad headaches.) but I kept him by my bedside.

After a day or so I simmered down and realized that although it really was a lovely present, I couldn’t be sure about what it meant. J. was having a vacation week with the kids and therefore (?) wasn’t as frequently in touch and I started to feel vulnerable, to wonder if maybe I’d been letting my imagination run away with me too much.

The following weekend was our nondate weekend (apparently he was unaware of the concept of babysitters) but I was craving closeness so I proposed that we sext that Friday night. He was hemming and hawing, leaving it up in the air and being not sure if he had time, and my heart fell. I braved up and said: “I’m not an afterthought, not someone to be fit in to the margins of your life.” I admitted that what I was really after was connection, rather than just sex(t). I am so proud of myself for saying that, and I think that admission alone proves that I’ve come a long way since being Steampunk Guy’s “Thing that Happens Sometimes,” his number ten or eleven or whatever I was. Go me for miles and miles of progress.

I asked for a call instead of sexting and that’s what we did—as soon as he got the kids to bed, he called and I knew I had to say all of the things. I told him I didn’t have time to like someone who didn’t like me back, and he assured me that he did. He told me he couldn’t believe that someone as perfect for him existed and if he had, he would have gotten up the courage to divorce sooner. Right now, that sounds like me being rebound girl, but at the time, it convinced me that we were on the same page, that this really was a thing. It’s hard to go back through this story and think that he didn’t like me back; I may have to accept that he did.

That phone call was WONDERFUL, I loved it so much. We stayed up talking about all different things, about his kids and their adventures that week, about my birthday plans (He’d convinced me to invite my church friends to do a birthday brunch, even though I’d been shy to ask since I’d missed the regular brunch the week before. He did push me to do some very good things.) all the things we might hope to do together. I gently told him that babysitters should maybe be a thing, and he said he did want to see me more often and would look for ways. He offered phone sex near the end but I liked the just talking so much that I said no. Just like I used to do during long-distance snuggles with Mr. Sweetheart, I doodled the whole time we were talking and sent him the drawing afterward.

And I felt brazen enough to send my favorite emoji

Which he diplomatically ignored.

We did sext on my birthday night  (after Sweetie had gone home from having cake, Chinese food, and Bob’s Burgers episodes) and it was a really good one. He was an excellent sexter, I’m sure that his erotic novels have their merit! It ended romantically, with us writing about listening to each other’s heartbeats.

“Is my heart doing a better job of telling you how I feel than I can?” He asked, and I still don’t know what that meant, but I know that I liked it. It just turned my insides to mush—I was officially bonkers about him.

Monday, when I was at the beach saying goodbye to summer with my cousins and aunts, he sent me a picture of the boys, on a picnic by a pond. What family-oriented girl could stay cool with something as adorable as that in her phone? I’m only human.

On the Tuesday after my birthday, in the interest of slaying my own monsters, I met with a potential new therapist. When I finished the Big Therapy Project, a lot was left undone. there was another memory that needed attention, a trickier, more childlike version of me who needed some love. I put off working on that for all kinds of reasons, mostly being too tired from teaching to think of anything else. Eventually, though she stuck around long enough to help me quit the school district, my old therapist moved away and sent me a list of referrals that sat in my inbox for four months, until J. became the incentive/trigger that made me realize I needed help. If it works, I’ll be forever grateful to him. Probably I’ll be forever grateful to him anyway.

The therapist’s office building was next to a Tiffany’s and across the street from a pastry shop, which I considered to be a very good sign. I liked her immediately and she gave me a lot of hope for healing. We both are people who like to geek out on happiness and wellness, and the bossiness of her seemed like it could propel me off the Lost island, when I was done exploring, of course. The best part, though, was that instead of wanting to go home and crawl into bed after therapy, I wanted to go jump in the pool and make out in the sunshine with J. I knew he was still off from work so I called and asked, and he said yes, with the caution that I‘d have to be gone before the kids got home from school.

