On Sunday night I made all of my previous Between the Sheets posts private. ”My identity has been hijacked!” I thought in a moment of paranoia. These moments aren’t altogether uncommon for me. As a person who regularly tries to envision next season’s fashions (and then sees those visions walking down city streets and on billboards), who tries to predict the impact of an artistic project (and then feels the results), I regularly have highly intuitive moments that I haven’t been able to explain. My dad thinks I have “the gift,” something his mother had also. I think this gift is just the result of an active imagination that’s been allowed to run wild for the past few years. I temper it when necessary.
Every time I think about curbing my expression, something pops up to remind me to keep going. This time a reminder came in the form of a message from a friend I haven’t seen in at least two years. It read:
I was talking to K. yesterday about how you make us optimistic about the role of social media in relationships because we really love your fb posts and blog!
The posts are once again part of the public domain.
I experienced this moment of strangeness because for the past month or so I’ve been dating someone who’s words have increasingly felt like they’ve come from my head. I wondered if he’d read my blog, memorized my words and simply repeated them back to me. A definite possibility from what I’ve learned about his recitation skills. On the other hand, who has that much time? I hardly have to time to work, feed myself, sleep, and maintain one healthy romantic relationship.
Had I been duped by my own vanity? [Probably.] Had he charmed me by quietly observing and getting to know me and mirroring my wants and desires? It seems like it. And how am I supposed to continue being expressively honest if people are going to use it to deceive me into thinking they’re into me? Did we really have so many of the same dreams and interests (dreams and interests that I have most definitely detailed on this space but don’t openly talk about with many people) or had he just said the right things at the right time to get laid? I don’t actually want to know the answers to any of these questions, and figure that no harm was meant, but I did learn that it only takes the use of one M-word (monogamy) to scare off an indecisive, and possibly inauthentic, love interest. This is a great asset, and one I plan on using as frequently as possible to sort the curds from the turds.
All of this is an experiment for me. Life is an experiment. I’ve moved from wanting to have romantic experiences with no or little consideration of future outcomes, to actively wanting someone in my life who is interested in being with me exclusively, who is also curious about practices like devotion, growth, acceptance, joy, and pantries. Yes, I said it. Pantries.
I recently had pantry envy while attending a party at a friend of a friend’s house. My foodstuffs space in my current apartment is well stocked for what it is, but if an emergency hit I would be sustantance free in a week or so. This panty I saw was so expansive, and filled with enough food and alcohol to sustain a small clan for a number of weeks. I might be exaggerating. This pantry is just a metaphor for something else I’m looking for: abundance. Being an artist, living on meager wages and learning how to be happy with that has been formative, but I don’t think I’ll be able to sustain it for much longer. My desires are waking up in a big way, and to love myself I have to figure out ways to honor them.
One big desire I currently have is to find my soul mate. I say this with a certain amount of shame. In a big city like San Francisco, where people are constantly trying on all kinds of identities and experimenting with various relationship formats, it feels provincial to want monogamy and exclusivity, but I do. I’m not even sure I have time and resources for one romantic relationship. When you live like I do, and value what I value, even friendships can become both a source of financial strain and great anxiety. I desperately want to be able to support myself and to be generous with the people around be, but this is not always possible. There are some things that I’m unable to do right now, and that triggers some major insecurities for me regarding relationships. I’ve had to learn how to accept help, but I also have a good sense of when I need to pay my own way. It’s a balancing act, and it’s difficult to find my center.
I want someone who is willing to share details about their personal life, their struggles, triumphs, and joys. Someone who has a vision of who they want to be, someone who is decisive, who is moving along their path with confidence, a sense of humor, and lots of compassion. Someone who has their own tastes and preferences, not someone who is constantly kowtowing to my desires, but who actually listens to them and gently encourages me to go for what I want, while making sure they are getting what they need too. I want someone who is not lazy about the relationship. Someone who is actively cultivating and nurturing those things that are most important to them, and who is willing to rethink patterns and habits that are no longer serving them.
So after a nine month break from relationships and a month+ fling with another goddamned musician (When will I learn my fucking lesson? Right now.), I’ve decided to continue writing about my explorations in love, romance, sexuality, and desire. I am changing the tone of these posts slightly.
The specifics of this last encounter (he said, she said, sexy time) aren’t what I’m going to focus on (those details are for me and my therapist). I’m done telling the stories of romance. They’re always so skewed, and in all honesty my goal is to forgive, forget, and move on. Penning my misadventures is humorous for those who get to read them (I’ve been told I’m more entertaining than Cosmo), but sometimes I really don’t want to remember all of the missteps I’ve made along the way. I want to focus on lessons learned and next steps.
At the close of my last session, my counselor, who seemed excited that I’d started dating again, told me to focus on the idea of intimacy, on what my idea of intimacy is. I remembered a list given to all the participants of FemSexComm, and immediately decided to give it a once over as I began to think about this post and my idea of closeness.
Most of the items on this list given to us in class represent levels of sexual intimacy. Is it wrong that I don’t consider sex in and of itself to be a very intimate act? I currently think of sex as a way to strengthen and deepen an existing bond between two people. I am not particularly bothered by casual sex, and see how it could be preferred at certain stages, but if I had my druthers I would always avoid it. Why? Because I cannot trick my body into not falling in love with a person. I can make rationalizations in my mind, but my body goes haywire for sex. I can’t really think or function.
I tend to be very cautious even hesitant when it comes to sex because when the body gets involved, nature takes over. When nature takes over there’s no telling what might happen so it’s important for me to establish trust in another way first, before having sex. I am only starting to get somewhat okay at doing this. Not everyone (and no man I’ve ever met) thinks about sex in this way and that is hard for me to remember that. I need to ask 100% more questions before I even think about sex.
