Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Conference with Myself, Part Three: Hugging Heartbreak, Embracing Joy

“Even if you feel overcome with nihilistic thoughts, your body is still alive with an optimism of its own.  Join the thoughts of your body.” –Yoko Ono

            When I first started adventuring way back when, I decided to use cuddle parties as a benchmark for how far I’ve come in inhabiting my body and letting go of grief. The first one, way back in 2012, I spent crying over my struggling marriage and unexpressed bisexuality. The second one, I spent mostly on my own despite the puddle of people, enjoying all of the lovey vibes in a very surprising new self-contained way. This time, I dove all the way in, tapped into my body’s optimism as Yoko suggests, and was blessedly immersed in the easy, soft connections with and among my fellow lovey-dovey souls.

            Still, sadness did need to have its moment. As I lay curled up and relaxed in the afterglow of The Kind Ma’am’s sweet/hurty attention, the loss I’d been trying to deny for months crept in and I just ached for Mr. Makeout Music, for all of the November grief. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is to ask for help when I need it, I asked the Cuddle Facilitator to disentangle herself from a beautiful-looking embrace so we could talk for a minute. (I’m not a monster, it’s part of her role. But I still feel bad for interrupting snuggles!)

            I told her the story, the story my friends and I are all sick of, and she had an idea: “Let’s try this. I’m going to hold you, and you’re going to just feel it all. Feel it as deeply as you can, and then we’ll see if you’re ready to go back to playing.”

            So she put her arms around me, and as she held me, her heart against mine felt like MM’s heart, from those twice-a-day hugs that I missed so much. The connection I still felt to him was keen and wrenching and real, and I loved it so much. (I still do, though thankfully it feels much less claustrophobic/painful now.)

            I almost cried, but didn’t. I thanked her mistily and went back to the party, joining a cuddle pile with a few nice strangers who’d seemed fun during consent practice.

            I was blissed out and petting the hip of a nice woman from Colorado when (Hooray!) The Professor appeared above me and asked if he could join us. I was spooned in behind the nice woman, and he spooned in behind me, a friendly wall of warmth. I asked if he would pull my hair (or he asked me, I don’t remember) and he was such the perfect balance of gentle and forceful that I whooshed down into subspace, for the first real time in years. The weightless, beatific feeling of being relieved from control, turns out I’d missed it so much. I feel like I’m using the word “blessed” too many times in this story, but it keeps being necessary.

            I asked if I could turn over to face him, and the resulting embrace was one of the most comforting places I’ve ever been. I’m trying superhard not to get carried away here, of course he’s maybe just really good at hugging, but the way he fit with me had a teensy bit of destiny to it.

            At cuddle parties, you’re supposed to look for specific permission every step of the way, and for every request he made, I gave an emphatic “Yes!” especially the “May I kiss you?’ part—the Professor is really, really good at kissing. Just like with the hair pulling, soft and urgent, emphatic and sweet. There’s nothing like being really just thoroughly kissed.

            “Will you put your leg between mine?” He asked and oh yes, I just wanted to find a cuddle party loophole and just give him permission to do every. Single. Thing.

            “May I put my hand of your chest?” He asked, and that meant heart, not boob, and yesyes, it’s time to go ahead and believe in Energy, because this guy has ALL OF IT.

While I was lying there in The Professor’s arms, Mr. Shiny Eyes crawled over and asked for a kiss and I was happy to give it. The three of us chatted until it was time for The Professor to go have a late supper with The Kind Ma’am. I kissed him goodbye and settled into a new cuddle configuration with Mr. Shiny Eyes and the interesting strangers.

Next: More cuddles, more kisses, and saying goodbye lying down.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fuck This Sexist Piece of Kindhearted Advice

            Not the first part, that’s like my whole thing. The “let love find you” part.

Last week, I left the library where I worked with Mr. Makeout Music. There were a lot of good reasons for doing so (Work crushes can sometimes be a sign that I need to be doing something more absorbing.) but the main reason was that it was exhausting to keep pretending to be okay around him. I wasn’t. Now that I’ve got the time and space and naps to heal, the pain of him is almost gone.