That afternoon, though so short that we had to set a timer, was absolutely magical.  The sun was hot and bright and the sky was blue and we played in the pool like kids, like people who had no baggage, no fear. He kept swimming under me, lifting me up, and kissing me, and I felt so happy and peaceful and swoony and whole in his arms. He looked so handsome, healthy, and virile in the sun, and I felt like a goddess. I pushed him to the edge of the pool, grabbed the wall, and pinned him there in the most delicious, picture-postcard of a kiss. Right then, those bodies were in love, I don’t see a way around it.

When it was time to go, it almost seemed like he wanted me to accidentally meet the kids. His older son had recently stated unequivocally that he didn’t want J. dating, but J. was slowly trying to warm him up to the idea, an effort I found encouraging. When it had somehow gotten to be ten after three, I ran out to my car and was getting in quick but he insisted on saying a proper kissy goodbye. It felt like he was proud of me, like he wanted to rip the band-aid off and make me part of his life, and though it was certainly too soon for that, I took it to heart.

Writing that afternoon makes it so difficult to not to call him, to try and find a way. I know there isn’t a way, but still. The sunny optimism of that hour and a half in the pool, the unabashed connection, was real and I just love it so much.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

In Which I Realize I Am Really Lucky to Have Had My Adventure Years: Part Four

Back during my divorce summer, when I swam away from Sweetie and came to the realization that what I really wanted was a husband, what I wanted more than anything was a man to play with me in the waves. Wherein Sweetie was grumpy at the prospect of fighting the surf, I wanted someone strong and vital who would change into the water the way I did. I had a vision of being picked up and carried and kissed in the water. This night came so close to that picture that no wonder I ended up diving into him.

When we got back from dinner, it was dark and a huge orange moon was rising over the pretty/samey houses on view from his back yard. He’d told me many times that I didn’t need a bathing suit, but I’m still in my privacy phase. I wore my pretty blue one printed with hydrangeas. I am at my heaviest right now so I felt a lot of worry that he wouldn’t be attracted to me anymore when he saw my thighs.  We sat at the edge of the pool with our feet in the water on the little swim-out seat.

He said, “I think you’re scared of what’s gonna happen after this.”

“After the pool?”

“I’m scared too. I’m out of practice.”

“Me too, high five!” I may be more shy in some ways, but at least I’m still a high-fiver. “What I’m really scared of are the bonding chemicals that are gonna come afterwards. Because science.”

He didn’t seem to object to the bonding chemicals. Honestly, every step of the way, I was sure that he liked me. I still kind of am, though that doesn’t explain how things turned out. When I stepped into the pool, I put my foot down weird, so that the edge of the seat smashed me between my toes. My middle toe hurt so badly that I wondered if it was broken. Nonetheless, I jumped the rest of the way into the deep end, a little conscious of the nondainty splash I probably made.

After a few minutes of watching me swim (I loveloveloved when he watched me swim. I love the satisfied way he admired me—it’s been a long time since I’ve been looked at like that.) he jumped in too and it was like something I’d already lived, like I was fitting into one of my life’s puzzle pieces. The water was cold and it was a breezy evening, but the shivers came from somewhere down deeper. He held me and kissed me gently until I said “I’m torn between being really turned on and really cold, do you want to go in?”

I borrowed his shower to rinse off the chlorine and he lent me his scratchy grey robe. I wished I had nice warm pajamas to change into, but instead, I had nice warm him.

It hurts to remember how right our bodies felt (one of my poets wrote in a poem once that bodies are the easiest ways to fit), how well he kissed me, the softness of his skin, the scratchiness of his beard, the strength of his arms. More than anything, I loved remembering how sometimes sex just runs itself, how at first we knew what to do with each other like it was destiny, and in its own way, it was. I’ve never been more ready to have someone inside me, never this sure that what I was doing was real. I felt free to look in his face, in his eyes, and saw only kindness there. The barriers I’ve almost always felt to connecting with men were not there. It felt solid and sweet.