Moving on to intimacy, I’m going to put this list into three groups: items I consider intimate, items I don’t consider intimate, and items I’m neutral to.
Holding Hands (in public)
Hugging laying down
Touching a person’s upper body with clothes on
Touching a person’s lower body with clothes on
Rubbing bodies with clothes off
Mouth contact with someone’s breasts
Penis to anus contact
Hand contact with someone’s anus
Masturbating in front of someone
Using a vibrator on someone
Using a dildo with someone
Showering with someone
Hand contact with another person’s penis or vagina (clothes off)
Penis contact on outside of vagina or anus (no insertion)
Open mouth kissing
Rubbing bodies with clothes on
As I learned from this exercise, I find non or lightly sexual gestures much more intimate than sex itself. I mean, a person can talk dirty to any paid sex worker, but it takes a certain amount of closeness to know what it feels like to wake up next to a person in the early morning and gently nudge them awake just to excitedly kiss them on the nose. For me, intimacy comes in enjoying the small, mundane pleasures of having and sharing this human existence with someone.
Aside from sexual stuff, here are some things I know I do to build intimacy.
-Calling when I feel sad, happy, excited. Trusting that someone will share emotional states with me.
-Admitting that I’m wrong, or even allow my judgement to be questioned.
-Asking them out on dates to meet people that are important to me. If I just wanted sex I wouldn’t involve anyone else in it. By including my community in a relationship I am asking a person into my life in ways that I feel are deeper. And, if the relationship ends, I’m not the only one that feels the impact, so does my whole community.
-Eating/making food with/for someone.
-Doing something to make someone else happy, not cause I really want to do it.
-Saying stupid and logically questionable statements.
-Allowing myself to be seen as clumsy, including spilling food and knocking things over, and not feeling ashamed about that (goes along with being silly).
-Sharing my failures and insecurities.
-Sharimg my successes and joys.
-Giving things freely.
I am proud of myself for this last relationship, because I practiced all of the things listed above. After stepping away, I left feeling like I knew nothing about the other person at all. I had rationalized their hesitance to share intimate details with me, and since I was doing a lot of work that was scary for me, I didn’t even notice that this was happening.
I’m still doing this thing where I’m tricking myself into thinking that men like me, like as a person they actually want to be with longterm, when they don’t. It’s dangerous because I want to give of myself sexually to someone who wants to be with me longterm, but it takes time to figure this out, so how do I know when and when not to have sex? This is very confusing, especially because I didn’t have sex with this last person right away. I took my time.
In this era of the sexually empowered woman, where drunken hookups have instigated many of my long term relationships, when I take my time, I’ve noticed that men sometimes take this as a free pass to find sex somewhere else. It is assumed that the relationship must just be a friendship so it’s okay to find other options. I don’t necessarily disagree, I just think these things could be talked through to avoid confusion. This has happened to me on several occasions. I am a slow mover, not by design, but by choice. Because drunken hookups have led to some of my worst relationship decisions. I now avoid drunk sex until I feel comfortable and trust a person.
My new solution to this is to say something along the lines of, “I like you and am interested in you sexually, but it is going to take me time to know if I want to open up to you in that way, so if you don’t think you can wait then you might as well move on now.” It’s crazy to me that I have to think about and say things like this, but city boys play dirty. They are like wild animals! No regard, no consideration, no empathy. I’m learning that everything has to be stated plainly. I’m saying this right from the start from now on, cause I can’t tolerate any more men making friend zone rationalizations, and using gray area as wiggle room.
I also felt good about this last one because I stated my intentions clearly throughout the course of the relationship, although I now doubt that anything I said was heard. I felt at the end of everything that this person had cherry picked information to his liking, and had ignored the rest. For example, I feel like if I were to tell a normal, not hearing only what they want to hear person,”I have a hard time trusting men because I’ve been cheated on before,” then they would know that one of their causes in our relationship is to be honest and forthright about whether or not they could be monogamous.
Our words always have deeper meanings, and as conscious adults it is our responsibility to tease those things out. I was especially surprised by this last guy’s inability to do that, especially based on the close relationship he has with words. Words aren’t just words, they reference our desires, hopes, dreams, preoccupations, and expectations. And although I do believe that mind reading is inappropriate, using common sense and intuition are perfectly fine. I’ve definitely broken things off with guys (even after just one date) because I could tell they were more into me than I would ever be into them. Why get someone’s hopes up for a few stolen moments of disingenuous pleasure? It’s not worth it to me, at least.
I am upset with myself about this relationship because I didn’t confront him on the things he said as much as I should have. Words tip us off to each other’s states of mind, and it took me two weeks to completely accept that he was probably being a bit shady. First he admitted to cheating on a pinball game that we were playing to make it look like I’d won when I hadn’t. Dishonest. Another time I overheard him saying, “If you’re nice to a girl you can get away with anything.” Manipulative. And the third and final thing that should have tipped me off was that he proclaimed that an album with the title “Cheater” was one of his favorites from a particular artist. To you these things might seem insignificant. To me they are huge.
After telling him I’d accept nothing less than monogamy, he’d admitted that he’d been seeing at least one other person at the same time as me, and hoped that we could just continue to have what he thought was “awesome sex.” At my rejection of continuing a physical relationship (insert witty comment about how sex wasn’t that good. Read: I am hurt and disappointed.) he asked if we could hang out regularly still. Nope. I am having a hard time with this part, on some level I would like to have at least one past lover that successfully turns into a close friendship, but this one ain’t it.
Love and Enjoy.