            Because I couldn’t bring myself to walk past MM one more time, Sweetie went to clean out my desk for me, with Awesome Genderqueer Librarian’s help. In the bag with my collection of kid art and my desk socks was a lovely stack of “We miss you!” cards from kids and coworkers. It was very gratifying to still be valued there, after three sometimes-crying months of love-shame and election grief. The woman who wrote the above advice is one of my favorite humans in the universe, but it unleashed a stream of gleeful annoyance that I’m kind of excited to paragraph.

            It’s partly that she knew (Ugh, everybody knew.) that my leaving was even about heartbreak at all, but mostly it’s this—I’m mad at myself for spending three months crying about a guy who got scared of me because I made the first move. He has tried to frame it in other ways, but from where I’m sitting, he adored me until I took his hand.

            Of course he had the right to decline my advances for any reason, but I hated the way I felt around him after that—too big, too excited, too complicated, too much. About our weird somewhere-between-friendship-and-the other-thing situation, he kept saying “just let things develop organically” every time I had a question or needed a clarification, but I think what he meant was, let things develop on his terms.

            Even the way our flirtation started, with him visiting my department or my office when he could (He had keys to my office, but I certainly didn’t have keys to his.), with me waiting around with an open heart and what I hoped was a pretty face for him to come and be praised, it sometimes made me feel helpless and trapped, even when things were nice. In one of our fights, I said I wasn’t a web cam girl, just waiting around to approve of him. (He probably wished he hadn’t told me his porn preferences…) The way the building is designed, he could see me from almost any of his posts, and it felt really claustrophobic sometimes.
            The “let love come to you” (if you’re a woman) paradigm is part of what makes the traditional structures of dating unworkable to me. When I like someone, I really like him/her/them. When I want ANYTHING, I try very hard to be awesome at getting it. If I’m attracted to somebody, I tell them. I ask for what I want and see if it works for them. I’m not Sleeping fucking Beauty, I’m an adventuress on a quest. On a good day,  I’m a goddess, and men have been known to kneel down for me without my even having to command it. I have a dominant, honest, brave, ridiculous heart that knows what it wants and will always go after it.

            The passiveness of the “wait for love to find you” paradigm takes me to a dark place. It reminds me of necrophila. It reminds me of rohypnol. (When I just Googled that for spelling, the horrifying third choice was “rohypnols buy.”) It reminds me of back when there was MySpace and all of my guy friends liked girls whose profile pictures managed these slack, vacant expressions. I could never have made my face look uninhabited enough to resemble the ghost/zombie girls who were the style of the Mid-Zeroes. It reminds me of the time I was told that I smile a lot for a submissive.
            The boxed-in passiveness of the advice reminds me of Moana being told that everything she needed was on this one little island and that all she had to do to be happy was reject the song of her own soul. (Did anyone else see her and her many new islands as a polyamory tale? Maybe it was just me.) Like Moana, I am an explorer, a leader, a navigator. I won’t sit in a box and wait to be clicked on, and I hope to never tunnel-vision myself into any more narrow little islands of gendered constraint.

Like many of my rants, this is really a culmination of an argument with myself. Since my brokeny teenage years, I’ve always “known” in my heart that I’m not passive enough to be loved by a man, that I could never be compliant or compromising enough for a straight cis male. That idea is offensive to one and all, but it didn’t come from nowhere. I would love for it to go away.

When I look at it objectively, I see that Mr. Makeout Music was a rare exception. I am surrounded, past and present, by men who have enjoyed being sought out, pursued, and pounced upon. Far from being a turnoff, my literal and figurative bigness and enthusiasm have drawn the best, most adventurous, most oomph-filled men to me. Some of them have even stuck around.

Though I’ll always appreciate the way that he woke up my body and heart, I think Mr. Makeout Music mostly served to show me what I don’t want—I never want to try and make myself smaller or less in hopes that someone with a narrower scope might see me. I never want to be stuck on an island again.