There were hardness issues at first, which he explained by saying that he had trouble with condoms, that he wasn’t used to them. It seemed bonkers to be talking about not-condoms at this (or any) stage of things and I felt a little surge of impatience. I was kind of like “Well, welcome to my world” but sympathized/rationalized that maybe he was just missing married sex. It tugged at my heart strings but at the same time I was (in my head) like dude, just grow up.

The hardness issues worked themselves out in good time, he lost all tentativeness and hard and long and perfect—that feeling that’s so delicious that I can’t even deal with how much I want it, how much I miss it. He pulled my hair and pinned me down and went deeper and I looked up at him and saw someone who was mine, not somebody else’s boyfriend whom I’d have to turn in at the end of the night like in the poly days. In that teensy spate of time, he belonged to me, there was nothing and no one else, and the inside of me was (just for right then) sated and quiet.

This happened a few more times until we ran out of condoms, at which point he mentioned again that what he really liked going without. He said that, although he didn’t like blow jobs (You guys! Was I really willing to give up blow jobs for someone? Yes, I was.) (Also, did he really not like them or just want a bargaining chip? Gross line of thought.) he might “Let me try it,” but I said no thanks, there were plenty of things he was enthusiastic about for me to do. (This turned out to be perfectly not the case in the end, but we’re still several posts away.) Because he kept perseverating about the no-condom thing after I’d said no a couple of times, I told him I was scared of him again. I asked him about his fantasy of being sleep-ravished, he wouldn’t do that to me, would he? “Not if you don’t want me to,” he said,

“Because then I wouldn’t be able to say yes…” I honestly wasn’t sure he saw the problem.

I slept badly. He snored and my body was so far beyond awake. Although he’d brought me an ice pack for my toe, it was throbbing. If it had been up to me, we’d have stayed up fucking and snuggling and chatting all night. I tossed and turned and apologized for tossing and turning. I got him to turn off the radio and all of the devices that beeped at random intervals.

I had maybe two hours of sleep and was awakened at six AM by an alert-in-every-way J. listing off the things we could do about being out of condoms. “We can not have any more sex today, we can go without, or we can go to the drugstore and get more condoms. Are you coming with me?”

All I wanted was to be asleep and I had this creepy obligated feeling-- he was treating his morning wood like a contract I’d already signed, possibly in my sleep. And I was PISSED that he mentioned going without again. I was beyond trying for patience and snapped “Not unless you want BABIES,” knowing he didn’t. Now I can’t help but wonder—did he not know how this thing works? How could he be married with kids and still seem like he skipped seventh grade health class?

“Just because I said it doesn’t mean it’s a real option. I honestly don’t think not having more sex is an option either.”

I jumped out of bed, found his robe, and ran down the steps. “Help me find my glasses, I need to get out of here now.”

“Wait, what? So you’re not going to my U.U. fellowship with me?” (Oh for Christ’s sake, just fucking call it church!)

“I’m not going anywhere with someone who says I have no fucking choice.”

I was too tired and upset to drive home so I lay down on his couch in the scratchy robe and cried. His golden-eyed black cat came over to see me, rubbed his ears against my hand. J. didn’t even bring me a blanket until I sniveled for one. He went out to get me some coffee and I simmered down.

When he got back, we talked and somehow made it back to cuddle mode. I had to give him credit for staying calm and weathering the triggers—I still couldn’t be sure if it was him or my baggage causing them, probably a combination of both. We went and got condoms, a picnic breakfast, and a toothbrush for me so I could make myself more comfy. We fucked through the morning and then dragged ourselves out of bed to go jump in the pool. It was a sunny, dazed feeling of fear, judgment, and bliss.

I wanted to accept him, to embrace him without fear, to honor his (sometimes) generosity and the eagerness of his gorgeous penis, but I couldn’t stop finding reasons to be afraid.

Next time: My heart opens and I let him in.

Friday, September 18, 2015

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

That week, while my creative coaching client was collaging through her blocks, I made this. Both a staircase and a trapped butterfly, seems about right.

It should be said, friends, that my almost-year-and-a-half dry spell was a literal dry spell as well—I’ve always been the squishiest, but there was a while when I was so dry that I thought I might be starting menopause. I could just have stocked up on lube, but the idea of always having to was something I wasn’t ready to face, so I got by on spit and determination. From the moment I met J, the dry spell was over. I came home with soaked underpants every time, wetter than in all my adventures. It felt like a reunion, like a second chance at being alive, to be coursing with so much life, to be opening up like a flower. That’s why, no matter how it ended up, I’m glad I let my hoo-ha make the decisions for a while—that part of me (literally and figuratively) has been neglected for so long, I’m glad I didn’t begrudge myself a perilous treat.

When I met him, I was in a delicate but thriving state. It was the first time in my adult life that I could say I was truly happy to be single. I was teaching poetry in my pretty apartment, spending lots of time with my friends and at church, and starting to have faith about where I was going. However, back in February I had to resign from the school district due to acute stress disorder, and I’m still pretty jumpy and prone to panics about once a month. The fact that J. was triggering space issues seemed like it was partly due to my own recent and distant past, but typing the story to you makes it seem less likely that that was so. I am still brokeny, but I think I was scared of him because he was (unintentionally, I’m almost sure) scary—sometimes it’s not that deep.

Anyway, the day after our beautiful but ill-ended flower date, he sent a text apologizing and citing grief. I conceded that not everyone can be besties with their exes the way I (somewhat unhealthily) am with Sweetie. (Currently she and I work at the same three-employee store, she’s my boss, and we spend about an hour each morning processing my feelings about various things. All this with a person I once jumped out of a car to get away from. I know.) I told him to give me some time,  that I’d have to do some soul-searching, so we went to radio silence and a love poem proceeded to pour out of me in a way that hadn’t happened in a long time. I felt jangled but fired up. I made art all day that day.

(When I second-drafted the poem with my friends in poetry class, I noticed that it accidentally implied that I wanted to have babies, including feeling the vibration of his Apple watch as “Another little heartbeat.” and, seeing the children in the flower garden wearing glow bracelets, responding with “I want one” meaning but not really meaning the glow bracelets. I hid it pretty well before I posted it, but still, I was like, nicely done, subconscious! Got it.)

Anyway, maybe latent baby-wishes were what inspired me to give him a chance, or his prowess at planning dates, or the cuteness of his texting style. (It was the first time I’ve dated with emoji involved, and I can’t overstate the adorableness of a good morning sunflower rainbow kissy face…) Maybe (probably) it was just plain lust and curiosity. That Sunday, I took a beach trip by myself, to clear my head and make the right decision, and I knew (I always know things best in the ocean, even if it is with a bathing suit on these days.) that if I let him go, I would always wonder if there could have been something real between us. Also I have to admit there was the stupid “What if this is my last chance?” feeling that comes from being socialized to think of myself as ancient at almost-forty-one.

When he asked me a couple days before the date what I was in the mood for, I very brazenly and honestly said red meat. He sent me a couple of menus for fancy places I could dress up for, with very grown-up prices, and I thought, “Is this what regular dating women get all the time? I should start expecting more from life.” That was the central lesson of him, and I hope I can see it through.

The day before our third date, I had an enormous panic attack. The first week of classes is pretty much the only busy time our college bookstore job is stressful, just because of all the extroversion and sometimes-getting-trapped-behind-the-register it requires. The one rude kid on our super-adorable campus found me and I found myself with a pounding headache, unable to work or get myself home. A kind coworker brought me to the campus infirmary, where the nice nurse asked me why I had neither a therapist nor meds. Reasonable question. I got some good rest before the date, but I carried a residue of fear under my pretty black polka-dot dress. (Hello again, red satin heels!)

As I followed my GPS to the suburbs, everything started to look familiar, especially when I turned onto J’s block. Remember way back whenSteampunk Guy pulled over on a quiet suburban street for car sex? THIS RANDOM OKC GUY’S HOUSE WAS THE HOUSE WE PULLED OVER IN FRONT OF. J was one of the nice people I was trying not to wake with my sex yowls three summers ago. I didn’t know if that was a good sign or a bad one, but I’ve never been more sure that my love life is a labyrinth. So where had I returned to?