            I know that romantic love isn’t something that can be to-do-listed into existence, but I WILL have agency. I will not sit in a box and wait. I will not listen to the fears and the family/social pressures that kept me away from the water. I aim to untie myself from the hetero/mononormative shore and learn to sail. My heart knows the way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Conference with Myself, Part Two: Mr. Shiny Eyes! Cuddle Practice! Hair Pulling!

Before I float back into all the awesomeness, I should backtrack a little bit to say that Mr. Shiny Eyes was one of the guy pals I reached out to after my New Years resolution to remember how to have guy friends. In the thick of divorce grief a couple of years ago, I’d broken things off with him for no good reason, and I was superworried that I’d hurt him—and I had. I’m sad to say that I haven’t always been fully conscious of the fact that I can affect men’s feelings, and I was glad I asked him about it. We had a really nice call a few weeks before the conference, so it only took us a few minutes of being in the same building to get in kiss/cuddle/flirt mode that day. A day where I kiss three worthy men is a good one.
Also, I can’t overstate how much of a difference my extra introvert time made. It had been such a long time since I’d felt like I was on a magical adventure with my cute, slutty self—this was a reunion within a reunion.
Anyway, back to being excited/nervous/fluttery to meet up with The Professor at the Cuddle Party. I got into my PJs and nice warm socks and brought pillows and blankets downstairs to the party room. I was one of the first to arrive, so I made a little nest within the bigger nest of pillows and blankets and I stretched and breathed. The Cuddle Facilitator stamped my hand with a red heart that meant I could come and go as needed.
When The Professor showed up with The Kind Ma’am, I felt surprisingly shy for someone who’d spent the day raising my hand emphatically like a smutty Hermione in the workshops and smooching old and new pals. It was both like a first date and not a like first date at all. If all first dates involved wearing soft pants, (and like an hour of consent practice) the world would truly be a magical place.
Once The Professor was in his plaid flannel pajama pants, he sat down between me and The Kind Ma’am, his arms around both of us. They talked and I snuggled up against his shoulder, feeling the warmth that radiated from him all over. And who should sit down next to me on the other side but Mr. Shiny Eyes! Without much preamble, we started making out gleefully, and I got to feel the glow of being between two beautiful men, of being in a chain, no, a net of soft, snuggly vibes and comfy touch. The perfect mix of kissing and friendship, safety and adventure.
For technical stuff about Cuddle Parties this is a good post:  but basically the first loooooong time of the party was consent practice, practicing asking specifically for what we wanted and saying and getting nos and yesses. (Not doing the things yet, just the asking and answering.) We even had to say no to things that we really, really wanted and yes to things we hated—that way you can really feel what a no or a yes feels like in the body, the Cuddle Facilitator said, and I think it was true. I LOVE consent practice and often wish the world were more Cuddle Party-esque.
When the cuddles finally started in earnest, The Professor was occupied in a sort of two-person-seeming snuggle so I sat down on one of the chairs at the side of the room, breathed and waited to see what would happen next. I felt hesitant, but warm and hopeful. I was so pleased when The Kind Ma’am sat down next to me and asked “Can I put my arm around you?” Yes! I felt protected and friended, taken under her wing. I wondered aloud if she might be willing to pull my hair and guess what! She said yes!
Having been spinstering it for a couple of years, I hadn’t been too sure where I stood with my kinks, though I suspected they were still there. With her, it was as if no time had passed since my last adventures, like I always have been and always will be getting my hair pulled, forever and ever, amen. When she grabbed the hair near the nape of my neck, I let out a fairly un-Cuddle-Party-like groan/purr/wail. I tried really hard (and fairly unsuccessfully) not to disrupt the proceedings with my caterwauling, but no one seemed to mind.
I wound up sitting at her feet, feeling little and adored and silly. She arranged my hair into pigtails, played, pulled, and (after I asked very nicely) called me “Good girl.” Swoon. The Kind Ma’am was perfect and careful and sweet, but I got a little overwhelmed from the burgeoning energy of the room and the new/old/hurty/lovely sensations, so I thanked her and said I needed a little time. I curled up on my own for a bit, letting the relief and happiness and complicated homecoming emotions swirl around me and within me.