I can’t overstate my delight at being properly dated, to be out in the world being shown off in a fancy outfit, being treated like someone who’s someone instead of a dance card afterthought. I ate rare filet mignon and felt like an animal, like a sexy lion, like a woman who’s thoroughly alive. He ordered a good pinot with the inauspicious name “Writer’s Block” but I seem to be overflowing with paragraphs nonetheless.

The conversation turned again to his writing, which was a tricky subject. He’d told me before that he wrote erotic novels, and I (somewhat hypocritically) was scared to read them—I had a feeling we wouldn’t be able to go on if I read his stories, and probably I was right. He confirmed that “Well, let’s just say it’s not all consensual.” I didn’t ask him who in the stories was not consenting to what, only told him I was now A. Scared and B. Too tipsy to flee.

“But sometimes someone just needs a little…push…”

Okay, so this blog wouldn’t exist if that weren’t a little bit true, but I didn’t like hearing it from him. “That’s not up to you. It’s not up to you to decide what someone else needs.”

He rightly pointed out that he’d written it, not done it, but still, I felt so let down and sad. “I just want there to be one guy, one guy, who wants a real person next to him in bed.” Yes, there have been plenty, but I was having tunnel vision, heavy with the burden of trying to keep myself not-raped. In the do-over version, this is where I have the waitress split the check, wait around a bit to sober up, and grouse about it to my friends at brunch the next day. But as he paid the bill, the conversation simmered back to happy somehow and I admitted that what I wanted most in the world was just to tear. Him. Apart. I was getting in that pool, and no stupid thing he said was going to stop me.

Next time: Big moon, hot sex, more stupid things.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

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

The more we walked through the fountains and gardens and woods lit in hypnotizing and artful ways, the more playful we became. He dared me to push him up against a tree and I giggled at first and then shoved him with all my strength. He exhaled sharply, pulled my arms up so they were around his shoulders, and gave me a kiss that made me feel as if I was flying and falling at once.

We made out on many benches in that garden, but the last and best was on an unlit path behind the trees where a lightshow of birds taking flight was being projected. (I have to be awesome at life to have lived that sentence.)

He kept trying to feel me up, even though I pushed his hands away over and over—we may have been in a secluded spot, but it was still a family park. I may have been ridiculously, dizzily turned on, but I still wanted respect. I told him about wanting to be valued for my whole self, and he said, don’t you notice me enjoying every inch of you? Charming and clueless at once.

We wrestled a little, and he caught my wrists behind my back with one hand, bent me forward by the hair with the other hand, and had his rough way with my nipples though my pretty satin floral dress. I let out a groan and a “Huh!”—it was spot-on and not-okay at once. After just a moment, a deep “Stop.” came up from my belly and he let me gather myself. “Good boy,” I said, and patted him on the head.

As we walked out of the woods, chemistry-drunk and holding hands, the lights, the music, the flowers, it all became too much. I couldn’t take any more sensations. I was hungry and in need of coffee, so we got directions to a nearby diner and I agreed to follow him.

I put on The National’s High Violet and was prepared for more dreaminess, but also was headachey and having trouble concentrating. We got lost on the way to the diner and I ended up following him down dark country roads. The sky was full of stars and it was the week of the Perseid Meteor Shower, and I hoped to see one, but didn’t. We did see some leaping deer. We were lost for a long while, a good forty-five minutes. My headache got worse and I had the sensation that I was following someone who did not know where he was going. I found out later it was a while before he even checked his GPS—why didn’t I check mine?

When we made it to the main road, the only thing we could find open was a Hooters. I had the thought that if we ever became a thing, this would be a funny part of the story of how we got together. I am utterly amazed by my brain’s ability to hope, to let romance bloom, and I hope that doesn’t change.

I ordered cake as an appetizer and he had Key Lime pie. We fed each other and I drank weak coffee and we both felt sad that the waitress felt compelled to address us in a baby voice.

He asked me out for a fortnight from then (He has the kids every other weekend and had apparently not yet discovered the existence of babysitters…) and I agreed that that should be when I come to his house and jump in his pool. And then, alas, we got onto the subject of our exes. His divorce was fresher than mine and he talked about her in such a demeaning way. He told me she was depressed and I immediately suspected that he had made her that way. He even called her “dense.” I said, “I don’t like this. You can’t talk about her this way.” I kind of accused him of gaslighting her, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t wrong.

We left the restaurant and sat in my car to talk. “I really like you, but you’re scaring me.” I said, and he kept talking, about money and housework and the ins and outs of insurance. I’m not a small talk person so I do tend to learn all kinds of things about people, but I laid down the law and said this was by no means second-date talk. I said that I could just see her, trying so hard to please him and never getting it right, I said I could see the same thing happening to me and I never wanted to be in that position again. We kissed gently and hugged for a long time. I was horrified and put off but I also didn’t want to let go. He was very hard to let go of.

He got in his car and we headed toward our respective homes. There was no reason for me to follow him anymore. I turned Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” the way up, sped up in as tough a way as a Yaris can manage, and passed him. I was pretty sure that was it.

Next time: And yet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In Which I Realize How Lucky I Am to Have Had My Adventure Years: Part One

Well, friends, after a quiet and mostly happy-to-be-single year, I recently dipped my toe back into the treacherous waters of sexy times, and though I didn’t find a lasting connection, what I did find couldn’t be more illuminating.

Back in June, I got a crush on one of my coworkers at the college bookstore where I was part-timing. He talked to me about music. He recommended Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” and I found it excellent to type to. After all that time of not getting ridiculous over anybody, I could not stop flirting with him as we alphabetized the textbooks that got bought back at the end of the semester. Then I realized he was 23 and I could reasonably be his mom, so I went back to OKC to hit on guys my own age.

The one I found was tall and dorky-cute and of course beardy, and was especially attractive to me because he’s Unitarian and I have this dream of going to church with a boyfriend someday. On TOP of that, he’s a single dad (nothing hotter) with a SWIMMING POOL in his back yard. I’m too heartachey to make up a nickname, so I’ll just call him J.

He sent me his blog address before our first date and I found some red-flaggy things on there (Like a MILLION paragraphs about how the Cold Stone Creamery once accidentally put nuts in his sundae.) but thought it was best to give him a chance and get to know him in person. I’m so glad I did.

Rather than doing the supersensible thing and just meeting for gelato on our first date, he asked me out for the art museum AND dinner AND a movie—Trainwreck, which I’d been superexcited to see. He! Brought Me! A Mix CD! On! A! First! Date! A little heavy on the ethereal-voiced women, but still. After about an hour in the museum, I felt so powerfully drawn to him that I wanted to push him against the wall right there in the Dadaists.

He was the first guy to take me to see a rom-com on a date, and that was a snugglesome experience. We ended up making out by the river while a wedding down the way provided the cheesiest of accompaniment: “Aaaal of me, aaaaal of you.” It was beautiful and dreamy, but he was one of those guys who steals second base, and I kind of let him. I found myself in the back of his car in the art museum parking lot with my panties down before I remembered I mostly prefer privacy these days. We talked about our fantasies and his were a couple of more red flags: erotic hypnosis and being taken advantage of in his sleep. Not really boding well on the enthusiastic consent front, but that isn’t where this story is going.

Our second date was even more of a romance-bomb: A night time light show in a fancy flower garden. We kissed under a tree and I felt like I was one of the Impressionist paintings from our first date. As we walked down a magically-lit garden path, he sang “All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here, in my arms…” As we approached a woodsy treehouse structure, we sang together: “Blue canary in the alley by the light switch, who watches over you…”  So what hope did I have of making rational decisions?

Next time: BDSM in the Flowers, Bitterness and Cake