Next: Cuddling heartbreak a little, cuddling joy A LOT.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mini-Update: Yay, Mr. Sweetface!

It's gonna take me a (very happy) million years to finish the Big Poly Conference, but in the meantime, I just wanted to tell you Mr. Sweetface is back in the picture. We broke things off for really no good reason way back when, so when I ran into him over the holidays I got his number. It took us until last Saturday to find time to play and I'm soooooo glad we gave it another go. I'll do details later, but here are the important things:

1. It was the first time we played without switching, and I really, really liked staying the top all the way through. My head has been filled with sunshine since.
2. It never occurred to me before that I could order somebody to put ropes on me.
3. I really, really enjoy being called "Ma'am."
4. Yay!

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Conference with Myself: Part One

After all the heartache of the election and Mr. Makeout Music, I decided that my poly self needed to be as spoiled as possible, so I decided to make the Big Poly Conference into a mini-vacation. For the first time ever, I had my own room, and I planned to alternate learning and socializing with swimming and lounging around by myself. I stocked my mini-fridge with good sandwich stuff and strawberries and brought a Valentine heart of chocolate and Amy Schumer’s memoir. I packed two bathing suits, new pajamas, and cute underpants.

After the various fuckups of my past poly adventures, I was a little nervous about all the reuniting, but before the keynote address even started, The Recurring Character sat down next to me and said “Welcome back!” so I thought it might be okay.

Per Fireguy’s instructions, I was more there to make friends and reconnect with my poly self than to flirt, but I glanced around the assembly to see if anyone caught my fancy, and someone did. He wasn’t even in the room yet, he was still out in the hall getting checked in, and I thought “Jeez I hope he likes girls.” He was tall, broad and looked authoritative and also like he might know everyone there. As tends to be my preference these days, he was African American. I basically had to have him.

I found him after the talk. (Which was about diversity and inclusiveness but was given by a skinny, straight, able, cis white woman.) (Whom I adore, but come on…) He was standing around with a mutual friend, everyone trading stories about their respective Woman’s Marches. I found an excuse to high-five him (I love high-fiving so much.) and we struck up a conversation. Like the third thing he said to me was “Do you hug?” After months of feeling like I was Entirely Too Much around Mr. Makeout Music, that question was a balm, and yes, of course I hug, and this was one of my favorite hugs of all time.

It’s these moments when I want to start talking about that Energy thing that I don’t quite believe in but always that I seem to be able to feel. Wrapped up in his big strong arms, I forgot all the sadness and heartbreak, all of the trying to be less than I am. I felt accepted and I felt blessed. I was going to need to keep hugging him. I learned that he’d just finished his doctorate so I’ve decided to call him The Professor.

The next time I saw him, I was headed out after a somewhat-harrowing workshop on intersectionality. The Professor had his arms around a tall, cuddly, prettily-intimidating woman, but he reached out and pulled me into their hug. It felt like what life is supposed to be like, warm and beautiful and bi.

After Kind Ma’am went off to talk with some other people, The Professor sat down and I snuggled into his lap. I made apologetic noises to one of the women from the workshop (my whole strategy as an activist and an ally is to always be ready to apologize) and he said all kinds of encouraging, comforting things that my heart had been waiting broken-white-lady decades to hear. In no universe was it his job to take care of me in those feelings, but he did, and it was wildly generous.

            We exchanged phone numbers, emails, mailing addresses. I wrote mine on one of the many Pok√©mon Valentines I’d brought for just such a purpose. We kissed lightly and sweetly and hugged goodbye and I walked into the next workshop with a happy dance and an “I got a GOOD phone number!”

Instead of meeting anyone for dinner, I had a little introvert party--went swimming on my own and then ate dinner in bed, listening to the Bunhead Bros podcast. (It’s by the same guys who did all those three-to-five-hour Gilmore Girls recaps, can’t get enough. Okay I did get enough during the revival, but still.)

Joy of joys, The Professor texted and asked what I was doing with my evening, and we agreed to meet up at the Cuddle Party. I was very glad I’d brought cute soft new purple flower pajamas. I COULD NOT WAIT to get cuddled.